Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tsuyu and Bamboo

How fast does bamboo grow? I measured this one at 250 cm on Saturday and 310 cm today, Tuesday. It's way too high to get in a photo and getting hard to measure now. Sixty centimeters in 3 days is about 20 centimenters a day, or an inch every 3 hours. Looking back farther at a few photos I took to document it, it was 97 cm on the 18th, making it 210 cm in 9 days, or close to 23 cm a day. This in a cloudy and cool rainy season (tsuyu) and a not-too-great location, so I would suppose some species of bamboo in better conditions grow about an inch an hour.
The four photos were taken 06-06-18_16:35, 24 hours later 06-06-19_16:27, another day later 06-06-20_16:25, and 06-06-24_09:19.
Bamboo is a gardener's dream, but also a nightmare. Your main task is to kill it faster than it can grow. This is best done during the crunchy asparagus/brocolli-like stage instead of the later ultralight-steel/aluminum-alloy-like woody stage, although you can still just saw through it when it gets hard. If you ignore it for a few days you will find the shoots, perhaps nearly as tall as yourself, sproating up all over, offshoots of the root network, really not unlike giant grassy asparagus. (Is the plural asparagi?) Bamboo shoots are good food, but I'm not eating these.
Speaking of words, Asparagus would be a good name for a boy. He would have an inferiority complex toward his brothers, Augustus and Julius, for their successful political and juice-vending careers. I suppose they could be members of the Grass, family, as I was about to mention that bamboo is a very large grass, not a tree or bush. The Grass family is a good name, certainly as good as Tree and better than Bush. Wouldn't you agree, Günter?

Inhuman Bondage

Behind every great fortune there is a crime.
Honore de Balzac
I was reminded of this quotation by Balzac when I listened to a recent (June 2) podcast of OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook on WBUR radio, Boston. The interview with historian and writer David Brion Davis of Yale University was on slavery. Davis establishes that slavery was the base of the New World economies, constituting something like 75 or 80% of the GDP during the early era of colonization until emancipation. Up until quite recently, historians have taught that slavery was good for the black man, and bad only for the whites, an economically unproductive and outmoded means of production. Some of his points from the book are made at an OUP book blog here http://blog.oup.com/oupblog/2006/04/on_the_importan.html
and I enjoyed reading about how he got into history at this site http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/25840.html
You can get a little more of the flavor of the book from the NYT http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/14/books/review/14berlin.html (I think this requires a registration which tracks everything you read).
I was interested to see that he signed the letter, along with 450 other notable historians, expressing outrage and sadness at the wound inflicted on American democracy by the Supreme Court Coup d'Etat. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14082

This brings me back to the quotation I opened this post with. What disturbs me is that the fortunes made off of those slaves are still funding generation after generation of a parasitic leisure class, while the descendents of those slaves are still struggling to get the levels of literacy, education, secure living places, employment, medical and psychological help, and other rights and privileges that they were so long denied. What kind of reparations could possibly atone for this huge injustice? The original perpetrators and victims are gone. What remains are the patterns of social injustice imprinted on our society like a bootprint on the face. All we can do now is to create a just, fair, equal society. There is no way to identify the descendents of victims and compensate them appropriately. That would also not be fair to the great-grandchildren of the slaveholders. What we can do is create a society that has equal opportunity for all. Free medical care for 2 weeks when you are born. Free medical care for life. Free education for all, regardless of ability to pay. A minimum wage which lifts people out of poverty, rather than pushing people down into poverty. Free daycare for all children.

Sadly, there are now members of the ruling elite who have become so greedy and arrogant that they are no longer willing to contribute anything to sustain the society that has enabled them to prosper and given them their wealth. These people wish to abolish the inheritance tax. The inheritance tax should be raised to at least 50%, with a generous exemption of 8 or 10 million to keep the small farmers from losing the effort they have invested for generations. This is a generous compromise with the propertied class. Those people who believe they are so superior that they deserve to keep the wealth their ancestors accumulated should have nothing to fear. If they are in fact brilliant businesspersons, they will quickly re-accumulate new wealth and thrive again (hopefully without reviving slavery). Actually, with their existing social networks and educational advantages, the old social order might regenerate itself even if resources and wealth were repeatedly redistributed. Still, these "socialist" ideas that I argue for are standard features of most liberal western democracies, such as Japan, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and Britain. A more egalitarian society is needed in the United States even more than it is in those countries, considering the historical baggage. It may take 3 generations, it may take 13, but America can heal itself.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage was intended, in its original 1938 form, to be enough for a worker to support a family with 2 children. The current minimum wage comes to under $11,ooo a year, $6000 under the Federal poverty level for a family of three. A couple would need to work 3.3 minimum wage jobs, 132 hours a week, to stay out of poverty. The real minimum wage peaked in 1968 and is nearing the 40th year of a mostly downward trajectory, falling 38%.

