Journal Takes on Medical Mistakes: the first of a projected series of eight articles in which grave medical errors are reviewed and analyzed, with the doctors who committed them protected by anonymity, appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The series was inspired in part by a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, which found that mistakes in hospitals killed 44,000 to 98,000 patients a year. Departments within hospitals try to analyze their own errors, at regular “morbidity and mortality” conferences, but those sessions are private and are not written up in medical journals. Generally, the conferences are not discussed with patients. In an editorial about the new series, Dr. Wachter and his colleagues wrote that the medical profession — “for reasons that include liability issues and a medical culture that has discouraged open discussion of mistakes” — was not harnessing the full power of errors to teach. NY Times

Conflict of Interest?
However, is the concept of an independent, scholarly analysis of an aspect of medical practice, inspired simply by the lofty ideal of learning as much as we can from it for the betterment of patient care, an endangered species? Consider: Medical Journal Changes Independent Policy:

Is it a case of, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?’ The New England Journal of Medicine will announce Thursday that it has given up finding truly independent doctors to write and review articles and editorials for it, as a result of the financial ties physicians have with so many drug companies in the United States The Journal says the drug companies’ reach is just too deep. ABC News

This is truly bad news for the integrity of medical literature. Over the past two decades, as federal funding for medical research has dwindled dramatically, research has been increasingly ‘bought’ by pharmaceutical industry backing. Now the review and commentary end is getting bought too, it’s little stretch to say.

Americans Seized at Afghan Border, Pakistan Asserts: More U.S. passport bearers allied with al Qaeda? “The detentions of Americans would raise troubling questions for the Bush administration, which has already drawn criticism for not granting prisoner-of-war status to suspected Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan.” NY Times

Court Strikes Down Curb on Visits by Jehovah’s Witnesses: Nothing surprising about this 8-1 verdict against an idiotic ordinance by an Ohio town requiring a permit to go door-to-door. Oh yes, one surprising thing — that Clarence Thomas didn’t join William Rehnquist in an idiotic dissent to the majority opinion in which he found the law a valid approach to crime prevention.

The Soviet Smallpox Accident: “New information about an apparent accident in the former Soviet biological weapons testing program three decades ago has raised some troubling questions about our own nation’s ability to protect its citizens against a potential terrorist attack. The open-air test of a Soviet smallpox weapon in 1971 caused a small outbreak of the disease in a port on the Aral Sea, in what is now Kazakhstan, even among people who had been vaccinated.” NY Times editorial

We have Mary Eberstadt of the Hoover Institution, writing in The Weekly Standard: The Elephant in the Sacristy:

The real problem facing the American Catholic church is that a great many boys have been seduced or forced into homosexual acts by certain priests; that these offenders appear to have been disproportionately represented in certain seminaries; and that their case histories open questions about sexuality that–verboten though they may have become–demand to be reexamined.

Then [thanks to Walker for the link] there’s Eric Raymond, armed & dangerous, with a powerfully worded self-professed determination to go ‘further than Ms. Eberstadt’:

I think this scandal is grounded in the essentials of Catholic doctrines about sex, sin, guilt, and authority. This is not an accidental corruption of the church, any more than Stalin was an accidental corruption of Communism. Bad moral ideas have consequences, and those consequences can be seen most clearly in the human monsters who are both created by those ideas and exploiters of them. There is a causal chain that connects loathsome creatures like the “Reverend” Paul Shanley directly back to the authoritarianism and anti-sexuality of St. Augustine; a chain well-analyzed by psychologists such as Stanley Milgram and Wilhelm Reich. I suggest that any religion that makes obedience to authority a primary virtue and pathologizes sex will produce abuses like these as surely as rot breeds maggots.

Raymond approaches his topic with the same misguided zeal I referred to in the comments I made several days ago about Joe Katzman’s Winds of Change, not only grappling with his topic but believing his brand of weblog is the only counter to the ‘dominant media culture’ (he uses this term repeatedly) which keeps homosexuality a ‘journalistically protected class.’ This, he thinks, allows him to get away with trotting out the same old tired homophobic stereotyping about the supposed ‘homosexuality/pederasty/pedophilia connection in gay culture.’ Pity, it seemed for a moment he might have kept to some useful angles on the Church scandal and the media. Instead, there is ridiculous rhetoric about things like (to take one phrase admittedly out of context) ‘the sort of university-educated gay men who wind up determining what’s on the front page of the New York Times.’

Study finds notable difference in musicians’ brains: “Musical experience was strongly related to larger amounts of grey matter in the region called the Heschl’s gyrus, which is part of the auditory cortex. The structure contained 536 to 983 cubic millimetres of grey matter in professionals, 189 to 798 cubic millimetres in amateurs, and 172 to 450 cubic millimetres in non-musicians.” Ananova

The Baby Boy Payoff:

More evidence that men are squealing little chauvinist piggies: It seems daddies not only shower their sons with more attention but also work harder and earn more money after the birth of a boy than they do after the birth of a girl.

At the same time, the sex of a child has no impact on the hours that women work outside the home or the wages they earn, reported economists Shelly Lundberg and Elaina Rose of the University of Washington. Washington Post

Next in the floodtide of books on weblogging, from O’Reilly Press, is Essential Blogging: Selecting and Using Weblog Tools by Cory Doctorow, Rael Dornfest, J. Scott Johnson, Shelley Powers, Mena G. Trott, Benjamin Trott. Cory, of course, is boing boing, and Rael Domfest does raelity bytes.

With weblogs-or “blogs”-exploding all over the Web, the only thing lacking for power users and developers is detailed advice on how choose, install, and run blogging software. Written by leading bloggers, Essential Blogging includes practical advice and insider tips on the features, requirements, and limitations of applications such as Blogger, Radio Userland, Movable Type, and Blosxom. This book will get you up and blogging in no time.

Israel Has Sub-Based Atomic Arms Capability

Israel has acquired three diesel submarines that it is arming with newly designed cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to former Pentagon and State Department officials, potentially giving Israel a triad of land-, sea- and air-based nuclear weapons for the first time. Washington Post

Common Sense Computing

Can a PC think for itself?

Day after day since 1984, teams of programmers, linguists, theologians, mathematicians and philosophers have plugged away at a $60 million project they hope will transform human existence: teaching a computer common sense.

