Friday, October 29, 2004
PRESTONPANS, Scotland (AP) -- Accused witches -- and their cats -- executed during a wave of hysteria and religious ferment centuries ago will be pardoned on Halloween in this Scottish township. "There'll be no witches' hats, dress-ups or that sort of thing -- it will be a fairly solemn occasion," Adele Conn, spokeswoman for the baronial court that granted the pardons, said by telephone interview Friday."Cyberfeudalism": A rather modern PDF file of the pardon declaration is available online from the Archives of the Baronies of Prestoungrange & Dolphinstoun: it's a fascinating peek at how 21st Century law responds to an age-old edict. You know, I really do empathize with those poor souls murdered ages ago. If I'd been living in 17th Century Scotland, I'd surely been burnt as a witch as well - for a host of reasons!
Sunday's ceremony will publicly declare pardons for 81 local people executed in the 16th and 17th centuries for being witches. The pardons have been granted under ancient feudal powers due to be abolished within weeks. More than 3,500 Scots, mainly women and children, and their cats were killed in witch hunts at a time of political intrigue and religious ferment. Many were condemned on flimsy evidence, such as owning a black cat or brewing homemade remedies.
Prestonpans region had recorded one of the largest numbers of witch executions in all of Scotland, said Conn, who is the "mountjoye," or official spokeswoman, for the Barons Courts of Prestoungrange & Dolphinstoun. She said Gordon Prestoungrange, the 14th baron, granted the pardons for the convictions in the last session of his court, which is due to be abolished on November 28.
"'Most of those persons condemned for witchcraft within the jurisdiction of the Baron Courts of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun were convicted on the basis of spectral evidence -- that is to say, prosecuting witnesses declared that they felt the presence of evil sprits or heard spirit voices,"' the court said in its written findings. "Such spectral evidence is impossible to prove or to disprove; nor is it possible for the accused to cross-examine the spirit concerned. One is convicted upon the very making of such charges without any possibility of offering a defense."
The court declared an absolute pardon to all those convicted, "as well as to the cats concerned." Conn said 15 local descendants of executed witches had been invited to attend the ceremony and inaugural Witches' Remembrance Day, which will become an annual event in the township each Halloween.
"It's too late to apologize but it's a sort of symbolic recognition that these people were put to death for hysterical ignorance and paranoia," said local historian Roy Pugh, who presented evidence to the court in support of the pardons. The last execution for witchcraft in Scotland was in 1727. Such cases were outlawed by the Witchcraft Act of 1735, which made it a crime only to pretend to be a witch.
- To lighten up these final Halloween-to-Election Days, visit the Betty Bowers People Who Are Going Straight To Hell Museum
- Print your own full-color Righteous Jesse Helms Halloween Mask! [PDF file]
- Here's my Top 10 Top 10 Halloween Tips List.
- Top 10 Halloween Tips for Holyweeners, and How To Crash Satan's Birthday Party [Warning: religion spoofs]
- Top 10 Feng Shui Halloween Tips:
"Little ghosts, goblins and witches are running and screaming from door to door. Anticipation of candy and the fright of each home keeps them at high yang energy levels. Implement a few yin qualities to their homes and costumes to keep their energy levels a little more balanced."
- Top 10 LA Fire Department Halloween Tips
- Halloween Tips for Pets
- The ADA's Halloween Tips for Diabetics
- David Letterman's Top 10 Least Popular Halloween Candies
- Better Homes and Gardens Top 10 Halloween Recipes, including the ever popular Cat Cookies, Spider Cupcakes, and Cheesy Goblin Head
- Top 10 Star Wars Halloween Activities
- Infoplease's Top 10 Scariest Halloween Movies: not a bad list, with Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist and Se7en all on the roll. For some lighter fare, try this Top 10 list.
- And last but not least, FOX Sports' Top 10 Scariest Sports Figures: with a name like Raiders, you've gotta be baaaaad.
- "Meu nome é Cão": A Brazilian lawmaker wants to make it illegal to give pets in that nation human names:
Federal congressman Reinaldo Santos e Silva proposed the law after psychologists suggested that some children may get depressed when they learn they share their first name with someone's pet, said Damarias Alves, a spokeswoman for Silva. "Names have importance," said Alves. The congressman "wants to challenge people's assumptions that it's acceptable to give animals human names," she said. If the law is passed, pet stores and veterinary clinics would be required to display a sign noting the prohibition of human first names for pets. Brazilians who break the law would be subject to fines or community service.I suppose we've no monopoly on strange laws...so, would this language law only apply to names common in Brazil? How about giving pets human names from other languages? What if someone gives their child a "pet's" name?
Thursday, October 28, 2004Hoo-ee, you'll love these: 2004's Scariest Halloween Costumes [via Boing Boing]! No priests-in-compromising-positions or 6-foot-tall phalli here, just good timely costumes like the "Littlest Abu Ghraib Prisoner," "Richard Reid the Shoe Bomber," the "Florida Electronic Touch-Screen Voting Machine," and my personal favorite, "Jenna Bush's Liver."
Women's magazines seem to come up with a "Top 10 Quick Ways To..." guide for every holiday from New Year's to Kwanzaa, and I stumbled on this one on MSN Women Magazine. At first glance, it looks like any other list of timesaving tips for harried holiday moms - but on closer inspection, I suspect it's a malevolent plot to turn Halloween into a domestic disaster:
Here are some simple ways to spice up everyday foods:
1. Put a licorice straw into the breakfast orange juice, and pack an orange-dyed hard-boiled egg in the lunch box.
Because orange hard-boiled eggs are such a hit with the younger set these days.
2. Make American cheese the sandwich of the day, and cut a pumpkin shape into the top slice of bread.
Are we just too cheap to give the kid the whole slice of bread? "Mom, why does my sandwich have a hole in it?"
3. Poke cloves into an orange to make a smiling pumpkin face -- or just draw one on with a marking pen.
Don't forget to tell your kid the cloves-in-the-orange deal is called a pomander, and that they were very popular in the Middle Ages because they helped ward off the stench of death from the bubonic plague. That's very Halloween-y.
Last-Minute Costume Ideas
Look what you can make with garbage bags, balloons and a few crafty additions:
4. Dress your youngster as Robin Hood with a green plastic garbage bag belted in the middle, tights, and a V-shaped hat made of brown paper. Staple real or construction-paper leaves to pajamas, tights, an old shirt or another garbage bag, so Robin's companion(s) can come as Sherwood Forest.
Mom: garbage bags are not generally considered 'cool' costumes, falling somewhere below the Charlie Brown bedsheet ghost getup...and quite frankly, Robin Hood and his Merrie Men costumes are about as popular with boys today as the Village People. Remember those Village People costumes for kids you could get at Woolworth's? The Aquaman and Super Friends costumes? Am I dating myself?
Instead, why not have a 'CSI' theme? Just wrap junior up in a Hefty Cinch Sak™ and write the words "CORONER" across the front in white marker? Gnarly!
5. Alternatively, use the leaves and attach red, yellow or orange balloons to the costume. Presto: you're an apple, lemon or orange tree. (Leaves can be stuck to a headband as an extra touch.)
It'll all end in tears when some bozo starts popping your kid's balloon costume with a sharp object. Presto: you're a condom tree!
6. Blow up a multicolored group of balloons. Dress child in black turtleneck and tights, then make leg holes in a clear plastic dry-cleaner's bag. Slip legs through, then fill the bag with balloons. (Bag should reach from shoulders to thighs). Seal top and reinforce sides and bottom "seams" with clear wrapping tape. Your child is now a bag of jellybeans.
