Friday, April 30, 2004
Big and Bad
gladwell dot com: "......As Keith Bradsher writes in 'High and Mighty'--perhaps the most important book about Detroit since Ralph Nader's 'Unsafe at Any Speed'--what consumers said was 'If the vehicle is up high, it's easier to see if something is hiding underneath or lurking behind it.' Bradsher brilliantly captures the mixture of bafflement and contempt that many auto executives feel toward the customers who buy their S.U.V.s. Fred J. Schaafsma, a top engineer for General Motors, says, 'Sport-utility owners tend to be more like 'I wonder how people view me,' and are more willing to trade off flexibility or functionality to get that.' According to Bradsher, internal industry market research concluded that S.U.V.s tend to be bought by people who are insecure, vain, self-centered, and self-absorbed, who are frequently nervous about their marriages, and who lack confidence in their driving skills. Ford's S.U.V. designers took their cues from seeing 'fashionably dressed women wearing hiking boots or even work boots while walking through expensive malls.' Toyota's top marketing executive in the United States, Bradsher writes, loves to tell the story of how at a focus group in Los Angeles 'an elegant woman in the group said that she needed her full-sized Lexus LX 470 to drive up over the curb and onto lawns to park at large parties in Beverly Hills.' One of Ford's senior marketing executives was even blunter: 'The only time those S.U.V.s are going to be off-road is when they miss the driveway at 3 a.m.'"
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log
MSNBC: "Armadillo Aerospace was thought to be SpaceShipOne's closest rival, but team leader John Carmack admits that he's out of the running for this year. The Armadillo application for a launch license isn't complete — an environmental assessment hasn't yet been filed — and Carmack also is reluctant to pay the fees requested for launches at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico."
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Making a Killing: How and why corporations use armed force to do business
Ottawa Citizen: The English non-fiction category, also worth $2,500, was won by veteran journalist Madelaine Drohan for Making a Killing: How and why corporations use armed force to do business.
Ms. Drohan's book from Random House of Canada details historical and contemporary examples of corporations, some of them Canadian, that employ killer mercenaries to further their business interests in Africa.
Making a Killing has also been nominated for the $10,000 National Business Book Award, which is to be announced today. The political and business writings of the Ottawa-based Ms. Drohan from around the world have appeared during the past two decades in the Citizen, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and Maclean's.o"
......Ms. Drohan said she started researching Making a Killing in the mid-1990s after a Canadian company, DiamondWorks, hit the headlines for its connections to a group of South African mercenaries.
"Up to that point, it had never occurred to me that a company would include the use of armed force in their business plan. I wanted to see if there were others doing this. And of course I found lots of examples all over the world of companies who were literally getting away with murder.
"I found it strange that while people were scandalized when companies were stealing their pensions or cooking the books (Enron, WorldCom, etc.), there was much less of an uproar when companies were killing people, or allowing them to be killed on their behalf. Perhaps because it was happening on the other side of the world, it allowed people to turn the other way."
JetStar International Airlines Sues Qantas Airways Ltd. for Copyright and Trademark Infringement
Press Release:April 20, 2004
On Dec 1, 2003 Qantas Airways Ltd announced the launch of their new low cost carrier named 'Jetstar.' http://Jetstar.com/ and http://Jetstar.com.au/
Unfortunately for Qantas, the name JetStar used in conjunction with the airline industry was an already legally trademarked brand by JetStar International Airlines, at http://www.jetstarairlines.com/.
Beginning at least four years ago, JetStar International Airlines, was the first and only company ever to use the trademark 'JetStar' in conjunction with an airline or air carrier of any kind, and have enjoyed a peaceful and productive time with their superior trademark and domain. Quoting JetStar's CEO Gene Bordelon, 'When I formed this virtual airline four years ago, I went to great lengths naming and branding it so uniquely that the odds would be remote in the extreme that it would ever be exactly copied, unintentionally or coincidentally to avoid any copyright problems.' He continued by stating 'It's unbelievable that Qantas could come up with the same name, essentially the same logo design, and substantially the same silver livery as ours by chance. Even our domain name clearly states who and what we are. I knew when I named the airline 'JetStar' it along with our signature livery would be a very powerful and recognizable trademark brand. Qantas and their ad agency obviously also recognized this.
The website operated by JetStar International Airlines caters to the airline simulation industry. JetStar Airlines has received many accolades for their unique fleet and website design, and prior to the December 1 decision by Qantas, JetStar's website was the highest and only return for 'JetStar Airlines' on every general search engines such as Google.com, among others for three years running. "
jaynote: the implications are very interesting... since it's the first time I know of that a physical company has so grossly infringed on a virtual company.
Piracy hits Christian music
The Seattle Times: "Christian teens are stealing Jesus music.
They're doing it through Internet downloads and CD burnings at nearly the same rate as secular music is being pirated, according to a new study done for the Gospel Music Association.
The findings were a jolt to many in the evangelical music industry, who expected churchgoing teens to be mindful of the commandment that states, 'Thou shalt not steal.'"
Inside CA's Diebold Decertification
Scoop: "Though Diebold's technical data specs for the TSx machines specify that Diebold is ISO compliant (a quality management system for software) no attempt was made to follow even the most basic quality control standards to comply with ISO 9000. Most machines were not even tested after the patches.
The batteries kept dying, even when the machines were in transit only for a short time. But the batteries didnt even need to run down; when they got low, the machines lost their software.
The techs warned everyone who would listen that this was going to be a problem on election day. Diebold instructed them to ship the machines out around to various counties (and to Johnson County, Kansas) despite the flaws. The encoders did indeed fail on election day, causing many,many people to lose their ability to vote at all.
At the hearing yesterday: Bob Urosevich started off, and said he had no idea of the battery problem, and that Diebold had fixed all the problems identified by the various reports (SAIC, RABA)
But then Dunn testified that they did know about the problems.
Urosevich was cross examined, and it got pretty cross (on the part of the voter board) and tense (on the part of Diebold's lawyer, who kept jumping up to whisper in Urosevich's ear). His answers were evasive, nonsensical, parsed words beyond the meaning of 'is' and so frustrated the panel that one panel member said 'so we can look at your answer two ways -- you were trying to be misleading or you were lying. Which is it?'"
Plumber, electrician... digitician?
The day's spoils: 1,136 pieces of spyware and 42 viruses. "It had Ebola," Gosselin tells Meredith Judge about her family computer. "One of the worst ones I've seen."
Another day's work for Gosselin, an employee of Geek Housecalls and one man in the burgeoning army of overqualified, unemployed, or free-spirited computer technicians being deployed to front porches around the country. Gosselin is a Harvard MBA-turned-computer nerd laid off from his prior full-time job. This new breed of tradesman can solve the technical problems of increasingly wired homes with PCs, laptops, personal digital assistants, BlackBerrys, DVD players, cable, faxes, printers, cellphones, and the wireless web.
For many tech-savvy households, the services of these itinerant professionals have become indispensable in an era when expectations of what technology can do are rising and the machinery has become too complex for the average person to manage. They can remove a carpet of dog hair from any hard drive vent, one of numerous computer-related tasks awaiting them in the American home. They restore old computers, set up new ones, network multiple home computers, install and smooth out programs, organize tangles of cables, debug, kill viruses, train, even customize computers to fit the quirks of any family configuration.
"While Dell might help me with my computer, and the cable company might help me with my cable modem, there's no one who does it all," said Paul Osterman, a professor who studies work in the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It may be the beginning of a profession. It's being driven not by your computer, but your home network in the house and the increasing complexity -- it's creating a need for this."
President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond
moontomars.org: Public Hearing
May 3-4, 2004
The Asia Society
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Wreckage of Little Prince author's plane found in sea
Telegraph One of France's most enduring mysteries has been solved with the discovery of the wreckage of the aircraft piloted by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the children's classic The Little Prince.
Two pieces of his Lockheed Lightning P-38, which vanished on July 31, 1944, during an Allied reconnaissance mission, have been pulled from the Mediterranean near Marseilles.
Archives confirmed that the manufacturer's serial number, 2734L, stamped on a piece of salvaged fuselage, matched that of Saint-Exupéry's plane.
....The mystery of why the plane crashed remains. "There was no bent propeller, no bullet holes," M Castello said.
"Looking at the pieces, we are thinking of a hypothesis of a near-vertical dive at high speed. But that's just a guess." Theories have ranged from hostile gunfire to mechanical problems or suicide.
When Meteors Explode: Full Account of a Wild Chicago Night
space.com: "It hit the atmosphere at about 40,000 mph,' Simon said. 'At this great speed, air pressure builds up in front of the object and is much greater than the pressure behind it. This will pull apart many meteors, especially if they already had some cracks. This object probably went though four fragmentation events as it passed through the atmosphere.'
Tremendous heat created by the pressure lit much of the object in a fiery display.
Park Forest resident Noe Garza was asleep when a fragment burst through his ceiling, sliced some window blinds, then bounced across the room and broke a mirror. 'I thought somebody was breaking in,' Garza told a new agency the next day. 'It was a big bang. I can't really describe it.'
Another resident whose home was hit said the room lit up and it sounded like a plane had crashed.
Simon's team examined hundreds of fragments -- 65 pounds worth that were picked up and delivered to the scientists -- to estimate the original rock's size and weight.
The measurements are difficult to pin down, he explained, because a lot of fragments probably hit wooded areas and were not found. And some of the original meteor was probably broken into particles too small to notice. The scientists also analyzed the fragments for a certain radioactive form of cobalt, which can reveal the rock's minimum size. 'If the object is too small [while in space for eons] the cosmic rays will just pass through and not make 60 cobalt,' Simon said.