They have been feeding a database named Cyc 1.4 million truths and generalities about daily life so it can automatically make assumptions humans make: Creatures that die stay dead. Dogs have spines. Scaling a cliff requires intense physical effort. CNN

Declan McCullagh writes a Farewell to a Net Freedom Fighter – Ironically, in this column about Stanton McCandlish’s retirement from the Electronic Frontier Foundation , he bids farewell himself to his Wired readers:

This is my last weekly notebook for Wired News.

It’s been a long run: I started writing for Wired News in 1998, and began this Saturday update from the nation’s capital soon afterward.

During that time, I’ve chronicled the growing intersection between politics and technology, writing about how the law has struggled to keep abreast of developments — often with disappointing results…

He’s going to CNET News as chief political correspondent, he explains in his Politech mailing list:

Besides our own network, News.com articles also appear on the New York Times, MSNBC, and Yahoo News sites. We have an agreement with the Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle to run our articles on their websites and in print — all of which means you’ll be able to find my articles in more places than before.

‘The best story, not the biggest bomb’

How to fight the terror networks:

‘John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt codified the strategy that helped the United States overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. They believe that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida could still prevail if they got hold of weapons of mass destruction, and the US and its allies must prevent that acquisition. To do so, the US will have to change the nature of warfare.


(…)


That prompts the question of whether the US won the wrong war in Afghanistan, crushing the Taliban nation state, but allowing the al-Qaida network to slip through its grasp. It would be all the more serious for Washington if it turned out that by destroying one of al-Qaida’s main sanctuaries, it had in fact created more problems for itself. “When I think of an all-channel network operating in a sanctuary I want to leave it right there,” says Arquilla. “If I take the sanctuary, then it is going to hide in places I may never find. Simply, we must be looking around the world.” ‘ Le Monde Diplomatique

‘Modern art made me blue’. ‘Modern art has often been accused of being meaningless but could this mean it can bring on mental illness? A man who studied art theory and postmodernism at university says feelings of disengagement and alienation as a result of his studies caused him to suffer serious depression after graduation’:

“I felt that no activity had any more meaning than any other. I became seriously depressed. What was the point of concentrating on any activity if it had no real point? If you believed what we had been taught at university, everything had equal meaning. If you took this to its logical conclusion, everything meant nothing.”

BBC

[I would say that the disengaged, postmodern anomie of living in contemporary society may play a part in provoking existential depression, and of course that modern art reflects those conditions of living. However, it strikes me as unlikely that explicitly studying that art was as important a factor as the conditions of modern consciousness under which this man labored … as well as the likely biological vulnerability that also contributed to there being ‘an accident waiting to happen’. -FmH]

The Future of “History”: It is no longer possible to find it as controversial as when it appeared several short years ago, many argue, and it even appears self-evident at the moment, but is Samuel Huntington’s “culture clash” formulation unquestionably the more likely future than Francis Fukuyama’s incompatible notion of “pax democratia” ? Policy Review

Everybody needs somebody to hate and fear….

Brendan O’Neill: “…(T)here is a vast difference between a handful of fascists and fascism as a social movement with real power…” The Myth of the Far Right: “Is Europe really heading for a new Dark Age, with its Nazi past coming back to haunt it? Are fascistic far-right parties really ‘on the march again’ everywhere from Greece to France, from Italy to Holland? In a word, no. The current obsession with the rise of the far right tells us far more about the European elites’ crisis of confidence and legitimacy than it does about any Nazi reality.”

And: Mick Hume: Who’s afraid of the far right? “It is hard to say which is more pathetic: the notion that the British National Party (BNP) winning three council seats in Burnley, Lancashire, marks a breakthrough for fascism, or the claim that the failure of the far-right BNP to win seats elsewhere represents an important victory for democracy.” sp!ked

The Man Who Predicted The Race Riots

One man was not at all surprised at this outbreak of inchoate racial fury. He was Ray Honeyford, the headmaster of a middle school in an immigrant area of Bradford in the early 1980s. He knew that the official multiculturalist educational policies that he was expected to implement would sooner or later lead to social disaster such as these riots: and when he repeatedly exposed the folly of these policies in print, the advocates of “diversity”—who maintain that all cultures are equal but that opinions other than their own are forbidden—mounted a vicious and vituperative campaign against him. For at least two years, the Honeyford Affair, as it was known, was a national preoccupation, calling forth endless newspaper and broadcast commentary, the man himself often branded a near-murderous racist and ultimately drummed out of his job. Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a multiculturalist contradicted.

Of course, the events of September 11 have concentrated at least some British minds a little harder on questions of cultural diversity and group loyalties. A disturbingly large number of British Muslims, from a variety of backgrounds, supported al-Qaida. Three of the captives now held at Guantanamo were from Britain, all of them products of the kind of homes that now exist in Bradford and elsewhere by the thousands. Two chemistry Ph.D.s of Bangladeshi origin are on trial in Birmingham, accused (not for the first time) of conspiracy to manufacture explosives for terrorist ends, and they are unlikely to have been acting merely as individuals. Several British Islamic charities were found to have been channeling money to terrorists. Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a transatlantic airliner with Semtex in his sneakers, had converted to Islam in a British jail. The newly alert intelligence service in the prison in which I work now believes that fully half of the Muslim prisoners there sympathize with the World Trade Center attacks: and since Muslim prisoners are by far the fastest-growing group of prisoners in Britain, already far overrepresented in the prison population, this is enough to disturb even the most complacent. The British elites, it appears, would have done far better to have heeded rather than vilified Honeyford almost two decades ago.

[From New York’s City Journal, which describes itself as ‘the nation’s premier urban-policy magazine, “the Bible of the new urbanism”…’ (via Walker)]

Here Are Your Pills. Do You Want the Seminar? “…among a small but growing number of drugstores across the country trying to expand the definition of “pharmacy” to include a range of health management services. In this new guise, the pharmacist is no longer just a figure in a white lab coat behind the counter. Many pharmacists believe that the new role is a natural for them, and consumer groups like the idea, too, because it expands patients’ access to health care.” This New York Times article doesn’t mention that this role is common among pharmacists in Europe as well.

Happy Bloomsday!

“Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.

