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Golf is increasingly unpopular

More Americans Are Giving Up Golf - New York Times

“The problem is time,” offered Walter Hurney, a real estate developer. “There just isn’t enough time. Men won’t spend a whole day away from their family anymore.”

William A. Gatz, owner of the Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead, said the problem was fundamental economics: too much supply, not enough demand.

The problem was not a game of golf. It was the game of golf itself.

The Dunbar Number, and hard limits on trust

Tobold's MMORPG Blog: The Dunbar number

Basically the Dunbar number is the number of people your brain can keep tab of as belonging to "us", your maximum social network. The number of 150 for humans is an extrapolation of the observation that the group size in primates depends on the size of the neocortex region of the brain. While not being a hard fact, it has been observed that for example guilds in MMORPG often are limited to less than 150 members, and break up when growing beyond that number. Your brain is simply unable to trust more than 150 individuals, especially when these individuals are not instantly recognizable as belonging to your "tribe". Which explains (but not excuses) a lot about xenophobia and racism.

Disenfranchised black students in Texas march seven miles to vote

Pandagon :: Then democracy asserted itself, just like that :: February :: 2008

Early voting in Texas started on Tuesday. The genius of early voting is that it’s convenient. You can usually vote at any polling place in your county, instead of having to make sure you’re going to the right one. Which makes it simple to vote during your lunch hour or at the grocery store on the way home from work, etc. Great idea, right? I think so. I’ve always enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, it appears that the system is rigged so that convenient polling places are only available to some people, which changes the demographics of who actually votes. Surprise surprise, one of the targets of such abuse is a historically black university outside of Houston called Prairie View A&M. Their county is only providing two voting machines, and they are located away from the university, so voting is convenient for townies, but not the students. The students, who have been victimized by this sort of disenfranchisement tactic before, decided to stage a protest.

A gallery of stuffed animals turned inside-out

Wild Animals - The Morning News

(via ZeFrank)

McCain tripped up by his own too-clever loan

Muckraker | Talking Points Memo | Today's Must Read

To review briefly: in December, McCain, who'd earlier opted in to the public financing system, needed cash. The FEC had already certified that he was owed $5.8 million in public matching funds -- but he wouldn't be getting that money until March. And he didn't want to absolutely commit yet to using that system, because it would limit his campaign to spending only $54 million through the end of August. And FEC rules say that using public matching funds as collateral locks a candidate into the system.

So McCain struck a deal with the bank: he promised to only commit to using the system if he lost the primary. If he won, he would opt out of the program, and he'd be more than able to pay the bank back, because the funds would come flowing. McCain's lawyers were evidently very pleased with the canniness of this arrangement.

If you're confused by this, don't worry: so, apparently, is FEC Chairman David Mason. McCain officially notified the FEC earlier this month that he was no longer in the public financing system for the primary. Now Mason has responded with a letter saying essentially, not so fast. It looks like you used the public matching funds as collateral.

Google to store patients' health records

Google to store patients' health records - Yahoo! News

SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. will begin storing the medical records of a few thousand people as it tests a long-awaited health service that's likely to raise more concerns about the volume of sensitive information entrusted to the Internet search leader.

The pilot project to be announced Thursday will involve 1,500 to 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic who volunteered to an electronic transfer of their personal health records so they can be retrieved through Google's new service, which won't be open to the general public.

Each health profile, including information about prescriptions, allergies and medical histories, will be protected by a password that's also required to use other Google services such as e-mail and personalized search tools.

Zero Punctuation at the GDC

Did McCain have an affair with a lobbysist?

For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk - New York Times

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

And MCain's people aren't denying it.

February 20, 2008

Advice to new writers regarding finances

Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money

2. Don’t quit your day job.

Lots of wanna-be writers wax rhapsodic about how great it would be to ditch the day job and just spend all their time clickety-clack typing away. These folks are idiots. Look, people: someone is paying you money and giving you benefits, both of which can support your writing career, and all you have to do is show up, do work that an unsupervised monkey could do, and pretend to care. What a scam! You’re sticking it to The Man, dude, because you’re taking that paycheck and turning it into art. And you know how The Man hates that. You’re supposed to be buying a big-screen TV with that paycheck! Instead, you’re subverting the dominant paradigm better than an entire battalion of college socialists. Well done, you. Well done, indeed.

People who aren’t full-time writers tend to have a hazy, romanticized view of the full-time writing life, in which writers wake up, clock four-to-six hours of writing truth, and then knock off for the rest of the day to be drunk and brilliant with all the rest of their writer friends. They tend to gloss over the little things like all the time you spend worrying about where the next writing gig is coming from, or all the e-mails and phone calls to publishers reminding them that, hey, they’ve owed you a check for nine months now, or (due to the previous) deciding which bill you can allow to go to a second or third notice, or the constant pressure to produce something you can sell, because you’ve heard of this crazy idea called “eating,” and you think you might like to give it a whirl. The full-time writing life isn’t about writing full-time; it’s about a full-time quest to get paid for your writing, both in selling the work, and then (alas) in collecting what you are owed. It’s not romantic; it’s a pain in the ass.

(via del.ici.ous)

Good ideas can stunt innovation

Mad Cognitive Science: Study Shows Digg Freezes Innovation Among Its Users

When information is freely shared, good ideas can stunt innovation by distracting others from pursuing even better ideas, according to Indiana University cognitive scientist Robert Goldstone . . .

This study used a virtual environment in which study participants worked in specifically designed groups to solve a problem . . . In the "fully connected" group, everyone's work was completely accessible to everyone else -- much like a tight-knit family or small town. In the "locally connected" group, participants primarily were aware of what their neighbors, or the people on either side, were doing. In the "small world" group, participants also were primarily aware of what their neighbors were doing, but they also had a few distant connections that let them send or retrieve good ideas from outside of their neighborhood.

Goldstone found that the fully connected groups performed the best when solving simple problems. Small world groups, however, performed better on more difficult problems. For these problems, the truism "The more information, the better" is not valid.

Top Guantanamo Lawyer: We need acquittals to prove it was okay to detain our prisoners all these years

Think Progress -- Top Gitmo lawyer: ‘We can’t have acquittals.’

Col. Morris Davis resigned his position as chief prosecutor for Guantanamo Bay’s military commissions after being placed under the command of torture advocate William J. Haynes. As a result of a conversation he had with Haynes in 2005, Davis tells The Nation that he doesn’t believe “the men at Guantanamo could receive a fair trial“:

“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,” Davis continued. “At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.’”

Steampunk Justice League Cosplay

Steampunk Justice League costumes - Boing Boing

Stanford to offer free tuition to poor students

Stanford drops tuition for some students

(02-19) 23:49 PST Palo Alto -- In a radical change to its financial aid program, Stanford University will announce today that it will no longer charge tuition to students whose families earn less than $100,000 a year.

In addition, the university will waive room and board fees for students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year.

University President John Hennessy will make the announcement today on campus, university Provost John Etchemendy confirmed late Tuesday.

The university is making the change in the wake of published reports last month that its endowment had grown almost 22 percent last year, to $17.1 billion. That sum had begun to attract attention from lawmakers who want wealthy institutions to do more to reduce tuition costs.