Monday, January 30, 2006

A real plan for Ethanol

Ethanol always seemed like a crazy idea - grow food to make gas? But now, "cellulosic ethanol," made from agricultural waste looks to be an exciting alternative.
Instead of coming exclusively from corn or sugar cane as it has up to now, thanks to biotech breakthroughs, the fuel can be made out of everything from prairie switchgrass and wood chips to corn husks and other agricultural waste. This biomass-derived fuel is known as cellulosic ethanol. Whatever the source, burning ethanol instead of gasoline reduces carbon emissions by more than 80% while eliminating entirely the release of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide. Even the cautious Department of Energy predicts that ethanol could put a 30% dent in America's gasoline consumption by 2030.

We may not have to wait that long. After decades of being merely an additive to gasoline, ethanol suddenly looks to be the stuff of a fuel revolution--and a pipe dream for futurists. An unlikely alliance of venture capitalists, Wall Streeters, automakers, environmentalists, farmers, and, yes, politicians is doing more than just talk about ethanol's potential. They're putting real money into biorefineries, car engines that switch effortlessly between gasoline and biofuels, and R&D to churn out ethanol more cheaply. (By the way, the reason motorists don't know about the five-million-plus ethanol-ready cars and trucks on the road is that until now Detroit never felt the need to tell them. Automakers quietly added the flex-fuel feature to get a break from fuel-economy standards.)


Nam June Paik dies at 74

Friday, January 27, 2006

Taibbi on the republican "reformers"

There are three candidates for the leadership spot, who represent three distinct strategies for dealing with the current crisis. The front-runner is the acting leader, Blunt, who pointedly represents a strategy of doing nothing at all. Blunt's biography is brimming with the kind of pornographic devotion to money and corporate privilege that was a prerequisite for political success in the good old days.

The Missouri congressman three years ago ditched his wife for a Phillip Morris lobbyist named Abigail Perlman, whom he subsequently married; it's been a profitable marriage, as Phillip Morris (now called Altria) has donated more than $270,000 to committees tied to Blunt. Meanwhile, Blunt's son Andrew is also an Altria lobbyist, and Blunt's other son, Matt, is governor of his home state -- elected, conveniently, with the help of funds from Altria. One gets the impression that the whole family spends its holidays sitting in a circle, two-fistedly smoking Chesterfields while handing each other wads of hundred-dollar bills.


Senators actually start to THINK about the broadcast flag

The agenda seemed set. In the face of it, those who objected to the Broadcast Flag--technologists, librarians, and civil libertarians--were forced to spend much of their Congressional time requesting narrow exceptions that might lessen its damage.

Then two things happened...

The first was the appearance of Senator John Sununu, the Republican Junior Senator for New Hampshire. Sununu, an MIT grad, interrupted to ask the question so far unconsidered by his colleagues: Do we need this mandate at all?

He pointed out that "we have a whole history of similar technological innovation that has shown us that the market can respond with its own protection to the needs of the artists." And he concluded with one of the most damning depictions of the ahistorical nature of the flag (clip from Congressional RealVideo) you'll hear on the Hill:

"The suggestion is that if we don't do this, it will stifle creativity. Well...we have now an unprecedented wave of creativity and product and content business models, and new methodologies for distributing this content. The history of government mandates is that it always restricts innovation...why would we think that this one special time, we're going to impose a statutory government mandate on technology, and it will actually encourage innovation?"


The new FBI warning

If the MPAA/RIAA get their way, that is...


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How Lord of the Rings should have ended

I remember thinking about this when the eagles picked up Frodo and Sam out of the lava at the end of Return of the King."

WMV Link

McSweeney's reviews new forms of food

Long page, lots of funny.


Submitted by Jason Kronstat

Doritos have been a lunchtime staple for almost 20 years, and for good reason: They are cheesy and delicious. They remained delicious through several unnecessary attempts to make them "cheesier." Doritos were beloved by most, and of those who did abstain, none did so due to lack of cheese. Still, Frito-Lay pressed on with a relentless drive to make Doritos cheesier, and they have finally overdone it. Decision makers at Frito-Lay suffer from cheese dysmorphic disorder, rendering them unable to recognize the high level of cheesiness in their own product. They live by the cry "Ever cheesier!," numb to the increasing amounts of cheese-flavored powder applied to their chip.