Stephen closed his eyes to hear his boots crush crackling wrack and shells. You are walking through it howsomever. I am, a stride at a time. A very short space of time through very short times of space. Five, six: the nacheinander. Exactly: and that is the ineluctable modality of the audible. Open your eyes. No. Jesus! If I fell over a cliff that beetles o’er his base, fell through the nebeneinander ineluctably. I am getting on nicely in the dark. My ash sword hangs at my side. Tap with it: they do. My two feet in his boots are at the ends of his legs, nebeneinander. Sounds solid: made by the mallet of Los demiurgos. Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount strand? Crush, crack, crick, crick. Wild sea money. Dominie Deasy kens them a’.

Won’t you come to Sandymount,


Madeline the mare?

Rhythm begins, you see. I hear. Acatalectic tetrameter of iambs marching. No, agallop: deline the mare.

Open your eyes now. I will. One moment. Has all vanished since? If I open and am for ever in the black adiaphane. Basta! I will see if I can see.

See now. There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end.”

from ‘Proteus’ (Ulysses, chapter 3)

A persuasive and soulsearching (and long) letter from Menachem Kellner, Professor of Jewish Thought at the University of Haifa, responding to a colleague’s support for British scientist Steven Rose’s April 6 call for a European intellectual boycott against Israeli universities and scholars. The manifesto, originally published as an open letter to The Guardian, has been signed by over 300 European academics, mostly British. Prof. Kellner’s response is very much worth reading. Posted on Israeli doctoral student Linda Montag’s weblog, Thunder and Lightning [thanks to Deborah Weisman].

The recipient responded:

Dear Professor Kellner:

I am moved that you should write me such a long and heartfelt letter. You have certainly succeeded in your aim to shake my confidence in the rightness of the letter that I signed. I am not saying I now think you are right. I am saying that I no longer know what to think, and I obviously need to learn more of the history. I shall not be signing any more letters on the subject, one way or the other. Thank you very much again for your letter. I wish you well.

Yours sincerely

RD

Related: Coverage of the boycott call from Ha’aretzThe Intifada reaches the ivory tower; a collection of letters from academics decrying the boycott call, including an expression of skepticism from Noam Chomsky; and support for the boycott from an Israeli academic (Tanya Reinhart, professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University). Indymedia Israel

‘Homicide’ isn’t dead, it’s just moved to cable TV

You can kill a good TV show but not what it stands for. Not in the cable era you can’t. There are way too many networks and too many hours to fill; you can’t send guts and creativity on a 10-year holiday, the way network TV could 25 years ago.

“Homicide” took us deeper into the marshes of guilt and innocence than TV cop shows had ever done. Its death signified that when you’re talking about major-league prime time, we want law and order and lots of it. But on cable, we want things to delve deeper, to shine a flashlight into the basement of the soul and the sewers of bureaucracy.

Welcome to the New Cop Shows – “The Wire” and “The Shield.” The Buffalo News

30,000 Years of Modern Art: “Monet and Picasso get the credit for ending art’s obsession with realism and classical beauty. But they had some powerful allies – the cave painters of the stone age.” Guardian UK

Pot Planet by Brian Preston: ‘…Preston is part journalist, part missionary and all viper. He likes to get “baked” on pot. He also enjoys the vagabond life. So, one day, perhaps while under the influence, what should pop into his head but an idea for a book: travel around the world, check out the marijuana scene in different countries (getting baked whenever possible), then write it all up and get it published. Dude! Such notions often float past while the bong bubbles, but in Preston’s case he actually grabbed on, stayed with it and cranked out Pot Planet: Adventures in Global Marijuana Culture. ‘ Salon review

Noah’s Flood Hypothesis May Not Hold Water:

“In 1996, marine geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman published a scientifically popular hypothesis, titled Noah’s Flood Hypothesis. The researchers presented evidence of a bursting flood about 7,500 years ago in what is now the Black Sea. This, some say, supports the biblical story of Noah and the flood.

But, such a forceful flood could not have taken place, says Jun Abrajano, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rensselaer. He is part of an international team of scientists who refute the so-called Noah’s Flood Hypothesis.

Abrajano cites evidence of a much more gradual rising of the Black Sea that began to occur 10,000 years ago and continued for 2,000 years.”

Happy Bloomsday!

“Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.

Stephen closed his eyes to hear his boots crush crackling wrack and shells. You are walking through it howsomever. I am, a stride at a time. A very short space of time through very short times of space. Five, six: the nacheinander. Exactly: and that is the ineluctable modality of the audible. Open your eyes. No. Jesus! If I fell over a cliff that beetles o’er his base, fell through the nebeneinander ineluctably. I am getting on nicely in the dark. My ash sword hangs at my side. Tap with it: they do. My two feet in his boots are at the ends of his legs, nebeneinander. Sounds solid: made by the mallet of Los demiurgos. Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount strand? Crush, crack, crick, crick. Wild sea money. Dominie Deasy kens them a’.

Won’t you come to Sandymount,


Madeline the mare?

Rhythm begins, you see. I hear. Acatalectic tetrameter of iambs marching. No, agallop: deline the mare.

Open your eyes now. I will. One moment. Has all vanished since? If I open and am for ever in the black adiaphane. Basta! I will see if I can see.

See now. There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end.”

from ‘Proteus’ (Ulysses, chapter 3)

Qaeda’s New Links Increase Threats From Global Sites: “A group of midlevel operatives has assumed a more prominent role in Al Qaeda and is working in tandem with Middle Eastern extremists across the Islamic world, senior government officials say. They say the alliance, which extends from North Africa to Southeast Asia, now poses the most serious terrorist threat to the United States.” NY Times

Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution

There are dog lovers, and then there are dog lovers. Behavioral scientists Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger have raised hundreds of dogs of various breeds, raced sled teams, and published professional and popular works on canine behavior. Dogs is their manifesto of canine evolution and treatment by humans, and it offers deep insight, provocative theories, and controversial ideas regarding our relationship with them. Though some of the material is most appropriate for readers with some zoological background, much of it is written for a general audience–one that cares about dogs not just for what they offer humans, but for their own sake.


