Tuesday, November 29, 2011

LiveScience | Ravens Use 'Hand' Gestures to Communicate | Bird Intelligence & Animal Communication | Smart Animals & Raven Gestures

Ravens use their beaks and wings much like humans rely on our hands to make gestures, such as for pointing to an object, scientists now find.

This is the first time researchers have seen gestures used in this way in the wild by animals other than primates.

From the age of 9 to 12 months, human infants often use gestures to direct the attention of adults to objects, or to hold up items so that others can take them. These gestures, produced before children speak their first words, are seen as milestones in the development of human speech.

Dogs and other animals are known to point out items using gestures, but humans trained these animals, and scientists had suggested the natural development of these gestures was normally confined only to primates, said researcher Simone Pika, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. Even then, comparable gestures are rarely seen in the wild in our closest living relatives, the great apes — for instance, chimpanzees in the Kibale National Park in Uganda employ so-called directed scratches to indicate distinct spots on their bodies they want groomed.

Still, ravens and their relatives such as crows and magpies have been found to be remarkably intelligent over the years, surpassing most other birds in terms of smarts and even rivaling great apes on some tests.

"[What] I noticed when I encountered ravens for the first time is that they are, contrary to my main focus of research, chimpanzees, a very object-oriented species," Pika said. "It reminded me of my childhood, when my twin brother and I were still little and one of us suddenly regained a favorite toy, which existence both of us had forgotten for a little while. This toy suddenly became the center of interest, fun and competition. Similar things happen, when ravens play with each other and regain objects."

Beak gestures

To see if ravens communicated using gestures, scientists investigated wild ravens in Cumberland Wildpark in Grünau, Austria. Each bird was individually tagged to help identify them.

A male raven approaches two other ravens showing an object in its beak.
A male raven approaches two other ravens showing an object in its beak.
CREDIT: Thomas Bugnyar

The researchers saw the ravens use their beaks much like hands to show and offer items such as moss, stones and twigs. These gestures were mostly aimed at members of the opposite sex and often led those gestured at to look at the objects. The ravens then interacted with each other — for example, by touching or clasping their bills together, or by manipulating the item together. As such, these gestures might be used to gauge the interest of a potential partner or strengthen an already existing bond.

"Most exciting is how a species, which does not represent the prototype of a 'gesturer' because it has wings instead of hands, a strong beak and can fly, makes use of very sophisticated nonvocal signals," Pika told LiveScience.

Origin of gestures

Ravens are known to possess a relatively high degree of cooperation between partners. These findings suggest that gestures evolved in a species that demonstrates a high degree of collaborative abilities, a discovery that might shed light on the origin of gestures within humans.

"Gesture studies have too long focused on communicative skills of primates only," Pika said. "The mystery of the origins of human language, however, can only be solved if we look at the bigger picture and also consider the complexity of the communication systems of other animal groups."

As to whether or not these findings suggest that ravens are smarter than dogs, "I am not an advocate of proposing that a given species is smarter than another one," Pika said. "In my view, all species have adapted to distinct social and ecological settings and niches, and thus, a given species might behave in a distinct situation 'smarter' than another one in the same situation and vice versa. In my opinion, it is much more interesting to investigate why one species can solve a given task better than another one and how and why this behavior evolved."

Pika and her colleagues would like to further explore what other gestures ravens use and what their meaning and function might be. Pika and Thomas Bugnyar detailed their findings online Nov. 29 in the journal Nature Communications.

Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why everyone hates the IT department | PCPro

IT workers are treated with thinly veiled contempt in many organisations - Tom Brewster finds out why

Traffic wardens, tax collectors, lawyers, (ahem) journalists... the list of occupations that inspire contempt among the public they serve has a new addition: IT support staff.

“Everyone hates the IT department (#) ,” an executive with storage and data-recovery firm EMC told us recently. But why is there so much antipathy towards a department that is, after all, designed to help and support workers?

Often interred in the basement, trapped between the rack servers and a bank of screens, the IT worker is cut adrift – both physically and psychologically – from the rest of the company.

Afforded little more respect than cleaners, the widespread belief that IT isn’t an essential part of an organisation is belied by the fact that companies need IT to function. It’s the first department to be blamed when something goes wrong, and the last to be credited for success.

IT is still seen as a bit of a dark art, and some like to cultivate that

So why is IT the most maligned department? Why is there such a disconnect between the enterprise and IT for so long? We try to find out.

A breed apart

One reason for the disconnect between IT and the rest of the company is that IT actually takes pleasure in being different. Like any clique, many in IT enjoy being part of a close-knit gang with their own quirky traditions and interests.

“IT is still seen as a bit of a dark art, and in some ways, technology people do like to cultivate that,” says Katherine Coombs, IT director at outsourcing provider buyingTeam. “Technology is a thing that they don’t need to build into the business too heavily. Sometimes, it suits people for there to be a clear line between IT and the rest of the business.”

In some respects, separation isn’t only desirable, but necessary. Other departments don’t need to know what’s keeping things ticking along in the basement. Why should the accounts team care what’s keeping the datacenter cool, or how the storage arrays are organised? They only want the equipment they use to work.

“Does the person who is handling the backup tapes, and programming bits and bobs behind the scenes need to integrate with the rest of the business? Probably not, because that’s an internal IT operation,” Coombs adds.

It’s when the two are forced to come together, however, that the classic worker vs IT relationship begins to unravel. The service desk is where the first seeds of antipathy are sown. The scenario is a familiar one: worker A has put in a request to IT as his desktop has collapsed under a pile of error messages, none of which he’s bothered to jot down before repeatedly clicking OK.

He waits for a couple of hours with no response, eventually calling IT to figure out what’s going on. A disgruntled IT worker, distracted from his gargantuan list of tasks, says he’ll check who’s dealing with it, since it isn’t in his remit, before telling worker A that someone will be up soon.

IT staff on TV

How the IT Crowd captured the disconnect between IT staff and office workers (http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/371431/it-staff-on-tv-insufferable-nerds)

When that someone doesn’t appear instantaneously to conjure up an instant fix for his ailing machine, worker A sits back in his office chair and begins spewing out vitriolic curses about IT’s inadequacies to workers B through Z, who join in with their own woe-filled yarns. Thus, employees’ hate of IT is further fuelled by this unjustified ire.

Andrew Corbett, director of the UK IT Association and an IT department worker with more than 25 years of experience, has seen his fair share of broken relationships with workers.

In some cases, he found employees refusing to use the name “helpdesk”, claiming the “help” prefix didn’t apply. “There’s quite a lot of antipathy,” Corbett says. “There is the feeling that IT is almost like a priesthood, living in an ivory tower far away and you have to go to them on bended knee. The sad thing is that they usually mean well.”

What’s more depressing is that in the majority of cases, it isn’t the fault of either IT or the employees – it’s the fault of bureaucratic, convoluted, impersonal systems installed by management, which are left to spawn imbroglio after imbroglio rather than be replaced.

“Take away the complexity,” urges Dylan Roberts, chief officer of IT at Leeds City Council. “Tier-one and tier-two support shouldn’t be rocket science. Leeds City Council has a really diverse and complex environment in terms of what we’re supporting: we’ve got Novell, Microsoft, Siebel, everything. Support-wise, it could be a bit of a nightmare, but in terms of tier one and two, what most people ring for, there’s no excuse for not providing a good operational support service.”

As Roberts notes, however, you need people capable of empathy to ensure the IT department isn’t fostering contempt itself. “I’ve been head of IT now for 12 years. When I’m recruiting support people, I don’t recruit them for their technical skills, I recruit them for how they get on with people.”

Computer department says “no”

One thing workers often fail to grasp is why IT has to say “no” to requests so frequently. When employees ask for a new desktop, or whatever update they feel is critical to their job, IT is bound by the two indomitable forces of budget and time. These two constraints frustrate IT managers just as much as employees, often even more so. When workers are denied, though, it’s often assumed IT is either being truculent or incompetent, when neither is true. In most cases, at least.

The IT department are perceived as the 'no' men, naysayers to technological advancement in the business

This problem has been further exacerbated by the quality of technology in the consumer world overtaking that found in most businesses. So-called “super users” expect to have the most current technology handed to them when they want it. In reality, it isn’t that simple.

“The demands of the workforce are changing,” says Adam Thilthorpe, director of professionalism at BCS. “Their expectations of what technology does for them in their private life are the same as within the office. It’s all very well saying let’s put everything on apps, and have our own internal apps shop, for example, but you might have legacy systems that are fundamental to business success.

In companies where workers don’t get what they want from IT, they may “go rogue”, circumventing the department to satisfy their technological needs.

Those shiny Windows 7 laptops working so smoothly at home are much more enjoyable than the clunking Windows XP systems employees are forced to use at work. When they start taking those Windows 7 machines in and out of the office in rebellion, they have no idea of the implications, and little understanding of the risk of infecting the network or leaking intellectual property.

(/gallery/features/371254/why-everyone-hates-the-it-department/171487)

It’s something IT gets, but employees don’t, only eroding relations even further. In a recent survey from Unisys and IDC, eight out of ten IT leaders cited security as a significant barrier to allowing personal devices in the workplace.

Yet four out of ten workers are running business applications on their own machines every day – a proportion set to increase dramatically over the next few years.

“Sometimes, whole departments decide to procure things for themselves, without ever taking into account the bigger picture,” says Thilthorpe. “People might go rogue and do it themselves, buying their own iPads, not securing them, and then losing them.”

“Free” upgrades

Software can be another source of tension. Workers will ask: “What do you mean I can’t have IE9? It’s a free download, how could there possibly be costs? What compatibility issues? What testing? I just want what I have at home.”

When such requests are turned down, instead of the IT department earning respect as the purveyors of good practice, they’re perceived as the “no” men, naysayers to technological advancement in the business.

“I’ll tell you the truth about us in IT: when we graduate, as well as the certificate, we get a rubber stamp with ‘no’ written on it,” Corbett quips. “This is so we can deal with requests faster – that’s the perception, that IT is a problem, never a solution.”

The executives are equally guilty, reading computing magazines extolling the latest tech innovation – cloud computing (http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/) and thin clients being two notorious recent examples – before trundling over to IT and demanding support.

When those C-levels receive an assessment telling them why the idea is a non-starter, the foulest insults are heard rattling off the office walls as IT again gets the blame.

The IT worker has to live with being as unpopular as a traffic warden

“You get things such as departmental heads using their own OS to set up a cloud-based system that IT don’t know is there,” says Corbett. “There will be issues, or they’ll ask to get it supported, and IT will say, ‘hold on, we don’t even know about this, we haven’t got the budget to support this’. The boss says ‘I’m not waiting years for IT to tell me what to do. I’m going to use the stapler and envelope budget to buy something else’.”

The blame culture

Moaning at IT about failing to fix a computer or provide support for smartphones is far from healthy, but saying IT is at fault for truly major issues is akin to bank executives blaming cashiers for the financial (#) crisis. It’s awfully simple for CEOs to berate IT for big failings.

Not only does this entrench people’s view of IT as a bunch of useless so and sos – for the executives, it handily distracts attention away from where the core problems lie.

“If you think about many of the government projects that have failed, people look at it as if it’s IT’s fault,” Roberts says. “But really, how much focus is put on the people and process changes necessary to make it right? How much focus is placed on the way people are putting information into the systems that manage information properly?”

An old adage known throughout the profession should offer the perfect riposte for under-fire IT chiefs: there’s no such thing as an IT project, there are only business projects.

“The CEO will spend millions of pounds on something that’s too big and ill thought out,” says Roberts. “It becomes a big failure and they say ‘oh, bloody IT has failed again’.”

“These massive changes are like boiling an ocean,” Roberts adds. “Incremental change in many ways is significantly better. You need pragmatism.”

Healing the wounds

Is there any panacea for these festering relationships? In many companies, there’s evidently a need for greater integration. Put simply, IT deserves more respect – in particular, from those in the boardroom.

A recent survey from NetApp showed how little IT departments feel valued by CEOs. Almost two-thirds of IT pros surveyed said they had trouble convincing their company directors about the value of a proposed project, regardless of the significant benefits it could bring.

To start with, it may be wise to take IT literally out of the basement, and have staff meet with the rest of the business in a more proactive way. Even having them set up permanent residence outside of the dungeon below could lessen the sense of an unconquerable hierarchy, of which IT is at the bottom.

“Certainly, it’s a danger having IT kept in the basement,” says Martin Ferguson, head of policy at Socitm, the professional association for public sector ICT management. “You’re seeing organisations that are putting IT into the basement in terms of its thinking, and not recognising that strategic importance.”

Put simply, IT deserves more respect – in particular, from those in the boardroom

To some extent, it would be sad to see the old ways gone. There’s something almost romantic about IT as the outsider. Being the underdogs, the unsung heroes, can curiously provide a job satisfaction of its own, even if the average IT worker has to live with being as unpopular as a traffic warden.

But if the divide is too large, if IT doesn’t have a presence in the boardroom as well as on the floor, not only will the department suffer, but the entire business will falter.

“The role of an IT department needs to change,” Ferguson says. “It needs to become more of a strategic enabler and much more involved in information management, governance of information, as well as organisational change, improvement and transformation.”

IT is a core part of the business. It should be treated, and act, as such.

Author: Tom Brewster

For more details about purchasing this feature and/or images for editorial usage, please contact Jasmine Samra on pictures@dennis.co.uk (mailto:pictures@dennis.co.uk)

The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on how to suppress Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually OWS has no message . Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online What is it you want? answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, we are going after these scruffy hippies . Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the scandal of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' consulting to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin | Wired

Bitcoin's chief proselytizer, Bruce Wagner, at one of the few New York City restaurants that accept the currency. Photo: Michael Schmelling

Perhaps bitcoin’s creator wasn’t one man but a mysterious group —a team at Google, maybe, or the NSA.

Illustration: Martin Venezky

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin

By Benjamin Wallace November 23, 2011 | 2:52 pm | Wired December 2011

Illustration: Martin Venezky

In November 1, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto posted a research paper to an obscure cryptography listserv describing his design for a new digital currency that he called bitcoin. None of the list’s veterans had heard of him, and what little information could be gleaned was murky and contradictory. In an online profile, he said he lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service. Google searches for his name turned up no relevant information; it was clearly a pseudonym. But while Nakamoto himself may have been a puzzle, his creation cracked a problem that had stumped cryptographers for decades. The idea of digital money —convenient and untraceable, liberated from the oversight of governments and banks—had been a hot topic since the birth of the Internet. Cypherpunks, the 1990s movement of libertarian cryptographers, dedicated themselves to the project. Yet every effort to create virtual cash had foundered. Ecash, an anonymous system launched in the early 1990s by cryptographer David Chaum, failed in part because it depended on the existing infrastructures of government and credit card companies. Other proposals followed—bit gold, RPOW, b-money —but none got off the ground.

One of the core challenges of designing a digital currency involves something called the double-spending problem. If a digital dollar is just information, free from the corporeal strictures of paper and metal, what’s to prevent people from copying and pasting it as easily as a chunk of text, “spending” it as many times as they want? The conventional answer involved using a central clearinghouse to keep a real-time ledger of all transactions—ensuring that, if someone spends his last digital dollar, he can’t then spend it again. The ledger prevents fraud, but it also requires a trusted third party to administer it.

Bitcoin did away with the third party by publicly distributing the ledger, what Nakamoto called the “block chain.” Users willing to devote CPU power to running a special piece of software would be called miners and would form a network to maintain the block chain collectively. In the process, they would also generate new currency. Transactions would be broadcast to the network, and computers running the software would compete to solve irreversible cryptographic puzzles that contain data from several transactions. The first miner to solve each puzzle would be awarded 50 new bitcoins, and the associated block of transactions would be added to the chain. The difficulty of each puzzle would increase as the number of miners increased, which would keep production to one block of transactions roughly every 10 minutes. In addition, the size of each block bounty would halve every 210,000 blocks—first from 50 bitcoins to 25, then from 25 to 12.5, and so on. Around the year 2140, the currency would reach its preordained limit of 21 million bitcoins.