He said the original rock weighed at least 1,980 pounds as it entered the atmosphere. Long ago, the analysis shows, it was probably heated for a long period of time inside a larger parent asteroid. That asteroid then broke apart, again a long time ago, perhaps in a collision with another asteroid."
NYC misguidedly may ban Segways
Citystreets.org In preparation for today I have corresponded with others who also oppose this bill. One of these people is Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the personal Computer and co-founder of Apple computer. He was not able to attend the hearing today but he asked me to let you know that he was concerned about banning Segways and asked that you consider Segways separate from scooters.
I need to state for the public record that Transportation Alternatives should either change their position or their name. There is no device more alternative than a Segway.
And is it just me, or when David Wolloch from DOT talks about Segways are others also reminded of the movie "I Am Sam", where a gifted child is born to a retarded parent?
My name is Harris Silver I am the founder of Citystreets. We are known as a forward-thinking, NYC based organization focused on improving the urban environment by exposing transportation policy flaws; their cultural impact on cities, and bringing much needed attention to pedestrian safety issues. Of particular interest to this committee is the fact that it was Citystreets who first suggested to the DOT in 1997 to use a similar system to NYPD's crime stat mapping to look at pedestrian fatalities. This is what is credited for bringing pedestrian fatalities to historic lows.
Unlike the DOT we think it's a little early for self-congratulatory celebration. NYC still has 15,000 pedestrians seriously injured after being struck by cars every year. The pedestrian environment is so dangerous that Jody Lane was electrocuted on January 16th 2004 by just taking her dogs for a walk and the infrastructure planned designed and built by DOT does not provide for the safe use of our streets by all residents. The deaths of 11 year old Victor Flores and 10 year old Juan Estrada who where killed on February 9th, 2004 when they were in the crosswalk crossing with the light proves this irrefutability. But here we are in an inversion of common sense actually discussing banning Segways, which hold so much promise for the future of our city.
We have looked at bill 98. NYC residents deserve better from our legislators and I am here to publicly demand it.
While we understand the impetus of this legislation are the complaints you receive from your constituents about unsupervised teenagers riding gasoline powered scooters we see this legislation as lacking all nuance and doing more damage than good. Specifically this legislation makes no distinction between Segways and Scooters. No distinction between gasoline scooters and electric scooters and uses blended statistics to arrive at a logically flawed conclusion.
Cat owns house
The Saratogian: "One of Charlton's most historic homesteads is owned by a cat named Teddy Bear.
When Dorothy Corbin died in 1996, she had a provision in her will that her pets -- at that time a horse, a dog and two cats -- be allowed to live out their days on her colonial property at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Packer Road about eight miles west of Ballston Spa. She left $500,000 in trust for their care, neighbor Deborah Herrin said.
But Buddy the horse, Bruno the dog and a cat named Willie have followed their doting owner to their great reward. This leaves Teddy Bear living in his house with a caretaker hired by Trustco Bank of Glenville.
Herrin said Teddy Bear has a special tattoo to prevent anyone from replacing him with a look-alike when he dies. But she's never seen her neighbor. She's just been told he is an inside cat and is about 10 years old now."
Niche Meatpacker Is Cut Off From Its Best Markets
The New York Times: "It isn't losing the Japanese market for filet mignon that bothers Bill Fielding most. It's losing the market for tongue.
Until a case of mad cow disease was found in the United States on Dec. 23, a tongue from his premium cattle fetched $17 in Japan. American wholesalers pay $3.50.
Asian buyers also paid more for the company's prime beef, but the real money was in the spare parts, said Mr. Fielding, chief operating officer at Creekstone Farms, a high-end beef producer with an ultramodern plant here in the flat Kansas corn belt. Mexico snapped up his stomachs and Russians paid 30 cents a pound for liver that goes for 8 cents domestically.
But after Dec. 23, foreign countries shut their doors. Creekstone lost 25 percent of its sales, laid off 45 of its 750 workers and idled its plant one to two days a week.
Japanese buyers assured Mr. Fielding that they would buy again if he tested his beef for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
In response, he built a laboratory five feet from the overhead chain that carries skinned heads through the plant. His staff was trained in testing for mad cow, using a machine that gives results in seven hours, while the carcasses are still in the cooler.
But on April 9, the United States Department of Agriculture forbade Creekstone to test its cattle, saying there was 'no scientific justification' for testing young steers like those Creekstone sells. Certifying some beef for Japan as disease-free, the department said, might confuse American consumers into thinking that untested beef was not safe.
Calling those arguments 'ludicrous,' Mr. Fielding has threatened to sue. He says he only wants the freedom to please a big, fussy customer, and he accuses the department of bending to the will of the big meat companies that control 80 percent of the industry."
DNA kits to combat spitting menace
The Scotsman: "BUS drivers in Edinburgh are to be issued with DNA kits in an effort to catch people who spit on them while they are working.
More than 1,800 employees at the city’s two main bus firms are to be given the kits to secure evidence and encourage more reporting of incidents.
About one driver a week is reported to police as having been spat on, although the actual figure is believed to be twice as high because many incidents go unreported. The move, instigated by Lothian and Borders Police, follows the introduction of the 'spit kits' on the London Underground, ScotRail services and on some buses in Glasgow.
The kits include sterile swabs to pick up any trace of an offender’s DNA. The packs also contain a pair of latex gloves and an evidence collection bag.
New laws mean anyone arrested for any offence can be DNA-tested and their unique profile added to the national database. Any DNA matches can be made within a matter of seconds.
Martin White, public transport liaison officer at Lothian and Borders Police, said: 'These kits have been hugely successful in obtaining first-class evidence which can be used to secure a court conviction.
'Spitting is a fairly common crime on buses in Edinburgh, although we feel there is still quite a bit of unreporting of it by drivers, as they may believe it is a hazard of the job to be spat on.
'However, it is an offence we view very seriously indeed and it is treated just the same as any other assault.'
Bill Campbell, the operations manager for Lothian Buses, which employs 1,400 drivers, said: 'As far as we’re concerned, spitting on the driver is exactly the same as any other form of assault and is completely unacceptable.'
More than 25 bus passengers faced assault charges for spitting at drivers following the introduction of the saliva recovery kits on all services run by First in Glasgow last September."
jerrypournelle.com/mail: "We need more Taleyarkhans and less illiterate migrant workers. Too bad no one has quite such a nuanced position on immigration.
Background: Taleyarkhan was the guy who caused the bubble fusion controversy a few years back, with the claim that he could get 10^6 K temperatures by subjecting deuterated acetone bubbles in a beaker to shock waves.
Physicists who were gun shy after cold fusion demanded replication. So Taleyarkhan and guys at ORNL, Purdue, RPI, and the Russian academy of science replicated and extended the results, which are going to be published in Physical Review E (one of the truly pimp journals in physics). Looks like this stuff is for real.
Anyway, given that Taleyarkhan is an IIT Madras grad, somehow I intuit that this news isn't going to show up on VDare's front page."
Diebold violated California election law
Oakland Tribune: "Attorneys for Diebold Election Systems Inc. warned in late November that its use of uncertified vote-counting software in Alameda County violated California election law and broke its $12.7 million contract with Alameda County.
Soon after, a review of internal legal memos obtained by the Oakland Tribune shows Diebold's attorneys at the Los Angeles office of Jones Day realized the McKinney, Texas-based firm also faced a threat of criminal charges and exile from California elections.
Yet despite warnings from the state's chief elections officer, Diebold continued fielding poorly tested, faulty software and hardware in at least two of California's largest urban counties during the Super Tuesday primary, when e-voting temporarily broke down and voters were turned away at the polls."
Tiny village possibly holds the world's tallest man
USATODAY.com: "At age 33, Leonid Stadnik wishes he would stop growing.
He's already 8 feet, 4 inches.
Recent measurements show that Stadnik is already 7 inches taller than Radhouane Charbib of Tunisia, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest living man. He's also gaining on the 8-11 Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in history.
Yet for Stadnik, the prospect of becoming a record-holder would be little comfort.
'My two-year-old suit's sleeves and pants are now 30 centimeters (12 inches) shorter than I need,' said Stadnik. 'My height is God's punishment. My life has no sense.'
Stadnik's height keeps him confined to this tiny village 130 miles west of the capital, Kiev.
'Taking a public bus for me is the same as getting into a car's trunk for a normal person,' he said.
Stadnik's unusual growth began after a brain operation at age 14, which is believed to have stimulated his pituitary gland. Since then, life just keeps getter harder.
Although he once was able to work as a veterinarian at a cattle farm, he had to quit three years ago after his feet were frostbitten because he wasn't able to afford proper shoes for his 17-inch feet."
PhotographyBLOG : "The Lensbaby is the brainchild of professional photographer Craig Strong, who invented the Lensbabies Flexible Lens Mounting System (to give it it's full name) in an effort to replace his Holga film camera with a digital equivalent. It is described on the Lensbaby website as 'the hybrid love children of an old-fashioned bellows camera and an up-tight tilt-shift lens', producing photographs with ' the same soft, roughed-up look produced by a Holga'.
The Lensbaby currently costs $96 for either the Canon or Nikon version
The Lensbaby has a basic, but clever, design that consists of a camera mount at one end, lens tubing in the middle, and an aperture ring and focusing collar at the other end.
The Lensbaby mounts on your camera in the same way as your other camera lenses. On the Canon fitting Lensbaby that I have reviewed, there is a small white mark on the mount, which you line up with the mark on your camera body and then turn clockwise to attach it. The Lensbaby is supplied with an end cap to protect the rear element when it is stored away, again just as with any other lens.
