Tue 26 Jun 2007
Don't tell me this isn't the anti-Christ. No, it doesn't matter that I'm an atheist:
Putin Strikes Again
...Russian journalists have suffered crippling attacks in recent years, as Vladimir Putin pursues his policy of strengthening the "vertical" dimension of his administration's "power pyramid." The Kremlin's geometrical terminology means enforcing, from the top down, an ideology intended to align all sectors of Russia's "managed democracy" (another key phrase of the Putin era) into tidy, clearly demarcated, easily controlled zones of activity and influence. No strong minority views, no awkward revelations in the press are to mar the sleek façades of the state. The messy disarray normally associated with functioning democracy—the irritating criticism, noisy opposition, and inconvenient news uncovered by investigative reporters (what Russians proudly called glasnost a mere seventeen years ago)—has been summarily and sometimes harshly dealt with...
...more support for the hypothesis that democracy isn't for everyone. Your Russian loves the boot in the face, it civilizes him...
Since nearly every piece of plastic we've ever made is still sitting around somewhere, this is particularly interesting:
Giant microwave turns plastic back to oil
A US company is taking plastics recycling to another level – turning them back into the oil they were made from, and gas.
All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and – hey presto! – a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers).
Key to GRC’s process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.
GRC's machine is called the Hawk-10. Its smaller incarnations look just like an industrial microwave with bits of machinery attached to it. Larger versions resemble a concrete mixer.
"Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process," says Jerry Meddick, director of business development at GRC, based in New Jersey. "We release those hydrocarbon molecules from the material and it then becomes gas and oil."
Whatever does not have a hydrocarbon base is left behind, minus any water it contained as this gets evaporated in the microwave...
I used to dual boot Ubuntu linux and Windows on my Dell Inspiron 600m laptop. Then I found the free Innotek VirtualBox virtualization software. I blasted my hard drive to bare metal and gave Ubuntu all of it. Now when I need to see how badly Windows software displays something I'm working on, I just launch Windows XP as an application in one of my Ubuntu workspaces:
Microsoft's Virtualization Stance Eying Apple?
"Over the past several days, Microsoft has flip-flopped on virtualization in Vista, with one ascribing the change in policy to concerns over DRM. A piece at Ars Technica raises another, more likely possibility: fear of Apple. Apple is technically an OEM, and could offer copies of Vista at a discounted price. 'All of this paints a picture in which Apple could use OEM pricing to offer Windows for its Macs at greatly reduced prices and running in a VM. The latter is absolutely crucial; telling users that they need to reboot into their Windows OS isn't nearly as sexy as, say, Coherence in Parallels. If you've never seen Coherence, it's quite amazing. You don't need to run Windows apps in a VM window of Vista. Instead, the apps appear to run in OS X itself, and the environment is (mostly) hidden away. VMWare also has similar technology, dubbed Unity.' Is Microsoft terrified of a world where Windows can be virtualized and forced to take a back seat to Mac OS X or Linux?"
...it makes the Redmond Pirate's product a little less annoying...
Oh, the glamor, so chic:
First In Line For The iPhone
Not quite the image that Apple might have wanted. This man's at the head of the line for the iPhone at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan. Gizmodo snagged a video interview. Ladies, he's single. And he'll have one of the first of Apple's new wondertoys...
"Et tu, Brute?" It doesn't get any sweeter than this:
A GOP Plan To Oust Cheney
The big question right now among Republicans is how to remove Vice President Cheney from office. Even before this week's blockbuster series in The Post, discontent in Republican ranks was rising.
As the reputed architect of the war in Iraq, Cheney is viewed as toxic, and as the administration's leading proponent of an attack on Iran, he is seen as dangerous. As long as he remains vice president, according to this thinking, he has the potential to drag down every member of the party -- including the presidential nominee -- in next year's elections...
...The idea is to install a vice president who could beat the Democratic nominee in 2008. It's unlikely that any of the top three Republican candidates -- former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- would want the job, for fear that association with Bush's war would be the kiss of death...
Source: Sally Quinn in the Washinton Post
...doom and gloom, almost Shakespearean in magnitude...
Open Source success story? I love MySQL:
The Worth of Open Source? Open Question
MySQL has already started courting investors. It held a 2007 pre-IPO road show in New York and Boston to talk about the company's brand recognition, sales, and the appetite in the public market for an open-source software company, Mickos says. "We've gotten good feedback from some of the biggest public investors," he says.
There's reason for the warm reception. Growth at MySQL has taken off the last few years as some of the Web's hottest companies have adopted its technology. Google's ad-serving software runs on MySQL's database, as does its YouTube video site. "MySQL is a terrific database," says Chris DiBona, Google's open-source programs manager. Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site runs on MySQL, and the company uses the software for its finance and games sites.
