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Divided we fall

Brains of liberals, conservatives may work differently, study finds - I'm seeing this story linked in various forms all over the place. The source study is here but you need a subscription to view it. A problem I always have with studies like this (or at least the reporting of the study) is the way they treat something like "liberal" or "conservative" as though it has some kind of biological basis. From what I can see, college students who demonstrated increased activity in a certain part of the brain self-identified as liberals. We don't actually know if their views are liberal. It's also not clear that the brain activity came before (is the cause of) the liberalism. Could the headline also be that college students who'd been taught to be sensitive to nuance and change had greater brain activity when processing changes in patterns (and were more likely to self-identify as liberal in college)? For me to begin to be convinced that this study shows a genuine difference between liberals and conservatives I'd want to see it over years and years from birth. Do the kids who lose fastest at Simon Says and Red light/green light grow up to be conservatives? This is all more than you care to hear from me, but as you know I'm not a fan of divisive partisanship and this study (or its reporting) doesn't help.

Speaking of things that divide us, Fact checking the testimony of Petraeus (and the Bush administration). The numbers don't add up. For your own checking, here are the slides and here's the Petraeus statement. The criticisms I've seen of the Petreaus testimony seem to fall into two categories.  The first, like the item above, cite other sources of the same information he used, that come to different conclusions. The second is to point to peculiar definitions or lack of specificity where the facts and plans don't support the argument well.

Speaking of Petreaus, I caught a bit of an interview with him in which he mentioned taking solace in Rudyard Kipling's "If." It's not hard to see why.

Speaking of the situation in Iraq, Michael Totten makes a timely trip to Ramadi, the capital of the much-talked-about-lately Anbar province.

Still speaking of Iraq, Iraq poll September 2007: In graphics - This is the poll that so many people are citing, saying the Iraqi people don't feel the surge has worked.

"Tor exposes sensitive information when not used with encryption." You may recall Tor is an anonymizer, essentially hiding your identity while you surf. But apparently, personal information can be seen on the Tor node. All of this is explained in greater detail in the story, of course, but the part I don't quite get is why this has anything to do with governments. The U.S. and Swedish governments use Tor? I'm missing something.

Speaking of warnings, "People should avoid using Wi-Fi wherever possible because of the risks it may pose to health, the German government has said." "And Germany's official radiation protection body also advises its citizens to use landlines instead of mobile phones, and warns of "electrosmog" from a wide range of other everyday products, from baby monitors to electric blankets." I don't know if there's already a band called "Electrosmog" but if there is I'd buy the t-shirt. It's not clear what the specific concern is about WiFi other than that they don't feel all of the proper tests have been done.

Hidden method of reading revealed - That's a weird headline, but what it means is that they figured out that when we read, our eyes work independently.

Have you had enough Belgium yet?

35 years of Shinjuku (area of Tokyo) for 10 seconds (From July 1969 To July 2004) - Every city should do this.

Speaking of spanning time, French prints circa 1919 anticipate the year 2000.

Speaking of visions of the future, a vision of 1999 A.D. seen from 1967.

14 Great Programs You Didn't Even Know You Needed

Speaking of lists, the Mashable folks have made a list of their lists: 5000+ Resources to Do Just About Anything Online - OK, now that's just silly.

The Science of Gangsta Rap - A few rap lyrics interpreted in flow charts and Venn diagrams. The lyrics are completely offensive of course.

Confederate Yankee raises the question of how much MoveOn paid for that ad in the Times (somewhere between $65,000 and $167,157). Tangentially, both of those numbers raised my eyebrows. It gives some real insight into the financial situation newspapers are dealing with when you consider ad rates like that.

The Shock Doctrine Short Film - It's ironic that while watching this film which is essentially about how psychologically shocking events leave us vulnerable to propaganda all of my "you are being subjected to propaganda" alarms went off.  Still an interesting argument and good use of the medium.

"An animated tribute to the internet people of the world, wherever you may be."

A fascinating use of crowdsourcing to help in the search for Steve Fossett. They serve up pieces of satellite imagery and you say yes or no if there's anything of note.

Windows Live has a new translator. To test it I picked an Italian article about Beppe Grillo, whose name I see online often but I've never totally understood who he is or why he's so acclaimed. First I tried copy/pasting a paragraph for translation and got the typical, almost understandable translation result.  But in a much cooler feature, plug in the URL of the story and watch it compare the translated version with the original, highlighting the matching sentences as you mouse over them.

7 amazing holes - This is one of those photo collections that are basically empty calories but since I've been on an "underground city" kick lately it stuck with me.

Josh's iTunes Album Art Grabber - Enter the artist and album and it plumbs the depths of iTunes. Worked for me.

I saw this IronMan trailer on the DailyShow the other day. Awesome. I don't know why I was surprised to hear the Black Sabbath theme song. That's not what that song is actually about, is it?

Speaking of movies to be excited about, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the freshly revealed name of the new one.

Chocolate Zen - Making an extreme sport of chocolate tasting.

A couple of mails:

I wish this were a joke, but it's not.

The last link is to info about the book "The Alex Papers."


Rob of UnSpace 
(Who has two African greys living with him and his wife.)

Will follows: And I clicked this. They're all about that really smart parrot that died recently.

This next one was sent to an MSNBC.com public mailbox, not to me specifically but I've seen seeing the link pop up around the Web:

This cop deserves some outrage.

I hope you guys report this.

Will has to chime in one more time for some context: This is footage of a guy who gets himself pulled over in a place where he knows the cops are especially aggressive. You might say he trapped or tricked the cop, but the cop didn't need much help to drift in the direction of crazy. The popularity of the clip online is reflective of a convergence of interests in Web culture: liberals who see signs of impingement on civil liberties under the Bush administration and libertarians who see big government out of control.