Arguing that much of current thinking about dogs’ evolutionary history is misguided, the authors share their own complex story of wolflike animals coevolving with permanent human settlements and only recently being subject to directed breeding and artificial selection. This is interesting enough, but they go on to take issue with the use and treatment of dogs, some of which they claim is bad for dog and human alike. Pure breeding, making companion animals of inappropriate breeds, and even some uses of disability assistance are assailed for neglecting genetic and other hardwired aspects of canine life. Surprisingly little is known for sure about dogs’ lives and behavior, so the Coppingers’ contribution is a welcome, if occasionally unsettling, eye-opener. –Rob Lightner amazon.com



long pity poem 3-16-01

I'm borken
So I guess I'm lucky
strangers will fix me.
First my heart
then my coc k
someday my eyes.
Maybe they can make me taller wiser
Happier
without drugs.
Rub my brain
soak it all night rusty bathtup boken sink
extra special chemicals.
Ah, throw the whole fuckin mess out!
I'm becoming a 1987 Volvo station wagon
one thing fixed another breaks.
Everyone is so helpful
their parents grandparents great-grandparents
had what I'm having
like breakfast at Denny's.

— John Tyson (Milwaukee, WI)

The end of the revolution

‘It is a sad story, in the end, this “taming of the Net.” In Ruling the Root, (Milton L.) Mueller, with all the precision and economy of a masterful prosecuting attorney, demolishes the techno-libertarian myth of the Internet as a new space for human interaction that is uncontrollable and inherently independent. Despite the widespread belief that the Net is so decentralized and distributed as to be able to elude governments and even nuclear devastation, there is a central point of control — the so-called “root.” ‘ Salon (via Walker)

McAfee Manufactures Virus Threat: Backlash by thoughtful people against the (thoughtless) news I propagated here, that we should be afraid of .jpegs bearing viruses. Little more than fearmongering by the “group of 20 or so companies whose profits are directly linked to creating fear in their customers, who have to keep discovering new sources of fear to improve their bottom line – or in the absence of new discoveries, keep inventing new sources of fear” — the anti-virus companies?

Now, if you know much about computing, you may be a little suspicious of this. JPEGs are compressed image files that only contain data representing an image to be displayed, not code to be executed. A modification of that data might screw up the picture of your cat dangling from the edge of the kitchen table you like so much, but it won’t turn the image into a potential virus transmitter, because the programs that display JPEGs don’t read them with an eye toward executing the code. An image file is just data to be displayed. The line between “data” and “code” is a little bit fuzzy – often particular characters or a particular file can be both data and code, depending on the context of how other code handles it. Or a particular file can include both data and code separately, like a Microsoft Word file that includes data (your text) and code (some macro designed to be executed by Word when the document is opened).

But for JPEGs there’s a well-designed standard, and it doesn’t include executing code of any sort. If a JPEG-handling program doesn’t like the data it sees, it should just stop trying to display the image, not decide to start executing code from the image. JPEGs are mostly harmless. Slashdot

Thanks to Walker for pointing me to this. Barr alleges defamation in lawsuit against Clinton, Carville and Flynt

Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., is suing former President Clinton, Democratic analyst James Carville and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, contending they harmed his reputation and caused him emotional distress during the Clinton impeachment.

Barr, a vigorous Clinton critic who called for the president to resign, is seeking at least $30 million, along with attorney’s fees and other costs.

He filed the lawsuit March 7 in U.S. District Court. Flynt, who says he was notified last week, made it public this week.

“It’s ridiculous,” Flynt said Thursday in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home. “He’s been out of the limelight for a while so maybe he’s looking for some attention.”

The lawsuit, filed along with various news articles and television transcripts, alleges the three defendants took part in a “common scheme and ongoing conspiracy to attempt to intimidate, impede and/or retaliate” against Barr and other House impeachment managers.

Specifically, it accuses Carville of providing Flynt with FBI files and other classified information on Barr’s private life for use in a smear campaign. It alleges Clinton approved of the actions.

“I don’t know if it’s more silly or more frivolous,” Carville said. “It’s just a political stunt. I think the best thing to do is let the courts handle it.” Yahoo! News

Rafe Coburn, in rc3, points out that “the news of the case was released at the same time Barr’s House committee is holding hearings on a bill that would put limits on ‘frivolous lawsuits,’ by putting a cap on damages awarded for pain and suffering.”

Jenny Turner:

Aberdeen rocks: review of 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess by Stewart Home.

…I really don’t think anyone who is at all interested in the study of literature has any business not knowing the work of Stewart Home. No one and nothing, least of all the work itself, is saying you have to like it: if Home wanted his work to be likeable, he could just set about copying Nick Hornby, same as everybody else. But Home is using writing for a different purpose. Writing is power, ideology, an instrument of domination; it’s a huge, filthy, stinking machine. Yes, it’s possible – and can be rewarding in all sorts of ways – to use this machine for writing amiable, authentic, sincere-seeming prose. But that is only a tiny part of what writing is about, whether or not one chooses to acknowledge the power relation head on.

In his work, Home avoids all the nice bits of writing to focus in tightly on what is difficult, ugly, ambivalent about the process. So pulp gets in, and pornography, and violence; philosophy is allowed, so long as it is not being consoling; and political theory is fundamentally what the whole thing is about – Home sometimes calls his method ‘proletarian Postmodernism’, and he doesn’t mean that entirely as a joke. Much of Home’s work is extremely funny, if you are comfortable enough with the tradition it comes out of to be able to see the humour. But it isn’t warm, it isn’t compassionate, it doesn’t make you feel good as you read it. The irony is almost total. It’s satire, unsweetened and unadorned.

London Review of Books

3am Interview: A Cunning Linguist – 69 Things To Do With Stewart Home

“It’s not a problem in the States for people to understand that there is more than one style of English language writing that can be worked at, but here it’s a problem. The critics think that if you’re not making these failed attempts at metaphor then you’re not trying. They appear incapable of imagining that I choose to write as I do. The critics here seem to think I can’t control my writing. But actually writing in a stripped-down way is a discipline, because you’ve got to make sure it’s not baggy and you’ re not repeating yourself too much within a sentence. And with every sentence you’re paring it down. You’re thinking – I want 20 to 30 word sentences. So there’s a certain discipline in there. With this Dead Princess it’s like Come Before Christ and Murder Love, it hasn’t got that pulp narrative and basically it’s written from the perspective of a disintegrating personality” 3am Magazine

Stewart Home Society

“The Stewart Home Society exists to promote the works of Stewart Home and document the many aspects of his work. Also the Stewart Home Society will make preparations for Stewart Home’s death on which it will step into the role of defending the great man’s works and reputation against bourgeois / imperialist / revisionist slander and distortion.”

