[Follow Me!]


"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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Sunday, December 31, 2000

A very happy new year to all of my readers and all those close to you.

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Hey, this eGroups thing is great. Participate in a reader survey, if you please, by following this link: When I read Follow Me Here, I prefer:

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Jorn Barger's provocative post on his Robot Wisdom weblog -- he headlined a link to an article claiming that assassinating unarmed Palestinian freedom fighters is official Israeli government policy "Is Judaism simply a religion of lawless racists?" -- has been roundly condemned in a discussion forum he set up for responses. The consensus seems to be that Barger had blurred the distinctions between Zionism and Judaism, between Israel and Jews, and was doing the kind of generalizing and stereotyping we associate with bigotry. By and large, the responses were civil despite the posters' perception that Barger had been way out of line, and by and large they have commented on their surprise at how uncharacteristic they considered this of Barger, as well-respected and widely-read as his weblog is. But Barger has pushed the issue further by asking, "Are Jews incapable of polite discourse?"

In separate incidents today, the son of rabid anti-Arab Jewish leader Meir Kahane -- himself assassinated a decade ago -- and his wife were ambushed and killed in the West Bank by Palestininan gunmen; and a Fatah official was shot dead leaving his West Bank home in what Palestinian officials described as an assassination. Israel claimed he had been killed in firefight between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli security forces. Draw your own conclusions about the continuing cycle of violence and murder.

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Allergies to MSG May Not Exist. Although IMHO the study's methodology is flawed, it claims to show that people don't react negatively to MSG as they believe they do.

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Bush Appoints Leader of Health And Human Services. Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is pro-life, in favor of school vouchers and spearheaded the welfare-to-work reform movement. But he has no significant experience in the health arena and had made no secret of his desire to be given the Dept. of Transportation. I'm excited at the prospect that at least people may end up with better arrangements for their rides to doctors' appointments! (unless they're going to a women's health clinic...)

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Rare Baby Elephant Delights Seattle. "The
answers to the three
most commonly asked
questions at the Woodland
Park Zoo in Seattle these
days are: one, 235 pounds;
two, 22 months (the longest
pregnancy of any mammal in
the world); three, natural
insemination, after her
8,800-pound mother was
transported 2,000 miles for a
tryst in Missouri." New York Times

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He's a nurtural Calculational prodigies use different brain regions than we do when performing the same mental activities.

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I've just set up a Follow Me Here mailing list through eGoups. Feel free to join. FmH posts generate a trickle of feedback and reactions from readers, sent to me 1:1 as direct email.
Why not generate some discussion with other similarly gregarious FmH readers through this mailing list instead? This will be an unmoderated list and, in fact, I expect I will
participate more as a lurker than a poster, as I'm letting you get to know how I think with my weblog
postings in the first place. When you post to the mailing list, it's set up so that the subject line of your contributions begin with
"[FmH]" so that recipients of the mailings can readily identify them in our email inboxes. If you
want to talk to me "offlist" about this list, you can email me directly about it.

Addresses:
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  •   •  

    Dan Hartung's weblogger's manifestito: "I don't feel the need to turn my personal weblog into a
    community, any more than I do to turn it into a diary. As it is,
    though, what I get out of it is clearly informed by the larger
    coummunity of webloggers. I steal links from them, to be sure, but
    I also respond to their comments, learn from them, and get ideas
    from this interplay. I can safely say that a year plus of doing this
    has excited me intellectually as nearly no other undertaking has
    done."

      •  

    Better Living Through Snoezelan. More about the background and details of the sensory stimulation treatment of dementia (Alzheimer's Disease etc.) -- to an account of which I blinked earlier. New York Press

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    Sham summit promised little for the
    Palestinians
    . "The result? The world believes
    that Mr Arafat turned down what he had always demanded, and the
    cancellation of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit was entirely his fault.



    Having claimed in the past that Israel was offering 92 per cent of the
    West Bank – and then 94 per cent – to the Palestinians, the Americans
    insisted that the latest Clinton proposals would give Mr Arafat 95 per
    cent. But a careful reading of the Clinton document proves this to be
    untrue. With the Dead Sea waters that would become Palestinian
    'territory', with the Israeli army 'buffer zones', with the 'rental' of the
    Kiryat Arba settlement land, with the exclusion of the West Bank land
    illegally annexed into Jerusalem by the Israelis (including the massive
    Male Adumim settlement), Arafat was still likely to get no more than 64
    or 65 per cent." The Independent

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    UCSF study of HIV patients identifies interleukin-7 as a key factor in controlling T-cells. "Researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology have learned how T-cell levels may be maintained in
    people. The study has important implications for developing treatment strategies for patients who have diseases like HIV and
    cancer where the immune system is destroyed and for patients whose immune system is suppressed by chemotherapy or who
    are undergoing a bone marrow transplant, the researchers said." EurekAlert

      •  

    Doctor faces trial over rapid detox method. I've been aware of the antics of this physician, himself long recovered from drug dependency, who does "rapid opiate detoxification" as an outpatient office procedure without hospitalizing his patients ... and losing at least seven of them within days of his procedure over the last four years. Part of the process involves putting them under general anaesthesia, which IMHO is just crazy to do outside a hospital setting. Both his grandstanding on TV talk shows and the operation of his procedure through a for-profit company reinforce the impression of the cowboy unprofessionalism and possibly frank irresponsibility of his activities. No surprise that state regulators are going after him. AP

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    Saturday, December 30, 2000

    "It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth
    can stand by itself."

    --Thomas Jefferson



    While I was away, many weblogs linked to Michael Kinsley's essay in Slate on whether reasonable people can differ; I just noticed the pointers and got around to it. The issues he raises are must reading for progressives, who are inherently in danger of respecting the unthinking positions of those who don't think as they do, because of their embrace of relativism and respect for difference. At the cost of a great deal of "epistemological vertigo," Kinsley concludes he doesn't need to trouble himself about people who differ with the reasonable position and, quite rightly to my thinking, raises a call to arms against "this great national reconciliation everyone is so gung-ho about."


    Some of the pundits are glib about how soon the nation will forget the vote-counting debacle, but Dubya will remain the "illegitimate son" for me, "not my President-elect", "not my President". It's been that way before; Ronald Reagan was never my President, nor his toady, George Bush. There's no "epistemological vertigo" in not thinking like the majority for me, especially since -- as you can glean from reading FmH -- I have always paid alot of attention to the myriad of ways in which we are in the modern world, but particularly in the US, victims of "cultural entrancement". As I did in the '80's, I think I'm going to be walking around in an America that feels alien and alienating for at least the next four years.



    The ire and frustration are wearying, and thence the temptation to yield to reconciliation and ecumenism. But right-thinking people would be sold down the river by that, it seems to me. So onward to hoe the tougher row.

    "I
    might be one of these misguided people. I don't think so—but
    then I wouldn't, would I? And it's also a puzzle what one
    should do about this possibility. On the one hand, it's
    important to keep the danger in mind, to take the competition
    out for a mental road test before you buy an opinion on some
    issue, and to trade it in at any time if you're persuaded it's a
    lemon. On the other hand, deriving your specific opinions
    from a framework of beliefs is a good thing, not a bad one,
    and excessive self-doubt can be paralyzing and even
    dishonest in its own way. If you can't decide, maybe you
    should try harder. And if you're sure you're right … well,
    you're sure you're right, aren't you?" -- Kinsley

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    [via Medley]: If you've recently upgraded to a new cellphone, have you wondered what to do with the old one? Call to Protect is an agency that will have it refurbished, programmed with emergency numbers and given to a victim of domestic violence. Visit their site for information on the program.


    Five Signs of Domestic Violence:

    Does his or her
    partner:

  • Embarass or
    ridicule him/her
    in public?

  • Use intimidation
    or threats to get
    him/her to go
    along with
    something?

  • Physically
    abuse him/her
    with pushing,
    shoving or
    hitting?

  • Attempt to
    control or
    restrict his/her
    activities?

    Z
  • Blame him/her
    for the way
    he/she feels or
    acts?

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    Dirty Pig Slaughter Report Hits Gourmets. "Another food scandal hit France Friday, and with it the
    announcement that one of the country's top restaurants was shunning meat for good."

      •  

    Classical Music Joins Fight Against Crime. City officials in Vallejo, California hope that playing classical music at a downtown transit station will keep the criminal element at bay...or at least away.

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    Friday, December 29, 2000

    The New York Times weblogging article (see below) stimulated some lively jabbering among webloggers at Metafilter.

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    'Historically speaking, the "ancient" rituals of the
    Goddess movement are almost certainly bunk.'
    In all probability, not a single element of the Wiccan story is
    true. The evidence is overwhelming that Wicca is a distinctly
    new religion, a 1950s concoction influenced by such things as
    Masonic ritual and a late-nineteenth-century fascination with
    the esoteric and the occult, and that various assumptions
    informing the Wiccan view of history are deeply flawed.
    Furthermore, scholars generally agree that there is no
    indication, either archaeological or in the written record, that
    any ancient people ever worshipped a single, archetypal
    goddess -- a conclusion that strikes at the heart of Wiccan
    belief. The Atlantic


      •  

    !!
    Cribbed from Jimwich: this spectacular photograph of an F/A-18C Hornet at the exact moment it breaks the sound barrier, passing through a gorgeous momentary egg-shaped cloud it creates in the process. A commentary on the photo explains how it was taken and what's happening.

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    The Dubious Data 2000 Awards, "the ten silliest, most misleading stories of the New Millennium" from the Statistical Assessment Service. "...at least, we think it’s ten, and we’re pretty sure that the Millennium has already started..."

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    One of the giants, W. V. Quine, Philosopher Who Analyzed Language and Reality, Dies at 92 New York Times

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    Frequently Asked Questions about the "tetanizing beam weapon", a nonlethal anti-personnel weapon. I collect rare weapons.
    May I buy one of yours?


    There are no finished units available now and will not be for about two years. Then you should ask one of our
    licensed manufacturers rather than us, as we are exclusively a research corporation. Even then you could not
    purchase a functional weapon because they will be sold only to law enforcement and military organizations.
    However, in a few years you should be able to buy a design model.
    [via Red Rock Eaters' News Service]

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    A study comparing three decades of Queen Elizabeth's annual Christmas speeches highlights the decline and fall of the Queen's cut-glass accent, as The Times of London puts it. Her accent has "drifted down market towards the speech patterns of her subjects," and marks the general blurring of British social class accent distinctions.

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    Choice of Rumsfeld Creates Solid Team for Missile Shield. Dubya's choice for Pentagon chief shows me two things -- that he's fully committed to that dangerous and costly boondoggle, and that he continues to look to his father's generation to compensate for his apparent self-preceived inadequacies as a leader. New York Times

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    Verizon to Face Tumor Suits? "... (A) U.S. lawyer who recently helped win $4.2 billion in damages
    from the tobacco industry was planning to launch 10 claims against handset manufacturers, mobile
    network operators and fixed-line phone companies" on behalf of brain tumor victims. Wired

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    A Millen(n)ial Mix-up. As New Year's Eve approaches, Wired ponders not only the pervasive confusion about when the new millennium begins but the widespread misspelling of the word millennium. Take for example, the Hilton Millenium in New York City, a spokesperson for which says the use of the single 'n' was a deliberate attempt at visibility. Uh-huh. (The writer, searching the Wired News archives, found 11 articles where millennium was spelled at least once with a single 'n' in his own publication.) Some versions of the Microsoft Word spellchecker accept both versions. A spokesperson for the company denied that this was a bug, making motions instead in the direction of "captur(ing) cultural nuances in word use."

