All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

More Science

Still Blinded.

The Star Devourer
Or as it's more boringly referred to, BP Piscium.

An unusual star may have swallowed its stellar companion and burped out a planet-forming cloud as a result, a new study reports.

The star, called BP Piscium, is surrounded by a thick disc of gas and dust from which it appears to be sucking up new material at a prodigious rate.
To explain the presence of the dusty disc, the astronomers suggest that when the star grew to become a red giant, its atmosphere engulfed a smaller companion star. The companion, orbiting inside the atmosphere of the primary star, would stir up the gas there, throwing it out to make a disc.

The disc could then form planets, just as the discs around very young stars do.
In addition to BP Piscium, the astronomers have identified another old star with a dusty disc, called TYCHO 4144 329 2, which may have gone through a similar scenario.

Source: New Scientist

Hamster Wheel Technologies
Some researchers have found a way to turn human walking into electricity generating slave labor.
Scientists in the United States and Canada said on Thursday they have developed a unique device that can be strapped on the knee that exploits the mechanics of human walking to generate a usable supply of electricity.

It generates enough power to charge up 10 cell phones at once, the researchers report in the journal Science.
Which is about how many some people have.
Arthur Kuo, a University of Michigan mechanical engineer who worked on the device, said it works similarly to the way that regenerative braking charges a battery in hybrid cars.

These regenerative brakes collect kinetic energy that normally dissipate as heat when the car slows down. The knee device collects energy lost when a person brakes the knee after swinging the leg forward to take a step, the researchers said.
I'm sure there's no negative consequence to altering the finely tuned mechanism of human walking with a brake. This won't cause strain injuries at all.

To be serious for a moment, it's neat that they're researching this stuff. I'm just not sure I see the utility... they talk about soldiers and people isolated from power generation using these, but the last thing a soldier or a hiker is going to want is another few pounds of gear that makes walking even the tiniest bit harder.

*shrug* Science marches ever forward.

Source: Reuters

No, not the show that I hate so very much. Rather, the skeleton, new uses of which an old slashdot article led me to.
Something along these lines is what Lin Zhong and Michael Liebschner at Rice University in Houston, Texas, envisage. They want to use the human skeleton to transmit commands reliably and securely to wearable gadgets and medical implants. Their research, funded by Microsoft and Texas Instruments, could also lead to new ways for people with disabilities to control devices such as computers and PDAs.
Yes, seriously, scientists are looking for ways to use your skeleton as a secure communications medium.

Combined with the knee-generator, this is starting to sound more and more like The Matrix, isn't it?

Source: New Scientist

Thunder Castle
Is it really science to design a game that a friend of mine bears an almost unhealthy love for after twenty plus years?

Sure. That's gotta be some kind of mind control, right?

Source: Intellivision Lives

Now for Some Anti-Science
The Omphalos Hypothesis, also known as Last Thursdayism (apparently), which is being modified by modern day Creationists as an attack against evolutionary biology. The idea? The entire universe is an illusion, created by God to perfectly SIMULATE rational scientific processes in such a way that you can't actually tell it's only 6 thousand years old.


Check it out.

Source: Wikipedia

The Human Condition

In Sickness and In Health

Heath Ledgerdemain
Well, it looks like Heath Ledger died of Teh Stupid.

The actor Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of six different drugs — painkillers and sedatives — the medical examiner said Wednesday, leading doctors to warn of the dangers of mixing prescription drugs.
That's right, Heath lovers. He was taking six different prescriptions for downers simultaneously.

Then he died. What. A. Shocker.
The medical examiner cited oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine as causing the actor's death. There was no mention of alcohol or illegal drugs.
That wasn't all, of course.
Ledger, nominated for an Oscar for his role as cowboy Ennis del Mar in "Brokeback Mountain," had returned to New York from London, where he had been making a Terry Gilliam film, days before his death. He told The New York Times in November that his most recent completed roles in the Batman movie "The Dark Knight" and Bob Dylan biopic "I'm Not There" had taken a toll and caused him to lose sleep.

"Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night," Ledger told the Times. "I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going." He said he had taken two Ambien pills, which only gave him an hour of sleep.
Dude, if you have such a high tolerance to these drugs, or are already on so many, that Ambien has no effect... you are in seriously bad shape.

Oh well. Rack another one up for the Darwin Awards.

Source: Raw Story

Oh China, Is There Anything You Won't Poison?
The assault on food safety moves to Japan!
A deal to combine the frozen food businesses of Japan Tobacco and Nissin Food Products has been done in by tainted dumplings.

Ten people in Japan fell ill after eating the pesticide-laced dumplings, called gyoza, which were imported from China by a unit of Japan Tobacco. Nissin, known as a pioneer of instant noodles, then scrapped the merger, citing “differences on the issue of safety.”
Somebody must have seen Count Rudy on tv though, because they've come up with a convenient scapegoat.
A Chinese food safety official said that the dumplings may have been deliberately contaminated by “a small group who do not wish development of Sino-Japanese friendship.” The Japanese health minister has also raised the possibility of intentional dumpling poisoning, and Japanese police are investigating the case on suspicion of attempted murder.
Yes, that's it. It's not that the Chinese food industry has all the safeguards of a Ford Pinto in a demolition derby, or that this Japanese company did business on the cheap, dirty, quick side, and got into trouble; it's TERRORISTS.


Source: Reuters

Theocracy Alliance
I always suspected that one day the religious nuts would realize they have a common enemy (me) and band together.
The head of the Anglican church said Thursday the adoption of parts of sharia law in Britain looked "unavoidable", calling for "constructive accommodation" over issues like resolving marriage disputes.


Williams went on to say it would be "quite wrong" to sanction a system which gave people no right of appeal.

"But there are ways of looking at marital disputes, for example, which provide an alternative to the divorce courts as we understand them."

He added: "It seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of sharia are already recognised in our society".
I can think of a pretty easy way to avoid it. When religious people tell you that their church should get to run the government, tell them to go fuck themselves. If they insist, make sure to shoot first, Solo-style.


Source: Raw Story

Hey Constitution! DART IN YOUR NECK
Sealab reference. Suffice it to say, Mukasey has turned out to be the complete scumbag you would expect of a Bush appointee and Giuliani acquaintance.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey is back on the Hill today, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee. Paul Kiel is covering it at TPMmuckraker.

So far, he's dropped two big bombshells. DOJ will not be investigating:

(1) whether the waterboarding, now admitted to by the White House, was a crime; or

(2) whether the Administration's warrantless wiretapping was illegal.

His rationale? Both programs had been signed off on in advance as legal by the Justice Department.
So, we won't get any investigation of illegal wiretaps, illegal torture, etc, from the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT.

Meanwhile they block all civil suits by saying it's a State Secret. So you have no recourse to the law anymore, as Floyd would say.

Not really that big a surprise, as I said. But it still hurts to swallow it down officially.