Another nail in counterculture’s coffin?

Rolling Stone, Struggling for Readers, Names Briton as Editor: “Rolling Stone, a magazine that all but defined the American countercultural epoch, yesterday named a British managing editor schooled in the racy ways of contemporary English men’s magazines. The appointment signals the end of Rolling Stone‘s history as a publisher of epic narratives and literary journalism, in part because the owner, Jann Wenner, believes that today’s young reader has little patience for long articles.” NY Times [thanks, Spike Report]

Missed Opportunity:

I was looking forward both to the intriguing premise of this war movie and to seeing John Woo’s direction. From Slate‘s “Summary Judgment”:

Windtalkers (MGM). Critics are disappointed by action maestro John Woo’s first war movie. The film is based on the United States’ use of the Navajo language as a code during World War II. It’s fascinating history, but “the filmmakers have buried it beneath battlefield clichés, while centering the story on a white character played by Nicolas Cage” (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). The combat scenes are “as kinetic (and as splattery) as any ever filmed” (David Edelstein, Slate), but they may not serve the movie: [Windtalkers‘] style keeps getting in the way of the action and the emotion” (Stephen Hunter, the Washington Post).

Paul Krugman: Plutocracy and Politics: “The Gilded Age looked positively egalitarian compared with the concentration of wealth now emerging in America. Pretty soon denial will no longer be possible. What will the apologists say next? ” NY Times op-ed

New computer virus can infect picture files: ‘The malicious program is the first ever to infect picture files, though it is not currently attacking computers. Called “Perrun,” it worries researchers because it is the first to be able to cross from infecting a program to infecting data files, long considered safe from such threats.’ digitalMASS [via walker]

YahooPOPs!: “an open-source initiative to provide free POP3 access to your Yahoo! Mail account. YahooPOPs! is available on the Windows and Unix platforms.

This application emulates a POP3 server and enables popular email clients like Outlook, Netscape, Eudora, Mozilla, Calypso, etc., to download email from Yahoo! accounts…

Yahoo! Mail disabled free access to its POP3 service in April 2002. This resulted in many people (including myself) to look for alternative free POP3 services. But this exercise can be very difficult because of the fact that your Yahoo! Mail address could be with several people and informing all of them about your new email address could prove to be a nightmare.

And then one day, I stumbled across a Perl script called FetchYahoo, which almost did what I wanted! It downloaded emails from Yahoo’s website and presented them in a format such that email clients like Netscape and Pine could read them. But, the format in which it saved the emails is not supported by all email clients, including the one that I use. Also, making a layman install Perl and to get a Perl script to work could be a nightmare.

So, YahooPOPs! was born.”


[Retina Nebula by Hubble]

Beauty in the Eye of Hubble:

‘The Hubble telescope reveals a rainbow of colors in this dying star, called IC 4406. Like many other so-called planetary nebulae, IC 4406 exhibits a high degree of symmetry. The nebula’s left and right halves are nearly mirror images of the other. If we could fly around IC 4406 in a spaceship, we would see that the gas and dust form a vast donut of material streaming outward from the dying star. We don’t see the donut shape in this photograph because we are viewing IC 4406 from the Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope. From this vantage point, we are seeing the side of the donut. This side view allows us to see the intricate tendrils of material that have been compared to the eye’s retina. In fact, IC 4406 is dubbed the “Retina Nebula.” ‘STScI

Extraterrestrial Jupiter:

“After 15 years of looking, a top planet-hunting team has finally found a distant planetary system that reminds them of home.

Geoffrey Marcy, astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and astronomer Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington today announced their discovery of a Jupiter-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star at nearly the same distance as the real Jupiter orbits our own Sun.” NASA

Threat of ‘dirty bomb’ softened; Ashcroft’s remarks annoy White House:

‘Attorney General John Ashcroft on Monday overstated the potential threat posed by ”dirty bomb” suspect Abdullah Al Muhajir, Bush administration and law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Ashcroft’s remarks annoyed the White House and led the administration to soften the government’s descriptions of the alleged plot. ”I don’t think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk and (Al Muhajir’s) coming in here obviously to plan further deeds,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told CBS on Tuesday.’ USA Today

Party Animals?

Harold Meyerson: Greens to Liberals: Drop Dead!: “Ask any liberal to identify the force in American politics most intent on destroying progressive prospects and causes and you’re sure to hear that it’s the Bush administration or the Republican right or some such reactionary power. Let me gently suggest, however, that a very different force has wormed its way onto this list, and may indeed be right at the top: the Green Party.” The American Prospect

Scenes From a ‘Weird’ Tech Fest:

“…(W)ith speakers like famed British physicist Freeman Dyson, singing robotic birds, techno DJs, a bring-and-buy market of ancient computer parts, Moroccan tea with free baklava and curries served by an Indian couple, London’s Extreme Computing weekend seemed more Woodstock for the geek generation.

Billed as the “Festival of Inappropriate Technologies,” the one-day extravaganza packed several hundred attendees into Camden Town Hall in the center of the city. Instead of name badges, people wrote the domain name of their e-mail address on the badge and were supposed to try and guess names.” Wired

Money and madness:

“A child who doesn’t like doing math homework may be diagnosed with the mental illness developmental-arithmetic disorder (No.315.4). A child who argues with her parents may be diagnosed as having a mental illness called oppositional-defiant disorder (No.313.8). And people critical of the legislation now snaking through Congress that purports to “end discrimination against patients seeking treatment for mental illness” may find themselves labeled as being in denial and diagnosed with the mental illness called noncompliance-with-treatment disorder (No.15.81).

