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"I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career...

I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate."

—Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

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Saturday, March 11, 2000

The disclosure of several new heretofore secret Justice Department memos [New York Times editorial] shows the lengths to which Janet Reno went to protect Al Gore and other senior administration officials from a thorough-going independent inquiry into alleged campaign finance improprieties. And all the time you watched the administration fretting about the impeachment inquiry, its senior members were probably laughing up their sleeve that that's all the country was agonizing over. And now the only choice you have beyond Dubya is their poster boy?? (It's getting to that quadrennial point where I begin to toy with the idea of emigrating again...but where?)

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U.S. Sets Another Record for Winter Warmth: the average winter temperature in the 48 contiguous states was the warmest in 105 years. Twenty of the last thirty years have been above the century's average; and each of the past three years has seen a briefer warmer winter than the last. [New York Times]

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A searing, riveting film I just watched: Bryan Singer's 1998 Apt Pupil with Ian McKellen as the ex-Nazi war criminal next door and Brad Renfro as the high school student who attempts to control him with the knowledge of his identity. Except for a spluttering performance by the risible David Schwimmer...

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Consider that if you lived in Japan you too might empathize with this woman. [Washington Post]

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Someone pointed me to this gentleman's main webpage, which documents his collection of chopsticks. However, the real gem is this sidelight, the Gallery of the Absurd: "This site is dedicated to exposing absurdity hiding in such obvious places that nobody seems to notice!...These are all my own photographs* taken in public places mostly in the Boston area. They are 100% real and
not digitally manipulated. I've been capturing images like this for many years, to document things that strike
me as odd or bizarre, or just plain stupid."

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Is your computer possessed? [from Honeyguide]

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Friday, March 10, 2000

Dr. Laura Backs Off Gay Comments. Could she see some jeopardy to the Paramount cash cow from the GLAD-driven protest movement she has the nerve to characterize as "fascist"?

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Chrissie Hynde and three others were arrested for protesting in the window of a Gap clothing
store against what she said was the clothing chain's use of leather from cows slaughtered in India, where cattle are
sacred. Despite the company's claims that the "Made in India" labels in its leather jackets did not mean that the leather originates in India, Hynde stated ``India does not import leather, and it is the largest exporter of leather in the world....So it seems highly unlikely that the Gap buys its leather from America, where the slaughterhouse practices are considered humane
and legal, and send the leather to India, stitch up the jacket and send it back to America.''

PETA director Dan Mathews said Gap was buying its leather ''from a black market ... where it's illegal to kill cows. And they have
assumed no responsibility.''


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Clues to sleep disorders may lie in the flies: Recent research by Dr. Giulio Tononi and colleagues at The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego suggests that flies must rest to perform their biological functions, like higher animals. The rest periods of flies share important attributes with mammalian (and human) sleep. This finding provides '...``the opportunity to employ fly genetics to figure out the function of sleep and
to develop new, safe drugs for improving sleep as well as vigilance,'' Tononi explained.

The fruit fly apparently ``shares a sophisticated brain function with us,'' Tononi said. ``However, the
difference between what goes on in the brain of a fly and a human when they are asleep, is probably as
large as the difference between what they think when they are awake,'' he added wryly.'

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Remember this: chew vigorously![New Scientist]

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Unheeded warnings: Predictions by a climatologist from the University of Zululand in South Africa of floods in Mozambique were ignored. Flood damage could have been reduced if dam managers in the region had begun to empty their reservoirs sooner.

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I found it hard to believe that Morphine would survive Mark Sandman's death, but it appears to be reborn, joyously.

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Thursday, March 9, 2000

Some antidepressants change rat brain cells. In animal studies, high doese of SSRI antidepressants (such as Prozac) cause damage to brain cells similar to that produced by Ecstasy (MDMA).

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Abortions rise 20 percent in Britain after millennium party season, group says
"A British family planning organization noted a 20 percent increase in the number
of abortions during January and February after the intense millennium party season."

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Time Cube
"I will give $1,000.00 to any person who can disprove 4 days in each
earth rotation. It's
a pity that religious and academic word is a
crime against Nature and enslaves Children.
4-cornered Truth is ineffable by man or god.
Until Word is Cornered, all Math is Fiction."

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The Decline and Fall: "Baby Bank" for Unwanted Newborns
"HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Social workers in Hamburg have opened a controversial "baby bank"
where new mothers can leave their unwanted newborns.

The center, which is near the "Reeperbahn" red light district, was set up to reduce the number of
newborns abandoned on the streets of the city.

A woman can anonymously pass her child through a "letter box" and into a crib. An alarm alerts staff
that a new child has been left."

