Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Howard Defiant Against Kyoto

Good on ya, Mate! The biggest problem I have with the Kyoto Protocol is that it completely ignores the carbon emission output of developing countries, like China and India. Australian Prime Minister John Howard essentially calls a spade a spade.

"The reason we will not sign Kyoto in its present form is that it does not comprehensively embrace all of the world's major emitters," he said.
"And you cannot have an effective response to global warming unless you have all of the culprits in the net.
"Kyoto does not impose the obligations it would have imposed on Australia on countries like China and India."

Until a better treaty presents itself that actually cares about just carbon emittors instead of defining countries as Developed and Undeveloped first (and essentially becoming a socialist mechanism for the redistribution of wealth), before setting goals for the reduction of carbon emissions, it was the right idea to sit this one out. India's and China's economies (and their carbon emissions) have exploded since becoming signatories of Kyoto. But, because their economies were defined as "Developing" at the time, they get a pass and essentially get to pollute as much as they want until 2012 while also being labeled "carbon rich" under the Protocol's carbon trading scheme.

That is an outright injustice.

Monday, October 30, 2006

'Bastards' or 'Scum': French Politicians Quibble over 'French Youths'

As French Youths have escalated their rioting tactics from arson against cars to arson against people, two French Politicians quibble over which perjorative to call them. I've got a suggestion: Islamic Terrorists.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sounds Pretty Scary To Me

Today's FoxTrot combines my two favorite topics, tech and politics, and produces something reallly terrifying. Unfortunately, the sentiment expressed is too true. And that's scary.

&#169 Bill Amend

Update: I'm not the only one leery of e-voting machines.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just in Time for Halloween: Black Cat Adoption Ban in Idaho

Um...Okay? Apparently, it's for their own protection:

The risk may be remote, said the shelter's executive director, Phil Morgan.
"It's kind of an urban legend. But in the humane industry it's pretty typical that shelters don't do adoptions of black cats or white bunnies because of the whole satanic sacrificial thing," Morgan said. "If we prevent one animal from getting hurt, then it serves its purpose."

Animal cruelty during the Halloween season wasn't on my personal radar, but I guess it could happen. Some people think that the ban just reinforces the stigma against black cats. The white bunnies sacrifice thing, though, that's just...they're so cute!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Week of Wonders Continues: Tuesday Edition


Unlike Arthur Dent, instead of Thursdays, I could never quite get the hang of Tuesdays. Sometimes, I feel just like this:

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ah, Paris, the City of Psychotherapy...

Heh. I got nothing to add to this story, except that I'm surprised more people don't come down with "Paris Syndrome."


Viral Video Update: Picornaviruses in the news

In an update to a previous post, looks like those picornaviruses keep making the internet rounds. The study links brain damage to repeated infections from these little buggers...hmm...it does sound suspiciously like an computer virus, doesn't it?

"Stiff Upper Lip" May Have Genetic Component: Study

Huh. According to this study, people who reported themselves as having a higher threshold of pain may actually be right. There appears to be a genetic component to pain sensitivity, and no, it's not the whole Y chromosome, ladies. Dr. Clifford Woolf of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston (whew! how does he fit that all onto his business card?), who led the research, had this to say:

"The data also suggest that individuals who say they feel less pain are not just stoics but genuinely have inherited a molecular machinery that reduces their perception of pain. This difference results not from personality or culture, but real differences in the biology of the sensory nervous system."

The research has possible applications in chronic pain, where gene therapy may be a solution, but results are preliminary. You can now insert all the jokes here about male insensitivity. No demographic breakdown on which gender was more likely to have the genetic anomoly was published with the study, so snark away.

On a sidenote, this genetic component may explain why my brother and I each have a high insensitivity to pain. If you've read Joe's account of the scar on his hand and the 5 little screws that live there now, let me just say that if I were to publish a photo of where I have a scar from emergency surgery, and the cringe-inducing story of my jaunt to the ER that required it, I might be breaking a few indecency laws. I'd have to know you a whole lot better before I relate to you that little episode.

Ah, China, That Bastion of Industrial Responsibility...