The psychiatric diagnoses suggested above are no joke. They represent a few of the more than 350 “mental disorders” listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the billing bible for mental disorders which commingles neurological diseases with psychiatric diagnoses. (Click here to see more examples of the mental disorders listed in the DSM-IV.) Whether the described diagnoses are real diseases or subjective speculation, science is at the heart of the debate about whether lawmakers will require employers and insurers to cover mental illness on the same level as physical disease…” Insight

I agree with the dubious basis of oppositional-defiant disorder. A preponderance of the following evidence, I teach medical students and psychiatric residents, is necessary for something to qualify as a psychiatric disease: (a) genetic component; (b) demonstrable anatomical, neurochemical or physiological alteration; (c) nonrandom association with other conditions demonstrated to have a physiological basis; (d) response to medication, and degree of response correlates with extent of correction of neurochemical/physiological alterations by the medication; (e) exacerbation of dysfunction when administered agents demonstrated to worsen neurochemical/physiological alterations; (f) animal model with analogous behavioral disturbance may exist, and abnormalities in anatomy, neurochemistry or physiology readily demonstrable in affected animals. A number of the “non-diseases” — by which Insight seems to mean anything treated by psychiatrists — you’ll find if you follow their invitation to “click on” are in fact well-established disease entities. These people are still having difficulty, apparently, accepting that mind and body interact. While I have doubts about conduct disorder, pedophilia disorder, and, as I noted, oppositional-defiant disorder, the remainder on their list are as much diseases, in my opinion, as diabetes or hypertension.

The Problem of the Soul: Two Visions of Mind and How to Reconcile Them by Owen Flanagan:

“The illusions we must give up–concerning free will, personal identity, and the existence of the soul–and the (surprisingly rich) ideas we can keep.

Traditional ideas about the basic nature of humanity are under attack as never before. The very attributes that make us human–free will, the permanence of personal identity, the existence of the soul–are being undermined and threatened by the current revolution in the science of the mind. If the mind is the brain, and therefore a physical object subject to deterministic laws, how can we have free will? If most of our thoughts and impulses are unconscious, how can we be morally responsible for what we do?




The Problem of the Soul
shows the way out of these seemingly intractable paradoxes. Framing the conflict in terms of two dominant visions of the mind–the “manifest image” of humanistic philosophy and theology, and the scientific image–renowned philosopher Owen Flanagan demonstrates that there is, in fact, common ground, and that we need not give up our ideas of moral responsibility and personal freedom in order to have an empirically sound view of the human mind.” amazon.com

Are Girls Mean?

‘…The frenzy over so-called mean girls, the subject of (Rachel) Simmons’ book, Odd Girl Out, as well as a spate of other books just out (Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes; Emily White’s Fast Girls; Phyllis Chesler’s Women’s Inhumanity to Women), is building. She recently appeared on Oprah — for the second time. Newsweek just put a mean girls story on the cover. And for the second week in a row, she was listed on the New York Times best seller list. (Last week she climbed to number 6.)

Buoyed by a wave she doesn’t entirely understand, Simmons has come to conclude that the interest in her topic is linked to the concern over adolescent bullying provoked by the Columbine high school shootings, whose perpetrators had been ostracized by their peers. While Columbine involved boys, Simmons says, “it was only a matter of time before girls were discussed.” ‘ Seattle Weekly [via AlterNet]

Psychobizarreness Theory??

Precis of The Rationality of Psychological Disorders: Psychobizarreness Theory:

“In his book, … (Yacov) Rofé reviews the three major schools of psychopathology and finds that they lack empirical validation and are unable to account for fundamental theoretical issues. Therefore, an integrative theory of psychopathology, termed Psychobizarreness Theory (PBT), was proposed. PBT defines neurotic disorders as bizarre behaviors, using five operational diagnostic criteria, and claims that these symptoms are coping mechanisms, which patients consciously and rationally select when confronted with unbearable levels of stress. Like psychoanalysis, PBT views repression as the key to understanding neuroses. However, in PBT repression is defined in conscious terms, in accordance with experimental and research data, and thus, the symptom constitutes a distractive maneuver employed to eliminate stress-related thoughts from attention. Hence, repression is the consequence rather than the cause of neurotic symptoms. Nevertheless, patients are unaware of their repressive endeavors due to sophisticated self-deceptive processes. Furthermore, PBT equates the process of symptom selection with economic decisions, whereby a certain ‘product’ is chosen according to the individual’s needs, available ‘merchandise’ and cost-benefit analysis. The theory also integrates the various forms of therapy into one theoretical model, accounting for their efficacy in conscious, rational terms. Overall, PBT synthesizes a large amount of research and clinical data and may settle the long and bitter dispute in the field of psychopathology.” CogPrints

You Know That Space-Time Thing? Never Mind

A New Kind of Science: “Among a small group of very smart people, the publication of A New Kind of Science, by Stephen Wolfram, has been anticipated with the anxiety aroused in literary circles by, say, Jonathan Franzen’s recent novel, The Corrections. For more than a decade, Wolfram, a theoretical physicist turned millionaire software entrepreneur, has been laboring in solitude on a work that, he has promised, will change the way we see the world. Adding to the suspense, the book has been announced and withdrawn as the artist returned to his garret to tinker, ignoring the bad vibes and hexes cast by jealous colleagues hoping to see him fall flat on his face.” NY Times Books

Experiment Offers Look Through Eyes of Autism: “Enlisting Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and a high-tech eye-tracking device developed for the military, researchers at Yale ran experiments that came closer than anything yet to offering a look at the world as seen through the eyes of people with autism.

In one experiment, described in the current issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers compared the eye movements of a highly intelligent autistic adult and a control subject of the same age, sex and I.Q. as they watched the relentless emotional conflicts of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

What the experiment showed was that the two subjects were seeing the movie in starkly different ways…” NY Times

Book taste linked to dreams: If you like fiction, your dreams are likely to be stranger but you’ll remember them more readily. Fantasy readers have more nightmares and ‘lucid’ dreams. “The research also suggests children who read scary books are three times more likely to have nightmares.” What does ‘suggested’ mean here? The adult findings probably mean that personality type shapes both reading preferences and types of dreams — correlation but not causation. While it is not hard to understand how reading a child a scary story might cause a nightmare, will it shape her personality so that she has a lifelong tendency toward nightmares? I doubt it. BBC

spammimic – hide a message in spam:

There are terrific tools (like PGP and GPG) for encrypting your mail. If somebody along the way looks at the mail they can’t understand it. But they do know you are sending encrypted mail to your pal.

The answer: encode your message into something innocent looking.

Your messages will be safe and nobody will know they’re encrypted!

