Caturday – Cats Lock

[Pleated Jeans via the Daily What]

Feel like I’m doing my part.

[via Señor GIF]

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February 5, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . Comics. Leave a comment.

Top Secret Durham Neighborhood Listserv Map

This post is about my top secret project that I’ve been working on for a few weekends.  It was partly inspired by an eight year-old girl who went missing about a block from my house on January 7th.  It was also inspired by my friend Gwen McCarter’s blog post about boldness that she published two days prior:

If there’s one sure thing about boldness, it’s that no one will know you’re a bold thinker if you aren’t a bold actor, too.  To illustrate the point, we need only think about noise.  Chatter.  A veritable din.  We live in a society where more people are free to voice their opinions than ever, and everyone with Internet access also has a soapbox within reach.  In many ways, this democratization via technology is empowering.  And as Malcolm Gladwell wrote last October, it’s not our imagination that social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and various blogging platforms are “making it easier for the powerless to collaborate.”

But Gladwell also warns against mistaking online activity for real-world action.  The digital setting is often confusing because boldness online can feel both satisfying and effortlessly productive.  If we want use the example of activism, social movements that grow online can amass a follower base of millions.  All the same, the palpable impact of those virtual efforts can be an entirely different story.  Gladwell happens to cite the Save Darfur Coalition’s Facebook page as one place where participation is high but commitment and investment are relatively low (he puts group membership at nearly 1.3 million and the average donation at 9 cents).  But the same could be said of a number of other initiatives — social media-based or otherwise —  that don’t or can’t place enough emphasis on backing their bold online campaigns up with tangible follow-through.

So, for most everyone, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more time in action.  At the same time, a single bold act cannot be your end game; it needs to be well conceived as part of a larger strategy, supported by other, more sustained initiatives.

As for the missing girl, I got the following message from an adjacent neighborhood listserv I happened to be a member of:

Hi, Neighbors.  A woman who lives down the street just came to our door asking if we saw a little girl get off the bus stop near our house (corner of Shawnee and Lynch).  Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything, but I told her I would send out an e-mail to the listserve to see if anyone else had information or had seen her (or anything suspicious that may be related) throughout the neighborhood this afternoon/evening.  They are looking for a little girl who is 8 years old.  She is African American and was last seen wearing black pants, a black shirt with purple underneath and has 2 ponytails.  She said if anyone saw anything they should call the police.

Now despite being about 50 yards away from the neighborhood’s northern border, the author of this email didn’t know to send her message to Duke Park, (although to her credit, she did make sure the police were involved).  Ideally, when something happens one road over, both listservs should be communicative with each other due to significant membership overlap.  Obviously, not everyone is a member of more than one listserv, despite proximity.  In many instances, this is OK since other members are gregarious and cross-post between adjacent hoods and Partners Against Crime (PAC) lists when appropriate.

The little girl was found at a neighbor’s house about 50 minutes after the original post.  Like magic, two distinct ad hoc search parties sprang into action and someone found the girl at a neighbor’s house.

This was a huge success story, but had the child gone missing along any other neighborhood border, I wouldn’t have known who to contact.  So, that day, out of frustration, I started working on a map which is meant to facilitate communication between adjacent listservs in emergency and crime-related scenarios.

Currently it features 35 neighborhoods with active listservs and 14 neighborhoods that don’t have listservs (but should).  Each border was meticulously hand-drawn, yet they’re probably wholly inaccurate.

So click the image above to be taken to the map.  If you’re not a member of your neighborhood’s listserv, you should join it.  Today.  The relevant links are embedded within each neighborhood’s shape.  If your neighborhood doesn’t yet have a listserv, why not follow Gwen’s advice?  Be bold.  Take action.  Create one.

And shoot me an email when you do, so I can update my our map.

*Update – The map now includes 57 outlines of active neighborhood listservs. The color of these outlines also correlate with which police district they are associated with.

January 26, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 7 comments.

Gore’s Presidency: A Retrospective

Let’s keep this presidential train rolling with some juicy fan fiction.  Five writers for New York Magazine take turns wrapping 2-year ribbons around the maypole, imagining what it would’ve been like if Gore had won in 2000 and 2004.

Two of the contributors weren’t great. Glenn Beck (yes, that Glenn Beck) fails at humor/imagination/writing while Walter Kirn’s kumbaya years are pretty unbelievable. It’s a fun read though, assuming you’ve got the time and interest.

