Sophont
Saturday, October 30, 2004
 
Medpundit
Medpundit: "But yesterday's patient was the tipping point. Mr. B. is an elderly academic. You would know that just by looking at him. He carries an NPR tote bag, and reads Snail Magazine. He's a jazz afficionado, and travels to France every year to share that love with others. He speaks very carefully in a very p.c. manner. He happened to be in my office on September 11, 2001, and I very clearly remember him fretting about the effect of globalization and modernity on the world. A Kerry voter if ever there was one. Or, at least so I thought. But he has developed one of those diseases that forces a person to re-assess his life. Yesterday, he was explaining to me how his disease had made him re-examine his core beliefs, many of which he had suppressed for many years to succeed in academia. And in the midst of a discussion (or really a soliloquy, he's a professor, after all) about God and man and reason, he suddenly digressed to Vietnam, saying, in effect, it was foolish to think we could reason with the North Vietnamese. And he stopped suddenly, as if he had just shocked himself. Now, he didn't mention the election. He didn't mention Kerry's suppression of his own faith to his political ambitions, or Iraq, or the war on terror, but he gave me the impression that although he was talking about Vietnam, he was really thinking about the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq. I bet when the curtain closes behind him on Tuesday, he punches the card for Bush. Maybe I'm wrong, but the fact that a man with his background is even rethinking these long-held beliefs is significant.
"

Friday, October 29, 2004
 
The Bleat
LILEKS (James): "All you need to know about Arafat was that he insisted on wearing a pistol when he addressed the UN General Assembly. And all you need to know about the UN, I suppose, is that they let him.

He’s not dead as I write this, unless of course he is. Right now Drudge has the AHH-OOOGAH WOAW WOAW WOAW HOLY CRAP flashing light up about Russians moving the missing Iraqi weapons to Syria. Who could imagine those three names mentioned in the same sentence? Perhaps “Today Russia, Syria and Iraq announced plans for a global custard franchise,” or “Surprising many long-time observers, Russia has joined with Syria and Iraq to develop a new generation of cheap, bitter cigarette where all the tobacco dribbles out one end before you even get the chance to light it.” But arms smuggling? In defiance of the UN? I’ll believe it when I see it in the New York Times."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
 
The Hypo-Allergenic Cat
Allerca will produce the world's first hypoallergenic cats, and we expect the birth of these first special kittens in early 2007.

The cat allergen is a potent protein secreted by the cat’s skin and salivary glands. Removal of the allergen will not harm the cats in any way. The resulting hypoallergenic cats will improve the health and quality of life for millions of cat-allergy sufferers.

While some breeds of cats have been promoted as having less allergen than others, scientists that have tested this hypothesis have shown that all cats, regardless of breed, produce allergen. Allerca will produce the first cats that will not affect human allergies.

The first breed of hypoallergenic cat produced will be the British Shorthair, known to be friendly, playful and affectionate. Other popular breeds will follow soon.

Priced at $3,500, the cost of an ALLERCA kitten is similar or less than some of the more exotic cat breeds available today.

The interest in the ALLERCA hypoallergenic cat has been tremendous. If you would like to be one of the first to own an ALLERCA hypoallergenic cat, we urge you to reserve your kitten today by using our online reservation system.

Please note that reservations require a deposit of $250 that will apply to the purchase price. On completion of your online reservation, we will provide you with an attractive personalized ALLERCA Reservation Certificate.

Friday, October 22, 2004
 
Men talk to Google not girlfriends
vnunet.com:
Study reveals many men need to get out more
Robert Jaques, vnunet.com 22 Oct 2004

Men talk to their search engines more than their girlfriends, work colleagues or even their families, research has claimed.

A poll conducted by MSN Search found that search engines are the first port of call for nearly half of men seeking advice. Family are consulted by a third, while partners are the sounding board of choice for only one in four men.

In comparison, the study into gender search patterns reveals that women still opt for more traditional advice options, with one in three rating family as their number one choice for help and information.

Women were found to be far more likely than men to rely on the internet as a first port of call for health concerns, with almost two thirds regularly using it to look up medical conditions that concern them, compared with only 41 per cent of men.

Male search vanity apparently knows no bounds. Almost a third of men admit to searching for themselves online and awarding themselves an average 80 per cent satisfaction rating for their general searching abilities. By contrast, just over one in five women have searched for their own name.

One in 12 men admitted to looking up ex-partners to uncover what they've been up to since splitting up, compared to just four per cent of women.

A typical male search query uses just two words, compared with three for women. Women are also more patient about investigating different potential routes.

