A couple of read-worthy articles this morning in the New York Times:

From the Magazine, The Cult of the Cyads, a story of smuggling, monster plants, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife stings. The cycad is a neat plant, if you’re into dinosaurs:

Aesthetically challenged, cycads have other issues, too. The cones produced by one species that grows in Indonesia smell so bad that locals are compelled to chop them down and bury them. The leaves, stems and seeds of many cycads contain neurotoxins potent enough to paralyze grazing cattle and produce Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in humans. The plants themselves can grow with the alacrity of a glacier, taking decades, and sometimes centuries, to reach maturity.

Another article, King Kong vs. the Pirates of the Multiplex, explores film piracy. Although sources in the article suggest that online piracy isn’t a measurable part of the decline in industry profits (leave that to physical-media piracy), most of the article focuses on precisely that activity. This bit is interesting:

Law enforcement officials say two groups are involved in online film piracy: a nonprofit arm that is in it just for the kicks and a much smaller arm that is in it for the money. Those in the first group are happy to accept free downloads of other films in exchange for successfully uploading a copy of their pirated film, investigators said. Mr. Smith, the software developer, said that someone in the pay-for-play crowd can put in about a week of hard work and then usually earn enough cash to pay for a year of private college tuition.

Seriously? I’m pretty skeptical of that. But the internets are big and broad enough that maybe that works in some hive of scum and villiany that I haven’t found yet. Post URLs in comments?

Finally, Eszter recently wrote a bit about Google, and this story adds a little bit to the conversation about privacy and intellectual property concerns. In response to a reporter’s using some personal information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt to illustrate privacy concerns, Google dropped the hammer on CNET:

When Ms. Mills’s article appeared, however, the company reacted in a way better suited to a 16th-century monarchy than a 21st-century democracy with an independent press. David Krane, Google’s director of public relations, called’s editor in chief to complain about the disclosure of Mr. Schmidt’s private information, and then Mr. Krane called back to announce that the company would not speak to any reporter from CNET for a year.

This isn’t an uncommon practice, apparently, but the Times piece seems unusually blunt for calling Schmidt out over it.

Weblogs for the weekend

I’ve come across a number of neat blogs in the last handful of days.

Invasive Species Weblog covers issues of exotic and invasive plants and animals. Having a spouse who spends a great deal of her time thinking about invasives (plants, in particular) in Arizona, I have lots of interest but very little actual knowledge in the sorts of subjects discussed there.

ISW is a good read, and pointed me along to
Respectful Insolence and its brilliant installment of Tangled Bank, a collaborative project assembling posts from science blogs. Respectful Insolence’s take on Tangled Bank comes in the form of an author’s letter to an unfriendly journal editor. The whole “letter” is great, but I can’t resist quoting from the conclusion:

Assuming you accept this paper, we would also like to add a footnote acknowledging your help with this manuscript and to point out that we liked the paper much better the way we originally wrote it, but you held the editorial shotgun to our heads and forced us chop, reshuffle, restate, hedge expand, shorten, and in general covert a meaty paper into stir-fried vegetables. We couldn’t or wouldn’t have done it without your input.

Both Patrick Nielsen hayden and ISW pointed this week to Chris Clark’s blog Creek Running North. Chris is editor of Earth Island Journal, and his blog is a wealth of thoughtful and moving writing. Chris mentions his desperate desire to hike the Ruby Crest Trail, to which I must say: Go and do it. it’s glorious. (But carry extra water; the Rubies are high, and it can be a long way between water stops.)

I spent a couple of hours poking around Google maps this week with my Dad. He explored via satellite the spot where he cross country skis back home, and I wandered my way from Glen Canyon Dam, Down the River to the S. Kaibab Trail and Phantom Ranch—where I made my way on foot a couple of years ago. Seriously, the satellite photos of the Grand Canyon are just spectacular. So it was a treat to come across a list of cool google-sat photos at Return of Design. Be sure to check out the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Tucson Boneyard.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago I came across some links to The Corpuscle (again via Patrick?). Pick anything from the “Corpy’s Select” list and start reading.

Google does maps

I was going to make this a simple link, but played around with Google Maps for a few minutes and found it too cool for a one-liner. As the top-level page of Google Maps suggests, you can search for directions, businesses, and locations. Try searching for “sushi in Tucson”—bingo! There’s a map with locations plotted on it. Another click gives you directions to or from any location. Mapquest isn’t nearly this slick.

Enter “tucson to flagstaff” in the directions search, and up comes the map straightaway; there’s no tabbing between all the address/city/state fields. If you know airport codes, enter them directly, to get directions from TUS to Ventana Canyon (for your golf weekend), for example. Want more detail about that freeway on-ramp? Click on any of the numbered waypoints for a close-up.

But it gets cooler. Find your location, and then click-drag on the map. It moves. Finer control? Use the arrow keys. See more in the tour.

Update: Hublog weighs in, saying that while Google Maps is pretty cool, “it still doesn’t beat the flying, zooming Java beast that is map24.” Java beast indeed, but the zoom is way cool.

About, the short version

I’m a sociologist-errant. This site is powered by Textpattern, Pair Networks and the sociological imagination. For more about me and this site, see the long version.

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