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    Free Links, Only $50 Apiece. Some news sources have begun to charge a fee for others to link to their online articles; another fundamental challenge to the premise of the hyperlinked Web. Moreover, the online service these sites use to limit unapproved linking -- iCopyright.com -- also attempts to control what can be said about the online content in your link to it. And not only can you not say anything derogatory about the author or the publication in which the linked-to article appears; you cannot say anything derogatory about "any person...depicted in the content." Plain and simple, if I linked for example to an Albuquerque Journal article about Dubya, I would have to fork over $50 for the privilege of remaining respectful about the illegitimate son -- uh, I mean the President-elect. It appears that iCopyright.com started out to handle collecting licensing fres for reprinting and photocopying in return for a portion of these licensing revenues, but decided to tack on the HTML linkage fee arrangement as well. An Albuquerque Journal spokesperson denied being aware of the linkage fee arrangement and did not know if the newspaper would be enforcing it or if people who linked to their content without paying a fee would be in legal trouble. iCopyright.com, which says it represents more than 70 publishers and more than 300 publications, referred inquiries to its attorneys.



    Legal commentators suggest that attempts to charge for linkage to online content would not stand up in court, not to mention the free speech restrictions of this particular arrangement. Although obtaining permission, and even paying a licensing fee, for the reuse of printed material (through photocopying) is an established precedent, it has been difficult to enforce restrictions on, say, academic redistribution of articles for a long time. I know from personal experience that that has been the mainstay of, for example, medical education for decades. In the hyperlinked world, let's hope it's even more difficult to enforce. And in this era of dot-com startups going belly-up with regularity, perhaps iCopyright.com will turn out to be an ill-planned scheme that efficiently founders even before putting someone through an expensive and time-consuming legal test case. Information just wants to be freer and freer, to paraphrase someone... Wired

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    New York Times review by Stephen Holden:'Traffic': Teeming Mural of a War Fought and Lost. 'Hollywood has saved the best for last. On the last weekend
    of the year comes what may turn out to be the most acclaimed
    movie of the year: Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, an
    updated, Americanized version of a 1989 British television
    mini-series, Traffik. Soderbergh's film, which has already
    been named best picture of the year by the New York Film
    Critics Circle, tackles the subject of America's losing war
    on drugs through multiple story lines and a multitude of
    characters...



    ... "several,
    interwoven thrillers, each with its own tense rhythm and
    explosive payoff. What these stories add up to is something
    grander and deeper than a virtuosic adventure film." '

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    Thursday, December 28, 2000

    NY Gov. Makes Unusual Remark on Bush's Drunk Driving. When his nominee for Motor Vehicle Commissioner admitted that he had DWI and speeding convictions on his record, Gov. Pataki replied, "I guess that qualifies you to be President of the United States then. "

      •  

    Clues to why every snowflake is different are revealed in a California "snowstorm in a can." New Scientist And, while we're on the snowy subject, consider Frosty the sexist snowman: the snowman figure reinforces gender stereotypes and male domination of life outside the home, says a British art historian who studies popular imagery. White, invariably male, rotund, with a jolly countenance, he is said to represent carnal enjoyment and lusty fulfillment. National Post

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    Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good. A long Atlantic exposé on the flavor industry and its manipulation of our palate for profit.
    People usually buy a food
    item the first time because of its packaging or appearance.
    Taste usually determines whether they buy it again. About 90
    percent of the money that Americans now spend on food goes
    to buy processed food. The canning, freezing, and dehydrating
    techniques used in processing destroy most of food's flavor --
    and so a vast industry has arisen in the United States to make
    processed food palatable. Without this flavor industry today's
    fast food would not exist...



    The flavor industry is highly secretive. Its leading companies
    will not divulge the precise formulas of flavor compounds or the
    identities of clients. The secrecy is deemed essential for
    protecting the reputations of beloved brands. The fast-food
    chains, understandably, would like the public to believe that the
    flavors of the food they sell somehow originate in their
    restaurant kitchens, not in distant factories run by other firms. A
    McDonald's french fry is one of countless foods whose flavor
    is just a component in a complex manufacturing process. The
    look and the taste of what we eat now are frequently deceiving
    -- by design.


      •  

    Jeanette Winterson reads porn: "Feminism seems to have had no effect on pornography. There is
    much more of it than in the 60s and 70s, and it has become
    both mainstream and acceptable. I travel a lot, here and abroad,
    and at airports and railway stations, I have noticed the old top
    shelf is often double the size and halfway down. What does this
    signify? That more men buy porn than ever before? That men are
    shorter than they used to be? That women want it in their face?
    That pornography is just a lifestyle magazine?



    Reading the message is not easy. In the white corner are the
    likes of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon who have
    argued, with varying degrees of success, in the American courts
    and media, that all pornography is violence against women. In
    the red corner are the good-time guys, such as Hugh Hefner,
    Paul Raymond, Richard Desmond, who claim it's just business
    as usual and the girls enjoy it. Desmond has recently bought
    the Express, further blurring the line between business and
    exploitation. When a porn baron takes over a national
    newspaper, how do we read the signs?" Books Unlimited


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    This looks a nice place to stop... "Motels are places for assignations and
    illicit sex, for planning crimes and dividing
    the spoils, for insecure people in transit or
    desperate people on the run. There's
    always the chance that you'll wake up
    alone, robbed after a night of passion, or
    that the place will be surrounded by cops..." Reflections on the place of the motel in the American psyche, and particularly Hollywood's, on the 75th anniversary of their advent on the scene. The Observer

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    Phone flirts. New sociobiological research conducted over four months in a Liverpool pub suggests that men flaunt their cell phones in public as if they were "lekking" -- a term I just learned from the article, from animal behavior terminology, referring to competitive mating displays. The degree to which the subjects showed off their toys was proportional to the density of the male audience. From other aspects of their research, the investigatorsconclude that women would be more attracted to the flaunters, but this last seemed an inferential stretch to me. New Scientist And Lionel Tiger explores the sociobiological significance of the visit to the nail salons that seem so ubiquitous. New York Press

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    "The Census Bureau releases congressional reapportionment figures from the 2000 census, and the
    results are good news for Republicans .... Add these numbers up, and they mean that if Bush wins the same states in 2004 that he carried in
    2000, he will win by 18 electoral votes, 278-260, instead of four." WSJ Opinion Journal

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    Bigfoot's Buttocks: I'm among those who wonder if there's a serious chance an unknown, large hairy hominid roams the most remote wilderness areas of the far west and northwest. Most accounts are scoffed at as hoaxes or misidentifications. It's a pity that serious inquiry into the possibliities of unknown species is thwarted not so much by innocent credulity as by the deliberate play upon others' credulity of sensation-seeking hoaxers. There have been numerous findings and castings of supposed footprints, but now a Bigfoot-hunting party has found the imprints of forearm, hip, thigh and heel in a muddy bank where the night before they had placed some tempting apples. The impression appears to be from a hairy hominid at least 2.5 meters (8 ft.) tall, according to an involved anthropologist. The team feels this is the strongest hint that Bigfoot exists. New Scientist

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    Invasion of the 'Blog': A Parallel Web of Personal Journals. The New York Times takes a snapshot of the phenomenon. Welcome to new readers pointed here from the article, which mentions FmH ("wide-ranging articles and links compiled by a psychiatrist"). [Do I now qualify as a 'partner' of the Times, able to post links to its registration-free URL partners.nytimes.com??] I quibble with one of the piece's themes, which is that any fool can now produce a weblog without knowing any HTML, given how easy it's been made by Blogger etc. I beg to differ; I think any fool still needs to know some HTML to pretty up their blog enough to keep it readable.

      •  

    Outlook Not So Good: "... it was a curious
    convergence of events that saw the National
    Intelligence Council issue its soothsaying report
    on America's role in the New World Order, Global
    Trends 2015
    , just as a president-elect who has
    never traveled across the Atlantic set about
    appointing a cabinet disinclined to cast the
    world's only superpower as a leader of new global
    consensus...



    At such moments, you can sense the growing
    desperation in the precincts of high spookery:
    There just has to be an enemy out there,
    mastering the conventions of 'nonmateriel'
    combat subterfuge. Then again, this particular
    judgment call may well prove inadvertently
    prophetic, after all: There probably is every
    reason in the world to think that a Bush-led
    America, however extravagantly armed, runs a
    much greater risk of being simply outwitted." Feed


      •  

    Wednesday, December 27, 2000

    The boy with the (really) magnetic personality Ananova [via Abby]

      •  

    "People say that birth and death are lonely events as you are the only one experiencing them at that
    very moment. But music can be a birth or death companion. We asked a range of contributors which
    music they would choose at either end of life."
    British Medical Journal [via Abby]

      •  

    Rebecca Blood sent me this for my continuing Annals of the Age of Depravity series (thanks?). It also has a flavor (no pun intended) of Life Imitating Art... if you think, for instance, Thomas Harris is "art".

      •  

    Sunday, December 24, 2000

    I've always liked Dan Hartung's Lake Effect from Chicago. Having just driven into Chicago for Christmas with family, I now understand the reference. Travelling west across Michigan Thursday night (after being treated to an awe-inspiring display of the aurora borealis in the crisp clear dark sky of the longest night of the year) we suddenly ran into whiteout conditions and had to pull off the highway. Rounding the bottom of Lake Michigan into Chicago, there had not even been any fresh snow.

    By the way, I'm borrowing someone's computer for a moment to post this, because my laptop's hard disk has crashed since yesterday -- probably unrelated to the lake effect. So, contrary to expectations, I don't think I'll be posting anything more until I'm back on my home machine in Boston next Wednesday night or Thursday. A very happy holiday to you all, and may the warmth and joy of the season be yours for all the year to come.


      •  

    Wednesday, December 20, 2000

    R. I. P. Kirsty MacColl, a musician's musician who never topped the charts but never failed to bring a smile to my face. Rolling Stone

      •  

    Tuesday, December 19, 2000

    The Oops List "The air force has never officially admitted that nuclear weapons were involved in this accident" -- a phrase that can be said over and over again, as the author of this article has assembled evidence from a variety of sources that there have been many more accidents involving our nuclear weapons than the U.S. has let on. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

      •  

    Call for men to get HRT. "Middle-aged men should receive hormone
    therapy to treat the andropause - the male
    equivalent of the menopause, say doctors.

    The Andropause Society has been formed to
    raise awareness of the problem amongst
    doctors and their patients.

    But there is debate amongst the medical
    profession over whether the male menopause
    actually exists." BBC

      •  

    New proof of Timothy McVeigh's innocence and an explanation for his silence to date.crazyveigh? "The truth must be told! I'm sorry, Timothy, but I can't be quiet anymore! The reason Timothy has been quiet for so long is because the day he was arrested, A microscopic chip was inserted into the lower part of his left
    ear! This chip not only tortured him by playing death metal and christmas classics but it made him unable to speak. Then thin slices of razor blades were inserted between his liver and urapoopilikeno causing sharp pains to
    travel through his hands every time he was near paper!
    Timothy is really the son of God! Jesus was actually his twin brother caused by an accident that resulted from the virgin mary doing jumping jacks in gym class when she was in 7th grade. She was pregnant since she
    was born and The gym class injury tore her right ovary in half resulting in the dividing of Gods' yet to be born son." There's alot more to chew on here...

      •  

    Why the Fuss Over Condi Rice? by Anne Applebaum This issue has nagged at me too. The American self-congratulation about the appointment of minorities and women does not so much speak to how far we've come against racism and sexism as it does to how far we have to go. "Why is it, in fact, that the appointment of women and
    minorities to high office is such a big deal in the United
    States? It isn't necessarily such a big deal everywhere else." And, lest this appears to be about Dubya alone, recall how big a deal a Jewish vice-presidential candidate was. Pitiful. Slate



    Here's some background on Powell and Rice, also from Slate:

    Last weekend President-elect George W. Bush appointed
    Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state
    and national security adviser, respectively. To read an
    "Assessment" of Powell, click here; for one of Rice, click
    here. In 1997 Slate's Franklin Foer argued that the
    "affirmative action" that produced Gen. Powell was a
    laudable type of reverse discrimination. (Click here to read
    the article.) Last summer Slate's Jacob Weisberg praised
    Powell for "calling the GOP's bluff" at their "minority
    extravaganza" of a convention. (To read the article, click
    here. Earlier this year Slate's David Greenberg argued that
    the GOP's treatment of blacks has declined since the days
    of Lincoln. (Click here to read the article.)