While women are happy to look through six or seven results returned by a search query, men typically only refer to two or three before becoming impatient and refining their search or moving on to a new search altogether"

Monday, October 18, 2004
 
Scientists find way to make us slaves
Times Online: "However, experiments conducted on rhesus monkeys have shown for the first time that animal behaviour can be permanently altered, turning the subjects from aggressive to “compliant” creatures.

The scientists did so by blocking the effects of a gene in the brain called D2, which cut off the link between the monkeys’ motivation and perceived reward. Humans have an identical gene.

The project was led by Barry Richmond, a government neurobiologist at America’s National Institute of Mental Health, who has detailed the findings in the journal Nature Neuroscience this month.

The work shows how the monkeys could be made to work enthusiastically for long periods without the need for a “treat”.

The experiments involved getting monkeys to operate levers in response to colour changes on screens in front of them. Normally they work hardest and fastest with the fewest mistakes if they think a reward for the “work” is imminent.

However, Richmond’s team found that they could make the monkeys work their hardest and fastest all the time, without any complaint or sign of slacking, just by manipulating D2 so that they forgot about the expectation of reward.

“Most people are motivated to work hard and well only by the expectation of reward, whether it’s a pay cheque or a word of praise,” said Richmond. “In these experiments we found we could remove that link and create a situation where repetitive, hard work would continue without any reward.”"

Saturday, October 16, 2004
 
Space Politics: Debate notes
spacepolitics.com: "If Bush is reelected, there is a good chance that his space policy could kick off a chain of events that will result in the permanent settlement of space. Mars, Moon, Asteroids, L5, whatever your space fetish is. I don't see any of the terrible things he has done having detrimental implications for more than a couple generations. However settlement of space would be a new epoch of human existence.

Kerry, even if he is able to reverse Bush's bad policies and mistakes, has given every indication that he will kill the Moon/Mars push and kill our reach out of LEO. We will continue to be a one-planet species for the undetermined future. This could set us back 30 years a-la shuttle or 300 years depending on what chain of events occur. It could literally set us back as a civilization.

With regards to the distant long term (hundreds and thousands of years), voting for Bush now might make the difference between life as we know it being stagnant or practically invincible. Wars and deficits are mundane compared to the possibility of starting a true space age."
Posted by: Mark Zinthefer at October 15, 2004 04:16 PM

 
An American in London
www.frontpagemag.com: "Here is the background scenario:  Exactly one month ago today, I was traveling on a London bus when a well-dressed woman boarded with her equally-respectable son in his school uniform. Ahead of her was an elderly American woman, who said, ‘I beg your pardon, I didn’t mean to bang into you.’ This prompted a tirade from the Englishwoman -- let’s call her Lady E -- that resembled a verbal assault by a brownshirt against a hapless Jewish pedestrian in 1933. The American -- call her Mrs. A -- sat down and cowered as the tirade continued: ‘I rejoice every time I hear of another American soldier dying! You people all deserve to die in another 9/11. You are destroying the world.’ Mrs A fought back: ‘I personally am NOT destroying the world.’ This only provoked Lady E more, and as the bus driver and passengers laughed, she screamed into the American’s face ‘I wish every one of you would leave this country and not set foot in it ever again,’ and Mrs A began to wince, crying. ‘Thank you for ruining my day and my trip.’ At this point Lady E lunged at the American and began to shake her. I jumped up and shouted at the top of my voice for the driver to stop and for her to leave the woman alone, prompting Lady E to come over to me and grab me. ‘Another bloody American accent! You come here and think you can strut about, well, you are scum.’ Thankfully, the woman next to me pushed her away. I left the bus as the American woman sat sobbing.

Did I imagine this? No. Was the Englishwoman a crazy? No.

A few weeks before, I had attended a  party at which I was lambasted, intimidated and mocked by a group of people I had known for some twenty-odd years. It reminded me of a comment made to me by an American expatriate shortly after 9/11: ‘Now I know what the Jews felt like in pre-war Germany.’

Frankly, I don’t like what is happening in Britain and am shocked and dismayed at the level to which anti-Americanism has peaked in recent months. Does anyone say ‘George W Bush’ or ‘Donald Rumsfeld’ or Dick Cheney’ when they fly into these tirades? No. In fact, the visceral, hurtful and in-your-face America-hatred goes back long before the days of the Bush 43 regime."

 
How Not to Teach Math by Matthew Clavel
www.city-journal.org: "New York’s chancellor Klein’s plan doesn’t compute. | 7 March 2003

It wasn’t working. We’d gone through six straight wrong answers, and now the kids were tired of feeling lost. It was only October, and already my fourth-grade public school class in the South Bronx was demoralized. Day after day of going over strange, seemingly disconnected math lessons had squelched my students’ interest in the subject.