The lens tubing is the part of the lensbaby that allows you to control the effect that it gives. It can be compressed or extended by pulling or pushing the focusing collar at the end of the Lensbaby. This in turn controls what is in focus, with fully compressed focusing on infinity and full extended focusing about 1 foot ahead. To focus on subjects that are between these distances, you have to partly compress the Lensbaby."
Will Trade Passwords For Chocolate
Security Pipeline: "Almost three quarters of office workers in an impromptu man-on-the-street survey were willing to give up their passwords when offered the bribe of a chocolate bar.
The organizers of the conference Infosecurity Europe 2004 plans to announce on Tuesday that they surveyed office workers at Liverpool Street Station in England, and found that 71 percent were willing to part with their password for a chocolate bar.
The survey also found the majority of workers would take confidential information with them when they change jobs, and would not keep salary details confidential if they came across the details.
Some 37 percent of workers surveyed immediately gave their password. If they initially refused, researchers used social engineering tactics, such as suggesting that the password has to do with a pet or children's name. An additional 34 percent revealed their passwords at that point."
Money that grows on crops
csmonitor.com: "Use common crops to soak up contaminants in soil from gold-mining sites and return the areas to productive agriculture. The gold harvested from the process pays for the cleanup - with money left over for training in sustainable agriculture.
'We get the plants to do the hard work, and then we basically harvest the plants and extract the metal,' says Christopher Anderson, an environmental geologist from Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. 'So we farm mercury and gold.'"
Toby Gard, inventor of Lara Croft/Tomb Raider
News: "The story goes that Frances Gard, Toby's younger sister, was the inspiration for Lara Croft. You'll know Lara Croft better as Tomb Raider, the computer-game character who kicks, jumps and swims her way through a maze of tunnels fit to bamboozle the Minotaur. Latterly, she's done the same in the cinema, in two films: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Toby invented Lara Croft/Tomb Raider in the mid-1990s while he was working at Core Design, a company that develops video software. He designed, programmed and executed the game using techniques which, at the time, were revolutionary. It was an immediate critical and commercial success. Core has sold in excess of 25 million units under the Tomb Raider name.
But Lara Croft became an emblem beyond the insular video-gaming world. She appeared on stage with U2 during their Pop Mart world tour. She became the subject of highbrow-goes-lowbrow cultural essays. She featured on the covers of style magazines. And she was 'the face' of Lucozade. She even released a pop single, produced by the dreaded Dave Stewart. The biggest video-game icon since Pac-Man, Croft has netted Core Design in excess of �400m. But Gard has seen none of it. He quit Core two months after the game was released. It was 1997. It was the first game he'd developed. He was 24 years old."
360° panorama lens
Sony Global - CX-NEWS Vol.34: "Until now, taking a 360° panorama with a normal lens has required taking multiple shots while rotating the camera slowly and then combining ('stitching') those shots together to form the panorama. In contrast, the 360° full-circle lens allows the full 360° surroundings of the camera to be imaged at the same time with a single lens.
Sony has now developed a camera module that uses this 360° full-circle lens, and is releasing as commercial products both a camera module that uses a 380K-pixel, 30 fps CCD that outputs a ring-shaped image as a composite video signal as well as a high-resolution camera module that uses a 1.28 MP, 7.5 fps CCD with a built-in panorama expansion processing function. New functions and applications can be created by combining these devices with a variety of different products, and thus these products can contribute to the creation of new markets."
The British UI
relisoft.com: "Are you thinking of hiring a British contractor or firm to design the UI of you product? Before you do that, take a trip to the old country and get some first-hand reconnaisance. That's what I did. The result of my trip is that I came to appreciate the whimsical British approach to solving user-interface problems. Please, don't try it at your software company (or, should I say, stop doing it?).
Exhibit one. Take an English train. It's easy to get on. The trouble starts when the train arrives at your destination. You go to the door with the idea that you can open it and exit the train.
Look at this picture. Do you see any kind of a handle? In the obvious location, you see a steel plate. You push it, kick it--nothing! Maybe there is a button? You start searching, more and more desperately as the train gets ready to continue its ride. If you are lucky, you'll notice a blue plaque above the window.
(go to the article to see the sign, and other good examples)"
The New Republic Online: Easterbrook
a alternative history: Washington, April 9, 2004.
A hush fell over the city as George W. Bush today became the first president of the United States ever to be removed from office by impeachment. Meeting late into the night, the Senate unanimously voted to convict Bush following a trial on his bill of impeachment from the House.
Moments after being sworn in as the 44th president, Dick Cheney said that disgraced former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice would be turned over to the Hague for trial in the International Court of Justice as a war criminal. Cheney said Washington would 'firmly resist' international demands that Bush be extradited for prosecution as well.
On August 7, 2001, Bush had ordered the United States military to stage an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Thousands of U.S. special forces units parachuted into this neutral country, while air strikes targeted the Afghan government and its supporting military. Pentagon units seized abandoned Soviet air bases throughout Afghanistan, while establishing support bases in nearby nations such as Uzbekistan. Simultaneously, FBI agents throughout the United States staged raids in which dozens of men accused of terrorism were taken prisoner.
The Victims of George W. Bush
Sidney Blumenthal, The Bush Wars (Knopf: 2003, xxxv 692 pp., $39.95);
Ann Coulter, Conspiracy (Crown Forum: 2004, xi 280 pp., $24.95).
The drama of two successive Presidential impeachments will doubtless give future American historians ample opportunities for comparing and contrasting Bill Clinton, accused of personal indiscretions and acquitted, with George W. Bush, a man of apparently sincere, though narrowly delimited, personal morality found guilty of public crimes of the greatest consequence. Neither left-wing journalist Sidney Blumenthal nor right-wing agitator Ann Coulter comes near to writing disinterested history, but their conflicting, highly partisan reactions – the one triumphant and vindicated, the other defensive and paranoid – are useful starting points for more sober analysis.
Blumenthal, a one-time Clinton aide whose work on a history of that administration was interrupted by the Bush scandals, adopts an historian’s mannerisms and techniques, if not an impartial historical spirit. He has read a vast number of documents, interviewed many of the principal actors and sought to place events in a broader context. His book also boasts an introduction by an eminent young scholar, Michael Bellesiles, who sedulously connects President Bush’s meretricious actions to their consequences for America’s standing in the world.
Music: Interview: Blöödhag
by Victoria Garcia and John Aegard
"The boys mount the stage in pressed white shirt-sleeves; ties; studded belts; horn-rimmed glasses. This is what we came to see. The crowd quiets a bit when the bassist steps up to his mike and begins to read from Parable of The Sower. Then the drummer raises a copy of The Sheep Look Up and also begins to read. Seconds later, the lead singer follow with The Lathe of Heaven, the guitarist with Dune. Around the bar, a dozen or so others are nodding and smiling along with us. When the reading is over, we, the die-hard dozen, scream our lungs out. A few drunken thrashers scream along with us, but the rest of the crowd seems a little confused.
Soon, the spotlight comes up again. The lead singer grabs the microphone. 'This is Frank Bellknap Long!' he yells, and, feverish, launches into a lecture on Long's oeuvre. There can't be more than a handful of people on this earth who could get a beer-sodden thrash crowd to listen to an English Lit lecture. Thirty seconds later, the audience is sufficiently educated, and the guys begin to wail. Jake the singer holds the microphone over his head and belts out the song in a growling voice that's monster-movie low. 'No reason! No corners!' he shouts. Two minutes later, they're done with the pulps and ready to move on to the New Wave. 'Our next song is about Harlan Ellison!' Jake bellows, and the geeks, the hipsters, the metalheads, and the drunks let out a howl of mutual joy.
Blöödhag -- note the dual umlauts -- hails from Seattle. Describing themselves as 'edu-core,' the band performs nothing but two-minute thrash tributes to science fiction writers. Between songs, the band pelts the audience with paperback books, quizzes them on book titles, and demands that the audience show their library cards. Their motto: 'The Faster You Go Deaf, the More Time You Have to Read.'
Last month, we visited Blöödhag at the Seattle home of bassist Sir Zachary Orgel. Also present were guitarist Dr. J. M. McNulty and singer Professor J. B. 'Jake' Stratton."
Butler transported to federal prison
University Daily: "For the next two years, former Texas Tech Health Sciences Center professor and internationally known plague researcher Dr. Thomas Butler will be known in prison as inmate number 30011-177.
Butler voluntarily surrendered and was transported to Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth on Wednesday, said Dick Baker, assistant U.S. attorney.
Butler was convicted of 47 felony counts of embezzlement and mail and wire fraud in December. His convictions related to a bubonic plague scare that prompted an FBI investigation in January 2003.
Butler was arrested after falsely reporting 30 vials of bubonic plague missing to FBI officials. He reported the vials stolen, but later wrote a letter confessing they had been mistakenly destroyed.
Although he was not convicted of destroying the infected vials, he was convicted of exporting hazardous materials to Tanzania via Federal Express. He was also fined $250,000 for engaging in shadow contracts with pharmaceutical companies while employed by Texas Tech."
Full (!) review posted for Nikon D70, SB-800 flash unit
imaging-resource.com: "Here's some of what you'll find in my review that I don't think has been reported on elsewhere yet:
* A more detailed feature comparison between the D70, D100, Digital Rebel, and EOS-10D
* Detailed shutter lag timing results, accurate to the millisecond, including the impact on shutter lag of the wireless lighting system.