    Meanwhile, the mainstream press, including Time magazine in declaring Dubya its "Person of the Year", is really doing an awful lot of damning with faint praise. Or is it praising with faint damns as they did throughout the campaign coverage? Slate



    And, by the way, did you notice how much "the lady (and the illegitimate son's other appointments as well) doth protest too much"? They all take pains to tell us how Bush, far from being an intellectual lightweight overshadowed by his appointments and unprepared for the rigors of the Presidency, will really be leading us. Ah, yes, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." Can you say "figurehead?" I predict the next administration will be fertile ground for the resurrection of conspiracy theory. Palace intrigues will make for some entertaining reading...



    By the way, has anyone resurrected this old chestnut which has been on my mind recently with Dubya's election? For almost two centuries, the U.S. President elected every twentieth year has died in office. (Ronald Reagan broke the mold only if you don't believe he was brain-dead before the end of his second term. As a young psychiatric resident, I was interviewed by the press during his second election campaign in 1983-84 about my concerns that he was already showing signs of the Alzheimer's dementia with which he would not be diagnosed officially until after he left office years later.) JFK, elected in 1960; FDR in 1940; Harding (1920), the other three assassination victims McKinley (1900), Garfield (1880), and Lincoln (1860); and William H. Harrison (1840). Here's an almanac listing of the Presidents' terms if you want to verify this. Should we prepare for a President Cheney? If he doesn't succomb to his cardiac disease before the illegitimate son's projected demise?



    But enough morbidity and dread, and enough of U.S. Presidential politics for awhile already...

      •  

    404 Research Lab: "404 is your friend!" The 404 of the week; a tutorial on making 404 pages for webmasters; random 404's, and more. If you don't know what a '404' is... then you haven't been websurfing, really.

      •  

    The destruction of Lhasa. Much of the old center of the city, which is the capital of Tibet, is roped off. Although unconfirmed, it appears that it is being readied for demolition. The Chinese seem to have stepped up their war on Tibetan separatism to include its cultural heritage. The Tibet Heritage Fund, an NGO dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan architecture, was expelled from Lhasa this summer. The Fund had collaborated in the restoration of 76 buildings as old as the seventh century AD, using traditional materials and keeping endangered skills alive by utilizing local artisans. All of this seems a response to the humiliation China suffered with the January 2000 defection of the Karmapa Lama to join the Dalai Lama 's expatriate Tibetan community in Dharmsala, India. Up until that time, China had been using preservation and restoration of Tibetan monasteries (destroyed during the Cultural Revolution) as an apparent means of ingratiating itself with pro-Tibet foreign opinion.


    The strategy had been to make Tibet a touristic showcase while turning Tibetans
    themselves into a deracinated minority—similar to what the US, for example, did
    to Hawaii. But all signs indicate Beijing’s policy, oppressive at the best of times. is
    moving towards forced assimilation.


    I'd never run across The Art Newspaper, the visual arts publication covering this issue, either online or in print before.

      •  

    Whitbread celebs oust 'real critics'. The Booker Prize and the Whitbread Prize are apparently in a war of words over the latter's growing inclusion of celebrities, as oppposed to literary types, on its judges' panel. Maximizing the TV audience for the awards ceremonies, which are broadcast live, seems to be a preoccupation. The Whitbread emphasizes that it "is not a literary prize in any
    way. It is about good books that are
    enjoyed. These judges provide a very
    useful ordinary perspective". The Guardian

      •  

    Just when you thought it was safe to leave your computer desk: The Museum of Television and Radio will make some
    of the greatest programs of all time available on the
    Internet starting next year.

    The collection features almost every radio and TV
    broadcast ever aired. "We're going to begin with a couple hundred, and then we're going to add on a weekly basis. Over
    time, we eventually hope to have a clip for every
    program in our collection," said a spokesperson. NY Post

      •  

    Cleaned-Up CDs Don't Clean Up. Music manufacturers have been producing sanitized versions of recordings with "explicit content" (as it's called in this post-Tipper-Gore cultural univese) for sale in the likes of Walmart and K-Mart, who said they wouldn't put CDs with advisory labels on their shelves, mindful as they were of their Mom-'n'-apple pie heartland image. But, thankfully, consumers don't seem to be flocking to buy the cleaned-up models. Hey, Walmart, get the message: the fans are looking for the ones with the warning labels! LA Times

      •  

    A special section on vitriol in the art world! First, Getting a bum rap in court of public opinion: Often, there's no rhyme, reason why hip-hop musicians are suspect, writes an African American music critic in the Boston Herald. Recent events suggest to some -- populist black activist leader Al Sharpton and former O.J. Simpson attorney [will he ever live it down? does he want to?] Johnnie Cochran among them -- that there is a 'hip-hop profiling' subgenre of 'racial profiling' abroad in the land, and that
    we should expect people, especially police, to
    distinguish between fantasy and reality. Just because someone poses
    with guns on an album cover, brags about taking drugs, puffs up what
    they would do to their enemies if given the chance, or mercilessly
    harangues ``soft'' rappers as fake does not make them a criminal.

    No one, for example, ever strip-searched country singer Johnny Cash
    just because he sang, ``I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.''
    Cash has, in fact, sung so many songs about offing people that a
    recent compilation of his music includes an entire CD of murder songs.

    We've also seen a huge public outpouring of sympathy for Robert
    Downey Jr. - a gifted but drug-addled white actor. Yet no one rushed
    to the defense of Ol' Dirty Bastard - a gifted but drug-addled black
    rapper with essentially the same problems - when he was rearrested
    after fleeing court-ordered rehabilitation.

      •  

    Next, the New York Press's Godfrey Cheshire rakes New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane over the coals for his review of the attention-getting film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. "As a piece of prose, Lane’s polite
    rave for Ang Lee’s film is competent enough, if typically gaseous and cute. But as film criticism it’s
    something far less innocuous, a riot of errors and absurdities that would make the shoddiest
    webzine blush. What’s at issue here has nothing to do with 'opinion,' or whether one likes or dislikes Crouching
    Tiger
    . It has to do with the critic’s basic grasp of his subject..." Cheshire apparently had alot of fun writing this one. Our rootless, decontextualized, global-market entertainment industry provides fertile ground for this kind of thing, with the multiple layers of cultural dissonance arising when a reviewer trying to import London sensibilities to the New Yorker writes about a hybrid of an art film and the Chinese martial arts genre by an expatriate Asian director working in the American film industry but eschewing Hollywood...

      •  

    Turning from music and film to the literary world -- "McGill failed me -- I was mad as hell"...mad enough to kill, apparently. Nega Mezlekia is a prize-winning author of the memoir Notes from the Hyena's Belly: memories of my Ethiopian Boyhood.Affter a highly visible ugly falling-out with the Vancouver writer who had worked as an editor for him and claimed that she had helped write most of the book, McGill University officials last week approached her for a copy of I Can't Recognize Myself Anymore, the partially completed subsequent volume of his memoirs on which she had worked as well until they parted company. The University is particularly interested in passages describing a carefully researched plan to hunt down and kill "six people in the department and all higher university officials I could find" in the wake of a bitter academic dispute with a thesis advisor he accused of trying to take credit for his PhD thesis on the behavior of reinforced concrete. Mr Mezlekia apparently went so far as to cross the border to Detroit to purchase the firepower he needed, at which point he describes a spiritual conversion which led him to abandon the plan and return to Montreal to finish his thesis in peace.

    The inventory of hardware that I needed for the task consisted of two Colt-45 hand guns
    with ten-round magazines; a Heckler and Koch SP89 machine gun with a 30-shot magazine,
    four hand grenades, a bulletproof vest, and a half a dozen pair of handcuffs. As
    well, I had to purchase high mass bullets with reliable four or five-petal expansion ribs for
    maximum stopping power, and a few additional attachments for the Heckler and Koch SP89.
    No thought frustrated the imagination more than the thought that someone you had left for
    dead recovered, while you served time for your crime, or worse. That had happened to Dr.
    Valeri Fabrikant [an academic who killed four people at Concordia University in 1992], and I
    would be stupid to repeat his mistake. The National Post

      •  

    Monday, December 18, 2000

    Would it help if theory informed artistic creation? The stifling effect of the new academy: The art of the late 20th century has been long on pseudo-profundity and short on popular audience. But no matter, it still sells.

    For a number of reasons, art had given up
    the ghost under the weight of theory. The
    breakdown of distinctions between high
    and popular culture led to all manner of
    cultural produce and effluent being sifted
    and read as text. We were top heavy with
    theorists (not to mention curators), who
    needed scant visual stimulus to write the
    work into the flat ergo of post-modernist
    irony: in short, what we had was
    nominalism. Artworks merely had to ring
    the appropriate bell to set the Pavlovian
    critics slavering for interpretation...

    NB: some advice on deconstructing
    current critical terminology: simply
    replace "not" for "post", so that
    post-modern, post-conceptual and
    post-ironic become not new, not clever
    and not funny. The Guardian

      •  

    Finally, art buyers are not spared. Art Auction World Under a Shadow. A contemptuous book apparently written under a pseudonym by a renowned Italian art dealer says that the art and antiques world is rife with fakery and is dominated by rip-off artists having their way with gullible collectors. The author is able to explain methods of fakery in a manner which experts say is accurate and shows the sophisticated familiarity he claims. Continental art dealers, in a state of shock, have either offered unconvincing rebuttals or refused to comment. The Times of London

      •  

    Morten Kringelbach, a Danish neuroscientist researching emotions with functional MRI scanning (a topic of which I have tried to keep abreast here in FmH) at Oxford, keeps a bilingual website in Danish and English including a weblog and a compilation of his own science writing. He's just mentioned FmH in an article about weblogging, "Journey to the Center of the Web," in today's
    Information, which he describes as "a highly
    respected national newspaper founded in 1945 and read today primarily by
    Danish academics and decisionmakers. Information is probably best
    described as a cross between Le Monde and Liberation. " Unfortunately, the article is in Danish. Is anyone aware of a web-based translation site, a la Babelfish, that handles Danish?

      •  

    Life beyond 2001: "Now 83, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author of the visionary
    2001: A Space Odyssey, has a new forecast for the
    coming century: holiday domes on the Moon; the
    end of agriculture - and swimmers bred with webbed
    feet and built-in snorkels. He speaks to Gyles
    Brandreth." The Telegraph

      •  

    Soldier AWOL in Teenage Girl's Closet. "A 15-year-old girl hid an AWOL
    soldier in her closet for 3 weeks in an Internet-born romance kept secret from her mother
    with whom she lived, the Columbus Dispatch reported."

      •  

    Call it
    This Year's Models: "Rockers Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett
    are teaming with scribe-producer John Mankiewicz (Level Nine
    ) to
    create an hourlong WB dramedy about four fashionistas turned rock stars.

    Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television will produce the
    skein, which revolves around a band of former models who, in their new
    careers as musicians, find themselves getting into a variety of sticky
    situations. Costello will write an original song for each episode." Variety



      •  

    Sunday, December 17, 2000

    The future, according to Palm Computing Geek.com

      •  

    The right to bear arms?? Soldiers arrested for robbing McDonalds commando-style

      •  

    "A Parkman (Maine) man pleaded guilty Wednesday in
    Piscataquis County Superior Court to trying to kill his son because
    of the man’s sexual preference for animals
    ." Bangor News

      •  

    Bush spells trouble for economy, tech policy . 'Bush's fiscal proposals would abandon responsibility and exacerbate class
    divisions. His technology policy -- which amounts to asking ``How high?''
    when some tech executives say ``Jump'' -- ignores a host of deeply
    troubling issues that will be at the core of the future economy and society.' San Jose Mercury News

      •  

    Saturday, December 16, 2000

    Psychedelic Room Helps Dementia Patients. "...Psychologists are reaching back to the psychedelic and 'mind expanding'
    1960s and updating research on sensory deprivation with the hope of offering relief to
    people suffering from this type of dementia.

