Sunday, February 29, 2004
AMCGLTD: February 2004 Archives:
"In the annals of parenting there are guides, tips, and dirty tricks. This is definitely a dirty trick of the foulest sort.

ELLEN, in sweet, innocent, congested voice: 'Could you check Olivia? I can't smell anything because of this cold!'

SCOTT: 'Sure, no problem.' Leans over to baby gumming a toy block sitting at the foot of the couch... *sniff* 'Yup, she needs changing.'

ELLEN, in completely clear normal voice: 'HA-HA! You found it first! You have to change her!'


Women are evil. I'm only just beginning to realize the implications of having two in the house.

The horror... the horror..."

Monday, February 23, 2004
Sending emails to God
"Supplicants to God now have a new method of reaching the Almighty - via email.

Israel's Bezeq telecommunications company announced today that it is opening an email service for those who have a special request from God, and is thus expanding its existing service of faxing notes to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

By tradition, Jews seeking special favours from God write these requests on slips of paper which they place in between the huge stones which make up the wall, part of Judaism's holiest site.

The tradition says God will grant these pleas.

Bezeq started its fax service to the Western Wall several years ago and says it now receives about 200 faxes per week from around the world, although the number can double or triple as holidays or special events approach.

Company employees put the requests in a special envelope and take them to the Wall twice a week.

Bezeq said it was starting the new service because more people now have access to email than to faxes.

The address of the service is or faxed to 972 2 561 2222."

Sunday, February 22, 2004
How Foam Doomed Columbia Is Clarified
( "NASA's top spaceflight official, William F. Readdy, said Friday that air liquefied by the super-cold fuel in the tank almost certainly seeped into a crack or void in the foam, or collected around bolts and nuts beneath the foam. The trapped air expanded as the shuttle rose, and it blew off a chunk of foam the size of a suitcase.

Rather than peeling off, as NASA had assumed from past experience, the foam was pushed off with explosive force, Readdy said. The space agency also had assumed the foam would fall down along the tank and miss the shuttle, but the falling foam shot toward Columbia and the left wing rammed into it, resulting in a large gash.

'That is really the root cause that we've been able to discover here,' Readdy said.

In all likelihood, faulty application of the foam created air pockets, Readdy said"

An attempt to boost vodka sales has landed Polmos Zielona Gora firm in the dock.
Linked from - Madville.comWARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish vodka maker has put the old adage that alcohol loosens the tongue to the test, offering clients a free English language course with each bottle.

But what was an attempt to boost vodka sales has landed Polmos Zielona Gora firm in the dock.

The government's Agency for Solving Alcohol Problems accused the firm, controlled by Sweden's state-owned Vin & Spirit, of inducing young people to drink by questionable marketing practices.

"They are breaking the law, which prohibits advertising alcohol by making associations with culture, science or success in life. We will take them to court unless they stop," Renata Durda, a director at the Agency, told Reuters.

Polmos vowed to press ahead with its campaign, under which it attaches DVDs to bottles of its flagship Luksusowa ("luxury") vodka brand.

"First of all, it's not an advertising campaign but a sales support campaign. Others attach bottles of juice to bottles, we sell them with an English DVD. What's wrong with that?," said Polmos chief executive Ryszard Jakubiuk.

Extinction looms for herbal healers "Worldwide demand for herbal remedies is threatening natural habitats and endangering up to a fifth of wild medicinal plant species, which are being harvested to extinction, a science magazine says.

A study to be published later this year by the World Wildlife Fund warns that between 4000 and 10,000 plants may be at risk.

'It's an extremely serious problem,' the study's author, Alan Hamilton, told New Scientist magazine, in its latest issue.

The findings are based on an analysis of the number of species at risk on the World Conservation Union's red list of threatened plants."

The facts about the president's service.
National Review:The controversy over Bush's service centers on what his critics call "the period in question," that is, the time from May 1972 until May 1973. What is not mentioned as often is that that period was in fact Bush's fifth year in the Guard, one that followed four years of often intense service.

Bush joined in May 1968. He went through six weeks of basic training — a full-time job — at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tex. Then he underwent 53 weeks of flight training — again, full time — at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga. Then he underwent 21 weeks of fighter interceptor training — full time — at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. Counting other, shorter, postings in between, by the end of his training period Bush had served two years on active duty.

Certified to fly the F-102 fighter plane, Bush then began a period of frequent — usually weekly — flying. The F-102 was designed to shoot down other fighter planes, and the missions Bush flew were training flights, mostly over the Gulf of Mexico and often at night, in which pilots took turns being the predator and the prey."If you're going to practice how to shoot down another airplane, then you have to have another airplane up there to work on," recalls retired Col. William Campenni, who flew with Bush in 1970 and 1971. "He'd be the target for the first half of the mission, and then we'd switch."

During that period Bush's superiors gave him consistently high ratings as a pilot. "Lt. Bush is an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer," wrote one in a 1972 evaluation. Another evaluation, in 1971, called Bush "an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot" who "continually flies intercept missions with the unit to increase his proficiency even further." And a third rating, in 1970, said Bush "clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot" and was also "a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership."

All that flying involved quite a bit of work. "Being a pilot is more than just a monthly appearance," says Bob Harmon, a former Guard pilot who was a member of Bush's group in 1971 and 1972. "You cannot maintain your currency by doing just one drill a month. He was flying once or twice a week during that time, from May of 1971 until May of 1972." While the work was certainly not as dangerous as fighting in the jungles of Vietnam, it wasn't exactly safe, either. Harmon remembers a half-dozen Texas Air National Guard fliers who died in accidents over the years, in cluding one during the time Bush was flying. "This was not an endeavor without risk," Harmon notes.

The records show that Bush kept up his rigorous schedule of flying through the spring of 1972: He was credited for duty on ten days in March of that year, and seven days in April. Then, as Bush began his fifth year of service in the Guard, he appears to have stepped back dramatically. The records indicate that he received no credit in May, June, July, August, and September 1972. In October, he was credited with two days, and in November he was credited with four. There were no days in December, and then six in January 1973. Then there were no days in February and March.

The change was the result of Bush's decision to go to Alabama to work on the Senate campaign of Republican Winton Blount. With an obligation to the Guard, Bush asked to perform equivalent service in Alabama. That was not an unusual request, given that members of the Guard, like everyone else, often moved around the country. "It was a common thing," recalls Brigadier General Turnipseed. "If we had had a guy in Houston, he could have made equivalent training with Bush's unit. It was so common that the guy who wrote the letter telling Bush to come didn't even tell me about it."

The president's critics have charged that he did not show up for service — was "AWOL" — in Alabama. Bush says he did serve, and his case is supported by records showing that he was paid and given retirement credit for days of service while he was known to be in Alabama. The records also show that Bush received a dental examination on January 6, 1973, at Dannelly Air National Guard base, home of the 187th (January 6 was one of the days that pay records show Bush receiving credit for service). And while a number of Guard members at the base say they do not remember seeing Bush among the roughly 900 men who served there during that time, another member, a retired lieutenant named John Calhoun, says he remembers seeing Bush at the base several times.

What seems most likely is that Bush was indeed at Dannelly, but there was not very much for a non-flying pilot to do. Flying fighter jets involves constant practice and training; Bush had to know when he left Texas that he would no longer be able to engage in either one very often, which meant that he would essentially leave flying, at least for some substantial period of time. In addition, the 187th could not accommodate another pilot, at least regularly. "He was not going to fly," says Turnipseed. "We didn't have enough airplanes or sorties to handle our own pilots, so we wouldn't have done it for some guy passing through."

On the other hand, showing up for drills was still meeting one's responsibility to the Guard. And, as 1973 went along, the evidence suggests that Bush stepped up his work to make up for the time he had missed earlier. In April of that year, he received credit for two days; in May, he received credit for 14 days; in June, five days; and in July, 19 days. That was the last service Bush performed in the Guard. Later that year, he asked for and received permission to leave the Guard early so he could attend Harvard Business School. He was given an honorable discharge after serving five years, four months, and five days of his original six-year commitment.

The records indicate that, despite his move to Alabama, Bush met his obligation to the Guard in the 1972-73 year. At that time, Guardsmen were awarded points based on the days they reported for duty each year. They were given 15 points just for being in the Guard, and were then required to accumulate a total of 50 points to satisfy the annual requirement. In his first four years of service, Bush piled up lots of points; he earned 253 points in his first year, 340 in his second, 137 in his third, and 112 in his fourth. For the year from May 1972 to May 1973, records show Bush earned 56 points, a much smaller total, but more than the minimum requirement (his service was measured on a May-to-May basis because he first joined the Guard in that month in 1968).

Bush then racked up another 56 points in June and July of 1973, which met the minimum requirement for the 1973-74 year, which was Bush's last year of service. Together, the record "clearly shows that First Lieutenant George W. Bush has satisfactory years for both '72-'73 and '73-'74, which proves that he completed his military obligation in a satisfactory manner," says retired Lt. Col. Albert Lloyd, a Guard personnel officer who reviewed the records at the request of the White House.