Source: Talking Points Memo

So the Bushies are looking to spindle the Family and Medical Leave Act for their corporate masters.

Amongst other delightful provisions being proposed:

--You have to schedule your medical problems in advance, unless they're 'emergencies'. No points for guessing who gets to define an emergency.

--Your employer can discriminate against you for taking the guaranteed sick time, denying you bonuses and what not.

Ahh, America. Don't get sick. Ever.

Source: Raw Story

Friday, February 8, 2008


Look at the Pretty Pictures

The General's Primer
Much has been made of the recently released Al-Queda video showing them training preteen boys to be play at terrorism, holding machine guns and rockets and so forth. Jesus' General provides us a useful guide to precisely why, and when, such actions are morally reprehensible (hint: when the brown people do it), and when they are in fact praiseworthy (hint: when we do it).

Source: Jesus' General

Supply-Side Jesus
Speaking of useful primers, here's the Gospel of Supply-Side Jesus, as documented by Al Franken in his book Lies: and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them, which I read years ago and found hilariously wonky.


A friend of mine did a series of photo-comics you might find amusing. Or puzzling. Or both.

Source: Ten Cent Ticker

Katamari Kake
It tastes like joy. Also, houses and such.

Source: Flickr/Overcompensating

Kelly Vivicanco
I really like some of this art. It's got a sort of post-modern, Alice in Wonderland thing going on.

So far this one is my favorite in particular. It's wistful in an Iron Giant sorta way.


One Pillar Pagoda
Interesting architecture.

Source: Wikipedia

Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid Congress
An illustrated guide.

My Sick Friends
It's amazing the tasteless stuff they can find. Or make.

Linkies: Warranty
Flight Sim

Hearts and Minds

Losing the War of Public Opinion

Double Gitmo, or Double Super-Secret Gitmo
So apparently having a legal black hole in Guantanamo, and CIA 'Black Sites' around the globe where we can do whatever we want in horrid secrecy weren't enough. We had to combine the two!

Somewhere amid the cactus-studded hills on this sprawling Navy base, separate from the cells where hundreds of men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have been locked up for years, is a place even more closely guarded — a jailhouse so protected that its very location is top secret.

For the first time, the top commander of detention operations at Guantanamo has confirmed the existence of the mysterious Camp 7.
You got your Orwell in my Kafka! You got your Kafka in my Orwell!

Meanwhile, it seems like we really got the inmates to run the asylum down there.
"Not everybody, even within the Joint Task Force, has access or even knowledge of where Camp 7 is," said Army Col. Bruce Vargo. As commander of the military's Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo, Vargo is responsible for the camps holding 260 detainees. But not for Camp 7.


For his part, Vargo said he is preoccupied by the possibility of an al-Qaida attack on Guantanamo.

"Although we are trying to be open, security is paramount," he said. "I mean, if you can fly a plane into the towers, you can attack Guantanamo if that's what you choose to do. It's something I think about on a day-to-day basis."
Yes, they're going to hijack planes and fly them into their own people.

They really have that much time on their hands.

Source: Raw Story

Hail Britannia
So apparently, in England, you're not supposed to bug Ministers of Parliament.

Unless, of course, the MP is a Muslim.
Britain is in a state of uproar following the revelation that Scotland Yard secretly bugged conversations between a Muslim member of Parliament and one of his constituents, who is in prison and facing extradition to the United States.

Babar Ahmad is accused of running a US-registered website in the late 90's that raised funds for the Taliban and for Chechen militants. He is being held by British authorities pending deportation, although there are no charges against him in that country.

Ahmad's childhood friend, Sadiq Khan, has campaigned actively against his extradition. Their conversations, which were recorded when Khan visited Ahmad in prison in 2005 and 2006, included sensitive information about the anti-extradition campaign.

Khan is a prominent member of Parliament, described by the Times as "a rising star in the Labour party and ... a key figure in Gordon Brown's drive to win the hearts and minds of Britain's Muslims."
Oh yeah, so spying on him is going to go over really well.
Before his election to Parliament, Khan was known as an activist lawyer who had brought a series of controversial malpractice cases against London police. There are suggestions that "ill feeling" on the part of the police might have caused him to be singled out for the bugging, which violates a long-standing official policy against eavesdropping on members of Parliament.
Ooh, a dirty Muslim LAWYER.


Source: Raw Story

Democracy In Action
So the story goes something like this. For reasons known only to themselves and God, the Marines decided to set up a recruitment center in downtown Berkeley, California. Also known as the Liberalest Place on Earth.

The city council responded by allocating protestors a parking spot right next to the recruitment center, so they'd have a really convenient place to put their vans o'giant signage, puppets, what have you. They also passed some resolutions supporting the protestors.

So far, even the Marines at the center don't have a problem with any of this.
"The fact that there are protesters out there and that the City Council has made those comments indicates that they are using their right to free speech that is guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution," said Gunnery Sgt. Pauline Franklin, a Marine Corps spokesperson.
Enter Republican Congressman Jim DeMint, from South Carolina. DeMint has put a sort of negative earmark in some federal legislation, stripping Berkeley of, amongst other things, money for a ferry service and a poli-sci department at the local university.

Because, if you don't support the war, you don't deserve transportation or education, I suppose.

DeMint (R-Head Up His Ass) seems to have entirely missed the point about this whole free speech thing. But that's not terribly surprising; he is a Republican from the South, after all.

Maybe Berkeley can get Sgt. Franklin to talk to him. Nah, what am I thinking. She must be another one of those 'phony soldiers' the Republicans love to go on about.

Source: The Daily Californian

A Good Police State Starts at Home
This story comes out of the state of Ohio, where we already know your right to vote is rather negotiable. Now it seems that your rights as a crime victim are coming into question.
Steffey's ordeal with the Stark County sheriff's deputies began after her cousin called 9-1-1 claiming Steffey had been assaulted by another one of their cousins. When a Stark County police officer arrived, he asked to see Steffey's driver's license. But instead of handing over her own ID, she mistakenly turned over her dead sister's license, which she contends she keeps in her wallet as a memento. That's when the situation became complicated.

"Hope was not treated as a victim," her lawyer told WKYC News. "The officer said to her 'shut up about your dead sister.'"
Tactful, aren't they? It of course gets worse.
Eventually, Steffey was arrested and taken to the Stark County Jail, charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. But once in custody, her attorney says seven jail workers, male and female, forcibly removed Steffey of all her clothes, including her undergarments, while she lay face down in handcuffs. Local news footage shows Steffey wailing, asking "What are you doing?!?"

"And you have to ask yourself, what was the purpose of the strip search?" said Steffey's lawyer. "What was the necessity of it? This was a disorderly conduct claim."