    What looks like a modern art exhibit is in fact a room that enhances mental stimulation for
    people with dementia. Colored lights, a giant butterfly, and a tube filled with bubbles are just
    some of the objects that fill the space." brain.com

      •  

    Social and Cultural Aspects of Drinking - Culture Chemistry and Consequences. "Alcohol is a symbolic vehicle
    for identifying, describing, constructing and manipulating cultural
    systems, values, interpersonal relationships, behavioural norms and
    expectations. Choice of beverage is rarely a matter of personal taste." The ethnography of the "shared chemical daydream."

      •  

    We need a Constitutional Right to Vote in Presidential Elections . Vice Dean and Professor of Law at Columbia University Michael Dorf proposes we begin to seek a constitutional amendment. Recall you didn't vote for President, you voted for a slate of electors pledged to vote for the candidate of your choice. If you live in Florida, and likely in many other places as well, you may not have even done that, even if you think you cast a vote. [via Looka!]

      •  

    She'll "Go Down" in History; or: "Yours Was Yum": "The famous British tabloid press has tracked down a London woman whose lewd e-mail exchange with a
    boyfriend was circulated to millions around the world like a virus." Wired Some dismissed it as a grand hoax but then ate their words (no pun intended). The Register. And the admiration quotient is running high.

      •  

    One writer's opinion of The Best Science Books of the Year The Times of London And another's. The Independent

      •  

    Neural basis for self-control found?

      •  

    Study Reveals How Antidepressants Work... in rats, at least: "In a study conducted in rats, regular use of antidepressants
    promoted the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, an area
    of the brain where cells are known to waste away in people
    who are depressed. The hippocampus plays a role in learning,
    memory and mood." It's a well-kept secret, but we've been using medications to treat mood disorders for half a century or more, and we don't know how they work. I'm not sure this study changes that.

      •  

    2 Killed by Violence Counselor on Midtown Street, Police Say. "A domestic violence counselor walked up to his estranged
    girlfriend on a crowded Midtown street yesterday,
    fatally shot the man she was with and then opened fire on
    her, killing her with a point-blank shot to her forehead as
    she lay wounded, the police said." New York Times Addendum: a friend from New York writes me that the shooter walked up to two policemen, announced he would shoot himself and did so before they could act. He is in critical condition.

      •  

    Wonder weed: "The first complete DNA sequence for a plant
    could have more impact than its human
    equivalent... Its genome is tiny - the human genome is thirty
    times larger - but contains the genetic secrets of all flowering
    plants." New Scientist

      •  

    The Real Thing: Democracy as a Contact Sport "Why
    are you using a public library to promote a junk food product?" Common Dreams [via Robot Wisdom]

      •  

    Explorers Determine Source of Amazon high in Peruvian Andes. The origins of the mighty river have been sought for centuries. As explorational feats become fewer and far between, they nonetheless remain exciting...

      •  

    U.S. Approves PET Scans for Wide Range of Cancers. Great news. HCFA's move essentially moves PET scanning from an investigational to a therapeutic tool. By allowing Medicare reimbursement for its use, a new era in medical imaging opens.

      •  

    Panel Says Estrogen a Cancer Agent. "Estrogen, the so-called female
    hormone, should be listed as a known cancer-causing agent, government advisers said on
    Friday."

      •  

    Solar Tantrums Could Last Two More Years; Space Telescopes Feel Pain. "An 11-year cycle of solar tantrums expected to peak during the summer of 2000 has so far
    been weaker than anticipated, but forecasters cautioned that the worst could still be ahead
    -- way ahead.

    Meanwhile, scientists operating space telescopes have been puzzled by unexpected gusts of
    solar radiation. But scientists are seizing the opportunity to use the orbiting observatories'
    science instruments to study the brief, mysterious waves of energy that have buffeted the
    crafts without warning." space.com

      •  

    Can Hubble's Replacement Succeed? "NASA’s Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) is being revamped as
    engineers wrestle with cost and technology issues to keep the $1 billion observatory on track
    for launch before 2010.

    The overhaul includes shrinking the NGST’s primary mirror diameter." space.com

      •  

    Report: Hillary Clinton Agrees to $8 Million Book Deal. More double standard in action. We just got finished raking Newt Gingrich over the coals for something similar, but the Senate, unlike the House, is not bound by the same ethical guidelines, and even if it were, Ms Clinton would not be subject to them until her Jan. 3 arrival on the Senate floor. For Simon & Schuster to make back this investment, the book would have to sell considerably better than, say, the last Harry Potter volume. Smacks of corporate charity to me.

      •  

    Friday, December 15, 2000

    Ten Passed Technologies: the elegance and beauty of technologies gone by. MIT Tech Review

      •  

    Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne. chronic patients??Pooh and his fellow adventurers are rife with unrecognized neurodevelopmental and psychospcial problems. Many could benefit from mental health treatment. Canadian Medical Association Journal

      •  

    Researchers Document Brain Damage Linked to Child Abuse And Neglect. One theory of the host of symptoms that follow an early history of abuse gives primacy to the idea that traumatic, as opposed to nontraumatic, memories are encoded and stored differently. Now, a spate of research shows direct effects on the developing brain of the trauma victim.

      •  

    U. Illinois professor finds correlation between soup and personality

      •  

    Who owns fandom? "Independent Web
    sites devoted to
    pop culture icons
    like "The X-Files"
    and "Star Trek"
    used to flourish on
    the Net. Now
    they're an
    endangered
    species." Salon

      •  

    Thanks to David Brake for pointing me to this: Cancer diary man dies. "In China, a cancer sufferer who became a
    literary sensation after publishing a
    controversial diary of his last months on the
    Internet, has died in a Shanghai hospital.

    The death of Lu Youqing, 37, was reported on
    the same Shanghai-based website which had
    chronicled the last months of his life." BBC

      •  

    Thursday, December 14, 2000

    The Journal of the American Medical Association receives a letter from jail. Boston Globe

      •  

    Double chip speed: The inventor of the world's smallest transistor suggests that Moore's Law may not be dead yet. Many were claiming we were nearing the limits of increasing chip power achieved by shrinking components. New Scientist

      •  

    Gene mutation could increase life span in humans. It's been done in fruit flies, and we have the same gene, whimsically named "I'm not dead yet." It works by restricting calorie absorption on a cellular level. Better news yet: the fruit flies upheld their quality of life to the end, maintaining their enthusiasm for the fruit fly's complex courtship rituals. Nando Times

      •  

    Another reason to eat your sushi (as if we needed one...)

      •  

    Why some people just can't seem to pay attention.
  • Chronic alcoholism has long been associated with neuropsychological deficits.
  • These deficits include an inability to maintain attention.
  • A recent study examined the cerebral basis of involuntary attention shifting in alcoholics and social drinkers.
  • Alcoholics seem to be more sensitive to task-irrelevant stimuli.
  • Alcoholics that begin to drink heavily in their teens seem to be particularly susceptible. Eurekalert


  •   •  

    Top laser printers: It appears to be a good time to buy a cheap monochrome laser printer, if all you thought you could afford was an inkjet. PC World via CNN

      •  

    New report offers compelling evidence of Mars life. "The presence of
    extraordinary magnetic fossils in a
    meteorite from Mars suggests that the
    planet once hosted primitive life,
    scientists reported this week.

    The only known sources of such
    microscopic magnetic crystals on
    Earth are certain types of bacteria that
    produce them to seek food and energy." CNN

      •  

    Exotic vents found in undersea mountains: “Imagine walking through a field with
    180-foot-tall vertical structures overhead
    that continually vent warm fluids and
    which have delicate flanges and
    stalagmites on them.” Environmental News Network

      •  

    Elephants on the brink in Asia. "The Asian elephant is in serious decline
    throughout its entire range, according to a
    report released Tuesday by the Worldwide
    Fund for Nature.



    Logging, agriculture and human resettlement
    programs are pushing the elephants out of
    their traditional homes and into increasing
    conflict with humans, the report notes. About
    20 percent of the world's human population
    lives within the present range of Asian
    elephants, and that number is growing by
    nearly 3 percent each year.

    Today, an average of 2.4 elephants are killed each week in Sri Lanka alone. Environmental News Network

      •  

    News Analysis: Another Kind of Bitter Split. "The conservative
    justices in the majority set aside their concern for states' rights,
    for judicial restraint, for limitations on standing, for their usual
    insistence that claims raised at the Supreme Court level have
    been fully addressed by the lower courts." New York Times

      •  

    Building a Better Ballot Box. "Two of the largest technology research universities in the United States are linking up to develop voting
    machines they hope will render error-prone punch cards and optically scanned ballots obsolete.

    On Thursday, professors at MIT and the California Institute of Technology announced that they plan to build
    a new line of reliable, secure, and modestly priced voting machines they think can become standard
    equipment for national elections." Wired

      •  

    As the Guardian weblog puts it: "Only In America: Watch the next US president, pupils wandering and glass of
    unknown liquid in hand, being compassionately conservative
    about a couple of his friends at a wedding in 1992 - for the
    record, eight years after he kicked the booze. From The
    Smoking Gun
    . Quicktime plug-in required.



    Meanwhle, here is Astrozine's reading of Bush's birth chart. Top
    three pull-out quotes: "You express yourself well"; "Others see
    you as a lively, intelligent person"; "Your thinking is somewhat
    sober and you visualize everything with complete reality".
    Anyone care to agree?"

      •  

    Cockburn: No closure, no peace. "Beyond
    the obsession about defiant punch card machines, obstacle course
    ballots, and pregnant or hanging chads, there are more serious
    issues that, in the miles of print written about the election
    in Florida, have received barely a mention: the systematic intimidation
    of poor people, blacks, hispanics, immigrants and the disabled." Counterpunch

      •  

    The editor of Luddite Reader writes:


    "Eliot: You're wrong about Luddite Reader forgetting Local Hero. It's
    on our film pages at ludditereader.com (along with dozens of others), it
    just didn't make the top 12(15) list..."

      •  

    Wednesday, December 13, 2000

    "Although we may never know with complete certainty the
    identity of the winner of this year's presidential election,
    the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the
    nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of
    the rule of law."



    - JOHN PAUL STEVENS, Supreme Court justice.



    He's not my president-elect: A partisan Supreme Court today handed the White House to the "illegitimate son". Although I'm not a lawyer and haven't read the entire 65-page opinion, from what I've heard the dissenting opinions are much more cogent than the majority opinion. Gore is scheduled to address the nation in an hour, and I personally hope he's not too concessionary. I started out this campaign season thinking I wouldn't get very emotionally involved, thinking it just didn't matter too much. As you've seen if you've been reading FmH for long, I ate those words a long time ago as it has been apparent how much of a difference this is going to make. I think I'm going to be derisive for a long long time...


      •  

    Tuesday, December 12, 2000

    Will the Real Y2K Stand Up? I've been amazed that there has been no resurrection of the concept that the new millenium begins this coming Jan. 1, not the previous one, as the end of the year approaches. It apppeared that all those sticklers for the idea had totally acquiesced to being outvoted by the unwashed masses. Now I know that at least they're out there. Wired

      •  

    I'd been wondering what R. U. Sirius has been up to recently. "Combining left and libertarian
    politics with a kind of post-political futurism and the love of a good
    laugh, Chairman Sirius intends to bring all the subcultural tribes
    together to wrest control of the world from the drug warriors, the
    cultural ayatollahs, and the various corporate mega-destructo gangs.
    This is common sense for the forgotten ones who comprise most of
    the population."

      •  

    Lifestyle "Creating artificial
    intelligent life has long
    been the stuff of science
    fiction but Steve Grand
    may be on the verge of
    turning it into science
    fact."