In recent decades, the minimum wage floor has fallen, dragging down average real wages as well. The real value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $7.92 per hour (in 2000 dollars). Since then, worker productivity went up, but wages went down. Productivity grew 74.2 percent between 1968 and 2000, but hourly wages for average workers fell 3 percent, adjusting for inflation. Real wages for minimum wage workers--two-thirds of whom are adults--fell 35 percent.

If wages had kept pace with rising productivity since 1968, the average hourly wage would have been $24.56 in 2000, rather than $13.74. The minimum wage would be $13.80--not $5.15.

Profits also went up, but wages went down. Domestic corporate profits rose 64 percent since 1968, adjusting for inflation. The retail trade industry employs more than half the nation's hourly employees paid at or below minimum wage. Retail profits jumped even higher than profits generally, skyrocketing 158 percent since 1968. The minimum wage would be $13.02 if had kept pace with domestic profits and $20.46 if it had risen with retail profits.

CEO pay went up, but workers' wages went down. In 1980, the average CEO at a major corporation made as much as 97 minimum wage workers. In 2000, they made as much as 1,223 minimum wage workers.
Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0829-08.htm

The United States Sedators, whose salaries are indexed to inflation and cost of living increases, voted themselves a pay raise to $168,500, but have also voted to keep the minimum wage frozen at $5.15 an hour.

The same author cited above, Holly Sklar, also notes the obscene rise in CEO pay during the current spurt of inequality and exploitation in American life.
CEOs made about 565 times as much as security guards, 445 times as much as emergency medical technicians and paramedics, 442 times as much as secretaries, 312 times as much as firefighters and 271 times as much as police officers.

Back in 1960, CEOs made an average 38 times more than schoolteachers, according to Business Week. By 1990, CEOs made 63 times as much. In 2001, CEOs made 264 times as much as public school teachers.Link

While CEO pay spiraled out of control, worker pay was largely stagnant for decades. Average hourly earnings for production workers in 2001 were 9 percent lower than their 1973 peak, adjusting for inflation.

If workers' wages had kept pace with productivity gains since 1979, average hourly earnings would have been $21.71 last year, not $14.33.
Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0830-02.htm

A CEO for Big Oil makes $37,000 an hour. Here is a more current article on this issue: http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0622-28.htm

Another writer, David Swanson, notes that:
The federal minimum wage has been dropping in real value for decades. For it to be worth what it was in 1968, it would have to be raised to over $8 per hour, rather than its current rate of $5.15. Had it kept pace with increases in productivity, it would be nearly $14; had it kept pace with retail profits, it would be over $20. The average CEO's wage is now 1,200 times that of a minimum wage worker.
Source: http://www.dsausa.org/lowwage/newsitems/NewOrleans.html

I agree with the writers who are urging an increase in the minimum wage to above the poverty level. It is a disgrace to even consider that it would be allowed to be below the poverty level. It is also just bad economics: All of the money paid in increased wages will come back as a huge stimulus to the economy when the better-paid minimum-wage workers cycle all or most of their wages back into the local economy, or increase their savings. The free-market argument for no minimum wage might actually work, if the country did not accept the corrupt practice of importing not just millions, but tens of millions of illegals, and exploiting them in sub-standard conditions. I am not sure if Japan has a minimum-wage law, but the de facto minimum wage is about ¥800 or ¥900, about eight bucks American. Most kids wouldn't even work for less than that.

A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at http://www.cbpp.org/6-20-06mw.htm
shows the minimum to have hit the purchasing power it last had in 1955. Nice graphs.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Iraq's Pentagon Papers

For those over 40 (old enough to remember), or the educated, Daniel Ellsberg is the government whistle-blower par excellence. He is now calling for a "Pentagon Papers" of Iraq to come out.

