Archive for December 30th, 2008

The Most Insane Sewing Machine I Have Ever Seen

Sewing Madness

For the love of God, it has THREE USB PORTS. Whyyy.

The latest piece of tech in the war on grandmas has gotta be Brother’s Quattro 6000D sewing machine, a beastly machine with specs that will help even the most diligent granny patch up those quilts or ripped teddies more efficiently. Once you get past the huge 50-inch workspace, you’ll notice the 4.5 x 7-inch Sharp HD LCD display and embedded runway lighting. Brother’s “InnovEye” and “Up-Close Viewer” technology places a camera right next to the needle to give the user a birds-eye view on the LCD to allow perfect placement before stitching. Advanced embroidery features and built-in tutorials should certainly mitigate any mishaps, and should you get the urge to plug every flash drive you own into it, there are 3 USB ports.

Surely this is madness.

1 comment December 30th, 2008 at 10:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology,Weirdness

Giant Chinese Snow Santa!

You heard me.

Giant Snow Santa

China’s freezing northern city of Harbin is building what organizers say is the world’s largest Santa Claus ice sculpture.

The giant Father Christmas, 160 meters (525 ft) long and 24 meters high, centers on an enormous face of Father Christmas, complete with flowing beard and hat.

(…)

Every year the city plays host to a world-renowned ice festival. But the effects of global warming are taking a toll as the snow and ice now melt more rapidly than in the past.

Organizers said they had to artificially make snow for the Santa Claus sculpture.

Still, the sculpture has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the country who want to enjoy a white Christmas despite worries over the economic downturn.

I think the war against global warming has just merged with the War On Christmas.  Talk about strange bedfellows.

December 30th, 2008 at 08:45pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Art/Architecture,Coolness,Environment,Weirdness

Wanker Of The Day

Matt Ivester is a truly horrible person:

Across the country, college students are trading personal postings about their classmates, from the “ugliest sorority girl” at Truman State to “frat fags” at Clemson. Some postings simply state a person’s name with the command “Discuss” underneath. And they do, often in highly profane and personal terms.

Juicycampus.com has taken college gossip to a new level, transmitted instantly and anonymously. Students can post whatever they please – true or false, trivial or traumatizing – about whomever they please. The result is a free-for-all message board that makes bathroom scribbles look like kid’s play. The website was started 15 months ago on seven campuses and has spread to 500 colleges. Boston is a particularly busy locale, since it hosts 300,000 college students on dozens of campuses.

Matt Ivester, a 2005 graduate of Duke University, founded Juicy Campus, whose slogan is “C’mon. Give us the juice.” The site states: “This is the place to spill the juice about all the crazy stuff going on at your campus. It’s totally anonymous – no registration, login, or email verification required.”

The writers may be anonymous, but their victims are very much identified. At BC, one thread names a student and asks, “Is this girl a straight-up ho or what?” At Northeastern: “Who hooked up with hockey players this year? Name them and comment.” People did. The girl at Northeastern who “looks like a Muppet” got off easy. Ditto for the BC freshman who was merely called “a real tool.”

Some shrug Juicy Campus off as silly; others think it’s toxic. Whichever, it gets a million visits a month. “It became incredibly popular incredibly quickly,” says Ivester, 25, who was president of his fraternity at Duke. “There are 2,400 four-year institutions in the US, and we’d like to be on every single one of them.” It is solely up to Juicy Campus, headquartered in Los Angeles, to add campuses to its roster.

Ivester says he loved gossiping with fraternity brothers at Duke. “So why not have a place where you could share ridiculous, hilarious, entertaining high jinks of campus life?”

(…)

Gossip targets at some schools have reported getting emotionally devastated and even physically ill over the postings. Some have said that it ruined their entire academic year.

But Ivester remains unabashedly proud of the network he created. Legally he thinks he’s covered. Guidelines on the site state that users must agree not to post material that is abusive or obscene – though the rules seem to be honored mostly in the breach. Juicy Campus says it isn’t responsible or liable for the content and doesn’t vouch for its “reliability, accuracy, legitimacy, or quality.”

That doesn’t impress the attorneys general of New Jersey and Connecticut, who are investigating Juicy Campus for fraud for not enforcing its own policy against offensive material. And Google removed the site from its advertising network because it violated the company’s ban against “excessive profanity.”