'Bag should reach from shoulders to thighs?' Pray tell, where do the kid's arms go? Translated: Presto! Your child is now not only the laughing stock of the neighborhood, but an emergency room trip waiting to happen as they waddle across traffic in balloon-stuffed sack.
It wouldn't seem like Halloween without those smiling orange faces. Try these ways to make them better and faster.
7. To get that jack-o'-lantern cleaned out fast, use an ice cream scoop.
Don't forget that pumpkin guts make a delicious, vitamin-rich, high-fiber ice cream topping for those Halloween sundaes!
8. Line the bottom with aluminum foil and put a set of coiled miniature Christmas lights inside, making a little hole in the back to draw the cord through. It's safer, lasts longer, doesn't smell, and looks just as good. But if you must have the candle, cut the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin and use the stem end to pick it up. It's easier to position the candle without having to reach down inside the shell.
Hmmm. Let's see...what do you get when you combine a wet pumpkin cavity, aluminum foil, and a 120V power cord? See: "The Littlest Abu Ghraib Prisoner," above. Got insurance?
9. Don't forget to put the pumpkin on a mat, because as it decays, it can ruin the finish on a wooden table or shelf. Of course, instead of carving, you can simply draw a face on the pumpkin, having fun with magic markers, stickers or whatever, and it will last much longer.
Has anyone ever considered simply throwing the pumpkin away before its guts rot out?
10. Use a virtual pumpkin: cover a glass fishbowl or punch bowl with strips of orange crepe paper (or cover with watered-down tempera paint), add construction paper features, and put a candle or a flashlight inside.
Yes, because that will be so much easier to clean up when the kids throw your 'virtual pumpkin' against the side of your house or car.
Getting the Egg Out
And finally ...
11. Don't let the goblins spoil your holiday mood. If your house is "egged," apply a protein stain remover to make cleanup quick. Any product designed to remove food stains, such as Spray 'N Wash, will do the job.
Hey moms! A bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry will do the trick at less than half the price. After a couple of glasses, you really won't give a scheisse if your house is all covered in runny eggs.
Where was this domestic goddess when Monica Lewinsky was in her time of need?
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
- Want a quick-and-dirty refresher course that touches on just about every major aspect of modern and historical Western culture? For free?? Peruse the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, dude.
- Is Bill Clinton eyeing the post of U.N. Secretary General? [via locussolus]
- Sehnsucht, a new restaurant for anorexics opens in Germany [via Foodgoat]. Kafka would approve:
Sehnsucht (Longing), a cosy 50-seater cantina in the German capital's leafy Tiergarten district, is the idea of a former anorexic, employs a bulimic waitress and has an anorexic chef presiding over a menu that deliberately distances dishes from the ingredients they contain. Developed with the help of a nutritionist, the menu will list non-food names such as Hallo (in reality a lobster bisque), Heisshunger (Ravenous Hunger, a rack of lamb), and Seele (Soul, a cappuccino cre'me dessert).Just in case you thought I was pulling your leg of lamb.
"The concept has been especially created with an anorexic in mind," said Sehnsucht's manager, Katja Eichbaum, 32, who battled with her own disorder for 15 years. "Anorexics have to be taught that eating out can be fun." Portions will be "normal sized" and the restaurant, also attached to an advice centre, will be open to non-anorexics as well.
Sehnsucht is the latest to feed Berlin's seemingly unending appetite for curiously themed restaurants. The city already has two highly successful "blind" restaurants where guests eat in pitch darkness, served by blind waiters. There is a café for the deaf and an ultra-trendy establishment where you eat what you're given, then pay what you think the meal is worth."
- "Roll On, Jumbo...": Ed Johnson of the Independent Online reports from the back of a pachyderm in the Northern jungles of Thailand...
"Hand-feeding a hungry elephant is an unnerving experience. At the first whiff of a banana, its leathery grey trunk snakes out, probes the air and sucks it from your hand with a squelch. It is like shoving fruit into a wet vacuum cleaner nozzle. It may be unpleasant, but if you're about to plunge into the jungles of northern Thailand perched on an elephant's neck, you have to get your vehicle on your side..."
(Reuters) - Drinking tea may help protect against Alzheimer's disease, though it is by no means a cure for the brain-crippling illness, British scientists said on Tuesday.If you have access to an electronic journals subscription through a school or library, you can read Dr. Okello's team's paper in the latest edition of Phytotherapy Research - the full citation is ‘In vitro Anti-beta-secretase and dual anti-cholinesterase activities of Camellia sinensis L. (tea) relevant to treatment of dementia’; Edward J Okello et al, Phytotherapy Research, 18 624-627 (2004)
Scientists at Newcastle University in England said their research shows that a regular "cuppa" could slow development of the affliction that fogs the memory of otherwise healthy people. "Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's, tea could potentially be another weapon in the armoury which is used to treat this disease and slow down its development," lead researcher Ed Okello said.
They found that both green and black tea inhibited the activity of enzymes associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease, but that coffee had no significant effect. About one million people die from the illness annually and there is no known medical explanation for why it affects humans.
Results of laboratory tests by the university's research team found that green and black tea inhibited the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which breaks down the chemical messenger or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine -- Alzheimer's is characterised by a drop in acetylcholine. The scientists said green and black tea also hindered the activity of the enzyme butyrycholinesterase (BuChE), which has been discovered in protein deposits found on the brain of Alzheimer's patients.
However, green tea scored better in several tests and had a longer-lasting affect, the research, showed which is published Tuesday in the academic journal, Phytotherapy Research.
Heh, heh, heh. Who're the pansy-ass tea-sippers now? I can't seem to remember.
"It was on his show that I first heard punk, along with a lot of the other big music in my life. John was the only radio presenter to make me inspired to want to become one myself.While I've only heard small portions of his radio shows, over the years I've acquired several "The Peel Sessions" discs; all exceptionally candid, unaffected recordings. One of my favorites is the 1981 Ultravox Peel Sessions, which captures the band at what may consider their late peak John Foxx-period punk stylings prior to their transition to the icy machinebeat pop years with Midge Ure. Peel was not only a DJ but a tastemaker of the first water, and the world of popular music was made so much the richer for his efforts. He'll be greatly missed.
He was someone with a warmth and honesty who really loved music, rather than someone who wanted to be a famous DJ. John showed that it was possible to be a broadcaster on a national radio station and still be yourself. He was a maverick and a peer, and a role model for so many of us."
-- BBC 2 Presenter Mark Radcliffe, remembering the late John Peel.
NPR audio tribute to John Peel
The BBC's John Peel section, updated with the recent news of his death of a heart attack.
The Peel Sessions, by alphabet
Greengrl and Withering in the Light remember Peel:
"Damn, this guy was a major influence within British music, and music in general. I’ve got dozens of his Peel Sessions either on CD or taped. I’ve still listened to him via the internet on Radio 1. He will be sorely missed by many, many of us. R.I.P. John." -- GreengrlAnd thanks to Greengrl for providing a link to www.radioplus.com, a site featuring dozens of free .mp3 downloads of Peel Sessions tracks...get them while they're there. You know nothing lasts forever...