When Nakamoto’s paper came out in 2008, trust in the ability of governments and banks to manage the economy and the money supply was at its nadir. The US government was throwing dollars at Wall Street and the Detroit car companies. The Federal Reserve was introducing “quantitative easing,” essentially printing money in order to stimulate the economy. The price of gold was rising. Bitcoin required no faith in the politicians or financiers who had wrecked the economy—just in Nakamoto’s elegant algorithms. Not only did bitcoin’s public ledger seem to protect against fraud, but the predetermined release of the digital currency kept the bitcoin money supply growing at a predictable rate, immune to printing-press-happy central bankers and Weimar Republic-style hyperinflation.

Nakamoto himself mined the first 50 bitcoins—which came to be called the genesis block —on January 3, 2009. For a year or so, his creation remained the province of a tiny group of early adopters. But slowly, word of bitcoin spread beyond the insular world of cryptography. It has won accolades from some of digital currency’s greatest minds. Wei Dai, inventor of b-money, calls it “very significant”; Nick Szabo, who created bit gold, hails bitcoin as “a great contribution to the world”; and Hal Finney, the eminent cryptographer behind RPOW, says it’s “potentially world-changing.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocate for digital privacy, eventually started accepting donations in the alternative currency.

The small band of early bitcoiners all shared the communitarian spirit of an open source software project. Gavin Andresen, a coder in New England, bought 10,000 bitcoins for $50 and created a site called the Bitcoin Faucet, where he gave them away for the hell of it. Laszlo Hanyecz, a Florida programmer, conducted what bitcoiners think of as the first real-world bitcoin transaction, paying 10,000 bitcoins to get two pizzas delivered from Papa John’s. (He sent the bitcoins to a volunteer in England, who then called in a credit card order transatlantically.) A farmer in Massachusetts named David Forster began accepting bitcoins as payment for alpaca socks.

When they weren’t busy mining, the faithful tried to solve the mystery of the man they called simply Satoshi. On a bitcoin IRC channel, someone noted portentously that in Japanese Satoshi means “wise.” Someone else wondered whether the name might be a sly portmanteau of four tech companies: SAmsung, TOSHIba, NAKAmichi, and MOTOrola. It seemed doubtful that Nakamoto was even Japanese. His English had the flawless, idiomatic ring of a native speaker.

Perhaps, it was suggested, Nakamoto wasn’t one man but a mysterious group with an inscrutable purpose—a team at Google, maybe, or the National Security Agency. “I exchanged some emails with whoever Satoshi supposedly is,” says Hanyecz, who was on bitcoin’s core developer team for a time. “I always got the impression it almost wasn’t a real person. I’d get replies maybe every two weeks, as if someone would check it once in a while. Bitcoin seems awfully well designed for one person to crank out.”

Nakamoto revealed little about himself, limiting his online utterances to technical discussion of his source code. On December 5, 2010, after bitcoiners started to call for Wikileaks to accept bitcoin donations, the normally terse and all-business Nakamoto weighed in with uncharacteristic vehemence. “No, don’t ‘bring it on,’” he wrote in a post to the bitcoin forum. “The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way. I make this appeal to Wikileaks not to try to use bitcoin. Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy. You would not stand to get more than pocket change, and the heat you would bring would likely destroy us at this stage.”

Then, as unexpectedly as he had appeared, Nakamoto vanished. At 6:22 pm GMT on December 12, seven days after his Wikileaks plea, Nakamoto posted his final message to the bitcoin forum, concerning some minutiae in the latest version of the software. His email responses became more erratic, then stopped altogether. Andresen, who had taken over the role of lead developer, was now apparently one of just a few people with whom he was still communicating. On April 26, Andresen told fellow coders: “Satoshi did suggest this morning that I (we) should try to de-emphasize the whole ‘mysterious founder’ thing when talking publicly about bitcoin.” Then Nakamoto stopped replying even to Andresen’s emails. Bitcoiners wondered plaintively why he had left them. But by then his creation had taken on a life of its own.

Bitcoin 101

How They’re Made Bitcoin’s economy consists of a network of its users’ computers. At preset intervals, an algorithm releases new bitcoins into the network: 50 every 10 minutes, with the pace halving in increments until around 2140. The automated pace is meant to ensure regular growth of the monetary supply without interference by third parties, like a central bank, which can lead to hyperinflation.

How They’re Mined To prevent fraud, the bitcoin software maintains a pseudonymous public ledger of every transaction. Some bitcoiners’ computers validate transactions by cracking cryptographic puzzles, and the first to solve each puzzle receives 50 new bitcoins. Bitcoins can be stored in a variety of places—from a “wallet” on a desktop computer to a centralized service in the cloud.

How They’re Spent Once users download the bitcoin app to their machine, spending the currency is as easy as sending an email. The range of merchants that accept it is small but growing; look for the telltale symbol at the cash register. And entrepreneurial bitcoiners are working to make it much easier to use the currency, building everything from point-of-service machines to PayPal alternatives.

Illustrations: Martin Venezky

“Bitcoin enthusiasts are almost evangelists,” Bruce Wagner says. “They see the beauty of the technology. It’s a huge movement. It’s almost like a religion. On the forum, you’ll see the spirit. It’s not just me, me, me. It’s what’s for the betterment of bitcoin.”

It’s a July morning. Wagner, whose boyish energy and Pantone-black hair belie his 50 years, is sitting in his office at OnlyOneTV, an Internet television startup in Manhattan. Over just a few months, he has become bitcoin’s chief proselytizer. He hosts The Bitcoin Show, a program on OnlyOneTV in which he plugs the nascent currency and interviews notables from the bitcoin world. He also runs a bitcoin meetup group and is gearing up to host bitcoin’s first “world conference” in August. “I got obsessed and didn’t eat or sleep for five days,” he says, recalling the moment he discovered bitcoin. “It was bitcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin, like I was on crystal meth!”

Wagner is not given to understatement. While bitcoin is “the most exciting technology since the Internet,” he says, eBay is “a giant bloodsucking corporation” and free speech “a popular myth.” He is similarly excitable when predicting the future of bitcoin. “I knew it wasn’t a stock and wouldn’t go up and down,” he explains. “This was something that was going to go up, up, up.”

For a while, he was right. Through 2009 and early 2010, bitcoins had no value at all, and for the first six months after they started trading in April 2010, the value of one bitcoin stayed below 14 cents. Then, as the currency gained viral traction in summer 2010, rising demand for a limited supply caused the price on online exchanges to start moving. By early November, it surged to 36 cents before settling down to around 29 cents. In February 2011, it rose again and was mentioned on Slashdot for achieving “dollar parity”; it hit $1.06 before settling in at roughly 87 cents.

In the spring, catalyzed in part by a much-linked Forbes story on the new “crypto currency,” the price exploded. From early April to the end of May, the going rate for a bitcoin rose from 86 cents to $8.89. Then, after Gawker published a story on June 1 about the currency’s popularity among online drug dealers, it more than tripled in a week, soaring to about $27. The market value of all bitcoins in circulation was approaching $130 million. A Tennessean dubbed KnightMB, who held 371,000 bitcoins, became worth more than $10 million, the richest man in the bitcoin realm. The value of those 10,000 bitcoins Hanyecz used to buy pizza had risen to $272,329. “I don’t feel bad about it,” he says. “The pizza was really good.”

Bitcoin was drawing the kind of attention normally reserved for overhyped Silicon Valley IPOs and Apple product launches. On his Internet talk show, journo-entrepreneur Jason Calacanis called it “a fundamental shift” and “one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in 20 years in the technology business.” Prominent venture capitalist Fred Wilson heralded “societal upheaval” as the Next Big Thing on the Internet, and the four examples he gave were Wikileaks, PlayStation hacking, the Arab Spring, and bitcoin. Andresen, the coder, accepted an invitation from the CIA to come to Langley, Virginia, to speak about the currency. Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party (whose central policy plank includes the abolition of the patent system), announced that he was putting his life savings into bitcoins.