There is tons of spam flying around the Internet. Most people can’t delete it fast enough. It’s virtually invisible. This site gives you access to a program that will encrypt a short message into spam. Basically, the sentences it outputs vary depending on the message you are encoding. Real spam is so stupidly written it’s sometimes hard to tell the machine written spam from the genuine article.

Annals of the Invasion of Privacy (cont’d.)

Israeli Device Detects Cell Phones Acting as Bugs: ‘With a slight modification, cell phones become high-quality bugs. An owner can call the phone from anywhere in the world without it emitting a ringing tone while its screen remains blank, apparently turned off.

“The beauty of the cell phone as a bug is that it’s an innocent looking and ubiquitous object,” said Ben Te’eni, co-founder of Netline Communications Technologies, which has developed a device for detecting cell phone communications, especially from cell phones in apparently dormant mode.’ Yahoo! News

"… a very nice size for a thought…"

Patenting the Harvard Scientist: ‘In a new phase of the battle to patent living organisms, the parents of one of the Harvard scientists credited with creating the Harvard Mouse are seeking a patent on their son. Says the mother, “clearly our Harvard Son meets the test of being a composition of matter that is novel, useful and not obvious.” ‘ This is from 357 Magazine, a unique publication where each article is exactly 357 words in length (with title, excluding by-line). ” But why 357? You can say at lot with three hundred and fifty seven words, but you’re not in much danger of saying too much. It’s a bit haikuish in that you have to think what every word does. You don’t have too many to spare. Each one has to mean something. Even the ones you leave out, especially the ones you leave out, have to really mean something.”

Kissinger and Tell:

Film: Material Witnesses: “An itemized casualty list of calamities across multiple nations, The Trials of Henry Kissinger is something of a microcosm of the 2002 Human Rights Watch festival itself. Condensing Christopher Hitchens’s enraged deposition into 80 lucid minutes, directors Alex Gibney and Eugene Jarecki map out Kissinger’s collusions with Nixon and Ford in the short-circuiting of the ’68 Paris peace talks, secret bombing of Cambodia, upending of democracy in Chile, and savaging of East Timor. The revered elder statesman becomes Machiavellian tyrant-as-apparatchik, driven equally by chillingly abstract realpolitik and panting power lust. Hitchens & co. sometimes press their case too hard (as when they posit Kissinger as the virtual lone gunman who distended the American war in Vietnam by four years) and remain hazy on the logistics of charging him in international court. Quibbles aside, though, Trials is an indispensable primer on U.S. foreign policy—especially during wartime.” The Village Voice

Film: Stray Dogs: “Ten years on, American independent moviemakers seem to have come to terms with the anxiety of Quentin Tarantino’s influence — the guns-&-blather template no longer gluts Sundance, and third-generation straight-to-tapers like 4 Dogs Playing Poker and Gunblast Vodka occupy only nominal Blockbuster shelf space. Not so with the British, whose industry’s ironic-gangster saliva glands are still in overdrive, and whose reawakened taste for legendary Swinging London hoodlums scans oddly like cultural pride.” The Village Voice

Potter trailer making magic on the Web: “A teaser trailer for the next Harry Potter film has been posted on the Internet, movie studio Warner Bros. said on Tuesday.

The teaser lasts for only 30 seconds but is enough to let fans have a look at Dobby the house elf, a character introduced in J.K. Rowling’s second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets…Warner Bros… will release the film in the United Kingdom on Nov. 15, 2002.” CNET

“If the past 18 months have been what policy looks like with Karl Rove only partly in control, one shudders to think what comes next.” Paul Krugman on The Rove Doctrine: ” For the most distinctive feature of Mr. Rove’s modus operandi is not his conservatism; it’s his view that the administration should do whatever gives it a political advantage. This includes, of course, exploiting the war on terrorism — something Mr. Rove has actually boasted about. But it also includes coddling special interests.” NY Times op-ed

‘How Convenient!’ Dept:

Neutralizing Bush Critics: “For the president, the drama of the dirty-bomb threat and its successful interdiction … sent a clear warning to those Congressional leaders who are preparing to focus a long political season on how the nation’s intelligence-gathering system broke down during Mr. Bush’s watch.” NY Times news analysis

Blog War?

Remember my post down below feeling flattered to be called a nice liberal blog by ‘neoconservative’ Joe Katzman? Katzman represented the blogging world as a human tide from the right in reaction to the alleged disenfranchisement of their viewpoint in the mainstream media. Well, perhaps I should have been offended instead. Although I assume Katzman isn’t consciously part of any grand conspiracy, it’s clear he’s sensitive to the zeitgeist. And here’s a New York Times piece, A Rift Among Bloggers, which may place Katzman’s stance in the following context:

Thanks in part to the participation of some prominent journalists and academics, the pundit-style blogs quickly reached a level of public and media recognition that other blogs had never achieved. As a result, some latecomers now think Weblogs are inherently political. That has perturbed some Weblog veterans, who say the war bloggers are rewriting history and presenting a distorted view of blogs. They say the diversity of Weblogs is being overshadowed by the attention-getting style of war blogs… (T)he war bloggers say they represent the evolution of a medium that might have languished in obscurity without them.

Along with Kottke, this site, Blogroots, a collaboration among ‘old-school bloggers’ Meg Hourihan, Matt Haughey and Paul Bausch, is at the forefront of the backlash against the pundits. The three are the latest to jump into the weblogging-book craze, with the forthcoming We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs. One question for the warbloggers. If they think they invented the politicization of weblogging after Sept. 11th, what would they make, for example, of the tide of reaction in the weblogging world to the 2000 Presidential dys-election?

Katinka Matson’s Twelve Flowers:

“When I saw Matson’s images I was blown away. Erase from your mind any notion of pixels or any grainy artifact of previous digitalization gear. Instead imagine a painter who could, like Vermeer, capture the quality of light that a camera can, but with the color of paints. That is what a scanner gives you. Now imagine a gifted artist like Matson exploring what the world looks like when it can only see two inches in front of its eye, but with infinite detail! In her flowers one can see every microscopic dew drop, leaf vein, and particle of pollen—in satisfying rich pigmented color. (From the Introduction By Kevin Kelly)” The Edge

Man Who Headed Emergency Site in Oklahoma Accused of Being Impostor:

“The man wearing a green beret and camouflage fatigues called himself Capt. William Clark from the Army’s Special Forces. He arrived two hours after an interstate bridge collapsed and said he was in charge.