The lawsuit says that Steffey remained in the cell for six hours and wrapped herself in toilet paper to stay warm. During that time, she was not allowed to use a phone or seek medical assistance for injuries she accrued that night, including a cracked tooth, bulging disc, and bruises.
So, for presenting the wrong ID, she gets abused, stripped, battered, and confined naked in a cold cell while they withhold medical treatment. Niiiice.
Although the sheriff's policy requires officers conducting any strip search to be of the same sex, the sheriff contends that the tactic used on Steffey was not actually a strip search. He also questions the validiy of the events leading up to Steffey’s arrest.
So, Sheriff, if not a search, why did they strip her naked?

Personal amusement? Are your staff all hardcore Abu Ghraib fans?

And what the heck does it matter WHY she ended up at jail that night; the fact is, you tormented her, stripped her, and confined her, with no even remotely plausible reason offered, as if there could be a good one to start with.

Uggh. These people are truly disgusting monsters.

Source: Raw Story

Appease This
Just to show that the government isn't the only party trying to take away free speech rights, we have another group of angry Islamists trying to censor any depictions of Mohammad. This time, they're going after Wikipedia.
An article about the Prophet Muhammad in the English-language Wikipedia has become the subject of an online protest in the last few weeks because of its representations of Muhammad, taken from medieval manuscripts.


A Frequently Asked Questions page explains the site’s polite but firm refusal to remove the images: “Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with the goal of representing all topics from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group.”

The notes left on the petition site come from all over the world. “It’s totally unacceptable to print the Prophet’s picture,” Saadia Bukhari from Pakistan wrote in a message. “It shows insensitivity towards Muslim feelings and should be removed immediately.”
The neutrality position is a laugh, considering how Wikipedia has been known to crack down with an iron fist on viewpoints they don't like, but at least in this instance, it's appropriate. I'm sick and tired of hearing from religious groups that media they don't like need to be banned. Radical Catholics want to ban tv ads with nuns, Radical Protestants want to ban video games with gay people in them, Radical Muslims want to ban pictures of a dead man who heard voices and thought they were God.

I wish they could all go crawl in their little bunkers and die quietly so the rest of us can get on with the 21st century.
Paul M. Cobb, who teaches Islamic history at Notre Dame, said, “Islamic teaching has traditionally discouraged representation of humans, particularly Muhammad, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent.” He added, “Some of the most beautiful images in Islamic art are manuscript images of Muhammad.”

The idea of imposing a ban on all depictions of people, particularly Muhammad, dates to the 20th century, he said. With the Wikipedia entry, he added, “what you are dealing with is not medieval illustrations, you are dealing with modern media and getting a modern response.”
Interesting historical facts to be sure. But not a useful counterargument to these censors. Mine goes something like this:

"Come take our books/paintings/videogames/what have you, if you think you're hard enough!'

Source: The New York Times

Thursday, February 7, 2008


She Blinded Me With,

Skin in the Game
L'Oreal has developed an artificial human skin product they call Episkin, grown from donor skin left after cosmetic surgery.

The reason? So they can test products on it instead of animals.

Tests have shown it gives more accurate results than animal skin.

The new skin has been cleared for use and will now be available to use in the cosmetic industry.

Dr Estelle Tinois-Tessonneaud, who led the research said: "It was very important because following regulation in 2009 the cosmetic industry will not be allowed to sell a cosmetic with raw materials that have been tested on animals so it was absolutely fundamental that we get this model."


From next year, EU laws will ban animal testing of cosmetics across Europe.
But we all know that regulation kills innovative private industry! This cannot be so!

Damn you Europe!!!

Source: Sky News

Spinal Tap
US scientists, on the other hand, have taken a step forward in the fight to fix the spine after injury to restore function in paralyzed patients.
According to a report in New Scientist today, in experiments on rats with spinal injuries, a team led by John Martin, a neuroscientist at Columbia University in New York, cut away a nerve from just above the injury that normally stretches into the body to control abdominal muscles and reattached it to the spine below the injury. The rats went on to show an increase in movements of previously-paralysed limbs, Martin told a meeting of the New York state spinal cord injury research programme.
Again, science isn't always nice, and I feel badly for the rats, but still. Progress.

Nobody knows if this will actually translate into useful results, yet, though.
Anderson, who was not involved in the research, said: "It's quite an exciting response, it's novel and no one's achieved quite that before.

"The exciting thing is that it's got some distinct physiological evidence for functional circuits being formed. Whether that would enable an animal to consciously produce a movement they wanted is guesswork."
All in all, though, hooray for science.

Source: The Guardian

Social Studies
As it turns out, Britons are in need of a refresher course on history.
The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth.

And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist.

Three percent thought Charles Dickens, one of Britain's most famous writers, is a work of fiction himself.

Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi and Battle of Waterloo victor the Duke of Wellington also appeared in the top 10 of people thought to be myths.

Meanwhile, 58 percent thought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Holmes actually existed; 33 percent thought the same of W. E. Johns' fictional pilot and adventurer Biggles.
That is, for the record, almost the whole blurb/article.

I mean, about Churchill, a lot of his life has been... shall we say, creatively embellished after his WWII successes (ignoring completely his humiliating, Bush-grade idiocy in Turkey in World War I, for example). But as far as being a myth? They show the guy on tv constantly. He's probably in half the programming on the Hitler/History Channel.

Source: Raw Story

Science-related, at least.

Celestia is a nifty sounding tool for displaying astronomical images and data. I'd probably just use it to create gorgeous shots for my desktop wallpaper.

Need to get computer fixed up... Need to abuse science.... for pretty....aghghghg

Source: Wikipedia

Just look at this... aghghghg

Oops, Should Have Looked Up That Word
The Italian parliament is apparently about to accidentally legalize P2P mp3 trading. The reason?
. According to Italian lawyer Andrea Monti, an expert on copyright and Internet law, the new Italian copyright law would authorize users to publish and freely share copyrighted music (p2p included). The new law, already approved by both legislative houses, indeed says that one is allowed to publish freely, through the Internet, free of charge, images and music at low resolution or "degraded," for scientific or educational use, and only when such use is not for profit. As Monti says in the interview, those who wrote it didn't realize that the word "degraded" is technical, with a very precise meaning, which includes MP3s, which are compressed with an algorithm that ensures a quality loss. The law will be effective after the appropriate decree of the ministry, and will probably have an impact on pending p2p judicial cases.
This is getting a bit non-sciency, but it's always important to know what a word means, folks.

There's that rhyme about drinking H2SO4 that springs to mind...

Source: Slashdot

Mittens Is 'Out'!

We Won't Have Mitt To Kick Around Anymore
So Mitt 'suspended' his campaign today. More on that in a minute. For now it means that Guy Smiley has decided that it's not worth any more of his Clear Channel millions to fight the good fight and soldier on after the double humiliation he got on Tuesday, with McCain smashing in his teeth from the center and Huckabee putting a boot up his ass on the right.

Ahh, Mittens. We hardly knew ye.

What does this mean for the election? A couple of things. One: this is great news for Huckabee. A lot, and I mean a LOT, of people who vote for Romney will go to him, not McCain. Huckabee just went from a solid third place to a very comfortable second. Two: This is *not* great news for McCain. Romney only 'suspended' his campaign, which means his delegates aren't dispersed. It's up to the individual state in the Republican party, but at least some, perhaps most, of his delegates remain his for the convention. If he was to formally toss them to a resurgent Huckabee, it could get ugly.

Suspending a campaign has a different meaning depending on the party.

On the Republican side, decisions on how to allocate delegates is left to the state parties.

So McCain has to suck up, and suck up he shall. Oh, the sucking we shall see. Think Bangkok whorehouse,if you like.
According to a senior McCain adviser, McCain called Romney and told him he "admired his speech today and that he was a tough competitor."

McCain also told Romney he looks forward to sitting down with him at the earliest opportunity. McCain did not ask Romney for his endorsement.
McCain is being pretty friendly with him, considering, oh, this, amongst other things:
This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mary Matalin — former Dick Cheney adviser and current Mitt Romney flack — made what appeared to be a back-handed swipe at John McCain’s family. Romney has “what all Americans want in the White House,” Matalin said, “which is an all-American family”
John McCain, for those of you who don't know, has an adopted daughter from Bangladesh. So by 'All-American', Matalin means 'not-a-damn-darkie-among-them'.

Food for thought.

So what does Romney have to say about this? The campaign suspension, not the McCain suckup or the tacit racism, I mean. Why not-quit now?
"If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."
Ahh, so classy. Implying that two United States Senators want us to lose to a phantom enemy that exists only in our own minds.

Glad he took the high road. None of that 'spending more time with my family' crap.

Source: TPM Election Central
Think Progress

Technology News


Kosher Phone Calls?
So it seems that in the name of religion, any form of marketing is possible.

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Bezeq Israel Telecom, the country's dominant phone company, on Sunday launched a service that would block calls to porn and other "improper" destinations in a bid to attract ultra-Orthodox customers.
I guess that also includes Gerry the Gentile's Pork and Shellfish Emporium.

Source: Reuters

Silence Tears
Sounds like a Japanese horror movie, huh?

Basically, the story is this: recently a genomic technology called Gene Silencing was developed. Brilliant idea to help figure out what all those pesky genes DO, once you've mapped them. Simply put, it can use, I think it's a form of RNA, to turn any gene you want *off*. Then you see what the creature without that gene is like.

Some scientists have used it to create onions that won't make you cry.
Scientists in New Zealand and Japan have created a "tear-free" onion using biotechnology to switch off the gene behind the enzyme that makes us cry, one of the leading researchers said Friday.


"Here in New Zealand we had the ability to insert DNA into onions, using gene-silencing technology developed by Australian scientists.

"The technology creates a sequence that switches off the tear-inducing gene in the onion so it doesn't produce the enzyme. So when you slice the vegetable, it doesn't produce tears."
This was in turn based on Japanese researchers who had identified the tear-provoking enzyme's gene, and so forth.

Now, see, here's a GM food that everyone should be able to agree upon. It doesn't produce anything new, or novel, or different than a regular onion, just something less. No worries about transgene escape, about super-wild onions, etc; or about the tear-free onion causing people to, I dunno, implode.

Now if only we could silence my roommate's punching genes...

Source: Raw Story

As they said on Mythbusters, science isn't always nice. The Brits, in an attempt to cure some of the Common Cold, have engineered mice that can catch a kind of it they had previously been immune to.
Scientists at Imperial College London created a genetically engineered mouse susceptible to the virus causing most colds, which normally only infects humans and chimpanzees.

The breakthrough means that it should now be easier to test new cold remedies as well as treatments for other respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis, potentially speeding up the discovery of cures.


Rhinoviruses, which cause most colds, were discovered 50 years ago but studying them without being able to experiment on mice has proved difficult.
This will no doubt lead to a round of protests, but if anyone starts calling their protest image mouse Sniffles, I want a cut of the action, baby.

Source: Raw Story

In slightly cheerier biotech news, a Finnish group has used a patient's own stem cells to grow him a new upper jaw.
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Scientists in Finland said they had replaced a 65-year-old patient's upper jaw with a bone transplant cultivated from stem cells isolated from his own fatty tissue and grown inside his abdomen.


Suuronen and her colleagues -- the project was run jointly with the Helsinki University Central Hospital -- isolated stem cells from the patient's fat and grew them for two weeks in a specially formulated nutritious soup that included the patient's own blood serum.

In this case they identified and pulled out cells called mesenchymal stem cells -- immature cells than can give rise to bone, muscle or blood vessels.

When they had enough cells to work with, they attached them to a scaffold made out of a calcium phosphate biomaterial and then put it inside the patient's abdomen to grow for nine months. The cells turned into a variety of tissues and even produced blood vessels, the researchers said.
Ahh, it's nice to see the Europeans doing all the cool biotech research and leaving us in the cold, isn't it, America?

Thanks El Presidente!

Source: Reuters

PS: Just in case I get some troll who insists that none of these experiments would be banned or inhibited by the Bush administration's anti-science agenda, the very existence of said agenda and the cuts in funding to basic research that goes along with it is driving a ton of work overseas, to countries not, in fact, run by religious loonies. That, and of course, our crumbling economy, non-existent infrastructure, hyperdevalued currency, etc.

Romania is the New Nigeria
So apparently, Ebay fraud is a big business in rural Romania.

They actually seem kind of proud of the phenomenon.
HUNDREDS of people in the poor Romanian town of Dragasani have grown rich by conning eBay online auction customers with deals that seem too good to be true - and often are.

The scammers have even put the new town hall up for sale on eBay, the mayor admitted last week. “I mean, who would want it?” he asked.

Despite growing concern about online frauds, the European Union has poured £150,000 into computer training courses in Dragasani over the past three years in “special recognition” of its IT skills.

“I heard about another offer on eBay selling a MiG fighter jet. There was a photo and a very good price as the customer was only being asked to pay for the fuel to fly it. One guy paid $2,000!” the mayor, Gheorghe Iordache, exclaimed.

“The victims are mainly Americans because they are on the internet most often and they’re naive,” he added. “I’ve heard about local guys who have suddenly bought apartments in Bucharest, Germany, Holland, but haven’t a job. Others have BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches and they don’t work. So where do they get the money from?”
Ahh, it's funny when global commerce is brought to a screeching, stuttering halt and honest people lose their money!

Ok, some of them are stupid. Almost all of them. But still.

Ebay should probably look into blacklisting whole blocs of Romanian IP addies until they decide to, you know, address this problem a bit more seriously.

Source: The Times Online

Your Next President

A New Challenger Emerges

Yes, the candidate of tomorrrow, President of the United Fascist Union, Jackson Kirk 'Jack' Grimes, wants to be YOUR Commander in Chief.

He's a least as sane as Ron Paul!

And what a stylish hat!

Source: Project Vote-Smart

News of the Web

Random Interwebs News

Drunk Man Nearly Hit By *Two* Trains
Simple story. A drunk driver got his van stuck on some train tracks and then got out and stood staring vacantly while the oncoming train sped toward him. A Good Samaritan type pulled him off the track in time to prevent Train A from plowing into him, as it did his car... which Train B hit a few moments later, coming in the opposite direction, creating a big splashy fireball. Both trains were traveling at 60 mph.

The Darwin Awards are cheated once again.

Source: ABC Local 7 Chicago

I'm Sure He Cares, Too
A federal judge has reiterated that the Navy cannot use its high powered sonar in environmentally sensitive areas, due to the evidence that it explodes the ears of whales and so forth. After the last ruling, Bush signed a waiver saying, no matter what courts say, the Navy can, in fact, use the sonar however it pleases. The judge has sent a ruling back, noting that he does not, in fact, have the power to waive away the law like that.

Watch and see if he cares. The Navy, maybe. El Presidente? Nope.

Source: Raw Story

Political Prosecution Continues
So Governor Siegelman's saga continues, with the Bush administration putting the kybosh on a 60 minutes story about how, mysteriously, the one Democrat in a corruption probe was the only person to face prosecution, has been held without bail on appeal, has an obviously hostile judge, etc etc.



Repairs are beginning on the series of internet cables (now up to 4) severed by unknown causes around the Middle East, which is good. They're hoping to get a better idea what the problem is when they haul the severed slices up, naturally.

This whole situation is odd, especially as Egypt is now saying that it wasn't a ship anchor that caused their outage.. at least, no ship was supposed to be there.


A lot of people have made some vaguely hysterical speculation about terrorism, or this being the first salvo in a US military campaign, but I'm not buying it. As terrorist acts go, these are remarkably non-terrorizing. It would seem to involve a lot of work, and isn't actually making much of an impact. If you want to terrorize people, you disrupt their daily lives with VIOLENCE, not inconvenience. Blow up marketplaces, shoot up a mosque, that sort of thing. Being briefly without Yahoo won't exactly make people try to destroy their government.

As for the US doing it, I don't see that either. The whole point of the internet design, as originally envisioned by the DARPA types in the Cold War, is that it can be quickly routed around damaged physical segments. Originally these were to be old-fashioned telephone exchanges in the continental US, so Washington could continue sending out commands to nuke the commies after they'd already reduced much of the country to a shimmering sea of green glass, but the core principles are the same.

Sure enough, after each cut, service is largely restored within a day. They just route to another cable.

Our military may be many things, but technologically they're not dumb. They know the strengths and weaknesses of the net design; if they wanted to, say, cripple it, they could take down some or all of the root servers that attach names to IP addresses for the whole world; all of them, every last one, is under the control of the US government, as a legacy of the era when we, you know, built the internet.

So we could do the same amount of damage with a flick of a switch and a thumb of our nose. Actually, a lot more damage. Why bother with this penny-ante stuff that mostly has affected countries with tech or financial industries in the area, like India and the rich Gulf Emirates?

Me, I lean toward possible organized crime. The Russkie mob has been known for years to threaten websites and companies with attacks on their electronic infrastructure to get protection money; these cables cost a ton to lay and a ton to repair, and the companies that own them have very, very deep pockets. You can't knock out a country's internet, or inspire blood-soaked terror with these stunts, but you could really affect some giant telco's bottom line... it'd be cheaper to pay off some eastern european tech-thugs than constant repair work, that's for sure.

But hey, just a theory. It could be Cthulhu for all we know.

Source: Raw Story

Burger Phone
So Juno, the big indie candidate for the Oscars this year, had a retro looking plastic burger telephone in the movie. Supposedly they even used it as a promotional gimmick when sending out their review copies. There has since been a spike in sales of the Burger phone.

Feh. Who needs landline phones anyway? They're a big hassle.

Source: It Was Raw Story but their archives page is impossible.
Actual Phone:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday, Republican Edition


The Incredible Huck
Well, the big story of the day on the Republican side is the Huckabee phenomenon. Basically, evangelical Southern arch-conservatives may be dumb (oh, how very, very dumb they are), but even they notice a trend after a few decades. Instead of voting for the rich, elite, empty suit, former 'centrist' Governor of a Godless northeastern state, they voted for the bible-thumping southern pastor who wants to remake the Constitution in the Bible's image.

After a half-dozen Republican Presidents who promised Jesus and gave them tax cuts for huge corporations, they're finally voting for one of their own.

It actually is something of a surprise. This proves that thoughts do occasionally occur inside the skulls of Southern Baptists. Who knew?

For the record, Huckabee won four states and almost, almost took Missouri from McCain. If these guys were running in the Democratic primaries, which award delegates proportionally (mostly), they'd be much closer. As it stands, Huckabee took Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee on his own. McCain told his supporters to throw behind Huck in West Virginia, so he got that one too.

He's now in a very solid third place in delegate count and rising. Romney's victories occurred almost entirely in the North and Northeast, places that are meaningless to Republicans in the General Election. He may be ahead of Huck on delegates, but he's far, far less electable, when so much of his support comes from Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan and the like.

He's screwed.


Right Wing Loon Alert
Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and other charming individuals are going berserk, over Huckabee and McCain, and the spoiler effect Huck is having on Romney in particular.

Limbaugh in particular went so far as to run an item on his website, "Vote for Huck is a Vote for McCain". Ann Coulter has meanwhile been out beating her.. well, chest, I suppose... about how McCain isn't a real Republican.

These attacks haven't actually been working, but the strain in the Republican party is building. Romney's the candidate of choice for the Big Business wing, and Huckabee is a natural bible-thump magnet. Romney can't build a working, traditional plutocrat-bible-lip-service coalition as long as he's around, leaving more independent minded Republicans voting for McCain in a big way.

This leaves the big business shills like Limbaugh with nothing to do but go further and further insane.

Rush Limbaugh has been relentless in his criticism of John McCain, prompting suggestions that he may have to soften his stance if the Arizona senator wins the nomination and faces off against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But if that happens, Limbaugh said in an interview over the weekend, he would rather see the Democrats win the White House.

"If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit . . . rather than a Republican causing the debacle," he said. "And I would prefer not to have conservative Republicans in the Congress paralyzed by having to support, out of party loyalty, a Republican president who is not conservative."

When it comes to the McCain mutiny, Limbaugh has plenty of company on the right side of the dial. Laura Ingraham endorsed Mitt Romney last week, saying, "There is no way in hell I could pull the lever for John McCain." Sean Hannity, who also endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, regularly rips McCain. Hugh Hewitt is urging the audience for his syndicated radio show to fight for Romney against what he calls a media-generated "McCain resurrection." But with a program heard on 600 stations, including Washington's WMAL, Limbaugh is the loudest and brashest voice inveighing against the man he derides as "Saint John of Arizona."
Honestly, this is so fun, I should make popcorn.
After McCain won the New Hampshire primary last month, Limbaugh served notice that if either McCain or former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee got the nomination, "it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever."

As McCain has kept winning, Limbaugh told listeners that the liberal media were boosting the senator and "predicting my demise." It was pointless, he said, "to pretend that Senator McCain is the choice of conservatives when exit-poll data from every primary state show just the opposite." In Florida, for example, voters calling themselves "very conservative" favored Romney 2 to 1 over McCain.


McCain, for his part, has refused to engage with Limbaugh, telling reporters: "I don't listen to him. There's a certain trace of masochism in my family, but not that deep."
Why can't all of McCain's jokes be that funny?

Source: The Washington Post

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday: The Dems

Clinton vs. Obama vs. McCain vs. Romney vs. Huckabee vs. My Near-Complete Lack of Interest

So it's Super Tuesday, or Monster Tuesday, or whatever term the cable news people will come up with next. Can you feel the excitement?


Gradually the primary process has done its job, acting as a perverse gatekeeper to drain all the time, money and enthusiasm, along with qualified ideologically motivated candidates, or alternately, genuine whackos, out of the race, leaving us with bland, lowest common denominator gruel on the Democratic side, and sort of middle of the road crazy Republicans, instead of the truly inventive crazy Republicans.

It's an exciting time to be alive!

On the Republican side, you've lost your open race-baiters like Tancredo, who actually ran an ad saying that Mexicans were going to team up with Al-Queda to put nuclear bombs in your local mall. You lost Ghouliani, whose campaign was brilliantly summed up by otherwise useless tool Joe Biden as 'a noun, a verb, and 9/11'. You lost Fred Thompson, the first man to ever try to sleepwalk his way into the White House.

On the Democratic side, meanwhile, Bill Richardson, who was stupid enough to say that being gay is a 'choice' at a GLBT debate, fell on his sword. Chris Dodd, who's fought the good fight for many long, hard months to protect us from warrantless mass-searches and wiretaps, along with immunity for corporate lawbreakers, bowed out, as did John Edwards, a man who's spent his entire career fighting for the poor, the victimized, the blood that greases our mighty economic engine's cogs.

So, what are we left with?

Not counting Ron Paul (hahahaha.... loser), you have McCain, a man most of his own party hates, Romney, a man most of his own party claims to love, but secretly hate (because he's a Mormon, or because he only claims to believe what they want him to believe to get votes... take your pick), Huckabee, a corrupt Southern caricature, Clinton and Obama.

Gah. Our collective wrists are ready to be laid bare if this is the best we can do.

But the worst of it, the very worst thing, is the inability of most people to ACKNOWLEDGE how lousy our choices are, that we're stuck with the lesser of the lesser of several evils now. Instead you get foaming at the mouth partisans raving about how, if you don't vote for THEIR candidate, you're some kind of anti-American whacko.

Case in point: two Washington Post op-eds by an Obama supporter, and a Clinton supporter, that could leave you tearing your hair out in frustration.

First up, Michael Chabon, author, about how if you don't vote for Obama you're against hope and puppies:

There are many reasons not to support Barack Obama's candidacy for president, but every one of them is bad for the same reason.
It's nice that Chabon was given the gift of omniscience. Could he please tell me where I put my keys?
Because I have come out publicly for the senator from Illinois, I am often called upon to listen as people offer up -- with wistfulness and regret, or with a pundit's show of certainty, or with a well-earned but useless skepticism -- their bad reasons for not giving Obama their support. For a long time now, I have listened to these people with forbearance and with a sense of duty -- not to some principle of open debate or of the inherent merit in the free exchange of even meritless ideas, but rather out of obligation to the candidate whose cause I champion.
Oh, how he suffers for our sins. Like Jesus on a cross, he reads the newspapers and turns on his teevee, every day.
Because Obama appears to be a patient, forbearing man with a gift for listening, I figured I owed it to him to play the thing his way. So I have nodded and looked into their eyes and hummed sympathetically as people gave their reasons and made their excuses and generally offered up, as if they were golden ingots of profound wisdom, the handful of two-penny nails with which they plan to board up the windows of their hopes for themselves, their families, their country and the world.
Yes, that's precisely what those of us who are critical of Obama want to do. We want to take nails that are not made of gold and use them to board up a nonsensical metaphor, thus destroying America.
But now, with everything seeming to come down, at last, to the first Tuesday in February, and in the wake of an all-out, months-long push by the cynicism industry to cook up an entire line of bad reasons ready to heat and serve, I admit that I'm getting tired of listening to rationales from people who know that Obama is a remarkable, even an extraordinary politician, the kind who comes along, in this era of snakes and empty smiles, no more than once a generation.
Ok, see, you can't use four metaphors in two paragraphs and still call yourself an author. You are now officially a hack.
Oh, sure, most of these people tell me they would like to see Obama become president. No question, he comes off as at once brilliant and sensible, vibrant and measured, engaged and engaging, talented, forthright, quick-witted, passionate, thoughtful and, as with all remarkable people whom experience has taught both the extent and the bitter limits of their gifts, reasonably humble.
I'm honestly surprised you could type all that out with Obama's cock in your mouth. I guess Chabon has a wireless keyboard.
Things are so bad we just can't afford to waste our votes, people tell me, on some fantasy super-president with magical powers. We need someone electable, someone, as I have been told repeatedly in the past year, who can win.
Well, I for one AM against Superman being President. It's dubiously Constitutional, and he's a dick. I'll admit that. On the other hand: how could he not win? Is Batman running?
The point of Obama's candidacy is that the damaged state of American democracy is not the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan. The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.
Yes, Bush, and his minions (do they have wings and little organ grinder costumes like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz?), the big lobbies, the media, etc, they're all blameless. It's OUR fault. Michael Chabon gives out indulgences now, too!
Since I started talking and writing about Obama I have come to see that this ruling fear, and nothing else, lies at the back of every objection or reservation people raise or harbor regarding the man and his candidacy.
Really? Huh. Here I thought I disliked a crass political opportunist who changes his positions to suit whatever wind is blowing, a man with ties to corrupt developers and criminals, a man with an empty, silly, outright stupid message of 'bipartisanship' that is sure to lead to more gridlock and less progress for Americans. But silly me. I'm a coward! Thank you Michael Chabon for showing me the error of my ways!
But the most pitiable fear of all is the fear of disappointment, of having our hearts broken and our hopes dashed by this radiant, humane politician who seems not just with his words but with every step he takes, simply by the fact of his running at all, to promise so much for our country, for our future and for the eventual state of our national soul.
Dude, no matter how many times you repeat it in one article, 'phobocracy' is not a word. It's just too stupid to tolerate.

Also, he's radiant? His every step is divine? For the last time, OBAMA IS NOT JESUS

Meanwhile, they run another op-ed by a Clinton supporter in much the same vein.
"Look, the only people for Hillary Clinton are the Democratic establishment and white women," said Bill Kristol yesterday on Fox News Sunday, one of the many "news" outlets to expose Kristol's reliable sexism. "The Democratic establishment would be crazy to follow an establishment that led it to defeat year after year," Kristol continued in his woolly, repetitive style. "White women are a problem, you know. We all live with that."

Bill Kristol has been much criticized for his war mongering, arrogance, poor writing and lack of fact checking. But at least the guy is honest. He considers women a problem -- especially white women. And he feels confident enough as an alpha male to be open about it. "I shouldn't have said that," he demurred. But he can say anything he likes and still fall eternally upward. He's a white man, lord of all he surveys -- including Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I'm lord of all I survey? SWEET. I can survey a LOT!
I'm hardly the only woman who sees my life mirrored in hers. She's always worked twice as hard to get half as far as the men around her. She endured a demanding Republican father she could seldom please and a brilliant, straying husband who played around with bimbos. She was clearly his intellectual soul mate, but the women he chased were dumb and dumber.
Ahh, this is that feminist 'solidarity' I hear so much about. Charming! Could we get a criticism of their fashion sense next?
Nothing she did was ever enough to stop her detractors. Supporting a politician husband by being a successful lawyer, raising a terrific daughter, saving her marriage when the love of her life publicly humiliated her -- these are things that would be considered enormously admirable in most politicians and public figures. But because she's a white woman, she's been pilloried for them.

She's had to endure nutcrackers made in her image, insults about the shape of her ankles and nasty cracks from mediocrities in the media like Rush Limbaugh, Chris Matthews and Kristol.
Oh no, a nutcracker made in her image! SHE MUST IN FACT BE JESUS!
Nor are poisonous women pundits any more kind. Maureen Dowd regularly gives her a drubbing. And "progressives" from Susan Brownmiller to Oprah Winfrey sport Obama buttons.
If you're a woman and you don't support a woman, you're a sex-traitor. Apparently.
I, too, was a bluestocking from a woman's college, straight-A student, Phi Beta Kappa, who found my voice as a writer while exiled to the boonies with a husband who cheated. With every book I published, I saw more clearly how uneven was the playing field for women. We were let into the literary world on sufferance. Unless we wrote unreadable academic tracts that nobody bought, or mysteries or romances or something called "chick lit" (whatever that is), or biographies of Great Men, we were booed off the stage.
I'm so glad this election is about YOU.
She cannot have enjoyed her husband's playing around. She certainly never condoned it. But he was clever enough for her, he supported her dreams, and they both loved their smart and beautiful daughter.

Besides, what does anyone know about anyone else's marriage?
Well, apparently you know about how she feels about Bill, his adultery, and their daughter, so, some people know quite a lot...DID YOU NOT READ WHAT YOU JUST WROTE?
As a senator she has learned compromise and negotiation. She has gotten to know red America as well as blue. If she could win over the rednecks in upstate New York, she can win over any American. She knows this country is full of "security" moms as well as soccer moms. Since she is a woman, she has to show she's ready to be commander in chief. Hence her "triangulation" on Iraq and her signing the absurd Lieberman-Kyl resolution, which calls on our government to use "military instruments" to "combat, contain and [stop]" Iran's meddling in Iraq.
Good of her to win over the 'rednecks', and good of her to show her bold leadership by caving left and right. Is that what you're saying?
You will point to Hillary's complicity. You will quote crazy-like-a-fox Ann Coulter, who claims to be voting for her.

You will also quote left-wing bloggers who love Barack Obama, and peaceniks (I am one) who see no evil in him (nor do I). But I see little experience either. Obama is smart and attractive. Maybe he'll be president someday.
Yes, I quote Ann Coulter, a lot. I base my views almost entirely on what she says.

Also, I'm glad you find Obama 'attactive'.
He was lucky enough not to be in the Senate when the Iraq war resolution was floated after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell lied about WMDs. That was the true tragedy of race: a black man lying for a corrupt white administration that was using him as a token, much as they use Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice now.

Obama is also a token -- of our incomplete progress toward an interracial society. I have nothing against him except his inexperience. Many black voters agree. They understand tokenism and condescension.
Alternately, the true tragedy of race could be when a national newspaper runs an op-ed calling a credible black candidate for President a 'token'. Either/or.
I understand my hopeful friends who think an Obama button will change America. But I'm sticking with Hillary. I trust her because all her life, her pro bono work has been for mothers and children. And mothers and children -- of all colors -- are the most oppressed group in our country. I trust her to speak for our children and grandchildren -- and for us. She always has.
Her for profit work was for Wal-Mart, amongst others, but when she wasn't busy cashing Sam Walton's checks, or triangulating to protect her image, why, she spoke for our... well, your... children and grandchildren.

This is why reading the paper can drive you to drink.

Sources: WaPo on Obama (Literal Title: Obama vs. the Phobocracy)

WaPo on Clinton (Literal Title: Clinton vs. the Patriarchy) You cannot make these titles up. They're like episodes of The Tick.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Space News, Above and Beyond


Oops No Longer Topical
I kind of overslept, but hey. NASA decided to beam a Beatles song into deep space today at 7 PM EST. Namely, Across the Universe.

NASA will on 4 February beam Beatles' ditty Across the Universe into deep space to mark the 40th anniversary of the day the Fab Four recorded the song, as well as the launch 50 years ago this week of Explorer 1 and the 45th birthday of its Deep Space Network (DSN).

According to the press release, the transmission is being directed towards the North Star, Polaris, and will travel at 186,000 miles per second towards its 431 light year-distant target.

Dr Barry Geldzahler, the DSN's program executive at NASA's Washington headquarters, said of "Across The Universe Day": "I've been a Beatles fan for 45 years - as long as the Deep Space Network has been around. What a joy, especially considering that Across the Universe is my personal favorite Beatles song."

Paul McCartney enthused to the agency: "Amazing! Well done, NASA! Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul."
Now, Polaris, the star system they aimed it at, is 431 light-years away. It will take over four centuries for those radio waves to reach Polaris, where they will be impossibly attenuated.

But hey. Still sort of neat.

Me, I think they could have gone with other choices. I would have been in favor of Shatner doing 'Rocket Man', or that Leonard Nimoy rendition of 'Good Morning Starshine', just so the aliens know what they're dealing with.

Source: The Register

Telescope Arms Race
For once, huge amounts of money are going to something useful.
A telescope arms race is taking shape around the world. Astronomers are drawing up plans for the biggest, most powerful instruments ever constructed, capable of peering far deeper into the universe — and further back in time — than ever before.

The building boom, which is expected to play out over the next decade and cost billions of dollars, is being driven by technological advances that afford unprecedented clarity and magnification. Some scientists say it will be much like switching from regular TV to high-definition.


Just the names of many of the proposed observatories suggest an arms race: the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope, which was downsized from the OverWhelmingly Large Telescope. Add to those three big ground observatories a new super eye in the sky, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013.
Giant telescopes... aghghghg.

This will keep me in a supply of desktop wallpaper for years!

More seriously, the article concerns four giant ground based telescopes and NASA's Super-Hubble, the James Webb thingummy. Yes, thingummy. Basically, adaptive optics, the technology of rapidly adjusting the telescope's vision to compensate for atmospheric distortion, is making big ground telescopes competitive with space ones like Hubble or Webb again. There's also mention of a huge radio telescope, the fourth of the ground-based supereyes they're making, so it's not all visible light astronomy here.

Nice to see money being spent on something other than pouring blood into the Iraqi desert, for a change.

Source: Raw Story

Iran, Iran So Far Away
So Iran has a space center, and they've launched a rocket from it. They're planning to put a lousy little satellite in Low Earth Orbit eventually. Whoopity-do!

Get the spin on this one though:
Amid fears in the West that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, some experts believe Iran's space program is possibly a cover to improve its military ballistic missiles
Yeah... you mean, like OURS WAS?

Pot, kettle. Kettle, Pot.


Tanguska Boomy Boomy
So it looks like the rock that turned a chunk of Siberia into a pancake may have been smaller than originally thought... and thus, that smaller rocks from space pose a bigger threat than previously imagined.
Alan Harris, a planetary scientist at Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said he's been following Boslough's work on Tunguska for several years "and I think the idea that he has there seemed very sound."

"A meteorite or asteroid coming into Earth's atmosphere has a lot of momentum," he said. "The idea that it would push down into the atmosphere seems very plausible."

"The bottom line is it takes a lot less energy, a small explosion, to create ground damage" such as that at Tunguska, said Harris, who studies the frequency of such impacts to assess hazards.

In the future, he said, he'll take Boslough's work into account and revise estimates of damage from impacts by smaller objects.

Oh yeah. That's what I'm talking about. Cold indifferent universe, baby.


Baghdad from Spaaaaaaaace
Baghdad has three sewer treatment plants. One is busted, one barely works, one is backed up and creating a huge lake of... sewage.. that you can apparently see... from Google Earth.
Baghdad is drowning in sewage, thirsty for water and largely powerless, an Iraqi official said in a grim assessment of services in the capital five years after the US-led invasion.

One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission, one is working at stuttering capacity while a pipe blockage in the third means sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen "as a big black spot on Google Earth," said Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan.
I tried, I really did, to find the lake in question. I think it's in the northeast of the city, in a long line of obviously, horribly contaminated spill ponds. But it's hard to say. There are so many algae bloom covered lakes, so many toxic-red bodies of water, the Tigris looks like a bright green snake, which has got to be all the sewer runoff... wow.

Source: MSN
Also, Google Earth

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I Survived the LSAT

But At What Cost?

Where the White Women At?
It's a question on Bill Kristol's mind, it seems.

BILL KRISTOL: Look, the only people for Hillary Clinton are the Democratic establishment and white women. The Democratic establishment -- it would be crazy for the Democratic Party to follow an establishment that's led it to defeat year after year. White women are a problem, that's, you know -- we all live with that.


JUAN WILLIAMS (National Public Radio correspondent and Fox News contributor): Not me!

HUME: Bill, for the record, I like white women.

KRISTOL: I know, I shouldn't have said that.
Probably not, no. Also, what's up with Juan Williams here?


Conservatives are weird.

Source: Media Matters

Neil Boortz, Total Ass
Neil Boorz, right-wing radio pundit and general waste of skin, has decided that it's time to reveal how he really feels about Katrina refugees.
Summary: On his nationally syndicated radio show, Neal Boortz made disparaging remarks about Hurricane Katrina victims, stating, "When these Katrina so-called refugees were scattered about the country, it was just a glorified episode of putting out the garbage." Boortz also described New Orleans as "a city of parasites, a city of people who could not and had no desire to fend for themselves."
Neil, please, go fuck yourself. Seriously. Racist, classist fuckwit.

Offhand I'd say it's hard to fend for yourself when your entire city is underwater due to gross federal negligence, there's no drinking water, no electricity, no security, bodies floating past what's left of you home and none of those federal agencies you pay taxes to every year show up to help or give a damn. For years afterward, either.

But why bother responding to this guy? He's a moron. He always will be a moron. There's no helping someone this monumentally, viciously stupid.

Source: Media Matters

Rise of the HPV Vaccine
A new study shows that the Human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer in women, also causes throat cancer in men, at a far higher rate than previously speculated.

I imagine that the religious right, who vehemently opposed the vaccine being given to preteen girls, will now absolutely CLAMOR that it be given to their boys.

Those arguments about preventing disease encouraging sex won't hold up in their tiny minds when it's their precious heirs at risk, after all. Women are just chattal; you can always buy more.

Source: The Associated Press

Chart of the Datasphere
Well, the (underwater) internet part of it, at any rate. Fascinating stuff. Largely the internet flows where you'd expect it to, with white developed areas receiving by far the hugest share, but things do stand out. Australia, for instance, has little connectivity, though some decent bandwidth (and more is planned). Brazil has a lot of undersea connections, distributed over different areas, so even if they had a similar cabling accident to the one that took out much of the Middle East's bandwidth this week, BRASIL!!! would still flood across the interwebs in rainbow colors.

Such a heartwarming thought.

The accident in question was caused by a ship that tried to put down anchor off the coast of Egypt during bad weather. Understandable thing to do. Unfortunately, said anchor snagged something other than rocks... two very, very pricey ocean-floor fiber optic cables.
According to reports, the internet blackout, which has left 75 million people with only limited access, was caused by a ship that tried to moor off the coast of Egypt in bad weather on Wednesday. Since then phone and internet traffic has been severely reduced across a huge swath of the region, slashed by as much as 70% in countries including India, Egypt and Dubai.

Source: The Guardian
For nifty chart

For those who didn't see it on Olbermann (you know who you are), Bill O'Reilly's recent campaign against John Edwards for daring to note that a lot of veterans are homeless has culminated in a protest against him by the very homeless veterans he insisted didn't exist, or only existed because they were are all crazy and on drugs.
Carol Gardener, executive director of Fitzgerald House, which provides transitional housing and job placement assistance to homeless veterans, recently appeared at News Corporation headquarters to deliver a petition to FOX News mainstay and The O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly.

The petition, signed by 17,000 people, demands an apology from O'Reilly over a claim he made that there are no homeless veterans.

"The only thing sleeping under a bridge is that guy's brain," O'Reilly quipped during his January 4 broadcast, referring to part of a speech that former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards (D-NC) gave, dropping a figure of 200,000 veterans sleeping "under bridges and on grates." (The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 195,000.)

O'Reilly repeatedly joked about homeless veterans, insisting that, even if there was such a problem, there "aren't that many."

Worst...Person....In the World!!! (sorry Keith)

Source: Raw Story