"This guy is almost single-handedly responsible for turning me on to most of the bands I've listened to throughout my life. Marc Bolan, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Birthday Party, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Joy Division, The Jam, The Specials, The Cure, The Damned, Nick Cave, The Fall, The Smiths, The Cocteau Twins... fucking hell, Wire, Gary Numan & the Tubeway Army, Sonic Youth, Jesus & Mary Chain, The Buzzcocks, Gang of Four, Adam & the Ants, Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, The Pixies, Pavement, Elastica... there's probably hundreds more." ---WitL
Monday, October 25, 2004Or is it more like the desperate call in Richard III: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"? While organ transplantation technology continues to improve, and the medical procedures involved grow less costly, one limiting factor still constrains the organ transplantation system: there are simply not enough available organs to go around for all who need them. Prof. Gary Becker of the University of Chicago Economics Department describes the organ crunch:
It is essential to find ways to raise the supply of organs and ease the suffering and long wait that many sick persons now endure. That delay can cost lives: Almost 70 persons die each month while waiting for livers to become available. The waiting period varies enormously from state to state. Transplant candidates may receive a liver in less than two weeks in Kansas, while in Massachusetts they can languish for nearly two years.Prof. Becker has an intriguing working paper that calculates the costs of financial compensation to organ donors; it clearly demonstrates that paying donors would result in benefits to all concerned. It's available for viewing at his website, and I've provided the direct link to paper below.
Political jockeying among hospitals is the reason for this regional discrepancy in waiting times. Livers are allocated to patients in descending order of degree of sickness in the regions where they become available, even if patients in other regions are more likely to be helped, because smaller transplant centers fear that they would be shut out of a national allocation. Although a national system would reduce regional discrepancies in waiting times, it would not close the growing gap between an increasing aggregate demand for liver transplants and a flat total supply.
The bottom line is that until we can develop new ways to produce replacements for failing hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers (as well as agree on the ethical considerations of controversial future methods such as therapeutic cloning) those seeking transplants are basically at the mercy of altruistic individuals willing to donate organs upon their death, or those rare souls who will give up an organ for a family member of stranger with a compatible tissue type.
Yet, there may be a simple way to help loosen those constraints - but unfortunately, many people think it's unethical or simply too ghoulish: offering financial compensation to living organ donors or the families of deceased donors. I've written before on the reasons I am personally opposed to human reproductive cloning, so it may surprise some readers that I feel a system of financially compensating organ donors is a good idea. Let me explain why I think so.
The idea of people selling their organs for money conjures up specters of inhuman exploitation, but when it comes right down to it, what exactly is it about the economics of trading human organs that bothers so many? I've come up with a few reasons, but there are undoubtedly more. All these arguments pose valid points, but there are existing examples in each of these cases which are generally accepted parts of the health care system:
- "It will lead to people being seen as means to ends rather than ends in themselves, as mere commodities to be bought or sold."A "cash for organs" arrangement could in some way lead to organs being seem as commodities, but aren't organs already seen as commodities by both transplant recipients and the medical system? Doctors, hospitals and insurance companies all receive above-board payment for transplants, but only the donors themselves are expected to shoulder their burden without compansation. Are organs not, in a true sense of the word, "medical supplies" that can only be obtained (or "manufactured") from human beings? It would seem to me there would be less - not more - commodification of organs if there were a systematic, consistent, fair and 'above the table' means of paying donors as well.
Since the demand for organs is unlikely to drop, if the supply of organs rises their relative dollar (but not life-saving) value should fall. As this article mentions, an unregulated sub rosa network of party-to-party or brokered organ sales may arise or already exist if the critical organ shortage continues unabated - and all black market systems thrive on exploitation.
- "People should only offer organs of their own free uncompensated will..." There are many instances where living persons are financially compensated for tissues or body materials, such as sperm and egg donations, surrogate gestation, or even blood. While the cash-for-blood system tends to attract the indigent (and often unhealthy) I would argue the fault lies more in the nature of the businesses running blood-purchasing operations than the basic fact that compensation is offered. In the cases of sperm and egg donations, egg donors are compensated more than sperm donors because the donation procedure is far more time-consuming and invasive than sperm donation. Remember that like blood, semen is a replenishable resource - but while women have thousands of latent ova they could never use during their childbearing years, like kidneys or corneas, eggs are non-replaceable body parts.
Certainly, ethics would prohibit donation of an organ if its removal would cause serious harm or death to the donor, regardless of compensation. No reasonable person would approve of a living individual donating their heart, for instance, no matter how much money their surviving family was offered in return. Considering that something like blood is a renewable resource, and requires minimal sacrifice on the part of the donor to provide, would it not seem at least fair to compensate people willing to undergo surgery, the pain and inconvenience of recovery - as well as the prospect of life without one or more vital organs - something in return besides that "warm feeling" of altruism?
- "The standard of medical care one receives shouldn't depend on economic status..." Ahem...there's no good way to say this, but for better or worse, unless we instituted a government-administered socialist-type medical system, standards of medical care will always in some way be connected to a patient's ability to pay. Even with robust insurance networks for the poor, or charity-based health care, expensive heroic measures like organ transplantation are a rarity for lower-income people (see "Barriers to Cadaveric Renal Transplantation Among Blacks, Women, and the Poor," by G. Caleb Alexander, MD and Ashwini R. Seghal, MD) - and unfortunately, socialist-type managed health care systems tend to "minimize the maximum" level of care, rather than the reverse - making expensive complex procedures like transplantation less available within the system overall.
Developing a legitimate "money-for-organs" system should in no way increase the capitalistic nature of our current medical system, since currently a patient's likelihood of receiving a needed transplant depends not only on pure luck and ability to generate publicity, but their ability to pay for the surgery and followup care. As mentioned above, leaving underhanded organ 'sales' to the black market will inevitably lead to more, not less, inequity in allocating available organs, and likely a lower standard of care.
- "No person has the right to sell their body or its component organs for anyone else's use..." See #2, above.
Speaking of registries, one of the main problems with the existing organ donation system is the difficulty of matching compatible donors and recipients because of the relatively small amount of extant tissue-typing information. It's likely that enacting a donor compensation system would prompt more individuals to be tissue-typed as potential donors, expanding tissue databases and increasing the likelihood that compatible organs could be secured in time to save patients' lives.
Perhaps we could avoid some of the unpleasantries of a "cash-for-organs" system by using alternative forms of compensation. What if we compensated donors with a fixed dollar amount of state and/or federal income tax amnesty (but not amnesty by years or percentage of income, since this would undercompensate poor and unemployed individuals), a fixed dollar amount of student loan forgiveness, or a fixed dollar amount to be paid to a retirement annuity of the donor's choice.
Of course, the fixed dollar amounts would need to depend on the organ(s) donated, whether the donation was made from a living donor or post mortem, and some type of formula would need to be used to calculate the risk of the donation as well as subsequent complications and health risks. We also run into the difficulty of how to compensate post mortem donors - do we provide compensation in advance with a contract to donate organs upon death (and risk paying compensation to an individual who may die with their organs in unusable condition), or do we arrange some type of survivor benefit to the heirs of deceased donors? What do you think?
- "Barriers to Cadaveric Renal Transplantation Among Blacks, Women, and the Poor," by G. Caleb Alexander, MD and Ashwini R. Seghal, MD
- "How Uncle Sam Could Ease The Organ Shortage," Gary S. Becker in BusinessWeek, 1997
- "The Market for Live and Cadaveric Organ Donations," by Gary S. Becker and Julio Jorge Elias
- "Variation in Access to Kidney Transplantation Across Dialysis Facilities: Using Process of Care Measures for Quality Improvement," by G. Caleb Alexander, MD, and Ashwini R. Sehgal, MD, for the Transplant Task Force of The Renal Network, Inc.
- "The Right to Destroy," by Lior Jacob Strahilevitz, University of Chicago John M. Olin Law and Economics Working Paper No. 205.
UPDATE: with a pay-for-organs system, we could avoid nonsense like this.