A particularly solid passage from Kevin Baker:

Well, tough titty, the president thought as he strode to the helicopter. Some people were going to have to get used to the idea that life in the new millennium wasn’t about tearing the tops off mountains just so you could grub some more lung polish. Besides, hadn’t he given the locals the Robert C. Byrd Clean Coal Research Institute as part of his omnibus energy package? Clean coal—riiight.

Meanwhile, his relocation had become the biggest jobs program West Virginia had ever seen. It was the logical choice, once Flight 93 had demolished the White House. All they’d had to do was spruce up the Bunker under the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, built there for Congress back in the Cold War days. The Secret Service loved it. Everything you could ask, all behind twenty-ton blast doors: dormitories, cafeterias, a state-of-the-art communications system, even a weight room. Everything, that is, except for the Congress. Capitol Hill was untouched; no need for them to come. He had the run of the place, and could call in anyone he wanted, whenever he wanted. Amtrak was running twenty trains a day in from D.C., and the town had doubled in size from all the media crews alone. He and Tipper took the presidential suite upstairs in the Greenbrier. They stuck Hadassah and Joe Leave-Me-Alone down in the Bunker itself, where he could keep an eye on them.

Coulda been a mistake, the president thought, frowning. Maybe that’s when he started to go all squirrelly on me—

He paused on the top step of the chopper, sucking in the sweet Allegheny air. God, it was intoxicating! Air like that, well, it gave a man an appetite. He smiled as he thought of Tipper, left back in the presidential bedroom just now in a state of flattering befuddlement.

Gave him other appetites as well, as the press had begun to notice. He looked over at the trim stomach of his body double. Would that guy have to start eating more, too? Maybe growing a beard would help …

[New York Magazine via the Browser]

January 19, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Smarts. Leave a comment.

The History of American Political Opinion

Seems like a good time to post this.

From the video’s creator:

Using county-level data, I spatially and temporally interpolated presidential vote returns for the two major party candidates in each election from 1920-2008. The result illuminates the sometimes gradual, sometimes rapid change in the geographic basis of presidential partisanship.

[via Morgan Clendaniel @ GOOD]

January 14, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Jim Fallows on Throwing Like a Girl

Two things:

1. Natural movements aren’t always innate.

2. We need to stop with the ‘throwing like a girl’ talk.

Jim Fallows:

A surprising number of people think that there is a structural difference between male and female arms or shoulders—in the famous “rotator cuff,” perhaps—that dictates different throwing motions. “It’s in the shoulder joint,” a well-educated woman told me recently. “They’re hinged differently.” Someday researchers may find evidence to support a biological theory of throwing actions. For now, what you’ll hear if you ask an orthopedist, an anatomist, or (especially) the coach of a women’s softball team is that there is no structural reason why men and women should throw in different ways. This point will be obvious to any male who grew up around girls who liked to play baseball and became good at it. It should be obvious on a larger scale this summer, in broadcasts of the Olympic Games. This year, for the first time, women’s fast-pitch softball teams will compete in the Olympics. Although the pitchers in these games will deliver the ball underhand, viewers will see female shortstops, center fielders, catchers, and so on pegging the ball to one another at speeds few male viewers could match.

Even women’s tennis is a constant if indirect reminder that men’s and women’s shoulders are “hinged” the same way. The serving motion in tennis is like a throw—but more difficult, because it must be coordinated with the toss of the tennis ball. The men in professional tennis serve harder than the women, because they are bigger and stronger. But women pros serve harder than most male amateurs have ever done, and the service motion for good players is the same for men and women alike. There is no expectation in college or pro tennis that because of their anatomy female players must “serve like a girl.” “I know many women who can throw a lot harder and better than the normal male,” says Linda Wells, the coach of the highly successful women’s softball team at Arizona State University. “It’s not gender that makes the difference in how they throw.”

Unfortunately, as Linda Wells later describes, young girls are often frozen out of the oral tradition of learning how to throw and there aren’t any good technical manuals to pick up the slack.

