Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dylanesque and other White Wabbits

Brian Ferry doing Bob Dylan covers? I actually like that idea. In theory, anyway. But I like covers in general, despite the danger of Rock eventually becoming a frozen and dead musical form consisting entirely of perfectly rendered covers. I guess I like to see how everything gets filtered through an individuality and given a new gestalt. I like both artists, but I have to admit that Bob Dylan doing Brian Ferry covers would probably suck (except "Slave to Love" and maybe a few others?). My all time favorite cover concept is Elmer Fudd doing the Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit. If I could do a decent Elmer Fudd imitation I would record this myself:

White Wabbit -

by Jeffewson Aiwpwane
One piww makes you wawjaw
And one piww makes you smaww
And de ones that muddaw gives you
Don't do anyting at aww
Go aks Awice
When she's ten feet taww

And if you go chasing wabbits
And you know you'we going to faww
Teww 'em a hookah-smoking catewpiwwaw
Has given you the caww
Wecaww Awice
When she was just smaww !

When men on the chessboawd
Get up and teww you wheah to go
And you've just had some kind of mushwoom
And youw mind is moving wow
Go aks Awice
I tink she'ww know
When wogic and pwopowtion
Have fawwen swoppy dead
And de White Knight is tawking backwawds
And de Wed Qween's "off wif hew head!"
Wemembew what the dowmouse said:
"FEED youw head -----
FEED youw head------"

Automated lyric conversion courtesy of the Dialectizer, plus my tweaks. Awtawnativewy, you can twy The Voices of Many. By the way, I hope Grace Slick's DNA is available to be cloned so we can recreate the 1967 hippie chick version someday for stocking the amusement parks. Watch YouTube 1967 Smothers Brothers vs 1969 Woodstock vs AB'67.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


An annoying thing about Japan is the kind of reverse daylight savings time used here. I don't know exactly why this is, but it gets light at 3:57 AM. That wouldn't be so bad, but it is dark by 7 or 7:30. If it gets dark an hour after 6 PM, shouldn't it get light an hour before 6 AM? We are not far out of the center of the time zone, either, not like all of China operating on the same time zone. Solar noon is at 11:43. I guess my astronomy has got a bit rusty here where we see only a handful of stars most of the time. I wish there were Daylight Savings Time here but it still has a bad reputation from the postwar era where it was used to squeeze more work out of construction workers who typically took off when it got too dark to work. I think it is still opposed by unions and has no proponents as far as I have heard.

Info is from Weather Underground.

June 27, 2007


Solar Noon


Actual Time 4:27 AM JST 11:43 AM JST 7:00 PM JST
Civil Twilight 3:57 AM JST
7:30 PM JST
Nautical Twilight 3:19 AM JST
8:07 PM JST
Astronomical Twilight 2:38 AM JST
8:48 PM JST
Altitude -0.8° 77.8° -0.8°
Azimuth 60.2° 180.0° 299.8°
Hour Angle of the Sun 109.1° 109.1° -109.1°
Mean Anomaly of the Sun 171.48° 171.78° 172.08°
Obliquity 23.44° 23.44° 23.44°
Right Ascension of the Sun 95.25° 95.57° 95.88°
Sun Declination 23.35° 23.34° 23.33°
Moon 4:11 PM JST

1:18 AM JST
Length Of Visible Light: 15h 33m
Length of Day
14h 33m
Tomorrow will be 0m 18s shorter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Carbon Mitigation Wedges

I heard a story about the Carbon Mitigation Initiative Wedges Game on NPR. It is really not so much of a game, if you were expecting World of Warcraft or Civilization, but more of a group discussion and decision-making activity. Presentations given at a Climate Change Town Hall meeting in San Francisco in February 2007 by Professor Socolow, Dr Hotinski, and Amory Lovins, among others, are available for download in pdf and ppt format from the AAAS site for the meeting. Following some links led me to the Rocky Mountain Institute of Mr Lovins, where Winning the Oil Endgame is an interesting download, although you will have to fill out a form to get to this pdf link. Otherwise you could just buy it at amazon for $40.

