Sophont
Friday, December 31, 2004
 
For You, Palestine
MEMRI: Latest News: "Iran's Sahar 1 TV station is currently airing a weekly series titled 'For You, Palestine,' or 'Zahra's Blue Eyes.' The series premiered on December 13, and is set in Israel and the West Bank. It broadcasts every Monday, and was filmed in Persian but subsequently dubbed into Arabic.

The story follows an Israeli candidate for Prime Minister, Yitzhak Cohen, who is also the military commander of the West Bank. The opening sequence of the show contains graphic scenes of surgery, and images of a Palestinian girl in a hospital whose eyes have been removed, with bandages covering the sockets.

In Episode 1, Yitzhak Cohen lectures at a medical conference on the advances being made by Israeli medicine regarding organ transplants. Later in the episode, Israelis disguised as UN workers visit a Palestinian school, ostensibly to examine the children's eyes for diseases, but in reality to select which children's eyes to steal to be used for transplants.

In Episode 2, the audience learns that the Israeli president is being kept alive by organs stolen from Palestinian children, and an Israeli military commander is seen kidnapping UN employees and Palestinians.

Sahar TV also broadcast an interview with the director of the series, a former Iranian education ministry official, who discussed his motivations for making a series 'about children.'"

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
 
save-em-all-and-let-god-sort-them-out
A.E.Brain: "We - and by that I mean those baby-eating bloodthirsty barbarians in the Australian military - have plans for dealing with natural disasters. We - and by that I mean us Evil Warmongering Boffins that support the military - even develop simulations and models to help the guys in uniform plan what to do. Unlike some SHM readers, we don't have a direct line to God, so we don't know when and where such catastrophes will occur. The same resources that could support an armoured infantry company operating round Mosul would also be useful for relieving natural disasters, and more importantly, there are plans so to use them. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, provided we don't over-commit ourselves. That's why we have so few troops in Iraq, and resisted the strong pressure from the USA pre-war to commit more in the post-war phase. The US understood this, and didn't make a fuss about us keeping a Strategic Reserve.

More importantly, we don't just write Idiotarian letters to the SMH decrying terrorism, we do something about it. We also don't just write factually-challenged letters to the SMH about the 'force of nature', we do something about that too.

We do what we can, reflexive and limited immediate aid first, but we also figure out what's needed, think and research before acting. You save more lives that way, even if the wilfully ignorant of the chattering classes get into a lather because of it. "

 
One-line review of "I, Robot"
TBIFOC : "Thank goodness 3-Com bought them out and put a stop to their nefarious schemes."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
 
Scientist's invention was let go for a song
The Seattle Times: "Today, Russell does consulting from a lab in the basement of his Bellevue home to keep in the game and supplement a modest pension from Battelle.

A wooden box on a shelf contains a set of faintly scored glass plates, each about the size of a 3- by 5-inch notecard. They are precursors of the DVD; each contains a digital recording of a television show taken off the air in 1974 to prove that his idea for optical digital recording worked.

The plates, a collection of paperwork and a small trophy from Battelle are basically all he has to show for his work on a technology that changed how the world buys and stores music, movies and software.

'I didn't really expect I was going to make a lot of money, because I recognized early on it was going to take a big company to put this all together and get it out on the market, because it was a revolutionary thing,' Russell said, 'and you don't just do revolutionary things of that order without enormous support and that I was going to lose my position no matter what.

'That's OK, but a little royalty I kind of expected. I didn't expect to get nothing.'

Battelle did a little better. The research institution, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, made more than $1 million from the patents, but not a lot more."

Jim Russell's optical-digital recording work:

1953: Russell joins General Electric as a physicist at Hanford, where he developed several instrumentation systems, the first computerized-control system for a nuclear reactor and the first electron-beam welder.

1965: Joins Battelle at Richland and begins developing the first of three optical data-storage technologies.

1966: The first of a series of 25 patents is filed.

1973: Designs and builds first prototype.

1974: Technology demonstrated to potential licensees, including Sony and Philips.

1979: Sony and Philips begin joint development of digital audio disc.