* Comparison of startup time, shutter lag, cycle time, and buffer depth between the D70, Digital Rebel, D100, and EOS-10D.
* A detailed discussion of the flash system and how the D70 and remote strobes work together.
* More detail on Nikon's new PictureProject software (I liked it more than some reviewers did, but it's clearly not intended for pro or even advanced amateur use).
* More screen shots of the camera's user interface, including essentially all Custom Settings Menu screens, and correcting at least one error in others' reporting of CSM functions."
rik.typepad.com: I have a problem with Bluetooth headsets, in that the wearer either looks like a prat, or if it is particularly discreet, comes across like a schizophrenic talking to God. However, given that I have no particular desire to irradiate my brain with microwaves for prolonged periods, I have been thinking long and hard about a possible solution, and by Jove, I think I have it!
The obvious and elegant solution is a Bluetooth-enabled parrot which would perch on your shoulder, pirate-style. Not only would this lend you a certain rakish air on the Number 73 bus, it would make it entirely clear to fellow passengers and the man in the street that you are perfectly sane and merely engaged in a conversation with a friend. "
....Researchers (well, Jakob Nielsen) have found that the most irritating thing about overheard mobile phone conversations is that they can only hear one half of the conversation. By simply using a concealed loudspeaker in said parrot, mental irritation of your fellows would be significantly reduced.
"Operation Eagle" Commission
King of Fools: "In the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, here is a brief look back at 'Operation Eagle', Germany's major air offensive against Great Britain.
The operation began in August of 1940 and although Germany was the overwhelming favorite, things didn't turn out quite as expected. Historian William L. Shirer points out a critical mistake by Hermann Goering in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:
The skill of British Fighter Command in committing its planes to battle against vastly superior attacking forces was based on its shrewd use of radar. From the moment they took off from their bases in Western Europe the German aircraft were spotted on British radar screens, and their course so accurately plotted that Fighter Command knew exactly where and when they could best be attacked. This was something new in warfare and it puzzled the Germans, who were far behind the British in the development and use of this electronic device.
German fighter ace Adolf Galland later testified:
We realized that the R.A.F fighter squadrons must be controlled from the ground by some new procedure because we heard commands skillfully and accurately directing Spitfires and Hurricanes on to German formations...For us this radar and fighter control was a surprise and a very bitter one.
On August 12, the Luftwaffe staged a raid on enemy radar stations. Five stations in all were damaged, with one completely disabled. Yet, following a dismal showing in battles on August 15th, Goering called off all future attacks on the radar stations, declaring:
It is doubtful whether there is any point in continuing the attacks on radar stations, since not one of those attacked has so far been put out of action.
German pilots knew that radar granted an advantage to their opponent. German intelligence knew the location of many (if not all) of the radar stations. Shirer believes that this gross miscalculation is one of the major factors why Germany did not win the Battle of Britain. Why was this decision made? Could the available intelligence have allowed them to make a better decision?"
Gurus v. Bloggers, Round 1
Design by Fire: "Welcome to the first official Gurus v. Bloggers Design Shootout. What exactly is that?
I’ve gathered examples of web sites of a few well known — and highly respected — web, design, and technology Gurus, along with a few web sites of a few well known Bloggers in the design sector.
What are we going to do with them?
Have them duke it out, Celebrity Deathmatch Style! (Ok… without the fun claymation or witty writing. You get what you pay for.)
Playing for the Gurus: Richard Saul Wurman, Bruce Tognazzi, Peter Merholz, Jakob Nielsen, Edward Tufte, Gerry McGovern, Donald Norman, and Myself.
Why me? Am I bold enough to claim myself a guru? Not really, but since I do consider myself fairly experienced in the field, I’m gonna play on their team. Neener neener!
Playing for the Bloggers: Jeffery Zeldman, D. Keith Robinson, Andy Budd, Didier Hilhorst, John Gruber, Greg Storey, John Hicks, and Josh Williams.
New Physics Discovered on the Space Station
RedNova News:Understanding how fluids behave, singly or in mixtures, is important to the space program, especially now that NASA plans to send people back to the Moon and on to Mars.
"We're going to have to manufacture things in space," explains Pojman, "and that means dealing with fluids." As an example, he offers plastics--a key component of habitats, radiation shields, rovers, etc. Plastics are usually formed by combining dissimilar fluids or fluids and powders, then heating the mixture. "If you've ever used BondoTM to repair your car, you've done this yourself: you mix a resin together with peroxide to create a sticky plastic substance," adds Pojman.
Mixing is also necessary for certain types of medical space-research--"especially protein crystal growth in microgravity," notes Pojman. When two fluids are put together, do "Korteweg currents" flow? Do the fluids dissolve evenly? Do they break apart into droplets? These details actually make a difference.
Pojman himself couldn't go to the ISS to investigate such questions, so he devised an experiment that astronauts could do for him: the Miscible Fluids in Microgravity Experiment or MFMG for short. "MFMG is a very simple experiment," he says. "It involves two syringes, a drinking straw, honey and water. All of these things were already onboard the ISS."
One syringe is filled with honey or a honey-water solution, the other with pure water. The tips of the syringes are connected via a short tube (the straw). When all is ready, an astronaut gently squirts a blob of honey into the water, or vice versa, and films what happens. ISS science officer Mike Foale did the experiment last week, and transmitted the video to Earth.
"We've already learned something new," says Pojman.
There's a number in fluid physics theory called "the square gradient parameter" or k. It's proportional to the strength of intermolecular forces between two different fluids, like honey and water.
"How two fluids behave when mixed in low-gravity is going to depend on k," says Pojman. "We've never been able to measure k on Earth for a pair of miscible (mixable) fluids. It's value could be anything! But just from watching the video of MFMG we've got an upper limit on k--it must be less than 10-8 Newtons."
He reached this conclusion in the following way: If k were much greater than 10-8 Newtons, honey blobs injected into water would quickly assume a spherical shape. But they didn't. The blobs, squeezed into elongated shapes as they passed through the nozzle of the syringe, remained elongated.
"The fact that we could do this using only odds and ends onboard the space station is encouraging," says Pojman. A similar procedure could be used to set limits on, or actually measure, k for many different pairs of fluids.
Music industry in uproar over UNC research
newsobserver.com: "Koleman Strumpf, associate professor of economics at UNC-Chapel Hill, finished a paper last month that was sure to bore.
The title, 'The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis,' was enough to send laymen scampering. The mathematical formulas, tables and appendices would lure only other academics, he figured.
He was wrong.
The paper lit the fuse on a volatile topic, music downloading, and touched off a firestorm of controversy. Strumpf, 35, and a Harvard University colleague concluded that online file sharing doesn't hurt music sales, contrary to contentions of the nation's recording industry executives.
The industry's trade group began a counteroffensive, blasting the paper as incomplete and flawed"
Koleman S. Strumpf
TITLE: Associate professor of economics, UNC-Chapel Hill
EDUCATION: Ph.D., economics, MIT, 1995
A.B. with honors and distinction, economics, Stanford University, 1990
B.S. with honors, biology, Stanford University, 1990
Phi Beta Kappa, 1989
RESEARCH: Currently focuses on the economics of crime, such as illegal sports bookmaking and peer-to-peer file transfer networks. He has also written papers on government decentralization, historical betting on presidential elections, political economics, local government behavior and health economics.
To read Strumpf's paper, 'The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales, An Empirical Analysis,' visit his Web site at
Click on 'Working Papers' in the left margin.
Fallujah and Cawnpore: history repeating?
.........The last and largest room in the Carlisle museum--- which wasn’t much bigger than the bedroom that Pippy and I shared at home--- had a large case in the center, filled with weapons for the most part: Malay knives, and ancient pistols and swords, but the most curious thing of all was on a little stand in the center.
“What’s with that?” JP asked, “It doesn’t belong here at all.”
It was a white muslin baby’s cap, one of those lacily ornate Victorian bonnets, with ruffles and eyelet, and dangling ties that would make a bow under the baby’s soft little chin. Our family’s christening dress was about the same style, carefully sewn with tiny, tiny stitches, out of fine cotton muslin, but the dress was in pristine condition, and this little bonnet had a number of pale rusty blotches on it. We looked at it, and wondered what on earth a baby’s cap was doing in a case of guns and knives, and I walked around to the other side of the case, and found the card that explained why.
“Oh, dear, “ I said, “They found it at the well in Cawnpore… The local regiment was one of the first to re-enter the city.” I looked at the stains, and knew what they were, and what had happened to the baby who wore that little bonnet, and I felt quite sick.
“Cawnpore?” Pippy asked, “What’s that to do with it?”
By the time I finished explaining, poor Pippy looked very green. I knew about the Sepoy Mutiny, because I read a lot, and some of Kipling’s India stories had piqued my interest in history not covered in American public schools. The British garrison--- and their wives and dependents, and any number of civilians-- in the town of Cawnpore stood off a brutal siege by elements of their rebelling Indian soldiers, and local nobles who thrown in their lot with the mutineers in hopes of recovering their old position and authority. Reduced by disease, shot and starvation, the survivors had surrendered on the understanding that they be allowed to take boats down river, but they were massacred at the landing, in front of a large crowd, in as grisly and brutal a fashion as the killings in Fallujah last week. ..............
Why Mobile Phones are Annoying
(Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox): "The researchers staged one-minute conversations in front of unsuspecting commuters who were either riding a train or waiting for a bus. In half the cases, two actors conversed face-to-face while seated next to a potential test participant. In the other half, a single actor talked on a mobile phone while seated next to a potential participant.
