This Week in the Mercury

Neal Stephenson's New Space Epic


Neal Stephenson's New Space Epic

Seveneves Is His Most Accessible Book to Date

One Day at a Time


One Day at a Time

The Week in Review


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Want Google to Forget About You? Move to Europe

Posted by Eli Sanders on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Over there, being able to disappear from a search engine (eventually) is now a right:

Europe’s highest court said on Tuesday that people had the right to influence what the world could learn about them through online searches, a ruling that rejected long-established notions about the free flow of information on the Internet.

A search engine like Google should allow online users to be “forgotten” after a certain time by erasing links to web pages unless there are “particular reasons” not to, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said.

Like a Supreme Court Decision, decisions of the Court of Justice can't be appealed. In the New York Times story linked above, a Harvard professor calls this ruling "a bad solution to a very real problem, which is that everything is now on our permanent records." But, he and others have not yet consulted the high court of Blogtown.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

XOXO Founder Andy Baio is Bringing Back

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 1:14 PM

If you've heard Andy Baio's name, it's likely because he's a co-founder of Portland's high-profile art-and-tech festival XOXO. But Baio's incredibly well-regarded in the tech world—he was CTO at Kickstarter, and he founded the community-curated events site back in 2003.

Baio sold Upcoming to Yahoo in 2005; Yahoo didn't do much with it, and the site was eventually shuttered. But now, after buying back the domain from Yahoo, he's bringing it back: This morning he launched a Kickstarter to fund the rebuilding of Upcoming as a social, user-curated events site, plus a permanent event archive.

He explains:

Like many of the people that used it, I miss Upcoming. Nothing's come to replace it in the years since, and I have the same problems that motivated me to build it a decade ago—I'm missing interesting events in my city and struggling to discover interesting events when I travel. I don't know what my friends are going to, and I lose track of the events I hear about on a regular basis.

I want to bring back Upcoming, rebuilding it for the modern era using tools and platforms that weren't available at the time I started it.

And he promises not to sell it again.

The Kickstarter funded almost instantaneously—it hit its $30,000 goal in 90 minutes, which means we can indeed expect to see the return of I probably shouldn't even be blogging about this. In his Kickstarter pitch, Baio writes:

Entirely curated by the community, Upcoming surfaced weird and wonderful events that usually fell under the radar of traditional event listings from newspapers and local weeklies.

Yes, that's right: With this new project, Baio is trying to drive the final nail into the coffin of my obsolescence as an alt-weekly arts and culture editor. Quit trying to kill print, The Internet! Haven't you done enough?!

Just kidding. (Kind of.) I know Baio socially, and he strikes me as someone who is interested in the right sort of problems. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gary Busey Gets WEIRD for Amazon Fire TV

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Yesterday I informed you about the new Amazon Fire TV streaming box, which may not be the answer to all your television woes, but is a definite improvement over similar devices such Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast... AND doubles as a KARAOKE MACHINE!!! (I really need to let go of that.) Anyway, who better to introduce such a product to the world than Gary Busey? I'll give you a minute to think of a list of better candidates... you'll probably come up with about a hundred. In the meantime, here's a predictably WEIRD Fire TV commercial starring the predictably WEIRD Gary Busey.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Quick Tour of Amazon's New "Fire TV"

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Gizmodo has a pretty thorough article today on the new Amazon Fire TV streaming box—which retails for $100 and might finally replace your love for getting neck cricks while watching TV on your laptop. It apparently fixes all the problems with Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku—terrible search systems, slow gaming, etc—and presents it all in a very easy to use format that includes Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, Crackle... but sorry, no HBO GO. It also features "voice search" (which might actually work), gaming apps from EA, Disney, and more (played with either the remote or a more classic style controller you can get for 40 bones extra), and... DOUBLES AS A KARAOKE MACHINE??? I am so in!! (Maybe I'm not... but I'll think about it!) Much more info here, but check out Gizmodo's quick video tour of the system.