But wait!  Ivester is actually a sensitive, caring nurturer:

Ivester has spent much time defending his “entertainment” website, saying that it’s all about free speech. But doesn’t the caliber of the conversation bother him? He says he doesn’t like “the personal attacks or mean-spirited stuff,” and in response to complaints, posted a letter reminding users that “words can hurt” and “hate isn’t juicy.”

Hate isn’t juicy, bros and bro-ettes.  We would all do well to remember that.

December 30th, 2008 at 11:26am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Wankers

Carrots And Honey

Still more evidence that while torture may be satisfying to sadists and useful to propagandists, it’s as ineffective as it is immoral:

In response to Steve’s probing questions, Naji proudly explained that his father was grooming him to be a mujahedin and a future leader of Al Qaeda. He also said that his father took him to important meetings.

A veteran interrogator the night before had told us we “should show the little punk who’s in charge.” This was the attitude of many of the old guard, the interrogators who had been at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq early in the war, when the “gloves were off.” They mocked those of us who didn’t imitate their methods of interrogation, which were based on fear and control. There was tremendous peer pressure to follow in their footsteps and not appear soft on our enemies.

We ignored the pressure. We believed that, particularly with a child, interviewing rather than interrogation got better results. Steve had been trained in interviewing children, and he used those skills with Naji, gently stroking the child’s ego and noting that he must have been a very important boy to have attended meetings. Soon, Naji started rattling off places where meetings had taken place. He detailed who was at the gatherings, how many guns were stored at the houses, what was discussed and what plans were made. Naji talked because Steve was sympathetic and made him feel good.

From the information he provided, it was clear that Naji’s father had been a mid- to high-level Al Qaeda leader with connections throughout Yousifiya and Al Anbar province. By the time the interview ended after an hour, Steve had filled up pages in his notebook with detailed information about Naji’s father’s network.

Back in our office, Steve and I marveled at all the intelligence Naji had provided — the names, the locations. He’d pinpointed the better part of Al Qaeda’s operations around Yousifiya. In the two weeks that followed, our soldiers put this information to good use and took out a significant portion of Al Qaeda’s suicide-bombing network in the area. For two weeks, violence dropped and many lives were saved.

(…)

Good interrogation is not an exercise in domination or control. It’s an opportunity for negotiation and compromise. It’s a common ground where the two sides in this war meet, and it’s a grand stage where words become giants, tears flow like rivers and emotions rage like wildfires. It is a forum in which we should always display America’s strengths — cultural understanding, tolerance, compassion and intellect. But that’s not how all interrogators see their role.

According to a recent report from the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee, “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot be attributed to the actions of a ‘few bad apples’ acting on their own.” The effects of the policy that allowed torture to happen at Guantanamo Bay, the report concluded, spread to Iraq through the interrogators who had first been at Guantanamo. The preference for harsh interrogation techniques was extremely counterproductive and harmed our ability to obtain cooperation from Al Qaeda detainees. Even after the old guard interrogators were forced to play by the rules of the Geneva Convention, there was still plenty of leeway for interrogation methods based on fear and control. I believe their continued reliance on such techniques has severely hampered our ability to stop terrorist attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.

We will win this war by being smarter, not harsher. For those who would accuse me of being too nice to our enemies, I encourage you to examine our success in hunting down Zarqawi and his network. The drop in suicide bombings in Iraq at two points in the spring and summer of 2006 was a direct result of our smarter interrogation methods.

I used to tell my team in Iraq: “The things that make you a good American are the things that will make you a good interrogator.” We must outlaw torture across every agency of our government, restore our adherence to the American principles passed down to us and, in doing so, better protect Americans from future terrorist attacks.

As Alexander points out, it is not enough simply to outlaw torture.  Until all our interrogators understand that harshness is not the key to intelligence-gathering, they will continue walking up to the edge and being as brutal as they think they can get away with, and they will get nowhere.  Torture is about as effective for intelligence-gathering as invasion and bombing are for winning hearts and minds.  Who knew?

As with politics, the right thing to do is often the smartest thing to do… and also the hardest.

(h/t Brandon Friedman)

December 30th, 2008 at 07:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture


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