1980: Digital Recording established to develop technology.

1982: Sony begins CD production.

1985: Digital Recording goes out of business; assets sold to Optical Recording in Toronto, which hires Russell.

1987: Russell's contract with Optical Recording ends; he becomes independent consultant and inventor.

1988: Optical Recording settles patent case with Sony and Philips.

2004: More than 35 million CD players and 25 million DVD players sold.

Sunday, December 26, 2004
 
WB11's 2004 Online YULE LOG!!
WB11.com: "The Yule Log, video of a blazing fireplace accompanied by holiday music, was a holiday tradition on Channel 11 from 1966 to 1989. During its hiatus, the many letters and phone calls to Channel 11 requesting its return attested to its undying popularity. The Yule Log has won its time period for WPIX in New York's overnight Nielsen Station Index ratings each year since its return to television.

The Yule Log was the creation of the late Fred Thrower, General Manager of WPIX from 1953 to 1975. 'I thought about all the cave dwellers in New York, all the apartments that don't have fireplaces,' he remembered in a 1988 interview. 'I thought this might be a wonderful way...to let people hear real good Christmas carols and to have their own fireplaces burning.'"

Saturday, December 25, 2004
 
The UN: The World's Greatest Trade Association
Tech Central Station: "The United Nations is the pre-eminent trade association for people involved in the business of government power. Actually, it is more focused than that. The United Nations is the trade association for the world's executive branches -- the place where executive branches come together to promote their individual interests to one another, and to promote the expansion of executive authority in general. This point is often missed by UN critics who dismiss the organization as nothing more than the world's greatest debating society. These critics confuse being voluntary with being powerless. Organizations like The American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the International Tobacco Growers' Association are all voluntary -- but certainly not powerless.

Once it is understood that the United Nations is a trade association for the promotion of executive authority, its behavior becomes almost rational. The trade association extends professional courtesy to its members -- its cardinal rule is not to step on the toes of another executive. Saddam Hussein violated this rule by invading Kuwait and displacing another executive. Hussein paid for this mistake; the UN stepped in to enforce discipline amongst its members.

But looking to the UN to protect individuals who are not government executives from abuses of government power makes as much sense as looking to the International Tobacco Growers' Association to protect individuals from the dangers of smoking. In a place like Zimbabwe, lives are threatened, but executive authority is not. Executive Robert Mugabe is very strong, so the UN takes no interest in human rights violations there. Action to protect Venezuela's democracy might limit the reach of executive Hugo Chavez's power, so the UN stays away. In the Ukraine, the UN recently announced it was pleased there will be a re-vote in the country's contested Presidential election. In other words, it does not matter to the UN who takes control, so long as there is no prolonged vacuum of executive power. Haiti is a frequent site of UN intervention because vacuums of executive power occasionally arise there. The UN is always willing to intervene to help bring strong executive authority to a place where it is lacking."

Friday, December 24, 2004
 
Tip of the Day - Tip of the Day Blog
Tip of the Day - Tip of the Day Blog : "Don't work off Floppies in Word

People who are new to computers have a tendency to store their data files, including Word documents, on floppy disks. They think this is safer, in case the hard disk has a problem. This may have been true in the early days of hard disks, but there are a number of reasons not to use floppy disks to store your documents:

   * It is much slower loading and saving documents.
   * Floppy disks are more prone to disk errors than hard disks.
   * It is too easy to misplace a floppy disk.

The biggest reason to not work on floppies has to do with how Word handles its temporary 'scratchpad' files. Microsoft designed Word to stash critical parts of the document in 'temp files' on disk instead of trusting them to RAM. There are a couple of temp files opened in the %temp% folder when Word starts, and there are two or more opened where the document file is located.

If your document file is on a floppy disk, that's where the temp files will be created. There is no way to keep Word from doing this, and it's always been this way, clear back to the days of Word 2.0. A problem arises if you remove the diskette too soon. Some of the temp files are closed when you close the document, but if you have copied anything to the Clipboard, a temp file or two will remain open until Word itself is shut down. At some point, it is guaranteed that Word will try to clean up after itself, and if you've prematurely removed the diskette, it can't access the temp file and may pester you for it until you either give it the file it wants or until you forcibly end Word.