All in all, the documents show that Bush served intensively for four years and then let up in his fifth and sixth years, although he still did enough to meet Guard requirements. The records also suggest that Bush's superiors were not only happy with his performance from 1968 to 1972, but also happy with his decision to go to Alabama. Indeed, Bush's evaluating officer wrote in May 1972 that "Lt. Bush is very active in civic affairs in the community and manifests a deep interest in the operation of our government. He has recently accepted the position as campaign manager for a candidate for United States Senate. He is a good representative of the military and Air National Guard in the business world."

Beyond their apparent hope that Bush would be a good ambassador for the Guard, Bush's superiors might have been happy with his decision to go into politics for another reason: They simply had more people than they needed. "In 1972, there was an enormous glut of pilots," says Campenni. "The Vietnam War was winding down, and the Air Force was putting pilots in desk jobs. In '72 or '73, if you were a pilot, active or Guard, and you had an obligation and wanted to get out, no problem. In fact, you were helping them solve their problem."

Teachers ate cannabis cake
Ananova: "Ten schoolteachers have been taken to hospital after eating a cake laced with cannabis.

It had been left in the staffroom of the Herder Grammar School in Lueneburg, Germany.

Staff said they were not suspicious of the cake because they had been running a scheme where students could leave cakes in the staff room.

Teachers would then leave donations if they liked the cake and the money went towards a children's charity in Chernobyl.

Teachers tucked into it during the lunchtime break, and it was only when almost all of the gateau had been eaten they started to feel ill.

Ten of the school's 65 teachers had to be taken to local hospital where doctors carried out drugs tests and confirmed they had consumed cannabis.

Local police said the cake is being examined by forensic experts."

Aloha Mars - The Advanced Course "My friend Dr. X is really getting interested in Mars. Yesterday he challenged me about those mysterious spherical beads at the Opportunity landing site. 'The MER guys are struggling to choose between a bunch of wildly different explanations. I suppose you have an instant snap analysis of them based on your crazy Aloha Mars model that relates everything on Mars to something in Hawaii.'

'Sure. They are lava spherules ejected by a violent late-stage volcanic eruption. It's intuitively obvious.'

'How does Aloha Mars lead you to that conclusion? There is nothing like those spheres anywhere in Hawaii as far as I know. Certainly not between your house and the nearest strip mall, which seems to be the limit of your field expeditions.'

'I sense that you are a thoughtful open-minded person who is ready for graduate-level instruction in Aloha Mars doctrine. So here is a more advanced method for instant snap analysis of Mars:

'Mars is intermediate between Hawaii and the Moon in most physical properties (gravity, air, age, volatile abundance). So we Aloha Martians always look for some combination of Hawaiian and lunar processes to explain any odd details on Mars that don't have an exact local analog. I'm sure you are familiar with the volcanic glass spheres that occur on the Moon.........."

Groklaw's Jones Looks Beyond SCO
Wired News: "Pamela Jones is known to millions of online readers as 'PJ,' the editor and moderator of Groklaw. They also know her as the heart of the open-source community's legal battle against litigation aimed at the Linux kernel and other free and open-source software.

Since its launch on May 17, 2003, Groklaw has morphed from a one-woman blog into an open-source legal research project involving hundreds of people -- an effective counterweight to the legal departments of companies like SCO Group and Microsoft.

Last week Jones, a paralegal by trade, became the director of litigation risk research for Open Source Risk Management, or OSRM. The company provides services intended to protect corporate users of open-source software against legal issues such as copyright, patent and trade-secret claims.

In an e-mail interview, Jones spoke with Wired News on the impetus behind Groklaw. She also outlined pending and possible legal threats against open-source projects and developers, her thoughts on software patents and the positive side of the SCO legal saga."

The Jodie Lane Project Responds to City Council Testimony
The Jodie Lane Project: New York, NY -- February 12, 2004.
The City Council Transportation Committee held a hearing today to investigate the causes of Jodie S. Lane’s tragic electrocution death on January 16th. The testimony revealed a startling lack of oversight on the part of the Public Services Commission, charged with overseeing Con Edison’s compliance with the National Electric Safety Code, last revised in 1913.

With only 5 inspectors at their disposal, the Public Services Commission relies entirely on Con Edison to report safety problems. Because Con Edison only reports incidents resulting in injury or death, the PSC was aware of only 15 shock incidents in the last 5 years. Con Edison has acknowledged that it actually received 539 reports of shock incidents in the same period, effectively admitting to misleading the PSC by an order of magnitude.

It is not only this discrepancy that is alarming, but also the fact that the Public Services Commission, charged with ensuring the safety of the public, currently has no preventative inspection program in place. The PSC only inspects equipment after a shock incident has occurred, and only then if they are notified of the event by Con Edison. To add insult to literal injury, they have never sued Con Edison for a safety violation, in spite of their mandate to do so.

The current arrangement, which effectively relies on Con Edison to oversee its own equipment and report its own safety violations, is absolutely unacceptable and led directly to the death of Jodie Lane.

Both the PSC and Con Ed refer to Jodie Lane’s death as a “unique occurrence.” While Jodie Lane’s death marks the first time that the negligence of Con Edison and the Public Service Commission has resulted in such a tragedy, shock incidents are by no means rare. Gunnar Hellekson of the Jodie Lane Project finds this offensive: “Our Stray Voltage List has documented almost thirty incidents of electric shock, and that’s based entirely on ad hoc reports. That only took us a week, and we had no budget. I’m proud to say that we’ve done more work on this subject than the PSC ever has.”

New York Post Online Edition: news: "January 31, 2004 -- Meter readers and clerical workers have been dispatched on a potentially dangerous hunt for stray voltage so Con Ed can keep its vow to check 250,000 manholes and pavement-level metal service boxes within a month, the workers' union said yesterday.

'These are people who don't know anything about electricity other than changing a light bulb,' said a worried Chuck Rizzo, safety director for Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America. 'We're praying no one gets hurt.'

Local 1-2 president Manny Hellen says he fears for the safety of hundreds of his clerical members, who he says are getting a 'crash course' in the use of a pen-like, battery-operated testing device that must be used with bare hands.

'They want you to hold it next to the metal manhole, and if the device lights up, that means there's a hazardous condition,' said Rizzo. 'In order to get close, the employee would have to bend over or kneel down to use the piece of equipment.

'He could fall and touch the cover. If the cover is alive, he could be electrocuted' - like Jodie Lane, who was electrocuted Jan. 16 as she walked her dogs on East 11th Street. Con Ed admitted Thursday that a year earlier, workers improperly insulated wires in the box.

Workers in the utility's electrical operations department who test manholes and boxes do the job with 'special electrical testing equipment. It requires a ground and they wear specialized rubber gloves that can withstand up to 1,000 volts,' said Rizzo.

But Con Ed spokesman Michael Clendenin said the test 'is no more dangerous than reading a meter.'

'Anybody can do it,' Clendenin said, adding that the company is 'absolutely not' putting workers in danger.

'If the device detects stray voltage and if they're not trained in splicing or that type of electrical work, they call it in and a crew is dispatched to make repairs.'

He said there are 650 people checking the manholes and metal service boxes for stray voltage. Of those, 200 are outside contractors and 450 are Con Ed employees."

West Wing gets spacey
Spur of the Moment blog
The West Wing tonight had quite a sidestory in which a NASA official lobbies Josh to get him to back a mission to Mars proposal. It was surprising to see, but I liked most of what they said about it, promoting Mars Direct. There was a neat scene with Leo complaining about how his generation had been screwed out of the future they'd been promised. He wanted to know where his jet pack was. They missed a perfect opportunity to raise the issue of private corporations developing low cost orbital launch vehicles, but that wasn't surprising. All in all, it was probably good if it gets people thinking about going again, any which way. But I would have liked to see someone mention that there are alternatives to big government programs. A throwaway line by Josh (who initially was not receptive to the NASA proposals) to the effect that if someone wants to go they should build their own spaceship - answered by someone pointing out that several companies are doing just that. If that had been in there, I'd have been happy. But that's probably too much to ask.

Posted by JAM @ 10:47:46 PM - Permalink


"Adult" material
I don't have the full story yet, but my local TV news station is running a story tomorrow about "adult material" being sent to kids as part of school fundraisers. "Explicit stories about sex and drugs, in the mail, addressed to your child," they tell us. I'd been hearing the promos for this segment every morning this week as I got ready for work, but as I wasn't watching but only listening, I had assumed they were talking about some kind of pornography or something. They referred to how they had "tracked down the publisher" to find out what they had to say. There was a mother being quoted as being "shaken" by the material. "I was literally shaking when I read this," she says."