    Given that he is a
    self-taught computer
    programmer with three
    mediocre A-levels, who
    works out of a converted
    garage at his home in
    Somerset, and that Lucy
    is being knocked together
    on a shoestring budget
    with no part costing more
    than £50, you might
    reckon this to be a
    laughable claim. But no
    one in the know is
    laughing.



    Grand is the acknowledged world leader in
    artificial intelligence; he has been cited as one
    of the 18 scientists most likely to revolutionise
    our lives in the 21st century...

      •  

    Seeing how the spirit moves us. University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt is on a quest to establish that elevation -- the feeling of awe and inspiration in the presence of righteousness or altruism -- deserves recognition as a distinct emotion with its own physiological defining features, joining the established list of anger, sadness, disgust, fear, happiness and surprise. "For a response to qualify as an emotion, researchers will need
    to show that it is an immediate reaction to a change in the
    environment - not a broader 'sentiment,' like love - and that,
    while activated, it causes a person to think differently." [Other candidates for emotion status include amusement, relief and -- although the article does not discuss it -- boredom, as well as that elusive thing called love.] Boston Globe

      •  

    The battle for the future of jazz is joined. Wynton Marsalis has become the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Marsalis's are in essence the first family of American jazz. Saxophonist David Murray, in this month's Jazzwise magazine, issues what the Independent describes as a "declaration of war" against Marsalis, for stifling "the creativity of a music which is inherently about change and improvisation", by focusing largely on the loving recreation of the classics, especially Ellington, and wielding the power to exclude those not sharing such a conservative agenda. The counterargument is that jazz is "America's classical music", finally beginning to be afforded the respect it deserves, and that a reverent approach is appropriate.

    "We have great jazz musicians out of work because of this stuff,"
    continues Murray. "It's awful, a whole bunch of musicians who don't
    play the styles he likes are now totally intimidated. It has got so bad
    that a real jazz giant like Freddie Hubbard came up to me and said
    'Well, I'm sure glad Wynton likes me!'" Of course Marsalis likes
    Hubbard, who is acknowledged to have been the biggest influence on
    the early part of his career. But for Hubbard to be grateful for kindly
    words from the younger player is like David Bowie having to be
    thankful for approbation from Kylie Minogue – absurd.

      •  

    Wittgenstein, Einstein and Bill Gates may have this in common: Asperger's Syndrome. "What would happen if you
    eliminated the autism gene from the gene pool? You would have
    a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and
    socialising and not getting anything done." -- Temple Grandin Guardian

      •  

    Judge Transfer Will Delay SLA Trial. "The quarter-century-old case of former Symbionese Liberation Army
    fugitive Sara Jane Olson hit yet another delay with the announcement that the judge has
    been transferred to another court." AP

      •  

    Napster's 'No' to Rage Fans: "Rage Against the Machine fans -- some of whom just days prior had read guitarist Tom Morello's
    pro-Napster stance in a variety of interviews promoting Renegades -- were surprised Wednesday to find
    they were blocked from the file-sharing service after downloading tracks from the band's latest album.



    The Rage fans were redirected to a Web page that alleged copyright infringement necessitated the
    action, as requested by the copyright holder, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
    (DMCA). Rage were equally surprised, since they had not requested this action, nor were they consulted
    by their label or management that this would be done...



    Napster, in compliance with the DMCA, is required to block users when identified by copyrights holders, as they did in May with over
    300,000 Metallica fans when the band submitted a list of alleged copyright infringers. Since October, when singer Zack de la Rocha left
    the band, Rage has shared the same management team as Metallica..."

      •  

    Feds: Doctors Must Check Warnings. Several recent high-profile instances in which the FDA has pulled drugs off the market because of serious, even lethal complications point to declining standards of practice in modern medicine. Although critics contend that medications are rushed to market before adequately tested, this is not the problem in my opinion. Certain drugs are "fast-tracked", but the usual criticism is that it takes too long for significant new therapeutic breakthrough drugs to wend their way through the approval process; new drugs are introduced with considerably more alacrity in Europe, for example.

    The more crucial factor appears to be that doctors don't heed the warnings about interactions and adverse reactions on the drugs they prescribe. Many MDs report they don't have the time to read "pages and pages of fine print" on a new drug and wouldn't remember what they read anyway. Worse yet, the source of prescribing information on many a new medication is the pharmaceutical company representative or "detail man", whose job is really glossing over concerning details to get the product prescribed. Many -- indeed, most -- drugs we prescribe have adverse effects, and even dangerous drugs can be prescribed safely in the hands of a scrupulous practitioner. Increased regulation is only a very imperfect substitute, but will be increasingly necessary if the slide in practice standards continues. ("The beatings will continue until morale improves"??) Even though there has been an explosion in the numbers of drugs in the pharmacopoeia, the ready availability of information processing capabilities on the doctor's desktop (or pocket) means there's little excuse for prescribing with inadequate data.

    While in no sense of the term is it the consumer's responsibility to avoid falling victim to unsafe prescribing practices, there are things you can do in the caveat emptor spirit. The take-home message is that you should require your doctors to inform you to your satisfaction about the reasoning behind their choices of medications, explaining fully the risks and benefits, with particular attention to interactions with any other medications you might be taking. The burden of proof for the doctor choosing a new(!) improved(!) medication instead of a more established drug ought to be higher, to prevent you from being the victim of a pharmaceutical company hyping the latest thing. (Always ask your doctor how long s/he has been prescribing a given drug when it is offered to you; and how long it has been on the market.) Wonder about your doctor's prescribing practices if s/he is constantly prescribing the newly-introduced medications and offers you only vague explanations of the advantages and the risks. If your doctor appears irked by your inquiries, it's probably time to find a new doctor. And find a doctor who still reads. Even as a busy, overworked MD, I wouldn't have it any other way...

    Here is a list of the eleven drugs recalled from the market, either by FDA regulation or voluntarily by their manufacturers, since 1997.

      •  

    Monday, December 11, 2000

    Closing The Harry Potter Divide. "Yes, our fourth graders do not score well on basic reading tests. Recent news stories tell of schools buying laptop computers
    (approximate cost, $1500 each) for students to take home. We have a better
    idea. For a cost of only $6 per student (approximately what you might pay for a
    danish and double latte, or your fuel costs to drive your SUV 50 to 60 miles), every
    fourth grader in America can be equipped with a paperback copy of the first Harry
    Potter novel, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." This will help close the great
    Harry Potter divide in America, where more than 60% of fourth grade students have
    limited or no access to Harry Potter, a proven reading motivation program that
    works particularly well with the difficult audience of young boys."

      •  

    The Top 12 Most Luddite Films of All Time, from The Luddite Reader; actually there are fifteen, because of some ties and the inclusion of a very welcome runner-up, Alain Tanner's 1976 gem To Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000. But they forgot Bill Forsyth's 1983 Local Hero. [By the way, why is The Luddite Reader online?]

      •  

    Warez, Abandonware, and the Software Industry. 'What does it mean to own software? When I buy a game, what
    can and can't I do with it? Does illegal copying of software really
    hurt anyone? If a company no longer sells a game, should I be able
    to download a copy of it?... The battles over software include many combatants. The software
    companies are trying to stop the illegal copying of their products.
    The abandonware users skirt along the border of legality,
    sometimes obtaining permission for their actions, oftentimes not; in the meantime, they try
    to distance themselves from the warez crowd as much as possible. The warez users are the
    anarchists of the bunch, in effect saying, "Sure, what we're doing is illegal. So?" ' About.com

      •  

    Hunting the secret cyber-stash. The advent in May 2000 of non-degraded GPS services for civilians has led to the new activity of geocaching. 'Someone
    hides a "stash" -- usually a large Tupperware container
    filled with assorted goodies -- in an interesting,
    out-of-the-way place, and records the exact coordinates with
    a GPS device. Those coordinates, along with a few helpful
    hints, are posted to the geocaching Web site. The stash
    seekers then use their GPS systems to find the treasure.
    Each person who locates the stash adds an entry to the
    included log book, takes one of those goodies, replaces it
    with one of their own, and then re-hides the container...

    The log book... includes about 20
    entries from visitors (some of whom stumbled across the
    stash unintentionally). "Humans are strange and wonderful"
    says one hiker, who also uses the space to shill his band, the
    Radiant Radishes. "You should be looking for natural food
    to eat from indigenous plants," writes another. "Survival
    will not depend on your G.P.S." And my favorite: "In our
    unemployed state we went hiking on the coastal trail, and
    found this treasure. We have left behind the keys to our
    failed dot-com. Hopefully they will help someone. Cheers." ' Salon

      •  

    Guinea Pig Zero: a journal for human research subjects "... is an occupational jobzine for people who are used as medical or
    pharmaceutical research subjects. Its various sections are devoted to bioethics, historical
    facts, current news and research, evaluations of particular research facilities by volunteers,
    true stories of guinea pig adventure, reviews, poetry and fiction relating to the
    disposability of plebeian life."

      •  

    Aaronland | weblog | theory and practice, "a very casual and unscientific project to keep a record of the various writings on and about
    weblogs."

      •  

    Sunday, December 10, 2000

    Google Tales: Searching for directory sites: Google - Yahoo! questions "We began to notice in early March that Yahoo! pages seemed to be rising in Google search rankings. This was
    several months before Google's alliance with Yahoo! was announced on June 26, so we had no reason to think that
    there was any connection. But Yahoo!'s rankings kept rising in the succeeding months, and the announcement of
    the Google-Yahoo! alliance naturally raised questions about the connection."

      •  

    Democracy??A Broken Electoral System: compendium of five articles -- by Ariana Huffington, Cedric Muhammad, Harold Meyerson, Steven Hill and Clark Williams-Derry -- highlighting the inadequacies of our system so clearly spelled out by this remarkable election. AlterNet

      •  

    BadAds.org: Slam Bad Ads! [Are there any other kind?]

      •  

    The Way to Ex-Gay: A growing "ex-gay" movement, largely fundamentalist-Christian-based, is appealing to numbers of men trying not to be gay. There's also mounting evidence of the damage done to them if they "succeed." AlterNet

      •  

    Cremation Nation: As the popularity of cremation grows, more and more elaborate -- and bizarre -- options for scattering or retaining the ashes appear. "It's a good thing so many
    Americans are choosing
    cremation for their dearly
    departed. The new options for
    memorializing 'cremains' would
    make some of them turn in their
    graves." Silicon Valley Metro

      •  

    Saturday, December 9, 2000

    The Last Green Mile "...When we wake up 20 years from now and find that
    the Atlantic Ocean is just outside Washington, D.C., because
    the polar icecaps are melting, we may look back at this
    pivotal election. We may wonder whether it wasn't the last
    moment when a U.S. policy to deal with global warming
    might have made a difference, and we may ask why the
    party most concerned about that, the Greens, helped to
    elect Mr. Bush by casting 97,000 Nader votes in Florida...