One problem with the Carbon Mitigation wedges is that from the beginning, they assume a trendline and future that is seemingly impossible. The present carbon acceleration probably could not continue as a straight line with the rising cost of peak oil, possible reduction in human population due to epidemics and ecological collapses, the reduced ability to extract, store, deliver, and refine oli as social instability increases and less capital and technology is available. I think they should make explicit what kind of assumptions they are making about population and future energy use. Why does it have to be assumed that we will consume more and more energy every year? I suppose it is conservative in a way to assume that present trends will continue, but depressing to imagine that all of these technologies need to be deployed just to stay in the same place. Japan emits 9.44 t of CO2/capita while the U.S. emits 19.95 t of CO2/capita although both countries generate a GDP per capita between $35,000 and $40,000 annually. The U.S. should be able to do better than Japan, even without resorting to nuclear power, by using the greater land area to exploit solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, wave and tide resources.

It seems that the U.S. should be able to set more aggressive targets for itself. Small example: everyone in Japan finds it natural to dry their clothes in the sun and wind, no matter what floor of the danchi you are on. I was given an electric drier once but couldn't sell it or give it away and had to keep it. You would think more peopl would resort to using a drier in the rainy season but even then many people prefer to just habg the clothes up indoors. Likewise, people in Japan enjoy being able to get anywhere by train, like New Yorkers, but also by walking or using a bicycle. Another example is that it is considered a little shocking to run heat or air-conditioning at night, even in the cold of winter or heat of summer. These energy-conscious habits are already mainstream in Japan, but Americans would need to break their carbon-belching habits in order to cut carbon use in half, and approach the Japanese level of annual per capita carbon emissions.

The value of the wedge idea is just that it breaks what seems to be an insurmountable problem into smaller components that can be dealt with even using present technologies.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Global warming (by evildoers today)

America's National Priorities:

  1. The War on Gays (US military would rather have soldiers be killed by al qaeda than use gay linguists)
  2. The War on Terrorism (US would rather kill Iraqi and Afghan patriots than save American cities from destruction by global warming)
  3. The War on Global Warming (US would rather send billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and other petrocracies and oleo-oligarchs than developing renewable energy sources)
I probably should have mentioned enriching themselves and their enron/exxonmobil/kuwaiti/saudi sponsors as the real number one, but the order I describe is clear from the objective facts. Why is it that this is the way the politics work out? One suggestion from Harvard Psychology Professor Daniel Gilbert, seen on the Richard Dawkins site, reprinted from the L. A. Times, where it is archived (to pay to view).
Thursday, March 22, 2007
If only gay sex caused global warming
by Daniel Gilbert,

Why we're more scared of gay marriage and terrorism than a much deadlier threat.

By Daniel Gilbert, Daniel Gilbert is a professor of psychology at Harvard University and the author of "Stumbling on Happiness," published in May by Knopf.

July 2, 2006

Why are we less worried about the more likely disaster? Because the human brain evolved to respond to threats that have four features — features that terrorism has and that global warming lacks.

First, global warming lacks a mustache. No, really. We are social mammals whose brains are highly specialized for thinking about others. Understanding what others are up to — what they know and want, what they are doing and planning — has been so crucial to the survival of our species that our brains have developed an obsession with all things human. We think about people and their intentions; talk about them; look for and remember them.

The second reason why global warming doesn't put our brains on orange alert is that it doesn't violate our moral sensibilities. It doesn't cause our blood to boil (at least not figuratively) because it doesn't force us to entertain thoughts that we find indecent, impious or repulsive. When people feel insulted or disgusted, they generally do something about it, such as whacking each other over the head, or voting. Moral emotions are the brain's call to action.

Although all human societies have moral rules about food and sex, none has a moral rule about atmospheric chemistry. And so we are outraged about every breach of protocol except Kyoto. Yes, global warming is bad, but it doesn't make us feel nauseated or angry or disgraced, and thus we don't feel compelled to rail against it as we do against other momentous threats to our species, such as flag burning. The fact is that if climate change were caused by gay sex, or by the practice of eating kittens, millions of protesters would be massing in the streets.

The third reason why global warming doesn't trigger our concern is that we see it as a threat to our futures — not our afternoons. Like all animals, people are quick to respond to clear and present danger, which is why it takes us just a few milliseconds to duck when a wayward baseball comes speeding toward our eyes.

The brain is a beautifully engineered get-out-of-the-way machine that constantly scans the environment for things out of whose way it should right now get. That's what brains did for several hundred million years — and then, just a few million years ago, the mammalian brain learned a new trick: to predict the timing and location of dangers before they actually happened.

Our ability to duck that which is not yet coming is one of the brain's most stunning innovations, and we wouldn't have dental floss or 401(k) plans without it. But this innovation is in the early stages of development. The application that allows us to respond to visible baseballs is ancient and reliable, but the add-on utility that allows us to respond to threats that loom in an unseen future is still in beta testing.

