December 29, 2004

Cars for tall people

As a 2m tall person, the topic of cars for people of my height comes up on occasion. I drive a 1998 Volvo wagon, but have been successful driving cars as small as a Fiat Uno and a Ford Ka (in Europe and Argentina respectively). And been totally unable to drive a Ford Tempo (sun visor blocking forward view) and had a lot of trouble with a Honda Civic (1st and 2nd gear being inside of my right leg). I'll probably add a bit to this later, but there is some dimensional information available at Edmunds and elsewhere.

2003 Top 10 list by dimensions.

2004 Top 10 list with some comments.

Some headroom data.

Notable used cars would include Saabs, Volvos, BMWs, and Mercedes in general, and the VW Passat, Toyota Avalon & Cressida (going way back), Nissan Maxima, and Mitsubishi Diamante.

Posted by duver001 at 6:39 PM

A creative commons for the sciences

If it catches on, it would be a major step in freeing academic science from the for-profit journals. In physics, xxx at Los Alamos has essentially freed the preprint "industry" for a decade. Other fields?

Posted by duver001 at 11:45 AM

Sri Lanka landmine update

From Tim Horner in Sri Lanka:

Dear Mike et al
The situation in Sri Lanka is indeed quite bad. The current death toll here from the half a dozen or so tidal surges on Sunday morning, stands at over 13,000 and will no doubt rise. However, the relief effort is surprisingly well coordinated and efficient (I say surprisingly because I did a Masters at Cranfield in Disaster Management and we studied the confusion that generally follows the onset of a rapid disaster).

The Government structures have taken charge and UNOCHA has sent 6 personnel in to act as a coordination centre for international aid in support of the Government. The UN and NGO's are working as one, focused on the clear job in hand. The initial local response has been excellent so far with political problems
put aside, UNHCR / ICRC type support for the displaced was in the field hours after the onset.

One area of interest for our forum to learn from is the media stories about
minefields being lifted and swept across the landscape by the wave action.
This has put constraints on the response agencies because people are
concerned about going into various areas for the fear of "displaced minefields".
A Sri Lankan Brigadier told me that minefields around a military base on the
beach in Batticaloa (SE Sri Lanka) have been washed away, but he hasn't seen
them and his information is third or fourth hand. I have a team here in Jaffna (Northern Sri Lanka) looking for specific cases of mine or UXO movement. After 3 days of focused investigation we have found only 2 Type 72s laying among the debris of a village. We have found a few UXO and some lost munitions but no mines other than those 2 T72s where we weren't expecting them. The media is portraying displaced mines as a significant obstacle to relief and rescue workers. They aren't.

There may be isolated cases of mines and certainly ammunition moved from
army OP's on the beaches (the army lost many soldiers who were manning beach bunkers and sentry points). But I can verify the fact that significant mine
migration in Jaffna due to Tsunami's is more media rhetoric than reality.

One last thing, although the death toll is so high, to my knowledge there were no deaths or injuries to any of the mine action expats in Sri Lanka. The local staff will be a different matter with many living in isolated villages but we won't have a clear picture until the dust settles.

Best regards
Tim
PS for regularly updated official information you can access the National Disaster Management center website www.lk.undp.org/ndmc.

Posted by duver001 at 11:41 AM

December 28, 2004

RIP Susan Sontag

All of today's news is bad. Back to playing with the kids...

Posted by duver001 at 2:20 PM

More problems in Sri Lanka

From The Scotsman

Land Mines Add to Sri Lanka's Misery

Tidal waves that hammered Sri Lanka have uprooted land mines that threaten to kill or maim survivors trying to return home while endangering relief workers, a Unicef official said today.

The tsunami have scattered mines and destroyed warning signs, said Ted Chaiban, the aid agency’s Sri Lanka chief.

“Land mines are posing a new risk to Sri Lankans, and to relief efforts,” he said. “Mines were floated by the floods and washed out of known mine fields, so now we don’t know where they are and the warning signs ... have been swept away or destroyed.”

The greatest danger will come when survivors begin to return to their homes, not knowing where the mines are, Chaiban said.

More than 1.5 million mines have been planted across Sri Lanka by the army and Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland since 1983.

Posted by duver001 at 10:34 AM

I'm famous, sort of, well, not really

UMN news or link directly to the article.

Posted by duver001 at 10:25 AM

December 27, 2004

December 26, 2004

Exam answers...