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God, the Devil and Bob: Okay, so we're a little puzzled, but not at all unhappy, that God is the spitting image of Jerry Garcia. But the James Garner voice doesn't quite work. Update: Not ready for primetime with Idaho, Mississippi and other NBC affiliates.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Tragic Irony: Psychiatrist dies after alleged attack by her daughter: Dr Katherine Thomsen-Hall, a distinguished forensic psychiatrist at UMass Medical School (where I taught until 1994) was allegedly murdered by her 16-year-old daughter Valerie on Sunday night. The girl apparently is in treatment for bipolar disorder; friends of the family are quoted as reporting that there was little more than normal tension between mother and daughter, although the police had been called to their home once previously after an altercation. Dr Thomsen-Hall worked treating the often violent inmates of the Framingham Women's Prison, Massachusetts' only facility for the detention of female convicts. She had given up a thriving private practice and mental health advocacy work in Little Rock to attend a one-year forensic psychiatry fellowship at UMass in 1997, and then decided to remain on the faculty.

I was impressed by something that receives scant notice in the news story. A friend commented that Valerie had "appeared a little mellow. She told me she was on a new prescription that was supposed to keep her calm.'' One of my ongoing concerns and teaching points in my work is that psychiatrists do not more readily recognize the disinhibiting properties of the benzodiazepine anti-anxiety sedative medications (e.g. clonazepam [Klonopin], diazepam [Valium], alprazolam [Xanax], lorazepam [Ativan]) prescribed with such impunity for agitation, anxiety, sleep, etc. I began to speculate that the new medication Valerie had started on "to calm her" was one of these and that, untested on her, it may have lowered her barriers against acting out her anger. Think of it as akin to becoming uncharacteristically violent when drunk, which happens in a small proportion of drinkers (we psychiatrists have a diagnosis for it: "pathological intoxication"); the effect on the CNS is very similar. I don't suppose we'll ever know in this case...


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U&lc: Look at the Underside First: Crystal Inks. Bruce Sterling is writing for U&lc, the typography journal of the wonderful ITC font foundry. "U&lc" is "upper and lower case", by the way.

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Down at the bottom left of the page you'll see this:

<< 5 ? | webloggers | # 5 >>

I just joined the webloggers webring. You can navigate to other blogs in the ring as follows:




KEY


  • <<
    - takes you to the previous
    site in the webring


  • ?
    -
    takes you to a random
    site in the webring


  • 5
    -
    shows you the previous
    5
    sites


  • webloggers -
    takes you to the webloggers webring
    page


  • #
    - takes you to a complete list
    of sites in the webring


  • 5
    - shows you the next
    5
    sites


  • >>
    - takes you to the next
    site in the webring


  •   •  

    Do you more appreciate the digest function of this 'blog (telling you what I've read so that you don't have to) or the pointing function (suggesting what might be interesting for you to read)? In other words, should the posts generally be long or short?

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    Deliberations resume in trial of defendant in date rape drug death. Joshua Cole, 19, is accused of slipping gamma-hydroxybutyrate - GHB - into Samantha Reid's glass during a party. She died on Jan. 17, 1999,
    after being taken off of life support. The National Institute on Drug Abuse site on GHB and other club drugs is here.

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    Of course, the defendant could have used the argument from biological imperative. A Natural History of Rape : Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion by Randy Thornhill (University of New Mexico) and Craig T. Palmer (University of Colorado), takes an evolutionary perspective critical of the prevailing view that rape is a crime of violence and power. They suggest that sexual coercion evolved to increase the reproductive fitness of those men who would otherwise be poor competitors as mates, and that it was therefore selected for. The authors suggest that women dress conservatively and that school curriculums teach alternate ways to channel this natural urge. A review by two scientists, Jerry Coyne of Chicago and Andrew Berry of Harvard, in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature accuses the authors of scientific shabbiness. I agree.

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    New York woman charged after staking claim to thousands in bank error. The woman said she thought the mistaken $700,000 deposit, which occurred because her bank account number was one digit off from a United Nations account, was her winnings in a lottery. Her credit card records failed to substantiate her alleged lottery ticket purchases (Why didn't she report having paid cash??)The deposits were made between February 1998 and October 1999 by the governments of France, Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Namibia, Uruguay,
    St. Kitts and Dominica, according to court papers. By the time the error was discovered last fall and the assets in the account frozen, only $450,000 remained. If convicted, she faces a maximum 30-yr sentence and a $1 million fine. (Let's hope some of the missing funds were transferred to her attorney's account as a retainer...) [Nando Times]

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    Mardi Gras ended, leaving New Orleans ankle-deep in trash. Officials plan to weigh the detritus deposited by the estimated 1.5 million revellers to see if it set a record. Tied as it is to the lunar calendar, Mardi Gras fell later than usual this year, and balmy weather encouraged the crowds.