    Throughout the campaign, the egomaniacal Mr. Nader — who
    makes Ross Perot look selfless by comparison — justified
    taking away votes from Mr. Gore by arguing that there really
    wasn't much difference between him and Mr. Bush. And, like
    a good Leninist, Mr. Nader also didn't seem to mind
    destroying the Democratic Party to save it. Well, maybe
    there didn't appear to be much difference between the two
    men — but there was a huge difference between the
    hundreds of key people Al Gore and George Bush would
    appoint to staff their administrations. And those hundreds of
    people will make thousands of decisions that one day will
    add up to a very big difference." New York Times

      •  

    Christopher Hitchens: Yes, We're the Great Pretenders. "I've been tempted to exercise this right every time I hear some fool on TV say that the current fiasco proves what a wonderful system we have.
    Please. Por favor. Je vous en prie. It proves nothing of the kind. What it does is expose the huge bias against democracy that is built into the
    system. Those million uncounted votes in California would have elected two senators if they were cast in Montana or Delaware, thus enabling any
    two tiny rural white states to outvote Illinois or New York, and would have elected no senators at all if they were cast in Washington, DC, which is
    legally disfranchised. And even if the whole pile of absentee votes had gone to Bush in California, they would still have been "represented" by
    exclusively Gore electors in the Electoral College. (Which is why the Republicans do not protest the injustice, since the Electoral College has
    become their last best hope.) Other democratic countries do not watch in respectful awe as America avoids "blood in the streets" in a contest
    between two bloodless candidates. Other democratic countries say, Wow, whatever system we may have, it's not as flagrantly fouled up as the
    Yankee one. If this were a seriously pluralistic system, a Gore-Nader coalition government would now be in the cards; a ridiculous notion I grant
    you, but by no means as ridiculous as two hereditary princes simultaneously trying on the crown while going back to their corporate fundraisers to
    hire fresh teams of attorneys. Meanwhile, one Pretender hasn't even quit as governor of Texas and one Vice Pretender hasn't resigned as senator
    from Connecticut. " The Nation

      •  

    F.D.A. Approves New Ointment for the Treatment of Eczema. The topical version of a powerful immunosuppressant (used to suppress rejection in transplant recipients) proves useful in relieving treatment-resistent eczema, probably by suppressing the overactive immune response in the skin in eczema. Because the eczema returns after the ointment is stopped, there'll probably be a temptation to use it continuously or open-endedly. It appears safe at one-year followup, but don't get your hopes up. Based on my knowledge (although, of course, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing...), I'd predict that prolonged use might contribute to an increased long-range incidence of skin cancer in sun-traumatized skin. This is because the immune system plays a role in scavenging sun-damaged tissue that might otherwise turn cancerous. And eczema certainly occurs on sun-exposed skin. New York Times

      •  

    See Spot Run, or Is That Spot's Clone? "Now that human cloning is in the midst of
    debate over the moral implications, the
    genetic copying of pets is next on the list." New York Times

      •  

    In a nation that dreams it lives by the rule of law, those who stoop to conquer and their supporters are of course making claims on a daily basis of what the law mandates in the Florida vote count boondoggle. Two of the most recent examples -- the claim that Florida law does not in fact give the Legislature the authority to mount a slate of electors if the results of the vote have not been certified by the deadline; and the argument that, in the Seminole County absentee ballot controversy, Florida law requires that all the absentee ballots be thrown out if some are found to be tainted. Of course, there's that famous inconsistency about deadlines for recounts that started this whole thing off in the first place. In the face of the predictable partisan attempts to co-opt the law for one's own ends, it's inevitable for the courts to be involved sooner or later. But it appears that when the going gets tough for conservative politicans, the conservative jurists in the federal courts get going to explain why technical election-law provisions must take precedence when they help Bush win the White House, but should be set aside if they assist Gore's case. consortiumnews

      •  

    Yahoo's collection of the news photos of the year. Surprisingly, it doesn't include what was IMHO the single most spectacular picture of this or recent years -- the elk silhouetted against the forest fire in the Bitterroot in Montana.

      •  

    Humans did come out of Africa, says DNA. "Research
    revealed in this week’s Nature lends
    support to the idea that we appeared in
    one location in sub-Saharan Africa and
    spread from there, replacing
    Neanderthals and other early humans as
    we went.

    Researchers led by Ulf Gyllensten of the
    University of Uppsala in Sweden have found evidence that we are all
    descended from a single ancestral group that lived in Africa about
    170,000 years ago. And they suggest that modern humans spread across
    the globe from Africa in an exodus that took place only around 50,000
    years ago.

    Gyllensten’s team didn’t scrutinize fossils to come up with these results —
    instead the group examined DNA from living people around the world."

      •  

    Fooled again: The received wisdom is that human reasoning proceeds by formal rules. But Princeton psychologist Philip Johnson-Laird thinks that, while we can with much effort follow the rules of deduction, we usually don't think that way, instead employing shortcuts -- building "mental models" of the possibilities of a situation -- that are much less energy-intensive. The problem is that that, if falsity enters into these models, logic fails us. Johnson-Laird feels this type of confusion may be responsible for some disastrous examples of human error, e.g. the Chernobyl meltdown and the downing of KAL fligot 007 after it strayed off course into Soviet airspace in 1983.

    You might have experienced this logical breakdown while hiking
    or driving with the aid of a map. If you are on course, then the
    landscape you see corresponds to the features the map tells
    you to expect. But if you find yourself off-course, working out
    your location--and the way back to the right road--gets much
    more difficult. You have to deal with false situations: if you
    had been on the right track you would have seen a gate
    leading into a wood, for example. But you didn't, and
    attempting to compare what you didn't see with what you
    should have seen leads you easily into confusion. Eventually,
    you give up on the logical solution to your problem and head
    onwards. When you do see something that relates to the map
    working out your whereabouts becomes trivial. That's because
    it's easier to deal with a true scenario than a false one.
    The article contains some logic puzzles that may show you -- they did me -- how easy it is for reasoning to break down. New Scientist

      •  

    The Simple Things in Life. "Humans like to believe that life is a very complex issue.... (but) perhaps we're incredibly simple animals, destined to go round and
    round according to a few simple rules.... Two separate studies
    in the US have drawn the conclusion that planetary life cycles are in
    fact much more simple than we ever imagined. In fact, for some
    organisms, a straightforward game of paper-scissors-rock pretty well sums up their existence. Beyond 2000

      •  

    Friday, December 8, 2000

    Remembering Dec. 8, 1980. A number of notables recall their reaction to hearing of John Lennon's murder. "It was 20 years ago today."

      •  

    Yearning for a Palm device but abit strapped? Palm Inc.'s online store seems about ready to start offering refurbished models. There's nothing currently listed but it's probably worth checking once in awhile.

      •  

    More Than 400 People Castrated in Norway between 1934-69 in a crackdown against sexual crimes. However, those affected included psychiatric patients, epileptics and gays, said historian Per Haave after research in the Norwegian health archives. Sweden revealed in 1997 it had sterilized more than 60,000 people between 1935-75, many coercively, in a "campaign to improve racial purity." Norway also carried out forced sterilizations. Reuters

      •  

    Secrets of incorporating food into sex

      •  

    Protesters Taunt Troops with Mirrors Sunlight has replaced stones as the weapon of choice for Lebanese flocking to
    the border with Israel to taunt Israeli troops stationed there.

    Lebanese venting their rage at the Jewish state are using mirrors to reflect sunlight straight into the troops' eyes and into
    the lenses of Israeli surveillance cameras. Reuters

      •  

    X-treme Performance Art Moves From the Margin to the Mainstream The Village Voice [via Robot Wisdom]


      •  

    Thursday, December 7, 2000

    Australian weds television set Twice-married, twice-divorced 'Mitch Hallen promised to "love, honour and protect" his
    true love at a ceremony witnessed by friends and
    performed by a priest at his Australian home.

    The 42-year-old, from Melbourne, wears a gold wedding
    band as a testament to his love and has placed a
    matching ring on top of the widescreen TV.' Ananova

      •  

    Postal Experiments: The zany folk at the Annals of Improbable Research set out to test the "delivery limits" of the U.S. Postal Service. "In short, how eccentric a behavior on the part of the
    sender would still result in successful mail delivery?" You may not believe some of the things their investigators got the post office to deliver. [via the null device]

      •  

    The title of Cintra Wilson's book sounded interesting -- A Massive
    Swelling: Celebrity Re-examined as a
    Grotesque, Crippling Disease and other
    Cultural Revelations
    -- but her attempt to get humbuggy in Salon just isn't anywhere near as clever or amusing, IMHO:
    And here's a
    variety of other holiday-type pranks to use as an antidote (or an
    additive) for your Yuletide misanthropy:

    Build a panhandling snowman: Make a sad, one-armed snowman
    sitting on the sidewalk, wearing old, grimy clothes. Then put a
    crudely written cardboard sign next to it that says, "I am a 56
    year old Vietnam veterin [sic] with Hepotitis D Please help."
    Make sure you put out an old hat, and come by every half-hour
    or so to collect the money for your very own Christmas smack
    fund.

    Hang an apartheid wreath: Burn a radial tire and put a metallic
    bow on it, then hang it on your front door: "In Remembrance of
    those brutally murdered under Apartheid." Way to bum out the
    neighbors and win points for PC sensitivity, too! Plus, the
    carcinogenic aroma of burning rubber alloy should transplant
    those of clove-studded roasts, pine needles and any other
    chestnut-roasting jive smell in your own home and those of all of
    your surrounding neighbors for several hours.

    Here's a real Xmas morning "stumper": Instead of toys in the
    stocking for the young ones around the house, fill each stocking
    on the hearth with a prosthetic foot -- a real ampu-teazer.

    Find any church nativity set and surround it with "Police Line --
    Do Not Cross" tape, then make it look like baby Jesus shot one
    of the Three Wise Men with a handgun. Preferably the black
    king. Then you can have Jesus with a talk balloon, saying, "I
    thought the frankincense was a gun!" A two-headed baby Jesus
    is also a fun changeling substitution.

    Another fun one is to rip up cotton balls and throw ketchup on
    them, in front of the fireplace. That way, when everyone comes
    into the living room for Xmas morning, you can say, "Uh-oh.
    White hair and blood. Looks like the dog got him. Poor Santa."


      •  

    The peevish porcupine beats the shrill rooster. Camille Paglia covers ground in her year-end wrap-up column. I love the pastiche that cultural critics can make in the name of their craft. She comments on various absurdities of the Florida vote boondoggle and the media's coverage of it, praises Rush Limbaugh's integrity and fluency (and credits him with ending the era of political correctness in America), and compiles a hot dog geography of the U.S. I'm glad she includes Simco's on the Bridge in Mattapan, Mass. I was once lucky enough to work a block away from there and indulged frequently, although the people with whom I took my lunch break there were as much the attraction as Simco's dogs. Salon

      •  

    For Busy People, Staying Fit Is Possible. That probably includes you (it does me). If you don't have enough time to do what you "should," it still works to do less, especially if you can do it more frequently. Thanks to Rebecca Blood for pointing to this; she titled it "10 min. x 10." Washington Post

      •  

    Many Feel They Are 'Not the Same Person' They Were "How do you answer the following question:
    Am I the same person I was 8 years ago?

    New research shows that a large proportion of people believe that they are
    not the same person that they were a few years ago. The more time that passed, the less likely this group was
    to be connected to their `previous' self. Reuters

      •  

    The Third Culture "consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world
    who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional
    intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives,
    redefining who and what we are." John Brockman takes us further toward (or over?) the edge in convening this online book-length anthology of current deep thinking about the nature of things.

      •  

    Cowboy Trent Set to Ride Roughshod. "As the law courts make ready the way for Bush Redux, the likes of Senator Lott are
    emerging from those dark, cold places in which they were stored during the
    governor’s campaign. It’s a wonder that the Gore team never did manage to point
    out that the Clinton administration, for all its flaws, acted as a foil for the likes of the
    cowboy-hat crowd, those faux populists who pose in denim and carry out the
    businessman’s agenda of low labor costs and minimal government regulation. The
    government shutdown in 1995 was but a metaphor for their fondest wishes, a world
    without the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration,
    the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, etc. Why didn’t Al Gore make
    this case, or make it better? Then again, why didn’t Al Gore do a lot of things, chief
    among them: act like a human being?" New York Observer

      •  

    Joe Conason: Behind Bush's Smile Lurks a Florida Fanatic. Tom Feeney, the Speaker of the Florida House, who is attempting to ram through the Bush elector slate in Florida by legislative action, has been called the "David Duke of Florida politics," and was dropped from Jeb Bush's ticket as a political liability because he's so reactionary. New York Observer

      •  

    Truth Catches Up to Fiction Dept. (cont'd.): Doctors arrested in kidney-running ring. "Indian police have arrested nine people, including two
    doctors, for illegally purchasing or transplanting kidneys." The kidneys were reportedly bought from cash-strapped Indians for between $1000 and $4000. Ananova

      •  

    An Amish man chose to spend three days in jail rather
    than pay a fine for refusing to put an
    orange "slow-moving vehicle'' triangle
    on his buggy
    because he said the sign
    violates his religious beliefs.