In an English Lit class, in a physics class I'd be much more worried...

Grading the final exams today, two sentences (from different people's
exams, but answering the same question) stuck out to me:

In the story, the main character mentions how his girlfriend's Pap smear
results were "not cheery." The AIDS virus and STDs were rampant in the
80s, so it could be a reference to that. [I sent her a link to a Pap smear
info website.]

Apparently people pondered love in the 80s; there weren't big wars or
dramatic political or economic happenings. [Um. It felt at the time like
things were happening....]

I feel old.

But then I get sentences like these to cheer me up (about John Muir's story
of a dog. Both story and dog are named Stickeen):
If Stickeen was a man, he could be called a man’s man, Ernest Hemingway’s
in a previous life maybe. If Stickeen was a woman she would be beautiful
and wild, like Laura Croft from the TombRaider movies.

Posted by duver001 at 2:34 PM

Disaster video

Here.

Posted by duver001 at 10:51 AM

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas from the Kentucky & Tennessee DOTs

Drove down to my folks' place (northern Georgia) on the 23rd and 24th of December. Had a fun time on I-24 in KY and TN as neither state bothered to plow the highway. They just had the national guard out rescuing folks instead. Of course it would have been okay if it wasn't for the southern drivers who couldn't stay on the road... Oh well.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by duver001 at 10:12 AM

December 22, 2004

Working for free at Apple

One of the more interesting geek stories that I've heard recently. Laid off, but comes to work and develops new program which goes on to be incorporated into every copy of the OS. Very weird. Very geeky.

Posted by duver001 at 3:30 PM

December 21, 2004

If you propose calendar reform

Thank you for submitting your idea for calendar reform. However, we must reject it for the following reasons:

* ( ) It changes the seven day week or adds days outside the week.
* ( ) It has a day or days that are not in a month causing problems for writing dates, etc.
* (X) It has an unusual number of months in all or some years making it hard to divide a year into quarters.
* (X) One or more months have significantly more or fewer days than the others causing problems for monthly fees, etc.
* (X) The number of days in a year varies greatly from some years to others.
* (X) Some months are only in certain years and therefore the number of months in a year varies from year to year.
* (X) The number of days between a date in one year and the next varies form year to year.
* (X) It makes people keep clock time that does match the daytime, i.e. sunrise at midnight or noon.

Posted by duver001 at 4:27 PM

Self-heating lattes on their way

With Wolfgang Puck's name on them. Since he's already broken into the frozen pizza market, what sensible choice for expansion remains? Let me predict the failure of this product, mostly because it's 10oz in size! Starbuck's smallest is 12oz and large is 20oz (Venti means twenty ounces in Italian). Too small. Too dainty. We're Americans! 10oz is about right for our four shots of espresso, not for our milk drinks.

Posted by duver001 at 12:31 PM

December 20, 2004

But our main lesson for the day is to use your truffles before they go bad!

$52k, locked in a safe, rotted, now returned to the Earth with the hope of spawning more next year.

Posted by duver001 at 7:21 PM

The Love Shack!

Burned down! Down, down, down...

Posted by duver001 at 7:08 PM

Time Man of the Year

1938 — Adolph Hitler
1942 — Joseph Stalin
1972 — Kissinger and Nixon (double evil, but the magazine costs the same!)
1979 — Ayatollah Khomeini
1995 — Newt Gringrich
2004 — Dubya

Posted by duver001 at 7:04 PM

December 19, 2004

Mine detection

Using rats! These are really good folks, doing a great job, but the pictures definitely have some humor value.

Posted by duver001 at 9:08 PM

December 17, 2004

Bad science awards, or homeopathic AIDS medicines to Botswana!

Well, that particular example is closer to murder than to just bad science, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Check it out in the Guardian.

Posted by duver001 at 12:08 AM

December 16, 2004

I finally understand it!!!

The simple logic of Dubya-dum:

1. The terrorists hate us because we have freedom
2. Let's get rid of our freedoms
3. The terrorists will leave us alone.

It's all so simple, a child could have come up with it!

Posted by duver001 at 2:20 PM

A US Caterham experience

While Caterham Super 7s are "normal" cars in the UK, purchasable and registerable in the same way as any other automobile, they're in a bit more complicated of a state in the States. Here we have state-to-state variations in the registration laws and how kit cars are treated. Also a patchwork of emission laws. Heck, driver licensing, voter registration, etc.