Imagine my shock as I finally see the promo for the first time this evening and find out that the "adult material" they are referring to is none other than Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Now, I don't know how young these children are that have received this as part of their school fundraiser, but Asimov's is a serious magazine, containing solid science and speculative fiction. It is pretty much the premier book in the field, with award winning contributors in every issue. It is mature material. SF is often explicit. I've said for years that if my mother had had any notion of the kind of "smut" that was contained in some of the SF I was reading at a very young age, she'd have thrown a fit. And to some extent, that did add to it's appeal. But I was reading it first and foremost for the ideas it contained, not for the sexuality. The first really hard SF I read was actually an Asimov novel. The Gods Themselves was a very mature book, that probably should not have been on the shelf of a grade school. I think I was 11 when I read it. I was hooked. I read everything I could lay hands on after that. Asimov, Pohl, Niven, Heinlein, you name it. Then our librarian was clearing out some of the old periodicals and she had noticed that I was reading a lot of SF, so she asked if I wanted a small stack of Galaxy magazines they had discontinued buying after a short term subscription ran out. You bet! There were ads for the Science Fiction Book Club on the back of several of them. You mean there's more of this stuff? And they'll mail it directly to me? Hook me up! A geek was born. And a lot of this stuff contained material not necessarily suited for young readers. It didn't turn me into a pervert or a deviant. I would most definitely not want to have been "protected" from it. I loved being exposed to things that were new and interesting. I had lived a fairly protected life, rural, idyllic and safe. I began to see there was much more to the world than I had yet seen. So if kids are getting Asimov's as part of a school fundraiser, I think that's great. If they are as young as 7 or 8, that might be pushing it, but not because of the sex, but purely because the writing would be over their heads. Kids 10, 11 or 12 might be ready for it though. But that is up to parents to know what their kids are reading, just as it is up to them to know what they are watching on TV or seeing on the internet or the movie theater. It is called Parental Guidance.

BTW... Here is the link to the Table of Contents for the current issue of Asimov's and you can buy the current issue in electronic form at Fictionwise.

I suspect (because I know this town so well) that what might upset a parent most is not the sex or drug references in this mag, but the religious material: "Philip C. Jennings paints an incisive portrait of the life and career of "The Saint" (one who turns out to be nothing at all like what you'd think a holy man to be!)"

Asimov's Smut Magazine
They call it "racy." They keep refering to it as an "adult magazine" as if it were equivalent to Hustler or something. The girl who is at the heart of the complaint is thirteen years old. Good grief! She's "obsessed" with Lord of the Rings, and loves fantasy and SF. If she's reading Tolkien then she's ready for Asimov's. It was part of a Grandville Schools fundraiser. Reader's Digest has removed it from their list for high school fundraisers. That's pretty pathetic. This mother does what she's supposed to and reviews what her daughter is reading, but then has to go running to the schoolboard about it instead of just letting every parent handle it on their own. Ok, the magazine certainly does have some strong content. Fine. But shouldn't kids who are juniors and seniors have the option to choose this publication to support their school? Heck, I was reading stuff this "racy" when I was 12. Asimov's now promises to put disclaimers and warnings at the beginning of stories containing adult content not appropriate for children so the kids will be able to find the good stuff more easily - er, that is so that they will know what not to read. Cool.

Oh, well. The kids can still subscribe outside of the school fundraiser if they want.

Egypt bans foreign belly dancers
BBC NEWS: "Foreign women will be banned from performing belly dancing in Egypt, the state newspaper al-Gomhouriya reports.

The ruling by the minister for labour and immigration will prevent non-Egyptians from getting belly dancing licences from 1 January, says the newspaper.

Egyptian belly dancers are thought to have pushed for the ruling to prevent foreign dancers from taking their work.

There has been a recent influx into the country of foreign performers - particularly from Russia - who have taken up the oriental dance.

A top belly dancer commands around $3,145 a night - a price the foreign dancers have been happy to undercut.

As even a modest Egyptian wedding is not regarded as complete without a belly dancing act the ancient ritual is big business.

Schools have been established in Cairo to train foreigners, as well as locals in the art."

Stem cells 'could boost breasts'
BBC NEWS: "Doctors may have found a way to use a combination of a woman's own fat and stem cells to make a natural breast implant, say Japanese researchers.

It is hoped that the method could prove an alternative to artificial implants filled with salt water or silicone.

Previous attempts to increase breast size with fat have failed because some of the tissue dies, forming hard lumps.

Adding stem cells could coax the growth of new blood vessels, say experts from the University of Tokyo.

The patient's fat reserves are often raided by cosmetic surgeons to provide raw material to smooth out facial wrinkles or cover up scars.

However, the sheer quantity of tissue needed to bulk out the breast has been the stumbling block.

However, Dr Kotaro Yoshimura believes he has found a way to create the desired effect with no complications, reports the Nature website.

During the operation, surgeons suck fat cells from the stomach or thigh, and this 'slurry' is enriched so that there are higher numbers than usual of stem cells.

Cell source
These are 'master' cells which are capable of making new fat cells.

When the enriched stem cell mixture is combined with normal fat tissue, it can then be injected into the breast area.

Using the woman's own tissue has a number of potential advantages - not only do few patients object to losing fat from around the thighs or stomach, but the tissue has no chance of being rejected by the immune system.

Eventually, artificial implants may have to be removed to ensure the patient is safe in the long term.

The Japanese team has carried out the procedure on his first patient last month, and hopes to complete dozens more operations.

Plastic surgeon Adam Katz from the University of Virginia told Nature: 'There's a good shot that this will work.'

He called for more animal trials before widespread use of the technique in human patients. "

Shakespeare fails SAT writing test.
mock_the_stupid: "The SAT, a necessary rite of passage for every college-bound student, will include a timed writing test beginning in March 2005. Good thing William Shakespeare isn't trying to gain admission to one of our nation's elite, ivy-covered colleges so he could major in English. He would probably be rejected based on his SAT writing score.

'Using the SAT's actual grading criteria for the essay, which include development of ideas, supporting examples, organization, word choice, and sentence structure, the test preparation pros at The Princeton Review 'graded' the famous 'All the world's a stage' passage from Shakespeare's 'As You Like It.' Out of one to six points with six being the highest possible score, the Bard gets a measly two points.

'Shakespeare is in good company. The scathing report, which will be published in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly, notes that Ernest Hemingway ('A Farewell to Arms,' 'The Sun Also Rise') scored a three, while Gertrude Stein ('The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas') got a one. Net net: The Princeton Review quips that Shakespeare would not test out of freshman English and Stein would have to take a remedial class.

'But not everyone flunked! When a section from the infamous manifesto written by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was analyzed on the SAT grading scale, it received a perfect six points because it followed the highly formulaic requirements detailed by the writing test's creators. Princeton Review founder John Katzman says this experiment proves the College Board's grading standards for writing reward students for following rules rather than for their creativity.'"

Trailervision - The Trailer Is The Movie
"Stupidity is the first film to deal directly with massive topic of human stupidity. In fact, one of the film's most controversial assertions, is that the academic world has scandalously avoided stupidity as a topic of study.

Stupidity has been a massive hit wherever it has gone. Selling out film festivals and igniting firestorms of controversy. Taking Best Documentary at the Atlantic City Film Festival, Stupidity is an urgent exploration of the issue of willful stupidity in the modern world.

Stupidity sets out to determine whether our culture is hooked on deliberate ignorance as a strategy for success. From Adam Sandler to George W. Bush, from the IQ test to TV programming, to the origins of the word moron, Stupidity examines the 'dumbing down' of contemporary culture. Stupidity embarks on an exhaustive search into its meaning, and the implications of a culture that is obsessed and saturated with stupefying culture. Stupidity careens at warp speed through sound bites on topics from television news and reality TV shows, to Internet sites and popular films. Featuring opinions and comments from some of today�s most recognizable figures, cultural critics, authors and academics, including John Cleese, Noam Chomsky, Selma Hayek and Bill Maher, Stupidity reveals that, despite our culture�s extensive access to knowledge and information, humans continue to choose stupidity.

Commissioned by the Documentary Channel, and directed by Trailervision founder Albert Nerenberg, the feature length documentary suggests that unless stupidity is dealt with, we may all be doomed."

Adult magazine part of school fundraiser
WOOD TV8 :(Grandville, February 13, 2004, 8:25 p.m.) It is natural to assume that magazines purchased through a school fundraising drive would be suitable for children, especially since children are the ones doing the buying and selling. So you can imagine a Grandville mom's surprise when her daughter was able to order a magazine full of sexual content.

Asimov's Science Fiction is the magazine in question, and from the outside cover, doesn't look like an "adults-only" publication. But open it up and you will find it is.

Marilyn Becker's 13-year-old daughter loves science fiction. So it was no big deal when her daughter wanted to buy Asimov's Science Fiction from Grandville Middle School's magazine drive. When it came in the mail, mom just happened to look at it first.

"I just started flipping through and glancing at it and kinda reading things that didn't seem right," said Becker.

Inside the magazine she found various short stories, science fiction, yes, but with strong adult content.

Becker read some of the explicit tales about sex, drugs and molestation inside the magazine for us that included, "Young girls with no panties, young girls in white socks, young girls looking at his wank-mags with him, young girls doing it with one another while he watched."

Becker was disgusted by what she was seeing on the pages of her teenage daughter's new magazine. "I was appalled...I was very shocked...literally shaking when I was reading it," she said. "We've never had concerns with the program before."

Grandville Middle School Principal Theresa Waterbury also wanted to know how this publication made it on the school's magazine drive list and how many more of her students were reading it right now.

24 Hour News 8 wanted some answers too, such as how can a magazine drive company owned by Reader's Digest that reaches kids in more than 40,000 American schools and claims its primary goal is "helping children", put a magazine like this on its list.

24 Hour News 8 called the company to find out. QSP would not tell us how or even if it reviewed this magazine before putting it on the list. The company did tell us that, "A lot of care goes into choosing the magazine titles we offer. This magazine's content would no longer meet our standards."

The magazine has now been pulled from the list, but 24 Hour News 8 wanted to warn other school districts in case their students had already ordered it.

