Better content through Zip programs? Scientists have found a technique for identifying patterns within compressed files. Here's a subjective list of websites worth investigating, brought to you by Time magazine. (Link courtesy of NP News.) If you find yourself trying to fight irrational arguments with reason, don't feel alone. And you could fight shoplifters with memory chips embedded in your product.
In the Oops! file we find a story of a cloned critter which was supposed to be a cow, but..."Bull Clone Stumps Brazil..." I'd like to have Faith report back on this one: The Dole Museum of Salad opened in NY today. It moves to its permanent location in California next month. Finally, a couple of articles from The Atlantic Monthly (February issue...I'm behind): Commentary on the Nobel Prize for Literature award recipient, V.S. Naipaul, and an essay about the hierarchies of evil.
Rolling Stone is changing its format; I haven't read it in years, but for a while in the late 1970s I was a subscriber. I was reading it in LAX once at the gate, and was so absorbed that I missed a flight. Fortunately, that was in the days when you could walk across the way and exchange your UAL ticket for a Delta one on a flight leaving 40 minutes later. Icons of a different sort: Texas longhorns at auction (don't even think of eating one)!
Here's a blog: Choice Cuts, from the folks at Agency.com, the Marketing group of Applied Concepts Lab. And here's another, this one called Neuroprosthesis News. It's a new venture from the Neuroprosthesis Research Organization: "Our goal on the long term is to strive towards developing biomorphic external control of robotic devices and/or functional electrical stimulation while requiring the minimum possible in terms of invasive implants to obtain neural intention signals for artificial motor control." The person who updates the blog found mine (see comments below), and I followed it back. It doesn't surprise me that there is such an organization (de Tocqueville called Americans "a nation of joiners," after all), but I never expected to be exposed to it! Starting a blog is an innovative way of getting news out to both members and the rest of the populace, I'd say.
These sentences fit my definition of righteous rage perfectly.
"We are angry that these spiritual arbiters are unyielding when the 'sins' belong to us, not to them.
We have relatives whose lives were choked because they could not get annulments — and thus remarry in the church — after their spouses betrayed and abandoned them.
We know faithfully married women who are forced to violate the Vatican stricture against birth control if they don't want 13 babies. We are friends with gay Catholics who are expected to sacrifice intimacy to maintain their faith."
That's Maureen Dowd's Op-Ed in today's NYT.
I was born and raised Catholic; I haven't practiced the faith in 30 years; I certainly don't feel the sense of betrayal she evidences in this column. Nonetheless, I recognize the form of institutional behavior which has so angered her; it afflicts corporations (see Arthur Andersen), governments (see Nixon and Clinton Administrations), and now, apparently, religious bodies. It can be distilled into six words: Protect one's own, at all costs.
Workers in microwave popcorn plant suffer from a lung disease usually found in people exposed to toxic irritants from spills. Less of a downer, perhaps; you know all those powers that Captain America and his ilk had? Well, many of them are in engineering labs right now.
Where must civil liberties step aside for public health? That's the subject of this commentary from the NEJM. "These business plans are like the cathedrals of medieval Europe..." So says a U of Maryland researcher attempting to document the dot-com boom/bust from the perspective of the cube-dwellers. Oh, and dammit! I told you not to get so angry! Not even about spelling! "Typos spell trouble for Sri Lanka's phony Viagra".
I've been wondering why we've seen so many pro-Palestinian rallies in Europe; Michael Elliott proposes a partial explanation in the current issue of Time. He suggests it is in part because Israel has, in European eyes, come to resemble the colonial powers they used to be, and there is plenty of self-loathing among them as a result of that past. Well, maybe. Among the "elites" I suspect it's nearly as much just standard knee-jerk reaction to America; whatever the US does is inherently wrong. This is not to say I have much liking for the Sharon government or its behavior; but I have even less liking for a Palestinian "Authority" which encourages suicide bombing by its children.
