Monday, February 28, 2005

Good Ideas, Bad Receptions

If you are like me (and really, if you are not, what good are you?) you have looked at the current system of textbook publishing and said "Damn!?!?!" Public schools spend lots of money deciding on, ordering and distributing text books that are often out of date by the time they are in classrooms. They then have to decide each year if the books they are using are old enough in content and condition to embarrass the education system and if the new editions are good enough to justify replacing the old ones.

It is even worse with University level books because the publishers make pathetic changes like page numbering and exercise order nearly every year and since not every student resells his or her books there is a constant "need" for college bookstores to reorder expensive new books.

I, like many people have seen this state of affairs and thought: "Why don't they set up textbooks electronically?" They could be updated easily, work on numerous platforms from portable handheld to home or library PCs and it would be cheaper to give kids a simple handheld to do them for several years and all subjects than to keep buying expensive textbooks. I believe they tried something similar with laptops in Maine that met initial criticism but has won converts even without electronic textbooks. They could be designed to check in each morning to see if they have been reported lost or stolen. If it were, it could stop working and let someone know the I.P. number it was using. Those that were not used in a reasonable time could periodically beep to alert the owner if lost. It turns out that kids are far more responsible with their gadgets than adults give them credit for anyway and since the material could be available to kids even if they "forget" their device on the bus there would be no incentive to do so (would you believe - the dog encrypted my homework?). Add some messaging and discussion software to the device and kids might even fear loosing them.

And, if you are like me, you have mentioned this idea to people, usually older people, and been given the "Aren't you cute to think that technology can replace textbooks?" look. They may have even tried to explain to you that computers are expensive things (like textbooks are cheap) for adult working environments not toys for school or they blathered off something about information overload (I have never heard a good explanation of what this is - it sounds like something a moron would complain about).

Well, the joke is on them. In a recent BBC article a pilot project in Kenya this exact thing is happening. An interesting quote at the end of the article states:

"Why in this age when most people do most research using the internet are students still using textbooks? The fact that we are doing this in a rural developing country is very exciting - as they need it most."

Indeed. If you also take into account this article about the shrinking digital divide we might just find developing nations leapfrogging our agricultural era education systems. In 20 years we may see African aid workers coming here to teach North American schools how to incorporate student and class blogs and other software into the curriculum because we have been sitting here for two decades saying "Those suggestions are new and therefore silly. You can't use technology to solve all your problems."

No but you can try - you won't fail at everything. Is that not what technology is about?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Canada Selfishly Ignores Bush in Favor of Public Opinion

I can not believe that my country has decided to go with public opinion over the will of our President. Bush made it quite clear what the right decision for us was. He even took time out of his trip which was intended to mend relations and to thank Canadians for their help and hospitality during the flight problems associated with 9-11 to give us this needed direction.

"When President Bush visited Canada in December, he surprised Ottawa with several unsolicited pitches for support of the defense shield,"

How clear does the guy have to make things?

"However, polls indicate that most Canadians are opposed to the scheme. Many believe that the umbrella, when fully implemented, could lead to an international arms race."

Who cares what polls indicate, we already had an election and the current minority government should not spend it's time worrying about what Canadians think, it is the opposition that can bring down the government not Canadians and they are split on the issue. Besides, there will be no arms race for decades because that is how long it will take to get the system working.

Many people have rightly pointed out that this system will protect Canadian territory even if we don't participate and even if we never asked for or wanted this done. It is therefore selfish for us to not support the program. I agree. It is as if a neighbor were putting up a giant wind breaking barrier which you thought was ugly and would make the neighborhood a laughingstock. If the neighbor were to tell you that it could be made higher if you allowed some cables to be attached to your yard and it would not be intrusive and that the project was going ahead anyway, how could you in good conscience refuse the request when you knew that you would benefit from the lower wind. What kind of a neighbor is Canada to not lend its crucial support to a project which the U.S. has stated they can do with or without our help. Canada is in the way if a missile attack is launched at the U.S. from terrorists in Siberia or a rogue state like Nunavut, should it show nuclear ambitions. This could cost the United States valuable seconds during a polar assault.

I wish my nation would show some backbone and start standing up to it's citizens when our commander and chief calls for unity in service of what is good for us all. Though I still think that lasers would be far better for shooting down missiles since they can be aimed quickly, made mobile, disguised in ways that missile bases can't and have even shown better results in prototypes than anti-missile missiles but I am not the president of North America so what do I know.

Mitt Romney's hidden agenda

Mitt Romney has exposed himself. No you perverts not like Janet Jackson. He has exposed his true political agenda.