It turns out Grand Rapids Public Schools planned to order this same science fiction publication through its magazine drive for the Ottawa Hills High School library. That decision changed after we showed them what they would be receiving.

"Wow, it's very inappropriate," said John Harberts, Chief Academic Officer for GRPS. "I could see where people would be very upset about this. I'm very glad it's coming to light and we don't have this in the Grand Rapids Schools."

24 Hour News 8 then called Asimov's Science Fiction magazine in New York. Officials there tell us that it had an agreement with QSP but did not know it was on this school magazine list.

Asimov's says it is an adult publication and in no way markets itself to children. When 24 Hour News 8 told them what had happened, it promised to make some changes. Now a disclaimer will be on every story it runs that is not suitable for children to read.

As for QSP, the magazine drive company, 24 Hour News 8 pushed it further. We wanted to know what it will do to prevent the same thing from happening again with other magazines

QSP would say only that it reviews the magazines on its list from time to time and listens closely to what schools are saying. It says it has a 40 year track record of providing the best possible products and services to customers.

Becker has never been one to look through her daughter's mail, but this time she doesn't regret it. "I think that the word should get out big time to other parents, and that's why I called."

As we mentioned, since 24 Hour News 8 started this investigation, QSP has permanently severed its relationship with this science fiction magazine.

Plus, beginning with its July issue, which goes on sale in May, disclaimers will be put on every story with adult content.

24 Hour News 8 will stay on top of this story and make sure that's what happens."

jaynote: Asimov's has responded to this fine example of muckracking yellow journalism

Software Bug Contributed to Blackout
SecurityFocus: "A previously-unknown software flaw in a widely-deployed General Electric energy management system contributed to the devastating scope of the August 14th northeastern U.S. blackout, industry officials revealed this week.

The bug in GE Energy's XA/21 system was discovered in an intensive code audit conducted by GE and a contractor in the weeks following the blackout, according to FirstEnergy Corp., the Ohio utility where investigators say the blackout began. 'It had never evidenced itself until that day,' said spokesman Ralph DiNicola. 'This fault was so deeply embedded, it took them weeks of pouring through millions of lines of code and data to find it.'

The flaw was responsible for the alarm system failure at FirstEnergy's Akron, Ohio control center that was noted in a November report from the U.S.-Canadian task force investigating the blackout. The report blamed the then-unexplained computer failure for retarding FirstEnergy's ability to respond to events that lead to the outage, when quick action might have limited the blackout's spread.

'Power system operators rely heavily on audible and on-screen alarms, plus alarm logs, to reveal any significant changes in their system's conditions,' the report noted. FirstEnergy's operators 'were working under a significant handicap without these tools. However, they were in further jeopardy because they did not know that they were operating without alarms, so that they did not realize that system conditions were changing.'

The cascading blackout eventually cut off electricity to 50 million people in eight states and Canada.

The blackout occurred at a time when the Blaster computer worm was wreaking havoc across the Internet. The timing triggered some speculation that the virus may have played a role in the outage -- a theory that gained credence after SecurityFocus reported that two systems at a nuclear power plant operated by FirstEnergy had been impacted by the Slammer worm earlier in the year.

Instead, the XA/21 bug was triggered by a unique combination of events and alarm conditions on the equipment it was monitoring, DiNicola said. When a backup server kicked-in, it also failed, unable to handle the accumulation of unprocessed events that had queued up since the main system's failure. Because the system failed silently, FirstEnergy's operators were unaware for over an hour that they were looking at outdated information on the status of their portion of the power grid, according to the November report. "

News: "A Scottish couple who believe volcanic rock dust can revitalise barren soil and reverse climate change have won research funding from the Scottish Executive.

Over a 20-year period, Cameron and Moira Thomson, both former teachers, have converted six acres of exposed, infertile land in the foothills of the Grampian mountains near Pitlochry into a modern Garden of Eden, using little more than the unwanted by-product from a nearby quarry. The application of rock dust mixed with municipal compost has created rich, deep soils capable of producing cabbages the size of footballs, onions bigger than coconuts and gooseberries as large as plums.

Before the pair began their experiment, erosion and leaching were so severe that nothing had been grown in the glen for almost 50 years.

The basis of the Thomsons' theory is simple - adding the dust mimics glacial cycles which naturally fertilise the land. Since the last ice age three million years ago the earth has gone through 25 similar glaciations, each lasting about 90,000 years. We are currently 10,000 years into an interglacial - a hiatus between ice ages - meaning modern soils are relatively barren and artificial fertilisers are needed.

'We've been dismissed as cranks and loonies, and now it looks as though people are starting to listen,' said Mrs Thomson, 42. 'Farmers and scientists have seen what we have achieved and are willing to look into how it can be used for everything from growing crops to turf for golf-courses.' The couple established the Seer Centre charitable trust in 1997 to test their ideas and have been grantedmore than �95,000 by the Scottish Executive to conduct Britain's first rock dust trials.

The Thomsons' technique may also play a significant role in the fight against climate change, as the calcium and magnesium in the dust they use converts atmospheric carbon into carbonates. 'We are walking into another ice age unless we do something now,' said Mr Thomson, 56. 'If we burn fossil fuels at today's rates, atmospheric carbon could be kept stable if we covered the earth soils with between 0.8 and 3.2 tons of rock dust per acre.'"

zeppo: Where babies come from - sanitized for your protection:
"In the center of the room was a giant fiberglass tree with crystals hanging from the branches. A perimeter of fabric cabbages held the disembodied heads of 'babies' about to be born. In the center was a large cabbage and a dark television screen behind it. I looked over towards the adoption office. A very blond and overly tanned girl in her late teens was wearing surgeon scrubs. She leaned over the desk with her face in her hand and looked as if God himself jammed a straw into her brain and sucked all the joy of living right out of her. Every once in a while she would yank a microphone over to her lips and without a hint of animation, call out an imaginary doctor's name and announce 'We have Code Green - mother cabbage was now 6 centimeters dilated...'
Suddenly the lights went down.
The plastic crystals at the base started to glow and I knew I was going to see something halfway between spectacularly surreal and terribly tacky.

The blond surfer girl from the adoption desk suddenly popped up in front of the base of the tree. She announced the mother cabbage was fully dilated and in order to help her have the baby she needed '10 CC's of imagicillin - stat!' A long cable with a fat end was wedged callously into the cabbage and the TV screen glowed hot pink, thereby determining the baby about to be born was in fact, a girl.
A long pair of hemostats were produced and she used them to fold back the obscene green fabric labia of the gestating brassica oleracea.
She then asked everyone to hold their breath to aid the mother cabbage in the birth. I did so only to keep myself from exclaiming something in the line of 'Sweet home Alabama, this is fucking bizarre!' Surfer girl stuck her hand in up to her elbow and pulled out a pudgy fabric newborn with blue eyes and curly blond hair. She held it by the feet and slapped its naked butt cheeks. I was almost a little sorry it wasn't covered in cherry Jell-O."

Kevin Kelly -- Cool Tools: Many years ago I co-wrote a piece for CoEvolution Quarterly with Bruce Ames, creator of the renowned Ames Test for carcinogenicity. So when I saw a news item that Bruce Ames had discovered something that dramatically reversed some of the effects of aging in his lab rats and was starting a business called Juvenon to peddle the elixir to humans, I visited the web site and then began dosing myself with the substances named in the research. They are two standard anti-oxidants available in any health food store online or on the street � alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine. Apparently due to a combined effect, our old rats are doing the Macarena, Ames told the press suddenly the rats were fitter, happier, and had better memory.

Kevin Kelly -- Cool Tools: "Alan Greene also recommends the QuickVue Strep Test for families with kids who get frequent sore throats. It helps you determine whether a throat infection is caused by strep (which requires treatment) or a virus (which does not). You swab the back of the child�s throat with the included applicator, add a reagent, and watch for the color change. The kit of 25 tests costs $79, which works out to just over $3 per test � much cheaper than an unneeded doctor�s visit. Since you may only use a couple tests a year, consider a cooperative buy with other families. For details of using the strips see"

Kevin Kelly -- Cool Tools: "Precious Metal Clay lets you make fine jewelry with little experience or equipment. It works like Fimo clay, except it is more crumbly because it contains powdered precious metal, such as silver, or gold. (It will also dry out faster.) The organic clay binding burns off when you fire it and you end up with pure fine silver or gold in the shape of the clay you made. If you have jewelry skills you can keep working it from there, soldering, shaping, etc.. Since I don't have much skill I just polish up my pieces or antique them with silver black. There's an implication that you have to fire PMC pieces in a kiln (that would be nice), but so far everything I've done I've fired myself on the kitchen floor with a basic propane torch.


Rotary Engine Fish Tanks
Here you will find information on my rotary fish tanks. They are made from used rotor housings from Mazda rotary engines and have become known to many as "The Rotortank."

Folding keyboard floppier than slice of sandwich meat OF THE PROBLEMS with interesting looking things you see at shows is that you have a very short time and have no idea what they will do when you get them home. It is easy to demo them in a way that makes them look good.

The URTrend Fold-3000 Foldable Keyboard is one of those things. It looked really good, and when you laid it on something flat, did not feel all that objectionable to type on. Weird, yes, bad, not really, and it comes in fairly bright pastel colors. URTrend sent me a green one to try, and it was a lot of fun.