Tom Friedman has some choice words for just about every important player in the Israeli/Palestinian standoff today. Annoyance is also the watchword in this story about the seeming reluctance of the Administration to name a new FDA Commissioner, 15 months after taking office. The Swedes have an active FDA, apparently; a study recently presented to them warns of possible carcinogens in fries, chips, and bread. Damned scientists.
It occurs to me that the cast of That Was The Week That Was could have done wonders with the current state of world affairs. Yes, there really was satire (besides The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour) on television in the Sixties, boys and girls. That (short-lived) program was great; just click the link and check out the cast list. I think that was the venue where Tom Lehrer got his first wide exposure. More info on the Comedy Hour can be found here.
Advertising gives weird messages sometimes. The Lipitortm commercial showing the model tripping? The implication is that wearing a size 6 dress causes high cholesterol levels. There's a Country Crocktm ad which clearly implies there is no need for risky, expensive IVF procedures; just eat the product; you'll be pregnant in no time. Advertising in different fields may be more useful; here's a story about the increasing number of projects using distributed computing (got computer? Not using it part of the day?) to solve scientific puzzles. Think SETI or Mersenne Prime numbers. A list of these projects is available here.
Here's some news about less savory projects: Nigerian cyber-cafés are cracking down on some of their fraud-happy customers. On a brighter note, perhaps you've heard of the dog aboard an abandoned ship? Well, she's still there at this writing; part of the problem (said quite seriously) is that the dog understands only Mandarin!
On Earth Day, a couple of items caught my eye. I sincerely hope this remark by a Republican pollster comes back to bite him in the backside: "The environment resonates most strongly with the beats, the backpackers and the bangles crowd." In my view that typifies the arrogance of this Administration, although he may not work directly for it. Pardon me, it's time to go hug a tree, wearing my backpack, with some bangles inside that thing.
There may be hope, however; some scientists at Los Alamos may have found a method of extracting CO2 directly from the atmosphere. Even if that doesn't work, how about placing solar cells on the Moon to provide a replacement for fossil fuels altogether?
Did y'all get your free cone at Ben & Jerry's today?
Here are some thirty-year old memories to share:
I lived in Japan from 1972-1974 as a 22-year old kid with two years of college behind him, at a time that was later called the "hollowing-out" of the military. I worked in the Naval Communications Station at Yokosuka, about 50 miles south of Tokyo. The majority of the people I worked with were not career Navy, but guys (and up until 1974, it was just guys) who had either been drafted or enlisted into the Navy to avoid the Army, and wanted nothing more than to get out ASAP. In fact, just having the college time was enough to annoy some of the people I worked with. Vietnam was winding down towards the final peace talks, but we were sending/receiving messages from ships off the coast in the war zone. We worked two day shifts, two mid-shifts, two swing shifts, and had 80 hours off. Then we started the whole process over again.
For the first eight or nine months I was there I lived on base; then moved to a ground-floor apartment in a three-story walkup, four apartments to the floor. The building was about one mile off base, with no hot water, no shower, a flush benjo, a single gas outlet for a burner, no heating or cooling, and a Japanese landlady who charged me 17,000 yen/month (at 300Y/dollar) and spoke no English to boot. There was a semi-western hotel right next door with reasonable prices for recognizable food, if I wanted a full meal off base. Cooking was a hassle for anything other than skillet foods (Hamburger Helper worked well). The apartment had a four-tatami living room, with one wall of shelved closets and a window opening into a half-above, half-below ground level space. Sleeping was in a two-tatami room separated from the living area by sliding paper doors. I had no furniture except a chest of drawers and a ton of stereo equipment, and a refrigerator for beer. If I wanted to bathe, I walked across the street to a fairly well-appointed bathhouse (only gaijin in the place, ever!), or I went on base and used the showers at the gym or in the barracks.
