Number 1

Trojan condoms ranked the University [of Minneosta] the most sexually healthy school in a survey of 139 colleges across the country this September, but statistics released this month by Boynton Health Service raise some questions about the accuracy of that ranking.

. . .

Ehlinger said he wouldn't label the University the most sexually healthy school in the country, but he would call it the campus with the best sexual health services.

Ehlinger said Trojan's sexual health report card was more of a marketing campaign than a scientific study, designed to raise sexual health awareness concurrently with promoting their product.

"They know that when you rank institutions people pay attention, even if the rankings aren't the most accurate and aren't the most reflective of what's going on," he said.

Sexual-health surveys clash

In other local news: Spam suit canned.

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November 29, 2007 9:32 AM

Instinct

Mormon crickets will sometimes gather by the millions and crawl in bands stretching more than five miles long. Dr. Couzin and his colleagues ran experiments to find out what caused them to form bands. They found that the forces behind cricket swarms are very different from the ones that bring locusts together. When Mormon crickets cannot find enough salt and protein, they become cannibals.

“Each cricket itself is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition,” Dr. Couzin said. “So the crickets, every 17 seconds or so, try to attack other individuals. If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”

This collective movement causes the crickets to form vast swarms. “All these crickets are on a forced march,” Dr. Couzin said. “They’re trying to attack the crickets who are ahead, and they’re trying to avoid being eaten from behind.”

From Ants to People, an Instinct to Swarm
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November 14, 2007 10:06 AM

Opting Out

prince.jpg
images assembled from Janet Charlton's Hollywood

"You can get things taken down, the legal tools are there to do it," said Caroline Kean, a partner at the law firm Wiggin. "The reason people don't is partly practical, because there are so many images, but also due to the bad publicity you get from going after your biggest fans. Most people soon realised it was counter-productive."

A spokeswoman for the fans' campaign said the sites had always tried to work with Prince's management. But it appeared that Prince wanted to edit his past and there was "no sign" of his lawyers backing down, she said. "He's trying to control the internet 100% and you can't do that without infringing people's freedom of speech," she added.

Guardian

According to the pragmatist interpretation, the "copying" of reality is replaced by a problem-solving "coping" with the challenges of an overcomplex world. In other words, we acquire our knowledge of facts in the course of a constructive approach to a surprising environment. Nature only provides indirect answers as all its answers refer to the grammar of our questions. What we call the "world" therefore does not consist of the totality of facts. For us, it is the sum total of the cognitively relevant constraints imposed on our attempts to learn from and achieve control over contingent natural processes through reliable predictions.

Habermas
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November 12, 2007 1:04 PM

The play's the thing


When you take away everything plays think they're about, what's left is what all plays—all stories—are really about, and what they're really about is time. Events, things happening—Ophelia drowns! Camille coughs! Somebody has bought the cherry orchard!—are different manifestations of what governs the narratives we make up, just as it governs the narrative we live in: the unceasing ticktock of the universe. There is no stasis, not even in death, which turns into memory.

Barrett died, 60 years old, a month after my play opened, 5 years after that photograph of him cycling home with his shopping from the supermarket. When I first saw the photo—in Willis's book—I found myself staring at it for minutes, at the thickset body supporting the heavy, shaven potato head, comparing it with images of Barrett in his "dark angel" days, like the shot on this story's opening page. "He was beautiful," Esme says. "He was like the guarantee of beauty," and, high-flown though it might be to apply Virgil's untranslatable chord "there are tears of things," sunt lacrimae rerum, to a snatched photo of a burly bloke with Colgate and Super Soft toilet paper in his bicycle basket, that's what came into my mind in the long moment when I understood that it was this play, the one about Communism, consciousness, Sappho, and, God help us, Czechoslovakia, into which Syd Barrett fitted. The tears of things are in mutability and the governance of time.

Tom Stoppard
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November 11, 2007 8:58 PM

Jungle Drums

It might be time to turn off, tune out, drop into life outside the network. The ominous drums of the social networking machine are not playing a tune I like at all.

Marketing is conversational, says Zuckerberg, and advertising is social. There is no intimacy that is not a branding opportunity, no friendship that can't be monetized, no kiss that doesn't carry an exchange of value. The cluetrain has reached its last stop, its terminus, the end of the line. From the Facebook press release: "Facebook’s ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from your friends - such as a purchase of a product or review of a restaurant - with an advertiser’s message." The social graph, it turns out, is a platform for social graft.

Nick Carr

I thought that context sensitive google-ads were simply an annoying sickness; this latest twist seems more like the plague. The great (mostly white) hope of the Internet simply begs the question “the social construction of what?” (with apologies to Ian Hacking). Advertising revenue, apparently.

More

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November 11, 2007 6:53 PM

Not even a taco

Nine years ago, Winnie Shilson stopped a bullet for Taco Bell. Last Friday, the company that owns Minnesota's Taco Bell restaurants emptied the other barrel.

It fired her.

Shilson will be 64 next month, and her story may illustrate how a fast-food society treats workers, especially its most experienced ones. After 30 years working for Taco Bell and the chains that preceded it, Shilson was fired Friday as manager of the Edina Taco Bell, dismissed without severance pay or medical benefits.

"Not even a taco," says her husband, Doug. "They didn't give her a thing."

Shilson believes she was the oldest Taco Bell store manager employed by Border Foods Inc., a Golden Valley-based firm that owns 175 Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and other eateries. Her firing followed a highly praised 30-year career that crashed and burned after two recent failed performance reviews.

Star Tribune

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November 11, 2007 11:09 AM