We haven't quite gotten the knack of treating the future like the present it will soon become because we've only been practicing for a few million years. If global warming took out an eye every now and then, OSHA would regulate it into nonexistence.

There is a fourth reason why we just can't seem to get worked up about global warming. The human brain is exquisitely sensitive to changes in light, sound, temperature, pressure, size, weight and just about everything else. But if the rate of change is slow enough, the change will go undetected.

Environmentalists despair that global warming is happening so fast. In fact, it isn't happening fast enough. If President Bush could jump in a time machine and experience a single day in 2056, he'd return to the present shocked and awed, prepared to do anything it took to solve the problem..

The human brain is a remarkable device that was designed to rise to special occasions. We are the progeny of people who hunted and gathered, whose lives were brief and whose greatest threat was a man with a stick. When terrorists attack, we respond with crushing force and firm resolve, just as our ancestors would have. Global warming is a deadly threat precisely because it fails to trip the brain's alarm, leaving us soundly asleep in a burning bed.

It remains to be seen whether we can learn to rise to new occasions.
It's funny to think that Philip K. Dick dealt with this idea decades ago (1968!) in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Precisely because these realities were not part of the brain's hardwiring, and because the planet had been ruined, the religion of Mercerism instituted the idea of life and nature as the most valued, sacred things, and empathy for all living things as the highest ideal.

Also, just as food and sexual taboos are socially constructed, we are witnessing the construction of these carbon taboos now. We will see anger at the immoral, mustached individuals when our afternoons are ruined, as it was for many residents of New Orleans a few years ago and perhaps Miami one fine day soon? I appreciate the article, but it will seem out of date as an explanation of why no action was taken in a few years. There already are, in fact, "moral codes about atmospheric chemistry", where one smokes, how that is perceived, what kinds of industrial and agricultural trace chemicals are tolerable in the air, and so on. You can imagine a similar article explaining why the slavery issue is not being dealt with, or why women's right to vote has not come yet.

Hey, did you happen to see the most ugliest dog in the world?

I don't know why I am interested in this. It may be because on Saturday, there was a burglary at my in-laws, so I have been thinking that what we need over there is a small noisy dog or a big, silent, intimidating dog. It may also be that as I woke up, I turned on the radio and heard a news report about it, which virally inserted itself in my highly suggestible somnambulistic morning brain. Proceeding with this implant as the suggestion of the day, I had to google Elwood at the first opportunity, and found him to be fugly, but not as much as former 3-time champion, the late great Sam, who crawled directly out of a bad sci-fi zombie flick on acid. I mean, he looked like he is not from this planet and I expect him to spew acid like The Fly or one of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mark Jenkins

I was sent a link to Mark Jenkins street installations and other art.
I think I like this hoody more.

I appreciate the spirit in which he gives a tutorial in html, video, and at WikiHow to essentially open-source his technique!

Blog reports of his work are here and here. The Wooster Collective has a profile of him from the Washington Post and has other posts, including the giraffe. Turns out he is a Virginia Tech grad who taught English in Rio de Janeiro before getting into tape.

Although outdoor tape sculptures might seem to be an unconscionable source of pollution, from an environmental point of view, apparently there are some brands of biodegradable tape, so it doesn't have to be that way.

I think the human form is very powerful and have wanted for years to do some life-size paper-mache (papier-mâché) buddhas. I am thinking now about whether the tape-casting technique could be combined with papier-mâché to make a kind of mold, either by filling it with a starchy paper material which could then dry by perforating the tape with tiny holes, or by papering over the tape-mold.

Are you 4real?

AP news item on Yahoo:

Pat and Sheena Wheaton said they decided to name their new baby "4real" shortly after having an ultrasound and being struck by the reality of his impending arrival.

"For most of us, when we try to figure out what our names mean, we have to look it up in a babies book and ... there's no direct link between the meaning and the name," Pat Wheaton told TV One on Wednesday. "With this name, everyone knows what it means."

But when the parents filed the name with New Zealand's Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, they were told names beginning with a number were against the rules.
The debate about it was pretty amusing. I am not convinced by the "Do whatever you want, it's your kid" point of view. You don't own your children; you are their guardian. I also don't like the "Government knows best" mentality, which would make me a moderate of the "Friel" camp. Personal and surname naming customs vary widely around the world. Nomination for the worst baby name of all time: here. Good luck, "Yer hi-ness" IC8SpecialK. Hope that works out OK for you.