The full story of purchasing and registering a Caterham a few years ago (2000) in North Carolina. Interestingly, it was his second Lotus 7 derivative. And things have gotten somewhat easier since then, Caterham USA has been launched and I've even spotted a seven in Minneapolis (in the summer!).

Anyway, the SV model has given hope to 6'6" shoe size 13 people everywhere that they too might someday own a seven.

Posted by duver001 at 12:01 PM

CREAM balloon experiment is up, at 128kfeet over Antarctica

This is one of my experiments, you can see some near-real-time monitoring data and maps at NSBF's page. NSBF is the National Scientific Ballooning Facility, a little tiny branch of NASA which launches high altitude balloons for flights of up to 20ish days carrying up to two tons of science. CREAM is a cosmic-ray experiment aiming to look at the chemical composition of cosmic rays at the knee of the all-particle spectrum. Ask if you seriously want to know more...

Posted by duver001 at 11:49 AM

December 15, 2004

What is humor?

Is it a posed picture claiming to be a Saudi beauty contest? The 2008 Genocides scheduled? Or does it have to be real, like 1999's Christmas Lost Salamander? Or real and connected to subjects we find, for cultural reasons, to be touchy? Well, if this were a treatise on humor, perhaps Aristotle's lost volume (remember The Name of the Rose?), or Nietzsche's rants after the syphillis crossed the blood-brain barrier, we could find the Truth. Here instead, you'd have to put up with my version of the dog, brick, cigar, airplane, and house construction shaggy-dog story. Take one. Take two. Annie Dillard's version. Let the love flow like honey...

Posted by duver001 at 6:21 PM

A very-special edition iPod for the holidays?

Special editions for all tastes.

Posted by duver001 at 5:55 PM

Holiday gift guide

  • Caffeinated soap? You absord the caffeine through the skin while you lather up.
  • From Japan, the boyfriend arm pillow. Snuggle up with a real, authentic, pillow that looks like an arm. Not to be confused with the nipple scarves which are so 2002.
  • In a similar, Japanese vein, here's the girlfriend lap pillow. Wearing a tight, red (or black) removable miniskirt. We're heading into PG-13 territory here... More news coverage indicates that it's about $90, comes with both red and black skirts, and is selling well!
  • As always, the kindly folks at National Lampoon have provided a safe toy shopping guide for 2004. Highly recommended as an alternative to common sense.
  • An oldie, but a goodie, the vibrating Harry Potter broomstick.
  • Sushi air fresheners make GREAT stocking stuffers!
  • Canned animals might be even worse...
  • The More DVD from the Despair Folks. You can also watch the six minutes of joy online clicking from that link.
  • Monthly Doos 2005: The dog poop calendar.
  • A blog listing of the worst gifts a bunch of folks had ever gotten.

    Posted by duver001 at 12:06 AM
  • Nancy, Mr. T, Frogs, Nixon, and Elvis



    Somehow it all fits together. Too well. Also check out the best 404 page I've seen in a while.

    Posted by duver001 at 12:03 AM

    December 14, 2004

    Is it a continuing crisis, or just the same old news, repackaged for a new day? I may never know, but here are some little tidbits for you, hot off of the wire services, preselected for your viewing pleasure.

    Bad sex writing award for Tom Wolfe. "But the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns -- oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest -- no, the hand was cupping her entire right -- Now!" Ouch!!!

    The old "nude photo" trick.

    Man bites dog. No, really!

    Posted by duver001 at 7:08 PM

    Ooops! Minnesota electoral votes: 9 Kerry, 1 Edwards

    Probably a mistake... First faithless elector in Minnesota history. Certainly an auspicious day.

    Posted by duver001 at 12:32 PM

    December 12, 2004

    Ten year old arrested, cuffed, and suspended for having scissors...

    Not to mention the almost certainly illegal search that started the whole business. When scissors are outlawed...

    Update: Reduced to a two day suspension! No word on the lawsuits yet.

    Posted by duver001 at 9:39 PM

    Thought for the day

    The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. - Anatole France.

    Posted by duver001 at 9:27 PM

    Dioxin vs. Sushi

    Yushchenko's poisoning is officially a massive dosage of dioxin. We normally think of long-term, lower-dose exposure (Agent Orange, Love Canal, etc.). Interesting and weird effects. Karl Rove is no doubt laughing at how ridiculously blunt those Russian-speaking Ukrainians have been---no crowds on the street in this country to protest the election.

