Linkspam, May 11th, 2013
A bit over a hundred years ago, California was all set to build a great-looking bike highway. Unfortunately they built car highways instead and pretty much doomed good urban planning, air quality, international politics, etc. More alternate history stories should pick events like this as divergence points, rather than boring crap like who won wars.
California continues its century-plus history of bad decisions through to today, as documented in a beautiful letter from Robert Meister to Daphne Koller about Coursera's state lobbying efforts to delegitimize and destroy public education:
I will know my course has been successful when my students understand Coursera’s business model behind offering free higher education globally (along with the promise of greater social equality) as an exciting venture capital investment opportunity through which to increase privately-held wealth and lock in existing educational hierarchies.
Relatedly (I promise) bees are still dying for unknown reasons:
Rising food prices led farmers to plant crops in fields previously considered marginal or set aside as grasslands. Honeybees forage in those grasslands, and can’t get the nutrition they need from flowering crops alone.
This is a positive feedback loop, since without bees fruits don't get pollinated and food gets even more expensive. If this was, say, a college education, or health care, the solution is obvious: large-scale private pollination efforts. If you want fruit, you'd better spend your lunch hour pollinating that garden to earn a fruit certificate to exchange for a shitty melon. (Hah hah, just kidding, who gets a lunch hour anymore?)
Shane Carruth has released his new film, Upstream Color, as a $20 DRM-free download. His previous film Primer is one of my favorites. I don't feel quite as good about Upstream Color, but I still recommend it.
Someone (an adult) reviewed every Goosebumps book. Eight-year-old-me is jealous. Today-me hopes the reviewer is still okay.
Here is a version of Astroids that is also a security hole and the author, Michal Zalewski, explaining how it works. This attack is oblique, involves multiple levels of the platform stack, and the information immediately leaked is not usually thought of as a security problem by those under attack. This also describes things like cache timing attacks or the BEAST and CRIME TLS attacks. The biggest challenge facing computer security right now isn't even just plugging all the holes, but explaining to laypeople and novice programmers what kinds of things are risks and threats.
God of Blades came out for personal computers (a while ago, and I missed it). I'd previously played it on iOS. Satisfying slow-paced hack-and-slash with an underused aesthetic. A bourbon to Devil May Cry's wine. (Bayonetta's tequila? God of War's jello shots?)
Porpentine's essay, 7 Thoughts on Women in Games had a line that I thought was a critical takeaway for any kind of activism, because it succinctly sums up what's broken about the hyper-libertarianism in so many parts of the Internet today:
Communities aren’t “just friends”. Sure, they’re often groups of friends based around a common interest, but when a community of friends overlaps or encompasses technical resources, they must take responsibility.