Romney opposes stem cell research because he feels "creation for the purpose of destruction is wrong." He equates nuclear transfer to the creation of life. He is effectively devaluing something that most Christians consider sacred (at least on the cellular level) and claiming that cloning a few cells by some egg-head scientist is the same as an act of God and can create a soul. By making such insinuations he slanders God and proves himself to be a militant atheist (if somewhat subdued and covert in his militarism).

He also promotes promiscuity: "From day one I've opposed the move for same-sex marriage and its equivalent, civil unions." By removing any incentive for homosexuals to cohabitate he is obviously attempting to increase the number of gay bars and other places where young people can be seduced into adopting the homosexual neurology. He is obviously working to further the radical homosexual agenda.

So when election time in Massachu-whatever comes around all you true Christians (which usually means Baptists but for this appeal includes Mormons and Roman Catholics) remember, Mitt Romney is a militant atheist who supports a radical homosexual agenda. And to add to this he is only halfway forthcoming about these beliefs. Give this sinner the boot and tell him to wear it when he walks out of public life.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Ottawa, City From the Mars.

I am a Canadian (this is not a beer commercial). There are certain things I was taught during my education that I thought were true and later found out were bull sweat (Stupid adsence agreement and its prejudice against excessive profanity! They never gave me a quota either so I don't know what excessive is.) I was taught things like "socialism works and Canada is a perfect middle ground between the US and the USSR". (I had a lot of former hippies as teachers).

Another howler they taught me which I only found out today is not true is this: "Ottawa is the capital of Canada and has been in existence for some time now". The truth is that Ottawa is not the old home of the country's government, a city of over a million people. It is, in fact, a newly arrived settlement from Mars. Yes, you read that correctly - newly arrived.

The CBC article that indirectly informed me of this shocking news, Three pit bulls attack toddler in Ottawa may seem to be irrelevant to the disclosure but as I read further down I encountered this quote:

Just five weeks earlier, the same dogs attacked a boy who was skating on a rink just steps from his house."

and then:

"After the January encounter, the owner was fined $2,100 on nine charges. The animals were ordered muzzled and properly enclosed.

However, the dogs were never seized or destroyed. The city said it doesn't have the authority to do either."

What? What the? There have been news stories from all over the continent for years about dog attacks and one thing that is a staple of all these stories is that if a dog bites a human, the dog gets put down. The owner may get jail, a fine or a judge may just wave his finger at the owner, but the dog is always seized, watched for rabies and but down. The only way the city of Ottawa could not have know that this is how things work is if:

A) The city has never had a dog bite incident.

B) The city council has never seen one of these dog bite stories in the news.

C) The city council does not know that it is incompetent if they do not have proper animal control laws.

One is drawn, via the reasoning skills that were taught to us in the public school system to the only rasinuble contusion that Ottawa is a very recent visitor to our planet.

Hail newcomers! Welcome. I can see from the rest of the article that you have already taken control of the entire province of Ontario.

"All this comes as Ontario considers a new law to ban pit bulls."

You see, an earthling would have seen that such a law would have to be passed again after a Doberman attack and after a rottweiler attack and after a german shepherd attack etc. An earthling might even ignore the idea of banning breeds as stupid and instead pass laws making owners criminally and financially responsible for the proper raising and confinement of their animals. They might, at a bare minimum ensure that the animals could be seized after trying to rip chunks of flesh off of a child and three adults. But who am I to question an advanced alien civilization from Mars.

And to those dog owners who like to let their dogs run around an urban neighborhood unleashed, crapping (that is not profane right) wherever they like and then say something like "Well he is such a gentle dog, he never jumped over a fence and committed horrible acts before!?!?" I would say, "Neither did your mother until the night she conceived you."

Erection Salesmen

Ok, look here!

I support just about any lewd or lascivious or salacious material, behavior or dialog that you could care to mention as long as everyone is adult, mentally competent, consenting etc. and most of all when it is in an appropriate context. The Internet - appropriate. Prime time NBC news cast - come one. NBC needs to ask its sponsors to show some taste. I am singling out NBC because I often watch the news with my elderly parents. (Yes, I am over 30 and while going back to college I have been living with my folks. That is not the same as being over 30, working at a dead end job and living in your parent's basement while learning Klingon.)

I would expect smutty commercials if I were watching cable and network sit coms, I would even enjoy them since most of the sit coms themselves are so unbelievably stupid. I would not be watching sit coms with my parents because their heads would explode. Unfortunately, my parents got into the habit of watching NBC evening news back in the old days when they were sponsored by reputable companies and they have continued the habit. So I get to sit there in the living room watching mediocre media when the commercial break comes on and all of a sudden some woman is bragging about how her husband is now able to give her the type of long, hard, enduring, quality experience erections that they both enjoy. Um, WTF!!!

