Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Steroid Use Shrinks BOTH Brains: Study

So there's a news story released today on a study published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry that posits that high levels of testosterone can kill brain cells. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was going to be in the Offbeat News section, or it had somehow been crosslinked to The Onion, but the story turns out to be on a serious hard science study.
Tests on brain cells in lab dishes showed that while a little of the male hormone is good, too much of it causes cells to self-destruct in a process similar to that seen in brain illnesses such as Alzheimer's.

C'mon, some people might snark, this sounds like possible feminist twaddle, what about the effects of estrogen? Does too much of that hormone lead to the nerve cells clumping together into giggling little groups? Barbarah Ehrlich, who led the research team at Yale, had this to say about other aspects of the research methodology:
"We were surprised, but it actually looks like estrogen is neuroprotective. If anything, there is less cell death in the presence of estrogen," she said.

How reassuring...for women, anyway. The article goes on to say that the damage is far from temporary, and may explain the behavioral changes often observed in athletes who dose themselves with steroids (Could it explain what the hell is going on with T.O.? Just throwing it out there). Okay, every joke or comment you've been saving up after seeing the headline for the story, go into the comments!

All snickering aside from the XX side of the peanut gallery, this is more evidence that, biologically, men may be aced out in the path to a life of meaningful longevity.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Airbus A380 Can't Find Runway

So the biggest example of Corporate Welfare on the planet, Airbus, can't meet its deadlines amid restructuring and manufacturing woes. Good:
...as few as four A380 planes could be delivered in 2007. The company had originally planned to deliver 25 aircraft, cutting this to nine in June this year.

Maybe Europe will stopping flirting with the idea of treating the aerospace industry as a free market, and actually allow Airbus to compete on its own?

Wussy Dems Stand on the Side Line on Detainee Debate

Shrewd, politically, at least in the very short term, so that they don't reinvigorate some sputtering Rebublican campaigns in the upcoming November elections, but the wimpy Democrats will definitely face a backlash in the next year about their decision not to join the debate on how exactly the American Executive Branch should interpret the Geneva Conventions as they apply to non-allied enemy combatants.

History will show that the Democrats of the first decade of the 21st century, with few exceptions, wanted no part in shaping the National Security strategy of the United States for the future wars to come. Instead, they opted for the political expediency of hiding from their own constituents where they stand exactly on just how America should treat its enemies.

Wusses.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sean Penn "Lectured" for Lighting Up

Sean Penn, ugly American? Here's yet another example of a Hollywood actor who gets a lot of press for promoting socialist policies, but can't seem to be bothered to think that those rules apply to himself when he's in another country. The only thing I can think of for this faux pas is that he must have thought that Toronto, Canada must be just like Paris, France in its attitude towards smoking. All those bilingual "No Smoking" signs everywhere in the Sutton Hotel should have provided Monsieur Penn a clue. While the hotel gets fined for the violation, Penn got away with merely a sternly worded letter from Toronto Public Health Officials.


Why does this quote come to mind:
...Or I shall taunt you a second time!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Blogging Gets Campaign Staffer Fired

Here's a story on the consequences of what you write on your blog, especially when you're on the staff of one of the candidates in a racially charged campaign.


We already know what happens when you get as exposed as an unhinged blog troll, of course.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Star Wars Classic: Vintage Fun!

These DVDs came in yesterday. I popped in the bonus DVD of the original Episode IV last night, and it's everything I remember about the original. If you remember when the definitive VHS editions came out in 1994, these are the masters even more buffed up for their debut on DVD, and they are in Anamorphic Aspect Ratio (2.35:1) instead of Pan and Scan, so wayyyy better. All the CGI gimmicky stuff that Lucas added to the 1997 special edition release is gone, and it's just straight-up Theatrical version from 1977. Sweet. Even better, Greedo doesn't even pull a blaster on Han, Han just shoots him first. Awesome!


I will note that the master transfer on DVD for Episode IV looked better in some parts than others. The picture looked downright grainy in the opening shots of the Correllian Cruiser when Darth Vader stormed in. Pixelation got better once we hit Tatooine planet-side, and the desert shots were very clean, as was the rest of the movie.