      •  

    Barbara Ehrenreich: The Civility Glut. 'I call some corporate bureaucracy and, whether
    out of loneliness or confusion, opt for "0," -- the chance to speak to an actual
    human. "Kelly" or "Tracey" wants to know my account number, which I willingly
    share.



    "Great!" says Kelly.



    Next she wants to know my zip code, and it turns out to be "Perfect!"



    Or suppose I'm calling a publishing company and get an administrative
    assistant with a pricey British accent. When I tell her my phone number, she
    declares that it's "brilliant!"



    I should be flattered, of course, to be associated with such an admirable
    collection of numbers.' AlterNet

      •  

    Politicians Who Love Global Warming (PAC money received in 2000 elections):

  • 1. Spencer Abraham

    (R-MI): $458,161

  • 2. Richard Santorum

    (R-PA): $400,934

  • 3. John Ashcroft
    (R-MO): $386,655

  • 4. Rick Lazio
    (R-NY): $326,577

  • 5. Rodney Grams
    (R-MN): $310,584

  • 6. Mike Dewine
    (R-OH): $294,079

  • 7. Conrad Burns
    (R-MT): $288,359

  • 8. Dennis Hastert
    (R-IL): $282,732

  • 9. William Roth Jr.
    (R-DE): $281,654

  • 10. Orrin Hatch
    (R-UT): $245,390
  • Environmental Working Group

      •  

    Wednesday, December 6, 2000

    The American Medical
    Association approved a resolution Tuesday asking
    the government to consider making the "morning-after" contraceptive available
    over-the-counter
    .

      •  

    Road rage: "What is it about getting into a car that turns a decent,
    upright citizen into a raving maniac?" A recent study shows that about one-sixth of people who are not quick to anger in the rest of their lives lose it behind the wheel. One contributing factor may be deindividuation, the process preventing us from relating to the driver of another car as a person because you only get "partial status information" about them. Even trying a conciliatory gesture from inside your car stands a chance of being wildly misinterpreted by the driver you just cut off.

    Culturally, anger may be sanctioned as a way of helping yourself feel better, but neurochemically there is a price -- once you get angry, you tend to stay angry longer. (Some people may be particularly predisposed in this direction by low serotonin levels as well.) And the angry brain is, in a way that makes evolutionary sense, a less efficient information processor. Also see the Global Web Conference on Aggressive Driving. New Scientist

      •  

    Move over Casanova. "When you're single no one wants to know. Yet the minute
    you get a partner, the others come running. Ever
    wondered why?" New Scientist

      •  

    Welcome to the Complete Review.This book review site, to one of whose reviews Robot Wisdom linked recently, really gets the point about being web-enabled.

      •  

    The Politics of Terror. "The war in Chechnya is not over. More than a year after
    the federal troops first intervened, bombs, mines and
    bullets continue to kill civilians. Despite the illusion of
    normalization upheld by the Russian authorities, and the
    resignation of the international community, the violence
    against civilians is ongoing, and has merely changed its
    appearance. Data from Chechnya hospitals shows that
    the undiscriminate use of force is still causing many
    civilian casualties." Médecins sans Frontières

      •  

    Autopsy: Actor killed by L.A. police shot in back CNN

      •  

    Texas executes 38th convict so far this year, the most in any state in one year. Two further executions are scheduled for Texas before Jan. 1, and seven have been put on the docket for 2001 already. Now, how many people are on federal death row awaiting Jan. 20th?

      •  

    Abandoned Tugboat Drifts 20 Miles in Puget Sound.

      •  

    Estrogen Deprivation Leads To Death Of Dopamine Cells In The Brain, a finding by Yale researchers that could have implications
    for post-menopausal women. Science Daily

      •  

    Emerging Disease News (cont'd.): Ebola doctor buried as Uganda despairs. "Uganda was plunged into mourning on Tuesday as the doctor who had led the country's two-month battle against the deadly Ebola epidemic
    was buried hours after he died from the virus.

    Matthew Lukwiya, the medical superintendent at St Mary's Hospital in Lacor, died on Tuesday morning despite round-the-clock efforts by doctors to save him." Reuters

      •  

    AltaVista discontinues free Internet access. "...AltaVista announced that it will terminate its free Internet
    access service on December 10th...because 1stUp Corp., the
    company that provided the service and infrastructure, is going out of
    business.

    AltaVista also stated that after a thorough investigation it was unable to
    find another supplier to provide a free Internet access service. As a
    result, the company has made special arrangements with MSN to offer
    U.S.-based AltaVista members three free months of unlimited Internet
    access, which will cost $21.95 per month thereafter. Geek.com

      •  

    More on Houellebecq: "Whether by design or default, Houellebecq is an ideal
    media-adapted writer for America: he is obnoxious, a
    one-man circus of existential confusion, trafficking in sex,
    anomie, death and crucially, contradiction - he is the very
    embodiement of what he rages against. He even propositions
    the Times' writer visiting him in Dublin. She demurs, but how
    – how French. (And how appropriate that his home is in the
    most vulgar, over-hyped yuppie capital of Europe.)

    ...

    The good news is that The Elementary Particles is, in one
    sense, already old news. It was published two years ago in
    France, and France has apparently moved on. Newswatch

      •  

    Downer "To have a sane argument about drug policy, the media needs
    to consider the Robert Downey, Jr.'s and Darryl Strawberry's
    of the world who repeatedly fail treatment, perhaps because
    they simply aren't ready to stop using. The treatment
    providers have few answers for them other than keep
    forcing them back into care, even when it clearly isn't
    helping." Newswatch

      •  

    Domestic Violence Deja Vu President Clinton: ' "In America today, domestic violence is the number one
    health risk for women between the ages of 15 and 44 ...
    Every twelve seconds, another woman is beaten. That’s
    nearly 900,000 victims a year." A dreadful state of affairs, if
    true. The trouble is that all three of these statements are
    untrue.' Newswatch

      •  

    Courtship in the south of France 35,000 years ago "was nasty,
    brutish and short. The boys would go out in groups of three and
    track an unsuspecting girl across the rolling Provençal
    landscape; then, when she was happily playing with a couple of
    old flints they would pounce. Chat up lines were rudimentary
    (Him: "Nargo!" Her: "Hama!" Him: "Yeda!") but effective. After a
    while, however, the hunter got captured by the game: intrigued
    by her matted hair and eyebrows, the butchest caveman got
    quite affectionate, and even parted with a juicy hunk of
    marrowbone." The Guardian

      •  

    Tuesday, December 5, 2000

    If you yawn, you're a human dynamo. The purpose of the yawn examined. The Sunday Times of London

      •  

    How ideas change. 'If Sigmund Freud was the central
    cultural figure in the first half of the
    20th century (for having introduced the
    concept of the ''unconscious'' into everyday
    life), then perhaps the dominant figure in
    the second half was a retiring historian of
    science named Thomas Kuhn.

    Haven't heard of him? That means you
    probably didn't go to college before, say,
    1970. Don't know his work? Of course you do. Kuhn introduced the word ''paradigm'' into everyday language.' Boston Globe

      •  

    Monday, December 4, 2000

    "... a triumph for global cooperation": Ozone hole will heal, say scientists. "The hole in the Southern Hemisphere’s ozone layer will start
    shrinking within a decade and should close completely in the next
    50 years, according to an international panel.

    Data unveiled at a conference in Argentina suggest that the global
    effort to reduce the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)— the
    main menace to the ozone layer — is succeeding, just three
    months after Nasa revealed that the size of the ozone hole in the
    Southern Hemisphere had grown to 11 million square miles and
    had reached the tip of South America for the first time." The good news is attriutable to global cooperation in reducing chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) use since a 1987 worldwide protocol was signed in Montreal. Global warming, however, will slow ozone recovery. The Times of London

      •  

    "Extending hope where perhaps there should be none..." An idiot's guide to writing? "To the cynical, reading writing about how to write may seem like chasing one's own tail, but
    to others these magazines have become the holders of Masonry secrets, month by month
    decanting the distilled essence of the craft." National Post

      •  

    Clinton Creates Vast Hawaiian Coral-Reef Preserve President Clinton continues his trend of using executive order to protect large tracts of land in one fell swoop, this time creating a "Yellowstone of
    the sea'' protecting an expanse of Hawaii's pristine
    coral reefs larger than the states of Florida and Georgia.

    "The order would establish the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Coral
    Reef Ecosystem Reserve covering 131,000 square miles along a
    1,200 mile-long island chain northwest of the main Hawaiian
    islands. The reserve would encompass about 70 percent of U.S.
    coral reefs.

    The area is the only home to the endangered Hawaiian monk
    seal. It provides habitat to other protected species including sea
    turtles and birds, and to migratory species such as humpback
    whales." Reuters

      •  

    Swallowing ships. Giant bubbles of methane gas from the sea floor may suddenly engulf and sink ships at sea. Investigation reveals this may have been the fate of a trawler that disappeared in the North Sea, recently found intact and shrouded in fishing netting on the sea floor. New Scientist

      •  

    We knew that cell phones may be hazardous to your health, but this is ridiculous. New Scientist

      •  

    Sunday, December 3, 2000

    Michelangelo may have deliberately depicted breast cancer. "Scholars have argued for years over the unusual misshapen
    appearance of the left breast of Michelangelo's marble statue Night.
    The statue, in the Medici chapel in the Church of San Lorenzo,
    Florence, shows an obvious large bulge in the breast next to the
    swollen nipple, causing tethering and retraction of the skin on the
    opposite side.

    The left breast is quite different from the right and from the breasts on
    Dawn, another figure in the Medici Chapel, or in the many other
    depictions of women by Michaelangelo.

    Experts have agreed that its unusual appearance is intentional and not
    due to an error but art historians and plastic surgeons have argued
    that it reflects the artist's supposed lack of interest in, or unfamiliarity
    with, the nude female figure.

    Now, Dr James Stark, a cancer specialist at the Cancer Treatment
    Centers of America in Portsmouth, Virginia, and Jonathan Nelson, an
    art historian at New York University, claim that Michelangelo
    deliberately set out to portray a woman with breast cancer. " Independent

      •  

    Refresh: the art of the screen saver. "22 artists have created digital projects that are both works of art and
    functional screen savers. All of the screen savers can be downloaded freely
    from this site and enjoyed as public art." artmuseum.net

      •  

    'In cyberspace, music is now bigger than sex... Apparently,
    “MP3” has
    now overtaken “sex” as the
    most frequently searched term online.' The Times of London

      •  

    Mixed Message. So that awful "Grinch" movie has become a hit. And, in so doing, the message of the original Dr. Seuss story is being profoundly subverted. "For weeks now, merchandising tie-ins to the film have contributed to that acquisitiveness, emphasizing
    to the public that Christmas does, indeed, come from a store." Hartford Courant

      •  

    The World Question Center: "What is Today's Most Important Unreported Story?". Coverage of this spinoff from John Brockman's Edge site in the San Jose Mercury said: "Don't assume for a second that Ted Koppel, Charlie Rose and the editorial high command
    at the New York Times have a handle on all the pressing issues of the day....when
    Brockman asked 100 of the world's top thinkers to come up with pressing matters
    overlooked by the media, they generated a lengthy list of profound, esoteric and
    outright entertaining responses."

      •  

    The Decade of the Brain, which ends this year, marked an acceleration of neuroscience research. This radio show, from the NPR series The Infinite Mind,
    " takes a look at some of the astounding progress we've made in that decade, highlighting the ten most
    important breakthroughs. Guests include Dr. Guy McKhann, associate director for clinical research at the
    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, associate professor of
    neurobiology at the Duke University Medical Center; Dr. Jeffrey Kordower, director of research at the
    Center for Brain Repair at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center; and Dr. Ronald McKay, chief of
    the laboratory of molecular biology at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Narration and commentary by John Hockenberry. Includes a link to the real audio recording of the program.