    Sushi? Oh, that's what the government had claimed Yushchenko's problem had been due to. Bad sushi.

    Posted by duver001 at 7:01 PM

    December 11, 2004

    Everything you needed to know about the marines

    Given a choice of losing his finger or having his wedding ring cut... Well, now he has nine fingers, the doctors lost the ring anyway, and probably violated the Hipocratic Oath in the process.

    Posted by duver001 at 9:42 PM

    December 10, 2004

    International Space Station runs out of food, film at 11pm

    I refuse to connect this story to any sort of science, since science is the last thing that the space station is useful for. Well, unless by science, you mean middle school science fair projects, in which case there are a few options.

  • The news story.
  • Slashdot discussion.

    I know April is still quite far off, but just look at it:

    ``NASA and the Russian Space Agency were stunned to learn last week that the astronauts had begun digging into the 45-day food reserve -- which exists to protect against a delayed supply shipment -- in mid-November.''

    Do they seriously mean that:

    1. The astronauts weren't supplied with enough food
    2. The situation was so bad they had to dig into the reserves
    3. They didn't tell Earth about this?

    If this is how seriously the people involved take their mission, I say we cut the funding right here, right now.

    I've never been able to see space flight as anything but a waste of time, energy and money, but I've been okay with it; other people have lives and opinions too. But time and time again it turns out they don't do it properly. Exploding rockets and space shuttles, confusing metric and imperial units, failed Mars missions, and now this.

    Looks like they have one Mr. H Simpson aboard!

    Mmmmm space doughnuts... Woohoo! I've lost 95lbs!

    Woohoo! Mmmmm freeze dried christmas cake... mmm...
    Woohoo I'm still 0lbs!

    Just don't let him get at the ant colony.

    Posted by duver001 at 1:11 PM
  • December 9, 2004

    Regrettable food

    Yes, that's coffee jello. Need I say more about it? I thought not. These wonderful folks have a web site full of awful and awesome pictures of the low point in American cuisine. Food of the 1950s and Minnesota. Okay, that's two negatives and we've completely missed the utter thrill that is fast food. Okay, back to the Likeks website, and Cooking with Dr. Pepper. Yes, a real cookbook. You can find treasured cookbooks like these at all the good Salvation Army stores, unless you have terminally hip artist-types in your neighborhood. If so, drop by their pad and take a look at the cookbooks artfully scattered on the floor. I suspect that part of the appeal, or agony, of those 1950s cookbooks is how the colors have faded. They have faded, right?



    Posted by duver001 at 10:28 PM

    Tintin au mode enfant


    Doctors explain why Tintin did not age. Repeated head injuries, 43 times in the Tintin canon! For Christmas, the Canadian Medical Association Journal typically publishes a medical analysis of a fictional character. "In 2000 the Canadian Medical Association Journal caused something of an uproar by revealing that Winnie the Pooh's continuous search for honey was caused by obsessive compulsive disorder, Piglet needed anti-panic medication, while Eeyore was massively depressed."

    Posted by duver001 at 10:19 PM

    Free Speech and Intellectual Property

    The Negativland-U2 business has been covered before here, see music links, but the Negativland iPod for sale on eBay was removed for violations of IP protections. Irony at its best. Perhaps the Negativland folks didn't want their images used for the sale? Or U2 was upset? Or Apple?

    Furthering the wonderful IP developments in the US is the new policy that US free speech only applies to Americans. Books banned by a foreign country can no longer be published in the US!!! Dr. Zhivago is the mentioned example of a book, banned by Soviet Russia, that under the current rules would not be publishable in the states. Best guess is that this is a Saudi Arabia concession. Though our government might be sponsoring the interests of the Chinese, Burmese, or Pakistani dictactorships instead.

    Society had become divided into two ideologically hostile camps, and each viewed the other with suspicion. - Thucydides

    Posted by duver001 at 7:34 PM

    More on the Federal Sex Ed program

    Taken from plastic.com:
    Ladies, are you frustrated by your failure to land a man? According to a popular text used in federally funded "abstinence" training programs, the problem might be that you're too uppity:

    One book in the "Choosing the Best" series presents a story about a knight who saves a princess from a dragon. The next time the dragon arrives, the princess advises the knight to kill the dragon with a noose, and the following time with poison, both of which work but leave the knight feeling "ashamed." The knight eventually decides to marry a village maiden, but did so "only after making sure she knew nothing about nooses or poison." The curriculum concludes: "Moral of the story: Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, [sic] but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess."