Then, quietly, 10-year-old David spoke up. “Mr. Clavel, no one understands this stuff.” He looked up at me with a defeated expression; other children nodded pleadingly. We had clearly reached a crossroads. How would Mr. Clavel, a young teacher, inexperienced but trying hard, react to David’s statement—so obvious to everyone in the class that it didn’t even require seconding?

“Look,” I began, sighing deeply. “Math isn’t half as hard as you all probably think right now.” A few kids seemed relieved—at least I wasn’t just denying their problem. “There are different ways to teach it,” I continued. “I don’t want to do this either . . . so we’re not going to—at least most of the time.” I was thinking out loud now, and many of the children looked startled. What did I mean? We weren’t going to learn math? “We can use these math books when we need them, but I’m going to figure out different ways to teach you the most important things.”

If school officials knew how far my lessons would deviate from the school district-mandated math program in the months ahead, they probably would have fired me on the spot. But boy, did my kids need a fresh approach. Since kindergarten, most of them had been taught math using this same dreadful curriculum, called Everyday Mathematics—a slightly older version of a program that New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein has now unwisely chosen for most of Gotham’s public elementary schools; the district had phased in Everyday Mathematics grade by grade, and it had just reached fourth grade during my first year of teaching.

The curriculum’s failure was undeniable: not one of my students knew his or her times tables, and few had mastered even the most basic operations; knowledge of multiplication and division was abysmal. Perhaps you think I shouldn’t have rejected a course of learning without giving it a full year (my school had only recently hired me as a 23-year-old Teach for America corps member). But what would you do, if you discovered that none of your fourth graders could correctly tell you the answer to four times eight?"

Friday, October 15, 2004
 
The Man Who Could Have Been Bill Gates

Yahoo! News
: "The legend goes like this: One fateful day in the summer of 1980, three buttoned-down IBMers called on a band of hippie programmers at Digital Research Inc. located in Pacific Grove, Calif. They hoped to discuss licensing DRI's industry-leading operating system, CP/M. Instead, DRI founder Gary Kildall blew off IBM to gallivant around in his airplane, and the frustrated IBMers turned to Gates for their operating system. This anecdote has been told so often that techies need only be reminded of 'the day Gary Kildall went flying' to recall the rest. While he's revered for his technical innovations, many believe Kildall made one of the biggest mistakes in the history of commerce.

But what if that's not what happened? What if IBM and Microsoft deprived Kildall not only of untold riches but also of the credit for a seminal role in the PC revolution? That's the thesis of a chapter about Kildall in They Made America, a serious coffee table history book by renowned author and former newspaper editor Harold Evans. The book, published by Little Brown on Oct. 12, profiles 70 American innovators and is the inspiration for an upcoming PBS series. And while other tech authors have debunked the gallivanting story before, Evans bases his Kildall chapter on a 226-page, never-published memoir written by Kildall just before his death in 1994. Early on, Kildall seemed to represent the best hopes of the nascent computer industry. But by the time he died at age 52, after falling in a tavern, he had become embittered and struggled with alcohol.

They Made America is certain to elicit cries of protest. That's because it attacks the reputations of some of the key players of the early PC era -- Gates, IBM, and Tim Paterson, the Seattle programmer who wrote an operating system, QDOS, based partly on CP/M that became Microsoft's DOS. Evans asserts that Paterson copied parts of CP/M and that IBM tricked Kildall. Because Gates rather than the more innovative Kildall prevailed, according to the book, the world's PC users endured 'more than a decade of crashes with incalculable economic cost in lost data and lost opportunities.' David G. Lefer, one of Evans' two collaborators, says: 'We're trying to set the record straight. Gates didn't invent the PC operating system, and any history that says he did is wrong.'"

 
Endangered species: US programmers
USATODAY.com: "Say goodbye to the American software programmer. Once the symbols of hope as the nation shifted from manufacturing to service jobs, programmers today are an endangered species. They face a challenge similar to that which shrank the ranks of steelworkers and autoworkers a quarter century ago: competition from foreigners.

Some experts think they'll become extinct within the next few years, forced into unemployment or new careers by a combination of offshoring of their work to India and other low-wage countries and the arrival of skilled immigrants taking their jobs.

Not everybody agrees programmers will disappear completely. But even the optimists believe that many basic programming jobs will go to foreign nations, leaving behind jobs for Americans to lead and manage software projects. The evidence is already mounting that many computer jobs are endangered, prompting concern about the future of the nation's high-tech industries.

Since the dotcom bust in 2000-2001, nearly a quarter of California technology workers have taken nontech jobs, according to a study of 1 million workers released last week by Sphere Institute, a San Francisco Bay Area public policy group. The jobs they took often paid less. Software workers were hit especially hard. Another 28% have dropped off California's job rolls altogether. They fled the state, became unemployed, or decided on self-employment.