I walked to the base at first, then bought a little used Daihatsu and learned how to shift left-handed and drive on the left as well. This made life simpler; when I was walking I usually had to dodge about fifty or so Communist Party demonstrators at the main gate of the base in order to get to work. That's not a joke; there was nearly always some kind of disturbance going on there, either because of 'Nam or the homeporting of nuclear subs there, and later because the carrier Midway was homeported there as well.
Right outside the main gate was the usual array of clip joints, bars, and other assorted establishments catering to military personnel. You can find them in Rota, Spain; Agana, Guam; or at any base in the U.S. Pub crawls (to put a nice face on it) were a regular feature of life. That's where I learned to like fried rice, ramen, and gyoza.
Life there was sort of caught up with being on the job so much. By the time I got off the six-shifts-in-five-days routine the first twelve hours of the 80 off were spent sleeping. I spent a lot of time in the base library (such as it was) and a lot more reading books and listening to music in my apartment (record albums were $2.50 apiece at the Navy Exchange). I'd occasionally get on a train and go to Tokyo; I stopped to see the statue of Buddha at Kamakura once or twice. I didn't have much money to spend (as I recall, $119 every two weeks), and Tokyo was horrifically expensive even then ($50 for a fifth of Johnny Walker off base, and it seemed like most Japanese loved Scotch; how they could afford it was beyond me at the time). Foreigners in Yokosuka were automatically assumed to be Navy, and there was at least a perceived resentment on the part of the locals towards us.
The culture was so different; I felt reasonably mature and well-travelled; I'd lived in Puerto Rico, Guam, the East Coast of the U.S., the deep South (Charleston, S.C.), the West Coast in California, yet I didn't know what to make of the place. The crowding was unbelievable, yet nobody seemed to mind. The traffic was awful, yet the lights were obeyed. The men were polite to one another, yet they'd read semi-pornographic comic books on subways in full view of women. My monthly rent payment sessions were amusing, but my landlady and her family barely acknowledged my existence outside of those days.
I had mixed feelings about the country; I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, but I can't exactly say I enjoyed it, either. Had I been a little older and a little richer, I would undoubtedly have left a lot wiser than I did.
It's a fascinating place.
Huh? Search for blue+jays+condominium+sex??? Here?? Why?? More zoological news, or investment news: care to buy an option on wildebeest, hippopotami, or warthogs? Yep, the Zambezi Valley Hunt Exchange makes a market in options on government contracts to hunt in that garden spot of political comity, Zimbabwe.
Here's a science project for all of you who live in volcanic areas (Me! Me!): reproduce cooled lava using cornstarch! As far as I know, nobody's tried auctioning cornstarch on e-Bay, but that may be the only item that's never passed through its virtual doors. The Wharton School has just done an analysis of the company's strengths and possible weaknesses. More thrills and chills? Try the new Batman ride at Six Flags in New England.
I am a media critic (well, let's say I'm often critical of the media), so I found this list of blog-keeping journalists interesting. Speaking of journalists (used loosely), how could I have missed this before? The BBC does a weekly roundup of highlights from the British tabloids. This week, animal insubordination! Also from the BBC, here are a couple of candidates for next week's column: Woman sues over broken fingernail, and "Argentine ants march across Europe!"
Mr. Bush seems to have concluded that terrorists are like crocuses: "As the spring thaw comes, we expect cells of trained killers to try to regroup,..." Who writes these speeches? Oh, from the same speech, "Aides said his plans did not violate his pledge against nation-building because he will not use U.S. soldiers as social workers or police officers." That's an awfully fine hair to try to split, I'd say; keeping with the floral theme, "a rose by any other name..." Another reversal for Ashcroft (regrettably, I find myself exulting whenever this A-G loses one); Oregon's assisted suicide law cannot be overturned by the Feds. What I find interesting is the judge's view that the Federal Government was attempting to usurp state's rights; that's quite a rebuke to a Republican Administration.