The challenge, I suppose, is like that of writing a manual on how to ride a bike, or how to kiss. Indeed, the most useful description I’ve found of the mechanics of throwing comes from a man whose specialty is another sport: Vic Braden made his name as a tennis coach, but he has attempted to analyze the physics of a wide variety of sports so that they all will be easier to teach.Braden says that an effective throw involves connecting a series of links in a “kinetic chain.” The kinetic chain, which is Braden’s tool for analyzing most sporting activity, operates on a principle like that of crack-the-whip. Momentum builds up in one part of the body. When that part is suddenly stopped, as the end of the “whip” is stopped in crack-the-whip, the momentum is transferred to and concentrated in the next link in the chain. A good throw uses six links of chain, Braden says. The first two links involve the lower body, from feet to waist. The first motion of a throw (after the body has been rotated away from the target) is to rotate the legs and hips back in the direction of the throw, building up momentum as large muscles move body mass. Then those links stop—a pitcher stops turning his hips once they face the plate—and the momentum is transferred to the next link. This is the torso, from waist to shoulders, and since its mass is less than that of the legs, momentum makes it rotate faster than the hips and legs did. The torso stops when it is facing the plate, and the momentum is transferred to the next link—the upper arm. As the upper arm comes past the head, it stops moving forward, and the momentum goes into the final links—the forearm and wrist, which snap forward at tremendous speed.

So why don’t girls learn how to do this?

The crucial factor is not that males and females are put together differently but that they typically spend their early years in different ways. Little boys often learn to throw without noticing that they are throwing. Little girls are more rarely in environments that encourage them in the same way. A boy who wonders why a girl throws the way she does is like a Frenchman who wonders why so many Americans speak French “with an accent.””For young boys it is culturally acceptable and politically correct to develop these skills,” says Linda Wells, of the Arizona State softball team. “They are mentored and networked. Usually girls are not coached at all, or are coached by Mom—or if it’s by Dad, he may not be much of an athlete. Girls are often stuck with the bottom of the male talent pool as examples. I would argue that rather than learning to ‘throw like a girl,’ they learn to throw like poor male athletes. I say that a bad throw is ‘throwing like an old man.’ This is not gender, it’s acculturation.”

[Jim Fallows @ the Atlantic via Angela Vasquez-Giroux @ the Idler]

January 10, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

Douglas Coupland’s Predictions for the Coming Decade

I read this a couple of months ago, but only now, in these early days of the new decade*, does it feel right to stamp out the ubiquitous optimism with some good doubt.

Douglas Coupland, a Canadian curmudgeon, lists 45 predictions for the coming decade. Here are the ones that strike me as particularly probable:

2) The future isn’t going to feel futuristic

It’s simply going to feel weird and out-of-control-ish, the way it does now, because too many things are changing too quickly. The reason the future feels odd is because of its unpredictability. If the future didn’t feel weirdly unexpected, then something would be wrong.

5) You’ll spend a lot of your time feeling like a dog leashed to a pole outside the grocery store – separation anxiety will become your permanent state

8) Try to live near a subway entrance

In a world of crazy-expensive oil, it’s the only real estate that will hold its value, if not increase.

10) In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness

24) It is going to become much easier to explain why you are the way you are

Much of what we now consider “personality” will be explained away as structural and chemical functions of the brain.

38) Knowing everything will become dull

It all started out so graciously: At a dinner for six, a question arises about, say, that Japanese movie you saw in 1997 (Tampopo), or whether or not Joey Bishop is still alive (no). And before long, you know the answer to everything.

And here are some that don’t seem likely at all:

7) Retail will start to resemble Mexican drugstores

In Mexico, if one wishes to buy a toothbrush, one goes to a drugstore where one of every item for sale is on display inside a glass display case that circles the store. One selects the toothbrush and one of an obvious surplus of staff runs to the back to fetch the toothbrush. It’s not very efficient, but it does offer otherwise unemployed people something to do during the day.

11) Old people won’t be quite so clueless

No more “the Google,” because they’ll be just that little bit younger.

13) Enjoy lettuce while you still can

And anything else that arrives in your life from a truck, for that matter. For vegetables, get used to whatever it is they served in railway hotels in the 1890s. Jams. Preserves. Pickled everything.

14) Something smarter than us is going to emerge

Thank you, algorithms and cloud computing.

20) North America can easily fragment quickly as did the Eastern Bloc in 1989

Quebec will decide to quietly and quite pleasantly leave Canada. California contemplates splitting into two states, fiscal and non-fiscal. Cuba becomes a Club Med with weapons. The Hate States will form a coalition.

32) Musical appreciation will shed all age barriers

Draw your own conclusions after reading the full list at the Globe and Mail.