Sunday, October 24, 2004Dispatches from the Culture Wars tips us to this news story from Bend [Oregon].com - apparently our current administration believes that the mere display of the term "civil liberties" is an exercise in criminal protest:
President Bush taught three Oregon schoolteachers a new lesson in irony – or tragedy – Thursday night when his campaign removed them from a Bush speech and threatened them with arrest simply for wearing t-shirts that said “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” the Democratic Party of Oregon reported.Since when are the words "civil liberties" so antithetical to our nation's ideals...and why do these two very ordinary American words provoke a reaction akin to Dorothy's splashing a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West? Orwell indeed would have wept - as would many of our past chief executives.
The women were ticketed to the event, admitted into the event, and were then approached by event officials before the president’s speech. They were asked to leave and to turn over their tickets – two of the three tickets were seized, but the third was saved when one of the teachers put it underneath an article of clothing.
[AP] Three Medford school teachers were threatened with arrest and escorted from the event after they showed up wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Protect our civil liberties." All three said they applied for and received valid tickets from Republican headquarters in Medford.
The women said they did not intend to protest. "I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president," said Janet Voorhies, 48, a teacher in training.
Thursday’s actions in Oregon set a new standard even for Bush/Cheney – removing and threatening with arrest citizens who in no way disrupt an event and wear clothing that expresses non-disruptive party-neutral viewpoints such as “Protect Our Civil Liberties.”
When Vice President Dick Cheney visited Eugene, Oregon on Sept. 17, a 54-Year old woman named Perry Patterson was charged with criminal trespass for blurting the word "No" when Cheney said that George W. Bush has made the world safer.
One day before, Sue Niederer, 55, the mother of a slain American soldier in Iraq was cuffed and arrested for criminal trespass when she interrupted a Laura Bush speech in New Jersey. Both women had tickets to the event. [read full story]
Friday, October 22, 2004
- Thank you to Still Haven't Found... for mentioning my December 2003 post on Sgt. Andreas Pogany - if you're looking for the full posting, you can find it here.
- What a farkleberries search result looks like on Google's Arab Emirates page:
- Scientists are making headway in creating a prosthetic memory implant for the human brain:
"The team expects it will take two to three years to develop the mathematical models for the hippocampus of a live, active rat and translate them onto a microchip, and seven or eight years for a monkey. They hope to apply this approach to clinical applications within 10 years. If everything goes well, they anticipate seeing an artificial human hippocampus, potentially usable for a variety of clinical disorders, in 15 years."[via Boing Boing]
- Do you ever feel like throwing a vase during a quarrel, but hate cleaning up all those messy shards? Well, the Do Break Vase is made just for you! Throw it at walls, furniture, wrongheaded spouses - and it doesn't shatter, but only cracks, becoming more beautiful with every lover's spat. [sensoryimpact.com, via Kottke]
- Through Winamp Radio, I've discovered this little gem: www.magic-radio.com, a French streaming 80's pop-funk channel that's jammed with delicious forgotten Eurotreats, many that never crossed the Atlantic.
- Another interesting, if more American-sounding, retro-80's choice is BOB 102.3 FM; however, BOB's actually Canadian, hailing from London, Ontario. I wonder if BOB plays Gary O', Nick Gilder, the Spoons, or The Box?
- Heard on CSI Season 1 episode "Table Stakes":
WARRICK: Ooh! Chicago bankroll.If you haven't heard the term, a 'Chicago bankroll' is a $20 bill wrapped around a bunch of singles, made to look like big wad of cash. It's only worth about $30, but it's intended as a distraction in case one is mugged: pull the fat roll of "$20's" out of your pocket, toss it several feet away from you, and run. I guess the logic is that a mugger would rather have a wad in hand than two in the bush. Wait, that came out completely wrong...
SHIBLEY: This guy's not from out of town.
WARRICK: No, that's just a term. Old school.
- From the Truth is Stranger Than Fiction files: speaking of CSI, this news story is strangely similar to the plot of the abovementioned episode, where a stranger moves into a vacationer's home while they're away in Greece! Except in the CSI episode, she didn't actually go to Greece, only to return to find someone was taking over her life; in the show, the woman was murdered and fed to her pet piranhas.
Thursday, October 21, 2004Hypothetical Question: why is the German name Hedwig a woman's name, while Ludwig is a man's name?
University of Chicago Divinity School Café has this great saying posted above the condiment tray, designed to keep
"No matter how many napkins you take, your life will still be a mess.
Please take only one or two."
Please take only one or two."
"Can you spare some change so I can get something to eat?" CHICAGO SHARES vouchers are an answer. They are a convenient, safe and constructive means to provide meals for hungry people. We want to help, but we are:Some people I've spoken to say they have either chosen to never give any money to panhandlers, for fear of being seen as a "soft touch" every time they pass by a certain panhandling area, or they just give money but don't care where it goes - "if [the homeless] want to buy drugs or alcohol, then let them. It's a free country."
* Uneasy when approached by someone in need
* Nervous about pulling out a wallet or opening a purse
* Concerned that our money might be used for drugs or alcohol
Chicago Shares is a voucher program that provides an opportunity for the community to aid homeless people in a constructive way. Often people don't want to give cash when approached on the street, but do wish to provide meals for the hungry. The vouchers, in $1.00 increments, are redeemable for food and personal care items by area merchants.
Each month, Chicago Shares reimburses merchants for all vouchers they have accepted. In July '04, for example, in the Holy Name Cathedral neighborhood alone, over $900 was distributed to six merchants: White Hen Pantry, Dunkin' Donuts, Jewel at Clark and Division, and three area Subway sandwich shops. This means that just in the vicinity of that participating location, more than 200 meals were provided to hungry people!
Chicago Shares is an ecumenical effort, involving several area churches and organizations. To meet the ongoing needs of our community and increase awareness about the program, Chicago Shares would like to expand the number of distribution points for the vouchers and involve more merchants.
If you have suggestions, would like to sell vouchers, or assist in the coordinating work of the voucher program, please leave your name and number at (312) 573-4469 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
My personal feeling is that if I contribute to a homeless person's drug or alcohol habit, I'm actually doing them more harm than good by keeping them on the troubled track they're on. For the most part I've stopped giving the occasional dollar or spare change, because I see the same people every single day standing outside the corner liquor store asking for "spare change so they can eat." I don't see very many people standing outside grocery stores asking that question.
Hmmm. Could it be, that like many people, I don't want the experience of being considered a "sucker" for trying to be charitable? I'd almost be more likely to give spare change if I was asked flat-out for money to buy a "40." Sad, isn't it?
I think I'll get some Chicago Shares and keep them around for my jaunts through downtown. What if a panhandler refuses them? Well, if someone refuses a food voucher when they ask for "spare change so they can eat," you know they're probably not jonesing for a sandwich. It's not perfect, but it's a great start - sort of a personal food stamp donation program, without the governmental welfare aspect. Chicago Shares seems like a step in the right direction.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004A number of U.S. voters are not amused by the UK Guardian's pro-Kerry letter-writing campaign to the key swing state of Ohio:
The paper has encouraged its readers to express their opinions on the November 2 presidential election to voters in the key swing state of Ohio -- to the fury of Clark County, about 45 miles west of Columbus, the state capital.Ouch...how quickly the
"Hey England, Scotland and Wales, mind your own business. We don't need weenie-spined Limeys meddling in our presidential election," was one of the e-mail reactions to the campaign. The Fox national cable television network tore into the newspaper and even John Kerry's own Democrats expressed horror at the campaign...
"Real Americans aren't interested in your pansy-ass, tea-sipping opinions. If you want to save the world, begin with your own worthless corner of it," wrote one from Texas.
