There is no better dodge than one’s own character, because no-one believes in it

March 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

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What’s out of sight is out of mind. It’s perhaps not surprising that relatively rare predatory birds like owls are faithful to their sexual partners. After all, if they don’t come into contact with many other owls, any temptation to stray would be easier to resist.

For one species of owl, though, the lure of a different sexual partner can be just a few steps away. The burrowing owls of Argentina have embraced town life, nesting in large numbers in urban areas near cities including Bahía Blanca. While owl nests in rural areas can be separated by as much as 15 kilometres, urban nests may be little more than 10 metres apart. So do urban owls stay faithful, like their country cousins?

Burrowing owls get their name for their tendency to set up home in abandoned mammal burrows – the only owl known to do so. They stand a little over 20 centimetres tall, on a pair of strikingly long legs. Those come in handy during hunts, during which the owls often run down insects and small mammals on foot rather than swooping on them from above.  read more

SCAN: Modern Mechanix

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Don Giovanni is a certain type of male homosexual. Neither extreme, Tristan or Don Giovanni, is compatible with heterosexual love

March 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

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In August 2011, the Japanese company Manuscript was forced to amend the settings of its new software application, Karelog (“Boyfriend Log”), in response to consumer complaints. Drawing on GPS technology, the service allowed users to log in from a computer to track another person’s phone. In the program’s first release, these surveillance capacities also stretched to include accessing the mobile’s call history and remaining battery life. Promotional material for the product targeted anxious girlfriends wanting to know the whereabouts of partners. But within days of the campaign going public, anti-virus software giant McAfee labelled the app a “Potentially Unwanted Program.” This was because users had no way of knowing that the technology had been installed on their device or what information was being logged and sent. The problem was not so much the capacity of the application (GPS tracking is already used for caring purposes of other kinds, such as parents keeping tabs on their children). The crime was that women were encouraged to install the app without partners’ permission. The language of internet security literalised the threat that the program posed as an example of everyday spyware.

Facing the media the president of the fledgling software firm, Yoshinori Miura, admitted the product launch involved some cynicism:

We were still a largely unknown company, so I thought that we could grab attention by focusing on anti-cheating programs, but we went too far. I didn’t think we [would] get so much criticism .

The official apology also addressed the gender assumptions inherent to the application design, since its aesthetics showed clear allegiance to the established traits of Japanese kawaii, or “cute”. Still, press reports admitted that there was nothing about the technology that stopped it from being used by both genders. Steve Levenstein at Inventor Spot wrote:

it takes no knowledge of Japanese to know the pink & lacy graphics at the Karelog website are designed to attract a female demographic. If that’s not enough, check out the image of a big-eyed black kitty (with pink hair bow a la Hello Kitty) gazing longfully at her Android-phone-clutching, pants-wearing tomcat. With that said, there’s no reason why anyone of any gender can use Karelog to spy on anyone of any gender. Let the paranoia-fest begin!

While Boyfriend Log was notable for the headlines it received in English-speaking media, gendered assumptions also affected the release of similar surveillance programs in the US in recent years. iTrust, for instance, is an iPhone application that reveals whether or not a significant other has been tampering with one’s text. In contrast to Boyfriend Log, iTrust turns the tables to allow phone owners to maintain privacy. A fake “home” screen locks the cellphone while its user is absent and records any traces of interfering fingers. In the demo video for the program, a female voice-over describes a failed attempt to read her boyfriend’s text messages in a moment of boredom. Like the men offended by KareLog’s marketing, the casting of a ditzy-sounding girlfriend did not escape the notice of commenters responding to the story on industry stalwart Mashable.

Women are the investigatory agents in each of these examples, whether deliberately, in the case of KareLog, or more casually – indeed, recreationally – in the case of iTrust. The worried partner is gendered female, seen to require stability and transparency through the surveillance of her wandering male.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: [unattributed]

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