...or maybe not. With story after story of China's lax to non-existent curbs on industry, maybe the WTO might finally "get it" that China's economic infrastructure isn't quite ready for primetime. Maybe they can join the host of First World nations when they replace their sham of environmental protections with something that has real teeth.


I don't even want to talk about it. The day is almost over, anyway. Shmaybe...Shmaybe...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Best Reason to Stay In on a Sunday

The Chicago Marathon is going on today. If you live anywhere near Lake Michigan, travel around the city is going to be a challenge:

Oh well, I guess I just have to stay in and watch football. All day.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Polish President Stands In for Twin Brother Prime Minister: EU Summit

Having my own doppelganger wandering around, I thought the story of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski appointing his own twin brother Jaroslaw as Prime Minister earlier this year was worth keeping in mind. I've been waiting for the first international prank of "twin brother switcheroo" to make the headlines. We didn't have to wait very long. How to tell them apart?

Should any EU leaders in Lahti wonder if that's really the Polish president at the summit, they should check for moles on the nose and cheek. Only Lech has them.

Check out their Wikipedia entry. Interesting pair, these two. I expect more hijinks out them in the future.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Math sure is confusing...for Researchers

Earlier in the week, this study from the Brookings Institute came out and the VIMH (that's Voice In My Head for the uninitiated) said, "Hmm...interesting, not quite sure what to make of that. Did their polling methodologies take cultural aspects into account?" At the very least, it came across as a swipe against the public education policies that have been in effect in America for 3 decades now that have placed the priority of social promotion and self-esteem above, oh, you know, learning stuff:

In essence, happiness is overrated, says study author Tom Loveless...Other countries do better than the United States because they seem to expect more from students, he said. That could also explain why high performers in other nations express less confidence and enjoyment in math. They consider their peer group to be star achievers.

What a novel approach, actually having expectations of our students, regardless of their own self-esteem.

But then, the very next day, in what almost seemed like a repudiation of these findings, this article about another study, this time out of Canada, on the effects of self-esteem and math test scores in women came out. Here's the lede:

Telling women they can't do well in math may turn out be a self-fulfilling statement. In tests in Canada, women who were told that men and women do math equally well did much better than those who were told there is a genetic difference in math ability.

The study suggests that women may be susceptible to stereotypes. Presumably, it was their self-esteem that took a dip before they took the second test. What would have been more interesting is if these researchers had compared this group with a group of men, and a mixed gender control group. However, that doesn't appear to be the intent of the study at all:

The math study is the latest since Harvard University's president ignited controversy last year by suggesting that innate gender differences may partly explain why fewer women than men reach top university science jobs. The comment eventually cost him his job.

The assumption here, of course, is that men aren't susceptible to "stereotype threat" at all, but do we actually know that? Remember, this a peer reviewed study.

So what do these bookended studies on math test scores and self-esteem tell us? Unfortunately, they seem to cancel each other out.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How's My Nanny? Call 1-800-NANYSPY

A Trial Lawyer and the Nanny State, again? This time, a lawyer has come up with a way to rat out actual nannies:

"People keep asking me if this is because I am a mom do I want to do this or is it because I am a prosecutor? My answer is I think it's both," Starishevsky said.

Criminy...didn't the communists try this, too?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Childhood Games Under Attack

Thank you, Trial Lawyers of America, and the NEA for the proliferation of the "Nanny State." Claiming the cost of liability because of "unsupervised" play, this is just sad. This city was also caught up in the hysteria of banning dodgeball a few years ago.

Why not just pack our kids into full airbag body suits and keep the nannycam on them 24/7?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let's Try, I don't know, Acting Like an Independent Company: EADS Boss

I don't know why I'm so fascinated by the whole downward spiral of Airbus/EADS. Maybe the schadenfreude I feel about the whole sordid mess is related to seeing the perfect storm of an EU (read socialistic) version of a multi-national corporation imploding upon itself under the weight of strict government controls that it had embraced upon its creation. "The center cannot hold" might be the best way to sum up the failed experiment. When this story was reported, I chuckled audibly because of the large collection of forehead slap-inducing quotes in the article. I had written earlier about how DaimlerChrysler wanted to reduce its stake in EADS in order to mitigate the drag EADS was having on its own market capitalization. When the German state-owned bank KfW expressed an interest in purchasing those shares, the German Co-Chief Executive of EADS, Thomas Enders, expressed his dissatisfaction with such an idea:

"The prevailing hysteria over EADS and Airbus in Germany at the moment is completely out of place. We have real problems, but neither has a Franco-German war broken out nor are EADS or Airbus on the verge of bankruptcy. There is no reason for Germany to enter as a shareholder," Enders said in an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presse published Saturday...I do not see state involvement as a good thing, even what we already have...Of course the company has strategic importance (but) Britain and the USA show that states can make their interests count wihout direct involvement..."

That a German CEO of a company that is owned, in large part, by state-run entities in France, Spain, and Russia, would publicly endorse free market ideas is refreshing. Even more impressive is that the German Economy Minister, Michael Glos, also came out publicly against the notion:

"Participation by the (German state-owned) public bank KfW would make it hard to straighten out" the EADS group, which includes the troubled aircraft maker Airbus, Glos said.

The story goes on to report that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that no decision has yet been made on the possible purchase. It really does look like defacto state-run companies are starting to lose favor, especially when the EU has to finally start competing with the rest of the global market.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Traffic Ticket dropped, Sanity Still on the Lam

So you want to make a federal case out of a traffic ticket? Apparently so, if you're the Georgia branch of the ACLU. A nurse in DeKalb county got cited for a profane bumper sticker, but the charges were later dropped. So what's the big deal?

Although a DeKalb judge threw out the ticket in April because the state's lewd decal law that formed the basis for the ticket was ruled unconstitutional in 1990, Grier is seeking damages for "emotional distress" against the county, according to the lawsuit.

The story goes on to say that Ms. Grier still has the bumper sticker on her car. Yeah, DeKalb county really silenced dissent, huh?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gattaca! Gattaca! China Warns Citizens Against Torturing Themselves (that's the State's Job!)

Remember the movie Gattaca, where Ethan Hawke's character goes through all these surgical procedures just to become a commercial pilot? No? Go google it yourself, I'm tired. Anyway, there's this news story out of China. Height requirements for jobs? Yeesh, that sounds way too much like that movie, now.

I guess the State couldn't ban the use of the rack outright...certainly wouldn't want to restrict the use of one of its legal options against its own citizens.

"No Demand for Cat-Cloning": Duh!

Remember all the hype surrounding the first company to try cloning pet cats for profit? The cat-cloning Genetic Savings & Clone announced via letters sent to its customers that it is shuttering its shop windows at the end of the year. List prices have been reduced and reduced again before the announcement. The reason for closing seems about right:

The letters said the Sausalito company was not accepting new orders for clones because it was "unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets is commercially viable."

Apparently, the company had only 2 paying customers by the time of the announcement. It certainly didn't sound like a market existed for pet cloning:

"It's no surprise the demand for cloned pets is basically nonexistent, and we're very pleased that Genetics Savings & Clone's attempt to run a cloning pet store was a spectacular flop," said Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States.

Pet cloning? At the time that the company opened for business, I thought it sounded like the most self-indulgently arrogant use of a technological lightning-rod I could think of. I'm glad to see it gone.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why Don't I Get Spam Like This?

With all the viral videos making the rounds, Foxtrot makes me wonder when real viruses might start spreading themselves on the internet:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Work....Grr...then, Whew!

I don't normally post about work, for a myriad of reasons, but the best reason is that it can get you fired. I just had to relate a little episode at work today that reminded why I still work for the company I work for even though it sometimes feels like we're a company still working out of a garage. We're still a small company employee-wise, and the pay is on the lower end of the median for what I do, but it still amazes me how much work we actually get done. Sometimes, though, I have fantasies of working for a large software company where they have HR departments, time and a half, reimbursible sick time, reimbursable vacation time, a training budget, on and on and on. But then I remember the grinding bureaucracy that has to support all that (fans of Dilbert know what I'm talking about).