Furthermore, the actors conducted half of the conversations at a normal loudness level, whereas the other half were exaggeratedly loud (as measured on a volume meter). The actual content and duration of the conversations were the same in all conditions.
After each test conversation, researchers approached the bystanders and asked them to complete a small survey about the conversation. In other words, while the conversation was taking place, the participants didn't know that they were part of an experiment, but rather assumed that the conversation was the normal behavior of one or two other commuters."
Kerry failed to act on pre-9/11 tip
WorldNetDaily: A third federal aviation-security agent, one still with the government, has stepped forward to say he also warned Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry about security lapses at Boston's Logan International Airport before the 9-11 hijackings there.
Earlier this week, two former FAA agents said the Democratic presidential hopeful failed to take effective action after they gave him a prophetic warning that his home airport was vulnerable to multiple hijackings.
Brian Sullivan, a retired special agent from the Boston area, advised Kerry in a May 7, 2001, letter (page 1, page 2) that Logan was ripe for a "jihad" suicide operation possibly involving "a coordinated attack." He cited serious breaches at Logan security checkpoints exposed by an undercover investigation he and another former agent helped a Boston TV news station conduct.
Sullivan says he had a copy of the undercover videotape hand-delivered to Kerry's office.
Our goal is to significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015
B612 FOUNDATION: "We are a group of professionals, primarily scientists and other technical people, who are involved in and concerned about the current lack of action to protect the Earth from the impact of near Earth asteroids (NEAs). While the probability of a highly destructive impact in the immediate future is slight, the consequence of such an occurrence is extreme, and mitigation efforts should begin now.
.....Over 670 of the anticipated 1000-1100 (asteroids) that exist have so far been detected, and happily, none of them is any threat to the planet within the next 100 years.
This cannot be said, of course, for the 35% still to be discovered, nor for the 100,000 or so smaller, but still dangerous NEAs larger than 100 meters. Only a very small percentage of these have been discovered to date, and those only incidental to the current survey for the large ones.
The reality of concern to us, among others, is that the discovery of a NEA headed toward an impact with Earth could be announced at any time by the Spaceguard program. If this were to happen the public would be extremely concerned and demand to know what is being done about it.
Unfortunately the answer is "nothing". This, it seems to us, is intolerable and could cause widespread alarm. For this reason the B612 Foundation, recognizing that national governments feel (to the extent that they have considered the matter) that they are not in a position to spend public money on mitigation, are taking the initiative now to begin this process with the use of private funds. We believe that there are adequate numbers of intelligent and concerned people to support the critical initial planning work that needs to be done to eventually reach an operational system to deflect incoming NEAs.
Our conviction is that there is nothing more powerful to convince the public that this audacious challenge can be met than to actually do it. Our goal is to physically deflect a representative asteroid as a demonstration that a longer term, more challenging operational system can become a reality.
Board of Directors; Geoff Baehr, Clark Chapman, Piet Hut, Ed Lu, and Rusty Schweickart"
Ancient grave adds years to feline history
The Scotsman: "MAN’S second best friend has been around 5,000 years longer than thought, according to scientists who have unearthed evidence of the world’s first pet cat.
The animal, buried in a 9,500-year-old grave alongside a human skeleton presumed to be that of its owner, was identified as Felis silvestris, the African wildcat.
Historians believed Egyptians first made pets of cats 4,000 years ago. Scientists, however, have suspected that tamed cats existed before the Egyptian era, but there was no evidence.
But now the discovery at Shillourokambos, in Cyprus, a Neolithic village inhabited from 8300BC, provides that evidence of association between cat and human.
Archaeologists found artefacts in the grave that indicated that the person had social standing. The cat was buried next to it, in its own grave.
Jean-Denis Vigne, the research leader, from the Museum of Natural History in Paris, said: 'This strengthens the idea of a special burial and indicates a strong relationship.'
The experts believe that if the cat had not been intentionally buried, its bones would have disarticulated. 'Not only is it intentionally buried; it was protected,' said Mr Vigne.
It looks as if the animal - aged about eight months - was the person’s pet and had been killed to join its owner in the 'afterlife'.
Both cat and human had been placed in the ground symmetrically, with their heads pointing to the west.
'I am not completely convinced that the common orientation of the skeletons makes sense,' said Mr Vigne. 'However, if it did, I think that this strong proximity between both of them in death should be interpreted as additional evidence of a strong relationship in life.'"
Mayor? He oughtta run for Captain Planet
New York Daily News: "Mayor of what planet?
By OWEN MORITZ DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Rep. Anthony Weiner is getting spacey.
The Brooklyn congressman, who's mulling a run for mayor next year, apparently is worried that a stray asteroid might doom his chances.
A member of the House Science Committee, Weiner announced yesterday that he's introducing the Studying and Prevention Asteroid Collisions with Earth (SPACE) Act, which would allocate $4million to NASA to track 'near-Earth objects.'
'Earlier this month, an asteroid named 2004FH passed within 25,600 miles of Earth, the closest approach on record,' Weiner notes.
'Had 2004 FH ... struck the Earth, it could have created a crater the size of Central Park,' he said.
In a press release, titled 'New Legislation to stop Armageddon!!! (Well it's a start anyway...),' the Democratic lawmaker said the five U.S. telescopes monitoring the skies for scary space junk 'do a pretty good job.'
The problem, he went on, is that 'smaller but still dangerous' space balls pose a threat and there's no equipment to detect them en route to Earth.
'Anyone who grew up playing [the video game] Asteroids like I did knows that you have to be able to see them before you can shoot them down,' Weiner said.
The congressman's Armageddon anxieties tickled City Hall's current tenant.
'Protection from asteroids is sure to be a cornerstone of his mayoral campaign,' Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler commented. 'But New Yorkers are going to want to know what he'll do about those pesky little green men.'
But Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), an announced mayoral candidate, was less amused.
'Tell Anthony,' Barron said, 'that homelessness, police brutality and unemployment have already struck the Earth and will devastate the Earth long before an asteroid will."
jaynote: Moritz, Barron, and Bloomberg, you're being an idiot about this. When bricks fall off the roofs of tall buildings here, EVEN if they don't hit anyone, we close streets, and put up nets etc. We even have a "falling brick prevention system" in place, that is, yearly building inspections. Five Hundred Million dollars is a good invenstement for a football stadium, but less than one percent of that to give us a warning system is a bad idea?
Embedded Microchip Seller Baja Beach Club Launches Microchip Implantation for VIP Members
Infowars.com:Baja Beach Club owner Conrad Chase wanted something unique to identify his VIP patrons. Other clubs had special jewelry or key chains, but he was looking for something special. After brainstorming, he came up with the idea to implant his VIP members with VeriChip's implantable microchip.
Alex (Jones of infowars.com) has spoken many times over the years about how they would make the chip "fun," and how, by giving it an elite status, an entire generation of young teenagers would soon be arguing with their parents demanding that they let them be implanted so that they can be in the "in" crowd. The Baja Beach Club and Chase have proved that the trend has started.
Chase was quoted "We have a special zone at Baja beach Club where only VIPs are allowed, which has various exclusive services for these members.
We are the first discotheque in the world to offer the VIP VeriChip. Using an integrated (imbedded) microchip, our VIPS can identify themselves and pay for their food and drinks without the need for any kind of document (ID)."
Which Tradition, Marriage or Equality?
Intervention Magazine: "It is a conflict of traditions, one social and the other political, and America must choose which one is most important.
By Michael Coblenz
.....When President Bush announced his support for a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as being solely between a man and a woman, he said marriage is “the most fundamental institution in civilization.” He is undoubtedly correct, but equality is one of the most fundamental political principles in the United States. Now these two fundamental principles are in conflict.......
Misadventures in Indian Outsourcing
BW Online: "It's in regard to smaller businesses, however, where India's 'outsourcing solution' appears to be showing the most signs of serious wear. Husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Arun and Sangita Shastry of Westford, Mass., learned this lesson the hard way when they launched totalETL, a business specializing in sophisticated desktop information-extraction tools for project managers. A decision to outsource very nearly cost them their startup.
GOOD CONNECTIONS. One of their initial decisions was to send the bulk of the development work for their company's first product to Bangalore, India. The duo figured such a move would give them a distinct advantage, since Arun, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1993, is originally from Bangalore. In 2001, he went back there to investigate the outsourcing option, since he already had in mind the product idea that's today the basis of totalETL.
Sangita, who was born in the U.S., also is of Indian descent. And because each had spent many years doing software consulting for major U.S. corporations, they were seasoned hands when it came to scoping out projects.
....... By October, the couple had settled on a team of five developers with a midsize Indian outsourcing company of about 70 employees. The Indian developers would each be paid between $2,600 and $3,200 per month. This wasn't the lowest proposed price, but the winning bidder seemed to be the most experienced, and its references checked out well.
Everything appeared to be in place. The idea was that the team in India would do its programming, ship the results to totalETL at the end of its working day, and two American employees in Westford would do the testing, integration, and process management while the Indian team was asleep. Then, as the world turned and the sun rose over Bangalore, the process would reverse. Says Arun: 'We gave them a project plan with all the tasks.'
..... When the estimated cost of that visit came in at $20,000 for two months, Arun decided instead to visit Bangalore, at a cost of about $5,000. Since totalETL is self-funded, the difference was no small consideration.
EXPENSIVE DELAYS. 'This lead architect was disappointed he couldn't come to the U.S., and it started showing on the project,' says Arun, who cites missed deadlines and deviations from project specifications. Within two weeks, the lead architect departed the outsourcing company, and when the outfit couldn't immediately find a replacement, Arun and his wife 'pulled the plug.'