The future of bitcoin seemed to shimmer with possibility. Mark Suppes, an inventor building a fusion reactor in a Brooklyn loft from eBay-sourced parts, got an old ATM and began retrofitting it to dispense cash for bitcoins. On the so-called secret Internet (the invisible grid of sites reachable by computers using Tor anonymizing software), the black-and-gray-market site Silk Road anointed the bitcoin the coin of the realm; you could use bitcoins to buy everything from Purple Haze pot to Fentanyl lollipops to a kit for converting a rifle into a machine gun. A young bitcoiner, The Real Plato, brought On the Road into the new millennium by video-blogging a cross-country car trip during which he spent only bitcoins. Numismatic enthusiasts among the currency’s faithful began dreaming of collectible bitcoins, wondering what price such rarities as the genesis block might fetch.

As the price rose and mining became more popular, the increased competition meant decreasing profits. An arms race commenced. Miners looking for horsepower supplemented their computers with more powerful graphics cards, until they became nearly impossible to find. Where the first miners had used their existing machines, the new wave, looking to mine bitcoins 24 hours a day, bought racks of cheap computers with high-speed GPUs cooled by noisy fans. The boom gave rise to mining-rig porn, as miners posted photos of their setups. As in any gold rush, people recounted tales of uncertain veracity. An Alaskan named Darrin reported that a bear had broken into his garage but thankfully ignored his rig. Another miner’s electric bill ran so high, it was said, that police raided his house, suspecting that he was growing pot.

Amid the euphoria, there were troubling signs. Bitcoin had begun in the public-interested spirit of open source peer-to-peer software and libertarian political philosophy, with references to the Austrian school of economics. But real money was at stake now, and the dramatic price rise had attracted a different element, people who saw the bitcoin as a commodity in which to speculate. At the same time, media attention was bringing exactly the kind of heat that Nakamoto had feared. US senator Charles Schumer held a press conference, appealing to the DEA and Justice Department to shut down Silk Road, which he called “the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen” and describing bitcoin as “an online form of money-laundering.”

Meanwhile, a cult of Satoshi was developing. Someone started selling I AM SATOSHI NAKAMOTO T-shirts. Disciples lobbied to name the smallest fractional denomination of a bitcoin a “satoshi.” There was Satoshi-themed fan fiction and manga art. And bitcoiners continued to ponder his mystery. Some speculated that he had died. A few postulated that he was actually Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Many more were convinced that he was Gavin Andresen. Still others believed that he must be one of the older crypto-currency advocates—Finney or Szabo or Dai. Szabo himself suggested it could be Finney or Dai. Stefan Thomas, a Swiss coder and active community member, graphed the time stamps for each of Nakamoto’s 500-plus bitcoin forum posts; the resulting chart showed a steep decline to almost no posts between the hours of 5 am and 11 am Greenwich Mean Time. Because this pattern held true even on Saturdays and Sundays, it suggested that the lull was occurring when Nakamoto was asleep, rather than at work. (The hours of 5 am to 11 am GMT are midnight to 6 am Eastern Standard Time.) Other clues suggested that Nakamoto was British: A newspaper headline he had encoded in the genesis block came from the UK-published Times of London, and both his forum posts and his comments in the bitcoin source code used such Brit spellings as optimise and colour.

Play Dough Key moments in the short and volatile life of bitcoin.

Even the purest technology has to live in an impure world. Both the code and the idea of bitcoin may have been impregnable, but bitcoins themselves—unique strings of numbers that constitute units of the currency—are discrete pieces of information that have to be stored somewhere. By default, bitcoin kept users’ currency in a digital “wallet” on their desktop, and when bitcoins were worth very little, easy to mine, and possessed only by techies, that was sufficient. But once they started to become valuable, a PC felt inadequate. Some users protected their bitcoins by creating multiple backups, encrypting and storing them on thumb drives, on forensically scrubbed virgin computers without Internet connections, in the cloud, and on printouts stored in safe-deposit boxes. But even some sophisticated early adopters had trouble keeping their bitcoins safe. Stefan Thomas had three copies of his wallet yet inadvertently managed to erase two of them and lose his password for the third. In a stroke, he lost about 7,000 bitcoins, at the time worth about $140,000. “I spent a week trying to recover it,” he says. “It was pretty painful.” Most people who have cash to protect put it in a bank, an institution about which the more zealous bitcoiners were deeply leery. Instead, for this new currency, a primitive and unregulated financial-services industry began to develop. Fly-by-night online “wallet services” promised to safeguard clients’ digital assets. Exchanges allowed anyone to trade bitcoins for dollars or other currencies. Bitcoin itself might have been decentralized, but users were now blindly entrusting increasing amounts of currency to third parties that even the most radical libertarian would be hard-pressed to claim were more secure than federally insured institutions. Most were Internet storefronts, run by who knows who from who knows where.

Sure enough, as the price headed upward, disturbing events began to bedevil the bitcoiners. In mid-June, someone calling himself Allinvain reported that 25,000 bitcoins worth more than $500,000 had been stolen from his computer. (To this day, nobody knows whether this claim is true.) About a week later, a hacker pulled off an ingenious attack on a Tokyo-based exchange site called Mt. Gox, which handled 90 percent of all bitcoin exchange transactions. Mt. Gox restricted account withdrawals to $1,000 worth of bitcoins per day (at the time of the attack, roughly 35 bitcoins). After he broke into Mt. Gox’s system, the hacker simulated a massive sell-off, driving the exchange rate to zero and letting him withdraw potentially tens of thousands of other people’s bitcoins.

As it happened, market forces conspired to thwart the scheme. The price plummeted, but as speculators flocked to take advantage of the fire sale, they quickly drove it back up, limiting the thief’s haul to only around 2,000 bitcoins. The exchange ceased operations for a week and rolled back the postcrash transactions, but the damage had been done; the bitcoin never got back above $17. Within a month, Mt. Gox had lost 10 percent of its market share to a Chile-based upstart named TradeHill. Most significantly, the incident had shaken the confidence of the community and inspired loads of bad press.

In the public’s imagination, overnight the bitcoin went from being the currency of tomorrow to a dystopian joke. The Electronic Frontier Foundation quietly stopped accepting bitcoin donations. Two Irish scholars specializing in network analysis demonstrated that bitcoin wasn’t nearly as anonymous as many had assumed: They were able to identify the handles of a number of people who had donated bitcoins to Wikileaks. (The organization announced in June 2011 that it was accepting such donations.) Nontechnical newcomers to the currency, expecting it to be easy to use, were disappointed to find that an extraordinary amount of effort was required to obtain, hold, and spend bitcoins. For a time, one of the easier ways to buy them was to first use Paypal to buy Linden dollars, the virtual currency in Second Life, then trade them within that make-believe universe for bitcoins. As the tone of media coverage shifted from gee-whiz to skeptical, attention that had once been thrilling became a source of resentment.

More disasters followed. Poland-based Bitomat, the third-largest exchange, revealed that it had—oops—accidentally overwritten its entire wallet. Security researchers detected a proliferation of viruses aimed at bitcoin users: Some were designed to steal wallets full of existing bitcoins; others commandeered processing power to mine fresh coins. By summer, the oldest wallet service, MyBitcoin, stopped responding to emails. It had always been fishy—registered in the West Indies and run by someone named Tom Williams, who never posted in the forums. But after a month of unbroken silence, Wagner, the New York City bitcoin evangelist, finally stated what many had already been thinking: Whoever was running MyBitcoin had apparently gone AWOL with everyone’s money. Wagner himself revealed that he had been keeping all 25,000 or so of his bitcoins on MyBitcoin and had recommended to friends and relatives that they use it, too. He also aided a vigilante effort that publicly named several suspects. MyBitcoin’s supposed owner resurfaced, claiming his site had been hacked. Then Wagner became the target of a countercampaign that publicized a successful lawsuit against him for mortgage fraud, costing him much of his reputation within the community. “People have the mistaken impression that virtual currency means you can trust a random person over the Internet,” says Jeff Garzik, a member of bitcoin’s core developer group.