Hands On: Amazon FireTV from Gizmodo on Vimeo.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Robots Write the News Now—and I Couldn't Be Happier

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 10:44 AM

The LA Times is one of the media organizatins leading the pack when it comes to making their own employees superfluous—because now they're using robots to write their breaking news stories. From the BBC:

The Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper to publish a story about an earthquake on Monday - thanks to a robot writer.

Journalist and programmer Ken Schwencke created an algorithm that automatically generates a short article when an earthquake occurs.

Mr Schwencke told Slate magazine that it took around three minutes for the story to appear online.

"Robo-journalism" is increasingly being used in newsrooms worldwide.

According to the story, the algorithm pulls the stats needed for the story from "trusted sources" (this time the US Geological Survey), plugs them into some pre-written text, and VOILA! They're first off the blocks with breaking news.

Does this make me nervous? HELL TO THE NO! Right after lunch I'm gonna walk down to the mall, and buy me one of these "robo-porters" (probably at the T-Mobile store?), stick it in my seat, and take the rest of my life OFF. Sayonara, suckers! (Hat tips to Blogtown consulting detective Graham.)

P.S. I'm happy to set up some "robo-commenters," too—then we could vacation together!

Friday, March 14, 2014

How Warner Bros. Screwed Over Veronica Mars' Backers

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 5:07 PM

VERONICA MARS Is Veronicas dog Backup in the movie? BACKUP BETTER BE IN THE MOVIE
  • VERONICA MARS Is Veronica's dog Backup in the movie? SO HELP ME GOD BACKUP BETTER BE IN THE MOVIE

How did Warner Bros. screw over the people who made the Veronica Mars movie happen? One word: Ultraviolet.

I was one of those people who giddily donated to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter on its first day, and despite the issues I've had with the campaign (from the decidedly minor, like the increasingly self-satisfied backer updates, to the decidedly less minor, like Warner Bros.' precedent-setting manner of exploiting crowdfunding to gauge fans' interest and save themselves millions of dollars), I'm still looking forward to seeing the movie in a theater this weekend.

Why am I paying it to see it in a theater instead of watching it for free at home, since one of my Kickstarter rewards was a digital version of the film? Oh, right: Because it turns out one of my rewards wasn't a digital version of the film that anyone could actually use. Instead of giving backers a downloadable file, or a code to download the film via iTunes or Amazon, or an easy streaming option, Veronica Mars was released to the people who made it happen using Ultraviolet, a studio-backed streaming system that's a huge pain in the ass and never, ever works.

Never heard of Ultraviolet? That's because nobody fucking uses it, because it fucking sucks. But studios are terrified of piracy, so they make constrictive things like Ultraviolet; not coincidentally, Ultraviolet is so constrictive that anyone with half a brain realizes, roughly five seconds into trying to use the thing, that it's both easier and faster to either (A) buy whatever they're trying to watch on iTunes or Amazon, or, more likely, (B) pirate whatever it is they're trying to watch.

Case in point: You can already watch a pirated version of Veronica Mars, as noted by Jason Bailey on Flavorwire. Bailey's piece—"Veronica Mars Digital Download Is a Clusterfuck for Kickstarter Backers"—is a must-read for anyone interested in how major studios are trying (and failing) to deal with the sort of digital accessibility that people who are comfortable with the internet—e.g., Kickstarter backers—have become accustomed to.

Or, as Bailey points out, maybe giving backers the film via Ultraviolet was part of a plan to make even more money off the fans:

When the time comes, we’ll probably end up punting the Ultraviolet option and just buying the damn thing on iTunes. And not to sound all conspiracy theory-minded, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s a not-unattractive side effect to Ultraviolet being so goddamn terrible; it allows the studios to make giving something away as difficult as possible, and some people aren’t going to go to the trouble. (Via.)