      •  

    Saturday, December 2, 2000

    A Bush Family Slip-Up. "The official story is that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has stayed out of his
    state's electoral fray. But his father thinks otherwise." Consortium News

      •  

    rock star?Australian humpback whales adopt new love song . 'Male humpbacks migrating along the east coast have stunned scientists by
    abandoning their signature mating song and adopting a new tune from a
    small group of visiting Indian Ocean whales.

    "There has been a cultural takeover by the west coast whales," marine
    scientist Michael Noad told Reuters today.

    "What is staggering is that all the males have switched to the new song
    which was brought over by a few ambassadors from the west coast," said
    Noad, co-author of a report on the musical revolution in the latest
    issue of scientific journal Nature
    .' Environmental News Network


      •  

    Review: Beethoven's Hair
    by Russell Martin
    . "Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction. More conspiring.
    And more filled with coincidence than would be credible in a work
    constructed purely through imagination. Russell Martin's striking
    Beethoven's Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific
    Mystery Solved
    is like that."

      •  

    Do Remarkable Female Mutants Walk Among Us? . "Most people are trichromats, with retinas having three kinds of color sensors, called cone photopigments -- those for red, green, and blue. The 8 percent of men who are color-blind typically have the cone photopigment for blue but are either missing one of the other colors, or the men have them, in effect, for two cone photopigment, for a color between red and green.



    The theoretical possibility of this secret sorority -- genetics dictates
    that tetrachromats would all be female -- has intrigued scientists since
    it was broached in 1948. Now two scientists, working separately, plan to
    search systematically for tetrachromats to determine once and for all
    whether they exist and whether they see more colors than the rest of us
    do.




    Besides the philosophical interest in learning something new about perception, the brain, and the evolution of our species, finding a tetrachromat would also offer a practical reward. It would prove that the human nervous system can adapt to new capabilities. Flexibility matters greatly in a number of scenarios envisaged for gene therapy. For example, if someone with four kinds of color photopigments cannot see more colors than others, it would imply that the human nervous system cannot easily take advantage of genetic interventions.



    For years now, scientists have known that some fraction of women have four different cone photopigments in their retinas. The question still remains, however, whether any of these females have the neural circuitry that enables them to enjoy a different -- surely richer -- visual experience than the common run of humanity sees. "If we could identify these tetrachromats, it would speak directly to the ability of the brain to organize itself to take advantage of novel stimuli," says Dr. Neitz. "It would make us a lot more optimistic about doing a gene therapy for color blindness."


    Red Herring



      •  

    In much of
    the world, democracy
    is still a 'low-tech, old-economy business: ballots are
    marked by hand —
    with crosses or
    stamps or fingerprints — and then counted by hand,
    with an assortment of officials supposed to
    guarantee impartiality looking on.

    If manual counting is "subjective," as George W. Bush
    suggested this week, then global democracy is
    overwhelmingly a subjective thing. ' New York Times

      •  

    Carl Hiaasen writes in the Miami Herald about Rioting by GOP tourists "imported and paid for by the Republican Party
    and the Bush-Cheney campaign" during the presidential vote recount -- "It's a page right out of the old Richard Nixon
    playbook, the type of stunt favored by G. Gordon Liddy and the other dirty
    tricksters.

    The difference is, Liddy was smarter about covering his tracks."

      •  

    Will Irian Jaya be the next East Timor? International Herald Tribune

      •  

    Two Men Shoot First, Figure It Out Later. One of these 20-year-olds in rural Manitoba brought home a bullet-proof vest and asked his roommate to shoot him in the chest, first with a .22 and then -- pleased with the results -- a 12-gauge shotgun. Luckily, they decided on the insurance policy of stuffing a phone book inside the vest for the second shot, and the target suffered only bruising and cracked ribs. Might've been a candidate for the Darwin Awards otherwise...

      •  

    Criticism on the Job is a Pain in the Posterior...

      •  

    Philip Morris won't like this!

    "This month, things should get interesting." Adbusters: Jamming Harper's. The irreverent and profound social gadflies at Adbusters have made a cause celebre out of buzzing around Lewis Lapham's ears since 1995, when they first took him to task for accepting Philip Morris' ad support on a monthly basis in Harper's, "a progressive voice of record." Lapham fired back one volley over their bow but has consistently refused to be drawn into further debate. Now they've bought ad space in Harper's for their anti-Philip Morris ad asking Why Are You Buying Your Food from a Tobacco Company?" "Now, we're eager to find out: Will Philip Morris tolerate this
    intrusion onto their traditional turf? Will they threaten to pull
    their ads? Will the cozy, decades-long relationship between Harper's and Philip Morris suddenly turn sour?"


      •  

    Charles Taylor Interviewed. "Depending on your philosophical perspective, Charles Taylor is either the philosopher of
    the self par excellence or the thinker who writes about everything else but the self. His
    comprehensive conception of identity incorporates philosophical, historical, political,
    sociological, anthropological, psychological, religious and aesthetic elements, stepping
    across the boundaries that standardly separate philosophy from other disciplines." Taylor finds that modern Western secular society is a stark forbidding place for a self to be. The Philosophers' Magazine on the Internet

      •  

    Lie Test: Bush 57, Gore 23: A portable polygraph meant for consumer use, claiming around 80% accurate detection of lies, was used by Time magazine reporters during the three Presidential debates. The Handy Truster, based on voice analysis technology originally developed for the Israeli military, said that Bush told 57 lies and Gore 23 during the three debates. Its manufacturers '...recommend using the product only as
    a "decision-support tool" and strongly suggest that people use their common sense in
    analyzing the results.' [But if common sense were at play in the Presidential election process, we wouldn't need a decision-support toll in the first place, right?] Wired

      •  

    No Running, No Jumping: Christina Hoff Sommers, in her recent The War Against Boys, describes the public education system's intolerance of "youthful male exuberance" and finds "misguided feminism" behind it. Discipline and medication are two of the inappropriate responses to this thinly-veiled notion that there is something wrong with being a boy. The educational system may be failing our sons. Hoff Sommers' concerns counterbalance the notion of a "girl crisis" that has been
    seized upon by feminists and promoted by leading academic experts.
    Sommers examines the work of some of the "experts" and finds that it
    is girls who are outperforming boys academically. Under the guise of
    helping girls, many schools have adopted policies that penalize boys,
    often for simply being masculine. Sommers says that boys need help,
    but not the sort they've been getting. They need help catching up with
    girls academically, they do not need to be rescued from masculinity.
    Here're the results of a Google search on coverage and discussion of the issues she raises. Dr. Carol Gilligan, professor of gender studies at the Harvard School of Education, whose research findings are directly criticized by Sommers, leads off a hefty set of responses in the Atlantic's letters column.

      •  

    More on The Physics of Gridlock by Stephen Budiansky. If we accept that the gas dynamics model of traffic flow that various physicists have worked out is as good a simulation as they claim it is, spontaneous "sludging" of flow may be unavoidable and irremediable barring Orwellian control of the volume, speed and spacing of vehicular traffic. Atlantic

      •  

    Art, Science and Postmodern Society. Arthur Pontynen, an art historian at the University of Wisconsin: "The tragedy is that American culture is increasingly Postmodernist, whether we identify ourselves as pragmatists or as persons of faith, as
    defenders of tradition or as progressives. To ask about the practical value of the fine arts is to trivialize them as thoroughly as the rabid academic
    deconstructionists who argue that standards and canons are simply tools of oppression and that all art is ultimately political. Both sides seek to
    subsume art to base political purposes.



    The Right wants to use art to “remoralize” the society, and the Left wants to use it for social therapy, to encourage “oppressed” groups. Moreover,
    the assumption that sensible people called moderates avoid the extremes of both Left and Right offers no relief. The mean resulting from two
    incoherent starting points is not golden; it has all the translucence of mud. ...Whereas the Right and Left
    both wish to censor art, moderate opponents of censorship trivialize art, by claiming that movies, books, and the like cannot harm people. If they
    can do no harm, however, how can they do any good? Thus, opponents of censorship ironically trivialize the arts through the very arguments by
    which they hope to protect them.



    Postmodernism is so rampant a cultural contagion that it destroys not only our cultural health but our ability even to perceive our decline...By arguing that all statements are
    political and therefore equally meaningful (and meaningless), Postmodernism undermines our ability to draw distinctions and, of particular note here,
    to make value judgments." American Outlook

      •  

    Neurotransplantation of fetal tissue into patients with Huntington's Disease showed evidence of significant benefit, in two studies from the University of South Florida and McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. ' "Everybody said ten years ago that this was outlandish -- you
    can't transplant cells into a toxic brain (because) those new cells
    will die," Dr. Ole Isacson..., who helped direct the (McLean) study,
    said in a statement.' While excitement in neurotransplantation to combat a range of degenerative nervous system diseases continues, ethical concerns about using fetal tissues will probably limit the applicability of this technique in our abortion-polarized society. Fortunately, recent studies have shown that stem cells derived from adult bone marrow may be able to do the same trick, differentiating into healthy neural tissue.

      •  

    Research to Develop Anti-Cancer Vaccine is Promising. Argentinian scientists have succeeded in ridding mice of tumor cells by injecting them with immune cells from healthy mice who had previously been provoked into an immune response against specially-treated colon cancer cells. Interestingly, promoting the rejection of the tumors in the recipient, ill mice worked regardless of what type of tumor they had.
    "For the moment, this is just an experiment on animals which has
    provided biological proof of a very important concept -- that one
    could imagine a single type of vaccine against cancer, against
    different sorts of tumors," Osvaldo Podhajcer, who led the team of
    eight Argentine researchers and one British scientist, said on
    Thursday.
    Human trials could start soon.

      •  

    Far Right Watch: Skinheads Sentenced for Temple Bomb in Reno. The five, self-professed white supremacists ages 19-26, received prison terms of up to 15 years in a plea bargain. Not succeeding in breaking a window of the synagogue before they tossed their molotov cocktail, they had only succeeded in scorching the sidewalk outside. AP

      •  

    It is Cantwell in disputed Senate race in Washington State, and the U.S. Senate is 50-50. Reuters

      •  

    "It covers everything except the exceptions and the exceptions
    cover everything." Enforcement of a law making English the official language of Utah was blocked by the courts today.

      •  

    Ecomafia Dumping on Italy. Organized crime's interest in trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials is gaining rapidly on its involvement in the illegal arms and drug trade. An Italian environmental agency warns that Italy is sitting on a "radioactive waste bomb"; around 5,000 tons of radioactive metal waste originating in Eastern Europe finds its way into the country annually, most of it passed off as innocuous scrap metal. In 1998, the accidental smelting of radioactive metal scrap by a Spanish foundry spread a plume of cesium-137 across five European countries.
    Wired

      •  

    The Oddness of Oz: "The year 2000 is the centenary of a famous and much-loved but essentially very odd
    children's classic: L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. Those who recall the story only from
    childhood reading, or from the MGM film, have perhaps never realized how strange the
    original book and its sequels are. New York Review of Books

      •  

    Friday, December 1, 2000

    A New Star in the Sky: "Something in the heavens is growing brighter and it will
    soon become one of the more eye-catching stars in the
    night sky. No, it's not a supernova. It's the International
    Space Station."

      •  

    Code breakers believe Poe puzzle solved after 150 years. The second of two coded messages left by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841 in a magazine where he was an editor, which he challenged his readers to decipher, has finally been decoded. The deciphered message is such a saccharin, trite passage that doubts are raised if it was even penned by Poe.

      •  

    If you've ever thought that the man in your life was only half-listening, a new study shows your hunch correct.

      •  




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