By the start of November, totalETL's adventures in outsourcing had left it $11,000 poorer, while the project was 'back to the beginning,' says Arun.
Figuring that this initial experience with outsourcing was just bad luck, the couple once again turned to India -- only this time Arun and Sangita decided to look outside Bangalore. They settled on an outsourcer in the neighboring state of Hyderabad, with an office in the U.S., as well as what's known as a 'Capability Maturity Model Rating' of 3 (out of 5), which is considered a solid indication of expertise. Amazingly, two weeks into the project, that lead architect quit, just as his predecessor at the Bangalore shop had done. To Arun, it was 'a double whammy.'"
Spam Fighter Habeas Wins One
clickz.com: "Spam fighter Habeas won a legal judgment against William 'Billy' Carson in the United States District Court of Northern California, with the judge awarding damages of $104,103 and enjoining Carson from using the Habeas name and trademark.
Describing the defendant as 'a chronic e-mail abuser who makes a living by sending unwanted spam to consumers,' U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong concluded that Carson's copying of Habeas' marks was 'egregious and specifically designed to circumvent the spam filters.'
Habeas fights spam by allowing authorized senders to include a copyrighted haiku poem, known as a warrant mark, in e-mail headers. The haiku indicates to spam filters that the accompanying message is not spam -- an effort to make sure that legitimate messages get through to recipients. When that haiku is used without Habeas' say-so, the company can file suit.
Armstrong awarded Habeas a total of $104,103.20, citing the 'incalculable damage' Carson caused to the company's goodwill."
J Nederlands Instituut voor Innovatieve Oogheelkundige Chirurgie: "In 2002 the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery developed an implant that can be implanted within the superficial, interpalpebral conjunctiva. The implant does not interfere with the ocular functions, ie the visual performance and motility. The implant is made of a specially designed material that can be molded in all kinds of desired shapes and sizes."
Washington's new crackdown on pornography
Reason: Xtreme Measures: "God has yet to render judgment on that particular blasphemy, but others are showing less patience. Decorating the Extreme Associates booth at the Adult Expo is a poster of Janet Zicari posing inside a boxing ring, ready to battle in fishnet stockings, a skimpy, cut-off T-shirt, and fists swathed in Everlast hand-wraps. 'Fight for your right to watch porn,' the poster urges in bold red print. In smaller print, on a ring card announcing the next bout in the never-ending Culture Wars, the text reads 'Lizzy Borden vs. Mary Beth.'
'Mary Beth' is Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. On August 7, 2003, Buchanan announced that a Pittsburgh federal grand jury had indicted the Zicaris on 10 counts of violating federal obscenity laws. Social conservatives hope and civil libertarians fear that this case marks a new stage in Washington�s crackdown on pornography, a sign that Ashcroft's Department of Justice is -- take your pick -- a champion of traditional values or a threat to free expression.
The Zicaris face a more concrete threat: They each face maximum sentences of 50 years in prison and $2.5 million fines. By comparison, the maximum sentence for actual rape in Pennsylvania is 20 years."
jaynote: stupid and funny on so many levels....
craigslist: "Are you a Millionaire? Want a free box lunch?
Reply to: TimReynolds311@yahoo.com
Date: 2004-04-07, 3:31PM EDT
If you're a Millionaire looking for a quick C note and a free lunch email me! I work with a top notch investment management company who's looking to learn a little more about their clients' demographic.
Just come on down and answer some basic questions about what you're looking for in the realm of investment products. It won't take long - just a few hours. And if you scratch our back, we'll scratch yours.
100 bucks and a free lunch is our way of saying, 'Thank You!' Expect ham and cheese sandwich, variety of juices and grapes.
Compensation: 100 USD for 2-4 hours, sandwich lunch
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
Reposting this message elsewhere is NOT OK.
this is in or around Mid-town/Grand Central"
Nettavisen: News in English: "Anette Lie has the Norwegian record for delivery of breast milk. She made so much on the breast milk that she purchased a car for the money.
According to the Norwegian radio channel Kanal 24, Lie has produced 501.5 liters breast milk for sale last since May of last year."
Cthulhu Decides Against Presidential Bid; Says Bush Has Stolen His "Destruction of Mankind" Platform
PulpLit : "By Geoffrey Langland March 9th, 2004
Cthulhu, greatest and most powerful of the Old Ones and ruler of the sunken city of R'lyeh, has decided against a presidential bid this year, claiming that George W. Bush has co-opted Cthulhu's main issue: destroying mankind.
'Bush is well on his way to causing the great cataclysm that will mean the end for humanity and the return of the Old Ones,' said Cthulhu at a hastily arranged press conference. 'What can I say? I have run my last two elections on the 'destruction of mankind' theme, but now the GOP owns the issue.'
Cthulhu has run for president twice before (on the Reform Party ticket). But now, he says, 'the Republicans and I see eye-to-gelatinous eye. Have you seen what they're doing to the environment? Never mind the divisiveness and hatred they've spread throughout the world in the span of a mere four years. I'm afraid there's no longer any difference between the Republican agenda and my own platform.'
Cthulhu said he plans to support George W. Bush in the 2004 election.
At the end of the press conference, Cthulhu consumed the assembled reporters and returned to his condominium in Orlando, Florida."
Does it go up to 11?
royaldevice.com: "The Biggest SUBWOOFER of the WORLD, for the most esoteric Audio and AUDIO-VIDEO Room of the World. The Highest efficiency ever obtained with NO distortion using NO feedback tube low power amplifiers and NO crossover on the speakers
Royal Device has on its own developped and built the biggest subwoofer of the world for an AUDIO/VIDEO room that can be also considered as the biggest AUDIO ROOM for private music listening of the world. The audio reproduction is focused on the speakers output capability more than electric power output of the amplifiers with no need of KWatts power supply lines, releasing more than 110 dB/1W/1 meter sensitivity starting from below 10 Hz focused on the listening position.
The AUDIO room is 6.95 x 8.70 meters.
SUBWOOFER horns are built underneath the floor in a cavity of 1 meter deep. Each horn is driven by 8 x 18' (47 cm) woofers. A total of 16 woofers.
Each horn is 9.5 meters long and has a floor mouth area of 2.2 square meters and reproduce starting from 10 Hertz FULL POWER. The real mouth area IS NOT the one on the floor. The real mouth have to be considered together with the side vertical frontal panel. The total horn is calculated onto the listening point considering the side walls and the ceiling loadings. This reduces the floor mouth that is not in open air.
Total efficiency: more than 110 dB/1 watt/1 meter. The total electrical capability of the 16 woofers is about 400 Wrms power per woofer that means about 400 x 16 = 6400 Wrms total. Each woofer features a 100 mm coil. The real maximum power fed to both subhorn measured with an oscilloscope at the highest musical peak roughly reaches 6 watts per channel. In this conditions, peak levels are much higher and undistorted than any live concert at all. Walls and ceiling seems to fall down, but don't. The sound pressure is concentrated at the listening point and stopped by a 2 meters high woolglass anechoic wall on the back of the listening position.
SUB-WOOFER Compression chamber closure ( 120 Kg on 3,6 mq) are held and reinforced by an extra weight of 600 Kg. Total closure weight 720 Kg."
Putting 40,000 Readers, One by One, on a Cover
nytimes.com: "When the 40,000 subscribers to Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, receive a copy of the June issue, they will see on the cover a satellite photo of a neighborhood - their own neighborhood. And their house will be graphically circled.
On one level, the project, sort of the ultimate in customized publishing, is unsurprising: of course a magazine knows where its subscribers live. But it is still a remarkable demonstration of the growing number of ways databases can be harnessed. Apart from the cover image, several advertisements are customized to reflect the recipient's particulars."
Google adjusts Adsense pricing
DMeurope.com: "Search engine giant Google has reduced the price of ads placed through its Adsense advertising service, reducing the costs to advertisers, but also reducing the revenues delivered to websites that use the service.
Recognising that ads placed next to sometimes completely unrelated content is less effective than ads placed next to search results, the Californian search company has adjusted its ad pricing.
Advertisers, who pay every time a user clicks on their ads, had complained that websurfers specifically looking for something and clicked through an ad placed on a search results page resulted in more business than those who noticed an ad on a website, and had been asking for some time for a differential pricing schedule that recognised the varying worth to marketers of search ads and content ads.
Google has also said that it is moving ahead with an ad placement service as part of its Gmail webmail service currently in beta-testing mode, as well as a programme delivering ads in e-mail newsletters.
The Viagra Prank: Ordering Viagra Online, Then Taking It In Church
zug.com: "I get a hundred of these e-mails a day. Clearly, the online Viagra people know something about my penis that I don't.
So my reasoning went like this: maybe if I bought some of their sweet precious Viagra, they would shut the hell up. As a bonus, I would actually own some Viagra, which I could use to surprise my wife on Valentine's Day. 'Oh, darling!' my wife would exclaim. 'Twelve hours of painful, nonstop intercourse? You shouldn't have!'
So I did it. I took the bait. I spent a day surfing the Viagra sites, and I was shocked by what I found. I had expected unethical, quasi-legal Web sites dispensing dangerously inaccurate medical advice. Instead, I found unethical, quasi-legal Web sites dispensing dangerously inaccurate medical advice from people dressed up to look like doctors."
