‘Family Feud’ TV host Richard Dawson dies at 79

Richard Dawson, the wisecracking British entertainer who was among the schemers in the 1960s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” and a decade later began kissing thousands of female contestants as host of the game show “Family Feud” has died. He was 79.

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‘Bridesmaids,’ ‘Games’ fight for MTV Movie Awards

“Bridesmaids” and “The Hunger Games” are battling for the most buckets of golden popcorn at the MTV Movie Awards.

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Right, but I have a 1D.

There are photographers and there are people who collect equipment.


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Tor vs Ethiopia

Runa from the Tor project, which oversees production of the anti-censorship/anti-surveillance technology, sez, “We have managed to determine exactly how Ethiopia blocks Tor and we have developed a workaround. We will publish a full technical analysis very soon.”


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Why did our species survive?

Today, we’re the only living member of the genus Homo and the only living member of the subtribe Hominina. Along with chimpanzees and bonobos, we’re all that remains of the tribe Hominini.

But the fossil record tells us that wasn’t always the case. There were, for instance, at least eight other species of Homo running around this planet at one time. So what happened to them? What makes us so special that we’re still here? And isn’t it just a little weird and meta to be fretting about this? I mean, do lions and tigers spend a lot of time pondering the fate of the Smilodon?

Today, starting at 12:00 Eastern, you can watch as a panel of scientists tackle these and other questions. “Why We Prevailed” is part of the World Science Festival and features anthropologist Alison Brooks, genome biologist Ed Green, paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer (one of the key researchers behind the “Out of Africa” theory), and renowned evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson.

You can also join in a live conversation about the panel, which I’ll be hosting. Just post to Twitter with hashtag #prevail, or join us at UStream.


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NYT: “MEN invented the internet”

What a steaming turd of an opening line in David Streitfeld’s otherwise serviceable New York Times piece about the Ellen Pao/Kleiner Perkins sexual harassment lawsuit, and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.

Here’s the opening graf (bold-ing, mine):

MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.

You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.

The ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, Radia “Mother of the Internet” Perlman, and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.

“Men are credited with inventing the internet.” There. Fixed it for you.


I ragequit this article like, 10 times, and couldn’t get past that awful opening line. But eventually, I managed to put down my frying pan and unbunch my apron, and I sat down on my princess tuffet and asked a man to help me read the whole thing.

There’s a lot of other interesting but to my mind, tangential stuff in the piece about the sexuality of Ms. Pao’s husband, and accusations of litigiousness and sexual harassment on his part. And, a sweet but even more tangential quote from his ex-boyfriend, who sounds like a real mensch with a kind heart.

But the unchallenged dismissiveness of this quote is the kicker:

You don’t really hear about randiness and mistreatment of women. That doesn’t prove it’s not there, but that’s not the lore.”

The LORE? Are you fucking kidding me?

I worked in Silicon Valley, and in technology startups in other regions, and have experienced sexual harassment and gender bias. It’s as normal and constant a part of the landscape as the fabled foosball tables.

Where to begin with this quote, really? First, “randiness” isn’t what causes sexual harassment. Men don’t pressure junior female co-workers into unwanted sex because they’re “randy.” And the fact that it’s not in the fucking “lore” doesn’t mean it’s not real.

I have no special knowledge about the truth, or lack thereof, in the Pao lawsuit. I know only what you and I and everyone else can read in the court documents, in the context of what I’ve experienced as a woman who has worked in the technology industry for about 20 years. I can’t speak to the merit of this case. But, Earth to dudes: yes, this stuff is real and normal, and so are we.

Lucky for Streitfeld, and the rest of the world, that the Women in Technology conference happens to be under way today in Santa Clara. Stop by and get a clue.

Oh, and? I, too, cried when Steve Jobs died. And I still idolize Mr. Spock.

@xeni I’ll tell my mom who programmed via punch cards in the ’70s that her efforts didn’t count according to @nytimes

— Tony Pierce (@busblog) June 3, 2012

@xeni I doubt my mom, who put up with this crap in grad school, xerox & bell in the 70s & 80s, would be surprised that nothing has changed

— Zoie (@TouchstoneZ) June 3, 2012

@xeni My Mom’s killer UNIX and C compiler work at Bell Labs on switching systems in the early 80′s, well, you know – she needed a hobby.