If that is the case, well... hey, it worked on me! I'll be seeing Veronica Marspaying to see Veronica Mars, a movie which, technically, I already paid for—at the Living Room Theaters tomorrow night. On the upside, at least it's supposed to be good.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About Google Fiber

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM

GOOGLE FIBER PIctured above: Google Fiber! Or Johnny Mnemonic. Your call.
  • GOOGLE FIBER Pictured above: You! Using Google Fiber! Or maybe it's Johnny Mnemonic. Your call.

Portland might get Google Fiber, which would be a pretty big deal—but amidst all the talk of blisteringly fast internet speeds, there are a lot of questions. How much would it cost? What would Google get out of it? Why is Portland on the short list? Will everyone be able to use Google Fiber, or could this jump in the city's technological infrastructure end up leaving some people behind?

The answers to all of those questions—and more—can be found in the feature Denis and I wrote this week. If you use the internet and live in Portland, you should read it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Coffee Pod People Are Getting Creepier

Posted by Paul Constant on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Keurig, those coffee-pod people, have somehow created a market full of people who are willing to pay $60 for a pound of coffee. But that's not enough for Keurig: Now they're working on some sort of a digital rights management scheme involving coffee makers that would only use Keurig-branded coffee pods. Karl Bode at Techdirt writes:

In a lawsuit filed against Keurig by TreeHouse Foods, they claim Keurig has been busy striking exclusionary agreements with suppliers and distributors to lock competing products out of the market. What's more, TreeHouse points out that Keurig is now developing a new version of their coffee maker that will incorporate the java-bean equivalent of DRM — so that only Keurig's own coffee pods can be used in it:

"Green Mountain has announced a new anticompetitive plan to maintain its monopoly by redesigning its brewers to lock out competitors’ products. Such lock-out technology cannot be justified based on any purported consumer benefit, and Green Mountain itself has admitted that the lock-out technology is not essential for the new brewers’ function. Like its exclusionary agreements, this lock-out technology is intended to serve anticompetitive and unlawful ends."

The plan was confirmed by Keurig's CEO who stated on a recent earnings call that the new maker indeed won't work with "unlicensed" pods as part of an effort to deliver "game-changing performance."

Someone reading this post should write a sci-fi story about a mega-corporation that creates 3D-printed kidneys for transplant. The catch is that the kidneys can only tolerate drinks made with a special, licensed brand of water. You'll be considered a visionary genius when the story comes true in thirty years.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Government Trying to Spy on Citizens Annoyed Because People Are Masturbating on Camera All the Time

Posted by Paul Constant on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 1:44 PM

The Guardian's latest scoop is at once horrifying and kind of funny.

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
The documents also chronicle GCHQ's sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place

One could imagine an In the Loop-style dark comedy about the bureaucrats tasked to somehow screen out all the dick pics in the hunt for some legitimate terrorism data. The more of these kinds of stories I read, the more I agree with Brendan Kiley: Off or on, no webcam is safe.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Watch this Extended Trailer for HBO's Silicon Valley

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 1:44 PM

First of all it's got the hilarious T.J. Miller (read our interview with him in the upcoming ish of the Merc). Secondly it was created by the wildly talented Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead... shall I continue?). Thirdly, it also co-stars Martin Starr who you fell madly in love with as Bill in Freaks and Geeks. And it's all about a group of brilliant live-in tech geeks and their attempts to deal with the insanities of "start up culture." It debuts on HBO on April 6, and if this new extended trailer is any indication, Silicon Valley is gonna be BOSS. Watch.

Fifteen Years Left Before Machines Outsmart You

Posted by Eli Sanders on Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Says this guy:

By 2029, computers will be able to understand our language, learn from experience and outsmart even the most intelligent humans, according to Google’s director of engineering Ray Kurzweil.

He also calls this idea "not radical anymore."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Portland Makes Google Fiber Shortlist!!!

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:59 AM

  • google
It's by no means a done deal, but the mayors of several neighboring cities joined Mayor Charlie Hales in city hall today for a majorly hopeful announcement: Portland is one of nine metro areas (including 34 cities) in the running for a whiplash-fast Google Fiber broadband network.