Or some deep throated announcer (definitely no pun intended) is going on about these two people, who have moved their matching bathtubs onto a local mountain and how they can have their intimate moment whenever the mood strikes them because of this fabulous erectile dysfunction medicine. That one is all in second person so he says "YOU want to be ready to respond to YOUR partner whenever YOU both decide the moment is right. YOU want to be ready with a quality erection don't YOU?" So my parents have their knitting and ancient classic literature books to distract them and I am sitting there with just the ceiling to stare at.

For Jebus Crimson sake can't marketers show a little dignity? And why are they pushing this stuff at people who watch the news? Are they saying that if you show any awareness about the world around you, you must be impotent? It is a sad day when you miss the hemroid commercials that they used to air with the cartoon grapes as a metaphor.

If these medicine maniacs want to pitch their wares (most certainly, no pun intended) after 10 when most seniors are asleep and the ones that are interested in sex are surfing the dial looking for girls gone wild videos, I have no problem with this soft-core drivel. But please NBC, stop asking me about the quality of my erections at eight o'clock in the evening. I don't know you that well. Better yet, why not keep smut on the Internet where God intended and where hard core visual aids can be included.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Space... The Funding Frontier

First there was the International Space Station, which was going to be a shining city in the sky with at least 9 astronauts on board at all times, doing fabulous science experiments and research. Unfortunatly, NASA failed to turn people on to the I.S.S. Maybe they should have brought up Queer eye for the astroguy. Funding, predictably, lagged. So the I.S.S. has been down-sized to a three person crew that has pretty much given up on science to dedicate their time to patching holes, and trying not to starve to death or eat each other.

Now Bush is showing "vision" by claiming he wants NASA to put up a lunar base and send men to Mars. (Send all the men to Mars! Except me. I will stay here. Have fun up there. The ladies and I will get by without you.) Funding things like the space station or repairing Hubble may bring back science but science doesn't plant flags on alien worlds. (Well it does but it doesn't get the credit so screw science) Of course, neither will Bush's vision because he knows that a three month Martian camping trip and a lunar hunting lodge will not make it through the decades of administration changes and budgetary brew-haw-haws that it will take to make either of these goals a reality. He can afford to make a lot of promises that the next guy will have to cancel. He knows that the pendulum will swing again and the Dems will be the ones that have to ax these "lets go everywhere at once" pipe dreams. The Republicans can then point and say "hey the Democrats are anti-science too!" Clever little putz.

If G.W.B. had committed only to a permanent moon base he would have stood a chance of making an ongoing historical contribution to humanity's presence in space. If he had only committed to a Mars mission he would have at least looked as if he had made an historic one time contribution. As it is he has decided to commit money (and not much of it) to splitting NASA's attention and distracting it from what it would be doing otherwise; fixing Hubble, research into the science and technology of weightlessness on a properly constructed space station, possibly finding industrial applications for weightless environments that would cause private enterprise to get involved... you know, productive things. Sciencey things. Things that don't get shown on end-of-the-decade new year's eve specials.

While I love the idea of manned space flight and humans expanding beyond Earth, I don't see Bush's plan as an actual plan. It is more of a cool daydream. If you want to hit the moon, don't aim for Mars. If you want science done at NASA, let the scientists and engineers in on some of the decision making. But then, no one ever said science had to be about anything other than politics. Certainly not in this administration.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Media Hates blockers. Here's Why.

A media low-life - I will not bother you with his name because he was a co-host on CNN's Crossfire which means that he is a sub-human partisan and they are only identifiable by the pattern of barnacle on their hides - was quoted as referring to bloggers as people "with no credentials, no sources, no rules, no editors and no accountability."

I am sure that lots of digital ink has been spilled over what a crap-factory this guy is but since numerous other media "journalists" (read as Bachelor of Arts drop-outs) hold this opinion, I thought I would sputter a bit about this comment.

1) No credentials - Many journalists have demonstrated that their credentials are not worth the matchbook cover they are advertised on. Objectivity is old fashioned to them and they would have to look up the word research to know what it is; they would probably cut and paste the definition from Wikipedia if they thought they needed it. Bloggers generally care about what they are writing about and make an effort to do it well. While some blogs are the equivalent of the Weekly World News, many are of such quality that there is no mainstream media publication to compare them to.

2) No sources - Most blog articles link to mainstream media or the same news feeds that the media use. The media are effectively saying that they are not accurate or trustworthy sources. Sounds right but it is strange to hear the media owning up to it.