20 hours Continuing Medical Ed. credit for merely subscribing to the New England Journal of Medicine? You're supposed to do some work to get credits, I thought. Another thought about standards: what color is your lap/desktop PC? Have you ever wondered about the business model the ubiquitous Classmates.com is using? All of us who use Movable Type may recognize this idea (think "Syndicate this"), cleverly (?) called "blogrolling"; I'm ambivalent to negative about the concept.
New Scientist has some interesting articles this week, including news of a Japanese supercomputer which can do 35 teraflops per second, the Inca mummies, and news that a premier journal publisher will no longer require compliance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. It also pointed me towards this rather nifty site: a gallery of photos and information about US nuclear test sites.
Well now. That was an exciting day. Got up, turned on the coffee, fed the dog,
turned on the computer, hit the power button on the computer, and nothin'. Yessir, my power supply failed. At 7:45 am this presents problems. After several informative phone calls (sample: "The machine is how old? 1997? It's a Pentium MMX processor? If it were me, I wouldn't fix it. Listen, you can replace it for. . .") I found a repair shop which seemed to understand that even if I wanted to replace the machine (of course, but not now!) I still needed power to offload data to any new machine I might purchase. Then there was the question of whether a power supply for such an old machine was in stock (yes, fortunately), and the placement of the machine on the shop's "to do" list. Much whining about my absolute requirement to have it back ASAP ensued. Finally, after only four hours in the shop, they called to say I could come get it. Relief, followed by dread; uh-oh, what's the In-box gonna look like (40 messages, some of them even important). However, this is a going concern once again. $130 poorer, but a going concern.
How was your day?
Online quizzes frustrate me; they just don't seem to capture my inner self. Having said that, behold!
Sex! Now that I've gotten your attention, class, I'm referring to a recent study of sea lampreys at Michigan State. That was for fun; this has far greater potential for concern. Permanent hair-dye usage may (emphasize may) increase the possibility of bladder cancer. And if you plan to trek in Nepal, perhaps water wings should be part of your equipment. Anyone ever heard of Book Crossing? I know I've run across it before, although I couldn't say how I got there. Anyway, here's a BBC story about the book exchange with the wonderful tagline ("Read and Release").
More tomorrow; trips to dentist and optician and the P.O. to mail the verdammt check to buy my share of Star Wars have plumb wore me out.
This is of no interest to anyone but myself, but as of half-an-hour ago I am no longer tied to Geocities or Prodigy for any part of my website. With some mucking around I managed to get the current resumé from the Prodigy pages to my current host (graciously provided by Lee; thank you once again, Ma'am!). Phew! There's something gratifying in knowing your entire web life is all in one place.
Today's quiz: What's the best visual pun you've ever seen? My vote goes for the one below.
Edwin Arlington Robinson
Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.
Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.
Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.
Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.
Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.
Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the medićval grace
Of iron clothing.
Miniver scorned the gold he sought
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.
Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.
You've heard of MRE's, right? The latest twist is SRE's; "indestructible" sandwiches! Of course, after eating those steadily, one would then need an exercise pill! Caution; unless you're a mouse, it ain't ready yet...sigh. Oh, and if you did inhale... Inhaling may have caused one to see visions of lost cities, but those hallucinations may not have been so far wrong. How about using an electronic tongue to test the flood waters over that city for pollution?
Speaking of pollution, in refusing to allow the Director of Homeland Security to testify in open Congressional hearings, the White House said (again) "Mr. Ridge was a member of his staff and so was not subject to such close Congressional oversight." This Administration seems to think it won a landslide victory in 2000, and that its CEO was elected to be King. Arrogance, thy names are Bush/Cheney/Rove.
And now, the promised poem:
I feel like Miguel; if it's National Poetry Month, crib for the next three weeks. They're all better writers than I am.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall:
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba, business in the
Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle while he cinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself; I will not give him a leg up.
Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell
him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where the
black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.
I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much, I will not map him the route
to any man's door.
Am I a spy in the land of living that I should deliver men
Brother, the password and the plans of the city are safe with
Me; never through me
Shall you be overcome.