    This, and more totally false and unhelpful information, is detailed in a new report (26-page PDF) prepared by Rep. Henry Waxman's office on exactly what US$170 million of federal abstinence education money is paying for. Waxman's staff reviewed the 13 most commonly used curricula in federally funded abstinence programs, and found that all but two contained outright falsehoods, or presented subjective opinions as objective fact. To wit: HIV can be spread via sweat and tears; Half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for HIV; A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person"; Women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and as many as 10 percent of them become sterile; Touching another person's genitals can result in pregnancy. Joe. S. McIlhaney Jr., who runs one of the groups producing these materials, admits a few mistakes but defends the rest. Alma Golden, deputy assistant secretary fin the Department of Health and Human Services, said that Waxman's report does a "disservice to our children."

    How about a nice old piece from the 1970s on the origin of violence in the sexual repression of young people?

    Or slimming pills during pregnancy related to instances of homosexuality in the resulting children?

    Every dream turns into something on a T-shirt. - Shriekback

    Posted by duver001 at 3:10 AM

    December 8, 2004

    Iraqi Ducky

    Posted by duver001 at 3:26 PM

    Global Warming

    A new review of the literature on climate change has been published in Science magazine. It finds that 75% of published (peer-reviewed and not-self-published at least) studies link climate change to human activity, and the remaining 25% do not make a statement on assigning responsibility to human activity. Most surprisingly of all, there are no papers which disagree with the consensus of antropogenic climate change. So much for it being a "debated subject" as the Dubya folks would like to claim.

    On a more alarming note, or at least a more public-friendly note, a group of scientists writing in the Guardian, note the severe crisis facing the world due to this climate change. "We burn, each year, around a million years worth of accumulated hydrocarbons."

    Posted by duver001 at 3:17 PM

    Phallocentric?

    An undated handout photograph shows the Massa Marittima mural in the Italian town Massa Marittima. At first glance the mural looks fairly similar to dozens of other medieval frescoes dotted across Tuscany, but a closer look at the spidery tree which dominates the centre of the painting shows its branches are covered in penises. Until now, it was assumed the phallus tree was a fertility symbol but according to a British-based expert, it is a actually a unique piece of political propaganda, commissioned by one Tuscan faction to sully the reputation of another.

    Posted by duver001 at 2:58 AM

    December 7, 2004

    Photos from Kiev

    Posted by duver001 at 10:36 PM

    Our suckster friends strike again

    Well, I hate to admit it, but I do look at Rabbit Blog from time to time. Ms Bitter Rabbit is the former-suck.com Filler person. Anyway, the December 7th rant there is pretty special. "Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid."

    Posted by duver001 at 6:01 PM

    Computers and education

    If there's more than one computer at home, children's performance in math and reading (on average) drop significantly. The study seems to show that the mere availability of computers decreases academic ability. Since computers correlate with wealth and therefore with baseline educational success, those effects were taken out. There's an interesting discussion of this, and related issues, on Slashdot with a lot of emphasis on the negatives of many computers in the classroom (rather than the home). I'd guess that slashdotters in general are well-computered at home...

    Posted by duver001 at 3:19 PM

    Continuing threads

    Sharing the headlines along with the Ukrainian democracy struggle are the following gems...

    Chinese suicide hotlines overloaded and most "customers" get a busy signal, and unfortunate hitchikers in Zimbabwe are forced at gunpoint to rob a grave. Of its casket. The casket is needed due to the high rate of AIDS deaths and the resale value of a gently-used coffin. Would I be able to make this up?

    Posted by duver001 at 1:44 AM

    Bras: The Hidden Dangers

    Undressing a woman is risky business according to a British study. Men have such a poor understanding of the mechanics of feminine undergarments that many risk injuring themselves while trying to remove a brassiere, says a new study. The British Journal of Plastic Surgery cites the case of a 27 year-old man who, "at the culmination of a convivial and alcoholic evening with an attractive female companion," twisted his left middle finger in a bra strap. So severe was the injury that the man went to the emergency room, where it was discovered that he had sustained a fractured finger and ligament damage. "This is the type of thing more commonly associated with sport, particularly rock climbing," plastic surgeon Andrew Fleming of London's St. George's Hospital reports. Suverys show that 40 percent of men in their 30s and 40s are equally uncoordinated when grappling with clasps and hooks, and risk similar injiries. Researchers recommend that men take lingerie-removing lessons to prevent accidents.