Getting Google Fiber has been a city hall white whale for the past few years—the company's first foray into municipal broadband skipped over Portland and built in places like Provo, Utah, and Kansas City (both!). Portland even brewed a special beer to woo Google the last time it tried getting into the dance. Google's less interested in panache this time.

"We've got cool covered," Hales joked.

The company, instead, is looking for logistical details from the cities it's set up as suitors: Can it tap into existing fiber networks? Will a city's leadership help smooth the permit process? Will streets need to be torn up? How many? It hopes to have that information by May 1, with a decision at the end of the year on which cities will get the nod.

Hales has pledged to convene a series of regional meetings to that effect. And political consultant Mark Wiener has been lending his expertise to the effort. He was at the presser in city hall this morning and said he provided light background on Portland's nationally unique political system, in which city commissioners also lead city bureaus. Unlike other cities, Portland doesn't have a strong mayor who could make decisions and push staffers into whatever positions are needed.

Those challenges aside, I don't think I can recall seeing so much optimism after a city hall press event. People were beaming and shaking hands. Google's gigabit fiber network is 100 times faster than typical American broadband speeds—and cheaper. Bringing it to Portland will put pressure on current providers, like monopolist Comcast, to do more without gouging consumers.

But the cost of installation could be a major factor here or anywhere else. Google is putting cities through these paces so it can essentially study up—for free—the kinds of challenges underlying the expansion of a service that could become another profit center for the company. Cost estimates will flow from what the cities are able to tell Google about their infrastructure. Hales says he thinks he can work on permitting, for example, without having to hire extra staff. Permits are going to be very important, a Google rep said at the presser, saying the company wants to avoid "permit shock."

A FAQ on Google's website for its Fiber service lays that balancing act out.

There are also some physical characteristics of a city that might make it really complex for us to build Google Fiber. For example, underground construction might be really difficult due to bedrock or unusually hard soil. In these situations, we would share what we learned in our studies with city leaders and we hope they’d be able to use that information to explore other options for bringing super high speed broadband to their residents.

Hales and the city have decided that full-throated pursuit is worth the chance for heartbreak. With the region cultivating a reputation as a high-tech/information economy hub, he says having cheap, brilliant broadband connections before most other cities around the country can boast the same would be a boon for attracting and retaining businesses.

"It's a way to put Portland into the leadership of the new economy," Hales says.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Physical Media Still Exists, and Why Criterion Deserves Your Money

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Noticed how shitty and blurry this season of House of Cards looks? Part of that's thanks to Comcast's hampering of Netflix, and part of that's because until our infrastructure changes—don't hold your breath—streaming video is going to look inferior to things like Blu-ray or playback from locally stored HD files.

Of course, 99.99 percent of people don't give a fuck if Kevin Spacey looks like he's slathered in Vaseline, and will happily trade crummy picture and sound for the convenience of not having to deal with discs or hard drives. The rest of us film nerds, though, keep blowing our money on Blu-rays or looking for high-quality digital files—and we'll keep doing so until Google Fiber comes in, or until Americans finally rise up and burn Comcast to ground until only motherfucking ashes remain. IN THE MEANTIME, Gizmodo's behind-the-scenes video of how things work at the Criterion Collection is a reminder of why, at least when it comes to movies, physical media still has its benefits: Looking at the care that goes into Criterion's restoration of Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent will make you feel better about every time you've ever bought one of their expensive discs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

:D No, wait. :(

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 12:59 PM


When you see a colon and a parentheses, you know exactly what it means. The smiley face has become ubiquitous online, and psychologists have even looked into the ways it’s used in emails. Now, researchers say that not only do we know what the little :) means, but we actually perceive it the same way we perceive an actual human face. (Via.)

That's from Smithsonian. And from ABC:

"Emoticons are a new form of language that we're producing," says researcher, Dr Owen Churches, from the school of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, "and to decode that language we've produced a new pattern of brain activity." (Via.)