With new Doritos Nacho Cheesier, they are clearly servicing their own pathology and not the cheese-satiated market they pretend to serve.

The new Doritos bag actually apologizes for past lack of cheesiness: The slogan "NOW BETTER TASTING!," more appropriate for a children's medicine than for America's No. 1 cheese tortilla, is plastered across the package. The "Nacho Cheesier!" label is also discomfiting, having the same visceral effect as an emaciated person complaining about fat ankles. The taste of the chip is, unsurprisingly, much, much too cheesy.

Doritos' many changes over the last decade were a cry for help, a cry we ignored so long as they still tasted a little like the chip we fell in love with. Finally, they've gone round the bend, never to return. There is a lesson here. It's not too late for Smartfood, or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or even Cheetos. By intervening now, we can save the just-cheesy-enough snacks from following the same sad and self-destructive path.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Snark-Attack - The USA's 50 most loathsome people

The worst?

1. Pat Robertson

Charges: If Pat Robertson’s local Starbucks caught fire, he would claim that God was punishing them for giving him a caramel latte when he ordered vanilla. Robertson has always been a demonic charlatan with the credibility of Miss Cleo and a lust for Armageddon in his vile, rat-toad heart, but this was really his year to shine. In 2005, Robertson called on God to vacate seats in the Supreme Court (the almighty obliged, killing Rehnquist), advocated assassinating Hugo Chavez, said ‘judicial activists’ were a more serious threat to America than terrorists, called criticism of the war treason, said John Roberts should be thankful for Hurricane Katrina, which he implied was “connected” to Roe v. Wade, attributed Ariel Sharon’s stroke to divine retribution for the Gaza pullout, said “the Antichrist is probably a Jew alive in Israel today,” and implied that God would wipe the residents of Dover, PA off the map for rejecting Creationism. Not to mention raising huge sums of cash from his zombie army, much of which is diverted from his charity operations to his business interests, including African diamond mines. Has long advocated that America simply ignore the Supreme Court. Robertson’s God is an insecure, misogynistic, homicidal fanatic—just like Pat.

Exhibit A: Vehemently opposed to voluntary abortion in America, but okay with forced abortion in China, where his cable investments depend on the good graces of the government.

Sentence: Repeatedly struck by lightning.


Interviews with vampires

Man, these people are some evil motherf**kers.
While Norquist concedes 2005 was a terrible year for the Republicans, he's quick to point out the silver lining: "It was the perfect storm for the Democrats," he admits, before unleashing a gloating grin, "but the wrong year!" Then it's onto the day's spin, washed down with ice tea. Sure, he says, losing two crucial governorships (in Virginia and New Jersey) has ramped up party anxiety, but two out of fifty is no cause for alarm "By the 2006 elections, we'll have gas prices down, people will have forgotten about Katrina, and we'll get the troops coming home from Iraq," suggesting that one of Brazile's prediction is not far off. "Trust me. They're gonna cut and run," said Brazile, "but they'll call it something else." And then for the coup de grace, says Norquist, his baby face breaking into a wide grin: "We'll bring in al-Zarqawi and Osama Bin Ladin."

Why is it that Norquist, and Luntz, and (to some extent) Mehlman can say this crazy shit to reporters and nobody cares? Is Norquist saying that HE somehow has inside information about where Bin Ladin is? It is sad that their supporters are so freaking stupid that these guys can smirk and giggle about their outright manipulations with impunity.


Ivins goes on a rampage!

She takes on the whiny bitches who run the Democratic party, and tears them a new one.
Here's a prize example by someone named Barry Casselman, who writes, "There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008."
Oh come on, people — get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war — from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.
You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to own the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.
Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. That is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.
Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds because they were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds.