Papaya Dolphins

Because a day without papaya dolphins is like a day without… surrealist poetry. And somewhere in an alternate universe kids are eating Dolphin Papayas, tender cakes of processed dolphin shaped like bright tropical fruit. Flipper is the new supper. Somewhere else, kids are going to bed hungry, unable to enjoy the simple pleasure of a can of papaya dolphins with the handy pop-n-peel lid. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature, or mother Fool Nature. I think that's what I said.

I bought some cans of Papaya Dolphins at an old-style mom-and-pop grocery near Nezu Jinja two years ago for the ridiculously low price of ¥80 and gave some to friends as earthquake survival chow. Ate them around the time they expired. Never saw them again. It would be the perfect solstice food, except for it being canned and all. Like if you were in Antarctica and had no access to fresh fruit. Or if you were working six days a week in the rainy season and had no time to go out and get real food, and it was an alternative to crappier food like cup-noodle. I like the mix of Japanese and English on the label, even though they were made in Thailand. Reminds me of a brief gig I had teaching English to Thai managers of a joint venture with British Metal Box (a wireless horseless Britishism for "can") near Songkhla or Hat Yai. Click on the label on the right to see a large scan of it. Hey, there are some errors in the English. Come to think of it, I suppose the "Dole" label is fake, too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

World Justice News

Japan will join the ICC (International Criminal Court) in October and is hoping to make Nuclear War a crime against humanity. (Yahoo). In a related story, Reuters reported that Nuremberg prosecutor Henry King Jr said that the prisoner camp at Guantanamo Bay violates the Geneva Conventions and even the low standards of victor's justice established at the Nazi War Crime Trials (and Tokyo War Crime Trials).

The British Academy of Medical Sciences wants to allow the creation of human-animal interspecies clones by somatic cell nuclear transfer (a human cell nucleus and DNA in a cow cell, for example). (Reuters). Of course, these cells will never be implanted into humans. (Do you believe that?)

Global warming may create one billion new refugees by 2050, dwarfing the 10 million refugees and 25 million IDPs of today. That's easy to believe if you look at the areas that would be submerged by a rise in sea level, such as the Nile delta, large rice-growing areas of Thailand, much of Bangladesh, Cambodia right up to the Tonle Sap, southern Vietnam (the Mekong delta rice-growing area), areas around Shanghai, and most flat areas of Japan --which already can produce only half the calories it consumes. The population which will be displaced or in danger of famine is far larger than the actual number whose homes are submerged. I wonder if the countries responsible for the emission of greenhouse gasses (the United States, 25%, the EU, a similar amount, etc.) will accept their fair share of the refugees that their emissions made (250 million people!) or if they will be too tied up in their own problems to even pretend to care. I predict the G-8 (or whatever number they are) will unanimously agree to dump millions of refugees on the greening crusts of their Antarctic pie slices after 2041 when the treaty expires.

Designing Population Decline and Human Survival?

I made a post about ecologist Paul Watson proposing a plan to keep the biosphere habitable for the human race to avoid extinction. Somewhere in the blogospherical blogistan it got this slightly nonsensical reaction:

Blues-Tea-Cha would also like the human race to voluntarily reduce its birth rate below 2 children per family in an effort to make the world's population return toward a sustainable amount - I assume that he’s willing to provide and co-ordinate the required economic development in places so that they are able to reduce their birth rates to his optimal amount.
This reaction should probably be directed to the author of the piece. I am simply pointing to it as an interesting bit of thinking and commenting on it. Commentating on my comment is going to create a loop.

No, I was not personally offering to fund such a plan. Nor do I think such funding is required; the two largest-scale cases of societies modifying their cultural norms regarding the right-to-unlimited-childbearing to avoid population catastrophe (China and India under Indira Gandhi) were done by policy, not by increasing economic development. The economic development came later; China's GDP(or PPP) per capita is now about double that of India. What I am saying is that this point of view exists, it is worth considering for purposes of discussion, at least, since it involves avoiding human extinction, after all, and that extreme versions of population control/reduction have already been test-piloted in several of the world's overpopulated states. Thus it is a possible future (as it already has a past!) and is not really all that hard to imagine or implement.

I am not volunteering to personally coordinate that, but I think that there is enough expertise in the world to do that.