Anyway, this is going to be yet another hellweek for me, not so much for the work I have scheduled during the week (like the 4 installs I had to do in 1 week that happened last month), but because a former boss (who has since left the company) promised this one client the sky for this project that has taken over 18 months to get from test environment to production go-live, and one of the fluffy clouds in that sky was support (without charge) on a weekend for their go-live. This weekend is that go-live. So, I'm going to be in the office, on a Saturday...for 12 hours. Gah. The project schedule had only been finalized today by the client, so I forwarded a copy to my (current) boss, with a request for comp day.

I didn't get a response from my boss all day. So 5pm rolled around, and I popped my head into his office and he wasn't there. I wandered into one of the other VP's office, and in there was the brain trust of our company (CEO, VP Development, VP Implementation[my boss], and senior developers) hashing out some customization issue. Being the brazen guy that I am, I asked my boss in front of all of them if he'd read my email about the comp day for [customer] since I'd be working for [customer] for 12 hours straight. He immediately replied that the company no longer gives out comp days. My face must have turned red, then ashen, all in a second. Everyone in the room looked aghast. All I could say was, "Really." When no one in the room contradicted him, my jaw hardened (mandibular muscles must have been visibly bulging) and, through clenched teeth, I just said, "Okay, then," and immediately left. It was news to me that the policy changed. I should point out that everyone in that room knew how many hours I've put in for this one ridiculous customer just to save face for the company, to the point where relationships with my colleagues have suffered because of my lack of availability to help out in other projects. It must have sounded like a threat, to their ears, that I might leave. I had no idea, though, and I fumed the whole train ride back to my condo, already planning my exit strategy, job search, maybe even relocating.

When I got home around 6pm, someone tried to call, but I always let the answering machine get it. My philosophy about screening calls is, "If it's important, you'll leave a message." So I let it ring, and a couple more hangups happened before this somebody decided to leave a message around 7pm. No worries for me, eating dinner and trying to be meditative about leaving this company while drinking a beer. This time, though, the somebody began to leave a message. It was my boss, and he sounded a little panicky. He had gotten it wrong about the comp time policy, and he apologized for making me pissed (I don't hide my emotions at all on my face, unfortunately, so of course the whole room saw that). Apparently, after I left, the CEO asked what the heck that was all about, and after my boss told him that it was [customer's] go-live on Saturday, the CEO said, "He gets comp time." Now, my boss is a genuinely nice guy, and he's actually one of the main reasons that I came to work for this company. Thank goodness he called me, because, instead of writing this post, I would have been starting a job search.

So now, I'm relieved. Even though it's still going to suck that I have to work from 11am to 11pm on a Saturday for his one lame-ass customer, at least my faith in my company has been restored. And I get an extra vacation day out of it. Whew!

Seriously, it could be a lot worse:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Suggestion for Pushing Intelligent Design

Maybe the Intelligent Design/Creationist proponents are going about their lobbying efforts the wrong way:

Friday, October 06, 2006

Answers to All the Questions You Never Even Thought Of

Greeeaaat. Somebody published some of the flotsam floating around in my brain, and I don't even get any royalties out of it. My favorite question was this one:

"The one that really caused a big fuss when it came out and everyone thought was absolutely wonderful was -- 'Why is snot green?'" he said.

"Came out..." You know the author was just dying to get that quote into print. I may have to pick this book up.

Airbus' Woes Continue to Mount on New Details

As I previously mentioned here, economic worries widened as details on Airbus' A350 project and its A400M military jet project were released in this story. Airbus considers both projects as vital for future cash flow, but the A350 is supposed to compete head to head with Boeing's 787:

After several false starts, Airbus has come up with a new wider design for the A350 to try to halt a surge in sales of Boeing's rival 787 Dreamliner. Both planes exist only on paper, but the mid-sized market is already the biggest battleground between the two firms despite public focus on the A380.

Analysts estimate the new plane will cost 8 billion euros ($10.2 billion) instead of 4 billion to develop, eating into cash that is already being drained by a two-year delay in the A380 project.

Already hemorrhaging cash just to keep 3 projects alive, Airbus' future looks dimmer just a day later.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

ETA on Orders May Become DOA for Airbus, EADS

Well, I thought I was done talking about this story. Airbus and its parent consortium EADS, already reeling from their announcement of delays on the A380 2 weeks ago, poured gas on the fire with fresh news of even longer delays. The news today was so dire that EADS lost almost 12 points before closing down more than 4%, and even worse, is now dragging down other European companies' share values:

The first plane will now be delivered to Singapore Airlines in October 2007 instead of this year, putting on ice its lavish promotional plans for the first commercial flight.