Those documents, if they ever come to light, could be even more interesting than the Vietnam edition. I am reminded of the recent story about the CIA's secret prisons around the world, exposed in a Pulitzer-Prize-winning report by Washington Post reporter Dana Priest. Human Rights Watch has more documentation of detainees who have disappeared in secret prisons.

An article by Steve Kangas entitled A Timeline of CIA Atrocities seems almost naive in light of the more recent allegations of CIA malfeasance. His well-documented account of the global control wielded by The Firm turns out to have been not paranoid enough. I read his site with interest, noting how out-of-date it had become, before discovering that he hadn't updated it with stronger arguments because he was dead. His wonderful site, The Liberalism Resurgent FAQ, lives on, although he died under mysterious circumstances in 1999. It's a sad story. See also http://www.spiritone.com/~gdy52150/steve.htm

I have to wonder what really is going on, if Bush is so far to the right of the CIA that he ordered the agency to be purged of liberals. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/1114-01.htm
Maybe they will destroy each other? (But I thought that of Bush and Saddam Hussein, too.) Is this all just a show? The CIA had started to include too many real people, even liberals or democrats, and needed to be cleansed?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The Despair.com site has been significantly updated since the last time I looked, with podcasting and video help for the demotivational manager. You will also want to check out a few of the new demotivational posters for your workspace or cubicle.

Weather Channel

Around this time of year, the weather tends to look like this. It is the rainy season, an artifact of the placement of the Asian landmass, the Pacific ocean, the Himalayas and other environmental factors. The rain and sunlight is paradise for plants and bugs right now. Let's not forget fungus, either. Screenshot is from Meteo.

Other people's pictures of Tsudanuma and my world

A quick tour of my neighborhood without going outside:

Station Exit Left http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=45470705&size=o

Turn around & look back (up on the walkway) http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=138023826&size=o

Another view of Parco from OK Bldg http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=103750612&size=o

Looking at OK Bldg from Parco side of the street http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=103750280&size=o

Looking over the station toward the southwest http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=103750556&size=o

Platform from inside the train http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=83356076&size=o

Arrival of a train http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=103750091&size=o

Getting off a train? http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=131218447&size=o

Other shots:
Platform Sign http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=23007824&size=o
Platform Sign http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=38517915&size=o
Clouds http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=133422497&size=o

Funabashi Daijingu north side alternate entrance (not really Tsudanuma) http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=15452423&size=l

Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=bunkyo

Hongo http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=bunkyoku+hongo&m=text

Monday, June 19, 2006

Honey, I melted the polar icecaps.

This was just kinda quickly slapped together (back in February) once I found the right components. Still, it is the concept that counts. The idea was trying to get out of my skull, so now I am rid of it. There is something that matches Bush in it, both the incompetence and power coupled with dependency, and also one imagines how Laura would continue to believe in him, even if he did screw up that big. As long as she gets her prescription, I suppose.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Control, alt, delete

Microshaft Chairman Willie Windos recently announced that he will "transition-out" of his day-to-day role at the company. Willie had earlier given up his day-to-day donut and his day-to-day bagel at the company, but is still expected to be the hole around which the company, makers of the infectiously popular Orifice Productivity Suite, Microshaft Gates OS and Hasta-la-Vista OS, revolves. The virtualization software which will enable the chairman to perform his RPG (role-playing game, not rocket-propelled grenade) duties while physically elsewhere will not complete the required personality upload until 2008–assuming no further delays.

A Microshaft spokesperson refused to confirm or deny rumors that the Chairman was leaving to pursue a 2008 Presidential bid. Such a move would be expected to provoke a counter-declaration of candidacy from Steve Jobs, prompted perhaps by Apple board member Al Gore.

While the United States is clearly in desperate need of new and intelligent leadership, preferably by a techie, and an operating system upgrade, suspicions persist that the Microshaft Chairman is seeking the Presidency in order to issue an Executive Order that would admit all literate citizens of India as minimum-wage programmers, potentially causing further political polarization in the country. We suggest Dean Kamen as a third-party candidate, instead.