Set disruptors on stunned

Sorry, worst pun ever.
Bush wants to create the new criminal of "disruptor" who can be jailed for the crime of "disruptive behavior." A "little-noticed provision" in the latest version of the Patriot Act will empower Secret Service to charge protesters with a new crime of "disrupting major events including political conventions and the Olympics." Secret Service would also be empowered to charge persons with "breaching security" and to charge for "entering a restricted area" which is "where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting." In short, be sure to stay in those wired, fenced containments or free speech zones.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Wolfowitz already fucking up his new job

That was fast!
In recent months, picking up steam in recent weeks, there has been a massive exodus of top talent from the World Bank. According to reports, the senior Ethics Officer at the Bank has departed. Also on the exit roster are the Vice President for East Asia & Pacific, the Chief Legal Counsel, the Bank's top Managing Director, the Director of Institutional Integrity (which monitors internal and external corruption), the Vice President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, and the head of ISG (Information Solutions Group).


Atrios hoists Krugman over the wall

...for our educational benefit.

Just read it, and get a flavor for how truly awful the medicare "drug benefit" really is.


Britain's fortgotten holocausts

Which holocausts, you ask?
In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way". The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices". The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

The nightmares of SarbOx compliance

"Here’s one great example: If you use an Excel spreadsheet to prepare some numbers for financial statements, auditors want you to prove that you have internal controls in place to guarantee that the Excel spreadsheet adds up. You have to give the spreadsheet numbers to someone and have them manually add them up.

It’s hard to explain the frustration, because it’s relentless. Every week they come out with new requirements and new regulations, and your day-to-day work becomes more absurd and mired in minutiae. SarbOx isn’t the only reason I left Outback—there were a lot of things that happened, and I was at a point in my career where it made sense. But my life at Outback had become just dealing day to day with regulatory matters. I’m a business developer by mentality; I’ve always been a business person with a financial background. And suddenly I became a cop and a compliance guy. That’s not my nature. I want to build things, make things better, and I no longer had time to do that."


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"It is ON!"

It's a good old-fashioned cute-off. Justalittleguy versus Cute Overload.

Pandas at dawn! I said "good day!"


"You are not able to do that, yet"

Bush presidency as text adventure game.


Friday, January 13, 2006

New Society of Rockets website up!

Click it up!


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Peter Daou on how to fix the (non-existent) vast left-wing conspiracy

Hang in there - it involves geometry...
How would a functioning triangle have worked?

1. Weeks before the hearings, Dem leaders would have encouraged the netroots to build a buzz about one or two pivotal Alito issues. These issues would then have been hammered repeatedly during the hearings, reiterated by Dem surrogates, by outside groups, and blasted across blogs as the hearings progressed. (Presidential power and the nexus between the NSA scandal and Alito would have been one of those issues.)

2. Weeks before the hearings, Dem leaders would have set a trap for Alito by using his obvious and easily anticipated strong point against him, namely his demeanor. The Bush tactic, as evidenced by John Roberts, is to suck the life out of the proceedings by making everything as boring and pedantic as possible. The media then obediently claims the hearings are proof of the nominee's thoughtfulness and composure. In a functioning triangle, Dems, with the help of the netroots and honest media figures, would have prepared the public by making Alito's demeanor an issue using 'question of the day' framing, as in: "Are you troubled by the gap between Alito's radical views and his matter-of-fact attitude?" or something along those lines.

3. A list of mainstream reporters, GOP shills like Norah O'Donnell and Wolf Blitzer, would have been targeted by a Dem war room: their various Bush-propping tricks (like using polls to 'prove' that Americans are "divided" and don't share liberal activists' alarm over Alito, that the hearings are boring and Alito is a shoe-in, that Democrats are pre-judging Alito but Republicans aren't, etc.) would have been laid out in a detailed memo before the hearings.

4. An army of bloggers and online activists would have been recruited to flood these reporters with complaints whenever those tricks were employed. Screen shots, video clips, caricatures, chain emails, Flash pieces, podcasts, any and all available technology would have been used to individually target reporters who peddled GOP storylines on Alito.

