aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, April 17, 2006
Happy Birthday LSD
Because of TiVo, I’m a day late. From CBS Sunday Morning yesterday:
CHARLES OSGOOD, host: (Voiceover) April 16th, 1943, 63 years ago today. The day a Swiss chemist took the a most inadvertent but momentous trip. For it was on that day that Albert Hofmann accidentally ingested a small dose of a substance called lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as LSD. “In a dreamlike state,” Hofmann wrote later, “I received an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense kaleidoscopic play of colors.” Hofmann’s symptoms passed in just two hours, but the after effects can be felt to this day.
(Footage of man being tested)
OSGOOD: (Voiceover) In the years that followed, legitimate study of LSD’s hallucinogenic powers found stiff competition from high profile thrill seekers.
Mr. TIMOTHY LEARY: (Testifying) Up to 65 and 70 percent of our college students are experimenting with these mind-opening chemicals.
(Footage of hearing)
OSGOOD: (Voiceover) By the mid-1960s, Harvard scientist Timothy Leary made his notorious leap from LSD researcher to LSD cheerleader.
Mr. LEARY: LSD is the extremely powerful mind-opening agent. We are now in the psycho-chemical age. In the future, it’s not going to be, `What book do you read?’ But, `Which chemical do you use to open your mind, to accelerate learning?’
(Footage of hippies; Beatles video)
OSGOOD: (Voiceover) Soon, LSD was a much-ballyhooed element of the hippy culture. It seemed to ignore the ample evidence of the drug’s unpredictable and dangerous side effects. The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was widely believed to be about LSD, although John Lennon always claimed the song’s title initials were just a coincidence.
(Footage of “Hair”; “Easy Rider")
OSGOOD: (Voiceover) LSD figured in a song in the Broadway musical “Hair,” later made into a movie. And a bad acid trip in a New Orleans cemetery was a pivotal scene in the film “Easy Rider.”
(Visual of newspaper articles; police; psychedelic images)
OSGOOD: (Voiceover) LSD has been in and out of the headlines over the decades, but its abuse has remained a prime target of drug enforcement agencies and public health officials, who look forward to the day when LSD is a trip no one takes.
That’s the only acknowledgement of the anniversary I’ve found. But I did find that Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD, said on his 100th birthday in January that he wished that the banned drug would be made available for scientific research.
GA passes harsh immigration law
The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, signed into law by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, denies many state services paid for by taxpayers to people who are in the United States illegally.
It also forces contractors doing business with the state to verify the legal status of new workers, and requires police to notify immigration officials if people charged with crimes are illegal immigrants.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that our famous Georgia hospitality is not abused, that our taxpayers are not taken advantage of and that our citizens are protected,” Perdue said before signing the law.
Questioning the wisdom of crowds
A lot of people thought I was going to attack Wikipedia as being “wrong” and something that should be “stopped”, which is a useless argument/approach to take, especially if you’re into freedom of expression. My main thesis is that Wikipedia’s initial design and architecture, which is now changing constantly, failed to take the reality of humanity and the way people interact with information into account, and in doing so, has wasted a nearly-incalculable amount of energy and has betrayed, to some extent, it’s promises, credo and goals. You know, minor stuff.
I’ll have to listen again, contemplate and dig deeper into some of Jason’s good criticisms. [text] [audio] My gut tells me that while he measures Wikipedia against its lofty goals, I still consider Wikipedia an extraordinary experiment so I am much more forgiving. For example, I’m pleased that the design and architecture are changing. It seems obvious that they must.
To date I excuse Jimbo Wale’s rhetorical excesses, though I may have much more to learn. The part of Jason’s rhetoric that I find troubling is his assessment of the human character:
The most frustrating part about Wikipedia is the fact that that when you make a change, somebody who wants to undo that change is just some guy. Jimbo holds this up as the great aspect of Wikipedia is that everybody gets to get their hands in it and we’re all working together but they don’t realise we kill each other. We kill each other every day. Over shit, over Nintendo games, over the fact that somebody parked in the wrong space. We do this. We’re human beings.[...]
What I think we can learn from Wikipedia is to understand that people will always act this way… With Wikipedia, if you say given this set of behaviours, and given this stage that people could put things on, people will act this way, it’s a pretty good indicator of saying “OK, well the next time I set up an organisation the next time I make something editable by the public, the next time I make the going-on, this is what’s going to happen, people are going to go on and try to destroy it, they’re going to try to destroy it on the front end, they’re going to try and destroy it from the back end.”
Now I’m no Pollyanna, and I know human beings are not ants. But I believe we can be pulled up to our higher selves or down to our lower selves. I’d look to build Levitt/Dubner Freakonomic-style incentives into the culture and architecture of Wikipedia, even as I acknowledge that today I don’t know what that means.
And while Jason is critical of Jimbo’s “control of Wikipedia” - the inference I took was that it should be more democratic - I’ve pointed to Jeff Bates’ implication that Wikipedia would benefit from being more like Open Source, “In every open-source project, he said, there is ‘a benevolent dictator’ who ultimately takes responsibility, even though the code is contributed by many. Good stuff results only if someone puts their name on it.’”
Maybe Jimbo’s not the one. His style is vastly different from that of Craig Newmark - who literally did put his name on it even as his business card lists him as co-founder and customer service rep of Craigslist. Craig and Jimbo have very different styles but likely share a more optimistic view of humankind than Jason:
Some things are fairly universal. One of those is that people pretty much everywhere have some of the same values, and pretty much everyone out there is trustworthy.
I’d add “with the right incentives.” Craig’s found some. Jimbo’s found some too but he needs to find some more.
There is a wisdom of crowds. I cling to my optimism that now we have the technology to develop the tools that will help us harvest it. Wikipedia may not be the way; but I continue to believe that it is pointing in the right direction.
Akismet fights comment spam
In the past couple weeks my built-in Movable Type spam filter has been overrun by comment spam. Luckily it was just last week that I read John Battelle’s enthusiastic Akismet For MT, Death to Spam:
It’s long been known that Akismet, WordPress’s remarkable anti-comment spam technology, was the best out there. Moveable Type users (like me) salivated at the thought of having Akismet-like functionality on our sites. The technology works in an AI like fashion, learning from the edges - bloggers like us - what is spam, and what is not. It’s elegant, and it scales.
Well, thanks to the folks at Automattic (and a big assist from Scot Hacker, Searchblog’s native web jockey), it’s now possible to run Akismet as a Moveable Type plugin. Searchblog was among the first to test the Akismet plugin, and it is working beautifully. Sure, you’ll see spam on this site from time to time. But as soon as I label it “junk” in my MT backend, it’ll never show up again. Yeeehaw!
It looks like I’ve got me a weekend project.
UPDATE: It got so bad I couldn’t wait for the weekend. It’s installed…
Gay marriage, a tired weapon?
Protection of marriage amendment? Check. Anti-flag burning legislation? Check. New abortion limits? Check.
Between now and the November elections, Republicans are penciling in plans to take action on social issues important to religious conservatives, the foundation of the GOP base, as they defend their congressional majority.
In a year where an unpopular war in Iraq has helped drive President Bush’s approval ratings below 40 percent, core conservatives whose turnout in November is vital to the party want assurances that they are not being taken for granted.
I also wonder about the majority of the Republican Party feeling hijacked by this minority.