Local Ethnobotanical Notes

The tsutuji are long gone and the ajisai flower fadingly on as the take (bamboo) shoot up. I broke off a five foot high and four foot high bamboo in my garden yesterday, shoots that had appeared since Tuesday when I last checked for bamboo takeover attempts. The first ones appeared on May 31, a little early this year. They seem to grow about a foot or so a day; I'm not sure exactly, so I will try to document it more carefully this month. By the end of June they should be reaching the top of the second floor. They would completely take over my garden if I didn't patrol it mercilessly to save my trees and other plants. Bamboo are restricted to a narrow strip about 6 or 8 inches wide along my property line, where they enhance the fence effect.

Tsutsuji and ajisai are azalea and hydrangea, respectively, in English. Flowers and fish are two lexical domains in which my Japanese vocabulary is better than my English vocabulary. To enjoy a more professional visual documentation of Japanese flowers (and pottery, Buddhist sculpture and deities), visit http://www.onmarkproductions.com/index.html
by Mark Schumacher in Kamakura.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

News Flash: Panel finds Americans want health care

A congressionally-appointed panel has discovered that Americans want health care. That's right, they do not want to be sick, nor do they want to be surrounded by sick people. Good thinking. If the politicians listen to the people rather than the for-profit health care industry that sponsors them, America could join the rest of the civilized world in having a public health care system similar to what most industrialized countries built in the early postwar years of the last century. The Citizens' Health Care Working Group has completed their work and recommendations. Here are some excepts:

The Citizens' Health Care Working Group was created by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, Sec. 1014 to provide for the American public to "engage in an informed national public debate to make choices about the services they want covered, what health care coverage they want, and how they are willing to pay for coverage." Appointed by the Comptroller General of the United States, the Working Group consists of 14 individuals from diverse backgrounds, representing consumers, the uninsured, those with disabilities, individuals with expertise in financing benefits, business and labor perspectives, and health care providers. The Secretary of Health and Human Services also serves as a member of the Working Group. Because the Working Group's final recommendations will be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has neither participated in the development of these recommendations nor has he endorsed them. He will carefully consider them and take appropriate action.

The legislation charged the working group with holding hearings on various health care issues before issuing The Health Report to the American People. This report, completed in October 2005, provides an overview of health care in the United States for the general public, enabling them to be informed participants in the national discussion organized by the Working Group.

The law specifies that this national discussion take place through a series of Community Meetings, which at a minimum, address the following four questions:

- What health care benefits and services should be provided?

- How does the American public want health care delivered?

- How should health care coverage be financed?

- What trade-offs are the American public willing to make in either benefits or financing to ensure access to affordable, high quality health care coverage and services?

Interim Recommendations

» CORE BENEFITS: Americans will have access to a set of affordable and appropriate core health care services by the year 2012.

Recommendation 1:
It should be public policy that all Americans have affordable health care

All Americans will have access to a set of core health care services. Financial assistance will be available to those who need it.

Across every venue we explored, we heard a common message: Americans should have a health care system where everyone participates, regardless of their financial resources or health status, with benefits that are sufficiently comprehensive to provide access to appropriate, high-quality care without endangering individual or family financial security.

Recommendation 2:
Define a "core" benefit package for all Americans

» IMMEDIATE PROTECTION FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE: Action should be taken now to better protect Americans from the high costs of health care and to improve and expand access to health care services.

Recommendation 3:
Guarantee financial protection against very high health care costs

No one in America should be impoverished by health care costs.

Establish a national program (private or public) that ensures
• Coverage for all Americans,
• Protection against very high out-of-pocket medical costs for everyone, and
• Financial protection for low income individuals and families.

Recommendation 4:
Support integrated community health networks

Recommendation 5:
Promote efforts to improve quality of care and efficiency

Recommendation 6:
Fundamentally restructure the way that palliative care, hospice care and other end-of-life services are financed and provided, so that people living with advanced incurable conditions have increased access to these services in the environment they choose

America is unique in the world in having an unshakable Can't-Do spirit in regard to Health Care, since 1948. We pay a higher percentage of our national income than any other country, have the highest doctor's incomes in the world, and have the second-worst infant mortality rate among developed countries–if you count Latvia as a developed country. Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia are tied with the U.S., but they clearly spend a lot less money on their health care, making America the world's number one loser.

Americans also rank last in the world in their health care satisfaction. They are less satisfied with their system than anyone else anywhere in the world. That says a lot.

