Friday, September 29, 2006

Posted without comment

Oh. My. God.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Amazing computer animation of cellular processes

I'd prefer a little narration to the silly music, but the animation is beautiful...


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

HDTV comes with a big pile of DRM baggage

The new HD technologies include anti-user nasties like "renewability" -- the ability to remotely disable some or all of the device's features without your permission. If someone, somewhere, figures out how to use your DVD burner to make copies of Hollywood movies, they can switch off *everyone's* burner, punishing a limitless number of innocents to get at a few guilty parties.

The HD DRM systems also include gems like "selectable output control" -- wherein? some programs will refuse to be played on some devices. As you flip up and down the dial, parts of your home theater will go dark. Creepier still is "authorized domain" -- the ability to flag content so that it can only be played within a "household," where the studios get to define what is and isn't a valid living arrangement.


Monday, September 25, 2006

I guess this is what passes for optimism these days...

So was democracy a failed experiment? Should we just let these guys run the country as long as they let us eat? Clearly, they’re not scared of us or what we might be saying about them. In fact, their best argument that we haven’t descended into fascism is the fact that we’re allowed to distribute columns like this one. How could we be living in a totalitarian propaganda state if there are articles pronouncing the same? Because fascism looks different every time around. 1930’s fascism failed because it was too obviously repressive. Today’s fascism works because it has turned the mediaspace into a house of mirrors where nothing is true and everything is permissible. The fact that there are plenty of blogs and even major books saying what’s happening and still it doesn’t matter is proof that it has worked.

But there is hope. It’s not just the radicals and militias who are alarmed, but mainstream congresspeople and government wonks. I, myself, have been approached by two separate government intelligence agencies and three members of congress (of both parties) for help understanding what they already deem to be actionable offenses against the American people by some of our leaders. They are disturbed by the disinformation campaign leading up to the Gulf War, voter fraud, and the way Americans have been frightened into supporting the curtailment of civil rights.

Surprisingly, most of my conversations with these patriotic people involve two main concerns. First, they have been ostracized by their peers for their views. This has created some urgency, for they fear they will not get enough party support for re-election if they don’t succeed in their efforts in the next few months. Second, and more troublingly, they are afraid to disillusion America’s youth. Isn’t there a way to fix this problem, they wonder, without raising an entire generation of Americans in environment of acknowledged voter nullification? And what of our reputation in the world? Which is more damaging to democracy: voter fraud, or the public awareness of voter fraud?

To this, we simply must conclude that the reality of voter fraud is more dangerous than any associated disillusionment. To worry about the impact on public consciousness is to get mired in the logic of public relations – and that’s what got us into this mess to begin with.

It’s time to get real, and either fight (through the courts, if possible) to reinstate the rule of law as established by the Constitution, or accept that Enlightenment-era democracy simply doesn’t work and move into a new phase of government by decree or market forces or whatever it is that comes next.

In any case, it serves no one to have a “pretend democracy” that’s actually something else. I’m going to stop denying what’s going on here, and use what influence I have with lawmakers, government workers, and activists to get them to do the same. Instead of trying to feel better about all this, I’m going to allow myself and everyone around me to feel worse.

Indeed, the bad news is the good news. Total disillusionment, though momentarily painful, is utterly liberating and probably required. Acceptance isn’t acquiescence at all; it’s the first step towards reconnecting with a reality that can and must be changed. If we’re going to get back on the horse, we’ve got to acknowledge that we’ve fallen off.


Friday, September 22, 2006

If you only read one argument against "CID practices," let it be this one

Just read it:


Are we really going to do this?

"I think the plan's been picked: bomb the nuclear sites in Iran," says Gardiner. "It's a terrible idea, it's against US law and it's against international law, but I think they've decided to do it." Gardiner says that while the United States has the capability to hit those sites with its cruise missiles, "the Iranians have many more options than we do: They can activate Hezbollah; they can organize riots all over the Islamic world, including Pakistan, which could bring down the Musharraf government, putting nuclear weapons into terrorist hands; they can encourage the Shia militias in Iraq to attack US troops; they can blow up oil pipelines and shut the Persian Gulf." Most of the major oil-producing states in the Middle East have substantial Shiite populations, which has long been a concern of their own Sunni leaders and of Washington policy-makers, given the sometimes close connection of Shiite populations to Iran's religious rulers.

Please no...