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    There's this scurrilous piece of psychiatric humor I get emailed to me, or psychiatric mailing lists in which I participate, with regularity, likening web use to a mental illness and "diagnosing" it in DSM-IV terms. May not be so scurrilous. Caught in the web: UF/Cincinnati study shows internet addicts suffer from mental illness. Twenty interviewees self-selected because their web use was problematic -- with problems including marital strife or loss, work or school failure, going without sleep, shirking family responsibility, isolation, and consequent social and legal consequences -- were found to have a variety of diagnosable psychiatric problems. "Every study participant's Internet use met established diagnostic criteria for the family of psychiatric
    illnesses known as impulse control disorders, which include kleptomania, a recurrent failure to resist impulses to shoplift, and
    trichotillomania, the recurrent pulling out of one's hair..." Most qualified as well for diagnosis with various other psychiatric disorders including manic depressive disorder, other psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse problems, other impulse control disorders and eating disorders. Participants described spending over 30 hrs./wk. online in such puruits as chatrooms and MUDs. (When you think about it, as internet use becomes more pervasive, people with psychiatric illnesses will of course be a segment of those online. Why would we anticipate that their web use would be any less difficult for them than other spheres of their life? Indeed, the convenience and anonymity of use make it so attractive that pathological web use may become disproportionate.)

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    The BBC reports on Bacteria with a silver lining. "A strain of bacteria that can manufacture
    tiny crystals of silver has been reported
    by Swedish scientists. This skill may
    eventually prove useful to engineers who
    want to fabricate extremely small optical
    and electronic devices."

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    Coincident with the item below about the corporatization of weblogging is this review in today's Slate on The Rise of the Newsportal  by Chris Suellentrop. Discusses six of these, which are essentially political news blogs, right?

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    Jupiter's terrible tides: "Powerful tidal forces from Jupiter have molded two of the solar system's
    most bizarre worlds, fiery Io and icy Europa. Images released this week
    reveal new details of tidal action on the two moons." [from the SpaceScience.com mailserver]

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    The Corporatization of weblogging?? "...will probably be fine
    with many of the thousands of independent Webloggers
    who pioneered the concept. Romenesko says as
    Weblogging becomes more widespread among
    corporations, there's likely to be some resentment from
    the pioneers who see it as an anti-corporate concept.

    Cooper, meanwhile, thinks Weblogs make sense in the
    corporate environment, and suggests that they would be a
    useful feature of company intranets. A Weblog pioneer
    herself, Cooper says that when she announced she would
    be taking the Weblog concept to Star Tribune Online, the
    reaction from the Weblog community was overwhelmingly
    supportive." [E&P]

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    Afraid to Go Outdoors As Crime Spirals
    BOGOTA (Reuters) - Almost three-quarters of Colombians are frightened to go out at night and most avoid talking to strangers because
    of a rising wave of violent crime, a poll published on Sunday suggested.

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    ``It just spoils the fun of it,''
    said a spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the Wall Street Journal's push to do a political-style poll of Academy members to forecast the Oscar winners. ``The Academy Awards are important to the people who win, and they're important to the
    people who don't win, but it's not like electing a president, and part of the fun of it is waiting until they open the envelopes to see
    who wins.''

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    Annals of Depravity: 84-Year-Old Nailed into Room for more than a year. {APB}

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    Tuesday, March 7, 2000

    Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley outline a potentially elegant way to solve the problem of the broken hyperlink.

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    An archive of New Yorker articles by Malcolm Gladwell, author of the recent book The Tipping Point. Without even being aware until recently of who this author is, I realize scanning the list of articles in this collection that it has been his writing that has recently been the most compelling in my intermittnet relationship with the New Yorker. Among other topics, he writes about: fads, "spin", public opinion and mass psychology, "who decides what's cool", the "six degrees of separation", the Belgian Coca Cola hysteria, whether parenting matters... I'm sure you'll find something you'll want to read. Update: summary of critics' opinions about The Tipping Point here, from Slate.

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    Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections,
    images and information from one of the world's largest collection of well-preserved, sectioned and stained brains of over 100 different species of mammals (including humans) representing 17 mammalian orders.

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    "The American Museum of Natural History
    yesterday bluntly refused to give back a
    10,000-year-old, 15-ton meteorite to the Oregon
    Indian tribes who say their ancestors once treated the
    behemoth as a sacred object.