In Canada, national health care is as Canadian as apple pie, or should I say maple syrup? A Canadian politician could no more campaign against national health care than an American politician could campaign against public education or Social Security. What kind of doofus would suggest that we replace public education with a for-profit system so just the richest half could afford to learn to read and write? What idiot would suggest we sell off Social Security and replace it with a private for-profit system modeled on internet poker? Other than Bush, nobody. Likewise, when we eventually have a modern public health care system, it will be impossible to convince people to scrap it. People will wonder why it took us so long. Well, it took us Americans a little longer to get rid of slavery, too. It's our Can't-Do Spirit. Why do the right-wingers hate Americans so much? They are paid to, by the "Health Care Industry". It's a highly profitable investment.

The constitutional right to life should be seen to extend to reasonable protection of a patient's right to live by receiving basic medical care. We could begin by giving medical care to kids in K-12. I would think everyone but the racists, fascists, and nut-cases could agree to that. Why should kids lose their lives or right to health and happiness through no fault of their own? Also, isn't it obvious that contagious diseases should be treated free, as an obvious benefit to society as a whole? Do you really want tuberculosis, influenza, and other infectious diseases in the passengers sitting next to you, and the people who are preparing your food, and so on?

By the way, giving birth is not an outpatient procedure. Don't send the mother home after a night or two, either. Give mothers a week to recuperate, and pay them for it. Then you can get that embarrassing infant mortality rate down.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Evolution Control Committee

Cut-and-paste "plagiarhythm" mash-up sound collagists the ECC have a new album, Weapons of Ass Destruction, available for free download, on their sounds page. The ECC is most famous for Rocked By Rape, a soaring tribute to the media skills of CBS "anchor" Dan Rather, or an insane send-up that takes the piss(?). Another favorite of mine that you can download from the sounds page is Star-Spangled Balogna (sic). Both tracks are best heard when loaded onto your iPod, and played unexpectedly in public transit.
I feel a special bond with Dan Rather, having watched him from 1992, when I finally adopted the VCR technology, to 1996, when I got satellite. During those years, one constant contact point with American society was the CBS Evening News I recorded at 3 or 4 a.m. every morning and watched during breakfast. To me he was the face of America, if he wasn't already before that time.
He still speaks to me, I hear him, but it is usually one of Harry Shearer's impersonations.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


For all your online graph paper needs. Incompetech.
Not only does this site instantly generate graph paper of several dozen types, it also makes kanji writing practice paper, English penmanship writing paper, dot, brick, trapezoid, polar graph, music notation staves, guitar & bass fretboard diagrams, and other types of lined paper of your specifications. Punch in the numbers and get a pdf immediately.
While there, be sure to check out the gallimaufry area of the Incompetech website, where Kevin expounds on Indeterminate Numbers, I Could Care Less, and other topics.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Documenting the Stolen Elections

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has written an article in the Rolling Stone examining the widespread and systematic fraud of the 2004 elections.

Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations. A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states, was discovered shredding Democratic registrations. In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes, malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots. Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment -- roughly one for every 100 cast.

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.
So go read it already.

There is a good article at Alternet discussing both Kennedy's reporting, and the reporting of the 2000 election. http://alternet.org/rights/37153/
Although it was reported -- in The New York Times, no less -- that Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush in a statewide recount of Florida "no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent," most Americans don't know to this day that Gore actually won the 2000 election. The reason is a small percentage of Republican spin and a large percentage of journalistic cowardice in the mainstream media following 9/11. (This cowardice is limited to the USA, by the way -- the story was extensively covered in most of the rest of the world.)

In the 2000 case, The New York Times, on November 12, 2001, published a story summarizing the work of the newspaper consortium that spent nearly a year counting all the ballots in the 2000 Florida election. They found that a statewide recount -- the process the Florida Supreme Court had mandated and which had begun when George W. Bush sued before the US Supreme Court to stop the recount -- "could have produced enough votes to tilt the election his [Gore's] way, no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent."
If the decision of the Florida Supreme Court had been respected, and a statewide recount had been conducted, Gore won the state, no matter what criterion you apply to evaluate dodgy ballots. Katherine Harris tried to mess with the system, and when her method was dismissed by the Florida court, the US Supreme Court stopped ballot counting, a judicial coup, and a disgrace to American democracy.