My main point was that most of the world is already below replacement levels, and that small incentives and influences on the remaining countries could tweak that. I wasn't actually taking a strong position of advocacy, but zero population growth is probably a good idea and negative growth over time would improve the standard of living if we are indeed devouring more resources than the earth produces and wiping out the earth's biodiversity as long as we maintain and increase the high-density civilization of six billion. That will seriously reduce your carbon bootprint and increase wildlife habitat, too.

I suggest education and health care. Every place where women have education, health care, and access to contraceptives, they have chosen to limit the number of children they have. This would not require all of the 1 trillion dollars now spent on military spending.

There was a lot more to what Watson said than the part about population, but since it was attacked rather hysterically (and almost comically so) I thought it deserved a more sober consideration. My contribution is just to say that most of the world is already there demographically, that shaping the future population decline has already been done by billions of people in Asian societies, and that it really isn't such a tall order for the whole world. I live in Japan, and the population decline has begun, a few years earlier than expected, and it is accelerating. The population in 2050 is expected to have dropped from the 127 million today to 100 million, a 20% decline.

As for a minimum level of global health care, no matter where you are in the world, if there is a guy sitting next to you on the bus hacking his lungs out because he has TB, you ought to be able to say, "Dude, go to the clinic already!" in the local language with your universal translator, and not have the guy respond "I don't have the f*#ing money for it!" And call me a dreamer, but I think that countries like the US, EU, Japan, (already respected for their medical techniques) would be more respected and liked for funding a simple global network of clinics (like those provided to the people of Vietnam, Cuba, and China under human-oriented governments), rather than spending money on Predator drones to blow up all wedding parties in Waziristan attended by men who are over six feet tall --a misguided and anti-human foreign policy which will eventually lead to tragic consequences aside from the eventual pygmyfication of the Pakistani gene pool.

Postscript: This is an interesting tool. (Select Dynamic Output)!

Global Universal Health Care

Whenever the topic of health care comes up in a news article, as it has in the premature US presidential nomination campaign, Americans can be seen falling all over themselves to explain why a universal health care system is impossible in the United States. I came across such an article at the DMRegister last month and posted some optimystic words to the pessimystics, reproduced here before it flushes out of the internets tubes.

As a late, late, late adopter, America has the advantage of having dozens of societies with successful universal health care programs to study while crafting her own. This includes Thailand, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, as well as the whole of Europe. Take a look at the top 20 happiest healthiest societies and find one to model your own system on. I recommend you take a look at how it is done in Japan. Free choice, no wait, but you typically do pay about 10% of the cost.

Many of these societies have had it for half a century now and would never ever go back, just as few Americans want to discard public education or social security in favor of a profit-based system. If you look at it, you will see that as the GDP of a country approaches $10,000 US, the probability of them creating a universal health care system becomes inevitable. Like education, health care is a nearly universal human value, but requires more money than education (which just needs chalk/slate/logs/lanterns). Nobody in the world believes that those with money should be able to buy health and life, except perhaps America. Why is that? I guess Truman blew it in '48 due to the Korean war. The anti-communist '50s were a waste. By the Democratic '60s, they had Vietnam and other problems. Carter wasted his chance. The '80s were like the '50s. The Clintons blew it again for the '90s. It seems you only have one chance to make a health care system in a decade, and the US is on a losing streak. It has to be more than that; why haven't more states done it? It is really hard to make sense of, but I guess it is an irrational ideological and spiritual decay like the racist hatred of the KKK or the Taliban not wanting to educate girls. Perhaps the system works well enough for the ruling class and the 2 business parties that have sewn up the political system. Maybe the problem is paradoxically BECAUSE the US is so developed and has developed a big for-profit business around people's lives. If we could just fall back to 1940s conditions, we could do it over and get it right. (?)

It's also funny how somehow there is always enough money around for weapons systems and invading foreign countries. American values are expressed very starkly in this contrast.

Certainly all could agree that children should not die because of their parents' inability to pay, nor should the parents be impoverished for decades or for life by a random medical condition suffered by their child.
There is also no benefit and tremendous costs to not treating communicable disease; shouldn't at least all communicable disease be treated free as a starter, to save the tremendous costs to society? You want a nose job, or a heart transplant that will let you live two more years, you are on your own.