3) No rules, no editors, and no accountability - He is still speaking about bloggers is he? Because I find most mainstream media content to be high in speculation and slander, low in spelling and grammar (I know I am not perfect but even I can use a spell checker F.F.S! My local paper often misspells the name of the our city!), poorly researched (especially in science and technology issues) and I have never seen a retraction that was given the same prominence as the original article or broadcast. In fact most retractions only come when a media outlet is forced by a court to do so.

People "with no credentials, no sources, no rules, no editors and no accountability." Hmmm. Would that not make a good description of a citizen? No wonder the media has such contempt for bloggers. Citizens are supposed to sit down, read the paper, watch the T.V. and keep their mouths shut. They are sometimes allowed to contribute to the op-ed page or a call in show but those are managed and screened. Blogs are a nightmare for journalists because it allows ordinary people to both communicate and publish and succeed or fail on their merits. How are the media supposed to compete based on their merits? They have none! Citizens are supposed to respect the free press, not participate in it as far as the media is concerned. Maybe we owe our "journalists" an apology. Does Hallmark make a card to apologize for doing someone else's job when they won't and making them look bad?

If these "blog-mobs" are so lacking in any content and credibility, why is there so much fallout? Why do the media not continue to ignore what these people are saying and the questions they ask. If the
Raelians accused Lou Dobbs of being involved in witchcraft would CNN have him dunked to test the theory? These issues have consequences because they are real and ignoring them does not make the questions go away. Blaming people who ask the questions does not make them go away either. Even some third world dictators are beginning to learn that. Whether you call those who are asking these questions people or blog-mobs or troublemakers, the questions can not be deleted. It is too bad journalists have stopped asking questions and started blaming their failings on others. It must be caused by all those credentials.

P.S. Some of the points made here may have been made in articles I have read elsewhere. There was no attempt at plagiarism and you should take it as evidence that your points are so valid as to seem self evident after being read. The media serves up the same warmed over news stories over and over while parroting each other; why can't I?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Article 19 Posted by Hello

Free Mojtaba and Arash! Posted by Hello

Free Mojtaba and Arash

I think even more bloggers would have gotten behind this if they had seen it in time. Unfortunately the blogosphere is a little primitive when it comes to communicating rather than publishing. Perhaps some kind of feedback tool would be useful for sending short messages from author to author that would only be viewable to the bloger.

Anyway, there is a movement to let the Iranian government know that their treatment of these two people is neither acceptable nor going unnoticed.

Tomorrow is "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day" it is hoped that enough people will put this phrase on their blogs and web sites to be noticed. It is also hoped that some people who take this step will be further moved to contact the Iranian embassy in their country (be civil but explain that actions like this harm their country's reputation).

This type of action has helped bloggers in the past. We must all remember that we owe each other what support we can give especially when one of us is intimidated. This applies in the blogosphere as in life.

Hunter Gonzo? Bush tapes? What the hell?

Some guy named Hunter S. Thompson killed himself recently. I never read anything he wrote but from the way they are describing his "gonzo journalism" (well written, partially fictitious with little care to things like objective detachment and journalistic integrity) it is no wonder the media is so torn up by his passing. It sounds like he invented modern journalism. If that is true, I would like to go to his funeral with a shovel and deepen the hole a few feet.

Secret Bush tapes have been released that are so pathetic they could not have been less news worthy if they were scripted by the White House. "I used, but am against marijuana." (paraphrase) Oh, scandalous. Here I thought he had already admitted to being a recovering cocaine addict. I guess I got confused because I never dreamed that alcohol alone could leave you in the mental state Bush is in. "I am not going to beat up on homosexuals because I have sinned too." (paraphrased) So his "candid" statement makes him look like he thinks Homosexuality is a sin (nod to Christians) but he will protect them (nod to tolerant people). This stuff is not a leak, it is a campaign gimmick. Bush is too stupid to realize that the election is over and the tricks can stop. Either that or he is trying to get more credibility for his "marriage is our word and you can't use it" amendment. Or maybe it was a leak and the world is to stupid to realize that there is no story here.

CNN was blathering a few minutes ago as to which story was important to blogers. God I hope neither one is.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

What is Bush's Position? Not This One I'll bet.

I am not anti-war but I am anti-this. Here I am thinking that everything that could be said had been said about prisoner abuse and then I see this A.P. story.

"The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that the death had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances under which the man died were not disclosed at the time." (emphasis mine)

It is good to break news like this over time so the outrage is less. Everyone has had a chance to get angry about prisoner abuse so if anyone gets mad over this, the apologists for this type of thing can claim that "the left-wingers" are rehashing an old story. You have to admire the talent displayed in humanity's inhumanity at times. Practice makes perfect I guess.