Al Gore says, in his interview I cited below, that he felt he had to respect the US Supreme Court and the rule of law. He says there was no intermediate step between violent revolution, and respecting the decision of the court. Yet later in the same interview, he admits that we are not currently living under the rule of law, and that the US Constitution has been essentially suspended. It's an inconvenient truth, isn't it? I wonder how he resolves that contradiction. I guess he also thinks that if you lose everything you have to a card cheat that you should sell your house, wife, kids, whatever, to pay the debt, rather than get pissed off, because it just wouldn't be gentlemanly, after all, to pull a gun and blow the m.f.'s head off.

That's just a metaphor. Realistically, it would be a hard slog overthrowing the US Supreme Court-appointed regime with a People-Power revolution when you only had 52% of the vote to start with. It opens up a real can of worms, and that is why we have the territorial/popular hybrid Electoral College: to simulate the result of a civil war so that we don't have the human loss and economic destruction of a real war. And, if you think of it that way, the judicial coup was like the simulation of the nuclear bombs the western states could have launched against our cities, as we won, causing us to lose to the cowboys in the end. America got what it deserved for even letting him get nominated. That doesn't mean we have to pretend it was legal or constitutional.

George W. Bush is not the president of the United States.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Google Spreadsheets

Online and collaborative.
Invite yourself.

Talkman and other S2S translation (Universal Translator?)

The TALKMAN is inexpensive speech-to-speech translation/game software for the Sony PSP!
This article or review describes the capabilities of the thing.
(That site also links to some Japanese TV ads for it, which I haven't seen and haven't bothered to watch. Maybe later.)

Here are some recent reports about DARPA's efforts (to take over the world!)
The DOD has wanted US soldiers to be able to carry a portable universal translator for years.
This would give the US military the option of speaking to foreign civilians, reducing the need to shoot them.

Here is a paper by researchers at IBM:
They have a Mandarin-English system.

ATT/Bell Labs would like to offer various speech technology services.

Their "Natural Voices" (=synthetic voices) text-to-speech is here:
and will convert text files to audio files. (But... Macs have had TTS, spoken alerts, for 8 or 10 years.)

A short article on natural language processing:

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bush personality close-up (not pretty)


The OPEC Administration

What if OPEC ran US energy policy? How would it be different? Suppose, during a time of international tension, they had wined and dined a president's delinquent son, investing in his loser business plans. Years later, when the little drunk becomes president, his former benefactors expect payback. In an administration full of corporate CEOs, the US oil industry, the local distributors for OPEC product, have a prominent role. As the rest of the world rushes to meet their obligations under the Kyoto protocol, taxing carbon and promoting clean renewable energy, the US vice-president and DUI drunk Italian-designer-shotgun enthusiast Halliburton "Dick" Cheney secretly crafts an energy policy based on OIL PRODUCTION. Barely a word is ever heard of energy independence, as the whole point is to make America addicted to oil, benefitting producers (his Kuwaiti and Saudi backers) and the middleman (US Oil).

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Res Inexplicata Volans

This interview with Apollo Nove on The World turned me on to some new things happening in Brazilian music. You can get the podcast from iTunes or listen (in windowsmedia format) and/or read the interview at the PRI/BBC The World site .


You can download 4 lo-fi mp3s from the album from
These are truncated! The title track went from 4:19 to only 1:43:-(

This blogger has a great review of the album. http://www.modernpeapod.com/pd2/

She also links to links to the Vatican's official modern Latin word list (Léxicon Recentis Latinitatis), with items for karate, kamikaze, mountain bike, laser, baby-sitter, blue-jeans, check-up, camping, discoteque, flirt, full-time, hot-pants, hummus, jazz, jet, jeep, poncho, picnic, popcorn, privacy, punk, plaid, pizza, strudel, tobacco, terrorist, and dozens of other staple fixtures of modern life other than unidentified flying objects.

I'm drifting off topic now, but... This veeeeery tangentially unrelated link to http://www.ufoevidence.org is interesting, especially for their archive of UFO photographs, which often include the story behind the image. http://www.ufoevidence.org/photographs/photohome.asp

Throw Away Society

This image has been in my mind for a long time. It's the little icon guy that tells you to toss it, representing the highest ideals of our civilization. He's ubiquitous and omnipresent. I remembered that I originally just wanted the earth before I thought of adding the people. My 'art will go on, because it is now clear to me that this whole thing needs to be dropped into an Egyptian bas-relief style.

Banner material