    Sticking with the Brits, two women were killed in London when a bolt of lightning hit the metal underwiring in their bras. (The article didn't note whether that was the same bolt of lightning or not.) On a serious note, there is a link between bra-wearing and breast cancer. A study in 1991 showed that women who never wore a bra had half the risk of breast cancer compared to those who did.

    Posted by duver001 at 1:39 AM

    December 6, 2004

    Lucky Ducky votes!

    Posted by duver001 at 7:21 PM

    Quotes from Antarctica

    "Great God, this is an aweful place." - Robert Scott

    "Great God, this is a waffle place." - McMurdo waffle breakfasts slogan

    "We had discovered an accursed country." - Douglas Mawson

    "Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has yet been devised." - Aspley Cherry-Garrard

    "If there is a hell, this is the place, and the sleeping bags are worse than hell." - Ernest Joyce, member of Shackleton's expedition

    "Countries condemned to everlasting rigidity by Nature, never to yield to the warmth of the sun, for whose wild and desolate aspect I find no words; such are the countries we have discovered; what then may those resemble which lie still further to the south? ... To judge the bulk by the sample it would not be worth the discovery ... Should anyone possess the resolution and fortitude to elucidate this point by pushing yet further south than I have done, I shall not envy him the fame of his discovery, but I make bold to declare that the world will derive no benefit from it." - Captain James Cook

    "The whole scene looked like the wreck of a shattered world, or as the poets describe some regions of hell; an idea which struck us the more forcibly as execrations, oaths and curses re-echoed about us on all sides." - Forster, member of Cook's crew, 1774

    "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" - Arthur Gordon Pym, Edgar Allan Poe, & H. P. Lovecraft

    Posted by duver001 at 1:35 AM

    The Ukraine, in music

    It's been interesting following the protests in Kiev over the stolen Ukrainian election. Beautiful seeing democracy coming peacefully to this part of the world. A lot of folks have mentioned the hip-hop song of Ukrainian protest in the news. You can listen to the song here. Without speaking any Ukrainian, I think I can understand a good fraction of it.

    On a local note, the Mila Vocal Ensemble performed this weekend at Unity Church in St. Paul, playing the folk music of the Ukraine, among other nations/cultures. Worth checking them out...

    Weirdly enough, the wikipedia coverage of the Ukrainian "Orange Revolution" is worth checking out. Current affairs in an encyclopedia? I think some of the strengths of the wikipedia are being shown here.

    Posted by duver001 at 12:21 AM

    December 5, 2004

    The war goes well, if you watch Fox

    Radical Christian Cleric Jerry Falwell noted that CNN and Fox differed a bit. On Fox, the war in Iraq looks like it's going well. Imagine that?

    Posted by duver001 at 11:03 PM

    Postmodern boy adventurer

    The Adventures of Billy Dare are one of the recurring Ruben Bolling featurettes that I really enjoy. I remember looking at the pictures in Tintin as a kid (Tintin en Francais that is) and later reading the English translation. So, boy adventurer is probably not a genre that has much cache unless Tintin (or similar) was part of your childhood. Still...the postmodern literary device has the ability to ruin the innocence of any childhood book. Happily so in my opinion.

    Or for something more in the holiday spirit, check out the economic analysis of the 12 days of Chirstmas song with bricks and mortar compared to the internet purchasing.

    Posted by duver001 at 3:34 PM

    December 4, 2004

    What has Mr. T been doing lately?

    I think we've all followed the careers of the former A-Team actors with great interest, but Mr. B. A. Barachus has dropped out of sight for the most part. Well, here he is acting in paranoid Christian flicks. Pity the man.

    Posted by duver001 at 12:49 PM

    Free Speech Zones

    Posted by duver001 at 12:23 PM

    December 3, 2004

    What the Bush "sex ed" program is teaching

    The false consequences of sex: A congressional report criticizes "abstinence-only" programs, finding that most are giving children inaccurate information.

    By Gary Younge

    Dec. 3, 2004 | The Bush administration is funding sexual health projects that teach children that HIV can be contracted through sweat and tears, that touching genitals can result in pregnancy and that a 43-day-old fetus is a thinking person.

    A congressional analysis of more than a dozen federally funded "abstinence-only programs" unveiled a litany of "false, misleading and distorted information" in teaching materials after reviewing curriculums designed to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

    There are more than 100 abstinence programs, involving several million children ages 9 to 18, and running in 25 states since 1999. They are funded by the federal government to the tune of $170 million, twice the amount being spent when George W. Bush first came to power.