Other Web companies including Wikipedia, Facebook, Craigslist, and Linden Lab's Second Life are adherents as well. "The technology was crucial to us being able to deliver so much so quickly," says Scott Dietzen, president and chief technology officer at Zimbra, whose open-source e-mail software ships with MySQL inside...
...But can MySQL keep up the growth without adding hefty sales and marketing costs—and getting squeezed by competitors? The company employs just 30 field sales staff out of a head count of 360 and strives to close deals more quickly than rivals. Most employees work from home. "Managing the cost of sales and marketing in an open-source company is the key to profitability," says Mickos, sitting in a small, spartan office adjacent to a sea of cubes in the company's Silicon Valley digs. "We're not just innovating in software, we're innovating in sales."...
Memo to Planet: You cannot teach ethics to adults. You either get it by the time you are seven years old, or you never will:
Mexico Demotes Senior Police Officials in Graft Crackdown
MEXICO CITY, June 25 -- The heads of federal police agencies in all 32 Mexican states and 250 other high-ranking officers were demoted Monday in one of the broadest corruption crackdowns in this country's recent history.
The demotions are the latest step in President Felipe Calderón's campaign to fight drug cartels, which are blamed for more than 1,000 execution-style killings this year and have been largely undeterred by Mexican military offensives against their strongholds.
The demoted police chiefs and officers will undergo ethics training in hopes of bringing them up to "international standards" for professionalism, Security Minister Genaro García Luna said Monday at a news conference. They will remain on the payroll -- under Mexican law, it is extremely difficult to fire police officers. García Luna gave no details about possible crimes committed by the demoted officials or whether any of them would eventually be removed from office.
García Luna acknowledged Monday that "it is obvious that mafias are taking steps to assure that the situation doesn't change so that they can continue enriching themselves under the protection of corruption."...
Source: Washinton Post
...Mexico is an absolute disaster, and its woes will be imported into this country along with its wage-serfs...
Somebody fire up that bong, I feel an insight coming on:
From a Few Genes, Life’s Myriad Shapes
Since its humble beginnings as a single cell, life has evolved into a spectacular array of shapes and sizes, from tiny fleas to towering Tyrannosaurus rex, from slow-soaring vultures to fast-swimming swordfish, and from modest ferns to alluring orchids. But just how such diversity of form could arise out of evolution’s mess of random genetic mutations — how a functional wing could sprout where none had grown before, or how flowers could blossom in what had been a flowerless world — has remained one of the most fascinating and intractable questions in evolutionary biology.
Now finally, after more than a century of puzzling, scientists are finding answers coming fast and furious and from a surprising quarter, the field known as evo-devo. Just coming into its own as a science, evo-devo is the combined study of evolution and development, the process by which a nubbin of a fertilized egg transforms into a full-fledged adult. And what these scientists are finding is that development, a process that has for more than half a century been largely ignored in the study of evolution, appears to have been one of the major forces shaping the history of life on earth.
For starters, evo-devo researchers are finding that the evolution of complex new forms, rather than requiring many new mutations or many new genes as had long been thought, can instead be accomplished by a much simpler process requiring no more than tweaks to already existing genes and developmental plans. Stranger still, researchers are finding that the genes that can be tweaked to create new shapes and body parts are surprisingly few. The same DNA sequences are turning out to be the spark inciting one evolutionary flowering after another. “Do these discoveries blow people’s minds? Yes,” said Dr. Sean B. Carroll, biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “The first response is ‘Huh?’ and the second response is ‘Far out.’ ”...
Source: NY Times
...call me Dr. Dude, please...
I can get you a good deal on a Chi-Com pacemaker, top of the line:
Chinese Tires Are Ordered Recalled
Federal officials have told a small New Jersey importer to recall 450,000 radial tires for pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans after the company disclosed that its Chinese manufacturer had stopped including a safety feature that prevented the tires from separating...
...The defective tires join a growing list of problematic products with origins in China. A huge recall of potentially tainted pet food in March was followed by widespread reports of toothpaste manufactured with a toxic chemical and toys coated with lead paint.
Ms. Hopkins said the agency’s top officials were “outraged” that Foreign Tire Sales’ executives waited more than two years to pass on their suspicions about problems with the tires. The company first suspected problems in October 2005. Almost a year later, in September 2006, the Chinese manufacturer, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, a former state-owned company based in eastern China, acknowledged that a gum strip that prevents the tread from separating was left out of the manufacturing process.
Lawrence N. Lavigne, a lawyer for Foreign Tire Sales, said the company did not alert the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the problems until June 11 because officials had no definitive proof of a manufacturing flaw until it was revealed by further testing in May. He said it made no sense to initiate a recall based on suspicions...
Source: NY Times
...well, no financial sense. The part about you dieing is another thing altogether...
Mon 25 Jun 2007
This is what the War on Terror means to the affluent — more to steal:
Does Al Qaeda Summer in Sag Harbor?