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Man I hope this is true

When I get up everyday at 5:30am to start working, it is still dark out. I read through the clips and digest the daily does of ever-more raw hatred coming from our nation's capital and directed at the majority of Americans. Then I try to have some breakfast without feeling totally demoralized. But as I look out on the darkness outside, I always remind myself of the famous parable: "It is always darkest before the dawn." Win or lose, November 7th isn't going to change everything. But win or lose, it's clear that things are already changing. The rising anger coming from the halls of power are a reflection of the establishment's deep understanding that change is coming. The screams from the angry pundits and the desperate politicians and the paying-to-play lobbyists are like the early warning sirens at a beach. And just over the horizon, they see that tidal wave coming.


WMP11 deletes more of your rights privileges

After three days, it kills your recordings for you, how thoughtful of them. Going away for a week? Tough, your rights are inconvenient to their profits, so they have to go. "Recorded TV shows that are protected with media usage rights, such as some TV content recorded on premium channels, will not play back after 3 days when Windows Media Player 11 Beta 2 for Windows XP is installed on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. No known workaround to resolve this issue exists at this time."


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Plan B in rural America

Friday night the condom broke. But I didn't panic, I thought to myself, with a huge sigh of relief, "Wow, thank goodness it's over the counter now!" and I fell asleep (since there are absolutely NO 24 hour pharmacies within 100 miles of me). Saturday morning I awoke and phoned the pharmacy. I asked them about EC and was told that they won't be stocking it until January 1st, until then it was still by prescription only.

Soooo, I phoned my doctors office which informed me that the office was closed and that I had to call the local hospital and have her paged in order to reach her on the weekend. So I called her and had them page her. A little while later she called back and I answered the phone immediately. She sounded tired and really grumpy; I apologized for having to page her for a thing like this and then asked her if I could get a prescription for EC. She explained that I needed to go to the Emergency Room to get it.

My heart fell, the ER has a 100$ co-pay attached to it. "Well," I thought to myself, "that's still better than the price of a kid" so I called the Emergency Room to verify the information and to ask what their procedures were. When I called the hospital they transferred me to the ER. I asked the nurse what the procedure was for EC and what would be the best time to come down there (I didn't want to wind up behind 3 critical people and end up waiting for 12 hours). The nurse responded in a small, questioning voice, "EC?" and so I explained. "Yes, Emergency Contraception. Plan B. You know, right?"

"Oh" she replies. "Hold on just a sec" and she puts me on hold.

A few moments later another nurse answers the phone. "Can I help you" he says.

"Yes," I reply "My name is BB and I was told that I need to come here to get a scrip for Plan B."

"Oh," he says, "Can you hang on a second?"

"Sure" I reply, becoming decidedly nervous.

He puts me on hold and I sit on the edge of the bed frowning and fiddling with a pen. I wait on hold for 15 minutes before he finally comes back on.

"Have you talked to your doctor?" he asks.

"Yes, I talked to her this morning and she told me to go to the ER" I reply.

"Oh, so she won't prescribe it for you?" he asks.

This possibility hadn't occurred to me. I just assumed that the ER was standard procedure, "Hmmm" I say, "Well, I guess not. It's not just standard procedure to go to the ER?"

"No, not really. We don't really have this happen much." He replies and then he says, "Well I called the pharmacy to ask them because I had heard that it was going over the counter. They told me that they won't sell it til the first of the year" I finished the sentence with him and explained that I had called the pharmacy first thing this morning and was told the very same thing.

"Well see," he begins, his voice dropping a little, "the problem is that you have to meet the doctor’s criteria before he'll dispense it to you."

"Criteria?" I question.

"Well," the nurse sounds decidedly nervous as though what he really wanted to do was hang up the phone completely, "Yes, his criteria. I mean...ummm...well, are you ok? Is there any, ummm....trauma?" he asks me.

My face changes expression and I hurry to explain, "No, no" I said, "No. I haven't been raped. This was consensual sex."

"Oh..." he trails off.

I wait expectantly.

"Well, ummm....*clears throat*...So you haven't been raped?" he asks again.

"No. I have not been raped. The condom broke". I state, becoming very frustrated at this point and wondering what the hell is going on.

"Ok, well ummm....Are you married?" he mumbles the words so low I can barely hear them.

Suddenly I get this image of the poor nurse standing at the hospital reading from a cue card that was given to him by a doctor.

"No." I state plainly. "I am not married. I've been in a relationship for several years and I have three children, I don't want a fourth." I respond tersely.