Let's just start out with saying that this is simply a USB keyboard. Other than the greenish hue and the fact that is floppier than a slice of sandwich meat, it is nothing special. You can fold it up, roll it, bend it and lay it over the cat.

Really, the cat didn’t even seem to mind. Short of going out of your way to hurt it, it seems very hard to damage accidentally. The keyboard, not the katzen.

You can throw it in a suitcase to take with you for laptop use, or toss it in a small drawer. It goes places a big, bulky keyboard would not. One place it should do very well in is slightly nasty environments, ones with high humidity or frequent liquid spills. URTrend says it is liquid resistant, and because there was an obvious amount of air trapped inside the keyboard, I would think that it is more towards water-proof than water-resistant.

So, how does it type? Well, if you put it on a hard, flat surface, fairly well. It will not rival the MS Elite keyboards (See here), or the Logitech Elite (here), but it is acceptable for short term use. For some people, like me for instance, it is better than the 80% size keys on the modern ultra-portable laptops. For such a floppy item, the keys have a noticeable amount of feel and tactile feedback, something I was not expecting.

The downside was that it would occasionally miss a letter, not any fault of the keyboard, I put this down to me. I was just not used to the way the keys needed to be pressed. If I took it with me somewhere in my laptop bag, I would get used to it in no time, and in a couple of days, I would be at nearly my full typing speed.

The most fun I had with it was showing it to people. The puzzled looks on their faces were priceless, and most didn’t believe it was a real working keyboard. Work it did, and I will probably take it along with me on my next trip. Until then, it is not the best keyboard I have used, but much better than some really cheap ones. None of those can beat the wow factor or fold up, and certainly none came in the same colors. Overall, lots of fun, and it works.

"Deportion of Illegal Immigrants: The Right Answer All Along"
by Robert Klein
The events depicted in Farmingville could happen these days anywhere in the U. S. In this new movie directed by Catherine Tambini and Carlos Sandoval, with Carlos Sandoval as screenwriter, we see the consequence of uncontrolled, illegal immigration. The focus for this story is a hate crime committed against two young Mexican day laborers by white youths. As the filmmakers explore the story behind the violence, what we discover is a story with implications for American society.

Farmingville is a small community located in the center of Long Island, New York. In the 1990s, Farmingville's population jumped with an influx of illegal Mexican workers. Situated in the middle of Long Island, Farmingville attracts contractors who want a centralized work pool from which to draw. As a result, street corners of Farmingville have become de facto employment offices. Likewise, many of the neighborhood homes are filled with 20 or more residents, most of them illegal immigrants.

The legal residents of Farmingville began to ask for enforcement of local, state, and federal labor and immigration laws. Yet, as Brad Slager writes in his review of the film, ''Tragically, the problems the community had to deal with were the result of lack of enforcement of immigration and labor laws, and by the time the ill effects were being experienced, the time for action had already passed...when the problems were detected there was little that could have been done.''

Eventually, the residents took to the streets in protest. They confronted politicians, they hassled the contractors who came into town looking for workers, and they formed activist groups to confront the problem. Then, two illegal immigrant workers were brutally attacked by two white young men, from the area. That's when the charges of racism began to surface, and have not yet subsided.

Regardless of the pleas by the resident of Farmingville for INS action, nothing was done. No one was interested in deporting those violating our immigration laws. According to an MSNBC article on the events at Farmingville by Sean Federico-O'Murchu MSNBC, ''...despite complaints by some locals that many of the migrant workers are illegal aliens, the Immigration and Naturalization Service says it won't approach a group of people and ask for documentation without probable cause.''

The events at Farmingville mark a watershed in the problem of illegal immigration in this country. Prior to the attacks at Farmingville, an argument could be made that our need for low skilled and low paid workers was the driving force behind illegal immigration from Mexico to the U. S. There were jobs in the U. S. going without workers, so it made sense to hire illegal Mexicans to do the work Americans did not want to do.

After the violence at Farmingville, it is obvious that just the opposite has evolved. We have crossed a divide, now. Instead of low paying jobs attracting illegal immigrants, the shear number of illegal immigrants coming to the U. S. is encouraging the creation of more and more low paying jobs. What began yesterday as a pull has now become, today, a push.

Some business leaders now argue, that if there are thousands willing to work for low pay, then why not hire them instead of higher paid Americans? Add to this the exporting of American jobs to foreign countries with cheep labor, and it is no wonder many Americans are both fearful for their future and hostile towards immigrants.

Small proof that illegal immigrants are ruining the standard of living for many Americans is given by Margaret Bianculli-Dyber, a resident of Farmingville and President of The Sachem Quality of Life Organization. She says, ''My husband works for a large food-distribution warehouse—he's a forklift operator. Traditionally, they make 20-something dollars an hour. My husband makes $12 an hour.''

Margaret Bianculli-Dybe continues, ''Labor is so plentiful for (the company), they say, 'I can just replace you and get El Salvadorans for $6 or $7 an hour.' Because of a plentiful supply of cheap labor, my husband's wages are held down, and I have to work. Now, because of all the Mexicans, my property values have fallen $18,000 in four years. So, I can't afford to sell my house for a profit and move away'' (Michael Kamber, The Village Voice. August 8-14, 2001).

Increased deportation of illegal immigrants would solve the problem people like Margaret Bianculli-Dybe face, yet increased deportation is not happening. INS figures show that 76,861 people were deported from October 2001 to April 2002. The figures for 2003 are not readily available. However, if one makes a conservative estimate of 8 million illegal aliens in this country, then, it will take about 105 years for the office of Homeland Security to deport all the illegal aliens at a rate of about 76,000 a year.

Where time stands still: Hihokan - Erotic Museums in Japan
Where time stands still: Hihokan - Erotic Museums in Japan: "Once upon a time...ah, lets be exact: In April 1971 Japan's first Hihokan which stands for 'House of Hidden Treasures' opened its doors in Awa, Okushima. However, the exhibits where limited to phallic-vulvic altar symbols and intercourse themed antiques as you could see since centuries in bigger Shinto shrines anyway.

But finally the term Hihokan got famous as the 'Original International House of Hidden Treasures' opened its doors October 1971 in Ise, Mie (about 500km south of Tokyo).

Masato Matsuno, entrepreneur and the founder of the Original International House of Hidden Treasures became an instant celebrity as 'Professor Sex' and appeared in various TV and Radio shows. In 1982 he published a book 'The Hihokan' (Tomu Shobo) where he described his obsession with collecting all things related to sex."

Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks
RAND: Individual preparedness is an important element of our nation's strategy for homeland security. This report adopts a scenario-driven approach that provides a rigorous way to identify actions—linked specifically to terrorist attacks—individuals can take to protect their health and safety. The result is an individual's strategy across four types of terrorist attacks—chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological—consisting of overarching goals and simple and directive response and preparatory actions. The actions are appropriate regardless of likelihood of an attack, scale of attack, or government alert level; designed to be sensitive to potential variations; and defined in terms of simple rules that should be easy for individuals to adopt.

Colonizing the Heavens
Fantasy and Science Fiction - A Scientist's Notebook: "But to wait for the right time might mean waiting forever, risking a decline from which humanity might never recover. History has a consistent record of the good happpening alongside the bad; to hesitate might be disastrous, hurling us into the irreversible decline of Arnold Toynbee's two dozen failed civilizations, with no new ground upon which to begin again. Such was the argument against the 'prioritizers.'

Asimov wrote to the skeptics:
'I have received a number of letters concerning my article 'Colonizing the Heavens.'

Some call it fiction. (Real nonsense, I suppose, like reaching the Moon.)

Some say I am trying to subvert the doctrine of Zero Population Growth. (As though it weren't possible to try to colonize space and stop the population growth, too. They are not mutually exclusive.)

Some say it is too expensive. (Not if the world stops supporting military machines.)

Some say that nobody wants an engineered environment. (Nobody? How many people are living in caves these days?)

Some say that nobody would ever want to cross space in three days to live in a space colony. (This from people whose ancestors two or three generations back probably crossed the Atlantic in steerage, or crossed the western desert in covered wagons.)

Some say that Third World people would never go. (Sure. Only aristocrats fled to the New World. All the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free never came, did they?)

Some say let's solve our problems on Earth before we try to colonize space. (Someone said that to the Pilgrims. Come on, they said, let's solve our problems right here in Europe.)'
Classic stuff. For Asimov, colonies were not primarily technological feats. He echoed the prevailing historical sense of this age: that frontiers have shaped our world by unleashing new ideas with the European explosion outward. These ideas might have died except for the unrestricted ground of the frontier, where the old cultures could not kill them with preemptive criticism and outright suppression."

High-voltage lines, negative ions and rats
seattlepi: "People used to think (breathing) ozone was good for you," he noted. It's now generally regarded as a toxic pollutant, Goheen said, that causes damage -- especially to the lungs -- because of its highly reactive chemical nature.

Negative-ion air generators usually don't produce much ozone and there is evidence that negative ions do clean the air and may provide health benefits. But these devices produce the negative ions by what's known as a "corona discharge" -- a continuous release of electrons and charged molecules. When an animal is put close to this electron flow within a strong electric field, ozone levels skyrocket, the Richland team of scientists found. High-voltage power lines sometimes produce corona discharges as well.