How a bad anti-rocketry law got passed
Editorial: "I think it is time to clear up some of the misconceptions regarding the creation and attempted passage of Senate Bill S724. Frankly, I'm not much for Monday morning quarter backing. However, a recent review of the postings on the Internet shows that a great deal of misinformation is being spread around. Some of the posters are gleefully posting wrong information to smear me and/or ARSA. Others are only working with fragmentary truth and filling in the gaps incorrectly. I think I can clear this up better than most as I had a front row seat in the creation and attempted passage of S724.
In late November 2002, I called Senator Enzi's office after learning about the Safe Explosives Act (SEA) embedded inside the Homeland Security Act (HSA). I briefed them on the situation. I quickly set up a web page with the new Safe Explosives Act (SEA) and posted what we were trying to accomplish. It was simple. The goal was to get rocketry in general out from under the SEA as quickly as possible and certainly before May 24, 2003. I had posted ideas and solicited ideas on exemption strategies. I received many emails from people with positive approaches.
Working with Senator Enzi, we decided on two basic approaches. The first was to go directly to the White House and seek an executive order to exempt rocketry from the SEA. This could be done quickly, but was decided against as the White House was preparing for the invasion of Iraq. The feeling was that our problem would fall through the cracks during the more important invasion planning.
The second option was the one we decided to go with. It was to stick an exemption for rocketry on a technical corrections bill for the HSA. Senator Lott, who was going to be the new Senate majority leader, had planned to introduce this bill early in the January 2003 session of the Senate. This was a bill that would be signed by President Bush and we could be buried in this thick document. The bill would be on a fast track and probably signed into law in February, 2003. The success of that plan required no one to really know about it. Bringing TRA or NAR into the picture would have put the plan at great risk, as the information was bound to leak out with more people in the loop."
AI Bush - Robot President
aibush.com: "The new AI Bush program is the most advanced AI deployment of EllaZ Systems. The program “Ella” won the prestigious worldwide Loebner Prize Contest in 2002 as the “most human computer.” AI Bush is a further development of that technology, bringing skills and entertainment you'll find nowhere else.
Play the strategy game “Reelect Bush?” and see if GWB gets reelected, or not. You are a close advisor, whispering into George's ear. He needs your help making decisions and answering pesky trivia questions that affect his chances of reelection, not to mention the effects various decisions can have on his conscience. GWB’s expressions, voice clips, and tracking polls tell you how things are going."
Judge calls himself idiot
NEWS.com.au : "A JUDGE who demanded to know the name of 'the idiot' who granted bail to a serial burglar discovered yesterday he was talking about himself.
Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice Dean Mildren yesterday conceded privately that he was the judge to grant bail to the thief in November.
It is believed Justice Mildren had forgot he was responsible.
Tristan Ellis, 18, was granted bail by Justice Mildren on November 25 after breaching a curfew imposed by the judge last April. He had been facing 28 break-and-enter charges.
Justice Mildren told him: 'Don't muck up - these chances come only once.'
Ellis was ordered to attend drug rehabilitation programs in Darwin.
But the self-confessed 'lowlife crim' promptly went back to his old ways and committed 17 more break and enters and assault.
The judge said on Monday that he was 'absolutely staggered' that Ellis had been given bail three times last year.
'Who is the idiot who did that?' he asked.
Ellis will be sentenced in the Supreme Court today. He faces up to life in prison. "
The Connection.org : "In the heyday of hand drawn animation, when elephants soared and crickets did the soft shoe, they did so frame by painstakingly-rendered frame. But time and technology have created new characters, even colors. They've also found the keys to a new Magic Kingdom: the third dimension. Betty Boop wouldn't believe her eyes. Now, some worry that by finding Nemo, we're losing a cherished art form."
Derek Lamb, Oscar-winning animator
Jerry Beck, animation historian and author, most recently, of "Outlaw Animation"
Eric Goldberg, independent director-animator whose film credits include Disney's "Alladin," "Pocahontas," and "Fantasia 2000"
Friday, April 23, 2004
Jim Hanley's Universe
24 Hour Comics Day
On April 24th, 2004 cartoonists all over will face the 24 hour comics challenge. What is this challenge you ask? Simply put, cartoonists try to write and draw an entire 24 page comics story in 24 consecutive hours.
Jim Hanley's Universe will be participating in this event by providing space for cartoonists to work. It will officially begin on Saturday (4/24) at 12 PM and we will be open all through the night into Sunday. Come on down and hang out with some up and coming artists and see what goes into making a comic book!
Participants include: Matt Madden, K. Thor Jensen, Paul Winkler, Mike Rosensweig, Bill Roundy, John Hazard, Wendy Chin, Colby Hausmann, Rebekah Bennington, Valerie Reupert, Ken Applebaum, Mike Dawson and Alex Robinson.
4 West 33rd St. (off 5th Ave. - across from the Empire State Building) Tel: (212) 268-7088
Jim Hanley's Universe
24 Hour Comics Day
On April 24th, 2004 cartoonists all over will face the 24 hour comics challenge. What is this challenge you ask? Simply put, cartoonists try to write and draw an entire 24 page comics story in 24 consecutive hours.
Jim Hanley's Universe will be participating in this event by providing space for cartoonists to work. It will officially begin on Saturday (4/24) at 12 PM and we will be open all through the night into Sunday. Come on down and hang out with some up and coming artists and see what goes into making a comic book!
Participants include: Matt Madden, K. Thor Jensen, Paul Winkler, Mike Rosensweig, Bill Roundy, John Hazard, Wendy Chin, Colby Hausmann, Rebekah Bennington, Valerie Reupert, Ken Applebaum, Mike Dawson and Alex Robinson.
4 West 33rd St. (off 5th Ave. - across from the Empire State Building) Tel: (212) 268-7088
Thursday, April 22, 2004
National Day of Reason
Home Page: "Many who value the separation of church and state have sought an appropriate response to the federally-funded National Day of Prayer, an annual abuse of the constitution. Nontheistic Americans (including freethinkers, humanists, atheists and agnostics), along with many traditionally religious allies, view such government-sanctioned sectarianism as unduly exclusionary.
A consortium of leaders from within the community of reason recently endorsed the idea of a National Day of Reason. This observance will be held in parallel with the National Day of Prayer, on the first Thursday in May (6 May 2004). The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason - a concept all Americans can support - and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship."
Thursday, April 15, 2004
meyerweb.com: Some of you may be too young to remember the name Bill Watterson, but he's the man who created Calvin & Hobbes. Bill is one of the Cleveland area's most famous residents, but he's also one of its most elusive. As an article published in the Cleveland Scene details, he not only withdrew from the comic pages in 1995, but also from public life shortly thereafter. He resides in or around Chagrin Falls, which coincidentally was the subject of a song by The Tragically Hip, and not so coincidentally is the small town through which a giant Calvin is rampaging on the back cover of the first Calvin & Hobbes collection. The striped-awning shop in his hand is the Popcorn Shop, a great little small-town store that sits right next to the falls themselves.
.....A while back, our local paper started carrying a comic called Frazz by Jef Mallett. Immediately, I was struck by how much the illustration style looked like Bill Watterson's. The main character (Frazz) looks an awful lot like a Calvin in his early twenties. He works as the janitor in an elementary school, and is closer to the students than most of the staff, as you'd expect from an older Calvin. Frazz is a musician in his off hours, and there have been whole strips devoted to Frazz singing some lyrically complex song, just like the lengthy poems found in Calvin strips and treasuries. He's also an avid biker, as is his girlfriend, Miss Plainwell, who is a very Susie Derkins type of girl. Frazz likes to play practical jokes on people, often jokes that involve a truly surreal sense of humor. One of the students with whom Frazz spends a lot of time is Caulfield. Catcher in the Rye reference? Yes. It isn't the only one. The pacing, style of humor—it all has a very Wattersonian feel to it.
At some point, it was revealed that "Frazz" is a derivative of the character's last name, when he was addressed as "Mr. Frazier." That's when I started to get really suspicious. So far as I'm aware, Calvin's last name was never given in the strip. So it was entirely possible that we were reading about the exploits of one Calvin Frazier. When a later strip revealed his first name to be Edwin, I wondered if it was just to throw us off the track. Or, perhaps, his real name is Calvin Edwin Frazier, and for some reason he'd started going by the middle name. (Could he be in hiding from fans?)
Then came The Sign. The moment when I couldn't rationalize away my suspicions any more.
In a Sunday strip, Frazz is talking with one of the girls at the school. She mentions that she plans to be famous one day, and when Frazz points out that she doesn't even like to be called on in class, she says she wants to be famous, not well-known; that she wants to be well-known for her work but not be a public figure. "Like J.D. Salinger or Bill Watterson," says Frazz. "Never heard of them," she responds, for the punchline.
At that, I threw down the paper, turned to Kat, and said, "All right, now he's just toying with us."
There is one major objection that gets raised: there is Frazz merchandise available through the uComics site. "Ah HA!" you cry, "that can't be Watterson. He was famously antithetical to merchandising of any kind whatsover." That's true, and look where it got him: as the Scene article points out, the most common sightings of Calvin these days are those completely unauthorized stickers of him urinating on logos, usually Ford but sometimes others; race car drivers come in for this treatment a lot, too. (And take a look at the illustrations in that article. One is the naughty sticker, two are Watterson drawings, and two are credited to "Jef Mallett.")
My theory is that this time around, Watterson is trying limited merchandising as an experiment. No stuffed Frazz dolls, of course, but some mouse pads and coffee mugs on which you can emblazon your favorite strip. Would a syndicate go along with this? Oh, God yes. If I were running a comic syndicate and Bill Watterson came to me with a proposal to pull a Richard Bachman, I'd not only fall to the ground and kiss his feet, I'd hire an actor to play the pseudonymic persona full time and have all the mailed strips routed through that actor's place of residence, just to erase as many tracks as possible.