The other and more important reason for not working directly from floppy disks is their small capacity. Word temporarily needs a little over twice the amount of space that the saved file will occupy to properly save the file. If you fill up the diskette in the process of saving the file, Word may crash and you may corrupt your file.

Source: Wordtips"

Thursday, December 23, 2004
 
Digital Cam media safe to fly with
Technocrat.net: "Recent tests found no evidence of X-ray scanner damage to digital camera media cards or to the images they hold. The tests of scanner models currently in use in the U.S. transportation industry were jointly conducted by the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A), the leading global association for the imaging industry; SanDisk Corporation, a manufacturer of digital media cards; and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

These findings mean that digital cameras and their image storage media can travel safely in either checked or carry-on bags, which will be reassuring to holiday travelers. And though they were not explicitly tested, it is likely that images on camera-phones will be safe in either situation as well. More care is needed for cameras with film, however, as the X-ray scanners for both checked and carry-on luggage can fog both developed and undeveloped film."

 
Academic turns city into a social experiment
Harvard Gazette: "The slim, bearded, 51-year-old former mayor explained himself thus: 'What really moves me to do things that other people consider original is my passion to teach.' He has long been known for theatrical displays to gain people's attention and, then, to make them think.

Mockus, the only son of a Lithuanian artist, burst onto the Colombian political scene in 1993 when, faced with a rowdy auditorium of the school of arts' students, he dropped his pants and mooned them to gain quiet. The gesture, he said at the time, should be understood 'as a part of the resources which an artist can use.' He resigned as rector, the top job of Colombian National University, and soon decided to run for mayor.

The fact that he was seen as an unusual leader gave the new mayor the opportunity to try extraordinary things, such as hiring 420 mimes to control traffic in Bogotá's chaotic and dangerous streets. He launched a 'Night for Women' and asked the city's men to stay home in the evening and care for the children; 700,000 women went out on the first of three nights that Mockus dedicated to them."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 
In Germany, stately pleasure dome decreed
www.theage.com.au: "Evening visitors would see a show enacting the history of Brazil, with semi-naked Indians, shaven-headed Catholic priests and Portuguese soldiers, who on closer inspection during a preview appeared to be women wearing false moustaches. The island would also be open 24 hours and would have a late-night techno nightclub.

Mr Au admitted that one of the greatest challenges to the project had been dealing with German bureaucracy.

'There is a bamboo tower in the middle of the island. We were asked for its measurements. We have been building bamboo towers for thousands of years but have never previously measured them,' he said.

As well as teak deckchairs, the island would also offer yoga and samba lessons aimed at Berlin's affluent elderly.

....The theme park, called Tropical Islands, is being built inside a 107-metre-high, 368-metre-long hall, which was originally used to house zeppelins and is next to the site of a former Russian military airport."

Monday, December 20, 2004
 
Man Paid Support for Non-Existent Child
FOXNews.com :
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Bill Richardson's (search) office is calling for an investigation into how a man was forced to pay child support for a child that didn't exist.

Steve Barreras was hauled into court, peppered with threats and paid out $20,000 in child support. Then his ex-wife was ordered to produce the child in court.

So last week Viola Trevino picked up a 2-year-old girl and her grandmother off the street and promised them a trip to see Santa Claus.

Instead, she allegedly took the girl into court and said she was her daughter.

The elaborate ruse stretched over five years and involved fake DNA evidence, a forged Social Security number and birth and baptismal certificates.

State District Judge Linda Vanzi ruled the child did not exist."

Friday, December 17, 2004
 
In the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo
After hours of questioning of the People's witnesses (Ms. Ramos and the police officer who actually arrested Barlow), the People rested and the defense got an opportunity to call some witnesses. It ended up calling three. The first was another airport police officer, whose testimony was meant to show that screeners were somehow hoping or being encouraged to look for drugs (contrary to Federal precedent which demanded that they look only for weapons and explosives), but it didn't seem to have that effect. The second witness was a surprise witness who led to great shock and drama in the courtroom.