Goheen recalled an experiment done years ago by researchers in San Francisco. They placed rats in a negative-ion chamber close to the air generator, intending to prove that the negative ions provided longevity and other health benefits. But the rats, instead, died prematurely.

"The results weren't published," Goheen noted. He asked a pathologist to study the rats' lungs to see what might have caused the damage and they found evidence of ozone toxicity. But because the negative-ion air generators don't directly produce much ozone, it was still not clear what had killed the rats.

Now, a few decades later, Goheen thinks he has found the smoking gun.

It is the rats themselves that are producing the ozone in response to the electromagnetic field, or EMF.

"We'd been looking in the wrong place," Goheen said. Scientists looking for the health effects of EMFs were looking for toxic chemicals or changes inside the body, he said, when the likely culprit was in the air surrounding the body.

There's no reason why people exposed to the same strong EMFs, Goheen added, won't do the same thing -- generate their own personal, toxic cloud of ozone.

In the experiment, published in the current issue of the journal "Bioelectromagnetics," three rats were exposed in close proximity to a device producing 10 kilovolts -- about what negative-ion air fresheners produce.

The ambient level of ozone in the air before the device was turned on was about 10-20 parts per billion (ppb).

When the electrical device was switched on, Goheen and his colleagues reported ozone levels spiked as high as 200 ppb -- about twice the "chronic" level allowed by federal regulators in a workplace setting.

Public health experts believe immediate damage or acute health effects from a single exposure to ozone won't occur until the concentration reaches about 5,000 ppb.

Goheen also cautioned that the rats had to be placed much closer to the electrical device than would be the case for most people and their ion air generators.

But he and his colleagues think their findings should at least prompt scrutiny into this new potential link between EMFs and health.

"Experiments (showing few or no health effects) have so far focused mainly on the direct biological effects of EMFs," Goheen and his colleagues wrote. What they have shown is that the adverse health effects may result from this indirect and unexpected "self-produced" cloud of ozone created when a body is exposed to the field.

Goheen and his co-workers said they think the ozone is produced from a reaction between oxygen and the electrons. It doesn't happen when the cage is empty of the rats, he noted, but can be produced if the cage floor is filled with water that is electrically grounded.

"Our bodies, of course, are mostly grounded water," Goheen noted.

Infant Girl Dies After 2nd Head Removed
Yahoo! News: "SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - An infant girl born with a second head bled to death Saturday after complex surgery to remove her partially formed twin, her parents and doctors said.

A medical team completed the 11-hour operation Friday night and said 8-week-old Rebeca Martinez died seven hours later. Doctors had warned after the surgery that the girl would be at great risk of infection or hemorrhaging.

'We knew this was a very risky surgery, and now we accept what God has decided,' Rebeca's father, 29-year-old Franklin Martinez, said at a news conference with his wife. 'Rebeca is no longer with us physically, but no one will forget her.'"

jaynote: this just confirms that old saying, two heads are better than one....

Las Escaleras a las Estrellas By Ed Todd , Midland Reporter-Telegram 08/26/2002
FORT STOCKTON, TEXAS (MRT) - If all else fails, don't give up. Fort Stockton didn't, and it won the right for a spaceport.

And the spaceport carries a name befitting its vision and reality: "Las Escaleras a las Estrellas" --the Stairs to the Stars or the Ladder to the Stars.

It is an inland -- well into the West Texas desert and plateaus -- site for commercial ventures on a mini-scale of what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the commercial aerospace giants, such as Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, are doing and plan to do.

The spaceport is being developed in a competitive economic climate for Texas and, particularly, for West Texas wherein towns, big and small, are competing for dollars via ED -- economic development.

"All of us have been used to the oil business and agriculture" as economic forces, said Pecos County Judge Delmon Hodges. "And this spaceport is another deal that we think will handle that" -- more economic development, Hodges said. "And the fact that we have such wonderful climate will fit into that" aerospace industry. "We have 360 days a year of sunshine. That's one reason during World War II they (federal government) put all of these (United States Army Air Corps) training stations out here so they could train the pilots. There's no bad weather."

And the U.S. Air Force "figured that they could do this same deal" at the Fort Stockton spaceport for launching satellites" via a private commercial aerospace company.

The Pecos County/West Texas spaceport Development Corporation last week signed a contract with JP Aerospace, a California-based commercial company that has a multi-million-dollar contract with the Air Force to launch satellites by rocket and balloons "to the edge of space" at 100,000 to 120,000 feet.

JP Aerospace calls itself "America's Other Space Program."

"It will be great for all of West Texas," said Doug May, administrator of the Pecos County/Fort Stockton Development Corporation that sought the spaceport in cooperation with the Texas Aerospace Commission.

JP Aerospace's first launch from the Fort Stockton "Las Escaleras a las Estrellas" site on ranch land south of Fort Stockton will be on Oct. 5 and 6, said John Powell, the 39-year-old president of the 40-employee company that, he said, is "getting bigger all of the time." His company, which is headquartered in Rancho Cordova, Calif., is out-growing its current launch site in northern Nevada.

"This is great," Powell said of the Fort Stockton site. "We have been looking for a (new) site" in a open area that is relatively free of aircraft traffic. "And the existing spaceport sites are too expensive. They are not really set up for commercial work. This is absolutely commercial work" at Fort Stockton.

"The timing was perfect," Powell said. "We were desperately looking for a spaceport." His chief engineer is Norman Brock.

JP Aerospace is carrying out experimental satellite launches for the U.S. Air Force, which "wants to be agile -- mobile," said Bill Looke, the Texas Aerospace Commission's executive director.

The TAC agency seeks to help develop the aerospace industry and to promote aviation in Texas.

The Air Force wants to "launch small satellites about the size of a football," Looke said, and wants "the capability ... to put a satellite up real quick."

Air Force experiments

"JP Aerospace is running these experimentations for the Air Force," said Looke, whose name is pronounced as if it were "Luck."

JP Aerospace is developing:

* The Ascender, a V-shaped, 110-foot-long carbon-fiber flying wing that soars at 120,000 feet (22.7 miles above Earth) and is "part balloon, part airplane, part satellite" and falls under the Air Force's Near Space Maneuvering Vehicle (NSMV), Powell said. Its solar-powered electric motor turn propellers.

JP Aerospace has developed:

* MicroSat Launcher Rocket (ML), a two-stage rocket that is launched from a high-altitude (100,000 feet or almost 19 miles) balloon platform. Its Air Force name is "Combat Access." The ML rocket launcher is designed to place small satellites into Earth's orbit. The ML is a two-stage solid propellant rocket that has a 100-mile, low-Earth-orbit (LEO) maximum altitude. Coupled with the Dark Sky Station Launch platform (DSS), the ML rocket is launched from the DSS at 100,000 feet above Earth. First flight of the ML rocket prototype was September 1999.

The MicroSat Launcher is designed to place small satellites into Earth's orbit, Powell said. At the commercial level, JP Aerospace's single satellite LEO (low-Earth orbit) launches are at "affordable prices."

JP Aerospace also has an educational program, PongSat, by which JP Aerospace "at no cost" to schools or its science students will fly "table-tennis ball" satellites to "the edge of space by balloon or rockets. The PongSats are then returned to the students. JP Aerospace's PongSat program may be reviewed on the Internet at

"name: Jessica Meade
status: D.Phil
supervisor: Tim Guilford

I am currently in the ABRG in the first year of my D Phil. I am studying the orientation of homing pigeons using newly miniaturized GPS receivers. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and the receivers make use of satellite signals to give readings of longitude, latitude and altitude. The readings are precise to � 5m and are made every second so tracks of very high spatial and temporal acuity can be recorded. The tracks can be superimposed on to topographical maps to illustrate precisely where ea pigeon has flown. Using this technology, and experimental techniques such as clock-shifting, I aim to investigate the use of visual landmarks and to look into how birds correct their routes when experimentally manipulated to fly in the wrong direction." - Magazine Article: "On the surface, there's nothing terribly unusual about Scott Jones. The 42-year-old divorcé lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis, has two dogs and three sons (ages 6, 8 and 10), and is concerned about being a good father. But anyone invited in to his Tudor-style mansion quickly learns that nothing about his life is normal. His house is the stuff of fantasies--the fantasies of a wealthy entrepreneur with money to burn.

The 'other' Indiana Jones invented a voice-mail system that is now used by an estimated 500 million people around the world. In 1986, he was just a 26-year-old research scientist at MIT when he co-founded his first company, Boston Technology. He designed a technically sophisticated voice-mail system, but the earning potential of the technology wasn't a given. The Regional Bell Operating Companies weren't legally able to sell voice-mail services yet. But, by 1988, a U.S. District Court ruled that the phone providers could sell voice mail, as long as they did not manufacture the voice-mail products themselves. Boston Technology quickly swept up the RBOC business, and four years later Scott Jones retired with enough money that he probably never needed to work again.