And nobody had been as trusted as Nakamoto himself, who remained mysteriously silent as the world he created threatened to implode. Some bitcoiners began to suspect that he was working for the CIA or Federal Reserve. Others worried that bitcoin had been a Ponzi scheme, with Nakamoto its Bernie Madoff—mining bitcoins when they were worthless, then waiting for their value to rise. The most dedicated bitcoin loyalists maintained their faith, not just in Nakamoto, but in the system he had built. And yet, unmistakably, beneath the paranoia and infighting lurked something more vulnerable, an almost theodical disappointment. What bitcoiners really seemed to be asking was, why had Nakamoto created this world only to abandon it?

If Nakamoto has forsaken his adherents, though, they are not prepared to let his creation die. Even as the currency’s value has continued to drop, they are still investing in the fragile economy. Wagner has advocated for it to be used by people involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. While the gold-rush phase of mining has ended, with some miners dumping their souped-up mining rigs—”People are getting sick of the high electric bills, the heat, and the loud fans,” Garzik says—the more serious members of the community have turned to infrastructure. Mt. Gox is developing point-of-sale hardware. Other entrepreneurs are working on PayPal-like online merchant services. Two guys in Colorado have launched BitcoinDeals, an etailer offering “over 1,000,000 items.” The underworld’s use of the bitcoin has matured, too: Silk Road is now just one of many Tor-enabled back alleys, including sites like Black Market Reloaded, where self-proclaimed hit men peddle contract killings and assassinations.

“You could say it’s following Gartner’s Hype Cycle,” London-based core developer Amir Taaki says, referring to a theoretical technology-adoption-and-maturation curve that begins with a “technology trigger,” ascends to a “peak of inflated expectations,” collapses into a “trough of disillusionment,” and then climbs a “slope of enlightenment” until reaching a “plateau of productivity.” By this theory, bitcoin is clambering out of the trough, as people learn to value the infallible code and discard the human drama and wild fluctuations that surround it.

But that distinction is ultimately irrelevant. The underlying vulnerabilities that led to bitcoin’s troubles—its dependence on unregulated, centralized exchanges and online wallets—persist. Indeed, the bulk of mining is now concentrated in a handful of huge mining pools, which theoretically could hijack the entire network if they worked in concert.

Beyond the most hardcore users, skepticism has only increased. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that the currency’s tendency to fluctuate has encouraged hoarding. Stefan Brands, a former ecash consultant and digital currency pioneer, calls bitcoin “clever” and is loath to bash it but believes it’s fundamentally structured like “a pyramid scheme” that rewards early adopters. “I think the big problems are ultimately the trust issues,” he says. “There’s nothing there to back it up. I know the counterargument, that that’s true of fiat money, too, but that’s completely wrong. There’s a whole trust fabric that’s been established through legal mechanisms.”

It would be interesting to know what Nakamoto thinks of all this, but he’s not talking. He didn’t respond to emails, and the people who might know who he is say they don’t. Andresen flatly denies he is Nakamoto. “I don’t know his real name,” he says. “I’m hoping one day he decides not to be anonymous anymore, but I expect not.” Szabo also denies that he is Nakamoto, and so does Dai. Finney, who has blogged eloquently about being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sent his denial in an email: “Under my current circumstances, facing limited life expectancy, I would have little to lose by shedding anonymity. But it was not I.” Both The New Yorker and Fast Company have launched investigations but ended up with little more than speculation.

The signal in the noise, the figure that emerges from the carpet of clues, suggests an academic with somewhat outdated programming training. (Nakamoto’s style of notation “was popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Taaki notes. “Maybe he’s around 50, plus or minus 10 years.”) Some conjecturers are confident in their precision. “He has at best a master’s,” says a digital-currency expert. “It seems quite obvious it’s one of the developers. Maybe Gavin, just looking at his background.”

“I suspect Satoshi is a small team at a financial institution,” whitehat hacker Dan Kaminsky says. “I just get that feeling. He’s a quant who may have worked with some of his friends.”

But Garzik, the developer, says that the most dedicated bitcoiners have stopped trying to hunt down Nakamoto. “We really don’t care,” he says. It’s not the individuals behind the code who matter, but the code itself. And while people have stolen and cheated and abandoned the bitcoiners, the code has remained true.

Benjamin Wallace (benwallace@me.com) wrote about scareware in issue 19.10.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A mother’s food choice can shape baby’s palate, research shows - The Washington Post

By , Wednesday, November 23, 12:36 PM

What if a mother could predispose her child to like broccoli or Brussels sprouts — or at least to not make a face and spit it out — by what she ate during pregnancy?

Some health-care practitioners are suggesting that if mothers include a wide range of foods in their diet during pregnancy, they can shape their children’s food preferences. Those choices, researchers say, have the potential to reduce the risks of diabetes and obesity.

The concept is called prenatal flavor learning.

The flavor and odors of what mothers eat show up in the amniotic fluid, which is swallowed by the fetus, and in breast milk. There is evidence that fetal taste buds are mature in utero by 13 to 15 weeks, with taste receptor cells appearing at 16 weeks, researchers say.

“With flavor learning, you can train a baby’s palate with repetitive exposure,” said Kim Trout, director of the nurse midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner program at Georgetown University.

Trout recently co-authored a paper that reviews the evidence on prenatal flavor learning and its implications for controlling childhood obesity and diabetes, among the country’s most-pressing health problems. She is incorporating the concept into the curriculum of Georgetown’s two-year midwifery master’s degree program. Starting in January, the reproductive health course for first-year students will include that concept in the section on prenatal care and nutrition, she said.

As a practicing midwife, she also advises patients who want to know what they can do to maximize their baby’s health.

“I tell them there is good evidence that their babies could develop flavor preferences based on what they’re eating, and I also tell their partners if they are doing the cooking,” said Trout, who commutes between Washington and Philadelphia, where she sees patients at a private obstetrics-gynecology practice that is part of the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school and health system.

Some expectant mothers say the concept makes sense, and for those who enjoy eating a variety of food, so much the better.

“I’m not a picky eater. I love all foods,” said Elizabeth Hooks, 29, of Philadelphia, who is one of Trout’s patients. Nineteen weeks pregnant, Hooks said, she does not want her child to “be a member of the fast-food nation.” She added, “If I can start now, that’s wonderful.”

Hooks works at the corporate office of retailer Anthropologie. Her lunch on a recent weekday included a wide sampling from the cafeteria salad bar: chicken and cranberry salad, asparagus, tomato and mozzarella salad, and fresh kiwi.

The concept of prenatal flavor learning is not widely known among the general population or among health-care professionals who take care of pregnant women.

But even those who aren’t familiar with the research say they don’t see a downside if the science can be used to encourage healthy eating.

“It’s a new one on me,” said Cynthia Bullock Flynn, a nurse-midwife and general director of the Family Health and Birth Center in the District. “It sounds very interesting. We certainly counsel moms to eat their vegetables when they’re pregnant.”

Sumi Sexton, a family medicine physician in Arlington County and an assistant professor at Georgetown’s medical school, said practitioners encourage mothers-to-be to eat healthy foods as a way to model that behavior for their children.

“If the science supports it and the baby is getting an acquired taste through the amniotic fluid and breast milk, great,” she said. “It’s only reinforcing what I’m telling you to do anyway.”

Of course, that’s not to say that this approach will somehow lead to kids reaching for another helping of broccoli over chocolate cake. Children’s preference for sweets most likely evolved because sweet-tasting foods are high in energy, according to research, and their preference for salty foods is related to the need for minerals. Their rejection of bitter tastes most likely evolved because most poisonous compounds are bitter.