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Spanish SF Editor Nearly Sent Home by the INS
Spanish science fiction editor Marcial Souto was nearly turned away by US Immigration in Ft. Lauderdale night before last. He was flying in to appear as Guest Scholar at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts when he was detained by US Immigration and Naturalization Service for 2 1/2 hours. The INS database incorrectly lists his departure date for a business trip in 1997, triggering his detention. After several hours, Souto realized he had with him an anthology containing one of his stories. In the headnote to the story, it mentions that Souto lives in Barcelona. He presented this to the immigration official who said, 'I guess you really do live in Barcelona,' and released him.
I had heard stories of legitimate German and French travelers being turned back by the INS, seemingly in retaliation for their countries lack of support for the Iraq war. I wonder if Spain is being punished for its recent election results and the proposed withdrawal of Spanish troops.
Luckily, Souto did ultimately make it through, so we will be able to enjoy his company at the conference."
1. Grab a calculator. (you won't be able to do this one in your head)
2. Key in the first three digits of your phone number (NOT the area code) 3. Multiply by 80
4. Add 1
5. Multiply by 250
6. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number
7. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number again.
8. Subtract 250
9. Divide number by 2
Monday, April 05, 2004
Altering of Worker Time Cards Spurs Growing Number of Suits
nytimes.com: "Rosann Wilks, who was an assistant manager at a Pep Boys in Nashville, said she was fired in 2001 after refusing to delete time. She said her district manager told her, 'Under no circumstances at all is overtime allowed, and if so, then you need to shave time.'
At first, she bowed to orders and erased hours. Some employees began asking questions, she said, but they refused to confront management. 'They took it lying down,' she said. 'They didn't want to lose their job. Jobs are hard to find.'
When she started feeling guilty and confronted her district manager, she said, 'It all came to a boil. He fired me.'
Bill Furtkevic, Pep Boys' spokesman, said his company did not tolerate deleting time.
'Pep Boys' policy dictates, and record demonstrates, that any store manager found to have shaved any amount of employee time be terminated,' he said. He added that the company's investigation 'revealed no more than 21 instances over the past five years where time shaving' had occurred.
More than a dozen former Wal-Mart employees said time records were altered in numerous ways. Some said that when they clocked more than 40 hours a week, managers transferred extra hours to the following week, to avoid paying overtime. Federal law bars moving hours from one week to another.
Wal-Mart executives acknowledged that one common practice, the 'one-minute clock-out,' had cheated employees for years. It involved workers who clocked out for lunch and forgot to clock back in before finishing the day. In such situations, many managers altered records to show such workers clocking out for the day one minute after their lunch breaks began "
No lie: Kerry's just a wannabe
suntimes.com: "Anyway, as I said, I wouldn't call Sen. Kerry a liar. But I did get the vague feeling in the following exchange that, if it had gone on a minute or two longer, the candidate's nose would have cracked my TV screen, extended across the coffee table and pinned me to the wall.
The time: last month; the place: MTV. The interviewer asks: ''Well, we know that you were into rock 'n' roll when you were in high school, and we know that you play the guitar now. Are there any trends out there in music, or even in popular culture in general, that have piqued your interest?''
''Oh sure. I follow and I'm interested,'' says John Kerry. ''I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important . . . I'm still listening because I know that it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life.''
Really? You're ''fascinated'' by rap and ''listening'' to hip-hop? You're America's first flip-flopper hip-hopper?
The best riposte to Kerry came from an encounter a few years ago between his predecessor Al Gore and Courtney Love, lead singer of the popular beat combo Hole, when they chanced to run into each other at a Democratic party night in Hollywood.
''I'm a really big fan,'' gushed the vice president.
''Yeah, right. Name a song,'' scoffed Courtney. The panicked vice panderer floundered helplessly. Fortunately, his Secret Service guys moved in before he wound up completely riddled by Hole. As wise old campaign consultants always say, the politician's First Rule of Holes is: When you're in one, stop digging. Al introduced us to a Second Rule: When you're with one, stop pretending to dig her.
If only that MTV guy had said to Kerry, ''Yeah, right. Name a song.'' Think Kerry could've? Reckon if you bust into his pad and riffled through his and Teresa's CD collection you'd find a single rap album? Of course, you wouldn't find any in George and Laura's CD collection either. The difference is that President Bush doesn't feel the need to pretend."
Why Software Quality Matters
eweek.com Perhaps nothing shows the ravages of faulty calculations as clearly as cancer.
The patients who were suffering in Panama had cancers of the pelvis. Pelvic organs such as the intestines and kidneys are acutely sensitive to radiation. Before a cancer patient such as Garcia is exposed to radiation, a doctor devises a treatment plan that determines what dose of radiation can safely be directed at the tumor. The physician considers the tumor's position and depth in the body, the likelihood that the cancer has spread to surrounding tissue, the location and sensitivity of nearby organs and the best angles of attack.
As part of the plan, the doctor figures out how to place metal shields, known as "blocks," above the area where the tumor is located. These blocks, usually made of lead or a metal alloy called cerrobend, protect normal or sensitive tissue from the gamma rays to come.
The doctor hands his plan to a medical physicist, who feeds information on the size, shape and location of the blocks into a software package. These packages generally create a 3-D picture of how the dose will be distributed, showing how the radiation will "sum" as beams coming in from different angles intersect at depth in the patient's tissue. Once the doctor prescribes a dosage, the software calculates the duration of treatment.
The physicists in Panama were carrying out a doctor's instruction to be more protective, adding a fifth block to the four the hospital often used on patients in cancer treatments. The extra block could help protect patients whose tissues were especially sensitive due to previous surgeries or radiation treatments.
Multidata's planning software was designed to calculate treatments when there were four or fewer blocks, according to the company's general business manager, Mick Conley. Saldaña, however, read Multidata's manual and concluded she could make the software account for a fifth block.
According to an August 2001 report from the IAEA, Saldaña found the software didn't only work if she entered the dimensions of each block individually, up to four. She found it also allowed her to enter the dimensions of all five blocks as a single, composite shape-for instance, a rectangle with one triangular block sitting in each corner and a fifth square block protruding, tooth-like, down into the rectangle from the top.
PointerWant the story latest news in programming environments and developer tools? Check out eWEEK's Developer Center at http://developer.eweek.com
So, using the mouse attached to her computer, she entered on the screen the coordinates of the specially shaped block— first the inner perimeter of the shape and then the outer perimeter. This is when she felt she was "home free."
After all, when Saldaña entered the data for this unusual-looking block, the system produced a diagram that appeared to confirm its dimensions. She seemed to be getting confirmation from the system itself that her approach was acceptable.
Next Page: Ravages of miscalculation. But inside the software, the calculations of appropriate dosages were going awry. The treatment time would be close to correct if Saldaña entered the data for the inner perimeter of the shape going in one direction, say clockwise, and the outer perimeter in the opposite direction, according to the IAEA report. But if she entered the data for the inner and outer perimeters going in the same direction, so that the two loops defining the perimeters crossed, the software essentially locked up. It was not able to accurately recognize the shape and, as a result, miscalculated the treatment times, the report said.
Depending on how many treatments the patients received, they accumulated overdoses ranging from 20 percent more radiation than was prescribed to a double dose of the potentially harmful rays, the IAEA found.
Inspectors from the FDA were dispatched to Multidata's offices after the agency received reports of patient "radiation overexposures." The inspection ran from May 31 to Sept. 21, 2001.
A summary of their findings echoed the IAEA report: "The treatment-planning system miscalculated the dose each patient was to receive due to failure of the software to correctly handle certain types of blocks... This resulted in a much higher dose being calculated for each patient."
Multidata's Conley says the FDA's finding "is wrong." He says that if you read FDA reports, "you find out the FDA isn't always right.
"Given [the input] that was given," he says, "our system calculated the correct amount, the correct dose. It was an unexpected result. And, if [the staff in Panama] had checked, they would have found an unexpected result."
Conley insists his company has done nothing wrong. He says the physicists at the National Cancer Institute never called Multidata asking for advice or support.
The physicists admit they did not always verify the results of the software's calculations, which Multidata's manual said was "the responsibility of the user."
Saldaña says the hospital was treating more than 100 patients per day using the one Cobalt-60 machine. The IAEA also found that whatever steps the hospital took to ensure the radiation machine was operating properly only addressed the hardware. There was no quality-assurance program for the software-or its results.
In the day-to-day operations of the cancer institute, that meant the physicists were not required to tell anyone they had changed the way they entered data into the cancer-therapy system. As a result, no one on staff questioned the software's results.
Had the hospital verified the dosages, by manually checking the software's calculations or by testing the dosages in water before radiating patients, a procedure that Conley argues is standard medical practice in much of the rest of the world-the staff would have caught the overdoses in time to avoid harming anyone.
But independent experts not associated with the case say software that controls medical equipment and other life-critical devices should be designed to pause or shut down if told to execute a task it's not programmed to perform.
"If a computer can make a user kill people, it's like a loaded gun," says Jack Ganssle, an engineer whose Ganssle Group advises companies and developers on how to create high-quality software. "A user shouldn't be able to do anything that causes a machine to be dangerous."
But the Multidata software continued to operate.
Next Page: Cause of death.
As tragic as it is, the Panama incident does not stand alone. In all, Baseline has found no fewer than a half-dozen cases in which software has contributed to loss of life. (See Eight Fatal Software-Related Accidents, Baseline, March 2004.)