Scott Jones
But he did. In 1995 he left Boston and returned to his home state of Indiana, where he founded an audio and video home-network business called Escient Technologies. He also bought a 1939 country manor and immediately began what would become a seven-year renovation project. Not only did Jones spruce the place up, he turned it into a high-tech playground, adding on 17,000 square feet. The home includes an indoor tree house for the kids, a 27-foot Mahogany slide, a full-size movie theater and a special therapeutic waterfall shower with a water flow rate of 300 gallons per minute (the average shower has a water flow rate of 1.6 to 3.8 gallons per minute). "

New York City Bill of Rights Defense Campaign: " Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York affirms its strong support for the rights of immigrants and opposes measures that single out individuals for legal scrutiny or enforcement activity based primarily upon their country of origin; and be it further

Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York affirms its commitment to uphold civil rights and civil liberties, and therefore expresses its opposition to:

(a) investigation of individuals or groups of individuals based on their participation in activities protected by the First Amendment, such as political advocacy or the practice of a religion, without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity unrelated to the activity protected by the First Amendment;

(b) racial, religious or ethnic profiling;

(c) participation in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, except as directed by New York City Executive Order 41;

(d) deployment of biometric identification technology that is unreliable;

(e) establishment of a network of general surveillance cameras unless such a network is subject to regulations that provide reasonable and effective protections of privacy and due process rights of individuals who appear in recorded material; and......"

Local band Warp 11 tributes Star Trek in the form of pop punk
State Hornet Online: Music, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the rock band Warp 11. Their mission is to explore strange new riffs, to seek out new fans and new groupies, and to boldly go where no rock band has gone before.

Recently seen on "Good Day Sacramento," this band is an up-and-coming attraction in the Sacramento area with a growing fan base. Though their lyrics are based on Paramount Pictures' "Star Trek" franchise (to which they are in no way related), their music attracts and delights Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike. They have two albums out currently: "Suck my Spock" and their latest, "Red Alert."

The State Hornet first wrote about them in a review of "The Nobody Show" at the True Love Café. On the night the review was researched, Warp 11 was the musical guest, sparking the crowd with fun songs about Klingons and intimate moments with Sulu. The Hornet wasn't the only paper taking notice, however, as they have received many write-ups in various local papers and even a review in the popular magazine "Wired."

The band was first commissioned four years ago when "Captain" (Lead vocals, bassist) Karl Miller and his longtime friend "Chief Medical Officer" (Additional vocals, percussion) Jeff Hewitt began creating various sci-fi bands that never really caught on with the fans. What they had always wanted to do was a "Star Trek" band, but they danced around the issue, too afraid that their dream would not meet their expectations.

At the same, Hewitt was in another, non-sci-fi band with Brian Moore, who is a guitarist and vocalist. When Hewitt brought Moore (who would become the "Chief Engineer") into the picture with Miller and himself, the trio began to form what would eventually be Warp 11.

There was one position, however, that needed to be filled before the group would be complete. The position of "Yeoman", who would do vocals, provide sex appeal, and most importantly, serve as a muse, was a large gap that had been left unfilled. The gap didn't last long, though, as Kiki Stockhammer was quickly recruited, and had she not been, the band would have been completely lost.

"She's the muse," said Miller.

Though she is the muse, Stockhammer isn't the only one with inspiration. All three band members contribute to the lyrics, many of which come from jam sessions. Those lyrics that have not been immortalized in song sit in a folder of random fragments that wait to be added to a song in work or to be thrown away. Have no fear, though; the band does not find songwriting too difficult.

"We can come up with three or four songs a day," Hewitt said. "We could put out a third album right now."

"But we won't," Moore chimed in. "We're going to ride the wave of the second album."

However a listener interprets their lyrics, the band wants to get one thing across: They are to be taken seriously.

"We are talented musicians who just happen to have songs about 'Star Trek' and wear semblances of uniforms while singing them. We want to be respected for our art," Miller said.

So where are they boldly going, where no rock band has gone before? Well, Warp 11 has recieved a lot of publicity as of late, and is looking at getting a record contract in the future. Before, this wasn't a likely possibility due to copyright infringement laws.

Recently, though, the landmark court decision concerning Mattel and Aqua's "I'm A Barbie Girl" (which determined that the use of icons is free speech and is in no way copyright infringement) has made it possible for Warp 11 to be a mainstream act. They're already on their way to international stardom, as they have been invited to a festival in Scotland that attracts many from around the globe.

Pigeon Navigation They are known as the great natural navigators of the sky, using an in-built compass to find their way home across hundreds of miles.

Taking their bearings from the sun and stars, pigeons have become famous as messengers with an unerring sense of direction.

But a ten-year study has found a rather more down-to-earth explanation for their astonishing skill.

They are simply following roads and major junctions.

Researchers at Oxford University were taken aback to find that the pigeons ignored their in-built compass wherever possible, choosing instead to follow the main roads beneath them.

Using tiny transmitters strapped to the birds' backs, they were repeatedly tracked flying down motorways before circling round city ring roads and even turning right and left at main junctions - often adding miles to their journey.

Pigeons 'like humans'

Tim Guilford, a professor of zoology at Oxford, said pigeons are rather like humans when it comes to finding their way: they prefer to follow main roads rather than go cross-country, simply because it is easier.

"It really has knocked our research team sideways to find that, after a decade-long international study, pigeons appear to ignore their in-built directional instincts and follow the road system," said Professor Guilford.

"For long-distance navigation and for birds doing a journey for the first time, they will use their in-built compasses and take sun and star bearings.

"But once homing pigeons have flown a journey more than once, they appear to ignore the traditional forms of navigation and depend more and more on the roads that they remember being on the route the first time they flew it.

"Our interpretation is that they do this simply because it is easier.

Making journey simple

"Research has found that for birds, even a small area of landscape has a phenomenally large amount of information.

"But by ignoring all this excess information and remembering the road system, pigeons are just simplifying things. They are making their journey as simple as possible.

"So, as strange as it sounds, pigeons really do end up following the AA-suggested routes."

The research follows the development of a global positioning tracking device weighing only two-thirds of an ounce, and small enough for a pigeon to carry one on its back.

Professor Guilford's team carried out dozens of tests with pigeons in Oxfordshire, releasing the birds ten to 20 miles away from their "home" destination.

He said: "The transmitter we are using gives out directional bearings every second so we can track the bird's journey almost exactly.

"By matching their routes to detailed maps of the country it is striking to see the pigeons fly straight down the A34 Oxford bypass, and then sharply curve off at the traffic lights before curving off again at the roundabout.

"It was almost comical watching one group of birds that we released near a major A-road.

"They followed the road to the first junction where they all turned right and, a couple of junctions on, they all turned left."

Navigate by eye

He said birds find it easier to navigate by eye when they are not flying over oceans or on long-distance journeys.

"Like us, birds prefer to follow the AA-suggested main routes, even if it means they are taken miles out of their way, rather than try to be really clever by taking all the country roads."

Peter Brian, general manager of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, said he believed Professor Guilford's research was "spot on".

He said: "The Royal Pigeon Racing Association is based in Cheltenham and every Saturday you can see whole flocks of pigeons flying up the M5.

"Professor Guilford's research in animal behaviour and migration is renowned and there is a lot of credence to what he is saying."

AA spokesman Rebecca Rees said: "We devise 30million routes for motorists every year - but we didn't realise thousands of pigeons were among our customers."

Professor Guilford's research features in an BBC documentary, Animal Camera, to be screened later this month.

OK/Cancel: World's First HCI Rap:
"We Got It"
Check it: An OK/Cancel exclusive. We present to you "We Got It", a song for the users. Representing our HCI, Usability, and Interaction Design brethren. Music and lyrics by our very own Tom Chi with vocals by Tom Chi and KC.

Select the appropriate region and the download (mp3) will begin:

* [Americas]

* [Europe]

* [Aus / Asia]

Be prepared for serious HCI flava.

LYRICS ---------------------------------------

Yo -- this is an OK/Cancel exclusive
for the first time in history:
HCI and hiphop together.
for your educational pleasure
now check this while I wreck with some buttons and levers
give me 10 seconds and I'll start this endeavor

HCI? yo we got it
UCD? yo we got it
focus on usability, yeh we're on it
champion the user to keep the work honest
that's the task that's upon us

So you say got an application to build
Market niche you going to fill with a product that's a killer
You got 'funding in the millions and a team that is willing
to follow any schedule that you set before them

But wait a sec here, I don't see any HCI,
Man you're headed for more drama than "Days of 'our Lives"
you're gonna end up with something that users despise
lest get their feedback throughout the project timeline

So sit down -- and listen to me
No one wants see their product become ancient history
BEFORE you start rushing to build those interfaces
your best bet is make a set :: of simple use cases

They should describe what users actually do
and if that's unknown, run a contextual inquiry too
Because your interface will never be easy to follow
lest you build it to match up with their cognitive models

After that generate a lot of designs
run them by some users even just 2 at a time
iterate and iterate and soon you'll oblitherate
any interfaces which are wack or inconsiderate

that will help you mitigate support costs or generate
website hit rates and orders. So check it:
you'll be taking profits instead of mounting losses
'Cause you brought us in at-the front of the process

HCI? yo we got it
UCD? yo we got it
focus on usability, yeh we're on it
champion the user to keep the work honest
that's the task that's upon us

So you're just starting out, and want to know more? design of
everyday things will help you get through the door
and it takes less than 7 seconds, if your logged on
to scope an alertbox over at

now peruse on over to Schniderman and Cooper
along with Steve Krug they stop interface bloopers
and when you got to check where the user's head is at
best pick up a copy of Beyer and Holtzblatt

perhaps you're a coder needing HCI bad? we got
peeps that speak your language, like Spolsky and Winograd
and lastly if you're asking to see the larger picture
read Rosenfeld and Morville, and have Tufte chart it later

HCI? yo we got it
UCD? yo we got it
focus on usability, yeh we're on it
champion the user to keep the work honest
that's the task that's upon us

HCI? yo we got it
UCD? yo we got it
focus on usability, yeh we're on it
champion the user to keep the work honest
that's the task that's upon us

Alright, that will get ya'll started.
Shout out to Snoop Toggy Togg, Eazy Z, LL Spool J, and other headz i didn't get to mention right here.

