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Sunday Morning Reading Material: Third Sunday in January 2011

Even presidents put on their pants one leg at a time.

It’s Sunday. Sundays are for lolling around watching StarCraft 2 pro matches and playing with the cats. Alternately, Sundays could be for for trying to see the difference between “walking pneumonia” and “walking dead”.

This week President Obama meet with his Chinese counterpart to discuss how our nations can get along. Also: Google’s CEO resigned: seems babysitting tech geniuses isn’t really worth the money after a certain point. Also this week: Keith Olbermann once again resigned from a hosting gig. Quell Surprise.

I was helping staff a congressional townhall yesterday. A constituent pigeonholed me and told me that we were killing the medical field with regulations. Left unsaid was that without regulation we’d be killing people. I know, I know, not all regulations are good. That doesn’t mean that the person who holds a knife over your unconscious body shouldn’t be held to pretty stringent standards.

The man who founded the peace corps died recently. Here’s a tribute to his life and work

Also worth paying tribute to: Martin Luther King Jr. The man not only bent the arc of history toward justice, but he also gave us that phrase. This is a fascinating account of the first draft of King’s most famous speech– written by a man who helped write that draft.

White people vote differently from the rest of the country. I find this sort of lingering racial consciousness to be bizarre. I hate to call it racism per se, but I’d like to see a good explanation for it.

Here’s Grant making some obvious points about the right of succession. There are other points, though. For instance: he pretty directly accesses the then-Secretary of War of scattering the US army to make it impossible to stop the CSA from forming. Damning stuff.

reenactment of a slave sale. It’s an emotional gut punch, so I’m not embedding it. But it’s worth watching.

One of the things American history books don’t like to talk about is the “sundown town” phenomenon. Whole stretches of the US were off limits to blacks at any time– and more were off limits at night. One artifact of that time was the “green book”. This book helped black motorists figure out how to avoid such communities. Scarily, I met a (white) guy yesterday who didn’t seem to understand that those were the bad old days.

Speaking of driving: I really want this to be true.

An interesting set of maps about American fears of a NAZI invasion. Most fascinating to me were is the one that depends on an American 5th column.

The American Government doesn’t believe that Wikileaks have done any lasting damage. The Tunisian government would likely disagree. To me, it seems pretty obvious that America is pretty damned transparent. We don’t really have secret agendas or secret opinions. We can’t– America is a country built on the spread of memes. I guess that makes this link roundup the most American thing I can do!

Speaking of the spread of memes: I hate Facebook. Their entire business model relies on getting me to give them my personal information so that they can sell it to the highest bidder. Scalzi hates it for more aesthetic reasons.

Your task this week is to use at least one of these words every day.

I spent yesterday evening hanging out with the author of this post. Did you know that you can tell where a rock is from by licking it? Now you do.

I consider myself fairly well versed in history. I minored in it. So when I learn about an entire war that I knew nothing about, it sort of makes me wonder what else I’m ignorant about. Anyway: the Pacific War. This reminds me: wikipedia is the greatest tool of meme propagation that humanity has invented since Gutenberg got a hand cramp.

The headline is all you need: 26 incredibly bizarre aircraft that actually flew.

On the topic of boondoggles: Several retired US flag/general officers have decided to stay on the payrolls of defense contractors rather than help mentor younger soldiers.

It looks like America and Israel might have committed an act of war by unleashing Stuxnet on Iran. Scary, to me, is that they had to unleash it on the entire world to get it to Iran. The machine you’re reading this on might well be a vector. What if someone were to repurpose that worm to harm something other than a nuclear program?

For your really paranoid fantasies: what if Stuxnet were handed over to an AI? In this case, the AI is one designed to play StarCraft– you may recall that I’m obsessed with this game. Berkeley is teaching computers to be adaptive and creative thinkers. And teaching it by forcing it to wage war. Perhaps we should train our computers using economic, or science simulators instead?

Finally: the world of Video Game Journalism lost an important voice this week, as Troy Goodfellow decided that there was more money to be made as a PR shill than by asking his readers/listeners to donate money. Can’t blame the man at all. I wish him success in his new role, and hope that he continues blogging on awesome games.

This week’s theme is memetic propagation. So: what’s your favorite meme? Try to include an unusual word in your comment.

You have 3 minutes: