Saturday, July 29, 2006

No Truer Words . . .

"There is something fundamentally wrong with a war where there are more dead children than armed men... It has to stop."

U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Neither Hot nor Cold: Cool!

Not exactly sure why this is, but my mouth is waterin' just thinkin' 'bout some watermelon right now.

Chemical reactions certainly do occcur at different rates at different temperatures, so I don't suppose the precise mechanism really matters to consumers.


Good thing for me that I already prefer my fruit and some beverages at room temp.

Cold Diminishes Watermelon's Nutrition

Ice-cold watermelon may be refreshing, but it can be less nutritious than watermelon served at room temperature, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists reported.

Watermelons stored at room temperature deliver more nutrients than refrigerated or freshly picked ones, they wrote in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The USDA's South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Oklahoma looked specifically at carotenoids -- antioxidants that can counter the damage caused by sun, chemicals and day-to-day living. Watermelon is rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may help prevent heart disease and some cancers.

Compared with freshly picked fruit, watermelon stored at 70 degrees gained up to 40 percent more lycopene and 50 percent to 139 percent extra beta carotene.


Can You Remember . . .

. . hearing this news back in February?
NASA’s Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet
Published: July 22, 2006

From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

David E. Steitz, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said the aim was to square the statement with President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

I don't recall at all. It sounds familiar, but that's probably just because I first read the article on Sunday, and have been a lazy bastard (I wish!) about posting it. Sorry, but this is one that requires the Free version of registration to the online Times.

I really wanna recommend that you read the story though. It's pret quick, and I'm bettin' that, like me, you'll arrive at the same conclusion as ol' Doc Hansen.

Dr. Hansen said the change might reflect White House eagerness to shift the spotlight away from global warming.

“They’re making it clear that they have the authority to make this change, that the president sets the objectives for NASA, and that they prefer that NASA work on something that’s not causing them a problem,” he said.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Unrealistic? Not If We Make It Real

Violence in the Middle East, or anywhere for that matter, is not an irresovable, empirical reality. It's a Political reality which means it is created by folk and thus dependant upon us to keep it active.

The Tikkun emails my sister sends me have been growing on me because they provide rational and practical methods of making Peace the Reality of the Middle East.

This is an ad they hope to run in this Sunday's NYTimes and, like all such comprehensive statements, it's missing some details which inevitably need to follow the spirit or gist of the main ideas put forth.


Killing each other is only an option because we allow it to be for ourselves.

We will grow much faster if we get workin' on changing ourselves and how we react when attacked.

All right. The add is long enough for this forum.

STOP THE SLAUGHTER IN LEBANON, ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES!



Convene an International Middle East Peace

Conference to Impose a Final Settlement on All Parties

In the name of our sisters and brothers suffering and dying in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we, the undersigned religious leaders, scholars, academics, cultural leaders, poets, writers, philanthropists, social change activists, and citizens of the world demand that the Israeli government, leaderships of Hezbollah and Hamas, the U.S. Government, the international community and the United Nations immediately take the following steps to stop the war in these countries:


1. We demand that the Israeli government immediately halt its attacks on Lebanon. We join with the Israeli peace movement (and the thousands of Israelis who demonstrated against this war in Tel Aviv July 22, 2006) in their insistence that these attacks are utterly disproportionate to the initial provocation by Hezbollah, have killed innumerable innocent civilians, displaced half a million people, have destroyed billions of dollars of Lebanon's infrastructure, and will not, in the long run, secure peace or security for Israel. We also call on the Israeli government to supply food, electricity, water and funds to repair the humanitarian crisis caused by its invasion of Gaza. By endorsing Israel's attacks, and explicitly giving it time to do more damage to the people of Lebanon, the U.S. government became party to this violence, which, together with American military actions in Iraq, are sure to create enmity towards the U.S. and Israel in the Muslim world for generations to come.


2. We demand that Hezbollah and Hamas immediately stop shelling or otherwise engaging in violence against Israel. These actions, which have killed numerous Israeli civilians, terrorized the people of Israel and destroyed many cities, played a central role in provoking the current crisis, and do nothing but harm the cause of Palestinian and Lebanese independence and democracy. It is this kind of violence which has over the years pushed many decent Israelis into the hands of its most militaristic and paranoid political leaders.


3. We demand that the U.S. government, and governments around the world, call on Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas to observe an immediate cease-fire, place an immediate embargo on all shipments of weapons to all parties in the war (including Syria and Iran), and join an international conference to provide security on the border between Israel and Lebanon.


These are the minimum steps necessary to stop the violence and the humanitarian disaster in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. But alone they will not ensure that the region doesn’t return to an untenable status quo which will again eventually break into violence and new rounds of warfare.


We therefore also issue:

A call for Lasting Peace

We call upon the international community to hold an International Peace Conference to impose a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to the conflict between Israel and other states in the region. Why do we say “impose”? There are too many forces in each country in the region who are committed to continuing this struggle forever. Their provocations will continue until the international community stops the violence once and for all and imposes conditions of peace that will allow the peace and reconciliation forces in each country to flourish.


Such a solution would be based on the following conditions:

a. The creation of an economically and politically viable Palestinian state (roughly on the pre-1967 borders with minor border modifications mutually agreed upon between Israel and Palestine); and simultaneously the full and unequivocal recognition by Palestinians and the State of Palestine and all surrounding Arab states of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state offering full and equal rights to all of its non-Jewish citizens.

b. An international consortium to provide reparations for Palestinians who have lost home or property from 1947 to the present and reparations for Jewish refugees from Arab states from 1947-1967;

c. A long term international peacekeeping force to separate Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon and to protect Israel and Palestine from each other and from other forces in the region who might seek to control or destroy either state;

d. The quick imposition of robust sanctions against any party that refuses to sign or violates these agreements.

A New Spirit of Open-Heartedness and Reconciliation

We know that no political solution can work without a change of consciousness that minimally includes an open-heartedness and willingness to recognize the humanity of the Other, and to repent and atone for the long history of insensitivity and cruelty to the other side.
Both sides must take immediate steps to stop the discourse of violence and demeaning of the other in their media, their religious institutions, and their school text books and educational systems. They should implement this by creating a joint authority with each other and with moral leaders in the international community who can supervise and if necessary replace those in positions of power in both societies who continue to use public institutions in their respective societies to spread hatred or nurture anger at the other.

Once the other parts of a lasting peace have been set in place, we call upon the parties to this struggle to launch a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, following the model used in South Africa.

Use This Moment to Challenge the Paranoid and Cynical “Political Realism” That Generates Endless Wars

The paranoid and allegedly “realistic” version of global politics asserts that we live in a world in which our safety can only be achieved through domination—or others will seek to dominate us first. Of course, when we act on this assumption, it becomes self-fulfilling.

We propose, instead, a strategy of generosity—to act on the assumption that people have an enormous capacity for goodness and generosity (without negating the truth that certain conditions promote fear, anger and hatred which sometimes get expressed in horribly destructive ways). For the U.S. and other G8 countries, we call for a Global Marshall Plan: For each of the next twenty years, the U.S. and other G8 countries should dedicate 5% of their Gross Domestic Product to eliminating global (and domestic) hunger, homelessness, poverty, inadequate health care and inadequate education for the peoples of the world. This would have to be carefully monitored and apportioned in ways that ensure the care reaches the people for whom it was intended. But what is critical is the spirit in which it is done.

Similarly, we urge Israel to not only return to its 1967 borders (with minor border modifications mutually agreed upon including a sharing of Jerusalem and of its holy sites) but to do so in a spirit of generosity and caring for the other before it is forced to return to those borders by the international community and before thousands more young Israelis and Palestinians die in these senseless wars that will otherwise continue in the coming years.

The only protection that we in the advanced industrial countries of the world can ever really have for our lives is to spread a spirit of love so powerful and genuine that it becomes capable of reducing the anger that has justifiably developed against the powerful and the wealthy of the world.

The “cynical realists” claim that others are entrenched in their hatred, and that war and domination is the only way to battle them. This kind of thinking has led to five thousand years of people fighting wars in order to “end all wars”—and it has not worked. It’s time now to try a new strategy of generosity, both economic generosity and generosity of spirit. As stated above, there will first have to be a transitional period in which real military protections are available to people on all sides of the struggle. But by beginning now to simultaneously commit our economic resources and change the way that we talk about those who we previously designated as “enemies,” we can begin the long process of thawing out angers that have existed for many generations.

Nothing can redeem the death and suffering that all sides have faced in this struggle for the past 120 years. But this very moment could be the time in which the human race realizes the futility of violence and comes together not only to impose a lasting solution for the Middle East, but to begin a new era and recognize that our own well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet. The International Middle East Peace Conference should be structured to achieve this end—which means it should have an explicit psychological and spiritual dimension and a visionary agenda.

We affirm the Sacredness of All Human Beings. This is the moment to begin to make that real. The UN raised these possibilities 61 years ago, but relied on political arrangements and fell into politicizing every issue. We need to strengthen international institutions that move in a new direction, but we also need a commitment of the heart from everyone on the planet. Our own countries must take the lead in a whole new approach to security and well-being. This may be the last chance we in the advanced industrial societies have to avoid international catastrophe by modeling something else besides brute power, military might, and indifference to the well-being of others. If not now, when?

Unrealistic? Nope. What has proved unrealistic time and again—whether we are talking about US policy in Vietnam and Iraq or Israeli and Arab policies in the Middle East—is the fantasy that one more war will put an end to wars. The path to peace must be a path of peace. Religious and spiritual leaders are also making a global call for ten days of prayer and fasting toward the aim of peace, reconciliation, and ending violence, beginning July 27th and continuing through August 6th. Signed by (Space permitting, your name and identification, plus the names of hundreds of others.)

*********************************************************************

This Ad sponsored by TIKKUN: A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, the Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org), The Shalom Center (www.shalomctr.org) .......



Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Daily

I am your shepherd. You shall want!

Since weirdness rules, and I'm generally in need of an extra buck or two, I've decided to take Blueberry's and Neil's advice and start my own cult.

Beep! Beep!'s admonishment has worked to weird me up to a linky love call for worshippe.. er.. workers towards a new and greater cause. One I'll come up with once I get enuff tribute for the ol' Prophetical Inspiration to kick in!

Betmo and Stardust have shown that there are good folk, ripe for the seducin', and Blue Girl... well... Don't let her temporary bout of irreducible indecisivity fool ya here. For she shall be the Judge and Arbitress of this flock! Y'all better have yer cookies chewy and crumblin' to perfection when workin' on this collective.

I've yet to check, but I'm pretty sure I can get a Bronze watch Dog to skeptically roam the perimeter of our new Shangri Sill-Lah compound.

{YAAAWWWN}


Alright... that's enough empire buildin' for one morning. Gotta go work for The Man 'til my flock has manifested to a large 'nuff mob that I can afford to quit monkeyin' 'round fixin' PCs.


Spread the word!


L8


Sunday, July 23, 2006

I'm Weird. I'm Good With That.

But I really thought all the possible answers, few as they were, couldn't possibly lead to the same conclusion.
You Are 80% Weird

You're more than quirky, you're downright strange.
But you're also strangely compelling, like a cult leader.

Ahhh... Now to find some acolytes!

Or somethin'... {-;

M'hat be tipped to ya Mrs Blueberry.

What Would Aesop Say?

On the farm lived a chicken and a horse, both of whom loved to play
together.

One day the two were playing, when the horse fell into a bog and began
to sink.

Scared for his life, the horse whinnied for the chicken to go get the
farmer for help!

Off the chicken ran, back to the farm. Arriving at the farm, he
searched and searched for the farmer, but to no avail, for he had gone to town
with the only tractor.

Running around, the chicken spied the farmer's new Harley.

Finding the keys in the ignition, the chicken sped off with a length of
rope hoping he still had time to save his friend's life.

Back at the bog, the horse was surprised, but happy, to see the chicken
arrive on the shiny Harley, and he managed to get a hold of the loop of rope the
chicken tossed to him

After tying the other end to the rear bumper of the farmer's bike, the
chicken then drove slowly forward and, with the aid of the powerful bike,
rescued the horse!

Happy and proud, the chicken rode the Harley back to the farmhouse, and
the farmer was none the wiser when he returned.

The friendship between the two animals was cemented:

Best Buddies, Best Pals.

A few weeks later, the chicken fell into a mud pit, and soon, he too,
began to sink and cried out to the horse to save his life!

The horse thought a moment, walked over, and straddled the large puddle.

Looking underneath, he told the chicken to grab his hangy-down thing and
he would then lift him out of the pit.

The chicken got a good grip, and the horse pulled him up and out, saving
his life.

The moral of the story? (yep, you betcha, there IS a moral!)

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
"When you're hung like a Horse...you don't need a Harley to pick up Chicks!!!!!"


Well, it's probably the best email the younger of my two older sisters has ever sent me. I almost had to post it!

{-;

Quizlinging

So, I stopped by Tonya's whilst at work on Friday, and promised myself I'd head back and take some of the silly quizes she'd found via Jami.

Disregarding the nothingness that my Saturday ended up being, here are my results.


I've never read the book, nor seen the movie. Sounds like a good 3rd date DVD.


Uhhh... Well, LOL! If I questioned myself less, and didn't hate some of the cancerously self-replicatin' gunk inside me so much, I'd not have given a rat's ass what anyone thought, and offed myself years ago.

Of course, if I'd been that way, I'd not likely be so flippant and morbidly preoccupied with that kind o' craziness so... what the . . .

And finally

Brain Lateralization Test Results
Right Brain (52%) The right hemisphere is the visual, figurative, artistic, and intuitive side of the brain.
Left Brain (48%) The left hemisphere is the logical, articulate, assertive, and practical side of the brain
Are You Right or Left Brained?
personality tests by similarminds.com

I think this means that I'm borderline borderline.

Again with the wtf...

Ahhh well... There's a new Carnival of the Godless (#45) up on NonProphet's Beware of the Dogma. Perhaps some inspiration is to be found yonder.

Happy Sunday all. At least in my neck o' the woods, it's sunny and seventies today. Maybe I'll get my ass out the house and do something for a change.

L8

Suffer the Children, but Not the Embryos???

It's an Op/Ed entitled "Snark", but it's a pretty well restrained variety which hits on one of the most difficult to resolve realities of population growth that Dubya's Wingnuts refuse to acknowledge.
Sunday, July 23, 2006

Snark

President Bush vetoed stem cell research while surrounded by adopted children. "These boys and girls are not spare parts," he said. "America must never abandon our fundamental morals."

But what if the children are older than, say, embryonic cells? A recent study shows child poverty in the United States at the highest rate in the developed world (when you include the tax code as part of the equation). Fully one-fifth of all U.S. children live in poverty.

Since we will never abandon our fundamental morals, that means we ought to do something about it, right?

-- Mark Trahant

Saturday, July 22, 2006

World Traveling Music

I'm feelin' kind o' lost again lately. Better than I have been, but none the less needing some direction.

Anita's provided a little traveling music which is just about the perfect companion for this particular journey.

Thanks Amiga. I needed that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another Been there. Done That


Only, that wife and I hadn't even tried to have any kids yet. Those do be making the availability of Food Stamps all the more important as a help in getting bye until the gettin's better.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

EFF Suit Moves Forward

Just a quick copy/paste of the email I just got from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
EFF's Spying Case Moves Forward - Judge Denies Government's
Motion to Dismiss AT&T Case

In January, EFF filed a lawsuit against AT&T for collaborating
with the NSA in its massive and illegal spying program. Today,
a federal court denied the government's and AT&T's motions to
dismiss the case, allowing EFF's suit to proceed.

This is a huge step toward stopping illegal surveillance and

holding AT&T accountable for these privacy violations. But it's
only a first step. We need your help to finish the job and
secure your rights.

Please donate to EFF today and forward this message along to

your friends and family.

Join EFF today!
http://secure.eff.org/att
More info about the case
:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att

The Credit DeWine Would Have Got . .

. . is nothing compared to the virtue he could have shown by eschewing such a dishonorable and disengenous group of loons from the start.

From the Center for American Progress.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) "has pulled an image of a burning World Trade Center from a campaign commercial attacking Rep. Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) record on national security because the image was a fake." The spot was produced by the firm responsible for the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" ads.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's Only Natural

The question is, do we as a species - billions of individuals and growing - value our survival as such?

Or do we really value our individuals desires more, even if that inevitably leads our own extinction?

We've quite naturally evolved the ability to make this choice. Whether we value peaceful co-existence over violent confrontation and painful compromises over self-righteous intractable growth of our smaller and more parochial self-interests these are what comprise the nature of the choices ahead.

I really do Blog for peace, as much as to keep track of my own philosophical and educational progress
(not to forget for simply ranting just to clear my head or have a good time!) I really do hope that, somehow, I can add to our silly and sublime species' evolutionary continuation.

Regardless of its efficacy, I'm keepin' "my fingers crossed" that we wind up making the right choices in the long run. I really do hope that I sometimes offer some valuable means of doing so right now.

Super predators

Mass extinctions occur with surprisingly regularity over the long haul. During the last 250 million years, there's been a big die-off roughly every 26 million years.

Adam Lipowski, a researcher at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, suggests the extinctions might sometimes be driven not by climate change or impacts from space, but by the emergence of super predators.

In 2005, Lipowski developed a computer simulation representing a population of many species competing for food and living space. Much of the time, "medium efficiency" predators prowled the virtual world and their numbers fluctuated only slightly in response to changes in prey population size.

But every so often, mutations would lead to the evolution of a super predator that quickly devours an entire prey population, which in turn leads to its own extinction.

The critters that survived the "predatory apocalypse" gradually mutated to fill new ecological niches, and the cycle began anew.

Look in the mirror

Humans could be considered today's super predators.

[The rest of the story...]

Primary Values

All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
I don't know as they, or rather scientists as a whole, are obligated to do this . I do think it's a darned good idea though. Each and every single individual who has ever lived is just as qualified as any other to expound on a given religious belief. What training does it take to have faith and discard or embrace the "revealed" truth of another?

Science is about seeing what is objectively, empirically there, and then rationally and logically explaining how it became so in a manner which is verifiable by anyone, regardless of what their personal experiences and feelings may lead to them believe; or to want to believe.


What is most important for our species survival? How do we practically discern and functionally implement these survival tasks? These values?


John McBride has a reasonable and
valuable perspective.
Religion is not a primary need

JOHN F. MCBRIDE
GUEST COLUMNIST

"Facts are the enemy of truth."

-- Don Quixote de La Mancha

One need look no further than the Middle East and Israel's battle with Islam and Islam's battle with Judaism to be totally baffled by human nature and to cause one to doubt the outcome of humanity's struggle to survive.

Both sides human, neither side "needing" Judaism or Islam to survive, and both sides willing to kill the other and to sacrifice their own to defend the "righteousness" of their position just as Christianity and countless religions and political establishments have before our time, and perhaps will continue to do after us.

Perhaps.

How can such behavior be viewed as an evolved, qualified "tool" for the long-term survival of any species, and in this particular case, ours?

Further, isn't such intellectual or psychological behavior equivalent to an evolved, "physical," environmentally specific tool likely to make us as extinct as any animal that was physically and neurologically very good at being what it was in environment A but couldn't adapt to environment B when environment A ceased to exist or was melded with environment B?

In other words, let's propose that I'm raised Christian, and then encounter Islam, and Islam encounters me. Islam prevails and I refuse to change or Christianity prevails and Islam refuses to change or neither prevails over a third religion and both refuse to change. Neither is necessary since Buddhism works fine, too. And Buddhism isn't necessary either. Nothing is really necessary in place of religion from an evolutionary perspective if it begins to threaten survival since it is a secondary tool for survival, not a primary tool. And even as a secondary tool it evolved in many places in many different forms readily changeable as conversion to any other "philosophy" frequently exhibits.

Food is primary. Air is really primary. Water. Shelter. Procreation. Sleep. Recreation.

Not religion.

So, in the pre-Industrial, Industrial and post-Industrial ages we poison the air, pollute the water, work too long hours, don't get enough rest or exercise, and eat questionable diets.

But we kill each other over religion. By the millions we kill each other.

We plot nuclear war and plan the use of other weapons of mass destruction to assert such "truths." Do we adapt? Not really. We simply negotiate short-term pauses until the next, even more barbarous slaughter. How is it likely that that species long-term prospects for survival are very good?

Is it any wonder so many of us who were religious and have come to doubt religion or who never were involved in religion dismiss it or harbor suspicion toward it?


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Easy As Peace in the Middle East - Before Humans

Damn, do I wish the Kurds would get a state already. That ain't gonna happen, though. They've certainly got the oil to survive, but they can't get on anybody's good side with Turkey understandably not wantin' to lose the crude.

Nobody with pull or money is backin' it, even though, for starters, it's a completely logical step to the 3 part Iraqi political problem.

Kurds get a nation.

Shiite south merges with Kuwait.


Sunni north merges with Syria.


Israel gets Gaza and helps pay for Palenstinian immigration to mostly Lebanon, but Jordan and Syria as well. Of course all Arab's who stay get full citizenship.

Turkey gets immediate EU membership + deals with Russia and Iran on a pipeline to Europe and Africa.

Iran gets an apology from the US for Cold War "necessities" leading up the Islamic Revolution.

China gets a sweeter deal with Russia cuz her Prices just stabilize is happy enough to remove Li'l Kim for a quasi-unified Korea acting as East-West conduit, along with the traditional and still current leader in that role, Japan.

Voila
! Peace on Earth.


OK. My work here is done.


Thanks to
Betmo for the news which inspired this post. Crazy days, eh.

And before pointing out that it obviously won't work out because folks are such greedy superstitious cowards they refuse to acknowledge anyone else's right to whatever it is
we want, imagine that we aren't.

Then it's only logical.

Who Are You? Who? Who?

Well, thanks to Jim's most recent post*, I found a way to put those last posted pics to use and answer that bizarro question which usually totally stumps me: What celebrity do you most resemble.

The site's called My Heritage Face Recognition, and their analysis app gives ya several matches, along with the % of how closely those match yours.

They say I matched up most closely to this guy.



I don't know who he is, but I gotta admit the smile is kinda close. Clicking on the "i" on the bar there, will give you a bunch of pics of that person, and I thought that most of his smiles were similarly goofy to my own.

As I said, I'm workin' on that. LOL

Give it a try and enjoy the heat, eh. Global Warming not-with-standing, summer'll be over way too soon.



* Last post was July 6th? Wazzup dude? You get a life or somethin'? {-;

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Sauna of a Summer

I've got a goofy, self-conscious, smile. So I'm workin' on it.
Whate
ver. . . {-;

. . . Absolutely Nothin'

Gettin' There

I LOVE this development. It's taking time, but scientists are really starting to get a thorough and practical understanding of brain components and their functions.

In High School, one of my favorite SF books was a novel by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven called Oath of Fealty. Skipping the very interesting premise, the relevant bit here is that the main characters each had a microchip implanted in their brains. This chip not only allowed them wireless access to a central supercomputer, it had a lot of processing power in its own right.


MAN! I would
still love to have one of those badboys!

Anyhow, this story shows that folk are making progress in understanding our brains enough to make such an integrated cybermind possible. It's still decades away at best, but it's still the biology that's taking the most time to figure out. The computing part, including miniaturization, is probably already beyond what that 1980's era story could invent.

Brain to Computer to Action

An electronic array implanted in the brain of a 25-year-old man paralyzed from the neck down has allowed him to use his brain signals to take actions such as opening e-mail and manipulating a computer mouse, scientists report.


While such brain-to-computer devices are still far from being able to mimic what humans can do in terms of fine control, precision and speed, they offer hope that people with spinal cord damage and other serious problems might one day regain important aspects of autonomy and functioning.


Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and other academic institutions said the system developed at Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems Inc. is remarkable not just as a technological marvel but also because it shows that the brain is capable of sending out signals years after a severing of its connection to the limbs.


Shortly after the device was installed and calibrated, the patient was able to play a simple video game, read e-mail and control a television set.


A report on the case was published last week in the journal Nature, along with an article detailing a technique that seeks to convert an even earlier stage of brain activity into action. By picking up brain signals at the level of intentions instead of waiting until the brain begins to direct physical movement, scientists at Stanford University hope to allow patients one day to complete actions without even having to think about the action itself.


-- Shankar Vedantam

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Timely Advice

Found this signage posted in someone's cube, at work.

Got Cotton?

Or: How to get ahead in Dubya's World

Friday, July 14, 2006

Humans: Still Crazy, After All These Years...

Evolving Life: Learning from Teachers



Meerkats teach their young to hunt, study finds

Thu Jul 13, 4:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Meerkats actively teach their young how to catch and eat their prey, British researchers said in a study that is one of the first to prove that animals show such complex behavior.

While animals are known to learn from one another by watching, the team at Britain's University of Cambridge said they had demonstrated that the animals actually teach, as defined by clear principles.

Older meerkats will bite the stinger off a live scorpion and give it to a youngster to kill and eat, and if the pup fails to do the job before the prey can crawl away, will nudge it back, Alex Thornton and Katherine McAuliffe reported.

Older meerkats -- not necessarily the parents -- will watch youngsters to see how they are doing, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Sometimes I manage to catch the Animal Planet program, Meerkat Manor and am not at all surprised by the findings in this story.

And it doesn't hurt that they're such cute little critters.
"A greater understanding of the evolution of teaching is essential if we are to further our knowledge of human cultural evolution and for us to examine the relations between culture in our own species and cultural behavior in other animals," Thornton said in a statement.
Every little bit o' knowledge helps, eh.

The NeoCon Pipe Bom... er Dream Fizzles and Dies

Again, with no personal commentary.

By late November of this year, the United States will have been at war in Iraq for as long as we were involved in World War II. Under those circumstances, the burden of proof should not be on those who argue for changing what we're doing. It should be on those who set a failed policy in motion and keep promising, despite the evidence, that it will somehow pay off if only we "stay the course."
["Big Bang" Theory in Ruins]

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Summetime Nostalgitis


I think that I tried to post this once before. Let's see if it works this time.
...

Cool... :-}

Both Sides Now

Male Scientist Writes of Life as Female Scientist
Biologist Who Underwent Sex Change Describes Biases Against Women

By
Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 13, 2006; Page A10

Neurobiologist Ben Barres has a unique perspective on former Harvard president Lawrence Summers's assertion that innate differences between the sexes might explain why many fewer women than men reach the highest echelons of science.


That's because Barres used to be a woman himself.
I was going to add a bunch of stuff from my own head and experiences shared by friends from through the years. Work seems to have thrown my rhythm askew so I'll just rec this article as highly insightful and quite an interesting and nearly unique perspective on the prejudices of even the most highly educated and rationally oriented of folk.

This is definitely another one of those stories which, believe it or not, make me feel better about my emo excursions into shortsightedness. Acknowledging and changing our ways of thinking and seeing the world around us are the keys we've all got to find if we're to truly live in a safe and sane Free World.
Barres and Elizabeth Spelke, a Harvard psychologist who has publicly debated Pinker on the issue, say they have little trouble with the idea that there are differences between the sexes, although some differences, especially among children, involve biases among adults in interpreting the same behavior in boys and girls.

And both argue it is difficult to tease apart nature from nurture. "Does anyone doubt if you study harder you will do better on a test?" Barres asked. "The mere existence of an IQ difference does not say it is innate. . . . Why do Asian girls do better on math tests than American boys? No one thinks they are innately better."

[
Click for the rest...]

A Matter of Principle


No bid contracts to one's former employer are invitations for harsher than normal scrutiny.

Especially if one is receiving retirement benefits from said employer.

{shakin'head}

I'm not goin' into any of the other questions around this business. I'm sure I'll be reading quite a few other folks' takes on it, unless they're all, like me, sick o' the shite...



Typists, Start Your Knuckles!

How fast do you type mi blogonista bros y sistahs? Peacechick Mary posted this link, and I guessed my own speed pretty accurately at 55wpm.

Give 'er a go.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Slow Painful Progress

Turkey pushed to face 'virgin suicides'

By Dan Bilefsky International Herald Tribune

Published: July 12, 2006

BATMAN, Turkey
For 17-year-old Derya, a waif-like woman, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. "You have blackened our name," it read. "Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first."

Derya says her crime was to fall for a boy she met at school. She knew the risks: Her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy. But after being cloistered and veiled for most of her life, she says, she felt free for the first time and wanted to express her independence.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, she says her mother warned her that her father would kill her. But she refused to listen. Then came the threatening text messages, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes 15 a day. Derya says they were the equivalent of a death sentence.

Consumed by shame and fearful for her life, she says she decided to carry out her family's wishes. First, she said, she jumped into the Tigris River, but survived. Next she tried hanging herself, but an uncle cut her down. Then she slashed her wrists with a kitchen knife.

"My family attacked my personality and I felt I had committed the biggest sin in the world," she said from a women's shelter where she traded in her veil for a T-shirt and jeans. She declined to give her last name for fear her family is still hunting her. "I felt I had no right to dishonor my family, that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family's desire and to die."
In the end, Derya appears to be one of the luckier of the young women who, despite having lost their homes, family and everything which they once loved and believed about the world, have found a chance to live as free human beings.

But she isn't throwing her entire past away. At least not yet. I certainlly can't blame her for anything after what she's been through.
[the ending...]
Derya said the deep problem is inequality between the sexes, even though the Prophet Muhammad argued in favor of empowering women.


"In my village and in my father's tribe, boys are in the sky while girls are treated as if they are under the earth," she said. "As long as families do not trust their daughters, bad things will continue to happen."
She still has her religion, and I've heard many interpretations of Islam which support the idea that Mohammed himself wanted relative equality for men and women within the society he envisoned.

However it is achieved, this utterly insane way of life, one which enslaves, tortures and destroys the lives of its young women in order to maintain its practitioners' terrified and ignorant status quo, can only be ended, or at least remediated, by those leaders and imams of the fundamentalist religious faith to which these folks claim such a bloody adherance.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Funny Farm Has Lost An Inmate

There's a backward message on Pink Floyd's The Wall, which says, if ya listen just right, that to get ahold of Pink, please call the Funny Farm.

Pink is now officially dead. May his music (spirit?) live on forever.

Syd Barrett, Founder of Pink Floyd, Dies

LONDON — Syd Barrett, the troubled genius who co-founded Pink Floyd but spent his last years in reclusive anonymity, has died, a spokeswoman for the band said Tuesday. He was 60.

...
Barrett co-founded Pink Floyd in 1965 with Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, and wrote many of the band's early songs.

He got the name of the band from two old blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Pink Floyd's jazz-infused rock made them darlings of the London psychedelic scene. It was the first British group to do light shows in concert and its music and style was weird even for that era.

[Just a little more...]

RAmen.

Supremely Obtuse Court Decision

I've never minced words about Gay Rights being Civil Rights. I think the US Constitution makes it clear that individual State's lack the right or authority to deny Civil Rights to any group of its citizens, just because a majority of a state's population gets "grossed out" or "can't relate to" some number of their fellows' natural orientation or simply different inclinations.

Quite literally, where there is No Empirical Harm, there is No Right Nor Responsibility of a state to protect its citizens against that which their ideology or religion finds repugnant.

I
n this essay, Richard Cohen says it with more eloquence and relevance than many takes I've either considered or read. Since there were so many interesting and important points made within, I'm going with a rarity for me, and posting the whole thing below.

To Have and to Hold Wrongly

Tuesday, July 11, 2006; Page A17

There are exactly 316 benefits of marriage. I learned that from the decision of New York's highest court upholding the ban on same-sex marriage, which means that the often-wed Elizabeth Taylor has enjoyed these benefits 2,528 times, while a lesbian could not have any of them, despite having a stable relationship and a child or two. If it pleases the court, your decision is just plain idiotic.

I choose Taylor because she is everything this very important court (New York, after all) did not take into account in upholding its touchingly Victorian version of marriage. The majority decision, written by Judge Robert S. Smith, more or less said that marriage has traditionally been between opposite sexes -- and, until the legislature decides differently, it should stay that way. Reading the decision induces vertigo from page after page of circular reasoning.

More compelling, more logical, more humane is the dissent of Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, who likened the ban on same-sex marriage to the one that once prohibited interracial marriage in 30 states. When, at last, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 finally outlawed this racist prohibition in the 17 states that still retained it, its defenders argued (much as opponents of homosexual marriage do today) that it was unnatural and contrary to the will of God. For some reason, He did not file an amicus brief.

With same-sex marriage, the issue, we are told, is children. Even though the court observes that same-sex partners are not likely to have a child by "accident or impulse," it goes on to say something downright mysterious: "[T]he Legislature could rationally believe that it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father." Those italics are my own insidious contribution because, really, there is nothing rational about such a belief. It is based solely and exclusively on staying in chambers or, when venturing out, going no farther than the ninth hole.

I am particularly and intimately close to one same-sex couple. I know their child, now a grown woman and -- should you ask -- heterosexual. She had the benefit of a loving home -- although her parents had none of the 316 legal rights and privileges mentioned above, some of them as mundane as visitation rights in a hospital. I can claim nothing special about her. She is neither better nor worse than people raised in more conventional circumstances. She is, though, the niece I love, and I know -- probably better than Judge Smith -- whereof I speak.

I know the children of similar relationships. Again, look as hard as you can and all you'll see are kids -- ordinary kids. I know many more children of heterosexual relationships, and once again it's a mixed bag. If you can find a rule here you either have better eyes than most social scientists or you are blinded by ideology. Throughout history, kids have been raised by a single parent, three parents, no parents (my father, the orphan) or in traditional, two-parent families, such as the killers of Columbine.

Judge Smith does suggest one salient point: As unjust as the present situation is, it should be the New York legislature's obligation to fix it, not the court's. This strikes a chord with me, since if we have learned anything in the 33 years since the Supreme Court insisted on the right to an abortion, it is that it's sometimes better to have such advances based on legislative, as opposed to judicial, decisions.

Gay marriage, like abortion, is a highly emotional issue and, at the moment, commands nowhere near overwhelming support. Depending on how the question is asked, and the polling organization itself, anywhere from 40 to nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage. If the latter figure is accurate, permitting same-sex marriage by judicial fiat would produce yet another protracted fight over yet another social issue. Roe has been bad enough, thank you.

Yet the case for same-sex marriage is so much clearer and easier to make than the complexities that produced the tortured reasoning of Roe . It is based primarily on the easily understood and widely accepted words of the Declaration of Independence: "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ." Since none of the counterarguments can prove any damage at all to society, the New York state high court missed a chance to further an education process and, justly, grant to homosexuals and lesbians the benefits of marriage so casually granted to heterosexuals. Way before getting to 316, it's clear one of the benefits is as American as apple pie: the pursuit of happiness itself.

cohenr@washpost.com



An Inconvenient Truth

Guess I'm gonna hafta wait for the DVD. It won't catch it in Theatre before the last area showing on Thursday.

"Enjoy" the trailer.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Who'd You Rather Have Sneakin' Up On Ya?



Yikes!

Many thanks to Jami who steered me to post on Pam's House Blend. Chuckles a'plenty in the comments at Pam's.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Not Your Parents' Religion

Someone in the Atheists-World yahoo group just posted a link to this policy statement of the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy.

I really feel for devout and wonderful religious folk, especially elderly people who have lived long, and tough lives and just want their final years to be contented and peaceful. Who doesn't want that? Who could possibly want to deny such a thing to anyone that isn't trying to prevent others from having the same.


It's why I'm glad that the United States has an Establishment Clause to prohibit folks from either forcing a specific religion or no religion at all upon others.

Besides, religion will fade as a natural course of human cultural evolution. Not in our great great great great grandkids' lifetimes. I'm quite sure of that. But, if we stay an extant species for a few dozen more generations, there won't be anything like the Catholic Church left in any part of the technologically modern world of homo sapiens. The Islamic world is still straddling the border. Engineering and mathematics are two aspects of science which prove that religion doesn't HAVE to stifle knowledge. I'm just not sure how its members will take it forward. It may be around for quite a while longer.

As for Buddhism... I heard the Dalai Llama say something similar to the following quote, but with a caveat.

It was on NPR one morning last autumn, from a speach to Buddhists on how to think about science when it conflicts with ancient wisdom. The caveat?

I doesn't matter what science has to say about reincarnation. {-;

'Night all...

Carnival of the Godless #44

The Carnival of the Godless # 44 is now up and running over at Daylight Atheism.

Go enjoy a nice little Sunday mind ride, eh.

You think he's gonna listen to you Congressman?

White House kept "major program" secret
By Alan Elsner 1 hour, 31 minutes ago


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration was running several intelligence programs, including one major activity, that it kept secret from Congress until whistle-blowers told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, the committee's chairman said on Sunday.


Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on Fox News Sunday he had written a four-page to
President George W. Bush in May warning him that the failure to disclose the intelligence activities to Congress may be a violation of the law.
And what, pray tell, was the good congressman's reasoning? Why, just what us commie terrorist supporters on the left have been saying all along.
He said he did not expect to be briefed about everything intelligence agencies were doing but at least one of the secret activities was a major program which Congress definitely should have been informed about.

In the letter, Hoekstra said the lack of disclosure possibly constituted a "breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."

Thanks to an anonymous commenter for straightenin' me out on Hoekstra's congressional status.

That chimp's head ain't just shakin' at other folk, and no doubt about it. {-;