The Guardian, which simply bought a list of registered voters and extracted the undecided, pledged that it would only give out the name of each voter once, to avoid them being swamped by unsolicited mail from complete strangers. "We know that in many ways this is the world's election, and we understand the passion and concern in many parts of the world over it. But I wonder how people here in the UK would react to Americans telling them how to vote,"
Now, let's see...what new product names can we make in light of this trans-pond transgression? Thomas' Freedom Muffins®? "Freedom Leather" cologne? Will the preferred rap-gothic tattoo font be renamed "Old Patriot"? Will we now speak "American" as our native tongue?
Monday, October 18, 2004I can certainly understand airline security wanting to be cautious - even super-duper-extra-special cautious - about potential bombs. However, stories like these have become so routine and (fortunately) uneventful that I can't help but wonder if serious security resources and attention aren't being squandered with periodic panic evacuations over a mis-heard or misconstrued phrase:
FARGO, North Dakota (AP) Monday, October 18th -- A Northwest Airlink commuter plane was evacuated before takeoff Monday morning after two passengers claimed to have overheard someone mention a bomb while talking on a cell phone, police said. Sgt. Steve Lynk said the plane's crew was alerted and passengers were told to leave the plane around 5:30 a.m.Cynical me, I somehow doubt a genuine bomber would be so foolish as to utter the actual magic "B" word within earshot of an airport, and would instead cagily substitute an innocuous term - say, "football," "eagle" - or perhaps, "package." After all, if a single throwaway utterance of the "bomb" is enough to evacuate an aircraft, wouldn't the word likely be being used as a strategic distraction or prank rather than an accidental giving away of the fact there's a "Bomb On Board"?
The plane was at Hector International Airport ready to leave for Minneapolis-St. Paul with 57 passengers. As they were waiting to board, two passengers overheard another passenger talking on a cell phone, making a reference to "bombs away" and the flight. "They overheard the man say that into the phone," Lynk said.
Good heavens - what's next? Will airlines (and travelers) not be satisfied until each and every passenger is bound hand-and-foot and gagged in their seats before the plane takes off? Then again, you can never be too careful. Don't even think of telling your sweetie they're Da Bomb. Is it even OK to say "package" in an airport these days?
Anecdotally, a friend told me recently that an acquaintance had been using a pay phone at a Chicago Airport, and the "b" word somehow popped up innocently in conversation. Reportedly, even though no-one seemed to be around while this person was on the phone, moments later two security guards appeared and questioned her in detail about her identification and travel plans. This could be a simple FOAF story, and being questioned by security shortly after the call could be just a coincidence. But, then again...
This one isn't a FOAF: my partner's cousin was going through the security line at Burlington, Vermont's airport a few years ago with a jug of maple syrup purchased there. Security asked her to put the jug on the x-ray conveyor belt, and she jokingly said to her travel companion, "what, do they think there's a bomb in that maple syrup?" Oopsie. Let's just say she didn't make her flight - and ended up having to rent a car and drive the 9 hours back to New Jersey instead.
Saturday, October 16, 2004News of a decision regarding the constitutionality of the use of metal detectors to search political protesters outside a yearly vigil at the School of the Americas:
[AP, Atlanta, Georgia] A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Friday that protesters may not be required to pass through metal detectors when they gather next month for a rally against a U.S. training academy for Latin American soldiers..."We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the War of Terror is over, because the War on Terror is unlikely ever to be truly over," Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote for the three-member court. "September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country."Wise and heartening words, I would say.
Friday, October 15, 2004
- This morning's Krugman New York Times op-ed piece is pretty alarming - "Block the Vote" details the coming to light of dirty tricks used by some partisan voter registration programs:
"...former employees of Sproul & Associates (operating under the name Voters Outreach of America), a firm hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters, told a Nevada TV station that their supervisors systematically tore up Democratic registrations. The accusations are backed by physical evidence and appear credible. Officials have begun a criminal investigation into reports of similar actions by Sproul in Oregon.[via Pinko Feminist Hellcat]
Republicans claim, of course, that they did nothing wrong - and that besides, Democrats do it, too. But there haven't been any comparably credible accusations against Democratic voter-registration organizations. And there is a pattern of Republican efforts to disenfranchise Democrats, by any means possible. [read full article]"
- Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a great post on the absurdity of the anti-stem cell research position, recently back in the headlines following the death of ESC research advocate Christopher Reeve:
"The choice for ESC research is not between "destroying life" and not destroying life. The choice is between using the enormous store of frozen zygotes that will otherwise be tossed out for promising scientific research that can help millions of people over the next few decades, or simply tossing them out. That's the only choice we face. So to accuse Christopher Reeve of wanting to "deny life to others" to cure his disease is irrational. But then, the entire position against [Embryonic Stem Cell] research is irrational. Bush's absurd decision to restrict federal funding on ESC research to only those cell lines that had previously been cultivated, it must be said, has not done one thing to 'preserve life'. Not one of those little sets of barely differentitated cells sitting in the deep freeze that he shows such concern for has been 'saved' by his policy. Not one more life exists today than would have existed had his policy not been put in place. In other words, his policy has done precisely nothing tangible to 'preserve life', it is merely a symbolic policy to appease people who have been conned into thinking that this research has something to do with abortion and being 'pro-life'." [read all]
- You don't have to be vegetarian to love these recipes from the Post Punk Kitchen: try the Chocolate Bomb Pudding Cake or Lucy's Real Vegetarian Chili. Yowza!
- Father of cyberpunk William Gibson has returned to the blogosphere [via Wither in the Light]
- "What Wouldn't Jesus Do?" [Humour on Jewsweek, via Greengrl]
- The cover art that will grace the Region 1 DVD box set release (1/4/05) of MillenniuM Season 2 [via This Is Who We Are]
- Sheep Poetry, via No Milk, Please
Thursday, October 14, 2004This story probably won't provoke much fist-raising political enthusiasm, shock, or social controversy. It may not even surprise many at all. It appears that about 1% - a sizeable portion of the human population, about 60 million people if I'm calculating correctly - are not interested in doing the 'wild thing' at all, with anybody:
About one percent of adults have absolutely no interest in sex, according to a new study, and that distinction is becoming one of pride among many asexuals. The new study was conducted by Anthony Bogaert, a psychologist and human sexuality expert at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario.How about a T-shirt that plays off the [a]sexual habits of yeasts... "Hey, Baby, Let's Bud"? Or, more succinctly, "I'm 'A'." No, but all facetiousness aside - how should we view the phenomenon of asexuality? Is it a maladaptive disorder or deficiency, or simply a normal variation on the continuum of human sexuality? Must a person have sexual desire of some sort to be happy and "fully human"?
It was published in the latest issue of The Journal of Sex Research and is the focus of a report in this Saturday's issue of New Scientist. Bogaert's analysis looked at responses to another study in Britain, published in 1994. That study was based on interviews of 18,000 people about their sexual practices....
New Scientist says such studies offer insights into sexuality, the results remain controversial. "The closest we have got to understanding human asexuals comes from studies -- mostly surveys - of people who report not have sex," it says. A 1994 survey, published by The University of Chicago Press, found that 13 percent of 3,500 respondents had no sex in the past year. Forty percent of those people said they were extremely happy or very happy with their lives.
"If asexuality is indeed a form of sexual orientation, perhaps it will not be long before the issue of 'A' pride starts attracting more attention," New Scientist says. Activists have already started campaigning to promote awareness and acceptance of asexuality, it reports.
