Friday, December 22, 2006

The Future Takes Flight

The F-22 is half of the new generation of American airpower. The other half is the so-called Joint Strike Fighter. An expensive project and an impressive engineering achievement, the new jet had its first flight test a couple weeks ago.

The Losers are Winners

I didn't watch the Biggest Loser show. But as someone who has recently discovered a workout routine that works for me, I would like to mention that the winner says he pondered gastric surgery. Instead through exercise, diet, and mental effort, he lost over two hundred pounds. It can be done folks. If you want to do it and can't by yourself, get help. Getting there naturally has got to be more of a reward that using surgery.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Numbers Are in on the Stuipd Tax

I can't let this pass by without note this morning. According to AP reports, "Easley and other expect the North Carolina Education Lottery to raise $400 million in its first year for education..." [source story by Gary D. Robertson, the March 30th 2006 entry.] The first financial audit of the state lottery is finished, and according to it, the lottery managed to bring in $63.5 million for education in its first fiscal year. The audit notes that the budget for the lottery next year is to raise $401 million and that lawmakers expect it to raise $425 million.

I'll help with a little math since clearly lawmakers can't handle it. The lottery produced about sixteen percent of the money that was stated it would during the sales pitch. Next year the lawmakers expect the lottery's earning to grow by six and one quarter percent over what they said it would do this past year, while lottery officials give the growth estimate at a quarter of a percent over the goal stated by the governor. To actually achieve this lesser goal the return will have to grow by over six hundred and thirty percent.

If you play the lottery, you are making a bunch of shady business people rich(er) while not helping education in the state much at all. Do the math.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Meat the Immigration Issues

OK, so the title is a bad play on words, but the meat packing industry is currently the target of federal immigration officials (though it is worth mentioning that many (all?) of the people involved are being arrested for identity theft, not illegal immigration). Naturally an article appears that consumers may be the "victims" of this because it will drive meat prices up. I don't like the tone and I don't like the implication. One of the major arguments of those who favor immigration enforcement is that illegals are holding down wages. The pattern is clearly shown in the article. So yeah, prices will go up. Until we don't buy as much meat, then they will be driven down again. That's the way this stuff works.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weapons, High Tech and Not So Much

The use of silly string as a trip wire detector was widely reported last week, but it is a good lesson in creativity.

The military has certified a new kind of weapon for use in Iraq. This one is designed to give the target the feeling that they have been flash-burned, and it does sound entirely unpleasant. I note it here because, technically, it's a beam weapon...

Science, Big and Efficient

It looks like the folks at NASA caught a black hole consuming a star. Is it up on YouTube yet?

A bigger story has nothing to do with size. The old adage claims that it's what you do with it that matters. Solar cells have to be large because they aren't terribly efficient. And any electronics that are large are expensive. The Department of Energy has announced a solar cell with a stunning 40% efficiency. Such high efficiency cells are half of what we need to solve the energy problem. The other half is good storage solutions, by which I mean something not chemical batteries. Hopefully capacitor breakthroughs will follow, and then things will get really interesting.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Here's one that will make the tinfoil hat brigade say "I told you so!" The FBI is already using cell phones to record the conversations of people carrying them. Even when they are off.

After years of watching Veronica Mars and recently seeing Casino Royale, I sometimes wonder how people spied on each other before cell phones came along.

The Opposite of What I Want on the Roads

Driving is one of those things that I file away under necessary evil. Europeans wanting to do away with all traffic signs (basically, they are giving up trying to enforce the laws) is just scary.

Computer Science on Paper

One of the lessons from computer networking classes is not to underestimate the bandwidth of a truck. This is a novel way of using color and shape encoding to store data on a machine readable piece of paper. One could imagine a data storage solution that looks much like what we called "filing cabinets" back in the day...

It's not the Size of the Oil Barrel, It's What You Do With It

If you are interested in the price of oil on the domestic market, there are many things that you keep an eye on. Something that often slips through the reporting cracks is that the supply bottleneck is not in the number of wells or the number of barrels of crude moved around, but rather in refining capacity. It's nice to see the media point out the obvious way to control prices.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Watching the Watchers

First up is what happens when Presidential politics meets the land of under-supplied video game console launches. Apparently Wal-Mart's bitter enemy, John Edwards, is looking for a PS3 for Christmas, and his staffers aren't afraid to drop his name to cut into lines. Wal-Mart loved it. Seriously, how cruddy would it be to have your Christmas present published in the press?

Meanwhile in the world of weapon development, we have the Aliens-like autonomic sentry gun and LASERs in spaaaaaace. The latter story sounds like the Grand Cannon from a cartoon I used to watch back in the day. And who do I have to yell at to get web pages to write articles in a font readable by humans and to use the wacky horizontal space in my browser? But I digress...

It appears that immigrants are going to be devoid of the most basic of rights for a while longer as far as the "war on terror" is concerned.

And finally, we have an article about the ongoing electronic voting fiasco that the primary media (by which I mean every television news program except the Daily Show) has not picked up on.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

America Looses a Tough Guy

Yeah, Clint Eastwood can be intimidating. The Duke gets praise for being the iconic American Cowboy. But the guy that defined tough for me as a kid was Jack Palance. I'm fairly sure he could have knocked my teeth out just by glaring at me. He passed on of natural causes yesterday. He was a veteran, a boxer, a cranky, cranky man, and an entertainer. Believe it or not.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Big Storm

Hurricane pictures from space are fascinating to me. They range from the blob of clouds to the mammoth and impressive, such as Katrina. Now imagine a hurricane that is 3000 miles across with winds in excess of 350 miles per hour. Thankfully it isn't here on Earth. It's at the south pole of Saturn, and it is not behaving like any hurricane we have seen before.

Reality is Scarier Than Fiction

Eugenics is one of those concepts that seems so nebulous that it would never be seriously tried. As with so many things, the Nazis did try it. The personal effects were devastating. Tomorrow is Veterans' Day. Remember the vets, both old and new, and never forget what they did/are doing for us.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Technology Trends of the Elected

CNET has an interesting story on their version of the best and worst friends of technology in the Congress. It illustrates how the complex issues around the Internet defy normal party lines. Though John Kerry does once again show his tendency to waffle across both sides of an issue...

The King of Novelty Music

After a long and storied music career, Weird Al Yankovic has finally cracked the Billboard Top 10. I enjoy his music, though less now than in the past for the same reason he remains relevant: he follows the current music trends. And it looks like the Internet actually helped him instead of causing all of his music to be stolen...

Watching the Watchers

Some troops on active duty are using the rules to speak out against the war in Iraq. This is probably a very bad sign for the administration as is seems increasingly likely that the results of the Iraq war will be the opposite of what they had hoped. In a similar vein, one poll shows that our allies over in the U.K. think that the U.S. President is a greater threat to world peace than the North Korean dictator.

The head of the Government Accountability Office (now there's an office that has no power) is calling the government to task about their spending habits. Is this further fuel for those worried about the collapse of the middle class and the end of the U.S. as an economic power or just hyperbolic bluster?

And good grief, I agree with something Al Sharpton is saying. He blames the "Christian Right" for putting too much emphasis on sexual morality issues while neglecting stuff the church should really be dealing with.

Not All Cost Cutting Good For Stocks

I'm a bit slow in posting this, but it appears that BP cost cutting was responsible for the refinery explosion last year. This just fuels my own opinion that corporations are optimized for the wrong stuff. If only I could come up with something that would be better instead of having to rely on human honor and compassion. We don't seem to have enough of either to go around.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dance Your Cares Away

A Fraggle Rock movie is in the works. Release date undetermined.

Digital Distribution Wars

The "webisodes" of Battlestar Galactica created more traffic to the Sci-Fi Channel's web site than the show generates viewers. But NBC says they are only promotional material, in spite of the approximately 20 minutes of new footage they contain. As promotional material, the writers don't get residuals for their use (and presumably, neither do the actors, though nobody seems to be talking about them). This naturally doesn't sit well with the writers' guild, and a fight is a-brewing. The online world is coming, but corporate forces either can't face it or want to mercilessly exploit it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Science, Large and Small

Sounding like the plot of an old B-movie or an episode of Doctor Who, radioactive snails are turning up in southern Spain near the site of a plane crash that spread plutonium over the area.

A while ago I wrote about the giant storm on Jupiter that was a little brother to the Great Red Spot. Well, the smaller storm has changed from white to red, which may be a sign of strengthening.

Spread the Word, Baby Needs a Bigger Monitor

As a computer programmer by trade, I chose to believe that a larger monitor would indeed increase my productivity.

Watching the Watchers

Republicans point out that the Federal deficit is the lowest it has been in four years. Democrats counter that it is still nearly $250 billion dollars large.

China has been pointed to as a likely source of cyber-attacks on U.S. government computers. (Consider the source on this one.)

The final depressing story from our government involves a new revision to our space policy. The policy now states that the U.S. is not interested in any treaty that limits the deployment of weapons in space. Sigh.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

Counterpunch (remember to consider the source readers) has a story on how outsourcing of manufacturing has lead to the decline of the middle class and how the touted "new economy" is even easier to outsource than the old one was. The article is somewhat flawed in that it baselines its statistics in 2001, which is the year the "Internet bubble" burst. That said, I find his points about free trade and the decline in salaries in the Information Technology fields to be accurate. He gives pretty good coverage to the whole range of issues, from H1-B visas to the loss of manufacturing leading to the loss of engineering.

It seems there are pressures on America's supremacy in the science and engineering fields all over the place. And most of them are being generated by us. We have an apparently increasingly dysfunctional primary education system. Corporations are optimized for short term growth without a care to employees, product, or customer as a primary economic factor. The technological and economic power of larger, less free countries is on the rise. Will we continue to sustain ourselves in spite of these pressures, or will we give way to someone else?

Three Hundred Million Americans

As the march of time continues, less and less of the stuff I learned in grade and high school is true. This time, we see that America's population has continued to increase from the 250 million that I learned it was and is poised to hit 300 million soon. There is no word in the story on when the Soylent factories will go into operation, but the issue was almost alluded to.

Watching the Watchers

Some quick hits from the past couple of weeks this morning. Robert Cringely explores why the new anti-on-line-gambling bill won't work and will erode Americans' privacy. President Bush continues to claim power for the executive branch that is outside the bounds of tradition and possibly even the law. And finally it appears that Jon Stewart is right, the news media are doing a disservice to the country. Apparently The Daily Show has as much substantive coverage of the news as those other "real" shows.

Oh, and one from the foreign office, Iran has considered nucs before.

Virtual Newsreaders

The television news media seems to be somewhat aware that the general population doesn't consider them to be doing a good job. That makes a system that combines search and scan of internet news stories with video game technology to create a virtual news report both interesting and scary. It even searches blogs to generate pundit commentary.
One can imaging a world where this technology advances sufficiently to replace actual newscasts. This would put the world of the news back into the hands of the print sources, where in theory there is enough time and space to explore all the necessary details to create a proper context for the story. On the other hand, it further removes the video news media from the responsibility of actually doing real reporting. We will see what the landscape looks like in forty years.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Evil Dead: The Musical

Sometimes the news is too wierd even for me. Evil Dead is not the kind of movie one thinks of when one thinks stage conversions. And a musical? What kind of songs will it feature? Well, there's "Do the Necronomicon" for one. Also, "Hail to the King" and "Look Who's Evil Now." I'm not even sure what to say about this, but without The Chin is it really Evil Dead?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Shooting in a School, No Word Yet on What Video Games Were Involved

So, a fifty three year old man enters a school, takes hostages, assaults and kills some of the children, and the media draws a parallel to the Columbine killings.

I guess we can ignore the obvious difference in apparent motives, age, the targeting of females over males, and the lack of connection between the attacker and the attackees. There is no mention in the report of how the gunman played Grand Theft Auto or Doom in his car, but if the radio works it is possible that they could still conclude hard rock or metal were involved. Also, the perpetrator's black trench-coat still appears to be at large.

Shadows of The Cold War

Perhaps it's just my natural interest in such stories, but on the fifth year after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the entertainment industry is providing us a heap of the-world-is-changing stories. From Battlestar Galactica's overt end-of-civilization and Jericho's nukes on the horizon to Heroes's rise of the supermen and Smallville's continuation of the popularity of Superman, America seems to have become more receptive to the style of storytelling last seen in The Cold War. (Throw in Lost's paranoia and manipulation plot and House's overarching cynicism and it's 1984 all over again.)

That's a long preamble to a story about China shining high intensity lasers at U.S. satellites, but the Cold War references are certainly there. I believe that some sort of confrontation with China is going to be hard to avoid, and that right now America is setting itself into a position to lose through our trade practices. The good news about my opinion is that it is based on sketchy knowledge at best and that the world doesn't follow logic enough for me to figure it out.

News, Martian Style

One of the most famous (infamous?) photos of Mars is the rock formation that looks like a face in the Cydonia region. The Mars Express probe has imaged the area in high resolution stereo, resulting in some very nice photos.

Meanwhile Opportunity, the American rover probe that just keeps going has reached the lip of Victoria Crater. The rover was expected to have only a month or two of active life, but it has now been in operation over one thousand days.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Watching the Watchers

The wiretapping controversy rolls on, and it is looking increasingly like the Constitution is going to lose yet another fight. There are two competing bills on the subject in Congress at the moment, one acceptable, one not. Could pre-election maneuvering lead to another bad law? Only the Congress can say.

An Opinion on the Pope vs. Muslim Religion

Don't worry, it's not my opinion. It's Scott Adam's take on the subject.

The Usual Suspects

Another school shooting, another expose on a kid who likes heavy metal, dresses in black, has few friends, plays violent video games, and expresses hatred for authority. As if any of those things are what caused him to go off the deep end in the crazy pool. Perhaps instead of blaming the items that someone chooses to surround himself with, it is time to look into what drives him to those things. Plenty of people play violent games and don't kill others. Plenty of people listen to (and are even inspired by) heavy metal music and don't hurt others.

For those that never saw it, I refer you to one take on it by the controversial former Slashdot writer Jon Katz. Voices from the Hellmouth, and the first part of a multi-part follow-up Voices from the Hellmouth Revisited.

Accusations of Bias

Tony Blair, who will soon be giving up his position as Prime Minister and is accused of being an American puppet responded with a "withering attack" on the anti-Americanism that he perceives in European politicians. When he exits his post, the world political climate may change again. Whether it will be for the better or the worse remains to be seen.

Fighting Terrorists is Not the Mission in Iraq

A Marine Major General confirms what many commentators have been saying all along: the U.S. does not have enough troops in Iraq to defeat the insurgencies. He goes on to say that their mission is not to defeat the insurgents, but rather to train the Iraqi security forces. He says their force levels are about right for that mission.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Beer Not Brains the Target at Zombiefest

The story of zombiefest is too good to pass by. And it's not even October yet. The quote of the story: "What do we want? Brains! When do we want them? Brains!"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Using Landfills for Power

A Florida county is going to hold an experiment that could change the way we use solid waste. Using the trash from a landfill to generate gas to run a power plant seems like a good idea. The skeptics are loud and clear, and one wonders what they will do with the plant once the landfills run out (the design lifetime of a nuclear plant is 40 years). Things like this must be tried. If it fails, it will be a costly and humiliating error. If it succeeds, it could change the game forever.

Leak Source Goes Public, Story Ignored at Eleven

We now know who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation to the media. It wasn't Rove, Rumsfeld, Bush, Lewis Libby, or any of the big names that were mentioned. It wasn't done maliciously. It was Richard Armitage, who states that it was an inadvertent leak. And he kept quiet about it until now at the request of the prosecutor of the leak investigation.

So, where does the news media stand now? Well, I doubt we will hear much about the admission, but I have not been following the news as closely of late. The Washington Post has a pretty decent editorial on the whole mess.

Splitting Infinitives for Forty Years

The most visible legacy of American sci-fi telivision, Star Trek, is forty years old. Whether you like the show or not, Star Trek is a lasting cultural icon. Promoting an optimistic and culturally mixed view of the future, the show is both showing its age (just take a look at the new Battlestar to see where TV sci-fi's commentary is running these days) and remaining true to its vision.

Star Trek will continue to live long and prosper, especially if they can get rid of the combination of people that brought us Voyager and Enterprise...

Monday, September 4, 2006

Listening to Your TV Habits

The source on this story is questionable, so take it with a grain of salt. Orwell's 1984 featured screens which allowed Big Brother to see and hear what was going on in every home. Google is reportedly working on the easy part of that puzzle (the hearing part). I can't help but feel that I would rather Google to get into television advertising, collect a one time demographic (say, a birth year) to help target ads and then just serve them by what is actually being watched. That's just me though.

The Inevitable Happens

The sad news of Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin's death at the barb of an apparently startled stingray is making its way around the news sources. Best wishes for his wife and children. And I wonder if crikey was his last utterance...

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Environmental Concerns

Communities in the UK are getting ready to try out a system that would have residents paying for their garbage disposal by weight. It's an interesting idea, but I don't know if weight is the best way to determine garbage costs. It wouldn't work here anyway since my garbage disposal is paid for by taxes and fees.

In spite of the Kyoto environmental treaty, greenhouse gas emission continue to rise. The article is careful to point out that much of the increase comes from the U.S., famously not a signatory of Kyoto. But other countries are still increasing as well. If global warming turns out to be the catastrophe that the fanatics believe, it may already be too late. Or to use an analogy, the SUV has already left the driveway...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pow, Straight to the Moon Footage!

I passed on the tidbit that the original moon landing footage had gone missing. Well, it's been located in a rather amusing way.

Not Throwing the Baby Out With the Stem Cells

Many issues in science have become highly politicized of late. Whether you believe that's a good or bad thing, it does put pressures on the course of developments. Especially when there is federal money involved. So when a group announces they have found a way to harvest stem cells without harming the embryo, what is your reaction?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What Actual In-depth Reporting Looks Like

This is the second part of a multi-part story that ran in the local "conservative" newspaper concerning recent events in the Greensboro police department. Note the depth of research, the use of quotations, and the lack of direct conclusion drawing. This is what reporting should look like. There are reasons why this particular reporter (who is probably most famous for the book Bitter Blood) doesn't work for the mainstream paper in town anymore.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

News from the Final Frontier

Last week Voyager 1 passed the 100 Astronomical Units from the sun mark. That's well over nine billion miles from home. The Voyager probes use thermoelectric power generation (converting the heat generated by radioactive material into electricity). I wonder if companies today have the vision to assemble a team that would continue to work thirty years after the project was successfully launched.

NASA has also contracted with some relatively unknown aerospace companies in the hopes of getting a transport capable of getting to the International Space Station.

Knowledge is Obsolecent

In the continuing effort of the scientific community to invalidate everything I learned in high school that wasn't math, the changing definition of planet could leave the solar system with twelve planets instead of nine. And I believe most of my English teachers might consider that a run-on sentence...

Appearing and Disappearing Tapes

911 tapes from the World Trade Center have been released. And NASA has misplaced the original tapes from the moon landing. Either of these would be good fodder for conspiracy theories, but both together is a gold mine. Back here in the real world, both pieces of news are saddening for different reasons.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Don't Worry It's Just Fiction

Sci-fi can be used as a way to explore ideas. Ideas such as: what if a time traveler from the future told you about the war with Islam.

Read the linked story. Seriously, if you happened along this blog and read nothing else, read this. It is one of the few things that didn't come from the feed list, and I guarantee that it will at least cause you to ask yourself a few questions. I know I did. And besides, it is quite well written.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Duh-huh

Now that the hurricane season is well under way and the forecasters can see that storms aren't appearing the way they predicted, the forecasts have been changed.

Wintermute Was Not Consulted

A startling example of the exposed nature of networked computer communications was provided to us by AOL when they published a library of user data that was supposed to be anonymous. Of course, anyone who asks for directions using Google or Mapquest has revealed their street address. And that is just one example of recoverable information. The story of one lady's searches was provided by the New York Times today. The technology is here for Big Brother, and he is slowly learning to use it. Continue to do what you will on the Internet, but don't think it's anonymous...

Moments in History

Today (yes, I actually managed a timely post for a change) marks the 61st anniversary of the dropping of ten kiloton "fat man" fission bomb on Nagasaki. In case we forget, we don't want these things to be used again.

How Not to Act When You Make Billions in Profit

BP is busy handling their disastrous and inexcusable lapse in maintenance of an Alaskan pipeline, but there is another side of the story. Alaska itself stands to "lose" 6.4 million dollars a day in taxes and royalties. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is part of what you pay for at the pump.

Report, Don't Dramatize

The reporting business has always had to be strict about avoiding manipulation to maintain the trust of readers/watchers. One can debate the success they've had, but like them or not, they are our only pipeline for information on the goings on in the world. That's why it's nice to see Reuters taking the kind of action that they took in this case. Doctor one photograph and your entire career ends. Harsh, but that is the only way it can be.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Now featuring automation! Seriously, a group of researchers has come up with a way of automating topic searches without much human intervention. And they have applied it to the Congressional Record. Because no human should be subjected to that level of pain. Aside from the split infinitive made famous by Star Trek, this is a pretty interesting article.

A Little Insight, a Little Computer Power

Rain prediction may be about to get better due to more accurate radar. The nifty part is that the improvement involves some clever data analysis of information that the radar already provides rather than having to have new hardware.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Still Don't Understand Business

ExxonMobil posted another record quarter, which in an election year will almost certainly force idiot politicians pandering to the sound bite election cycle to pass some sort of inane legislation that will end up costing consumers even more for gas. And the executives are taking credit, and being compensated, for increases that are simple economics at work.

And in other stock news, GM posts a loss of more than three billion dollars. And its stock goes up. I watched Sneakers again last night, and it's amazing how totally relevant the movie's premise has become in the last decade and change. Case in point, economics isn't based on money but perception...

Watching the Watchers

It seems that the rise in violence in Iraq has finally forced the military to admit that more troops are needed.

And once again, the House proves they know nothing about the Internet (or they just don't care in the face of election year pandering). Legislation has passed that in its basic form makes message boards of all sorts illegal. The good news, if you can call it such, is that the legislation is completely unenforceable.

Another Cold Warrior Goes on Standby

No doubt providing fodder for conspiracy theorists for months to come, the Pentagon has announced that the NORAD compound under Cheyenne mountain was going off active duty. It's also interesting to note that the last time the facility was sealed was on September 11, 2001. I expect the facility will be upgraded and waiting should it be needed again.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Wiretapping news update today. The story continues to percolate in the background. We hear how the President blocked the Justice Department investigation and a pair of takes on a judge's decision not to allow dismissal of the AT&T lawsuit on security grounds.

Electronic voting machines have come under criticism from many angles, now the ACM weighs in with their own brand of objections.

And finally the stem cell research bill has caused its share of hyperbolic rehtoric during the week. It even caused the veto-phobic Bush to actually kill a bill.

201 Years of Illegal Shacking Up Ends

A court in North Carolina has declared unconstitutional a law stating that unwed couples could not live together. The predictable sides give the predictable responses.

How 'bout them thunderstorms last night...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

CEO Salaries Inversely Correlate to Performance

This study looks at the "technology" sector, which is a mix of manufacturing and software apparently. It basically states that higher paid CEOs don't actually give their companies an edge. It also brushes past the largest travesty in business today: salaries are based on what your contemporaries are making rather than the value you provide for the company.

Imagine for a moment a world where teachers were paid by their contribution to children's learning. Assembly line workers were paid based on how safe and efficient they were. Programmers were paid based on their successful contribution to projects. Would such a world have flatter organization charts because of the relatively small contribution that increasing layers of bureaucracy provide? Would the contribution of the people that actually make the products be deemed as much or more important than the ones that decide which markets to enter? As the old Tootsie Pop commercial states: the world will never know.

This is What I Call the Linux Problem

It isn't a new idea that freedom of choice doesn't make you any happier, but this study adds some interesting wrinkles to the premise.

A Couple of Wavy Lines

Someone is using a virtual reality system to attempt to study telepathy in a scientifically valid way. Good luck with that. I'll assume you already know what I think of the chances.

Watching the Watchers

Today I present a rather depressing article

demonstrating how money comes in the back door for politicians. It's all quite legal and quite smarmy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Good News and Bad News, Middle East Style

The good news comes out of Iraq as the first province of the country is transferred fully to Iraqi control. It's a quiet province, but that's only logical given the circumstances. This will hopefully be a successful first step.

The bad news comes as the unrest around Israel increases, so does the price of oil. It hit a new record today.

Missile Shield: Coming Soon to an Airport Near You

Northrop Grumman will soon have on the market an anti-missile laser system capable of knocking down a variety of missiles over a five to twenty kilometer radius (depending on the incoming missile type). Other companies are developing competitors.

The View From Lebanon

Israel has stepped up their actions against Lebanon to a full blockade and infrastructure attacks. Here are some views from the people. It's interesting to see the perceptions of the "man on the street."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

News From the Fronts

While China keeps the U.N.'s diplomacy train off the rails, the capture of Israeli soldiers triggers the re-occupation of the Gaza strip. It also gives a great example of double talk as Israel states their government won't negotiate with terrorists, the Palestinian government is made up of terrorists, and they have no interest in toppling said government. And as Hamas grabs soldiers on one side, Hezbollah follows their example and provokes a similar incursion.

Yeesh.

Watching the Watchers

In a shocking display of morality, the U.S. now states that their treatment of prisoners will meet basic human rights guidelines. Victory for the whiny liberals? Another bunch of words on paper that will be ignored anyway? Pundits, take your positions.

In a shocking victory for the integrity of the law, a judge concludes that "A member of Congress is bound by the same laws as ordinary citizens..." It's a ruling that Rep. "I keep money in my freezer" Jefferson probably was surprised to hear.

Cool Cooling

Technology inches ever onward, including solar energy applications. The idea that in the not terribly distant future buildings can be constructed with built in heating/cooling systems with no moving parts that require no external power supply is something I find pretty, well, cool.

On Content Wars and Broadband Competition

The rise of broadband Internet access has brought with it an increase in the volume of content distributors protest file sharing. So some analysis on the lack of broadband competition fits nicely with some pointed questions aimed at the entertainment industry.

And for good measure, I'll slip in the story of how ABC would like to prevent you from fast forwarding through recorded commercials. Still no word on whether going to the bathroom or kitchen during commercials is acceptable.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Computer Programming Isn't Engineering, Again

I stopped calling what I do for a living "software engineering" a while ago. I still use the formal title of Software Engineer from time to time because that is the term used by the people that hire people like me. But programming lies along the hazy boundary between art and math. Bruce Eckel weighs in with an eloquent piece that sums up the difficulties well. Until business types realize that the people are the thing that matters, computer programming tasks will continue to be mysterious and seemingly uncontrollable.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

One More Entertainment Blurb

House is the TV show that got me to like a medical drama. If it doesn't win the best drama Emmy over the group of aged series it is up against, it will confirm my opinion that the Academy can't tell good writing from a pirated promotional tape...

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Coming Soon to the Sci-Fi Channel

Pollution and urban overcrowding are issues that concern humans for all sorts of reasons. Today, we have a new reason. Apparently conditions in Athens Greece have lead to the emergence of a "super" mosquito. These bad boys are heavier, beat their wings faster, can see in color, and can smell blood almost twice as far away.

I would be concerned, but I've been to South Carolina and Florida and therefore have seen mosquitos that could drive trucks if they wanted to.

Watching the Watchers

People are already talking about the 2008 presidential election. One can understand why. The race should be truly wide open. I suspect the ten percent who are radical republican partisans will vote republican, the ten percent who are rabid democratic partisans will vote democratic, the ten percent who believe it is their civic duty to become informed and vote will take their best guess, and the remaining seventy percent who see both parties as equally full of no good, crooked jerks will remain home.

On the war front, it has been reported that the U.S. gave up looking specifically for bin Laden late last year.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Gentlemen, We (Almost) Have the Technology

Popular Science has a long but interesting article about the work being done to transform prosthetics into bionics. There are bits on all sorts of techniques from melding bone to titanium to converting nerve signals into computer commands and back again. We aren't there yet, but it's nice to know that people are still trying.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Retro Appliances as Classic Weaponry

This stuff is too good to pass up. Old vacuum cleaners and blenders converted into pulp style sci-fi weaponry.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Personal property rights barely survived a vote in the Senate. I'm referring to flag burning if you didn't read the article. And yes, I believe that I have every right to burn an American flag if I wish to. The flag is a powerful symbol of America, and burning it can be an equally powerful symbol. It certainly gets the attention of certain politicians who should have more important things to do. Unfortunately an election is coming up, and the clowns are seeking talking points.

On the war front, a proposal by insurgents is either a diplomatic breakthrough or a nasty catch-22 depending on your point of view. The administration has said all along that timelines are a disservice to the cause, and I agree with them. Detractors of the war believe we should pursue a more diplomatic approach. The groups that put forward the proposal appear (according to the article) to be the ones who are fighting the U.S. rather than committing random terrorist acts. So, what is the right decision? Or is this another case where there really isn't one?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Words From the Front

The story is negative, but it's first hand. One way or another, there needs to be more reporting like this. For the people to be informed enough to make the right decisions in the election this fall, we need the story straight from the mouths of the people involved. Iraqis and soldiers both.

To Go Boldly...

Star Trek, the gateway to geekdom for many a kid. It was actually second or third for me behind the original Battlestar Galactica and the immortal Doctor Who, but I am still a fan of the original Star Trek. The modern series don't get my attention as much, mainly because I've been exposed to (slightly) deeper fair such as Babylon 5, Firefly, and the new Battlestar Galactica. (DS9 and TNG had their moments, but the rest were bland to horrible.) The idea of recreating the original Star Trek has gained traction recently. Normally I wouldn't be that interested, but what if the writers involved were Babylon 5's J. M. Straczynski and Dark Sky's B. Zybel? What would their idea of Star Trek look like? Well, now we know. (That's a PDF link, FYI.)

If there is anyone reading this who has never seen Star Trek, or doesn't get what it was about, the description given in the document is about a clear and concise as I have seen. Yes, this project didn't happen. Given what would have been an almost simultaneous release of the "reimagined" Battlestar Galactica, it's probably just as well. But I for one would have watched. And I would have been much more interested in a new Star Trek than a new Battlestar, if only because the original material set the bar so much higher for a recreation.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer Warning Trend

Apparently we are warning Iran, warning North Korea, and otherwise rattling the diplomatic pens. Turns out we found chemical weapons in Iraq too, but they weren't emphasized because they are quite old.

It's been a busy day for Al Quaeda threats too. Apparently they want vengeance for us killing one of them. Hey man, you already vowed to wipe all us infidels off the planet. You can only kill us once, and the multiple threats just make you sound like a blowhard.

Three Moons Over Pluto

Charon is joined by Nix and Hydra. On the issue of whether it's a planet or not, I expect it will be downgraded to planetoid or something similar before all is said and done.

Headline Hunting

"Politicians held in sex scandal." Funny, I thought you had to be more than just held to have a sex scandal.

Contains the Best Description of the House Ever

A link via Dubious Quality, this video is the Daily Show's coverage of the Congressional hearings on video game violence. It's very, very funny. And yes, I'm a boy in a man's body...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Things That Don't Work

File this under my silly item of the day. Normally I can't stand having celebrity crap mixed in with my news, and this is why: Britney says she wants privacy. In a national media interview. Sigh.

I'm Sure God Willed It

Scientists are increasingly able to create new species in the lab that actually breed with themselves, but not the parent species. This is pretty clear evidence that the process of speciation can occur using known methods. When I asked God for His statement on the matter, he just winked at me.

Watching the Watchers

The Supreme Court has made another controversial decision. This time it essentially allows police to enter houses without announcing themselves. I can see how the throwing out of evidence can be bad for catching obvious criminals, and in that sense the decision is a victory for common sense. On the other hand, given the propensity in this country of late to imprison first and fabricate charges later, I don't know if I'm comfortable having yet another civil right go down the drain.

Updates from the Fronts

According to some sources, things are looking up in Iraq. Here in NC, Secretary Rice maintained a realistic viewpoint. One hopes that Iraq stablizes, because things in other parts of the world such as Venezuela and Somalia aren't looking quite as rosy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

No Boom Today. Boom Tomorrow. There's Always a Boom Tomorrow

I've been waiting for this article for years now. Ever since I learned that the halflife of tritium is about twenty-four years, meaning any thermonuclear bombs we have sitting around loose quite a bit of effectiveness in two decades. The authorization for the design of new nukes happened last year, but I don't recall it making the news. It looks like Ronald Regan's ideal of no nuclear weapons will have to wait a few more decades.

Warming Up the Warming Debate

Al Gore is wearing his environmental activist hat again. This month's Skeptic column (by Shermer) in "Scientific American" called his presentation on the subject of global warming, "the single finest summation of the evidence for global warming I have ever heard." Over on Slashdot another perfect storm is brewing due to a Canadian Free Press article which quotes an Australian Professor saying, "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic."

So, there we go. Another perfectly understandable series of press articles about global warming.

I'll give the Slashdot link, so ya'll can venture into the comments if you so wish.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Spacing Out

Stephen Hawking states the obvious: the long term survival of the human race depends on its ability to find places to live that aren't Earth. While his conjecture about what is possible doesn't pass the test of what is probable, it's nice to see such a high profile person in the scientific community keep such issues around.

Meanwhile, NASA is being weighed down with silly pork barrel projects and budget cuts. The link above is from ArsTechnica, and I just finished reading a similar one in the June 2006 issue of "Scientific American." The SciAm article focuses on the administration, both the federal level and at NASA, as bearing the brunt of the blame rather than Ars's viewing of Congress. But there are two sides to this battle, and both articles are probably correct.

And finally, the U.S. says we have every right to build defensive weapons in space. But don't worry, we'll play nice and abide by existing international treaties. I suppose I won't comment on this. I wouldn't want you thinking I was a cynic.

Watching the Watchers

It looks like alleged Republican mastermind Karl Rove will not be charged in the investigation of alleged leaks of an alleged undercover CIA agent's name.

Democrat opponents are allegedly in full denial mode. Sources also insist they really have a platform, "almost for sure this time." OK, I don't have sources. That's OK, the Democrats don't have a platform either. If only there were a viable third party right about now, things would be really interesting.

Oh, and don't be surprised if you e-mail account (or spam filter, as the case may be) receives more political e-mail this election cycle.

A Bird in Hand is Worth a Fraction of a Byrd in Congress

Robert Byrd becomes the poster "boy" for the need for term limits on Congress by being the longest serving Senator in history. With over 17,000 days in office, he just edges past Strom Thurmond's record (though Strom still holds the oldest-serving title). The article gives him responsibility for billions of federal (e.g. taxpayer) dollars going to West Virginia. I'm sure glad all that money over his tenure of 48 years has fixed all the problems in the state...

NC Gambles, and Loses

As many suspected, the NC government was overly optimistic about the proceeds from the new lottery. A couple of articles from the "News & Observer" break down the spending done to administer the lottery and give the latest estimate of the proceeds.

Quote for the Day

"Imagination means having odd ideas..." From this essay by Paul Graham.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A New Battery at Last?

Batteries are holding technology back. Your iPod is only good until the battery goes, then it's an annoying (and costly) replacement. Laptops, UPSes, even cars all have batteries with batteries that go bad. They are also bad for the environment and relatively expensive. Chemical batteries are one of the few technologies that have not changed in recent years. Now that may be about to change. I have my fingers cross for this, it could be a real revolution.

Cats. What Can One Say About Cats?

The cats in my neighborhood climb on my roof. They are louder than squirrels... Cats are also getting a reality TV show of sorts. And if fame isn't enough, then perhaps genetic engineering is more you speed. Modern science is working to produce an allergen free cat. Either that, or it's a plot to help them infiltrate more homes before entering the next phase of the conquest.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

A Network Bows Out

The WB has a rocky history, but it did produce some memorable television. It makes me feel old to think that it has been eleven years since the frog network came into existence, and no doubt their retrospective exit will present a bunch of thespians who used to be close to my age looking young on film.

The WB will re-air the pilots of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Felecity, and Dawson's Creek on Sunday September 17th. If there is anyone reading this who has heard of Buffy but never got what it was about, I challenge you to watch the pilot. If you aren't interested at the end of the first hour, then you can happily await Dawson's Creek to end the night.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Trips to the Bathroom Still Normal Price

DVRs are giving the big content industries ulcers. Apparently people who record programs then fast-forward over the commercials. So, the advertisers don't want to pay as much. It's a wonder that they haven't done studies to show the average amount of commercial time is missed due to trips to the bathroom and the kitchen.

Headline Hunting

The headline: "Intermittent Explosive Disorder affects up to 16 million Americans"

That headline reads like a sci-fi movie. Throw in some alien influence causing the explosions... In reality it's another example of the medical industry coming up with some fancy name for behavior that is obviously not normal, but which they have no idea what could be causing it.

Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Meatloaf is trying to release a third Bat Out of Hell Album. Unfortunately, he's had a falling out with the songwriter from the first two albums by that name, Jim Steinman. Thus a partnership that sold millions of items is now left to the lawyers.

Monday, June 5, 2006

A Summary of the Content Wars

Don't know what the deal is when I refer to the content wars, IEEE Spectrum (the "flagship" publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has a nice overview of happenings so far. It lacks all the sordid details, but it is a great introduction.

Friday, June 2, 2006

May or May Not be Hanzo Corp.

Slashdot can come up with some wackiness. This time it's intelligence agencies (or other forces fnord) using voice over IP to duplicate the function of shortwave radio stations

broadcasting apparently encrypted messages. Who knows if it is real or not, but if you haven't experienced Slashdot comments, this is as good a place as any to start.

Watching the Watchers

The Supreme Court delt a heavy blow to government overwatch by stating that government whistle-blowers aren't protected by the first amendment while on the job. How someone can claim to be a strict constructionist and vote in this manner escapes me. But then I'm not a lawyer.

Violating the First Rule of Fight Club

Techies have stress just like everyone else. Take a look at my previous post for one of many reasons. In this article about real life geek fight clubs, the sociology professor blames the usual suspects: cartoons, movies, and video games. Another claims it's a sadomasochistic fantasy. One of the participants said he wanted to get over his fear of fighting.

The professors are way off here. The urge is simple and much more primal (in my opinion) than any of the professionals admit. People are violent. Men tend toward physical violence and women tend toward "violence" in their social relationships. But as to the fight clubs, go watch the movie guys. It's all about people who feel like they have no control over their lives gaining empowerment. And don't forget, it was the people in the fight club, not the power brokers who play golf, who shut down the city at the end of the movie...

The Tangle of Foreign Competition

Today it was announced that the jobless rate is the lowest in the U.S. in five years. Sitting at 4.6% it is less than the magic 5% rate which used to be considered full employment. In theory, industries everywhere should be scrambling to get workers, especially good ones. Many point to the continuing illegal immigration issue as a reason why traditionally low end salaries are not increasing. In my field, there is a similar debate about H1-B class visas.

Whatever side you fall on in the continuing push and pull of employer vs. worker, you can not hide from the fact that unemployment in the high tech sectors remains higher than that of the general population. Yet somehow companies continue to protest that the U.S. isn't producing enough skilled workers to meet their needs. Meanwhile, the stigma of outsourcing and the general (and not incorrect) notion that computer science studies require one to sacrifice social activities and are generally "nerdy" has depressed the number of students enrolling in the program.

The long term results remain to be seen. As for me, I'd just like salaries to take a sudden spike upward. Or perhaps companies suddenly realizing that good people can be trained easily instead of expecting them to know the specific set of tools and technologies they want them to use.

Internal Conflicts

In America, we often have race baiting, but religion is often lumped together, no matter the sect. In the Middle East however, that isn't quite the case.

Opinions on Power

Don't mistake this survey piece as news, but it does reveal some interesting trends. First, it can be interesting to reverse the reporting of the statistics. For example, nearly twenty percent of the people polled didn't think the U.S. is currently a world power. And the French appear to retain their stereotypical arrogance. Well, a third of them do anyway. The different perceived priorities are notable too.

Building Your Castle in the Swamp

New Orleans has been sinking for a while, but apparently it is and has been going faster than expected. The best quote in the story? "We've made a pact with the devil by moving down here..."

When the Rubber Meets the Road

The British have a creative use for unused rail lines. Not everyone likes the idea, but I give it points for creativity.

Headline Hunting

Due to a busy week, this edition of Headline Hunting will feature headlines that you won't see in the news today (if nothing else, they are too long):

U.S. Soldiers Kill a Dozen Civilians, Militant Islamist Total Remains in the Thousands

Spelling Bee Winner Given Larger Reception in Home Town Than American Idol Loser

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Replacement Neighborhoods Lead to Replacement Fences

The increase in hoary stories about MySpace and other social networking sites aimed at teens has been an interesting side note for me. They seem obvious in a world where the Internet is increasingly pervasive. More so since the American neighborhood is pretty much dead and gone.

Naturally once kids find a place to communicate without heavy observation, things can get out of hand. Parents and "concerned citizens" want to regulate their use. Unfortunately for the adults in this fight, the kids are better armed to handle the technology. It is practically quite difficult to block access to part the Web (just ask the Chinese government), and the fight will go on until the next fad hits.

Just in Case the Terrorists Weren't Depressing Enough

Apparently China has undergone a massive military buildup. The world's largest Communist state continues to be an enigma to me. I see our current position as being economically expedient, but with the potential side effect of mutual dependency. The turning point will come if China's economy ever gets off its feet and begins overtaking America's. I don't expect to see it in my lifetime, but one never knows.

Castle: 25 Million Dollars, Vampire (Presumably) Not Included

Actually, according to the story the castle never belonged to the Romanian ruler who inspired Dracula, though it is thought he visited it. Whatever, it's all in the marketing these days anyway.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Headline Hunting

We will start off the Monday headline bonanza with today's definition of irony: "World Health Organization chief Lee Jong-Wook dies suddenly." It's a serious, sad matter. But, the headline is also really, really ironic.
And now a pair of headlines that aren't much by themselves, but appeared literally back-to-back in the Yahoo! news feed. "FTC gasoline price probe finds nothing illegal" and "FTC: Some Gas Price Gouging After Katrina." Righty-o then. (Oh, the former is from Reuters, the latter from the Associated Press. Conclusions, political bickering, and conspiracy theories left as exercises for the reader.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Little Economics Lesson

In case you didn't know that America is the economic engine of the world, then here's a big indicator. America runs a huge, some claim unsustainable or crippling, trade deficit. This pushes the value of the dollar down on the open market, but it looks like quite a few other countries depend on the dollar being high to prop up their own economies.

Don't forget to note the bit about China finally allowing their currency to float a little in value when compared to the dollar. If this signals a true change in their policy, it is a very good thing for the world. China's is a large and growing player in the global economy, and communistic practices can do severe harm to the normal functioning of an economy.

The Daily Show More Entertaining than "Real" News

Apparently viewers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is watched regularly by more college aged people than regular news. And those viewers were more likely to have negative opinions of the candidates.

The first part of that can be explained by the simple fact that The Daily Show is humorous in its presentation of the news. The real thing straight up is simply depressing. As for the second part... How many of us, even those who vote regularly, have confidence that any of the candidates aren't scumbags?

Watching the Listeners

Another informational link-fest from ArsTechnica on the surveillance issue. There have also been some rumblings about the government using the wiretaps and phone trace data to investigate leaks. That one is right scary, but nothing concrete has come over the news services and a similar story is emerging from Germany. For now, I will reserve the wiggins until confirmation is available.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wiretapping Database of Sci-Fi Proportions

The story won't go away because it just keeps getting worse. Domestic surveillance with judicial oversight is one thing, this is something else.

The Demographics They Are a 'Changing

Interesting fact: forty five percent of the babies under five in America are ethnic minorities. Two generations from now, things will be very different indeed in America. Here's hoping everyone is raised to enjoy the diversity so the country will be better for it.

Is This the Truth That Was Out There?

According to the British Ministry of Defense, there are no signs of aliens flying UFOs. Well of course that's what the "confidential" report that got leaked would say.

Return to Sender, Address Unkown

No matter what you think of the Iranian President, you have to admit he's been showing that he's pretty astute politically. The latest flap over the letter is another example in a long line of the current administration not being able to handle public relations matters.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Rove Isn't a Genius After All

I am of the opinion that Rove has it backwards for a change. It isn't the Iraq war that is driving down the President's ratings. All of the people that disapproved of that did so years ago. They haven't changed their minds. No, the ratings are dropping to new lows because your conservative base is appalled by the lack of interest in enforcing existing immigration laws. They are appalled by the idea of the government collecting extensive databases on their citizens' communications.

There's a little document called the constitution out there guys. Time to read it again.

Money For Nothing

Remember not too long ago when the states were all running deficits and screaming that the fed had left them high and dry and that tax increases were the only way to save critical programs? Turns out North Carolina is running the largest budget surplus in the history of annual budgeting in the state. Naturally, the Democrats who control the state legislature are ready with spending increases to take care of the money.

More proof that taxes will never significantly go down until we have a wholesale mind change in the government at all levels. Feh.

Less of a Boom

I didn't know that Mt. St. Helens was erupting, but it is. I don't know how I missed it, because it has been active since 2004. I guess when there isn't a ginormous explosion, it doesn't quite capture the modern news cycle. An any case, there is a 300 foot rock growing four to five feet a day. That's incredible, and a good reminder that the Earth moves even when we aren't looking.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Lier, Money Grubber, or Servant of the Fans

I have long held the belief that George Lucas makes up half of what he says about the Star Wars franchise as he is going along. When fans of the original trilogy didn't really like his much hyped touch-up job, he even stated that the orginals didn't exist anymore. Perhaps they don't to him, but they sure do for the fans. And I for one am thrilled that they are going to release the movies on DVD with the original theatrical versions for the first time (along with the new cuts).

As for the prequel movies, the less said the better.

Marketing Department Gets Bad Press

For those who don't follow such things, Nintendo will be releasing a new console gaming system this year. The system was code named "Revolution" due to the potentially disruptive motion sensing technology designed into the controllers. As the Electronic Entertainment Expo rapidly approches, Nintendo announced the official name of the console: Wii. It's pronounced the same as "we." The name change generated quite a storm of press. Much of it negative, such as the comments from some game developers.

The console itself still looks promising, and it will be interesting to see if the Revolution by any other name will still play sweet games. (Or should that be swiit games. See, it's just impossible to talk/write about the Wii without coming up with bad plays on it.)

Didn't We Used to Start Wars Over This Stuff

It looks like rising transportation costs are going to lead to another hike in postage rates. The rate increases are happening more and more often it seems. So much so in fact, that some have proposed a stamp with no denomination that can be used for first class letters until the end of time.

Watching the Watchers

Looks like the Mexican President is backing off the idea that his citizens could carry small doses of illegal drugs legally. So it appears that common sense might have won one for a change.

The assault on Fair Use continues, this time in the UN. This issue is a bit more complicated than common sense perhaps, but all it really demonstrates is the ability of money to control politicians.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Immigration Consternation

Fear of raids is causing illegal workers to stay away from their jobs across the country. The results show the level to which America has tolerated the flaunting of the immigration laws. This example shows one of the reasons why we tolerate that flaunting. Meanwhile in Mexico, they are giving us new reasons to make illegal immigration harder.

Why oh why, can't we make legal immigration easier for the candidates and actually enforce the law?

Watching the Watchers

Bush has announced his new spokesman, and I for one am happy about the choice. Snow is a conservative, and experienced enough to know how to hold his own against the hostile press corp. Whether that is good or bad for the people's knowledge remains to be seen.

Over in Iraq, there is interest in banning armed militias. The U.S. military believes that the country is not descending into civil war. And in the region certain fanatic factions don't want to be associated with other fanatic factions.

Here at home the DOJ wants to slap the secret label on domestic wiretapping programs and close down a lawsuit seeking to prevent it.

Nature One, Machines Nothing

In the epic battle between crocodile and chainsaw, it appears that the croc has claimed a win.

Crime vs. Opportunity

Guess what, when you provide prisoners who some some aptitude with real education and opportunity, it reduces future crime. And I even managed to make it through posting this without saying something snide about criminal-to-car mechanic not being that big of a leap. Well, almost.

The More You Eat, the More You... Nothing

Science continues its battle to increase quality of life with fart free beans. This could have also been under a Headline Hunters banner thanks to "Wind of change for bean eaters."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gene Simmons Can Already Do It

Sometimes science leads to science fiction-like applications. Like routing sensors to one's brain via the tongue. That it has been under development for over thirty years and that there are testimonials about how it feels surprises me. That the Defense Department is the source of funding doesn't surprise me at all.

The Continuing War on Media Consumers

The DMCA may be about to get stronger. A frightening proposal would outlaw all software and hardware that could be used to bypass encryption. This would potentially outlaw everything from the general purpose computer to pencil and paper or even reading glasses, depending on the encryption in question.

And if buying the politicians by some miracle doesn't work, there are armies of sleazy lawyers willing to proceed with sketchy lawsuits intended to force settlement. Even if the accused file-sharers don't own a computer.

Headline Hunting

The story is interesting on its own for the implications to the modern workplace, but it is overshadowed by an application of ignorance.
Headline: "Judge: Web Surfing Worker Can't Be Fired"
In the body of the story: "Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired a worker... after he saw the man playing a game of solitaire..."

Perhaps I'm colored by my perspectives as a computer programmer, but playing solitaire is not surfing the internet!

A Sorry State

Reports say the Mexicans believe immigration to the U.S. is inevitable. A more eloquent comment on the failure of Mexico as a state I have never heard. There is not a clear or easy way out of the current situation.

Potential Cures for the Rare and Not So

I had no idea that a disease could cause rogue skeletal growth. Thankfully, a cure appears possible. And it's one that could lead to wider applications.

Autoimmune conditions reduce the quality of life of quite a few people, and one of the more serious ones is Type 1 diabetes. It looks like we are one step closer to a cure for that as well.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nuclear Conservation

While this article contains some pretty wacky thoughts about how to keep humans out of the rain forests, the total environmental effects of removing humans from the Chernobyl area are interesting in their own right.

Law Enforcement Has Improved Since Rome Fell

To a mafia boss, secrecy can be important. Encrypting your correspondence would seem a simple precaution. And hey, using the same encryption scheme that Julius Caesar used is a good way to stroke the ego. Except that if an encryption scheme has been around for thousands of years, it is a good bet that law enforcement knows how to read it.

Camel, the Other White Milk

This is an interesting little story. Or you could just skip down to the last couple of paragraphs and read about camel milk chocolate.

Watching the Watchers

I'm a bit behind again, but if one were curious one could follow the ongoing administration shakeup. And they aren't the only ones having administration issues. Frankly it's more fun to see what the other guys are up to at the moment. Iran's President is using the best leverage he has against us: oil. Meanwhile, North Korea is accusing us of faking fake currency in order to make them look bad. Apparently we are willing to lose tens of millions a year to do so. Ties nicely into the propaganda campaign. Whether that is their campaign or ours, I leave to the determination of the reader...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Say Klaatu Berata Nikto Before Touching

From the yuck department, a three hundred year old book that seems to be bound in human skin has turned up in England. According to the report, the text is mostly French and it was "not uncommon around the time of the French Revolution for books to be covered in human skin." No word on the books contents. Or if it was written by the mad Arab Abdul AlHazrad?

[Now, I don't normally explain my posts within my posts. Or ever for that matter, but I'll make an exception this time because I stumbled across a link that is just pure Internet. The reference the AlHazrad above refers to H. P. Lovecraft's fictitious author of the equally fictitious book Necronomicon. The headline, refers to what Ash had to say in "Army of Darkness" before picking up a book of that name. (Some time ago, I posted about the phrase itself, which is from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and ties all this stuff together.) I was hoping for a simple Wikipedia entry, or something similar. That I found and used above. I didn't find it directly, however. What I did find is something conspiracy theorists (and conspiracy role playing gamers) will just love. I urge you to consider this link as pure entertainment and fiction, if only to keep the Fnord off my back. ;) And now you know why I don't usually explain these things...]

Watching the Watchers

Today I bring you a yonder 'cross that 'ere ocean edition. The EU is standing firm on cutting off aid to the Palestinians. Well, except for the huge amount they started just before Hamas took office. That's already "in the system."

Speaking of standing firm, French Pres. Chirac has abandoned his attempt at reforming his country's labor protection system. Wait, I'm sorry. Did I say standing firm? I meant folded under to a threat of violence. Insert superior sounding American joke about France here.

Silly Darwin Fish Actually Real

I can't add anything to the commentary from SJG, I'll just link directly to the Daily Illuminator. Creationist and evolution advocates everywhere should take a gander. And it's from CNN, so it must be true, right, RIGHT?!?

Too Late For My Physics Homework

The innovation train continues unhindered! Behold, the whiteboard that can print that which you scribble upon it!

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Common Geeky Health Problems

Sometimes a subject comes in groups. It wasn't long ago that I read about a particular trait commonly associated with computer programmers (the ability to enter hyperfocus/flow/the zone for mental tasks) is considered a symptom of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. Now comes an article about the typical health disorders faced by us geeky types. [Slashdot link due to the server of the original article being crushed by, well, Slashdot.] After reading that, I realize that I could walk into a doctor's office and convince them fairly easily that I have symptoms of both Adult ADD and depression. In fact, I am simply optimized for a set of tasks outside the realm of what is considered "normal."

Protection or Protectionism?

Netflix has been awarded a patent on a computer-implemented approach for renting items to customers. Naturally, they immediately use it to sue their biggest competition.

Here comes the editorial content: in what way is using a computer to communicate with customers an "innovation" worthy of patent protection? "Business model" patents rank right up there on my stupid list with software patents. The only thing they can possibly accomplish, as we are seeing in this case, is to prevent competition in certain markets. And that is not the way to award invention, it's the way to stifle it.

Even Silver Coins Have Two Sides

Restoration work is done on the Gospel of Judas. There are several levels of interesting here. First, we are talking about a document that is nearly two thousand years old. That's a really long time ago, and it is amazing that something so old survived in a restorable state. Second, it is another account of a pretty interesting point in human history. Whether you believe in the deity of Jesus or not, you can't discount the affect his story has had on humanity.

Movin' on Up (North)

I find the immigration debate somewhat amusing. Is it me or should there not be a question whether to enforce the law? If you want the law changed, that is a different story. But for now all the politicians are doing is admitting they have no interest in following the law of the land.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Headline Hunting

I nearly forgot to post the headline I saw on the Weather Channel a couple of days ago. "Catching Hail" (No link because well, it was TV...)

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Happy Accidents and a Secret Squirrel Army

Bob Ross. Video game.

Picking the Wrong Building

Sometimes, luck can be a factor. Imagine yourself as a robber. You just found an open door! That's lucky. Having twenty sumo wrestlers on hand for a citizens' arrest? Not so much.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Watching the Watchers

It appears that officials from the U.S. have some opinions on the type of person they would like to see as the Iraqi leader and out of the Iraqi government. We want to see a "strong, unifying government lead by someone who can bring stability and meet the challenges of the Iraqi people." And hey if the Iraqis can do it, we might be able to some day too!

The government managed to avoid having a case on a prisoner being held without charges heard by the Supreme Court. I agree on the letter of the law in this case not being heard, but it was an obvious dodge on the part Big Bro.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bitter Pill to Swallow

It seems that yet another group has come to the conclusion that the best way to keep your programming job is to be a business person. Frankly, I wonder if it isn't a mixed message to be lamenting about the decline of the technical base in America while allowing massive competition from foreign sources and sending the message that the core skill set is not the thing that will get you a job. It is almost as if how well you speak is more important than how well you program. Or perhaps it's just easier for a business major to access.

The I-Can't-Do-Math Tax

North Carolina's lottery started today. According to the News & Observer players bought six and a half million dollars worth of tickets statewide today. Unfortunately for the purchasers of those tickets, the odds against your ticket paying out are "not, not good at all" [sic].

But hey, as with so many other justifications for poor government behavior, it's for the kids.

Watching the Watchers

An unmanned aerial vehicle coasts through the night sky, it's infrared cameras trained on the large gathering of people below. Sounds like a scene from Iraq. Actually, it was here in North Carolina. Great idea to enhance security and catch criminals, or safety risk and Big Brother? The choice may or may not be yours.

The Good, The Bad, and The Scary

I have been sitting on this link longer than I should have, but any story that uses the word apostasy deserves some thinking about. It's a reminder that the rights we take for granted don't exist everywhere. Such things also have a tendency for me to label the religions that use them as "cults." But what do I know, I'm just a deluded heretic.

It is definitely good to see Ms. Carroll released unharmed and I bet her parents are ready for her to come back to the U.S. Unfortunately, her translator won't have the option or going home. And with the only journalists left in captivity being Iraqi, will the media drop the issue?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Comparisons to Computers are Fun

The Economist has a cute article examining the razor industry to see if it has the equivalent of semiconductors' Moore's Law. Link found on The Right Spin (see the blogroll).

High School is Filled With Monkeys

Social interaction. It's a subject that scientists have great interest in figuring out. If for no other reason than to figure out what went wrong for them in high school. But it turns out that macaque monkeys demonstrate that they take their society into account in what would appear to be reflexive reactions.

This to me sounds very plausible. But that could be that when it comes to business, I'm just a code monkey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Searching for a Distant Star (made of bricks)

No this isn't an astronomy post. It's a Lego brand building bricks post. It's always nice to see two of my favorite childhood things combined in a way that makes me seem slightly more normal by comparison.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Headline Hunting

I would like to apologize in advance for this entry. The subject of the article in question is a serious one. But I just couldn't pass up the headline: "Woman Seriously Assaulted in Car." Because "Woman Hilariously Assaulted in Car" will never happen. Did we really need the adjective?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Real Reporting in Action

The Christian Science Monitor, in spite of its vaguely oxymoronic name, really seems to be the only organization doing real reporting in Iraq. The latest article I have come across is possibly the best writing I have seen in a news story in years. Unfortunately, it would appear that the forces of discord are holding the high ground at the moment. Then again when your enemy has the high ground it makes him a good target for air strikes.

Note that the first link above is from the Christian Science Monitor, the latter is from ABC. One is reporting and analysis. The other is a bad transcript.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unenforced Network Neutrality

The Internet has been quite the boon. Heck, these silly snippets of writing would surely not have happened without it. But it is also more complicated than your average piece of technology. I believe that the only way to ensure true freedom on the Internet is to treat the communications infrastructure as public property, or at least enforce balanced access to it. The industries involved are generally publicly traded, and thus select for getting more money rather that a better environment for their customers. These conditions lead me to the weird place where I actually want some new laws to constrain practices on the Internet. Actually, what I want is for laws to state that the use of the Internet can't be given preferentially. I refer you to the better writers over at ArsTechnica for their latest take.

Build Me an Arky, Arky

Well, sometimes even the good guys get one wrong. Check out ArsTechnica's journal take on a recent incident where Noah's Ark was found atop Mt. Arrarat. Science journalism is fast becoming an oxymoron.

How to Eventually Be Called an Idiot

How about being the Executive Vice President of Innovation at IBM and declaring, "There is no such thing as the next big thing." Sounds to me like someone's declaring their job unnecessary.
Yes, corporations all around declare that innovation is a top priority. But how many of them also declare that keeping costs down, speed, quality, and any number of things are also top priorities. Engineering is all about priorities, and if you don't set them, you tend to get a mess. So basically, what Mr. Donofrio is declaring is that if you are looking for the next big thing, don't look to IBM.

Lessons in Code

Here's a short article that gives a really interesting look into practicality vs. intellectual property and security vs. cooperation. The U.K. isn't interested in the U.S.'s Joint Strike Fighter if they don't also have a copy of the computer code that runs the fighter. There is a huge amount of money at stake, not to mention that the two parties are traditionally very close. I suspect something can be worked out.

Still, the issue is a real one. Car manufacturers already protect the diagnostic codes in their vehicles' on-board systems. This prevents you and me from plugging in our own diagnostic system to see what's what. That allows for the potential of price fixing. Imagine how much more complicated a plane's systems are than consumer car electronics. It is interesting that the U.K. is savvy enough to consider a time when the U.S. isn't as friendly as we are now.

SimVirus

My opinion of biology as a science tends to be pretty low. Not that it is a bad thing, or not to be respected, it just seems that the application end of it is still in its early days. Biology is such an incredibly complex subject that it makes weather seem totally solvable by comparison. Thus news of an atom-by-atom simulation of a virus tends to look like a really promising early step into a new world.

This is also a reason the demand for high end computers to get more powerful won't go away any time soon.

The Faint Rattle of Sword

How much longer will the U.S. be considered the only superpower? It has been a while since I had last seen anything warning of the danger inherent in the world's most populous communist nation. Unfortunately, that has changed. Hopefully the weight of trade will keep the diplomatic lanes open, but so far it seems to have been the corporations of the West making the moral concessions in hopes of tapping the vast market.

Well, they would have been making concessions if they actually had any morals...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Big Boom Heats Planet

Sometimes an alternate theory about the cause of global warming comes along that is odder than others. Naturally it is considered "controversial." Still, it highlights how little we really know about the root causes and interactions within the system that is our planet.