Okay, so maybe me saying humans have no need for human faces anymore was kind of exaggerating (HOW ELSE WOULD WE EAT), but the fact our brains now have the same response to :) as we do when seeing an actual human being smile is kind of... I don't know? There isn't really an emoji for neat and creepy at the same time. :/


Today in Corporations That Control Your Life

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM

As Denis mentioned in Good Morning News (and as your Twitter feed is probably still freaking the fuck out about), Comcast is trying to acquire Time Warner, at which point will they not only will control a huge swatch of media and infrastructure, but they'll also probably change their name to OmniCorp and expand Comcast's home security business into national security.

Over at the Verge, Bryan Bishop has a solid post that articulates exactly why—well, look at the headline: "Why You Should Be Scared of Comcast and Time Warner Cable Merging."

It would turn the behemoth into a titan, expanding Comcast’s reach and power in unprecedented ways. Tie in the fact that Comcast also owns NBCUniversal—which means it has a movie studio as well as broadcast and cable networks of its own—and you’re looking at a vertically integrated media juggernaut. One that wouldn’t just be in control of our televisions, but would be ready to steer the direction of any future online services as well. (Via.)

And if that's not chilling enough, just think of how much shittier Comcast's customer service will get when they have one less major competitor to worry about. Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Amazon Crushes Barnes & Noble Under Its Heel, with Help from the Department of Justice

Posted by Paul Constant on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Jay Yarow at Business Insider writes:

Barnes & Noble laid off its Nook hardware engineers, according to a source that tipped Business Insider.

The engineers were let go last Thursday, according to our source.

Barnes & Noble's e-book sales were reportedly improving a few years ago, but now they've all but bottomed out, and Barnes & Noble's e-book division is crashing and burning. What happened? Oh, that's right. Amazon convinced the United States to sue publishers out of the right to set their own e-book prices. And now Amazon is crushing its competition and becoming an e-book monopoly again. Thanks a lot, Department of Justice!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Portland Cartoonist Erika Moen Launches a Patreon (Also, Patreon Sounds Pretty Brilliant)

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 4:28 PM


Local cartoonist Erika Moen—who, it should be noted, has been interviewed in the Mercury, and has also appeared at Comics Underground, the comics reading series Alison and I produce—has a campaign up on Patreon, a newish crowdfunding site that, until this morning, I hadn't even heard of, let alone seen used for web comics. But now that I've seen how Moen's using it, I suspect a lot of web comics creators—hell, just a lot of creators—are going to start using the site.

The short explanation of Patreon, and of Moen's Patreon campaign, is this: Once you sign up through Moen's Patreon page, you're charged a small fee (in this case, $1 or more) every time Moen updates her excellent web comic Oh Joy, Sex Toy. (You can set a limit on how much to give each month, so you won't go broke if Moen uploads a billion comics at once.) In other words: You're setting a price for the content you consume, and you're also paying that price reliably—and giving Moen an incentive to keep cranking out installments of Oh Joy, Sex Toy.

If this sounds sounds familiar, that's probably because it is. Sort of. Just as the most successful book- and comics-related Kickstarters basically function as glorified pre-order systems, Patreon takes the old-school subscription model and updates it for those creating online content. And in doing so, it seems to strike a balance between the desires of consumers (who hunger for new content) and the needs of creators (who go hungry if consumers don't pay for what they use).

It can be tough to make a living creating online content, even if that content is top-tier. Moen's comic is popular, and she's a veteran of selling her art and her words, which means she knows how to make it work: Her comics are free, but she sells merch and ad space, syndicates Oh Joy, Sex Toy, and has PayPal donation buttons. But those forms of income aren't consistent. "I have a PayPal Donate button on all of my different webcomic series (, and, of course,," Moen told me over email today. "When I first launch a comic, I get a ton of donations in that first month. And then after that, I get maybe $1-5 every three-to-six months afterward. People get used to seeing that donate button on your site and it just sort of blends in to the background after a while, like the ads. Patreon is a fantastic answer to that, since it's a recurring donation."