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network has an online store that sell items promoting awareness and acceptance on asexuality. Among the items is a T-shirt with the slogan, "Asexuality: it's not just for amoebas anymore."
To the latter question, I would emphatically say 'no'. Certainly there are those disturbed by their low libido or lack of sexual desire, and there may be biological, hormonal or psychological reasons which merit intervention. But these folks generally wouldn't call themselves 'asexuals'. On the other hand, people who self-identify as asexual overall don't seem to be unhappy with their status - so are we to judge, really? To me, it's akin to admonishing happy vegetarians that they are missing out on carnivorous delights: "But meat's delicious, and full of protein! Why on Earth would someone not want to eat meat?"
With all the moralistic emphasis currently being placed on abstinence and chastity (cough, cough) why should there be any stigma attached to a person's nonsexuality? Perhaps there is also the underlying view that if you aren't struggling with your duty to chastity (a la Kant) against your "baser nature", then where's the valor? Our society seems to have an odd "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" view of human sexuality: you can't have too much or too little, and it can't be too hot or cold, or too hard or soft. It needs to be juuuust riiight, or we need to pop a pill or make a Constitutional Amendment to fix matters. Bonnie Raitt once sang on her hit "Thing Called Love":
Don't have to humble yourself to me,More in The Scotsman: "Sex? No Thanks."
I ain't your judge or your king
Baby, you know I ain't no Queen of Sheba
We may not even have our dignity,
this could be just a powerful thing
Baby we can choose - you know we ain't no amoebas
Sixty-four dollars for a gallon of coffee? That is how much the Transportation Security Administration paid a Washington hotel to host a November 2003 awards banquet, contributing to a price tag for the party of nearly a half-million dollars, according to the Department of Homeland Security's independent investigator.The TSA's executives may be eating $500.00 cheese trays, but from what I've experienced, their people on the front lines in the airports are just another manifestation of DMV/post office bureaucratic incompetence. The security checkers usually can't even tell the difference between my partner and I from our ID's, even though she's blonde and I'm brunette, and she's about 6 inches taller than I am - hell, they hardly even look at the pictures on the ID's. Maybe I should wear a beard next time I go through a security line? You know, I wouldn't be surprised if much of what we're paying the TSA to do is as useful as buying cans of dragon repellent:
The TSA, which is in charge of airport security, also paid $3.75 for each soft drink, $1,850 for seven sheet cakes, $1,500 for three cheese displays, and more than $81,000 for awards plaques, according to the report from the department's Office of Inspector General...according to the AP, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said while he had not seen the full report it indicated "a colossal waste of money. There's something terribly wrong with that agency...of all the agencies, that's the one that's supposed to be working full-time against terrorist attacks."
The cost of the event was approximately $461,745, including lodging, transportation and per diem allowances for award recipients.
"Wow! A thousand bucks per can? How do I know this dragon repellent really works?"
"Of course it does! When was the last time you saw a dragon in your house?"
Frankly, I'm afraid to ask how much the w[h]ine that accompanied those $500.00 cheese trays cost us.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
- [James] Lileks for Senate?
- Dream project for lawyers-to-be? A University of Pennsylvania Law School student seminar group has been tapped to write a new criminal law code for the Republic of Maldives. The catch? Some scholars, like controversial professor Daniel Pipes, are not pleased because the island nation's existing (and future) statutes are based on Islamic Shariah law
- Old-fashioned black-and-white engraving-style animal clip art
- Douglas Adams'"Babel Fish" device (no, not the Altavista® translator, the real stick-it-in-yer-ear type) comes one step closer to reality with a cell-phone based real-time English/Japanese spoken language translator [New Scientist]
Tuesday, October 12, 2004If find this story from nearby Madison, WI disturbing both in itself and as part of the larger discussion of new proposed 'conscience laws' that would excuse medical professionals' refusal to treat patients or provide certain services based on personal moral beliefs.
From the Dunn County News: On a summer Saturday in 2002, relief pharmacist Neil Noesen, 30, of Barron was flying solo behind the pharmacy counter at the Menomonie Kmart. It would be the first -- and only -- time the independent contractor would be called upon to fill in for vacationing staff.Noesen's hearing is expected to conclude today. From CNN:
When a University of Wisconsin-Stout student [recently identified in other accounts as Amanda Phiede] came into the store on July 6 to have her prescription for an oral contraceptive refilled, Noesen asked her if she was using it for birth control purposes. Affirming that she was, he refused to fill the prescription, saying that it was against his religious beliefs to do so. The young woman asked where she could go to get her prescription filled, only to be told that he could not give her that information.
What Noesen also didn't tell her was that the state's Pharmacy Examining Board recognizes a pharmacist's right to refuse a prescription. And, indeed, he had a verbal agreement with managing pharmacist, Ken Jorandby, about his beliefs and was told that other pharmacists on duty would fill them later.
But customers have rights, too, under the Wisconsin Administrative Code, to have their prescriptions transferred to another pharmacy. Later in the day, the woman attempted to obtain her refill from the Wal-Mart Pharmacy. When the pharmacist called Kmart to transfer the prescription, Noesen refused to do so, again citing his religious beliefs.
Following the incident, the Stout student filed a complaint against Noesen with the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL). The complaint was filed on Sept. 10, 2002 and later amended in March 2004 to reflect that charges of unprofessional conduct are not concerned with the fact that Noesen did not dispense the contraceptives. Rather, it is because he allegedly refused both to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy and to return the original prescription to the customer.
The state Department of Regulation and Licensing accuses Noesen of unprofessional conduct for not transferring Phiede's prescription. "The additional risk of pregnancy should not have been imposed on her by someone else," said John Zwieg, a lawyer for the department. Noesen's attorney, Krystal Williams-Oby, said Noesen broke no laws. She described him as a devout Roman Catholic and said any punishment would violate his constitutional right to religious expression.When Noesen made the choice to become a pharmacist by profession, surely he knew many of the prescriptions he would be asked to fill would be for contraceptive drugs and devices. While I personally think pharmacists should do their job by filling all prescriptions legal in their state or jurisdiction, I understand the reasons for his conscientious objection. It appears he had reached an agreement with his supervisor to have another K-Mart pharmacist fill out prescriptions he felt unable to process, so why Noesen chose not to tell Phiede about her option to come back later is unclear.
That said, it's one thing if Noesen categorically refused to fill any prescriptions for contraception (or the contraceptive or morning-after Pills) regardless of the customer. It's another thing altogether if he makes the choice because he thinks a particular customer, in his opinion, should not be using a certain product for other than medical or safety reasons. The CNN article details that Noesen specifically asked Phiede if the prescription was to be used for contraception, as there are other non-birth control medical indications for the Pill's use, such as treatment of severe acne and dysmenorrhea. When she replied "yes," it was at that point that Noesen refused to fill the prescription.
I think the most objectionable and troubling part was that only did Noesen refuse to transfer Phiede's prescription to the Wal-Mart she'd chosen or refer her to another pharmacy, but he refused to return the original back to her. By holding her prescription "hostage," Noesen effectively attempted to keep Phiede from taking the prescription elsewhere to be filled - which seems to imply he wanted to influence her choice to use contraception, her choice to engage in sexual activity, or make pregnancy more likely if she chose to have sex.
This action goes far beyond personal objection to dispensing a type of drug and constitutes invasive interference in this woman's intimate personal affairs. It's nothing less than a forcible imposition of beliefs on a customer, which I think is not only unprofessional but borders on the criminally or civilly actionable. At the very least, I feel it's justifiable cause to revoke or suspend Noesen's pharmacy license.
