August links: Golden rice, the midlist, spy agency takeaways, RED cameras, and more

* Why most modern action films are terrible.

* Golden rice, lifesaver.

* How the Mars Spirit Rover died, an unexpectedly moving piece.

* “Can the Minerva Project do to Ivy League universities what Amazon did to Borders?” I hope so. Still I would note this: “Too much of undergrad education is the dissemination of basic information that at that level of student you should expect them to know.”

* We should be suing and charging parents who don’t vaccinate their kids.

* Midlist crisis, midlist life.

* Charlie Stross: “Snowden leaks: the real take-home;” hard to excerpt well but I would note this:

We human beings are primates. We have a deeply ingrained set of cultural and interpersonal behavioural rules which we violate only at social cost. One of these rules, essential for a tribal organism, is bilaterality: loyalty is a two-way street. (Another is hierarchicality: yield to the boss.) Such rules are not iron-bound or immutable — we’re not robots — but our new hive superorganism employers don’t obey them instinctively, and apes and monkeys and hominids tend to revert to tit for tat quite easily when unsure of their relative status. Perceived slights result in retaliation, and blundering, human-blind organizations can slight or bruise an employee’s ego without even noticing. And slighted or bruised employees who lack instinctive loyalty because the culture they come from has spent generations systematically destroying social hierarchies and undermining their sense of belonging are much more likely to start thinking the unthinkable.

Edward Snowden is 30: he was born in 1983. Generation Y started in 1980-82. I think he’s a sign of things to come.

PS: Bradley Manning is 25.

Still, I would also note that my generation’s thinkers are steeped in knowledge about how the Holocaust happened, how the Soviet Union happened, how Watergate happened, and, more generally, how these events can and will happen again. Right now the United States’s spy agencies have begun a power grab and turned, like an overactive immune system, against the United States itself. Snowden and Manning are symptoms and harbingers, revealers of evil not doers of evil.

* Why we should fear rapid methane release due to global warming.

* Jim Jannard of RED fame’s last forum post; see also the Hacker News discussion. Jannard built the infrastructure of the present, which was then the future, and he’s still building the future. Virtually anyone who has watched any TV show or movie made in the last five years has been the beneficiary of his work, either directly because he made RED cameras, or indirectly, because competing camera manufacturers were forced to compete at a higher level.

* “Affordable Excellence. . . This book is a clear first choice on the Singapore health system and everyone interested in health care economics, or Singapore, should read it. It is short, clear, and to the point.” I am struck by how many people have strong opinions about healthcare without really understanding the system. Sloganeering is rampant and understanding scant.

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