The surprise witness in question was a former aviation screener who worked for a foreign military during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. I didn't understand, or didn't remember, which country's military the witness said he worked for, and apparently the Federal government lawyer didn't either, because she stood up and started admonishing him that he shouldn't be here at all without following proper government protocol. He politely corrected her -- "Perhaps you didn't hear me properly, ma'am" -- and said that he had never worked for the U.S. government in any capacity. She sat down.

He proceeded to testify that in his extensive military experience with improvised explosive devices and with aviation security screening, he had learned and taught other people how to deal with suspected explosive devices safely.

First follow-up question: If you think a bottle contains an improvised explosive device, is it appropriate to shake it?

No, that's almost the worst thing you can do.

Second: Is it appropriate to open the bottle?

No, that's the worst thing you can do.

The defense then argued that Ms. Ramos could not really have believed that the ibuprofen bottle in question contained an improved explosive device, because she had testified that, on removing it from Barlow's bag, she became suspicious of it, then shook it, and then opened it. These actions were the most dangerous actions she could possibly have taken if she really believed that the bottle might contain explosives (as she testified) -- they were the actions most likely to get her and her co-workers killed. Therefore, she must actually have believed that the bottle contained drugs (not what she was searching for) rather than explosives.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
 
Wristbands called patient safety risk
Tampabay: "Before you wear your cool yellow LiveStrong wristband at the hospital, think twice.

Several area hospitals are putting the brakes on Lance Armstrong's cancer organization fundraising bracelets. It's not cold-hearted backlash, but rather a safety precaution.

Patients wear colored bracelets to identify safety needs, said Lisa Johnson, vice president of patient services for Morton Plant Mease Health Care. Yellow stands for 'do not resuscitate.'

'It could be confusing, particularly in the situation of a code or a cardiac arrest where people have to think very quickly,' Johnson said. 'We wouldn't want to mistake a Lance Armstrong bracelet and not resuscitate someone we're supposed to.'

......The hospitals, all associated with BayCare Health Systems, use the same color codes. Purple means the patient is at risk of falling down; red means the patient has allergies; and white is an identification bracelet.

Tampa General Hospital uses purple, not yellow, to identify people who don't want to be resuscitated. But hospital spokeswoman Ellen Fis s said she sympathizes with those who use yellow DNR bracelets."

Friday, December 10, 2004
 
Very Stupid Brink's Home Security - Tips
Brink's Home Security - Tips:
jaynote: yes, this really is on the Brinks website. This is a very bad, very stupid idea, and if I ever was considering using Brinks, this would have made me go with their competition.

"Make Your Mark
Permanently mark your valuables to make it easier for the police to return them to you if they are stolen. Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers with a state abbreviation work best. Keep a record of marked objects. "

Thursday, December 09, 2004
 
CNN.com - Whale sings lonely song - Dec 8, 2004
CNN.com - Whale sings lonely song - Dec 8, 2004: "LONDON, England (Reuters) -- A lone whale, with a voice unlike any other, has been wandering the Pacific for the past 12 years, American marine biologists said Wednesday.

Using signals recorded by the U.S. Navy to track submarines, they traced the movement of whales in the Northern Pacific and found that a lone whale singing at a frequency of around 52 hertz has cruised the ocean since 1992.

Its calls, despite being clearly those of a baleen, do not match those of any known species of whale, which usually call at frequencies of between 15 and 20 hertz.

The mammal does not follow the migration patterns of any other species either, according to team leader Mary Anne Daher.

The calls of the whale, which roams the ocean every autumn and winter, have deepened slightly as a result of aging, but are still recognizable.

The study by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, appears in the New Scientist magazine."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
 
Current Chaos Manor mail
Current Chaos Manor mail
It's said that when Bismarck was prime minister of Prussia and not too occupied with other matters like the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, he made a few changes in the Prussian school system. One was that all schools found themselves with retired army drill sergeants looking after discipline. Certainly Prussia, and soon the German Empire, had the best disciplined school students and the best educated population in Europe.


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