The Guttmacher Report, "Conscience Makes a Comeback in the Age of Managed Care"
Planned Parenthood of New York on Conscience Clauses
Madison, WI Capital Times Online edition
Barron [WI] News Shield
Drug Topics from Feb 23rd, 2004
Update: from Drug Topics -
"The pharmacist has no right to impose his or her moral beliefs on the general public," wrote Gregory Bluhm, R.Ph., Channahon, Ill. "If you wish to practice pharmacy in such a manner, the public should be alerted in advance. Should we all be permitted to pick and choose on our own which therapies should be withheld? If you present yourself as a pharmacist at a public venue, you have a duty to fill all legal prescriptions. You do not have a forum to impose your morality upon the general public."
Noesen declined to comment on the advice of his attorney, Krystal Oby of Kingdom Legal Services in Madison. He is facing an administrative law hearing on May 4 stemming from charges filed by the Wisconsin board of pharmacy.
Refusing to fill a "proper, legitimate prescription is poor patient care at best," said Wesley Schieman, R.Ph., of Sandusky, Mich. "To not honor a transfer request nor even return the prescription as the pharmacist did is unprofessional and inexcusable. The pharmacy is not a pulpit."
Arlene Cayer, who works at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill., also deplored Noesen's failure to perform what she sees as his professional duty. She suggested that if a pharmacist has a religious objection to dispensing oral contraceptives, the public should be warned in advance. "It never ceases to amaze me the lengths men will go to in order to control the sexual lives of women," she added.
Noesen, who asked the patient why she wanted the oral contraceptives, has no right to know, said Sue Bliss, an Oregon pharmacist who authors Drug Topics' Eye on Ethics column. The woman may have different religious beliefs or had medical reasons for preventing pregnancy, such as a serious genetic illness. "Her decision in a compassionate, democratic, and, above all, religiously free country like ours is her own decision," she said.
Monday, October 11, 2004The star of several Superman films, known more recently as a leading spokesman for spinal-cord injury research following his tragic horse riding accident nine years ago, died at his Bedford, NY home Sunday at age 52. He reportedly suffered cardiac arrest after lapsing into a coma induced by massive systemic infection.
His commitment to finding a cure for paralysis will be carried on by the Christopher Reeve Foundation.Christopher Reeve's obituary on the BBC
Reeve has become a source of inspiration for thousands of people with spinal injury and general disabilities alike. "His name is going to be associated for many years to come with spinal chord injury," Paul Smith, executive director of the Spinal Injuries Association, told BBC News Online.
"He's been a very positive message for people - he got on with his life and lived it to the full, not only by focussing on research but also by getting back and being an actor, a producer. "For many, that will probably be the biggest legacy, in the sense that he didn't give in.
Friday, October 08, 2004One would think a region that suffers devastating harm to this day from the world's worst nuclear accident would think twice before considering reactivation of an aging power plant with the identical, faulty RBMK [reaktor bolshoy moshchnosty kanalny] design. But - never say "never again," especially when it comes to nations with severe winters, struggling economies and heavy dependence on nuclear energy. From the St. Petersburg Times, disturbing news about an aging RBMK-1000 type reactor being renovated for reactivation:
Report Says Renovation of Chernobyl-Type Reactor RushedHow does something like this happen? It's probably part cost-cutting beancounters, part dismal economy - with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned East European fatalism. More at RadioActive! The Nuclear Blog.
By Vladimir Kovalev, STAFF WRITER
A series of mishaps has occurred during the renovation of reactor No.1 at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, or LAES, in Sosnovy Bor outside St. Petersburg because basic safety regulations were ignored, according to a new report. Reactor No. 1 is the oldest of four reactors at the plant and its official working life has expired, but the Federal Nuclear Power Agency is seeking to extend it. It is an RBMK-1000 reactor, the same type that caused the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and LAES management plan to restart it this fall.
Sergei Kharitonov, a former employee of the plant and now an environmental campaigner, wrote in the report that the safety systems for the reactors were installed in a rush, in some cases by unqualified workers, breaching standards on how the work should be done, the report said. As a result, two workers died in the spring, including a 32-year-old construction worker who fell from the wall of bloc No.1 in April and a 42-year-old fitter was crushed while working on bloc No.2 in May.
"[The management] paid most of its attention to [staff] training for the launch of bloc No.1," Kharitonov quoted LAES management as saying in a statement on July 16. "The lectures were poorly attended ... Two lectures remain to be conducted. Such a situation is unacceptable, when the bloc [No.1] is about to launched, but employees are not ready for it."
In an article "The Most Effective Will Survive" in an official LAES document in December 2002, the plant management urged employees to work faster by writing "earn more and get more benefits." The document gave the example of the Kaliningrad Nuclear Power Plant, which raised its energy output and wages were raised shortly afterward using the proceeds from selling electricity.
The fire service at LAES is also in a worrying condition, according to Mayak, the weekly Sosnovy Bor newspaper, which in November last year reported that "the 72 firefighters providing safety at the nuclear plant commit from 1,700 to 1,800 violations annually," according to Kharitonov's report. "How does he know what's going on at the plant if he hasn't been working there for such a long time?" LAES' Averyanov said. "If he is citing materials from [LAES's official documents] that discuss all the spectrum of internal problems of the LAES staff, it would be wrong to make judgments based on such articles," he said.
Kharitonov said encouraging renovations to be done quickly could in the long run lead to dangerous developments comparable in their scale to the Chernobyl disaster. "An ongoing and dangerous experiment is being carried out at LAES," Kharitonov said. "They are always working in a rush. There is always some sort of defect that is being fixed on the way."
Important parts of the new equipment to maintain the safety of bloc No.1 are being stolen, including the switches on a security system that can in emergency bring the reactor to a halt. "Even crucial things like that are fixed in a rush," Kharitonov said.
- "The corn shall rise again!" Oklahomans are not pleased with a new state tourism booklet:
The pamphlet, called 2005 Annual Events Guide, featured events and activities throughout Oklahoma. It was also riddled with spelling, grammatical and factual mistakes. "We discovered the material in the event guide was culturally insensitive and contained errors," said state tourism director Rob Gray.
One item that may not have helped was a photo of an event in which lumps of cow manure are thrown as a part of a contest in the town of Beaver, in western Oklahoma. Another photo tourism officials found potentially objectionable showed Civil War re-enactors in Confederate uniforms firing cannons underneath a Confederate battle flag.
- A cool graphical zip code tool, which shows you the US geographic region corresponding to the zip code you enter - as you type the digits, an increasingly more specific area is highlighted until the exact location is found - opposite of the function provided by typical look-up utilities, but fascinating nonetheless [Zipdecode by Ben Fry, via Werty]
- Dress up your desktop with these Anime Wallpapers [via DSL1f3]
- Delightful oddness from around the globe: bread for adults over 21, and (HEALTH WARNING: Contains David Hasselhoff) The Worlds. Tackiest. Website. [via LDMA's Life in the Wor Zone]
- "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Answers from everyone from Albert Einstein to Timothy Leary [via EclecticEveryday]
- Here's a fun way to monitor the Department of Homeland Security Terror Level - the Terror Level Banana, available as script or linkable image from victorisdead.com:
Thursday, October 07, 2004...has Chicago Mayor Daley's recent announcement planning reduction of penalties for marijuana use sparked an explosion of [semi]-public enjoyment of Le Herbe?
