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...