Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Potentially Dangerous Pattern

It seems Diebold (maker of sketchy electronic voting systems) doesn't like having its flaws exposed. So they are trying to get the whistle-blower that helped the government catch them using unqualified systems marked as a criminal. This is a blatant scare tactic that, according to an opinion in the article, rarely works. But it is sleazy. And such behavior should be noted by citizens of NC, since we use Diebold machines as well.

Lost Civilization, Found

Interesting archaeology find, the remains of a house buried in the Tambora volcanic eruption in 1815. I've always found volcanoes fascinating, and Tambora was a big one.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Tidbit on Nuclear Waste Storage

Yeah, it's hard to come up with a catchy title to go with this article about storing nuclear waste on a reservation where nobody wants to live. Clever end to the URL though. This seemed appropriate after my mention of the subject yesterday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dwindling Orbiters

NASA is planning to cannibalize the oldest shuttle orbiter, Atlantis, for parts to keep the other two orbiters flying for the last two years of their service (2008-10). I have a strange feeling that the replacement won't be ready by the time they reach the end of life. Having worked on legacy hardware, I have seen second-hand the nightmares that can be caused trying to find parts for what in the computer age is ancient hardware. And with the overhaul sidelining it anyway, perhaps parts-doner is a fitting end to a long serving bird.

I do find myself wondering at what point we will admit that the "International Space Station" isn't going to be finished.

Update on the Content Wars

The BBC is about to get a full dose of the so-called content owners' panic. It seems that some "important" copyrights are going to run out in 2013. The BBC does a pretty good analysis of the issues, and once again the recording associations come out looking like greedy punks looking to legislate their profits instead of competing in the real business environment.

New-cue-lear Power

Bush is finally talking about using nuclear power. It won't really get us out of using foreign oil until cars run on something different, but that doesn't make it a bad idea.

Key points of interest include the possibility of restarting the long banned recycling of nuclear fuel. This is a big deal, and one that I'm sure every power company running a nuclear plant would love to see happen since they are still waiting for the national repository for spent fuel. It's also as good a way as has been proposed to get control of the potentially militarizable waste products.

We will have to wait and see if the initiatives actually get funding. And of course, the Democrats continue to ridicule every proposal put forward without actually coming up with alternatives.

Late breaking news from Physics Today would seem to confirm that the trend toward nuclear power is going to be a real one.

When the News is Broken, They Fix It

Jon Stewart is hosting the oscars. Good for him, I think he's a pretty funny guy. I'm radically different from him in my opinions of politics, but that doesn't make the jokes any less funny. The bit that caught my eye from the article was the Daily Show being broadcast on CNN International outside the U.S. That's right up there with The Onion being cited as a news source.

Fear and Loathing

Sometimes the enemy makes a good point. Iran's President thinks that the U.S. push for democracy in the mid-east is backfiring. He still uses Israel as the ultimate boogy man, but what he says is, on the surface, apparently true. Except that he may be forgetting, if you will pardon the analogy, when the cockroaches aren't hiding in the walls they are much easier to squish.

On the homefront, there is a brewing issue over port security that is almost certainly politicians blowing things out of proportion.

All's Not Quiet on the Iraq Front

Iraq has been heavily in the news still (as well it should be). I expect it to only get more play as the elections approach. The Secretary of Defense thinks we are falling behind on the propaganda front. Um, duh. You can't even convince your own country up to date and behind you, and you want to turn the enemy?

In what would seem a good example of that, a senior cleric in the Church of England apparently is reminded of Animal Farm when he thinks about the Guantanamo Bay detention area. (Really, Animal Farm? 1984 sure, but Animal Farm?)

On the ground, people are still struggling to get basic infrastructure back online. If nothing else, it is now clear that the U.S. leadership clearly underestimated the toll that terrorist-style warfare would take on the rebuilding effort.

At least capatalism is still a unifying principle for people.

Religious Violence

Nigeria shows us that love isn't the only voice in Christianity by demonstrating that Christian fanatics are as capable of violence as there Islamic bretheren. Or perhaps the violence was simply regional revenge that used religion as a convenient excuse.

For a couple of mediocre political cartoons, they sure kicked over the anthill.

What Happens When I Don't Pay Attention for a Weekend

Yeah. I'm behind. Suddenly all sorts of interesting things are happening...

First on this list is the beginning of the fallout from Hamas becoming the elected voice of Palestine. Hamas rejects negotiations with Israel. Israel imposes sanctions on the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. threatens the same.

This President Bush was the first to openly push for a "two state" solution to the Israel/Palestine problem, but it looks like things are breaking down quickly. Will the Palestinian Authority become increasingly militant, or will it simply be more of the same from a group that never seemed to negotiate in good faith. On the other side, will Israel increase their belligerent militarism or allow settlers to return to the "occupied territories?" In either case, I have some reason to be thankful I live in a country far away from either.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Headline Hunting

The headline: "Pakistan Cartoon Violence Spreads"
The way the story doesn't start: The streets of Pakistan were punctuated by falling anvils and pianos today. Reports of giant mallets being used in the mountains remain unsubstantiated at this time.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fusion: Coming Soon to an Airport Near You?

Well, they aren't using it to generate power (yet), but it looks like cold fusion might be a reality after all. Portable radiation generators are nifty and all, but I still want to see some power generation!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Could This Be a Real Majority View

Mohammad Khatami says the Islamic world is ready for a change. Is this the true voice of the majority of people in those regions? Did the quiet majority suddenly get a public voice? I sure hope so. Of course, Khatami is the former leader of Iraq...

When Unlimited Isn't

Netflix is a service I have used myself. Since I was recovering from surgery at the time, I got to experience throttling in action. Whatever consumers think of it, this would appear to be a necessary practice. Shipping movies costs money, and if you ship enough to one person, then said person's subscription fee essentially vanishes. I don't really begrudge Netflix their business model. They still have a better selection than my local video store. Then again, I'm not an active subscriber at the moment either.

Are You My Mummy?

Looks like the Valley of Kings still has some kings left. As Indiana Jones taught us, sometimes things aren't where we are looking...

Have Head, Will Travel

Having a voodoo talisman (fetish?) which includes a human head isn't the best possible way to get the customs folks to like you. I actually don't know if Voodoo/Vodun is a recognized religion in the U.S.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Continuing Cartoon Conflagration

I sometimes forget that everywhere isn't like America. Freedom of the press is fundamental to what this country is, and I take it as a sine qua non of free society. Not all societies are free. And due to some cartoons, some think our freedom should be stifled to protect their pride.

Tough. Deal. And please, come up with a better way of expressing your displeasure than killing people. If you don't like what a paper publishes, you don't buy the paper. That isn't a panacea, but it will get you a better reputation around the world.

And maybe, just maybe, if you don't let the crazy people be your spokesmen, you won't be the subject of political cartoons. Even us Protestants are still working on that one.

I'll Take Three ESPNs, Hold the MTV

ArsTechnica reports on some interesting movement by the FCC on cable-by-the-channel offerings. I freely admit to watching too much TV, but I'm nowhere near watching all the networks available. And many of these so-called networks barely have enough programming to justify their existance. (This applies to any network that runs any of the Star Trek shows for more than three hours a day.)

Watching the Watchers

Gibson's Neuromancer world is getting closer it seems, as the government looks to increase its information sifting. And all of the wiretapping is putting a strain on the ones who have to implement it.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

How Fast is Fast Enough?

No this isn't a post about computers (for which the answer is 'just a little faster, please'). It's about fast food. The idea of outsourcing the voice on the other end of the drive through speaker is just absurd.

Also, I had no idea that Dave Thomas, Wendy's founder, had a daughter named Pam.

Watching the Watchers

Apparently there is some sort of football game tonight...

In other news, the U.S. military is reviewing itself and coming up with new priorities. The row over political cartoons is getting nastier. The movement to retaliate against the Supreme Court's eminent domain ruling is not going anywhere anymore, though it appears that cooler heads may have gotten a better solution. And finally, another member of "the new media" gets his props from the mainstreamers.

One Less Character in the World

On a sad note, Al Lewis has passed. He is best known for his role as Grandpa Munster, but he had a colorful and apparently full life long after his signature role was over.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

The End of an Era STOP

Western Union is no longer sending telegrams. I had forgotten that they were, and I have no idea how one would have gone about sending one. It's fun to look back on where communications technology has been. What will be e-mail's replacement?

Pure Distilled Irony

Though this is not a laughing matter, I just couldn't help chuckling. Political cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad evoke death threats from militants. We in the "West" are well aware that religious fanatics tend not to have a sense of humor (or proportion), but this is just too ironic. Yes, some clerics believe that any depiction of their prophet counts as idolatry. Many Christians feel the same way about crucifixes and similar items, but I'm reasonably sure no other Christian faction wants to kill all the Catholics because of it. If so, they haven't made the news yet...

The militants are simply confirming a rather unflattering stereotype about themselves.