Continue reading »

Friday, January 24, 2014

This Year, Everyone Is Trying to Unmask Anonymous Commenters in Court

Posted by Paul Constant on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Juliet Linderman at says:

The attorney for former New Orleans Affordable Homeownership Director Stacey Jackson is seeking private information from | The Times-Picayune about two anonymous online commenters.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson granted a request Tuesday (Jan. 21) from Jackson, who faces federal corruption charges, to subpoena NOLA Media Group for information related to two specific online handles, "aircheck" and "jammer1954," including names, addresses and phone numbers.

This is the second time this month that anonymous commenters have been threatened with unmasking by court order. In Virginia, a court ruled that Yelp must reveal the identities of commenters who wrote negative reviews of a carpet-cleaning business on January 10th. We just need one more example and it's a trend piece!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Soccer" vs. "Football": Another Great YouTube Comment Recreation!

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Here's another of the great YouTube Comment recreations, in which two aged Shakespearean actors exactly recreate a battle between commenters on YouTube. Today: What begins as a battle between the definitions of "soccer" and "football" turns into a scathing debate on the vagaries of intellectualism! WHO WILL WIN? (Spoiler alert: You.)


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Man with Google Glass Thrown Out of Movie Theater and Interrogated: Who's the Bigger Asshole?

Posted by Paul Constant on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Rob Jackson at Phandroid writes:

At an AMC theater in Easton Mall in Columbus, Ohio, one Google Glass Explorer went to see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but got a rude awakening instead. An hour into the movie he was approached by a federal agent who, without hesitation, snatched the Google Glass off the man’s face and removed him from the theater.

Outside there were 5 to 10 officers and agents who proceeded to allegedly badger and question him for over 3 hours, suggesting he was illegally recording the movie.

According to Phandroid, the man was eventually released and given two free tickets to AMC Theaters for his trouble. While I respect the right of hard-working Americans to mock "Glass Explorers" at every opportunity, and while anyone who wears a recording device strapped to his head has to expect to have a kinda difficult time at the movies, I don't think that warrants the three hours of interrogation and all-around shoddy treatment this man received. But what do you think?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wikipedia Arts + Feminism Edit-a-Thon

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 10:44 AM


A few months ago, I wrote about the Oregon Arts Project, a movement to improve coverage of regional arts organizations on Wikipedia by training arts-minded new contributors to the site.

There's another, similar event on the horizon: The upcoming Art + Feminism Edit-a-Thon aims to boost Wikipedia's coverage of female artists while also encouraging women to contribute to the site, whose contributor base strongly skews male.

The Portland meetup is one of many taking place across the country. No experience is required; pro Wikipedians will be on hand to help newcomers navigate the Wiki editing process, including finding and citing sources. So if your interests lie anywhere near the intersection of art, feminism, and technology, put this one on the calendar. The Wikipedia page for the national event already contains a long list of feminist subjects whose articles either don't exist at all, or need substantial revision.

The Portland event is Saturday, Feb 1 at PSU's Neuberger Hall (Room 293), from 9 am-3 pm; participants should bring their own laptop and power cord.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Net Neutrality Takes a Punch in the Mouth

Posted by Bobby Roberts on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:58 PM

Earlier this morning, a federal appeals court struck down the FCC's rules for Net Neutrality, enacted back in 2010. The rules were intended to prevent a future where media companies and telecoms (like Verizon, the company appealing the FCC's rules) take the business model of cable television and apply it to your internet, with all the tiered, packaged madness that implies.

Here's a hypothetical example: Your YouTube would still be free, but if you wanted to watch more than 20 videos in a week, you'd have to pay a subscription fee to unlock that tier, and if you'd like the resolution on those videos to be slightly higher than "potato," you'd have to pay an even higher fee.