Exposing infants in the womb to the somewhat bitter flavor of vegetables, for example, makes those vegetables more palatable when offered as solid foods, researchers said.

Obviously, there are other factors that determine what people like to eat. And it’s very possible that a child will never learn to like broccoli no matter how much of it Mom ate while pregnant, Trout said.

She said researchers have also found that flavor learning prepares babies for the foods of their culture. If that culture features fast foods and large amounts of sweets, however, children will be at higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity.

Trout said she sees evidence in her own life. When she was pregnant with her daughter, she adhered to a strict nutritional plan that she taped to her refrigerator. Her daughter has a good diet and is a great cook, she said. Her son prefers fast food such as chicken wings, the kind of food Trout ate while working as an intern.

Just another reason to go heavier on the greens this Thanksgiving.

© The Washington Post Company

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seth's Blog: The problem with amortization

The problem with amortization

It costs more than a hundred dollars a day to use the wifi at the convention center in Toronto.

A 2 ounce bag of chips at the airport costs $4, the same price a pound costs at the local market.

A three-minute visit to the doctor might cost $250, even though the doctor clearly isn't making $5000 an hour...

What's happening is obvious: you're paying extra to subsidize something else. In order to have a clean lobby or repaired runway or a life-saving but little-used machine on hand, institutions charge some people extra and spread it out over some of their larger costs.

When AT&T first suffered from competition, they accused MCI and others of skimming the cream. They said that a company that sold something like long distance at a reasonable price was taking away their ability to subsidize all the other universal services they offered. They built those services on subsidies.

In the digital age, we get annoyed at these subsidies. That's because competitors are peeling off the cash cows and selling them separately. A $20 cable for your phone costs a penny or a dollar online--because the person selling it to you doesn't have to subsidize all the other costs with an expensive add on, right?

It used to be that the only way to collect the money we needed for roads and facilities and other widely used services was to charge a lot for the few things that were seen as extras. Now, though, it's easier than ever to track actual use, to coordinate consumption with payment. The technology is no longer the problem, it's our habits that are holding us back.

Simple example: a combination of gas tax and digital toll collection could instantly move the vast percentage of transport cost from society to the individual. Drive more, pay more. There are social implications (it's a regressive shift) but more important, people would be outraged--the same ones that don't like paying for a $20 cable(!).

Those that have been subsidized hate having it end, and even those that will save money don't really like the truth of their consumption so clearly exposed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

10 BIGGEST BANKS COULD LOSE $185 BILLION IN DEPOSITS NEXT YEAR AS CUSTOMERS MOVE THEIR MONEY | ThinkProgress.org

During “Bank Transfer Day” earlier this month, 40,000 Americans moved their money from the nation’s biggest banks to credit unions, voicing their distaste with the action’s of America’s financial behemoths. About 650,000 Americans joined credit unions in October, which is more people than in all of 2010 combined. According to cg42, a consulting firm that does work for the biggest banks, “the nation’s 10 biggest banks could stand to lose as much as $185 billion in deposits in the next year due to customer defections.” Of the banks, “Bank of America is the most vulnerable and could lose up to 10% of its customers and $42 billion in consumer deposits in the next year.”

When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality? | David Frum

When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

Some of my Republican friends ask if I’ve gone crazy. I say: Look in the mirror.

By David Frum Published Nov 20, 2011

What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together [his actions]? (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

It’s a very strange experience to have your friends think you’ve gone crazy. Some will tell you so. Others will indulgently humor you. Still others will avoid you. More than a few will demand that the authorities do something to get you off the streets. During one unpleasant moment after I was fired from the think tank where I’d worked for the previous seven years, I tried to reassure my wife with an old cliché: “The great thing about an experience like this is that you learn who your friends really are.” She answered, “I was happier when I didn’t know.”

It’s possible that my friends are right. I don’t think so—but then, crazy people never do. So let me put the case to you.

I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support.

America desperately needs a responsible and compassionate alternative to the Obama administration’s path of bigger government at higher cost. And yet: This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners. When I entered Republican politics, during an earlier period of malaise, in the late seventies and early eighties, the movement got most of the big questions—crime, inflation, the Cold War—right. This time, the party is getting the big questions disastrously wrong.

It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.” By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are “lucky duckies” because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations—or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked “churches, synagogues, and mosques.” By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55. Today, the Fed’s pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded by TheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the “greatest central banker in the history of the world,” according to Perry’s mentor, Senator Phil Gramm. Today, health reform that combines regulation of private insurance, individual mandates, and subsidies for those who need them is considered unconstitutional and an open invitation to “death panels.” A dozen years ago, a very similar reform was the Senate Republican alternative to Hillarycare. Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is “socialism.” In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic-recovery program.

I can’t shrug off this flight from reality and responsibility as somebody else’s problem. I belonged to this movement; I helped to make the mess. People may very well say: Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you work in the George W. Bush administration that disappointed so many people in so many ways? What qualifies you to dispense advice to anybody else?

Fair question. I am haunted by the Bush experience, although it seems almost presumptuous for someone who played such a minor role to feel so much unease. The people who made the big decisions certainly seem to sleep well enough. Yet there is also the chance for something positive to come out of it all. True, some of my colleagues emerged from those years eager to revenge themselves and escalate political conflict: “They send one of ours to the hospital, we send two of theirs to the morgue.” I came out thinking, I want no more part of this cycle of revenge. For the past half-dozen years, I have been arguing that we conservatives need to follow a different course. And it is this argument that has led so many of my friends to demand, sometimes bemusedly, sometimes angrily, “What the hell happened to you?” I could fire the same question back: “Never mind me—what happened to you?”

If we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely. (Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty Images)

So what did happen? The first decade of the 21st century was a crazy bookend to the twentieth, opening with a second Pearl Harbor and ending with a second Great Crash, with a second Vietnam wedged in between. Now we seem caught in the coils of a second Great Depression. These shocks radicalized the political system, damaging hawkish Democrats like Hillary Clinton in the Bush years and then driving Republicans to dust off the economics of Ayn Rand.

Some liberals suspect that the conservative changes of mind since 2008 are opportunistic and cynical. It’s true that cynicism is never entirely absent from politics: I won’t soon forget the lupine smile that played about the lips of the leader of one prominent conservative institution as he told me, “Our donors truly think the apocalypse has arrived.” Yet conscious cynicism is much rarer than you might suppose. Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another. If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves. Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him—and yet that is done too.

Conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment.

Conservatives have been driven to these fevered anxieties as much by their own trauma as by external events. In the aughts, Republicans held more power for longer than at any time since the twenties, yet the result was the weakest and least broadly shared economic expansion since World War II, followed by an economic crash and prolonged slump. Along the way, the GOP suffered two severe election defeats in 2006 and 2008. Imagine yourself a rank-and-file Republican in 2009: If you have not lost your job or your home, your savings have been sliced and your children cannot find work. Your retirement prospects have dimmed. Most of all, your neighbors blame you for all that has gone wrong in the country. There’s one thing you know for sure: None of this is your fault! And when the new president fails to deliver rapid recovery, he can be designated the target for everyone’s accumulated disappointment and rage. In the midst of economic wreckage, what relief to thrust all blame upon Barack Obama as the wrecker-in-chief.

The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers. For the past three years, the media have praised the enthusiasm and energy the tea party has brought to the GOP. Yet it’s telling that that movement has failed time and again to produce even a remotely credible candidate for president. Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich: The list of tea-party candidates reads like the early history of the U.S. space program, a series of humiliating fizzles and explosions that never achieved liftoff. A political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dysfunctional early auditions, these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn. But Cain’s gaffe on Libya or Perry’s brain freeze on the Department of Energy are not only indicators of bad leadership. They are indicators of a crisis of followership. The tea party never demanded knowledge or concern for governance, and so of course it never got them.

