Archive for March 2010
In Johannesburg, to get a local minibus taxi ride you point to the ground, to get to the Central Business District you point to the sky. The system isn’t exclusive to Jo’burg, Durban’s city government boasts about them, but South Africa seems to be the only place such a system exists. Artist Susan Woolf seems mostly responsible for documenting the system, the work of which she explained at a TEDx. The best article I could find about their origins (don’t miss its graphic):
“Ah well, we have meetings to discuss the new routes and then we choose the sign, simple,” he says. Once the code is coined it’s the responsibility of the “queue marshals to inform the commuters about the new sign”.
The obvious one, of course, he says, is the universal train station route code, the choo-choo train-wheel arm movement. Other signs are “decided by the customers”, he says. Like the one used for the S’God’phola — Randburg route.
Turns out there were a lot of shootings in S’God’phola, an informal settlement near Fourways, in 2006, so the gun hand sign became the code for taxis going there.
A worthy perspective on what it frequently called a “war-torn continent”:
There is a very simple reason why some of Africa’s bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don’t have much of an ideology; they don’t have clear goals. They couldn’t care less about taking over capitals or major cities — in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today’s rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people’s children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent’s most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find.
There’s a lot that feels hand-wavy and half-baked to me in this talk from Jane McGonigal, but I like the basic idea that we should seek to merge what’s successful about virtual problem solving (or “games”) with real world problems.
None of these charts of American food availability really shock me but they would make a good addition to Mesofacts. The most interesting thing to me is how constant America’s appetite for pork has been — while chicken’s just climbed and beef rose into the ’70s and started to fall. And if you can wade through the bureaucratic writing, there are some interesting tidbits not represented in the chart:
The availability of fats and oils grew from 36 pounds per person in 1909 to 87 pounds in 2008. Much of this increase was in salad and cooking oils used to cook french fries, a mainstay of fast food and other restaurant menus. Cheese availability also skyrocketed—growing from 11.4 pounds per person in 1970 to 31.4 pounds in 2008. Cheese owes much of its growth to the spread of Italian and Mexican eateries in the United States and to innovative, convenient packaging, such as string cheese for lunch boxes.
I saw this on Reddit a week or so ago, and it’s been sitting forward in my mind ever since. While it’s too “socialist” to ever be the law in America — and was never envisioned as such anyway — it’s an interesting idea that deserves consideration. From Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union:
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.
You may have seen this article about “human-flesh search engines” a few weeks ago, but that phrase totally obfuscates the far more interesting reality. In China, random people are forming mobs on the internet and ruining (non-famous) people’s lives:
What was peculiar about the human-flesh search against Wang was that it involved almost no searching. His name was revealed in the earliest online-forum posts, and his private information was disclosed shortly after. This wasn’t cooperative detective work; it was public harassment, mass intimidation and populist revenge. Wang actually sought redress in Chinese court and was rewarded very minor damages from an Internet-service provider and a Netizen who Wang claimed had besmirched his reputation. Recently passed tort-law reform may encourage more such lawsuits, but damages awarded thus far in China have been so minor that it’s hard to imagine lawsuits having much impact on the human-flesh search.
These photos are compelling and disturbing.
I’m pretty damn ignorant of the history of Northern Ireland, but this is shocked me:
There are three times as many so-called peace lines — elaborate walls separating working-class neighborhoods — than there were at the height of the Troubles, 88 of them at last count.
You’ve all heard about how Chatroulette is the future past of the internet’s 4chan-based fad VC, right? Well, here’s the best thing Chatroulette has made.
I’ve been waiting for a story like this. I thought maybe this from Spiked! would work, but its overwrought climate-change denialism made me discard it. This piece, which may be a little overlong and focuses a little too much on statistics, feels good enough to make one consider the idea seriously.
Ioannidis claimed to prove that more than half of published findings are false, but his analysis came under fire for statistical shortcomings of its own. “It may be true, but he didn’t prove it,” says biostatistician Steven Goodman of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. On the other hand, says Goodman, the basic message stands. “There are more false claims made in the medical literature than anybody appreciates,” he says. “There’s no question about that.”