Userati unite - to keep the interactions clear. nice.
yo ima pass this over to KC now, check this out

Yo this KC in the UK
bringing usability from London to Van-city
if your 'project goes pear-shaped then come get me
or perhaps that geezer the brilliant Tom Chi
all lightweights, clear out right
ok-cancel is here now

Public records audit: Some records requests met with suspicion and threats 02/07/04: "Public officials, ignorant of the law or paralyzed by suspicion, regularly thwart citizens exercising their constitutional right to inspect public records, a statewide audit has found.

While journalists and attorneys enjoy the benefits of Florida's open government laws, the same rights are not always granted to Florida's other residents.

During a week in January, 30 Florida newspapers, including The St. Augustine Record, tested how officials responded to a routine request to inspect records. Reporters and other news media employees posing as citizens visited 234 local agencies in 62 of Florida's 67 counties. Items requested included public officials' e-mails, cell phone records and routine police logs.

Overall, 57 percent of the agencies audited complied with the public records law, including most of those in St. Johns County, where school officials required a written request for the school superintendent's cell phone records.

The other agencies reviewed statewide made unlawful demands or simply refused to turn over the records.

Public officials lied to, harassed and even threatened volunteers who were using a law designed to give citizens the power to watch over their government. In six counties, volunteers were erroneously told that the documents they wanted didn't exist.

Many officials demanded to know who the volunteers represented and what they planned to do with the information -- clear violations of the open records law, which ensures anonymity when desired.

'Basically, it's not the government's business why a member of the public wants a record,' said Pat Gleason, general counsel for the state's attorney general. 'The desire of government to impose procedural roadblocks directly conflicts with a citizen's right of access.'

Instead of responding quickly to their constituents, many officials raised needless bureaucratic requirements, or bounced volunteers from one office to the next in a fruitless hunt for documents.

At nearly half the agencies audited, someone looking to pick up an easily accessible document during a lunch break would have walked away empty-handed."

Where Were You When Cloak And Dagger Was Killed?: "The conspiracy spouting radio show is off the air. The producers say Bush told Martin to pull the plug and Mulroney finished it off...

The plug has been pulled on Cloak and Dagger, Toronto's top-rated, late-night conspiracy radio talk show. Not surprisingly, its producers are claiming it's all a conspiracy.

Independent producer Nelson Thall says he was notified by MOJO 640 program director Scott Armstrong last week that the station (CFMJ) had decided to replace Cloak and Dagger -- the highest-rated show in its Thursday, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., time slot, according to the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement -- with a comedy show.

But Thall isn't buying the official rationale. He thinks the show, which explores alleged conspiracies that include the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., the deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Princess Diana, and the events of Sept. 11, 2001, was 'upsetting people in high places.'

'I'm a modern-day Howard Beale,' he said, alluding to the star of the 1976 movie Network. 'They killed my show because our ratings are too high. We did our job too well, revealing state secrets the shadow government doesn't want you to know.'"

Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name
NY Times: "Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called 'ecstatic behavior': that is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins. When offered female companionship, they have adamantly refused it. And the females aren't interested in them, either."

How fanfic makes kids into better writers (and copyright victims)
Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things:
"Here's an amazing Technology Review piece about how kids are writing Harry Potter fanfic and editing one-another's stories in order to become great and prolific writers. The author, Henry Jenkins, characterizes this as an 'unconventional' way of teaching creative writing, but I think that fanfic is more conventional than he credits (the first story I wrote was set in the Star Wars universe; I was six -- and the first long-form work I wrote was a Conan pastiche, at 12). The biggest difference between the kids' fanfic of yore and that of today is that back in the old days, kids had no way to readily collaborate with one another on their creations -- nor to expose themselves to copyright infringement liability from overzealous rightsholders who indiscriminately shut down kids' sites with threatening letters.
FictionAlley, the largest Harry Potter archive, hosts more than 30,000 stories and book chapters, including hundreds of completed or partially completed novels. Its (unpaid) staff of more than 200 people includes 40 mentors who welcome each new participant individually. At the Sugar Quill, another popular site, every posted story undergoes a peer-review process it calls 'beta-reading.' New writers often go through multiple drafts before their stories are ready for posting. 'The beta-reader service has really helped me to get the adverbs out of my writing and get my prepositions in the right place and improve my sentence structure and refine the overall quality of my writing,' explains the girl who writes under the pen name Sweeney Agonistes?a college freshman with years of publishing behind her.

Like many of the other young writers, Agonistes says that Rowling's books provide her with a helpful creative scaffolding: 'It's easier to develop a good sense of plot and characterization and other literary techniques if your reader already knows something of the world where the story takes place,' she says. By poaching off Rowling, the writers are able to start with a well-established world and a set of familiar characters and thus are able to focus on other aspects of their craft. Often, unresolved issues in the books stimulate them to think through their own plots or to develop new insights into the characters.
Link (via /.) "

Women's Rights Center Established
USAID: Assistance for Iraq: "Hilla, Iraq - Iraqi women practice their computer skills at the Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights in Hilla, one hour south of Baghdad. The women's center was named by the community after Fatima Al-Zahra, who was the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. The center is open to all and offers nutrition and health classes, internet/computer training, and sewing facilities. The center well generate income through sewing production, a planned food catering business, and an internet cafe. The CPA and USAID/OTI worked with women from across Babil Provence to establish the center. It is the first of five such centers to open in the south-central region of Iraq."

Rocket Man Blog: A Readers Rebuttal: "Mark makes the statement that without new engines, low cost access to space is impossible. I responded in an e-let that, excluding some reliability and maintainability concerns, engines aren’t currently a significant roadblock to cheap, reusable space travel. Mark thought what I was saying would be worth a post, and invited me to make one.

I started my software/systems engineering career at the Johnson Space Center in the shuttle flight planning offices and mission control support operation. In the late 1980’s I moved to Reston, Virginia and worked on the Space Station Freedom program for a few years before winding up at NASA HQ in the office of space access technology. Almost all that time I worked for McDonnell Douglass, and had some friends involved in other programs such as SDI/DARPA's DC-X project. So I know a little about this. Don’t blow me off out of hand.

One of the things I like about DARPA's launcher projects is that they develop breakthrough systems by adapting off-the-shelf equipment. The DC-X demonstrated likely cost reductions of at least a factor of ten over the shuttle (i.e., costs of less than $1,000 per pound of cargo to orbit) while flying only as often as the shuttle. Of more interest is that folks inside McDonnell Douglass’ DC-X program privately assured me that frequent fleet operations might get costs to orbit down to perhaps $200 per pound of cargo. They did that using RL-10 engines first marketed in the ‘50’s, avionics left over from an airliner, and a bunch of parts so off-the-shelf that some were out of a junkyard! (The condensation trays were hubcaps from an old Toyota connected to a length of garden hose.)

How could such old equipment make such breakthroughs in costs, and how could a subscale, very sub-orbital craft prove it had done so? To be blunt, they studied what was expensive in the shuttle, and excluded it in designing the DC-X"

In Search of Moon Trees
August 13, 2002: "Scattered around our planet are hundreds of creatures that have been to the Moon and back again. None of them are human. They outnumber active astronauts 3:1. And most are missing.

They're trees. 'Moon Trees.'

NASA scientist Dave Williams has found 40 of them and he's looking for more. 'They were just seeds when they left Earth in 1971 onboard Apollo 14,' explains Williams. 'Now they're fully grown. They look like ordinary trees--but they're special because they've been to the Moon.'

How they got there and back is a curious tale.

It begins in 1953 when Stuart Roosa parachuted into an Oregon forest fire. He had just taken a summer job as a US Forest Service 'smoke jumper,' parachuting into wildfires in order to put them out. It was probably adventure that first attracted Roosa to the job, but he soon grew to love the forests, too. 'My father had an affinity for the outdoors,' recalls Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Roosa, Stuart's son. 'He often reminisced about the tall Ponderosa pine trees from his smoke jumping days.'

Thirteen years later, NASA invited Roosa, who had since become an Air Force test pilot, to join the astronaut program. He accepted. Roosa, Ed Mitchell and Al Shepard eventually formed the prime crew for Apollo 14, slated for launch in 1971.

'Each Apollo astronaut was allowed to take a small number of personal items to the Moon,' continued Jack. Their PPKs, or Personal Preference Kits, were often filled with trinkets--coins, stamps or mission patches. Al Shepard took golf balls. On Gemini 3, John Young brought a corned beef sandwich. 'My father chose trees,' says Jack. 'It was his way of paying tribute to the US Forest Service.'"

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