Homeland Security may finally answer the call to defend New York's largest summertime celebrity petting zoo: the Hamptons!
The village of Sag Harbor in New York is seeking more than $250,000 to keep terrorists away from its yacht-packed marina, home port for boats owned by rap moguls Diddy and Russell Simmons, piano man Billy Joel, and knee-high Nascar jockey Jeff Gordon. According to the New York Post, the town wants $100,000 from the Department of Homeland Security and another $160,000 from the state for a high-tech command center, surveillance cameras, a patrol boat, and training for dockworkers.
"This never should have gone public," grumbled Mayor Greg Ferraris...
Source: Radar Magazine
Now to make sure the plaintiff loses his position as a judge, ASAP:
Dry Cleaner Wins In $54M Pants Case
A judge ruled Monday in favor of a South Korean dry cleaner who was sued for $54 million over a missing pair of pants in a case that garnered international attention and renewed calls for litigation reform.
The owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the city's consumer protection act by failing to live up to Roy L. Pearson's expectations of the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign that was once placed in the store window, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled.
Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay the court costs of defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung. Those costs came to just over $1,000, according to the Chungs' attorney. A motion to recover the tens of thousands of dollars they spent in attorney fees will be considered later.
Pearson, an administrative law judge, originally sought $67 million from the Chungs after he claimed they lost a pair of trousers from a blue and maroon suit, then later tried to return a pair of charcoal gray pants that he said were not his. He arrived at the amount by adding up years of law violations and almost $2 million in common law claims for fraud...
Source: CBS News
...the douchebag attorney hasn't a shred of common sense or judgment. Perhaps if we chip in and replace the pants from his '...blue and maroon suit...' he can take a job in a traveling carnival...
Hahahahaha...who's running this clusterfrack?:
Anbar Salvation Council head skips town?
This story from al-Malaf is currently the talk of the forums: Sitar Abu Risha, head of the Anbar Salvation Council, has allegedly fled Iraq with $75 million that the Americans had given him to fight al-Qaeda. The story links his flight to the near-collapse of the Anbar Salvation Council over infighting among its leadership (which jibes with recent reporting in the Washington Post). It claims that he simply never distributed the American cash to the fighters, who are now threatening to go on strike if they don't get paid. Seeing as how the Anbar Salvation Council has for months now been portrayed as the great American hope in the battle against al-Qaeda, if this story turns out to be true - a big if, given the shaky sourcing to this point - then it would be a rather embarrassing fiasco...
Source: Abu Aardvark
...hey, by the crony-capitalist standards of the GOP, Sitar Abu Risha would make a perfect US citizen! Let's get him a green card.
And I guess it's time to re-learn our lessons about the military brass...
IMAGE Spacecraft Pictures Aurora
From space, the aurora is a crown of light that circles each of Earth’s poles. The IMAGE satellite captured this view of the aurora australis (southern lights) on September 11, 2005, four days after a record-setting solar flare sent plasma—an ionized gas of protons and electrons—flying towards the Earth. The ring of light that the solar storm generated over Antarctica glows green in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, shown in this image. The IMAGE observations of the aurora are overlaid onto NASA’s satellite-based Blue Marble image. From the Earth’s surface, the ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky...
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
...space 'bots, I love 'em. More please...
I don't use social networking tools — hell, I can barely stand to visit my own blog. But I find this analysis comforting. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose:
MySpace, Facebook mirror class divisions in US society
My friend danah boyd -- frequently featured here -- is one of the best social scientists working on social networking sites today. She's just published a working draft of a paper called "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace," which posits that well-to-do, stable American teens with "good prospects" end up on Facebook, while poor, queer, marginal and non-white teens end up on MySpace (even in the military, grunts are on MySpace and officers are on Facebook -- guess which one the military banned!)
As with all danah's work, this is provocative, insightful stuff that exposes the deeper lessons lurking beneath the tens of millions of profile pages on social networking sites:
"The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.
MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers."
Source: Boing Boing
...so, everything turns out to be High School, forever...
Tne latest pronunciamento from the Palace of Vice President Dick Cheney — "Insurgency still in last throes.":
Wave of Suicide Bombings Kills at Least 30 in Iraq
BAGHDAD, June 25 -- A wave of suicide bombings killed more than 30 people Monday, officials said, including at least seven who died in a blast at a Baghdad hotel that is frequented by journalists and members of Iraq's Parliament and houses the Chinese Embassy and several western news organizations.
Wire services reported that a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest walked into the lobby of the Mansour Hotel on the banks of the Tigris River in central Baghdad and detonated himself.
The blast reportedly caused extensive damage to the lobby and killed between seven and 12 people--possibly including several tribal leaders who were meeting at the hotel and had been working with the United States to oppose the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq...