Many hope that the tea-party mood is just a passing mania, eventually to subside into something more like the businessperson’s Republicanism practiced in the nineties by governors and mayors like George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani, Christine Todd Whitman and Dick Riordan, Tommy Thompson and John Engler. This hope tends to coalesce around the candidacies of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, two smart and well-informed former governors who eschew the strident rhetoric of the tea party and who have thereby earned its deep distrust. But there are good reasons to fear that the ebbing of Republican radicalism remains far off, even if Romney (or Huntsman) does capture the White House next year.

[Obama] grew up in a privileged way. He never had to really work for anything; he never had to go through what Americans are going through. (Photo: Kevin Winter/NBC Universal/Getty Images)

1. Fiscal Austerity and Economic Stagnation We have entered an era in which politics increasingly revolves around the ugly question of who will bear how much pain. Conservative constituencies already see themselves as aggrieved victims of American government: They are the people who pay the taxes even as their “earned” benefits are siphoned off to provide welfare for the undeserving. The reality is, however, that the big winners in the American fiscal system are the rich, the old, the rural, and veterans—typically conservative constituencies. Squeezing the programs conservatives most dislike—PBS, the National Endowment for the Humanities, tax credits for the poor, the Department of Education, etc.—yields relatively little money. Any serious move to balance the budget, or even just reduce the deficit a little, must inevitably cut programs conservative voters do like: Medicare for current beneficiaries, farm subsidies, veterans’ benefits, and big tax loopholes like the mortgage-interest deduction and employer-provided health benefits. The rank and file of the GOP are therefore caught between their interests and their ideology—intensifying their suspicion that shadowy Washington elites are playing dirty tricks upon them.

2. Ethnic Competition White America has been plunged into a mood of pessimism and anger since 2008. Ron Brownstein reports in the National Journal: “63 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics said they expected their children to exceed their standard of living. Even college-educated whites are less optimistic (only about two-fifths agree). But the noncollege whites are the gloomiest: Just one-third of them think their kids will live better than they do; an equal number think their children won’t even match their living standard. No other group is nearly that negative.” Those fears are not irrational. In postrecession America, employers seem to show a distinct preference for foreign-born workers. Eighty percent of the net new jobs created in the state of Texas since 2009 went to the foreign-born. Nationwide, foreign-born workers have experienced a net 4 percent increase in employment since January 2009, while native-born workers have seen continuing employment declines. Which may explain why President Obama’s approval rating among whites slipped to 41 percent in January 2010 and is now testing a new low of 33 percent. The president’s name and skin color symbolize the emergence of a new America in which many older-stock Americans intuit they will be left behind.

It is precisely these disaffected whites—especially those who didn’t go to college—who form the Republican voting base. John McCain got 58 percent of noncollege-white votes in 2008. The GOP polls even higher among that group today, but the party can only sustain those numbers as long as it gives voice to alienation. Birtherism, the claim that President Obama was not born in the United States, expressed the feeling of many that power has shifted into alien hands. That feeling will not be easily quelled by Republican electoral success, because it is based on a deep sense of dispossession and disinheritance.

3. Fox News and Talk Radio Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

I'm ready for the gotcha questions...and when they ask me who is the president of Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm gonna say, you know, I don't know. (Photo: Kevin Winter/NBC Universal/Getty Images)

We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.

When contemplating the ruthless brilliance of this system, it’s tempting to fall back on the theory that the GOP is masterminded by a cadre of sinister billionaires, deftly manipulating the political process for their own benefit. The billionaires do exist, and some do indeed attempt to influence the political process. The bizarre fiasco of campaign-finance reform has perversely empowered them to give unlimited funds anonymously to special entities that can spend limitlessly. (Thanks, Senator McCain! Nice job, Senator Feingold!) Yet, for the most part, these Republican billionaires are not acting cynically. They watch Fox News too, and they’re gripped by the same apocalyptic fears as the Republican base. In funding the tea-party movement, they are actually acting against their own longer-term interests, for it is the richest who have the most interest in political stability, which depends upon broad societal agreement that the existing distribution of rewards is fair and reasonable. If the social order comes to seem unjust to large numbers of people, what happens next will make Occupy Wall Street look like a street fair.

Republican billionaires are not acting cynically; they watch Fox News too.

Over the past few years, I have left this alternative knowledge system behind me. What is that experience like? A personal story may be relevant here.

Through the debate over health-care reform in 2009–10, I urged that Republicans try to reach some kind of deal. The Democrats had the votes to pass something. They could not afford to lose. Providing health coverage to all is a worthy goal, and the core mechanisms of what we called Obamacare should not have been obnoxious to Republicans. In fact, they were drawn from past Republican plans. Democrats were so eager for Republican votes to provide bipartisan cover that they might well have paid a substantial price to get them, including dropping the surtaxes on work and investment that supposedly financed the Affordable Care Act. My urgings went unheeded, obviously. Senator Jim DeMint predicted that health care would become Obama’s Waterloo, the decisive defeat that would destroy his presidency, and Republicans accepted DeMint’s counsel. So they bet everything—and lost everything. A major new entitlement has been written into law, financed by redistributive new taxes. Changes in the bill that could have been had for the asking will now require years of slow, painful legislative effort, if they ever come at all. Republicans hope that the Supreme Court will overturn the Affordable Care Act. Such a decision would be the most dramatic assertion of judicial power since the thirties, and for that reason alone seems improbable. Yet absent action by the Supreme Court, outright repeal of President Obama’s health-care law is a mirage, requiring not only 60 votes in the Senate but also the withdrawal of benefits that the American people will have gotten used to by 2013.

On the day of the House vote that ensured the enactment of health-care reform, I wrote a blog post saying all this—and calling for some accountability for those who had led the GOP to this disaster. For my trouble, I was denounced the next day by my former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal as a turncoat. Three days after that, I was dismissed from the American Enterprise Institute. I’m not a solitary case: In 2005, the economist Bruce Bartlett, a main legislative author of the Kemp-Roth tax cut, was fired from a think tank in Dallas for too loudly denouncing the George W. Bush administration’s record, and I could tell equivalent stories about other major conservative think tanks as well.

I don’t complain from a personal point of view. Happily, I had other economic resources to fall back upon. But the message sent to others with less security was clear: We don’t pay you to think, we pay you to repeat. For myself, the main consequences have been more comic than anything else. Back in 2009, I wrote a piece for Newsweek arguing that Republicans would regret conceding so much power to Rush Limbaugh. Until that point, I’d been a frequent guest on Fox News, but thenceforward some kind of fatwa was laid down upon me. Over the next few months, I’d occasionally receive morning calls from young TV bookers asking if I was available to appear that day. For sport, I’d always answer, “I’m available—but does your senior producer know you’ve called me?” An hour later, I’d receive an embarrassed second call: “We’ve decided to go in a different direction.” Earlier this year, I did some volunteer speechwriting for a Republican contemplating a presidential run. My involvement was treated as a dangerous secret, involving discreet visits to hotel suites at odd hours. Thus are political movements held together. But thus is not how movements grow and govern.

Some call this the closing of the conservative mind. Alas, the conservative mind has proved itself only too open, these past years, to all manner of intellectual pollen. Call it instead the drying up of conservative creativity. It’s clearly true that the country faces daunting economic troubles. It’s also true that the wrong answers to those problems will push the United States toward a future of too much government, too many taxes, and too much regulation. It’s the job of conservatives in this crisis to show a better way. But it’s one thing to point out (accurately) that President Obama’s stimulus plan was mostly a compilation of antique Democratic wish lists, and quite another to argue that the correct response to the worst collapse since the thirties is to wait for the economy to get better on its own. It’s one thing to worry (wisely) about the long-term trend in government spending, and another to demand big, immediate cuts when 25 million are out of full-time work and the government can borrow for ten years at 2 percent. It’s a duty to scrutinize the actions and decisions of the incumbent administration, but an abuse to use the filibuster as a routine tool of legislation or to prevent dozens of presidential appointments from even coming to a vote. It’s fine to be unconcerned that the rich are getting richer, but blind to deny that middle-class wages have stagnated or worse over the past dozen years. In the aftershock of 2008, large numbers of Americans feel exploited and abused. Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.

