Month: August 2007

Top 10 physically modified people

“it quickly became clear that there are some extraordinary human beings intent on changing their appearance permanently for reasons that will forever baffle most people. whether you agree with it or not, you can’t deny the fact that it’s a fascinating way of life.” (Deputy Dog) [Not only more extreme than I had imagined, but perhaps than I could have imagined. I do admit that my daughter and I got a thrill from getting those temporary tattoos that last a week or so airbrushed onto our calves earlier this summer.] //farm2.static.flickr.com/1262/1221590498_a7c523083b_m.jpg' cannot be displayed]

No Thank You

You may not see my receipt: An emphatic no-thank-you to the increasingly ubiquitous practice of receipt-checking as you leave retail stores. You may think it is just a trivial indignity you put up with without much thought. You may not even be old enough to recall when it was not that way. You may certainly think it is not worth the energy to oppose. But doing so is not only a nostalgic hearkening-back to the good old days when people were trusting and trusted; it is also an arguably spiritual practice when one stands up against these trends. Similar to the reason I still tweak the noses of the baristas by ordering my coffee “small”, “medium”, or “large” when I go into Starbuck’s.

The War as We Saw It

New York Times op-ed: “To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.

…In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.”

The War as We Saw It

New York Times op-ed: “To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.

…In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.”

Why FireFox is Blocked

Because Firefox allows ad blocking, a new campaign has blocked Firefox users’ access to certain websites, on the grounds that they “provide quality content in exchange for displaying ads” and that accessing the content without viewing the ads is theft. Of course, I can use a user-agent switching extension with Firefox and disguise the identity of my browser. [via the null device]

Jargon Watch:

My nine-year old has adopted this phrase in recent months. “Oh, snap!” The Urban Dictionary, to which this link points, does not point out the obvious; that it is used like a euphemism for “Oh, shit!” //media.urbandictionary.com/image/page/ohsnap-17397.jpg' cannot be displayed]

The Moral-Hazard Myth

Malcolm Gladwell: “The issue about what to do with the health-care system is sometimes presented as a technical argument about the merits of one kind of coverage over another or as an ideological argument about socialized versus private medicine. It is, instead, about a few very simple questions. Do you think that this kind of redistribution of risk is a good idea? Do you think that people whose genes predispose them to depression or cancer, or whose poverty complicates asthma or diabetes, or who get hit by a drunk driver, or who have to keep their mouths closed because their teeth are rotting ought to bear a greater share of the costs of their health care than those of us who are lucky enough to escape such misfortunes? In the rest of the industrialized world, it is assumed that the more equally and widely the burdens of illness are shared, the better off the population as a whole is likely to be. The reason the United States has forty-five million people without coverage is that its health-care policy is in the hands of people who disagree, and who regard health insurance not as the solution but as the problem.” (The New Yorker)

Perspectives about the news from people in the news

Google News Blog: “Starting this week, we’ll be displaying reader comments on stories in Google News, but with a bit of a twist…

We’ll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question. Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we’ll show them next to the articles about the story.”

Our Lives, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch

Life Imitate The Matrix: “Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.” — John Tierney (New York Times )

The Beam of Light That Flips a Switch…

…That Turns on the Brain: “…[A] new generation of genetic and optical technology can give researchers unprecedented power to turn on and off targeted sets of cells in the brain, and to do so by remote control. These novel techniques will bring an “exponential change” in the way scientists learn about neural systems, said Dr. Helen Mayberg, a clinical neuroscientist at Emory University, who is not involved in the research but has seen videos of the worm experiments… Some day, the remote-control technology might even serve as a treatment for neurological and psychiatric disorders.” (New York Times )

(I just hope they don’t try it on my many psychiatric patients who are delusional already about their brains/minds being controlled by external forces.)

Our Lives, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch

Life Imitate The Matrix: “Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.” — John Tierney (New York Times )

What Really Happened at the Yearly Kos Military Panel

“On Friday morning Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org moderated a YearlyKos panel called The Military and Progressives: Are They That Different? I was on the panel with Jon, along with General Wesley Clark, Iraq veterans Jonathan Powers and Josh Lansdale, and author Ilona Meagher. The panel went fine. However, at the end, there was some drama. Tempers flared between Soltz and a questioner in a military uniform, and the right-wing Pajamas Media reporter in the room began falling all over himself to film it—thinking that he had just scored a ‘macaca’ moment for the Right.

Right-wing media outlets like MichelleMalkin.com, The Drudge Report, and the National Review Online have been quick to seize on the footage, hoping to use it as proof that Kossacks don’t practice the free speech they preach. Too bad for them that this was really a dust-up over nothing—brought on by an irresponsible soldier who made it very plain to all of us that the Republican-induced lowering of Army enlistment standards has left us with certain soldiers who respect discredited Republican talking points, but not the law or the uniform of the United States Army.

For the record, here’s what happened from the beginning…” (Daily Kos)

Taking Bach the City Streets

Wash. City Using Classical Music To Chase Gangs From Bus Stop : “The attack by Bach, Brahms and Beethoven follows the theory that prompted the city to stage pinochle games on dangerous street corners: Jolting the routine in such spots throws criminals off balance.

“It’s based on routine activity theory and situational crime prevention. You mix different types of activities in locations that are crime-ridden to change the composition of the environment,” said psychologist Jacqueline Helfgott, who chairs the Criminal Justice Department at Seattle University.” (WKMG Seattle)

Healthcare 100

Two lists of the “top 100” healthcare weblogs, using different ranking algorithms, are here and here.

A Catastrophic Failure

‘Bridges in America should not fall down.’ “They shouldn’t, but it’s quite possible that more of them will. We should also expect that more steam pipes will blow, that water mains will burst, that dams will develop worrisome cracks and that sooner or later, probably during a heat wave, much of the country will suffer a crippling blackout.” — Eugene Robinson (Washington Post op-ed)

Answering to No One

“The Post‘s recent series on Dick Cheney’s vice presidency certainly got my attention. Having held that office myself over a quarter-century ago, I have more than a passing interest in its evolution from the backwater of American politics to the second most powerful position in our government. Almost all of that evolution, under presidents and vice presidents of both parties, has been positive — until now. Under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it has gone seriously off track.” — Walter Mondale (Washington Post)

Charles Simic named Poet Laureate

Surrealist juxtaposes dark imagery with ironic humor:

Country Fair

for Hayden Carruth

If you didn’t see the six-legged dog,
It doesn’t matter.
We did, and he mostly lay in the corner.
As for the extra legs,

One got used to them quickly
And thought of other things.
Like, what a cold, dark night
To be out at the fair.

Then the keeper threw a stick
And the dog went after it
On four legs, the other two flapping behind,
Which made one girl shriek with laughter.

She was drunk and so was the man
Who kept kissing her neck.
The dog got the stick and looked back at us.
And that was the whole show.

Eyes Fastened With Pins

How much death works,
No one knows what a long
Day he puts in. The little
Wife always alone
Ironing death’s laundry.
The beautiful daughters
Setting death’s supper table.
The neighbors playing
Pinochle in the backyard
Or just sitting on the steps
Drinking beer. Death,
Meanwhile, in a strange
Part of town looking for
Someone with a bad cough,
But the address somehow wrong,
Even death can’t figure it out
Among all the locked doors…
And the rain beginning to fall.
Long windy night ahead.
Death with not even a newspaper
To cover his head, not even
A dime to call the one pining away,
Undressing slowly, sleepily,
And stretching naked
On death’s side of the bed.