Source: Washington Post
...ah, the smell of victory. You know, everything Dick Cheney has said about Iraq has been either a lie, or as wrong as a human can be and still wear clothes. With a track record like that, I say we make him our go-to guy on Iran...
One of the reasons we want to avoid a national health service is so we can maintain the quality of care we've become accustomed to:
Staph infections rampant
As many as 1.2 million hospital patients are infected with dangerous, drug-resistant staph infections each year, almost 10 times more than previous estimates, based on findings from a major new study.
And 48,000 to 119,000 hospital patients a year may be dying from methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, far more than previously thought, the study suggests...
... The findings come amid mounting public concern about the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in health-care facilities and community settings. Medical experts consider the rise of so-called superbugs such as MRSA, a leading cause of deadly blood infections and pneumonias, one of the most alarming public health threats in the nation...
Source: Chicago Tribune
...and one of the reasons the medical profession avoids making use of information technology is that the incompetents would be immediately identified. Ask yourself why you have to fill out those silly medical history forms every time you visit a new healthcare provider, and why you have to tell your doctor what medications you're taking, and what results you've had from prior medications, every time you see him? Do you think that's an accident? You can get a new credit card immediately, and your arrest record is available to police instantly. Why this lag in technology adoption?...
Sun 24 Jun 2007
My sister (who is normally wrong about everything) rode my ass till I fixed my 'comment emailing' php script thingee. Now it should send you only the original email, and not a bogus copy. Doh! Hey, it's free.
I normally screw things up two times in a row. Error reports appreciated.
46.6% of lawyers admit they suck. All the rest also suck. They say they don't, but they do.®
Ethics Survey Finds Lawyers Lower The Bar
...A lawyer is on an eight-hour flight from Tampa to Seattle. The lawyer's client has agreed to pay for business travel. In flight, the lawyer reviews the file of another client and drafts several letters, which takes four hours.
Can the lawyer bill the first client for the eight-hour flight time and the second client for the four hours of case work?
The American Bar Association released an opinion in 1993 that said lawyers should never bill for hours that were not worked. Therefore, it would be unethical to bill for travel time and for work performed during that travel time.
A recent anonymous survey of 251 lawyers from across the country, however, shows that 46.6 percent of lawyers see nothing unethical about it. Of those lawyers who thought this was OK, nearly half said there was no need to tell the client about the practice, which many experts say is the real ethical problem.
William G. Ross, the law professor who conducted the billing survey, said most bar associations and most clients feel double billing is unethical. Even if a lawyer thinks the practice is acceptable, he's not likely to put it in his Yellow Pages ad...
...Ross said his personal philosophy is a "dissent from the common wisdom": He sees nothing patently unethical about double billing.
"My position on this has been that as long as the attorney is performing a useful service for both clients, the attorney does have the right to bill both clients," Ross said. "Both clients are benefiting from the time. Just because it creates a windfall for the attorney does not mean it's unethical."...
...in fact the obverse is true. By creating a windfall for the attorney, it is by definition ethical. Especially if it can be concealed from the victimized clients, providing additional stimulation to the lawyer's sociopath receptor cells. Thus sayeth The Law!...
I've been re-reading William Gibson's Idoru, originally published in 1996, and find it better than I remembered it as being. I wanted to share this section, where the protagonist Laney is beginning work for the TV program Slitscan (which trades on creating and destroying celebrity), and his boss is describing their target audience:
"...Which is to say, Laney, anything that might be of interest to Slitscan's audience. Which is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections..."
Heh. My peeps:
Brief, Bitter, Bierce
On this day in 1842, the writer-reporter-wit Ambrose Bierce was born in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio. Those familiar with Bierce usually approach him through his Civil War stories ("An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," "Chickamauga," etc.) and then stay to enjoy, or at least marvel at, his celebrated aphorisms and definitions. These offer a scoff for every situation, and are so thoroughly, happily bitter that even H. L. Mencken recoiled in horror. Almost any sampling from The Devil's Dictionary will demonstrate what Bierce was capable of feeling about human relationships:
HUSBAND: One who, having dined, is charged with the care of the plate.
BRIDE: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.
MARRIAGE: The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
HOMICIDE: The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable and praiseworthy.
BORE: A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
...His poor, bible-thumping parents, apparently inspired his Parenticide stories. One begins, "Early one June morning in 1872 I murdered my father -- an act which made a deep impression on me at the time."...
...Bierce so loathed the evangelism in his community that he tied straw onto a horse's back, set the animal alight, and drove it through a revival meeting...
Source: Today In Literature
"56 R/T. My last year's average daily millage was 11-14.2. The o..."
"Technical Feasibility:Check. Nice idea. You know there are lots of ..."
""...so, everything turns out to be High School, forever..." Evoluti..."
"You're welcome. (This is a test.)..."
"He only uses land lines when organizing illegal surveillance...."