    The money goes to religious, civic and medical organizations as grants. To qualify, the programs may talk about types of contraception only in terms of their failure rates, not in terms of how to use them or the possible benefits.

    The survey was conducted by the staff of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a long-standing Democratic critic of the Republican administration's approach to sex education. His team concentrated on the 13 programs that are most widely used, and found that only two of them were accurate. "It is absolutely vital that the health education provided to America's youth be scientifically and medically accurate," Waxman said. "The abstinence-only programs reviewed in this report fail to meet this standard."

    Other "facts" include that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the U.S. have tested positive for HIV and that condoms fail to prevent transmission of HIV in 31 percent of incidents of heterosexual intercourse. The U.S. government's own figures contradict all of these assertions.

    A.C. Green's Game Plan -- a program named after a basketball player who said he would not have sex before marriage -- teaches: "The popular claim that condoms help prevent the spread of STDs is not supported by the data."

    Waxman told the Washington Post: "I don't think we ought to lie to our children about science. Something is seriously wrong when federal tax dollars are being used to mislead kids about basic health facts."

    But government officials said Waxman's report rehashed old anti-abstinence prejudices for political purposes. Alma Golden, the deputy assistant health and human services secretary for population affairs, said it took statements out of context to present programs in the worst possible light. "These issues have been raised before and discredited," Golden said. "One thing is very clear for our children: Abstaining from sex is the most effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, STDs, and preventing pregnancy."

    Waxman also criticized some programs for reinforcing sexist stereotypes to children. One -- Why Know -- says: "Women gauge their happiness and judge their success by their relationships. Men's happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments." Another program, Wait Training, says: "Just as a woman needs to feel a man's devotion to her, a man has a primary need to feel a woman's admiration. To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight, and approval. A man feels admired when his unique characteristics and talents happily amaze her."

    salon.com

    Posted by duver001 at 3:10 PM

    What's New

    There's a weekly column, called What's New which comes out every Friday from Bob Park at the University of Maryland and the American Physical Society. "Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be." It's an institution among physicists with the news covering the intersection of physics with politics, culture, theology, and education. Highly recommended.

    From this week's as a taste...

    3. PRAYER STUDY: COLUMBIA PROFESSOR REMOVES HIS NAME FROM PAPER.
    We have been tracking the sordid story of the Columbia prayer study for three years http://www.aps.org/WN/WN01/wn100501.cfm . It claimed that women for whom total strangers prayed were twice as likely to become pregnant from in-vitro fertilization as others; it was published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. At the time we were unaware of the background of the study, but knew it had to be wrong; the first assumption of science is that events result from natural causes. The lead author, Rugerio Lobo, who at the time was Chair of Obstetrics, now says he had no role in the study. The author who set up the study is doing five years for fraud in a separate case, and his partner hanged himself in jail. Another author left Columbia and isn't talking. The Journal has never acknowledged any responsibility, and after withdrawing the paper for "scrutiny," has put it back on the web. Nor has the Journal published letters critical of the study. Columbia has never acknowledged any responsibility. All of this has come out due to the persistence of Bruce Flamm, MD. The science community should flatly refuse all proposals or papers that invoke any supernatural explanation for physical phenomena.

    Posted by duver001 at 2:41 PM

    Future passed

    Fax machines from the distant past...

    And in the I-wish-I-had-nvented- it category, but this time for the weirdness and not for the profit, here's the Banana Guard!

    Posted by duver001 at 3:24 AM

    No Child Left Behind = Military Recruiting Scheme?

    Who'd have guessed? Though the No Child Left Behind has many other purposes, including being a hallmark of the brilliant legal naming scheme now at work. If it sounds good, how could it be bad?

    Posted by duver001 at 12:47 AM

    A true milestone in music history

    The digital accordian. New from Roland. With MIDI, onboard speakers, and physical modeling. But no accordian jokes please!

    Posted by duver001 at 12:38 AM

    December 2, 2004

    The continuing crisis

    What fraction of Britons know what Auschwitz is/was? Nearly half had never heard of the place.

    Do you eat iceberg lettuce? Know much about environmental perchlorate? Remember anything about the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle? Or how the heck this got into organic milk from Maryland? Stay tuned to the FDA, the folks that brought you concrete-fed cows, milkshakes made with polymerized foams, and genetically-enhanced organic whole foods.