Now there are plenty of researchers that can tell you why torture is not a reliable tool for extracting information. Not only will innocent people provide false information to stop the treatment but actual bad guys will provide information that is contaminated with lies and imagined "facts" induced by the trauma. But then, effectiveness is not really the point of torture. The point is revenge and while many people sympathize with the sentiment, is paying people to 'get off' emotionally when they are supposed to be getting information that could save lives something we should approve of? If Manadel al-Jamadi was a terrorist as seems to be the case then interrogators killed him without extracting valuable information. We will never know if some information he possessed could have located other terrorists and saved lives. Anyone who dies because of this killing are on the heads of his interrogators who put their own anger above the job they were supposed to do. Fortunately for these incompetents, the dead can't speak about what might have been.

"The prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations." the article states.

Bush must know that the position was used and that it is unclear where he stands on it. Here is an idea: Bush can make a clear and public statement that such tactics are not approved of by his administration (even if they were in the past). He could then spend some of the money that would have been used in future congressional torture inquiries and in cover-ups etc. and buy a mobile MRI device to bring to detention camps. It is well known that recognition of images of people places and scenes can be reliably detected in a way that polygraphs can not. Why not use 21st century technology to find out what these people really know instead of torturing them to death while extracting suspect and unreliable information.

Or he could keep on with is policy of letting the interrogators do as they please and hoping they don't get caught. Terrorists will keep slipping through their fingers but a few interrogators will get their jollies and every little country that manages to capture an American airman or ground soldier can follow Bush's example without any fear of condemnation of the international community. Smart work W. Maybe they will send you an ear for your scrap-book.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Terry the Three-Eyed Bunny says, "Remember to filter your water!" Posted by Hello

Friday, February 18, 2005

Put the Holy Books Down and Breath!

The Vatican is offering exorcism lessons for some of its luckier priests.

Concern is high in Italy about the influence of Satanic cults - especially among the young and impressionable." States the BBC article.

Worrying about your impressionable youth would be a great argument in favor of more science education and teaching reason and critical thinking in schools. It is a pretty poor argument for training grown men in robes to tell kids that these powers they are seeking are real and the church is fighting them. Kids love power and hate church.

"Next week - in a case that has captured the public imagination - a court outside Milan is due to consider murder charges against a group of young people accused of killing two teenagers as part of a Satanic rite."

Groups of murderous psychopaths and their hanger-on, social climbing, wannabe accomplices are part of any society and are best dealt with through psychiatry and law enforcement, not by feeding into their fairy tale beliefs about demonic powers.

In another BBC article about the power of faith, this time the Greek Orthodox church in finding the morality finger pointing back at them.

"In recent weeks, there has been a flood of allegations against priests and bishops who have been accused of everything from bribing judges to helping drug dealers, embezzlement, and what the church views as depraved sexual behavior."

When I read the words "depraved sexual behavior" I was relieved because I knew the scandals would not involve child abuse. Christian churches may condemn pedophilia but terms like "depraved" seem to be reserved for things they really and truly oppose like
SpongeBob SquarePants and homosexuality. The only time a church will call pedophilia depraved seems to be when they are using it in the same sentence as homosexuality. That way they link the emotional impact of the one with the other much like they often try to link evolution with racism by putting them close enough together in a sentence that they become linked in the listener's mind without having to link them logically.

So to stave off mounting calls from politicians for a formal separation of church and state, the Archbishop has now proposed a series of measures, including more regular financial audits and a ban on clergymen receiving bonuses from the public for their work."

Any church that is working "to
stave off mounting calls from politicians for a formal separation of church and state" is a perfect example of the need for such separation in the first place. If a religion does not understand the need for such a separation it is too vacuous to be taken seriously as anything more than intellectual pollution.

And just in case you thought this post was only going to pick on the Christians, It seems some rabbis can't even do something as simple as advise people not to throw their gum on the street without being holier-than-thou. After telling people not to drop a wad of bubbleicious on the curb but to swallow it,
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu goes on to condemn gum chewers everywhere.

"Chewing gum is the practice of lower forms of life. It expresses inner tension and lack of control"

Let us ignore the fact that recent studies have shown that chewing gum improves memory and concentration. Where does this guy get off declaring that a habit that he disproves of indicates that these people are a lower form of life. One wonders if he was divinely inspired by God to look down on people or if he just pulled this "observation" out of his enchanted backside. Perhaps it is indicative of inner tension and lack of control.

Well that is my religious round up rant for now. I am going to go play violent video games before some church bans them. Go with God my children, and keep on going!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Blood of the Young!

Wired News ran a story today entitled Young Blood Makes Muscles Spry. It describes experiments where young rats have their blood streams hooked up to old rats and, after about 6 weeks the old mice received several health benefits.

Now it has to be a continuous transfer from a genetically identical being. You can't just drink the blood of the young like some medieval psychopathic aristocrat. (Though would that not be cool? Creepy, super strong old people stalking the streets with a thirst for blood. Night of the Dentures!) That being said, it makes you look twice at those baby carrier backpacks. It would only take a hidden I.V. tube and a kid who is an identical clone of the parent.

So in summary, if you see an older parent with a baby strapped to their back or chest who has a strong family resemblance, don't take any chances. Grab the person, scream hysterically and refuse to let go until the authorities arrive. You may feel silly, but you just may be stopping a mad scientist and his or her twisted plan to cheat death by parasitizing the young!

Then again this research may just be about discovering how to keep seniors healthy and cure degenerative diseases. Who can say. Are we really going to trust a bunch of scientists with their book-learning and creepy ideas?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

After a long day of burying dinosaur bones for the serpent, Adam gets some good news. God has come up with the last design modifications for Adam's body, including a final decision on the foreskin. Posted by Hello

Monday, February 14, 2005

Testing Evolution

Here is a fascinating story about evolution being studied outside its traditional context of organic hydrocarbons. I often wonder why Creationist/Intelligent Design supporters do not stand by their convictions and refuse to use the latest antibiotics. After all the old ones worked well enough in the past. If these microbes can not evolve new traits then there is no reason to use new drugs. Of course they may say (and some have) that when God created these pathogens he gave them all kinds of genes against future medicines but that they only got around to using them after we got complacent. "You give us the word God," say the bacteria "and we will start producing that chemical that disables penicillin. It would have been nice if you had given us the go ahead as soon as the humans started wiping us out. Who's side are you on anyway?"

Many products and pieces of software are being developed via genetic algorithms, which is essentially the same thing as evolution but cleaner and which initially drew the same criticism from designers and programmers as from Creationists (supposedly, you can't get anything new and useful from random changes, no matter how strong the selective pressure is and no matter how many individuals you change and test). With that the case, an I.D./Creationist needs to be careful now and in coming years that he does not accidentally buy something that he does not believe can actually exist.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Alternative lifestyle penguins get Germans excited

A plan to test the sexual preference of some penguins at a zoo in Bremerhaven, Germany has angered the gay and lesbian community in that country. They fear that zookeepers will try to force them to be straight. Why they think zookeepers are stupid is beyond me. I guess the homosexuals are not immune to making irrational assumptions about people based on little or no information. They must have visions of zookeepers sitting in the enclosures reading Leviticus to the birds.

The actual motivation is to see if the birds are just responding to an insufficient number of females (penguin Oz) and need to get some more lady penguins in the zoo, or if they are just gay birds. Like the enemies of Sponge Bob Square-pants, the gay activists have gone off half-cocked (no pun intended) on this on. There must be no real examples of homophobia and discrimination in Germany to take action against. Good for them.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Eason Jordan resigned - finally

An article that I found at Eason Jordan has finally resigned. This allows him to continue his claim that he never said that the U.S. forces were deliberately targeting journalists, despite the claims of witnesses to the contrary including that of an American elected official, without actually making the transcripts public.

"While my CNN colleagues and my friends in the US military know me well enough to know I have never stated, believed, or suspected that US military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments on this subject in a World Economic Forum panel discussion were not as clear as they should have been," Jordan states. His friends may be willing to take his word for it but since there are witnesses to the contrary maybe he should permit the release the transcripts so we can all see who said what. After all, if what he says is true then an elected official of the United States is lying as well as some other notable people. If that is the case then Jordan has a duty to ask that the transcripts be released. A duty not just to clear his name but to expose a lying politician. (Unless Jordan is well and truly full of it)

The article (by Agence France Presse) goes on to insinuate that this is a case of a poor guy making a slip of the tongue, apologizing for it and yet being hounded out of a job. In actual fact, all Jordan has apologized for is that he did not make himself clear enough and that everyone is too muddle-headed to remember what he said accurately. This is why he and CNN will not provide access to what he actually said.

"Almost immediately he amended his remark "to make it clear that there was no policy on the part of the US government to target or injure journalists," the moderator, journalist David Gergen, said." So instead of there being an official policy of killing journalists which he can not prove, there is a tendency for some troupes to kill journalists which he can not prove and it does not matter anyway because he neither said nor amended any of it. But we don't need to see the transcript, it all makes perfect sense, I am sure. It was all off the record anyway so he can say what he likes with impunity. Right?

"This is too high a price to pay for someone who has given so much of himself over 20 years. And he's brought down over a single mistake because people beat him up in the blogosphere?" said Gergen, the Davos panel moderator and an editor at the magazine "US News and World Report." I am sorry but this is not a single mistake, it is an on going lie that he has been caught in and still refuses to admit to. By not admitting, he is questioning the word of a number of people while refusing to provide access to the evidence that would clear up the matter. Jordan did make a single mistake as Gergen say. He then compounded it by covering it up, claiming that others were mistaken and questioning their integrity or their intelligence. Twenty years of giving of yourself (what everyone else would call just doing their job) does not excuse that. To claim that Jordan is a victim of the blog mob is to say that he is a victim of a group of people that are asking the kind of questions that people like Gergen don't have the integrity to ask.

Thankfully there is a blogosphere because the media is MIA.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ethical priorities

Mass. Governor Weighs in on Stem Cell Work

"Respect for human life is a fundamental element of a civilized society," Romney wrote. "Lofty goals do not justify the creation of life for experimentation or destruction."

Respect for cellular life that is. Human life is as cheap as ever. People who believe that conception or nuclear transfer "creates" life where there was none before are no different that people that believe that having your picture taken or an image made of you steals a piece of your soul.

Anthropologists have described two types of magical beliefs among humans. One is that things that resemble something else (a picture or a statue) have power over the other object. The other, called contamination magic is that things that are connected or had previous contact still have influence over each other (If a witch gets your hair clippings they can cast spells on you). Stem cell debates are based on the latter. These cells are involved in the development of human beings so they must have human soul stuff in them. Ethics should be based on reason not magic.
Will adult stem cells eventually replace all potential therapies foreseen to emerge from embryonic stem cell research? Maybe, but who cares? Preventing medical research on tissue engineering because we have given sacred status to undifferentiated cells is disgusting. To be fair this politician does not seem to take a strong opinion on the issue as he is seems to be encouraging research on embryonic stem cells if they were going to be destroyed anyway. The research can be done as long as it is made needlessly hard to get the embryos. Is it that blastocystes that have been given up on are no longer ethically "human life"?

There are techniques being developed to create embryonic stem cells that do not require conception. Some, like transferring a patient's cell's nucleus into a non human ovum that would be incapable of forming a placenta and have no "human potential" (whatever that is defined as). This and other techniques would provide patient specific tissue but I am sure the mystics will dream up a reason to be against this as well. Since the ovum came from an animal the animal essence will be seen as spiritually contaminating the resultant cells even though there will be no genes from the animal and the development of every cell descended from it will be governed by human genes. After a few division, almost all cells won't have a single molecule from the animal egg but people will still decry the "human/animal mixture". This is a classical example of contamination magic belief and it will enter the debate. Mark my words.

It is certainly clear that neither the politicians nor the public is informed enough to sensibly discuss the current issues let alone look forward to near future developments. This is exactly as many religious people like it as a good emotionally charged campaign can sway public opinion which is probably why there are virtually no logic classes in North American public schools. (Government mandated stupidity.)

While waiting for future "ethical" (as defined by the loudest and most ill informed in our society) stem cells, is it ethical to stop research in the field, via red tape and bans, because certain people have bestowed certain types of cytoplasm with more "mojo" than others?

In case you can not figure that one out the answer is "no".

Nice to have priorities.

Interesting story on Wired News.
Girl, 11, Locked in Dog Kennel for Days.

"County Attorney Susan Gaertner said she thought the couple's actions deserved more serious charges, but said no felonies fit the facts of the case."

Putting a girl in a cage with a drain to urinate in is a misdemeanor. I bet with oversights like this in the law the Feds and regional lawmakers are working overtime to address these serious issues. Or maybe they are working on this:

Droopy drawers.

After all what could be more offensive then seeing someone's underwear waste band. certainly not child abuse.

In other events, the Roman Catholic church has been working hard to convince Canadian politicians to not support the up coming same sex marriage law. One Bishop informed us that it would cause us to lose social programs like our education system. He didn't bother explaining how that would happen, I guess we are all too stupid to understand theology.

In the mean time, the Catholic Church is also promoting the adoption of laws that would treat clergy who cover up for pedophile priests as sex offenders themselves. They would do jail time and not be allowed near playgrounds or to work with children. Oh wait, they have done nothing of the kind. I guess they are going to get to protecting children after they deal with all those gays.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Government mandated stupidity.

If you were in charge of your society, not just an elected representative but really and truly in charge, to the point that you could really make things happen and you wanted to implement something really stupid, what would you do?

You might implement a heavily funded program to support the arts... with the stipulation that none of the artists use or appeal to the senses. No visual arts, no music or song or performances, no sculpture or literature or brail. Effectively you would pay huge grants to artists and maybe the odd philosopher to sit in a dark closet and silently think about art.

Not your style eh?

What about funding a scientific research body... with the stipulation that none of the inquiry deal with the universe, anything in the universe, evidence, observation, oh - and by the way - no published results and no peer review. The creationist would like that one.

No hun?

What about creating an education system... wait for it... that included the stipulation that reasoning skills, basic informal logic should not be taught. No courses on what sophistries and fallacies are, no information about how good arguments are constructed, how to criticize an argument; you know, the basic foundation of a genuine education. (In a genuine education, you learn to read, you learn to multiply, you learn to reason right?)

Is that stupid enough for you?

I went through the public school system in Canada and I learned to read; I pursued an interest in science, world issues, etc. I was taught some grammar (not enough) and some spelling (even less). I took the mandatory shop classes and "life skills" courses. I thought I got a fairly good deal.

Then one day, while flunking out of University, I was killing time in one of the libraries when something awful happened. I found a book about informal logic. It was called The Way of Words. It showed me that one of the cornerstones of an education, something that should have been taught to me years ago had been withheld. I learned that the garbage fed to me by politicians, fundamentalist clergy, activists, newspaper editors and all manner of other low-lives was not just random bullshit, but a complicated knot of bad arguments, sophisticated misdirection and blazing stupidity. In a world with so many important issues, why had I never been taught reason and logic? Why had I been given the impression that skepticism was the same as closed mindedness?

I e-mailed my government and received no response. I asked people about this and they shrugged as if I was asking what causes ear hair. Most schools in North America don't teach basic logic. There seems to be no reason for reason in our world. How can I expect that people would understand such concepts as productivity when they can't understand why an ad hominem attack is not a convincing argument? How can I expect anything from a civilization that believes that sex "education" should not mention sex, tell kids not to do anything and tell them lies such as "masturbation causes pregnancy"?

It is Feb 8th, 2005 today. I am giving humanity 30 more years to shape the hell up. By Feb 8th, 2035 I had better see some improvement in this species or I release my doomsday device. Don't test me. The clock is ticking!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I have super powers! (AND a giant head!) Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 03, 2005

On Intelligence - (What? You need a subtitle or something?)

Speaking of outsiders making a contribution to a field, I can strongly recommend the book On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins with Sandra Blakeslee. Hawkins is not a neurologist but he is well read in the field and has a background in artificial intelligence (inventor of the Palm pilot. He has also drawn praise from experts in the neuroscience and medical disciplines. He has put forward a simple yet profound theoretical model of intelligence and how it emerges from the neocortex. Even if this theory is faulty (which I really don't think it is since it is based so firmly on observable fact) the book offers a well written description of current knowledge and observations of the neo-cortex as well as a history of the field of artificial intelligence and his explanation of why he feels that a new model is needed.

A recent article in New Scientist about a man who was blind all his life and learned to draw was quite relevant in light of Hawkins' model (at least to my first reading). The gentleman seems to be using his visual cortex to create a prediction model of what he wishes to draw which is so strong it looks more like 'seeing' on an MRI scan than the imagining that most people do. It lends weight to the idea that the entire cortex is doing the same sort of thing and that the difference from one region to the next is a reflection of the input and connections rather than a fundamental difference between a sensory region and the motor cortex for example.

Whether his theoretical framework will prove to be the fundamental shift in thinking that both neurology and A.I. need to move forward will remain to be seen but I highly recommend this book. It is a quality work on many levels.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Physicists with biology envy.

Ok. Far be it from me to discourage interdisciplinary study and I can't say that Freeman Dyson is completely off track on this one but...

What is it with physicists and their desire to revolutionize that poor misguided subject of biology. First Roger Penrose and his quantum neurology theory that is both unnecessary and annoying and now this?! Freeman seems to overlook the fact that this horizontal evolution as he calls it continues to this day. Mostly simple bacteria but also more complex organisms like plants trade genes between species. Even animals pick up genes from unusual sources. I recall a Scientific American article some time ago about a species of parasitoid wasp that lays eggs in a big ugly caterpillar. Not only has it incorporated a caterpillar virus into its genome so that it's eggs and larval young can disable the hosts immune system but it has also incorporated some of another parasite's genes that happened to aid its kids in their parasite-like practices.

Most complex animal life doesn't live in such close quarters with other organisms to facilitate accidental gene transfer. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen and it certainly doesn't mean biologists are ignorant of it. Certainly in bacteria, interspecies gene transfer is old news.

Maybe physicists should study a little biology before they revolutionize the field.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Snake Posted by Hello


Day By Day© by Chris Muir.