— Margret Bell (@themediatop) June 3, 2012

@xeni I worked with Betty Holberton on FORTRAN standard. She was 1 of first 6 programmers on ENIAC-all women

— Rich (@rrragan) June 3, 2012

@xeni It’s not even just erasing women in tech; it’s also the clear claim that maleness had something to do with the achievement…

— Aaron Bady (@zunguzungu) June 3, 2012

@xeni …that male overrepresentation isn’t consequence of gender inequality (true) but is actually the *cause* of advances in tech (false)

— Aaron Bady (@zunguzungu) June 3, 2012

@xeni I knew women working on interface design when most male programmers’ notion of user interface was RTFM

— Mike Godwin (@sfmnemonic) June 3, 2012

@xeni @betajames Admiral Grace Hopper and her zombie navy shall rise from the seas to make war against the New York Times for this outrage.

— Richard Mehlinger (@rmehlinger) June 3, 2012

@xeni My grandmother was a programmer and mathematician back in the 50′s and 60′s. Her PhD thesis was published by her adviser as his own.

— Lisha Sterling (@lishevita) June 3, 2012

Hey @xeni, fixed it further: “Some asshat at the @nytimes credits men with inventing the Internet.”

— Mike Monteiro (@Mike_FTW) June 3, 2012

@xeni I cried when Steve died too, and I worked for him in 1993 as a unix recruiter. It’s how I started programming, began w/ NeXTSTEP

— Nicole Valentine (@nicoleva) June 3, 2012

@xeni A foto of my grandma & her classmates j.mp/Ma0VXy. She was @ MIT, class of 1920. Electro Chemical Engineering, Worked at GE.

— Susan A. Kitchens (@susankitchens) June 3, 2012

@xeni My mom was the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s first editor-in-chief; that was in the 1950′s.

— kirkmurphy (@kirkmurphy) June 3, 2012

@xeni my mom was the first female punch card operator and then sent herself to night school to learn COBOL. While raising 3 kids!

— jash (@jashsf) June 3, 2012

@xeni my mother _taught programming_ to USS ‘management trainees’ for IBM 1960-62.

— Chris Connors (@uurf) June 3, 2012

@xeni I learned VAX /VMS Internals from the WOMAN who literally wrote the book, Ruth Goldenberg.

— Matt Phelps (@mwlphelps) June 3, 2012


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51 pageant queens compete in Vegas for Miss USA

Co-Owner of the Miss Universe Organization, Donald Trump, addresses Miss Texas USA 2012, Brittany Lynn Booker; Miss Tennessee USA 2012, Jessica Hibler; Miss South Dakota USA 2012, Taylor Neisen; Miss South Carolina USA 2012, Erika Powell; Miss Rhode Island USA 2012, Olivia Culpo; Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012, Sheena Monnin; Miss Oregon USA 2012, Alaina Bergsma; Miss Oklahoma USA 2012, Lauren Taylor Lundeen; Miss Ohio USA 2012, Audrey Bolte; Miss North Dakota USA 2012, Jaci Stofferahn; Miss North Carolina USA 2012, Sydney Marie Perry; Miss New York USA 2012, Johanna Sambucini; Miss New Mexico USA 2012, Jessica Renee Martin; and Miss New Jersey USA 2012, Michelle Leonardo; on the last day of rehearsal for the Miss USA 2012 Competition, Saturday June 2, 2012 from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino Theatre for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2012 MISS USA Pageant will air LIVE on NBC June 3 at 9:00 p.m. ET from the Theatre for Performing Arts in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Miss Universe Organization)A parade of beauty queens in swimsuits and evening gowns are competing to become the next Miss USA in Las Vegas.

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Cable-TV Update: Off the Grid, Still In the Box

The cable box can make channel serfs of us all. It’s big, it’s bulky, it has an interface an Excel spreadsheet might salute, and it sucks down too much electricity. It’s one reason why cable TV bottom-feeds in customer-satisfaction surveys–only airlines and newspapers score lower in the University of Michigan’s research.

But for a still-sizable majority of American viewers, the cable box is How They Get TV, and nobody can fix it except for their cable operators.

The industry’s just-finished Cable Show in Boston featured exhibits by dozens of networks hoping to see new channels added to cable lineups, plus a few starry-eyed demos of technology we may not get for years. (Disclosure: A freelance client, Discovery Communications, owns quite a few channels.) But it also revealed modest hope for “clunky set-top boxes”–to quote an acknowledgment of subscriber gripes in National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell’s opening speech.

One came from Comcast, the largest TV provider in the U.S. Its X1 “next-generation television experience” features a streamlined home screen that downplays the program-guide grid to give greater prominence to DVR recordings (as seen above) and video-on-demand offerings. And because this front end is hosted on Comcast’s servers, it should be easier to tweak than one coded into each DVR.

An Apps menu on the X1 home screen includes versions of Pandora, Shazam and Facebook plus sports, traffic and weather tools–but not the Netflix and Amazon video apps on most “connected” TVs.