I refuse to believe that I am the only Republican who feels this way. If CNN’s most recent polling is correct, only half of us sympathize with the tea party. However, moderate-minded people dislike conflict—and thus tend to lose to people who relish conflict. The most extreme voices in the GOP now denounce everybody else as Republicans in Name Only. But who elected them as the GOP’s membership committee? What have they done to deserve such an inheritance? In the mid-sixties, when the party split spectacularly between Ripon Republicans, who embraced the civil-rights movement, and Goldwater Republicans, who opposed it, civil-rights Republicans like Michigan governor George Romney spoke forcefully for their point of view. Today, Republicans discomfited by political and media extremism bite their tongues. But if they don’t speak up, they’ll be whipsawed into a choice between an Obama administration that wants to build a permanently bigger government and a conservative movement content with permanently outraged opposition.

This is, unfortunately, not merely a concern for Republican voters. The conservative shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology has ominous real-world consequences for American society. The American system of government can’t work if the two sides wage all-out war upon each other: House, Senate, president, each has the power to thwart the others. In prior generations, the system evolved norms and habits to prevent this kind of stonewalling. For example: Theoretically, the party that holds the Senate could refuse to confirm any Cabinet nominees of a president of the other party. Yet until recently, this just “wasn’t done.” In fact, quite a lot of things that theoretically could be done just “weren’t done.” Now old inhibitions have given way. Things that weren’t done suddenly are done.

We can debate when the slide began. But what seems beyond argument is that the U.S. political system becomes more polarized and more dysfunctional every cycle, at greater and greater human cost. The next Republican president will surely find himself or herself at least as stymied by this dysfunction as President Obama, as will the people the political system supposedly serves, who must feel they have been subjected to a psychological experiment gone horribly wrong, pressing the red button in 2004 and getting a zap, pressing blue in 2008 for another zap, and now agonizing whether there is any choice that won’t zap them again in 2012. Yet in the interests of avoiding false evenhandedness, it must be admitted: The party with a stronger charge on its zapper right now, the party struggling with more self-imposed obstacles to responsible governance, the party most in need of a course correction, is the Republican Party. Changing that party will be the fight of a political lifetime. But a great political party is worth fighting for.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

TINY WISDOM: WHAT WE CHOOSE TO SEE | Lori Deschene

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” -Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday while driving home from the dentist, I listened to this CD my boyfriend made with theme songs from various movies.

While I generally would rather do a low crawl down a muddy sidewalk than sit in LA traffic, I couldn’t have been more blissful lost in the tunes of my favorite films.

I noticed something interesting during this peaceful drive.

While listening to The Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, I recognized all kinds of exciting things happening around me. This kid did a Back to the Future-style skateboard jump while crossing the street at the walk signal; and several yards away in the park, I saw a group of girls doing back flips. I realize these events aren’t as riveting as Johnny Depp escaping death, but in that moment, I felt their energy.

After the light turned green, I switched to the Forrest Gump theme song, and noticed numerous poignant moments in the moving picture outside my window—a little boy running and jumping into his mother’s arms, and a woman bending down to help a homeless man on the sidewalk. With the simple change of a song, I felt transported to a Lifetime special.

Suddenly I wondered: How often did the soundtrack in my head dictate what I chose to see?

At any given moment, there’s a lot of life happening arou nd us. It’s far too much to take in all at once, which means we need to consciously choose where we place our attention—and how we perceive the things that we allow to hold our focus.

This is usually influenced by our mental state. When we’re angry, we’re more apt to find people annoying. When we’re hurt, people can seem insensitive. And when we’re happy, all of a sudden, the world seems like a kind and beautiful place.

Essentially, we narrate the world based on our moods, just like those pithy voiceovers, usually delivered by Morgan Freeman.

But there is another way to go about it—we can instead create our moods by consciously choosing to see the good around us. It’s always there. It’s just a matter of whether or not we’re willing to look and see.

Lori Deschene is the Founder of Tiny Buddha. Her first book, Tiny Buddha, Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Follow Lori on Twitter @Lori_Deschene and don't forget to read the submission guidelines if you'd like to submit a blog post.

One Coffee Cup a Day | 30 Days 30 Cups | cunicode

One Cup a Day project is an experiment on creativity and rapid manufacturing,
by ideating, designing, modeling and making available for production and purchase a coffee cup within 24 hours,
everyday during one month.

By the end of each day, a new espresso coffee cup was made be available for sale here.
The cups are printed in Glazed Ceramics by Shapeways.

*the following images are computer generated visualizations of the cups, not the actual objects.
As 3D-printing in ceramics is a novel and experimental process, the 3D-printed cups might look different than the images below.

Day 30 | Double Espresso Cup

Double length and double handles for a double coffee cup. | buy it here

Day 29 | French Coffee Cup

A dangerous cup with a pointy Tour Eiffel to celebrate the French coffeebuy it here

Day 28 | Golf Ball Cup

A cup textured like a golf ball | buy it here

Day 27 | Kryptonite Cup

A coffee cup with crystal structures | buy it here

Day 26 | Tub Cup

Extruded cup that looks like a bathtub | buy it here

Day 25 | Deer Cup

Hunting trophy coffee cup with a couple of ceramic deers. | buy it here

Day 24 | Knitted Cup

A cup wrapped by knitted ceramic string | buy it here

Day 23 | Helveticup

Cup featuring the Helvetica typeface | buy it here

Day 22 | Waves Cup

A wave pattern textured cup. | buy it here

Day 21 | Siamese Cup

A coffee cup with a tiny conjoined twin | buy it here

Day 20 | Spouted Cup

A coffee cup with a watering can spout | buy it here

Day 19 | Klein Bottle Cup

A coffee cup built with a continuous inside/outside surface as a references to a Klein Bottlebuy it here

Day 18 | Emmental Cup

A cheesy coffee cup | buy it here

Day 17 | Aroma Cup

Cup to smell the fresh coffee | buy it here
*with David‘s Nose

Day 16 | 50% Cup

Half a cup | buy it here
To literally drink a Tallat | Cortado

Day 15 | Fish Scales Cup

Fish-textured coffee cup | buy it here

Day 14 | Rich Bitch Cup

A coffee cup with a kick-ass ceramic diamond. | buy it here

Day 13 | Espresso Shot Cup

A never-standing coffee cup | Buy it here
Perfect for drinking espresso in one shot before it cools down.

Day 12 | ZigZag Cup

Coffee Cup with a ZigZag pattern | buy it here

Day 11 | Hard to Handle Cup

Annoying coffee cup with the handle inside out | buy it here

Day 10 | Savoy Cup

Homage to the world famous glassware piece Savoy Vase by Alvar Aalto.
Cup resembling the shapes of the iconic vase. | buy it here

Day 09 | Low Resolution Cup

Coffee cup with the look & feel of a low resolution 3D model | buy it here
(With a smooth and rounded inside wall for easy cleaning)

Day 08 | CupCake Cup

Delicious coffee cup | buy it here

Day 07 | Champions Coffee Cup

Drink your coffee like a winner | buy it here

Day 06 | 90 Degrees Cup

A coffee cup bent 90 degrees. | buy it here

Day 05 | Fat Cup

Over-fed coffee cup | buy it here

Day 04 | Bird Nest Cup

A coffee cup wrapped by a bird-nest like structure | buy it here

Day 03 | Eroded Cup

Digitally eroded coffee cup. | buy it here.

 

Day 02 | Studded Belt Cup

Remember those punk/emo belts studded with metal pyramids?
this coffe cup translates that look and feel to ceramics language. | Buy it here

 

Day 01 | Octo Cup

A nice coffe cup populated with eight handles. | Buy it here

 

Day 00 | Basic Cup

A small espresso coffe cup; 50mm dameter, 45mm tall.
with basic and smooth shapes. Buy it here


Design one yourself

This project is open for collaboration,
Here I make available the source files (as .3dm & .3ds files) of a template basic cup,
please, feel free to play around and modify it.
Share your Designs and I’ll post them at the Contributions Gallery.


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