Day: May 27, 2003

Swallowing the lesser of evils?

Greens Consider Standing Behind Democrats in ’04: “As the Green Party hashes out its plans for next year’s presidential election, some of its activists are urging the party to forgo the race and, instead, throw its support behind one of the Democratic candidates — all in the hopes of unseating President Bush.” Washington Post

About time, although probably closing the barn door after the horse is gone; once you regret how you used your swing vote, it is not likely you will have a chance to be that pivotal again…

Anti-telemarketing –

the EGBG counterscript: “The Direct Marketing sector regards the telephone as one of its most successful tools. Consumers experience telemarketing from a completely different point of view: more than 92% perceive commercial telephone calls as a violation of privacy.

Telemarketers make use of a telescript – a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.” Brilliant. You can print out a .pdf of the counterscript to keep next to your phone for instant deployment. For a long time, I have asked telemarketers for their home phone number and, when they inevitably balk at giving it to me, I wonder aloud why then they presume to call me at home… just before hanging up. This is a quantum leap beyond that as a kultur-jam[thanks, walker]

Into the Blogosphere:

Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs: (ed. by the University of Minnesota Blog Collective). “The editors invite submissions for a new online edited collection exploring discursive, visual, and other communicative features of weblogs. We are interested in submissions that analyze and critique situated cases and examples drawn from weblogs and the weblog community. Although we are open to a wide range of scholarly approaches, our primary interest is in essays that comment upon specific features of the weblog and that treat the weblog as always a part of a larger community network.” Too bad the execrable term blogosphere seems to be catching on…

Earth and Moon as seen from Mars:


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“This is the first image of Earth ever taken from another planet that actually shows our home as a planetary disk. Because Earth and the Moon are closer to the Sun than Mars, they exhibit phases, just as the Moon, Venus, and Mercury do when viewed from Earth. As seen from Mars by MGS [Mars Global Surveyor] on 8 May 2003 at 13:00 GMT (6:00 AM PDT), Earth and the Moon appeared in the evening sky.” And here’s Jupiter from the MGS:


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NASA/JPL

Jargon Watch: backstory –

I’ve recently become aware that the use of this word is broadening with a corresponding unfocusing of its meaning, as if it is a synonym for background or a hybrid of background and history. A pity; it is useful to have a word meaning what backstory originally meant, as Paul McFedries nailed it at Word Spy several years ago. Googling shows us how it is currently being used.

Matrix Metrics:

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I saw the Matrix Reloaded the other day and won’t hesitate to say (even if the hatemail starts spewing in) that I found it disappointing. I’m in good company in saying so, IMHO.

You’re not supposed to be able to follow it unless you were into the first Matrix film… but I was. And it is de rigeur to dis Keanu Reeves… but I find his laconic minimalist non-acting has a sort of appeal. So it’s not that. I just found its plotting incoherent and arbitrary. Sorry, those failings offend my minimal expectations of a film, and no amount of <a href=”http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/30747.html

“>hacker cred (The Register)

or rock-’em-sock-’em action can compensate. Although it is tempting to hope for a coherent and overpoweringly subversive paradigm-buster to be this popular (“The left has been content to release memes into their own marginal subcultures for far to long. The Matrix unleashes memes into the heart of pop culture…”), it won’t amount to anything.

I’m nagged by the thought, though, that I would have grasped the logic better if I hadn’t been severely jetlagged (I saw it in SF where I was out for a conference) at the time. And perhaps I would grasp its logic better if I saw it again. But I couldn’t put up with that.

I did sort of like the Agent Smiths, although I was preoccupied throughout with what relationship he/they have to other contemporary Men in Black like Smith and Jones. By the way, I find credible the speculation that Smith could turn out to be an ally of The One (anything is possible in these scripts, right?) in the third episode due out this fall. Which (sigh) I’ll probably see, especially because it’ll be the first feature film out simultaneously on IMAX format, I read.

As an aside, I knew he looked familiar, but it was so out of context (wait; maybe not) that I hadn’t realized until I happened upon it here that Councilman West was a cameo appearance of none other than Cornel West.

Aftermath, Inc.:


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Crime and Trauma Cleanup – “certified technicians” who “remediate the premises after a homicide, suicide, or un-attended death.” It is a franchise too — you can start your own Aftermath team.

Our Final Century:

The Spectator reviews a gloomy book by an eminent scientist which gives humankind around 50-50 odds of surviving the next century. While the nuclear threat has receded, he claims (and I am not certain it has), it will be overshadowed by equally destructive but far less controllable threats which

may come not primarily from national governments, not even from ‘rogue states’, but from individuals or small groups with access to ever more advanced technology. There are alarmingly many ways in which individuals will be able to trigger catastrophe.

But fear not; there’s a chance an errant asteroid or comet will finish us off, mercifully, first.

‘A rotter, a snake oil salesman, a chancer’ –

how scientist’s obituary sparked a storm:

It was expected to be a laudatory précis of a life of achievement, a straightforward assessment of the career of a distinguished pharmaceutical expert.


But the obituary of David Horrobin that has just been published in the British Medical Journal falls considerably short of that expectation. Instead it presents a grimly unpleasant image of a conniving opportunist. The scientist ‘may prove to be the greatest snake oil salesman of his age’, it claims.


And the article goes on. Associates described him as ‘a rotter… given to avoiding his responsibilities’, it alleges, while Horrobin’s research ethics are described as ‘considerably dubious’. It is even suggested that researchers testing his company’s drugs had been offered sales royalties to influence the outcome of their work, a ‘highly unusual’ action, the obituary adds.


These views – unprecedented for a journal regarded as the mouthpiece of the medical establishment – have provoked a storm of outrage. The BMJ has been inundated with angry letters. Council members of the British Medical Association, the publisher of the BMJ, have logged complaints, while Horrobin’s family have asked the Press Complaints Commission to condemn the obituary… Guardian/Observer

A taste of death:

Eating Apes by Dale Peterson, reviewed:

This book has a terrible title, conjuring up images of roast loin of chimp or gorilla stew. It is absolutely appropriate. Now that I am familiar with Dale Peterson’s style, I am convinced that he chose the title intentionally, for he intended to upset the reader.


We are uneasy about the idea of eating the apes because they behave more like us than any other mammals: they walk upright on their hind legs; they use tools; they laugh and show grief; and they are among the few mammals that understand that it is themselves that they see in a mirror. We share 98.74 per cent of our DNA with chimpanzees, making them our closest living relatives, and this ought to transcend the idea of our using them for food.


But this “we” cannot be applied to the indigenous peoples of Central Africa. From time immemorial, they have hunted and eaten the animals that share their habitat. So if they have always eaten gorilla and chimpanzee meat, why should it be a problem now? Because the great apes have now been so assaulted by hunting and disease that they are careering towards extinction. Times of London

Third Chimp to First Chimp: ‘Welcome Home’?

Chimps are human, gene study implies: “With just 0.6% difference in the most critical DNA sites, the new work suggests chimps should be in the same taxonomic group as humans.

(…)

It is not the first time such a suggestion has been made – in 1991 physiologist and ecologist Jared Diamond called humans ‘the third chimpanzee’. But subsequent genetic comparisons have yielded varying results, depending on how the genotypes are compared.” New Scientist