One last caution, the Theatrical versions are only Dolby 2.0 Surround, so don't expect the dynamic experience of fully certified THX™ Dolby Digital© when watching Star Wars™ Classic®.


I'll be posting on all the Episodes, so tune in for more updates.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11th, 2001

September 11, 2001 was like any other day for me. I work in downtown Chicago, a quarter of mile away from the Sears Tower. I got into the office around 8:15 or so, and was checking email, checking voicemail, getting myself a cup of coffee. At the time, I was working the Help Desk at the software development company I still work for. A co-worker must have had a live video feed from CNN.com on, because she murmured to herself, “Oh my God.” We started crowding around her monitor, and we saw a replay of the first impact. It was simply unbelievable to watch it. Then CNN updated that a second plane had hit the other tower. People in the office were visibly upset, and frankly fearful about other skyscrapers as targets.

No work was getting done, but at this point no calls were coming in for support, and customers were calling us to cancel teleconferences because they were activating emergency procedures. Most of our customers are hospitals and medical care organizations, so getting support on a software issue was not going to be high priority that day. It was about this point that I called my parents in L.A. to see if they were alright, and to tell them I was alright. It was still before 7am, so Joe picked up the phone, rather groggily, and asked, “Dude, what’s up?”
I replied, “You don’t know yet?”
“Know what?”
“Turn on the news.”
Silence…then… “Holy…”
That’s when Joe woke up my parents, and we talked for a bit as they got better news than I did from the TV, but since I was still at work, I had to ring off, with the promise that I would call back later.

Then we heard about the Pentagon. That’s when one of our co-workers asked our CEO what we should do. He immediately said to finish up whatever we were working on and go home. I left work at around 10am, taking the ‘L’ back to my apartment on the North Side of Chicago. Riding the ‘L’ was eerily quiet, because it wasn’t that crowded, but everybody in the car I was on was very subdued.

When I got home around 10:45, I put on Fox News and called my parents again, who were watching the same channel. We stayed on the phone for a few more minutes, and then hung up. I pretty much watched cable news all day. Later in the afternoon, I received a call from a former co-worker of mine from my old job back in Pasadena , who was worried about me in Chicago. We chatted for a few minutes, and promised to update each other later.

My parents called again later that evening, and we talked about what we knew and didn’t know. That was my 9/11.

Update:

Just an addendum to my post after reading my brother's. I had completely forgotten about it until this morning. Around 3pm Chicago time I received a call from my other brother, Jeff. Some of you here know that Joe and I have another brother who is a Cistercian Trappist Monk. This is a very strict Catholic order whose members are cloistered, and whose contact with the outside world is kept to as minimum as possible.

The Abbott of his order allowed the monks there some brief tv news updates on what was happening that day. Later on, my brother asked the Abbott for permission to call me, as no one yet knew if other cities with large skyscrapers were under attack. I was glad he called because at the time, he had no internet access (so no email), so the only way he would know I was alright was if I posted regular mail to him. He was very worried when he called me, but was relieved to know that I was safe, and that Chicago was safe. He also let me know that all the monks were praying for America that day, and that was their only job the rest of the day, and also that Trappist around the world were doing the same. We only talked for about 5 minutes, but I felt heartened to know that monks everywhere were praying for us.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Star Wars Original Pr0n on Order!

As I had posted previously, and had wished for even longer, September 12 is a significant day in the Star Wars™ geekosphere. For the first time on DVD, we can see the original Star Wars™ trilogy in their theatrically released versions. Han shoots Greedo first! The "Lap Ti Nek" song is back in Jabba's Palace! No ridiculous slithering Jabba around the Millenium Falcon saying "Han, mi buki"! Yes, they show up as bonus features on the discs, but so what?!!


My copies of these DVDs are already on order, and I should get them next Thursday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

9/11 Conspiracy Theorist's "Continuing Status" Blown up by Thermite!

The fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will soon be here. The events of that obscenely tragic day on American soil still to this day affect me in ways that are almost too personal to express. Anger, horror, grief, determination, and vigilance are just a very few of the words I would use to describe my feelings about 9/11. Outright fury, however, I reserve for the conspiracy theorists, leeches who have used 9/11 as yet another hitching post on their road to "exposing" global clandestine cabals whose invisible tentacles reach into the corridors of the very highest levels of the the U.S. government. For them, no fact based upon rigorous investigation can dissuade them from their dogmatic belief that some nefarious faceless conspiracy pulls all the strings. To them, 9/11 is just another historical event to display their mental prowess of seeing behind the curtain by vomitting out their ill-thought out theories upon the ignorant public.