    Posted by duver001 at 11:37 PM

    What if the mars rover were a dissaffected goth teenager with a LJ blog?

    Wonder no longer.

    Posted by duver001 at 11:10 PM

    Extreme Accounting?

    A skeptical note from the Extreme Ironing folks.


    Posted by duver001 at 7:28 PM

    100 Science-related Things to-do Before Dying

    100 Scientific Things To-Do Before Checking Out. The original article is in New Scientist, but I haven't found a link online, it looks to be available only, gulp, in print!

    Some of these are interesting, some useful, but some are a bit bizarre or even nonsensical.

    Addendum:

    The description of the Choctaw facts in this article are misleading.

    Choctaw does have two past tenses, but they are not differentiated in the way claimed. The regular past tense, written -tok (or -tuk in older orthogrophies) is used for completed events ranging back about a year. The other suffix -ttook is for events that were completed more than a year ago. Furthermore, events that happened within the past few minutes and are still relevent for the current situation are often marked as "present" (-h).

    Choctaw, and a huge number of other languages in the world, also have what are called evidentials. These are suffixes that indicate how you know the statement is true. In Choctaw, there is a first-hand knowledge suffix -hlih, used when you have direct evidence of the claim (you saw it, heard it, smelled it, etc). There is also the suffix -ashah which indicates that you are guessing that it is true -- you have some indirect evidence, such as hearsay, or very circumstantial evidence.

    Tense and evidentiality are definitely distinct, as you can find tense and evidentiality marked at the same time on the verb.

    Checkout the papers by a Choctaw expert: Broadwell at Albany

    Online Choctaw classes are also offered.

    Posted by duver001 at 2:38 PM

    Anticommunist cartoon book (approved by the FBI)

    I found it funnier to think Republican every time it mentioned Communist. Instant update to the naughts (zeros? what the heck is this decade called?).

    Posted by duver001 at 8:43 AM

    December 1, 2004

    Landmine detection by plant

    I first spotted mentions of this a few months ago. The picture is pretty impressive. There's a short mention here and a link to the company that makes the plant. Guess where the mine is?

    Posted by duver001 at 10:45 PM

    Yes, I am now including pictures in my blog

    HTML makes sense. Tattoos make sense. Tattoos of HTML seem a little bit dodgy. I still remember when we thought it would be totally cool to tattoo a shell-sort routine in Modula-2 on our butts...

    Posted by duver001 at 11:30 AM

    Out-LaRouching the LaRouchites (tinfoil beanie meme)

    This is a mandatory tin-foil beanie link. A bunch of folks in Seattle out-weirding the LaRouchites.

    Posted by duver001 at 8:41 AM

    Eigenradio, statistically optimal music

    Eigenradio at MIT. Check out their Christmas album for an extra special taste of statistically generated music. Generated by analyzing scads of Christmas music. Maybe next year a Chanuka album?

    Posted by duver001 at 8:21 AM

    The transition from 1960s radical to Green, but interventionist, establishment politician

    Despite the long, and dull title, let me highly recommend thisi (relatively long) piece of journalism. The Passion of Joschka Fischer. I found it to be an extremely interesting piece which connected strongly to me with the matter of humanitarian action (which typically has some military guise to it) for the Left. Kosovo? Heck, Rwanda which is heavily in the news these days for the 10th anniversary of the genocide. There certainly would have been antiwar protests had the US gotten involved there. Afghanistan? Bosnia? Fischer belonged to a European generation which was radicalized far beyond the crowd that Bill Clinton hung out with (it would be hard to picture a senior SDS person in the Senate, let alone on Pennsylvania Avenue).

    Also of note in the article is the dividing point for these radicals taking place at Entebbe. Realizing that the "noble PLO" was not so different from their parents' and grandparents' SS in either goal or method. If the article is interesting to you, I'd also recommend The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (movie) and Televisionaries (book) as interesting, but by no means complete, touches on the subject of the urban terrorists of early 1970s Germany.

    Posted by duver001 at 4:36 AM

    Cosmic ray bubble for astronauts

    Using a magnetic field to protect astronauts from cosmic rays. Hmmmm...I think we can work out some basic numbers for that and show how dodgy the whole business is. Maybe it'll work as justification for AMS? (You'd have to ask to get the whole story on that one.)

    Posted by duver001 at 12:39 AM