Comcast says it will push this to many existing boxes, starting in Boston, within weeks. In a month, users with an iPhone or iPad should have a remote-control app that lets you issue commands with simple gestures and opens a search dialog when you flip the device to its landscape orientation. The 37-button remote shipping with new X1 boxes itself represents a simplification from the 53 buttons on current hardware.

The two companies that lead the cable-box business in the U.S., Cisco and Motorola Mobility, also seem anxious to get off the program grid.

Cisco’s Videoscape interface offers a simple sideways menu of basic options that reveal further choices above or below each item–like the “Xross” menu on Sony PlayStations, TVs and Blu-ray players–and offers remote-control apps for iOS and Android. The Videoscape set-top box supports WiFi video streaming through a house, another good idea. But you’ll have to wait for your cable operator to sign on; services in China and Israel offer the Videoscape front end, but none in the U.S. have so far.

Motorola’s plans look a little further out. Its ”DreamGallery” interface (from a Swedish firm it acquired recently enough for the demo setup to price movie rentals in krona) fills its home screen with thumbnails for live, recorded and on-demand programs; the program guide hides beyond one button among many. But Motorola’s iOS and Android apps duplicate that look instead of tailoring it to fit phone or tablet screens.

And, once again, you’ll have to wait on your cable operator for these upgrades.

For most viewers, the only easy alternative to a cable service’s taste is TiVo’s DVRs–which this fall will be able to send recordings via WiFi to iOS devices with an add-on TiVo Stream box.

The Federal Communications Commission has explored mandating an “AllVid” standard for cable and satellite tuning that would open this market, but FCC personnel, including chair Julius Genachowski, didn’t bring it up at the show.

A further hope for box-free cable surfaced on a Samsung TV tuning into Cablevision’s full feed over the Internet through an app. But it’s only a test, with no timetable for deployment.

So the most relevant part of the Cable Show for current customers was the exhibit of a new “light sleep” mode to cut idle cable-box power consumption by roughly 20 percent–on one sample box, from about 27 watts down to 20. Future hardware, possibly including flash storage instead of hard drives, could make a bigger difference (and some current models offer untapped efficiency options, as Daniel Frankel noted on PaidContent). But even this modest improvement, due in software updates and new boxes later this year, should deliver one inarguable benefit: electric-bill savings to offset the next hike in your cable rate.


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Publishing’s hidden virtues

My latest Publishers Weekly column is “Publishing’s Virtue,” a look at the relative moral uprightness of trade publishing, especially when compared to the record labels and movie studios, with their just reputation as rapacious crooks who rip off artists at every turn. if you’re trying to convince Internet users to buy instead of pirate because they’ll support the artists by doing so, it would be a good idea to mention the fact that your industry actually pays its creators, unlike the balance-sheet fiddlers in Big Music and Big Movies.

Yes, making the case against illegal downloading can be hard graft. So, without quality, price, convenience, or the threat of punishment, how can publishers convince people to do the right thing and buy? Basically, with an appeal to decency: you should buy our goods because it’s the right thing to do.

It sounds too simple, but it can be effective. No matter how many worthy people support their families with corporate paychecks, corporations in the age of Citizens United and Occupy Wall Street make poor poster children for a sympathy campaign—and audiences are especially suspect of corporations that operate in the arts. Record labels, movie studios, and, yes, publishers, too, are commonly viewed as rapacious scoundrels that prey on artists, exploit a stranglehold on distribution, and force content owners into abusive contractual relationships.

But trade publishing is different, especially when it comes to fiction. Unlike musicians, we novelists give limited licenses to our publishers, licenses that we can terminate if the publisher doesn’t actually get our creations into retail channels. If a song isn’t available for download, it’s often the case that some record company owns the rights and can’t be bothered to do anything with it. If you can’t get a book it’s usually because no one wants to publish it, not because some faceless corporate bean-counter has decided to sit on the rights.

And unlike musicians, authors are not commonly charged for production expenses. A recording contract typically requires musicians to sell enough to pay for all the production, publicity, and marketing before they see a penny in royalties. In publishing, the publisher pays these expenses out of its pocket, and the author isn’t expected to pay it back.

Finally, authors’ advances are (usually) only charged to their current books, or sometimes across a single deal. Unlike musicians, who are often required to pay back shortfalls from their last project before they can start earning on their latest one, authors’ balance sheets are zeroed out with each new book. If your last book tanks, your next book usually doesn’t have to pay back its advance. Publishing doesn’t do debt slavery.

Publishing’s Virtue


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Weird but true

This kid apparently couldn’t be scared straight.
A seemingly drunk Virginia teen was so out of control that his mom went to local cops for help — and the kid charged at them with a knife.
The teen, who had wrecked his car earlier, went berserk while with his mom…

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