Disarray in Europe's biggest industrial project rippled through the aviation sector and beyond.

Dutch parts maker Stork warned of a revenue hit, EADS shareholder DaimlerChrysler said it would review its profit forecasts and economists predicted a drag on French trade.

European countries are lousy with large companies that are just one step from being nationalized corporations, especially France and Germany, and now EADS is dragging down these other pseudo-national entities because of their incestuous relationships. And even though the airlines who were so enthusiastic about the superjet are announcing that they are placing their orders under review, which may mean cancelling them outright, EADS is hamstrung from considering all avenues in its restructuring plans to cut costs and increase profits:

...the French and German governments both warned Airbus about jobs.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said he would be "vigilant" while Germany urged EADS to spread the pain evenly.

Any severe French job cuts could risk political uproar ahead of presidential elections next year, yet analysts said the cost targets were ambitious without job cuts or heavy outsourcing.

The French government owns 15 percent of EADS.

German car maker DaimlerChrysler and French media group Lagardere are reducing their stakes by 7.5 percentage points each to 22.5 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.

"We've had enough now," said Xavier Petrachi, a CGT union official at Airbus in Toulouse. "This plan is just to satisfy the shareholders, who are getting out anyway and abandoning the staff. So we are calling on the governments to step in."

Germany also stamped on reports that Airbus might push all of its A380 work toward Toulouse, where final assembly takes place, while other work is directed toward Hamburg.

Any redistribution of tasks also raises questions over the fate of $3.6 billion in reimbursable launch aid paid by European governments to help develop the A380. Airbus declined to say whether it would have to pay the money back if plants were shut.

In all of that tangled mess of socialism's version of capitalism, it's easy to see that the bloodbath is just starting. And now on rumors that Airbus' A350 and A400M military jet projects are in trouble, one large European company has had more than enough. Instead of lessening the percentage of shares, it is divesting its shares completely:

In a further blow to Airbus pride, Britain's BAE Systems finally slammed the door on the plane maker when its shareholders approved plans to sell its 20-percent stake in Airbus to EADS.

In case you didn't catch that, BAE is the parent corporation of British Airways, one of Airbus' oldest partners. Airbus' woes are far from over. We may be seeing orders in the billions of euros being paid back in the months to come, and even billions of euros in government grants being paid back if jobs are cut. All this means even more turbulence ahead for Airbus and EADS.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Horror! The Horror! Hops warehouse goes up in flames.

Oh no! It's uncertain at this time how the loss of 4% of the nation's Hops supply will affect the price of beer in the coming months, but I'm already feeling the pain.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Grammarians Lose Feather in Their Cap: Programmer

A software programmer who specializes in speech recognization software has "persuasively" found the missing 'a' in NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous first words when he stepped foot on the moon. Long-dogged by english grammarians who have cited his words as an example of how the whole meaning of your intended words changes when you misplace an indefinite article, Armstrong has always maintained that he believes he said the 'a':

The discrepancy has been widely debated for years by historians, academics and fans of space travel, with the "a" sometimes appearing in parentheses in government documents and Armstrong being listed on unofficial Web sites as being guilty of a momentous flub.

The missing word was found this month in a software analysis of Armstrong's famous phrase by Peter Shann Ford, a Sydney, Australia-based computer programmer. Ford's company, Control Bionics, specializes in helping physically handicapped people use their nerve impulses to communicate through computers.

On Thursday, Ford and Auburn University historian James R. Hansen, Armstrong's authorized biographer, presented the findings to Armstrong and others in a meeting at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. They repeated the presentation at NASA's Washington headquarters, which has long backed Armstrong's version of the phrasing.

Read the whole article, because it has a great summary of the theories and history surrounding the alleged grammatical flub. The story goes on to say that NASA will review the findings with their own software and instruments. Finally, we can lay to rest this canard and recognize without sniping Armstrong's momentous first words from the moon.