Case exhibit #1: last night around 9:00pm, while walking down to the Chicago Red Line subway entrance just west of the Water Tower, I passed an empty storefront with its glass windows whitewashed to hide the renovation work within. Someone was home, though - the lights were on, and the unmistakable strong toasty aroma of Mother Nature wafted far beyond the closed doors, only feet from where a Chicago police patrol car always parks [illegally, natch] outside of the Dunkin' Donuts next door. That must have been one hell of a bong the workers were smoking in there, because the plume practically made my eyes water as I went by. Or, maybe it was the police, which could explain why this particular Dunkin' Donuts location is always sold out of their iced chocolate fudge.
Case exhibit #2: about half an hour later, as I was walking up the back stairs to my apartment I smelled the same familiar scent drifting from one of our neighbor's back porches, only it wasn't quite as pungent. The cops always get the good stuff, you know. :)
It's not just wild swamp onions we're smelling in Chicago.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004This story is hilarious on a number of levels, and seems to symbolize just what a bizarre carnival beast this election campaign has grown into:
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Republican Party is asking four county prosecutors to file charges against filmmaker Michael Moore, charging that he illegally offered underwear, noodles and snacks to college students in exchange for their promise to vote. "We want everyone to participate in this year's election, but not because they were bribed or coerced by the likes of Michael Moore," said Greg McNeilly, executive director of the state Republican Party.Thanks to Tim at Freespace for the tip! There's more (with an international perspective) on The Times Online UK. Just playing Devil's Advocate, but how does offering "something of value" like nachos and BVD's for a presumed promise to vote differ substantively from a candidate's promise of, say, lower taxes or more jobs - also "something of value"? Oh, wait, I get it: the lower taxes and more jobs don't really materialize, so the "vote bribery" law doesn't apply. Silly me. ;) Still, it's hard to tell which side will come out looking like the bigger fool here.
The GOP said it asked prosecutors in Wayne, Ingham, Antrim and Isabella counties to charge Moore with violating Michigan's election law. The law prohibits a person from contracting with another for something of value in exchange for agreeing to vote.
Moore, a native of Flint, is touring the country and imploring "slackers" who usually don't vote to head to the polls this year, saying they could make the difference in the presidential race. [Detroit Free Press]
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
- Enjoy today's headlines silent newsreel style: WPTZ, The Champlain Channel.com's "Silent Video" comes complete with emulsion scratches and monochrome, with only the zooming text effect giving its age away [also see: BFI Screenonline]
- Use this knowledge wisely: anything can be turned into a fritter. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll hurl at the bombs in the "Failed Recipes Journal"
- "In your dreams - no more!" Virgin Galactic (yes, that Virgin) launches a new enterprise in anticipation of commercial space travel and Spaceship One's victory in the Ansari X-Prize competition
- A friend tipped me off to a neat Latino-rock version (a smidgen Sugar Ray, a touch of Los Lobos?) of the Ramones' "The KKK Took My Baby Away" by Barcelona band Tipos de Interés ("Points of Interest"); unfortunately the band's web page links seem to be outdated, but we'll try to track down a place where you can listen.
- Will blackboards soon be a thing of the past? Citing dust-related health and maintenance concerns, many schools are replacing traditional boards with dry-erase whiteboards and overhead projection. Personally, I think that dry-erase markers are harder to read against a white surface, and the solvent used in the markers and cleaners smells awful (isn't that stuff toxic?). Give me chalkdust any day.
- Smells like a winner: Richard Axel and Linda Buck won a Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking reasearch into the biology of olfaction
Sunday, October 03, 2004
- The Chicago Transit Authority is threatening service cuts due to budget shortfalls; view the proposed worst-case scenario route curtailments here on the Chicago Sun-Times. Feh. [via Chicagoist and Gapers Block] Springfield: do try to loosen up those purse strings a tad with regards to public transportation. As Chicagoist and Gapers Block both point out, fewer riders mean less money, in an ever-descending spiral - there's no way the existing (or an increased) number of system users will cram themselves into a shorter operating day. In addition, while eliminating overnight "L" service may boost taxi ridership, not all train (or bus) users can afford this option, and putting more taxis - and private motor vehicles - on the street translates to more pollution and gas consumption.
- Can't wait for the Bloggies to see exemplars of beautiful website design? Check out (and be inspired by) CSS Beauty [via Fishbucket]
- Didn't get that bonus your boss promised? Fortune.com says quantum meruit: you can attempt to get what's coming to you by utilizing legal channels, although the article's author concedes this may not be the best career move
- Billy Joel weds 23-year old fianceé; let's hope she holds on to the car keys
- Barin' it for the Bulldozer: the Ladies for Granby will pose for a fundraising calendar to collect money to rebuild Colorado town [Denver Channel], and the latest issue of Newspapers and Technology describes how the Sky-Hi News and Grand County Newpapers kept up publication despite their building's destruction in the June 4th rampage
- Word of the Day: retcon
Friday, October 01, 2004Every so often I feel the need to wax glowing on a classic - rediscovered - tome, and this month's train-reading selection is Ray Bradbury's 1956 collection of short stories, The October Country. It's a splendid book, featuring "Skeleton," "The Jar," "The Small Assassin," "The Next in Line," and "The Emissary," about a lonely, bedridden boy whose faithful dog one night retrieves something...unexpected. Every time I read one of these timeless tales, I'm astounded by their clarity of melodic description and grasp of the horrific in the otherwise mundane, as in this excerpt from "The Next In Line," the sinister story of an American couple vacationing in rural Mexico in late October:
It was several mornings after the celebratory fiesta of El Dia de Muerte, the Day of the Dead, and ribbons and ravels of tissue and sparkle-tape still clung like insane hair to the raised stones, to the hand-carved, love-polished crucifixes, and to the above-ground tombs which resembled marble jewel-cases. There were statues frozen in angelic postures over gravel mounds, and intricately carved stones tall as men with angels spilling all down their rims, and tombs as big and ridiculous as beds put out to dry in the sun after some nocturnal accident. And within the four walls of the yard, inserted into square mouths and slots, were coffins, walled in, plated in by marble plates and plaster, upon which names were struck and upon which hung tin pictures, cheap peso portraits of the inserted dead. Thumb-tacked to the different pictures were trinkets they'd loved in life, silver charms, silver arms, legs, bodies, silver cups, silver dogs, silver church medallions, bits of red crape and blue ribbon. In some places were painted slats of tin showing the dead rising to heaven in oil-tinted angels' arms.What happens in October? Why, reaping, of course...as in the Grim Reaper. If you'd like to find out more, may I direct you to the official Rad Bradbury website, and its companion Ray Bradbury Message Board - a very interesting forum. May I also suggest reading "Skeleton," accompanied by a snack - a bag of fresh, crunchy breadsticks. Just to stay in practice.
Looking at the graves again, they saw the remnants of the death fiesta. The little tablets of tallow splashed over the stones by the lighted festive candles, the wilted orchid' blossoms lying like crushed red-purple tarantulas against the milky stones, some of them looking horridly sexual; limp and withered. There were loop-frames of cactus leaves, bamboo, reeds, and wild, dead morning-glories. There were circles of gardenias and sprigs of bougainvillea, desiccated. The entire floor of the yard seemed a ballroom after a wild dancing, from which the participants have fled; the tables askew, confetti, candles, ribbons and deep dreams left behind.
A steam eruption has started at the Mount St. Helens volcano in southwest Washington state following days of rumblings and tiny earthquakes. Large clouds of ash and steam were seen billowing from the volcano in its biggest eruption since 1986.For more, go to the USGS Cascade Range update page.
The U.S. Geological Survey's Tom Pearson says it's a relatively small explosion – as scientists had expected. "What appears to be white smoke is actually steam," he says."Very often these first explosions are just rock debris are clearing the way in the vent."