Of course, there is much righteous anger being expressed in response to this decision, but not much of it is being aimed towards the court. Why? Because its really hard to find fault with the ruling. Essentially, the court found that the FCC never had authority to enact or enforce the rules in the first place. Why? Because the FCC, like a large percentage of our government, is about as useful as muppet nipples when it comes to any use of technology that goes beyond sharing .gifs.

See, the FCC had defined broadband internet as an information service, not a common carrier service like, say, phone lines, which nobody fucking uses anymore because not only do people prefer the handheld computers that we still, for some reason, call "mobile phones," but the amount of internet that you can get THROUGH those phone lines will allow a stream roughly comparable to the dust from the tip of Tom Hanks' dick in The Green Mile.

Because of that (fucking stupid) classification, Net Neutrality is currently on the ropes. However, a little sliver of hope exists in that the court, by outlining where the FCC overstepped their authority, have pointed out the FCC does have the authority to impose rules regarding the usage of the internet. The FCC claims they're going to work as hard as they can to correct their mistakes, which hopefully includes a reclassification of broadband internet itself into something closer to "Public Utility," which should help keep the internet a free and open platform for all of its users, not just the corporate ones.

The Worst Obamacare Web Site in the Nation?

Posted by Eli Sanders on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 9:44 AM


Several states and the federal government have struggled with exchange technology, but none as much as Oregon. Cover Oregon’s online enrollment system still doesn’t work more than three months after it was supposed to launch, and the state has hired or reassigned hundreds of workers to manually process applications. Officials say they hope the online system will be operational by March.

What went wrong? Don't worry, the state is spending $228,000 for an independent review of all the errors. "Which," the AP reports, "is expected to begin later this month and take about six weeks."

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Won't Leave My Cell Phone In Your Stupid Basket

Posted by Alex Falcone on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Fair warning: If you go to a party and there's a basket by the door demanding you leave your phone behind so you can be "more present" during the proceedings, you have every right to steal one and leave the party forever. Because much more dangerous than the trend of people using their smart phones to check Facebook at parties is the trend of people telling you what your relationship with technology should be.

These Smugness Baskets have been around for a couple years now, but they made a major push over the holiday season (especially on Facebook, because how else would you find out that it's not cool to use Facebook?).

This blog post is a perfect example of how this phone shaming is supposed to work. These hosts are concerned that...

If we didn’t draw attention to our addiction and have a call-out kindly asking everyone to be present and in the moment, we’d all get carried away and lose the day to our love, uh dependence, on technology.

We're obviously not addicted to technology if you can just cure it with passive aggressive notes. "Hey, Uncle Greg. Didn't you see the sign? Please leave your heroin in the basket by the door. I want you to be present tonight."

You're not saving Christmas anyway. If people are rude with their phones, they would have been rude without them. The same people who check their email while you're having dinner also check the score on the TV, and you didn't put your TV in the basket. These are the same people who clip their toenails in other people's bathrooms and merge without looking and brag about how much they've been going to the gym recently. People who suck are going to suck whether they're at a LAN party or an Amish Hoedown.

I'd much rather talk to somebody who's checking his e-mail on his phone than a party host who's got his head so far up his own ass he can check his own kidneys.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In the Future, All Cars Will Be Smart Cars

Posted by Paul Constant on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Popular Science:

Officials will decide in the "coming weeks" whether all new cars in the U.S. must have the technology to communicate with other cars and warn drivers—or even brake for them—when there's a crash impending, ABC News reports. Those same officials originally said they would make a decision about these technologies by December 31, The Detroit News reports, but then announced they'd "made significant progress," but weren't ready for a decision.


A study by IHS Automotive claims that by 2050 nearly every vehicle on the road will be self-driving.

The study estimates that by 2025 sales of self-driving cars will reach 230,000. By 2035, sales will reach 11.8 million, and there will be nearly 54 million autonomous vehicles on the road.

When we finally take humans out of the driving equation, the world will be a much safer place.

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