Some emergency workers listened to him for a few days until he disappeared from the site. Authorities said Friday that the man is an ex-convict from Missouri who impersonated an officer to get free food, lodging and a pickup truck.” Tampa Bay Online

Global Warming Blamed for Melting Everest Glacier

“A glacier from which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay set out to conquer Mount Everest nearly 50 years ago has retreated three miles up the mountain due to global warming, a U.N. body says.”

A team of climbers, backed by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), reported after their two-week visit last month that the impact of rising temperatures was everywhere to be seen.” Yahoo! News

Did anyone get to see the crescent setting sun? We’re out of luck here on the East Coast of North America, where it was already after sunset when the eclipse happened…

Fibromyalgia Pain Isn’t All In Patients’ Heads, New Brain Study Finds

A new brain-scan study confirms scientifically what fibromyalgia patients have been telling a skeptical medical community for years: They’re really in pain.

In fact, the study finds, people with fibromyalgia say they feel severe pain, and have measurable pain signals in their brains, from a gentle finger squeeze that barely feels unpleasant to people without the disease. The squeeze’s force must be doubled to cause healthy people to feel the same level of pain — and their pain signals show up in different brain areas.

The results, published in the current issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, the journal of the American College of Rheumatology, may offer the proof of fibromyalgia’s physical roots that many doubtful physicians have sought.

As one of the first psychiatrists to pay attention to the then-new entity of fibromyalgia, I wrote and taught about it from two perspectives — both the importance of recognizing the reality of mysterious mind-body complaints and the suffering they cause, as this study points out; and the nondiscriminating way these diagnoses become fads and are applied broadly by clinicians jumping on a bandwagon and by patients invested in the diagnoses as explanations of their vague malaise. Fibromyalgia is one of the more recent entities to occupy what is a perennial niche for controversial syndromes at the interstices of various medical specialties. Some go on to be dismissed as passing fads, others go on to gain scientific veracity, and others linger for quite a long time in a never-never land between those two extremes. So, while the present study makes sense — if the fibromyalgia patients are carefully selected to be a homogeneously, rigidly-defined sample, there will be some objective findings — I would also assert that this probably applies only to a very small subset of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the ‘real world’, and should not be used to legitimize the indiscriminate, ever-broadening application of the label to patients whose suffering should more properly be understood in different (psychological, usually) terms.

Hal Rager, of the weblog blivet, wrote to point out to me that he was a fibromyalgia sufferer. Here’s his take on the same research report:

I was extremely ill six years ago, and fibromyalgia was one of the constellation of things I was diagnosed with. I accept that there may well be a psychosomatic component to fibromyalgia, but I resented like hell the implications by some that my pain was fabricated. If the brain is registering pain, it’s pain. It may be being caused by problems with brain chemistry, but the pain was as real as pain gets.

By the way, there are far broader implications of this study. The assessment of subjective complaints of pain against some objective standard has long been a Holy Grail across disciplines of clinical medicine, for obvious reasons. Longtime FmH readers will know how excited I have been with the developments we’re seeing with functional brain imaging such as fMRI. If it finally allows us to verify and perhaps grade pain experiences (by watching brain regions involved with noxious experiences), we may yet drink from the Grail. Not only could this give guidance to the bitter problems of both the overmedication and undermedication of pain, but might we more readily empathize with neurological analogues to fMRI patterns that indubitably entail pain in humans when we see them in non-human species? On the other hand, how brightly a signal lights up on some objective scale on an fMRI reading doesn’t tell the whole story. By a sort of physiological “Peter Principle’, the subjective experience of pain probably expands to fill every bit of the space allocated for it, and is that any less real?

Decline and Fall (cont’d.):

Three shot to death at Missouri abbey: “Three people died and one was injured Monday when a gunman opened fire at a Roman Catholic monastery in a remote area of northwest Missouri, the Missouri Highway Patrol reported.

It was not known if the gunman was still on the grounds of the Benedictine monastery and seminary, where about 45 monks live…” CNN No one’s commenting on a motive yet. Tempting to speculate that this relates to the opening floodgates of long overdue attention to rampant sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Or was this just the latest variant on the — now becoming sickeningly mundane — American epidemic of workplace slaughters, e.g. yesterday’s murder of three in a Rhode Island newspaper plant?

A high school friend who reads my weblog wrote to remind me that Forest Hills HS’s other claims to a place in rock ‘n’ roll history include Paul Simon, former centerfielder for our baseball team (he met Art Garfunkel, also an FHHS student, in detention after school); and Leslie West, lead singer-guitarist for Mountain (anyone remember them?). [thanks, Jerry!]

I also seem to recall that Walter Becker — or was it Donald Fagen? — of Steely Dan supposedly graduated from my high school.

Quark Soup: this weblog by David Appell, who is a PhD in physics and a writer, was recommended by an FmH’er who wrote:

“I just discovered this very well-informed & well-written science-oriented weblog by a science journalist. He’s been clarifying global warming in great detail these past two weeks, and has some rather sharp things to say about the pretensions of the punditocracy in such matters.”

U.S. Arrests American Accused of Planning ‘Dirty Bomb’ Attack: ‘Attorney General John Ashcroft said today that American authorities had arrested a home-grown terrorist — an American citizen who became an Al Qaeda member — and thereby thwarted a radioactive-bomb attack on the United States.

“We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or `dirty bomb,’ in the United States,” Mr. Ashcroft said in a televised announcement from Moscow,’ emphasizing the close cooperation between the CIA, FBI and Defense Dept. in disrupting the plot — only it is not really clear there is a plot. The information leading to his arrest apperas to come primarily from Abu Zubaydah, the reputed ‘top Al Qaeda official’ arested in Pakistan in March. The suspect, who is reportedly a former Chicago street gang member who converted to Islam after a prison term, has some expertise in bomb-making and some interest in radiological dispersion weapons, and the assumption that Al Qaeda has interest in such weapons has been corroborated by Abu Zubaydah, but officials report “there was not an actual plan.” NY Times [By the way, how likely do you think it is that there is only one such man in the US with such a mission and expertise? -FmH]