I’ve been live-tweeting today from the Aspen Environmental Forums. But in a session this morning, I noticed that my friend Rachel Weidinger—director for the ocean advocacy group Upwell—had a far niftier way of taking notes and communicating what she was learning. While I opened up my iPad, Rachel opened up a full set of watercolor paints.
What she produced was something more akin to illuminated manuscripts than paintings—collections of short quotes and key ideas, done up in vibrant colors and surrounded by thematic doodles. It’s great stuff, and a really interesting way to process and present information.
Rachel was kind enough to let me post her notes here. This page comes from the panel we attended this morning, all about climate change and the long-term impacts those changes are likely to have on regional weather. Check out more of her illuminated notes at Flickr.
Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee, was questioned by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) in a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. Polis asks Leonhart about the relative harms arising from prescription painkillers, marijuana, heroin, and crystal meth. She is incapable of distinguishing between them, and stonewalls on questions regarding whether some substances are more addictive than others. It’s a rather astonishing performance, and an amazing example of politicized science — one of America’s top drug cops can’t bring herself to say what practically every adult knows: marijuana’s harms, whatever they are, are not in the same league as heroin or crystal meth.
“Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?” Polis, who has called for an end to marijuana prohibition, asked.
“I believe all illegal drugs are bad,” Leonhart responded.
“Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?” Polis continued. “Is heroin worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?”
“Again, all drugs,” Leonhart began to say, only to be cut off by Polis.
“Yes, no, or I don’t know?” Polis said. “If you don’t know this, you can look this up. You should know this, as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m asking a very straightforward question.”
Leonhart said that heroin was highly addictive, but accused Polis of asking a “subjective” question. After being pressed further, she conceded that heroin was more addictive than marijuana, but added “some people become addicted marijuana and some people become addicted to methamphetamine.”
Top DEA agent won’t admit heroin more harmful than marijuana
[Video Link] Last month I found myself in Palo Alto in need of an espresso. Yelp directed me to a place called ZombieRunner, which turned out to be a running shoe store with a zombie-themed espresso bar. The espresso turned out to be excellent, as did the selection of books, all of which were about zombies. One book caught my eye: Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse.
I had planned to leave the store as soon as I’d quaffed my doubleshot, but the book was so engrossing that I parked myself on the couch for nearly an hour, reluctantly leaving only because I had a scheduled appointment. I would have bought the book, but it was not for sale. But I emailed my friend Steve at Chronicle Books and he sent me a review copy, which was waiting for me when I got back to LA. I picked it up and finished it in one sitting.
Dead Inside: Do Not Enter was crowd-written by Lost Zombies, a zombie themed social network and it tells the by-now familiar story of a zombapocalyptic virus that whips across the planet, but presents it in the form of realistic-looking notes written by people trying to survive and help other uninfected people survive. The introduction to Dead Inside explains that all of these hand-written and computer-printed notes had been found in the blood-stained backpack of a little girl who had apparently been collecting them until she herself got sick with the zombie virus.
The notes are presented in chronological order. The first notes express mild concern (“Remember to get your flu shot – the clinic they say it’s really bad this year and I don’t want you to get sick”), followed by annoyance (“Some kid bit our son at school – I took him to the doctor. Dinner is in the microwave” — I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the book with me right now), a growing sense of panic, and a grim acceptance of the new world disorder (“I hope I get bit first so I don’t have to shoot any of my family”). The variety of notes, with different handwriting styles, stationery, stains, and rips adds to the realism of the story, and gives it a delicious creepiness, even though the reader never sees a photo of an actual zombie or zombie attack.
Note: We talked about Dead Inside on Gweek 054.
Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse.
Here’s a 23-minute BBC World Service documentary about science fiction in Africa, hosted by Zoo City author Lauren Beukes, who speaks to various luminaries, writers and commentators, including District 9 creator Neill Blomkamp.
Beukes hears from film-makers Neill Blomkamp (South Africa – director of the international hit District 9), Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya), blogger Jonathan Dotse (Ghana), writer Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA) and others on how their particular experiences have influenced their work.
Science fiction often explores the interaction between people and technology. In Africa that theme plays out in surprising ways, from making an appointment with a traditional healer over email, to women in remote villages collecting water while chatting on their mobiles.
It’s this mix of magic and technology, challenge and innovation that shapes the science fiction coming out of the continent.
Leaving behind the traditional visions of a high-tech Tokyo, futuristic LA or dystopian New York, and challenging clichéd views of the entire African continent, this is a science fiction being told by the people who live there.
Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa?
An attorney called Sean Simmons is apparently offering “buy one, get your next one half off” divorces, with the strapline “End the Misery Today.” The image is unsourced, so it may be a fake, though there is at least one attorney called Sean Simmons in the USA who does divorce work.
That’s a good value.
I’m at the Aspen Environmental Forums, an annual conference focused on many different aspects of climate science, energy policy, conservation, and other environmental issues. You can follow along on Twitter with the tag , and I’ll be tweeting regularly from the panels I watch. For instance, if you check out the tag now, you can find some great tweets from last night, covering a discussion with Stewart Brand about biotech, cloning, and the possibility of reversing extinction.
Jailers in Atlanta have come up with a new program for prisoners — break out and win free food.
The Fulton County Jail replaced its locks after the old ones were found to be prone to being picked by criminals.
To test the locks, officials asked inmates to try their hand…
IDair, a military contractor, claims that it can image and resolve fingerprints from six meters away. The article goes into a lot of credulous, breathless rhapsody about this, but fails to note that if your fingerprints can be read from 20 feet away, then any crook who wants to be able to impersonate you will find it trivial to do so — if we allow fingerprints to serve as a form of identification, that is. And of course, you can’t change your fingerprints, so once they’ve leaked onto the net, you’re hosed for life. So, basically, as soon as this technology is popular, it will be obsolete.
It’s the security of the fingerprint database that concerns privacy experts such as Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There are so many steps where a (digital) fingerprint can leak,” Tien said.
Tien said electronic fingerprints can be like Social Security numbers. He calls them “coat hangers” on which a lot of identifying information can be hung. In other words, with a Social Security number, you can find out many other things about someone. Fingerprints could be same way, he said, and “someone else could use it to pretend to be me.”
“Yes, it can be abused,” Burcham agreed. “Anything can be abused. The point is, are there restrictions in place to not abuse it?” The answer with IDair is yes, he said. “But what it’s going to come down to is: Do you want to go through that door? Do you want to buy something with Amazon?”
IDair’s new fingerprint reader captures prints from 6 meters away
(Image: Fingerprints, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from pagedooley’s photostream)
A lot of people play with their cellphones or read while waiting for something. Jim Gurney, the creator of Dinotopia, paints small watercolors. (See my previous post about Jim’s painting of a mud puddle.)
I brought my car to the dealership for a service checkup. The service guy told me it would take about 45 minutes.
He pointed me to a waiting room, which had a coffee machine, some magazines, and a TV set. But I was tired of hearing about Romney and Obama. So I headed onto the sales floor. I found an empty chair next to the snack machine. I laid out my watercolor gear on a desk and got to work.
The hazy daylight streamed in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Clusters of red, white, and blue balloons hung from the ceiling. A sports car sat in the middle of the room, its silver paint mirroring bright highlights from the windows.
The sales people seemed transfixed by their computers. One guy played digital solitaire. They took no notice of me. When I was finished with the painting, I showed it to them. They took photos of it with their cellphones to put on their Facebook pages.
Jim Gurney’s 45-minute painting of a car dealership