    In papers filed in Manhattan federal court to block
    the Indians' claim to the "Willamette Meteorite" --
    one of the museum's oldest treasures and a
    centerpiece of its renovated planetarium -- the
    museum argued the extraterrestrial isn't covered by
    federal law that allows Indians to "repatriate" some
    cultural items." [New York Post]

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    Banned in Turkey:
    The Turkish government confiscated all available copies of Jonathan Ames’ novel The Extra Man last week, and
    will try both his translator, Fatih Ozguven, and his publisher in Istanbul, Iletisim, on charges that the book is
    "corrupt and harmful to the morality of Turkish readers," according to a fax Ames’ international rights agent
    Rosalie Siegel received from Istanbul. The book had been out a few months, and had been submitted to
    government censors for approval before publishing, as is required in Turkey. [New York Press]

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    Before he died, "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schultz told his
    family he didn't want anyone else drawing his strip, and that
    animated shows based on the characters should end as well. But
    when Schultz began the strip in the 1950s cartoonists routinely
    gave up their copyrights to distributors. United Media owns the
    "Peanuts" copyright and it got 61 percent of its $84.9 million in
    1998 revenues from the comics, TV shows and licensing deals.
    Think they'll let the franchise go dark? [SF Examiner]

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    This TV show has been criticized for offending human dignity; what else is new on television?

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    New Meaning of "Shop 'til You Drop"

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    Think vitamin therapy is innocent?[Reuters]

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    Monday, March 6, 2000

    Arianna S. Huffington remixes the Slate 60 list of top philanthropists, " Last June, I criticized "The Slate 60" for treating every philanthropic dollar the same. I was appalled to find the Slate 60 citation that winemaker Robert G. Mondavi had dropped $20 million on the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in his hometown of Napa, Calif., only a click away from the news that Ron Burkle, Ted Fortsmann, and John Walton gave $30 million to the Children's Scholarship Fund for low-income children. This overemphasis on raw dollars implies some sort of equivalence between these acts of generosity, when we know the Mondavi gift shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as the one from Burkle et al. One gift advances the giver's personal interests, the other addresses a pressing social need. "

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    Aurora Alert for northern US and Canada. "Residents of Canada and the northern United States should be on the alert for aurora borealis during the night of March 5 and morning of March 6. The best time to view aurorae is usually around local midnight. Tonight's new moon will make even faint activity easy to see. Early on March 5, 2000, the interplanetary magnetic field measured by NASA's ACE spacecraft developed a significant southward-directed component. This condition often means that solar wind plasma can penetrate Earth's magnetosphere and trigger aurorae. ...If this high level of activity continues, auroral displays could be visible as far south as the Great Lakes states and in New England."

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    Sunday, March 5, 2000

    Where's George? Interesting idea, not sure if it will work, but I tried it. You go to this site, enter the serial number of one or more bills of any denomination in your pocket, and write the URL of the site on the bill. If anyone who subsequently receives the bill notices the URL, logs on and enters their location, you're notified by email and can track the meanderings of the currency. They report that they're tracking over $2,000,000 in currency entered by over 175,000 registrants.

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    Doubleclick's retreat from plans to tie personal data to now-anonymous web cookies is A Turning Point for E-Privacy, says Wired.

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    Get rid of that babyfat by age two or else:
    "Children as young as ages 2 to 5 can experience elevated blood
    pressure due to obesity, study results suggest. The elevated pressure may be a harbinger of obesity-related
    health problems later in life, such as heart disease..."

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    Adult victims of domestic violence may suffer from a version of "shaken baby syndrome", according to the discussion in a case report from British emergency medicine physicians. Rapid recognition is key in this potentially deadly and recurrent manifestation of abuse.

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    Friends of the late blues singer Screamin' Jay Hawkins are searching for the 57 children he's pretty sure he fathered but couldn't keep track of.

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    England ugly and grey, say tourist guides. I'm going, nontheless.

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    ebpd - The ebay password daemon by Richard Fromm: "This script sniffs traffic on the network watching for ebay userids and passwords. This is only possible because (as of this writing), ebay does not encrypt passwords -- they are sent in the clear. It is hoped that the writing and dissemination of this program causes this situation to change. (Repeated attempts at resolution of the situation through other means, prior to the posting of this script, failed.). This isn't rocket science. I don't pretend to have discovered anything fundamental or new here. It's a simple little script that countless
    other people could have written. The pitfalls of sending passwords in the clear have been recognized for many years. The only surprising
    thing is that too many people still don't take security seriously and continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over again."
    [via Phil Agre]

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    Report on the Privacy Policies and Practices of Health Web Sites from the Health Privacy Project at Georgetown University: "Although health Web sites now provide a wide range of clinical and diagnostic information; opportunities to purchase products and services; interactions among consumers, patients, and health care professionals; and the capability to build a personalized health record, they have not matured enough to guarantee the quality of the information, protect consumers from product fraud or inappropriate prescribing, or guarantee the privacy of individuals' information. This last point is the subject of this report. Health care Web sites have access to an unprecedented amount of personal information about consumers. What are their policies about the privacy of that information? How easily can consumers find and understand them? Do they afford sufficient protection? And do the actual practices of the health sites reflect their stated policies?" [via Phil Agre]

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