[Article via the Browser. Image via Maet32’s photobucket]

* The 21st century began on January 1st, 2001. Therefore, the first decade of the 21st century ended a few days ago. We can argue about this if you want, but that exercise would be wholly redundant.

January 6, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

The Comedians of Comedy at the Cracker Barrel

[via Fuck Yeah Standup Comedy]

Also, thanks to Levon for this completely unrelated video:

January 5, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Christopher Hitchens on How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea

[image via The Thinking Blue]

I envy Hitchens’ writing style. He takes confident chances with the language and they work.

Now that “the holidays”—at their new-style Ramadan length, with the addition of Hanukkah plus the spur and lash of commerce—are safely over, I can bear to confront the moment at their very beginning when my heart took its first dip.

It was Dec. 8, and Yoko Ono had written a tribute to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of her husband. In her New York Times op-ed, she recalled how the two of them would sometimes make tea together. He used to correct her method of doing so, saying, “Yoko, Yoko, you’re supposed to first put the tea bags in, and then the hot water.” (This she represented as his Englishness speaking, in two senses, though I am sure he would actually have varied the word order and said “put the tea bags in first.”) This was fine, indeed excellent, and I was nodding appreciatively, but then the blow fell. One evening, he told her that an aunt had corrected him. The water should indeed precede the bags. “So all this time, we were doing it wrong?” she inquired. “Yeah,” replied our hero, becoming in that moment a turncoat to more than a century of sturdy Liverpool tradition.

Take notice Soulja Boy, because this is what swagger actually looks like.

[Christopher Hitchens @ Slate via the Browser]

January 4, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

Gwen McCarter’s Top 10 Most Wonderfully Bad Fashion Trends of 2010

10. Man jammies

[image via Cool Hunting]

9. Alpen-clogs

[image via My Style]

8. Hammer time parachute pants for women

[image via Celebrity Beauty]

7. Bubble lady hips

[image via SugarScape]

6. Stirrup-pant revival

[image via the Cheap Girl]

5. Tights masquerading as pants

[image via Can We Please Stop and Reflect]

4. Winky-ass pants

[image via Winkers Design]

3. Furry shoulder pads

[image via TrendHunter]

2. Lady Gaga meat dress

[image via Huffington Post]

1. Unisex jeggings

[image via NY Daily News]

December 27, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Crowdsourcing. 1 comment.

Jimi Trout’s Top 10 Yarn Tastings of 2010

Submitted by: Coraghessan A. Cat

1. STITCHES South Knitting Expo Yarn Tasting
Atlanta, Georgia; www.knittinguniverse.com/stitches/south/
Easily the highlight of the 2010 yarn tasting season.  This year’s 50g
skeins were divine, featuring subtle hints of nepeta and lemon.
Breathtaking.

2. The National Needlehearts Association Yarn Tasting
Zanesville, Ohio; www.TNNA.org
Outstanding selection of double-knits; impeccably crafted, remarkably
complex, simply stunning.

3. Interweave Yarn Tasting
Loveland, Colorado; www.interweavestore.com/
The hippest yarn tasting of the year, every bit as good as your
friends said it was.

4. Lion Brand Yarn Company Yarn Tasting
New York, New York; www.lionbrand.com/
Dazzling array of medium-bodied skeins, presented in typical regal fashion.

5. Red Heart Yarns Yarn Tasting
Charlotte, North Carolina; www.redheart.com/
Red Heart Yarns = Red Hot Flavors, particularly in the 25g class.

6. Knit ‘N Style Magazine Yarn Tasting
Stanhope, New Jersey; www.knitnstyle.com/
Charming venue, crowd-pleasing yarns, always a good time.

7. Craft Yarn Council Yarn Tasting
Gastonia, North Carolina; www.craftyarncouncil.com/
Highlighted by a lively panel discussion on Fair Trade fibers.

8. Naturally Caron Yarn Tasting
Washington, North Carolina; www.naturallycaron.com/
Solid, if unspectacular, entry into the yarn-tasting circuit.

9. Crochet Today Magazine Yarn Tasting
New York, New York; www.crochettoday.com/
A mild disappointment given the amount of hype, but still worth the
price of admission.

10. Vogue Knitting Yarn Tasting
New York, New York; www.vogueknitting.com/
Unfortunately not the yarn-tasting trendsetters they used to be;
slightly more fun than a nap.

Jimi runs (ran?) Trout Mask Replica.  Miss you Troutie.

December 23, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Crowdsourcing. 1 comment.

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