I've recently finished the book Debunking 9/11 Myths by David Dunbar and Brad Reagan, the editors of Popular Mechanics. One of the myths that fuel conspiracy buffs is the idea that the World Trade Center towers could not have collapsed from just the damage from the plane impacts, and the resultant fires. They had to be brought down by timed explosives, like those used in a planned demolition. The two facts they often cite are: jet fuel does not burn hot enough to melt steel; and the presence of molten steel in the debris after the towers fell. Now, most conspiracy hounds are not trained scientists (the great effort it takes to ignore sustainable and reproducible facts tends to be a limiting factor for such a population), but this particular theory had a fully tenured professor of Physics at BYU as a feather in its cap, Steven Jones, the co-founder of "Scholars for the 9/11 Truth." Debunking 9/11 deftly disproves this theory (read it for yourself, or visit the website for the baloon-puncturing details), but that didn't stop Dr. Jones from publishing his "findings" in the book 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out. Now that book has gotten Dr. Jones into trouble with BYU, while their academic review board investigates whether his actions violate the provisions of his tenure. In a statement to The Desert Morning News in Salt Lake Utah:


BYU is "concerned about the increasingly speculative and accusatory nature of these statements by Dr. Jones...BYU remains concerned that Dr. Jones’ work on this topic has not been published in appropriate scientific venues."


A comment out of the University of Utah:


At the University of Utah, Physics Department Chairman Pierre Sokolsky said destruction of the towers typically would be a field within the expertise of engineers.
“This is not physics,” Sokolsky said. “I don’t want to comment on BYU’s actions. But if someone in my department was doing this, I would find it disconnected from the academic activities of the department.”


It goes without saying, of course, that if Dr. Jones thought his research would stand up to the scrutiny of a peer-reviewed journal, he would have sought that avenue for his work. Where he did publish it speaks volumes for exactly the kind of "proof" he actually had.


Update:


H/T to my brother for pointing out the Dr. Steven Jones was caught up in the Cold Fusion Hoax from the 1980's. Unlike Stanley Pons' team from the University of Utah where their research was completely fabricated, Jones' research methodology was regarded to be more theoritically thorough, but did have some experimental errors in it.


Update II:


According to the story in The Desert Morning News, BYU doesn't grant tenure to its professors, but confers a "Continuing Status" to professors who have performed well for over 6 years. I regret the error.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Exciting new careers in Paleontology!

...just 10 short years of scientifically rigorous training required! Thank God if I ever decide to chuck the whole computer technology racket and return to my first love of Paleontology, there might still be some dinosaur fossils left for me to find.  Sure, laugh at the irony of me thanking God for fossil finds, you ID'ers out there.

Seems a bit uncanny that this story comes out the same day that a huge new oil field is found in the Gulf of Mexico.


I question the timing...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crikey! This is horrible...

This is just tragic. Regardless of how annoying we all thought Steve Irwin was, he really was a talent tailor made for cable and Animal Planet. Prayers, please, for his wife and young family. Developing story...more details as they come.

Update:A freak accident, apparently, according to most reports. The stingray whipped its barbed tip in response to close proximity, and it unfortunately landed a blow that pierced Irwin's chest and stabbed his heart. With how remote the dive location was, there was no chance to save him, and he died en route to the hospital. Stingray encounters usually aren't fatal, but the nature of the damage to Irwin's heart made it so in his case. Truly, truly tragic in light of the randomness of the event.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Up with Iowa, Down with Vermont - Wind Power

So the enviros are still battling amongst themselves over whether the idea of clean energy makes up for the hideous sight lines of 400 foot wind towers dotting the landscape of preciouse Gaia.  As with the tony sailors of Martha's Vinyard, a diverse group of Vermonters don't seem to relish the idea of wind vanes all over the picturesque hills of a state that draws its identity from its granite peaks.


Meanwhile, Iowa is considering a $200 million investment in a 200-300 megawatt wind farm on 40,000 acres.


I'm so confused...