"Oh, I see." He says and then he hurries on, "Well, see. *I* understand. I want you to know that I understand what you're saying. But see, the problem is that we have 4 doctors here right now but only one of them ever writes EC prescriptions. But see, the thing is that he'll interview you and see if you meet his criteria. Now, I called the pharmacy but I also talked to him and well....*clears throat* can come down and try to get it. You know, if you meet his criteria he'll give you a prescription, I mean, there's really no harm in trying." the nurse trails off, his voice falters as I realize what I'm being told.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hopefully this signals a shift

In a first for mainstream pop music, Yahoo! will sell Jesse McCartney's new album "Right Where You Want Me," from Disney-owned Hollywood Records, in the unprotected MP3 format.

That means consumers will be able to play it on any digital music device, including Apple's iPod. MP3 files are the only type that will play on an iPod besides those downloaded from iTunes.

But because they have no copy protection, MP3 files can be easily traded on peer-to-peer networks, emailed to friends or burned onto an endless number of CDs.

"We're trying to be realistic," said Ken Bunt, senior VP of marketing at Hollywood Records. "Jesse's single is already online and we haven't put it out. Piracy happens regardless of what we do. So we're going to see how Jesse's album goes (as an MP3) and then decide on others going forward."


Monday, September 18, 2006

Gore's new "big idea:"

Replace the payroll tax with a tax on CO2/carbon Sounds like a winner to me!
The overall level of taxation would remain exactly the same. It would be, in other words, a revenue neutral tax swap. But, instead of discouraging businesses from hiring more employees, it would discourage business from producing more pollution.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

What Digby said...

In response to this bit of insanity:
The world will not tolerate the use of nuclear weapons by George W. Bush (or anyone else for that matter, but it's Bush who is wagging the nuclear cock most often these days, and yes, Beck is reading from a White House script). The consequences for this country will not be nuclear retaliation, of course, not in the short term at least. There are plenty of other ways to attack America. And if Bush does drop even one itty bitty "tactical" nuke, this country will be at war. For real. Not with some neocon delusion, but with nearly everyone on the planet. Trust me on this: it won't be pretty.

Adults are needed to tell Bush and Rove to zip it. Fast. They are in way over their heads. The White House isn't a frat house and nuclear saber-rattling is no joke. This is one New Product that should be pulled from the market before it's ever released.


I'm just asking...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ambien revives the brain-dead?

This is crazy!
The remarkable story of this pill and its active ingredient, zolpidem, begins in 1994 when Louis Viljoen, a sporty 24-year-old switchboard operator, was hit by a truck while riding his bike in Springs, a small town 30 minutes' drive east of Johannesburg. He suffered severe brain injuries that left him in a deep coma. He was treated in various hospitals before being settled in the Ikaya Tinivorster rehabilitation centre nearby. Doctors expected him to die and told his mother, Sienie Engelbrecht, that he would never regain consciousness. "His eyes were open but there was nothing there," says Sienie, a sales rep. "I visited him every day for five years and we would speak to him but there was no recognition, no communication, nothing."

The hospital ward sister, Lucy Hughes, was periodically concerned that involuntary spasms in Louis's left arm, that resulted in him tearing at his mattress, might be a sign that deep inside he might be uncomfortable. In 1999, five years after Louis's accident, she suggested to Sienie that the family's GP, Dr Wally Nel, be asked to prescribe a sedative. Nel prescribed Stilnox, the brand name in South Africa for zolpidem. "I crushed it up and gave it to him in a bottle with a soft drink," Sienie recalls. "He couldn't swallow properly then, but I helped him and sat at his bedside. After about 25 minutes, I heard him making a sound like 'mmm'. He hadn't made a sound for five years.

"Then he turned his head in my direction. I said, 'Louis, can you hear me?' And he said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Say hello, Louis', and he said, 'Hello, mummy.' I couldn't believe it. I just cried and cried."


Consumer electronics kill childhood

I'm not sure if I'm ready to call myself a child-killer, but this is interesting.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Too good to be true?

Or so crazy it just might work?
FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida county has grand plans to ditch its dump, generate electricity and help build roads — all by vaporizing garbage at temperatures hotter than the sun.

The $425 million facility expected to be built in St. Lucie County will use lightning-like plasma arcs to turn trash into gas and rock-like material. It will be the first such plant in the nation operating on such a massive scale and the largest in the world.

Supporters say the process is cleaner than traditional trash incineration, though skeptics question whether the technology can meet the lofty expectations.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Braniff takes you to THE FUTURE

Too bad their real future was bankruptcy.

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