5. Dem leaders and surrogates would have expressed outrage at rightwing media bias and demanded fair coverage. Every media appearance would have included a direct slam at the press for misleading the American public about Alito and Bush's hidden agenda. Again, Alito's "composure" would have been an issue: why is he so low key when his beliefs are so radical?

That's just a small example of how the left's triangle might have worked. Unfortunately for the progressive netroots, the intricate interplay of Republican persuasion tactics, media story-telling, and 21st century information flow seems beyond the ken of most Democratic strategists and leaders. The hellish reality progressive bloggers have acknowledged and internalized is still alien to the party establishment. Dem strategy is still two parts hackneyed sloganeering and one part befuddlement over the stifling of their message.


The Rude Pundit has had enough of pussy-ass Dems

How about this for a Democratic strategy now and in the debate after - act like the general public is fuckin' sick of the Republicans and how they've led the nation. Act like Americans are begging for someone to stop the crazy train we're on. 'Cause if you can't pull the emergency brake, then you need to get thrown onto the tracks. Slam this motherfuckin' Alito for being the weaselly bastard he is. Stop making him into some noble, nice guy - fucker defended a warrantless strip search of a ten year-old - what more do you need? Remember: no one gives a shit beyond CNNMSNBCFox how badly Republicans slam Democrats for being "obstructionists." No one cares when Bush says the same thing. What the public will remember in November is that Democrats stood for something, that they drew a fuckin' line, man.


Guess Who's coming to America

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


About time...
The patent office has come under increasing pressure in recent years from critics who contend that it issues patents without adequate investigation of earlier inventions. As a result, conflicts over published patents have loosed an avalanche of intellectual property litigation.

At a meeting last month with companies and organizations that support open-source software (software that can be distributed and modified freely), including I.B.M., Red Hat, Novell and some universities, officials of the patent office discussed how to give patent examiners access to better information and other ways to issue higher-quality patents.

Two of the initiatives would rely on recently developed Internet technologies. An open patent review program would set up a system on the patent office Web site where visitors could submit search criteria and subscribe to electronic alerts about patent applications in specific areas.

The third initiative is focused on the creation of a patent quality index that would serve as a tool for patent applicants to use in writing their applications. It is based on work done by R. Polk Wagner, an intellectual property expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

"This is a great example of how the patent office can reach out to the community and how they can help us where we have difficulty getting prior art," said John J. Doll, the commissioner for patents.


Flickr frame!

The first LCD picture frame that can read Flickr feeds. Cool!


Who needs a "digital lifestyle" anyway?

Other interpretations of the digital lifestyle have any and all devices and objects communicating with us and with each other. I'm not sure why all these things would need to talk, and frankly, the prospect of my refrigerator telling the supermarket I'm out of orange juice and snagging me a coupon fills me with a profound horror.

But the majority of thinking and engineering that underpins the digital lifestyle is focused on content - the ability to acquire and replay television, movies and music. Much of the meat of Microsoft's announcements at CES concerned deals it has done with DirectTV and MTV.

Let's be honest. As neato as it might be to juggle content, media and devices with wild abandon, who really cares? Do I need "Desperate Housewives" streamed to me in real time? No. Do I need "CSI Miami" available anywhere at any time? No. Will missing Fox News cause me mental anguish and make me dangerously uninformed? No.

The digital lifestyle is a marketing ploy. Nothing more, nothing less. It is defined by services that aren't needed, cost too much, and rely on technologies that are naïve, over-architected and underdeveloped.


Remember your first time?

The first time you saw Goatse?


Monday, January 09, 2006

Let's level up tonight!

Thanks, Dano!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Super Mario 64 time attack

Not sure what "tool-assisted" means, but this is insane.


Letterman tears into OReilly

"I get the feeling that 60% of what you say is crap."


Monday, January 02, 2006

Middle Eastern paranoia is starting to make more sense

Thanks to the dirty dealings of shady outfits like the Lincoln Group.


Trying out SuprGlu

SuprGlu aggregates the RSS feeds of your favorite Web 2.0 data sources to make a meta-blog, of sorts. For example, my page aggregates this blog and my Flickr photos.

Link to my SuprGlu page
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