Source: Unitarian Church in Westport
Before I add anything else, please go be nice to Batgrl. She's not feeling well.
Here's some hope for those of us who are physiognomically challenged: your baby might be more attracted to you than if you resemble, say, Apollo or Helen. In geriatric news, here's a classic "bait and switch" tactic: give us a nifty headline about space granddads, then give us a Cook's tour of the shuttle mission. Tsk. However, here's one which delivers: an EU mission to Venus may be in the offing.
News flash: some members of the Nobel Committee would like to rescind the Peace Prize awarded in 1994 to Messrs. Rabin and Peres. They do not suggest that Arafat is equally unworthy of the award. This prompts a charmingly-titled article from the National Review. Link via Howard Kurtz. Another right-thinking body, of course, is the RIAA. It appears to be hell-bent on destroying Web radio.
On the heels of Teoma's launch, whither Google? Increasing competition poses challenges.
Topic #1 which always surfaces during military actions, particularly among the "intellectual elite" on the left: the ethics of war as it impacts civilian populations. Here's an odd coincidence; the following story appeared the same day I was musing about PETA. It concerns the ethics of the radical environmental movement calling itself the Earth Liberation Front. For some reason, ethics stories are interesting me today; here's a column addressing the thorny issue of the teaching of creationism v. evolution to a family member's kids. This next one is less sticky, but still humorously annoying. Remember the French Skating Federation president who came under fire at the Olympics? Well, he's a target again.
Prowling around the 'Net looking for music by Dave Frishberg and Becky Kilgore, I came across this Ohio University radio station (WOUB). Judging from the playlists I'd like to be in the listening area. Fortunately, they do live streaming about 2 weeks after the original playdate.
More media info: here's still another mainstream press article about blogging, this one from the UK's Financial Times. Middle East journalists find their subject no less contentious but a tad more serious: Howard Kurtz talks to a few of them. Don't miss the "Correction" at the bottom of the column; it could have been titled "When Obituaries Go Bad."
Anyone want to use a credit card for taxi fare? Caution: that card may beep. Andersen v. DOJ: "a jury of penguins?" Just can't keep them penguins down, I guess. No word yet on the makeup of said jury, so your correspondent can't comment on the relative merit of Emperor vs. Adelie. From the oh, yuk! file: maggots as healers!
Then I went back to PETA's FAQ's to re-read something which I found strikingly disingenuous. FAQ #13 poses the question "How can you justify the millions of dollars’ worth of property damage by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)?" Go read the answer; it is virtually a justification of violence and property damage done by that group for the sake of the animals. PETA claims that the Underground Railroad and the French Resistance are analogous to the Animal Liberation Front. Somehow, I doubt the founders of those two resistance movements would agree.
I've observed that some advocacy groups tend to aggrandize themselves in just this way; "we are as good as (fill in the blank), and do the same good works as they." Well, no. There has been one Gandhi, one MLK Jr., one Mother Teresa. I'm reminded of Senator Bentsen's line to Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate: "BENTSEN: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."
Don't get me wrong, here. Many of these groups do wonderful things, and I contribute to a few when I can. But they would all be wise to keep that phrase in mind.
Yesterday I bought one of these, along with some extra brushes. Our demon dental hygienist recommended them. It comes with a two-minute timer, to tell you when you've done what the dentists recommend. I gotta say, two minutes is one helluva long time to spend brushing your teeth! Also, while rinsing the butter knife this morning, I noticed that the 40-oz. bottle of anti-bacterial soap has a "use-by" date. Huh? A real soap opera, perhaps...will the soap die before Jul-03? Stay tuned.