The problem is not limited to California."

 
Genesis crash linked to upside-down design
New Scientist: "Sensors to detect deceleration on NASA's Genesis space capsule were installed correctly but had been designed upside down, resulting in the failure to deploy the capsule’s parachutes. The design flaw is the prime suspect for why the capsule, carrying precious solar wind ions, crashed in Utah on 8 September, according to a NASA investigation board.

The sensors were a key element in a domino-like series of events designed to release the parachutes. When the capsule - which blazed into the atmosphere at 11 kilometres per second - decelerated by three times the force of gravity (3 Gs), the sensors should have made contact with a spring.

'It's like smashing on the brakes in your car - you feel yourself being pushed forward,' says NASA spokesperson Don Savage.

The contact should have continued as the capsule peaked at a deceleration of about 30 Gs. Then, when the capsule’s deceleration fell back through 3 Gs, the contact would have been broken, starting a timer that signalled the first parachute to release.

'But it never made the initial contact because it was backwards,' Savage told New Scientist.

Wrong orientation
The sensors, which are estimated to be less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) wide, were apparently installed in a circuit board in the wrong orientation - rotated 180° from the correct direction. But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland."

Thursday, October 14, 2004
 
The Art, she no spell too good
AP Wire | 10/08/2004 | Misspelled library art do-over a no go: "SAN FRANCISCO - The artist who misspelled the names of famous people in world history on a large ceramic mosaic outside Livermore's new library can spell one word with ease: N-O. That's Maria Alquilar's new position on fixing the typos.

She had planned to fly to California and put the missing 'n' back in Einstein and remove the extra 'a' in Michelangelo, among other fixes. But after receiving a barrage of what she called 'vile hate mail,' Alquilar said Livermore is off her travel itinerary and there'll be no changes by her artistic hand.

'No, I will not return to Livermore for any reason,' Alquilar, of Miami, told The Associated Press in an e-mail. 'There seems to be so much hatred within certain people. They continuously look for a scapegoat. I guess I am the sacrificial goat.'

She previously told officials in Livermore, about 40 miles east of San Francisco, that she would fix the 11 misspellings. She asked for $6,000 plus travel expenses to correct the work they paid her $40,000 to create. The city council, faced with the embarrassing prospect of leaving the typo-strewn work in front of its spanking new library, voted 3-2 to approve the expenditure.

Now it appears the fix is a no go.

Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena and Councilwoman Lorraine Dietrich did not return calls seeking comment on what their next move would be.

Alquilar explained that it took her a lot of time and money to create the work, a brightly colored 16-foot-wide circle made up of individual tiles depicting the names and images of famous people in world history.

She noted that plenty of people from the city were on hand during the installation who could and should have seen the errant spellings, she said.

'Even though I was on my hands and knees laying the installation out, I didn't see it,' she said.

The mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan, Alquilar said before deciding to leave the work as is.

'The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake's concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words,' she told The AP.

When asked whether she chose the words and names for the work or whether the city provided her with a list, Alquilar took an artistic stance in response.

'The art chose the words,' she said."

Saturday, October 09, 2004
 
Can Ferrets REALLY Watch The Matrix?
SciScoop: "'The basic findings are exciting enough, but you can't help but speculate on what they might mean in a deeper context,' says Weliky. 'It's one thing to say a ferret's understanding of reality is being reproduced inside his brain, but there's nothing to say that our understanding of the world is accurate. In a way, our neural structure imposes a certain structure on the outside world, and all we know is that at least one other mammalian brain seems to impose the same structure. Either that or The Matrix freaked out the ferrets the way it did everyone else.'"

 
Space Experience session
RocketForge :: A Blog for the Space Age: "Joe Horsting (Intrepid Digital Design Studios) is talking about MMORPGs. Nothing new here for those who know what MMORPGs are. The absolutely funniest thing just happened. Joe was making assertions about costs to deploy a game and John Carmack asked for details and then disagreed with his cost estimates (they were really talking about two vastly different market segments). But Joe had no idea who he was talking to. He asked, slightly incredulously, 'So what part of the gaming industry do you work in?' The room immediately fell completely apart. The biggest 'lol' I've seen in a while. You have to feel sorry for the guy, but that was just damn funny."

Sunday, October 03, 2004
 
GDI Scan Tutorial
GDI Scan Tutorial: "GDI Scan Tutorial and how to fix the GDI JPEG Vulnerability

Table of Contents
What is the GDI Jpeg Vulnerability
What is GDI Scan
How to use GDI Scan
How do I interpret the results



Conclusion
"


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