Anybody patronize supermarkets? Would you like to have a gizmo on the food package which tells you if the contents are bad? Yo! Any E. coli here? But red pepper, ah, now that I'll eat, especially if it may reduce gastric distress. In other food news, how does a steer get from birth to stockyard? The author of "The Botany of Desire" bought one and followed its progression. More food news, which has surely embarrassed the President of France: he and his entourage allegedly averaged 4,000 FFr per day (that's roughly $540) on meals while he was Mayor of Paris. I've been to Paris; it's expensive, but... And, since I'm doing my version of fried rice tonight, the DNA code of the stuff caught my attention. What is it today? Here are two more food stories: nicotine-laced lollipops and bread consumption may cause nearsightedness.
Alas for Golden Books. "The Little Red Engine" has apparently chugged its last. In some commentary about journalism from the same source, I found this gem: "Sunday morning is a vast, over-grazed pasture of opinion." That's far better than my usual "bunch of twits" remark. I am tempted to compare the pundits to this: a two-headed snake found in Spain. According to the article, there have been several other instances of this phenomenon in other parts of the world, as well. All radiation-born monster fans (and you know who you are) should be intrigued! I do not like snakes at all, but this may be even more frightful: "Chocolate linked to nightmares". Hey, blame the boffins, not me!
Michael Jordan is out for the season. (Hey, every other news outlet in the country is leading with this item, so why should I be different?)
19th century meets 21st; a 44-foot long truss which has rail tracks for a transport platform is to be installed on the International Space Station next week. More ideas for the 21st century: robots delivering drugs in hospitals. I've seen one of these in use locally; it looked pretty clunky, but it might have been first-generation. Speaking of robots, I hope none ever reads this Practical Guide to World Domination (link posted at Jon's house by kd)! The author has obviously been instructed by way too many B-movies. Free software might be out of a B-movie script to Microsoft, but...
In Tennessee yesterday "hundreds" of citizens went to their state legislature offices to lobby for an increase in tobacco taxes; there is a bill in the Hawaii legislature to do the same. Now, I'm a smoker, so you could expect me to oppose this on purely economic grounds, and you'd be partially right (Hawaii's bill calls for a 10-cents per cigarette tax on wholesalers). But often, and with a $330M budget shortfall, certainly in Hawaii's case this year, it's purely a grab for more revenue rather than public health which motivates the lawmakers. Now, "sin taxes" are popular, but at what point do they become counter-productive? Suppose that the tax increases to such a point that the source of the revenue disappears, because all those smokers quit? Will all the legislators then applaud, saying "Great! We have no smokers (drinkers, drivers, etc.) in the state, so everyone is better off!" Or will they have become so addicted to that source of revenue that they will be flummoxed when it dries up, and they have to go back to doing hard work cutting governmental expenses rather than taxing the few? Just a thought.
It's truly Opening Day for the baseball season, so here's a review of a new anthology of stories by some wonderful American writers (Updike, Lardner, Thurber, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore, among others). In other frivolous items (wait a minute, baseball is not frivolous!), all those documents DOE released last week give detailed examples of Mr. Abraham's apparent preoccupation with food. Food? The White House Easter Egg Roll went well, apparently (10,000 eggs? Why, the Hawai'i Governor's mansion had 7,000!). Bush is a piker!
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose? "The Modern Subjection of Science and Education to Propaganda" is the topic from 100 Years Ago in JAMA this week.
cow mammoth, the post-Easter frivolity has hit Jon's house pretty thoroughly today; Space leprechauns, tin foil advocates...the list goes on. I recommend it highly.
I think I can vouch for the veracity of the first item in this post; beyond that, you're on your own.
Webcast radio is under siege; diversity loses. Apparently we should look for "Enron: The Movie" soon. Speaking of things preposterous, NPR had a cute April Fools story today; a discussion (with interviews) of an Administration-proposed Pet Health Insurance Program. That one was obvious; this story about UK doctors treating animals may be a joke, but... And oh heck, who knows about this? "UK weather is good for you."
A few days ago I mentioned a new magazine devoted to microcontent (blogs, etc.) and posed the question "What the heck are microads?" If the original author had used hyphens properly, I need not have asked; he meant "micro-ads," text-based advertising.
We hope to return to serious blogging tomorrow,