I think that by now, fifty years into the era of universal health care, it is time to make a truly universal system for all people on Earth, and forget about messing around with national systems for those failed states that could not manage to care for their own people yet. Those places are chiefly sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab autocratic crescent, India, and a handful of others such as the United States. A universal world health care system could be financed by a small tax on trade.
Negativists criticized that as one-world government socialism. I guess health care is socialist if you consider Japan, Germany, the UK and Canada to be socialist countries. I suppose next I'll say that people without money have a right to eat or that there should be equal educational opportunities for all.

World military expenditures just surpassed 1.2 trillion dollars, an astronomical amount comparable to eXXonmobil's asset appreciation in the Bush era, and roughly US$200 per person on Earth.
STOCKHOLM, June 11 (Reuters) - Global military spending rose 3.5 percent last year to $1.2 trillion as U.S. costs for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan mounted, a European research body said on Monday in an annual study. The United States spent $529 billion, slightly less than the entire GDP of the Netherlands, on military operations in 2006, up 5 percent over the previous year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its latest year book. "Taking both immediate and long-term factors into account, the overall past and future costs until year 2016 to the USA for the war in Iraq have been estimated at $2,267 billion," it said. Military spending in China, which is modernising its People's Liberation Army, climbed to an estimated $49.5 billion last year from $44.3 billion in 2005. "China's military expenditure continued to increase rapidly, for the first time surpassing that of Japan and hence making China the biggest military spender in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world," the institute said. The institute, which conducts independent research on international security, armaments and disarmament, said Japan cut military expenditure in 2006 for a fifth year running and was focusing its military budget primarily on missile defence. China and Japan, Britain and France accounted for about 4 to 5 percent each of global military expenditure last year, SIPRI said. The five biggest spenders' share of global military expenses was nearly two-thirds of the total.
With the US spending 571 billion of that, (41% of the 2006 tax burden) and 44% of the world's expenditure for human extermination, where the hell would we ever find the 50 billion for a national health care system? Meanwhile, the entire operating budget for the United Nations and all of its agencies is 20 billion a year, or $3 per person on Earth. The US spends $2000 per man, woman, child, and transgendered inhabitant. What do you say we reverse those spending priorities, and see how that goes? Spending the military budget on actual defensive measures and paying the soldiers a decent wage would be much cheaper. What credible military threat is there to the United States? If 300 million Americans cannot control 27 million Iraqis, it would take over 3 billion attackers to have similar results in the United States. In other words, to be occupied as successfully as Iraq has been, it would take at least 3 billion attackers at a much higher level of industrialization and wealth. There is no such power, and there is no such danger to the US. military contractors should be weaned off the pork and put to work investing your personal $3000 plus in building equipment for purposes other than human extermination, such as windmills or wave energy generators.

Here is an editorial with similar sentiments. (But watch out! It's by those commie Canadians!)
The United Nations aspires to cut dire global poverty in half with a $100 billion program, helping many of the 1 billion people who live on less than $1 a day. As things stand, global aid grew by just $8 billion from 1990 to 2004, to $73 billion, according to the Reality of Aid Network. And the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria had to go begging at the Group of Eight summit for $6 billion to save some of the 6 million people who die from these diseases each year.
We cannot even get the national governments to throw in some money to fight contagious diseases like AIDS, TB, and malaria before they become endemic worldwide? We are all connected. It's just self-interest, nothing socialistic about that. Ah, well, have it your way. Stick a leech on it and call me in the renaissance morning. We'll get that Earth OS upgrade to you some other time.

Flickr stop

I like these pictures by Lee Otis. I have returned to some of these a few times to marvel. Abandoned, decay, fading America are all good collections.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Rise and Fall of the Two-Letter Acronym Men

They are running approximately equal in their web presence, with half a megahit each, but TB Man (a.k.a. Andrew Speaker) has a slight edge over BJ Man, Genarlow Wilson. I was just wondering.

Posthuman Roundup

Damn. I need to make more time to read some of my favorite blogs. Mac Tonnies has a story, One Hundred Years, out on Flurb,
posted the Stephen Colbert report on the growing robot menace (BearBC, Kansei),

points to an earnest and persuasive video pounding home the point that the possibility of catastrophic global climate change logically necessitates some precautionary action,

and links to perhaps the world's most complete collection of William Burroughs book covers.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Laughing Mothers' Milk

or The Effect of Charlie Chaplin on Melatonin Levels in Lactating Mothers.

According to New Scientist, a Japanese researcher in Osaka has found positive effects on atopic eczema in babies fed by mothers who had laughed hours before breastfeeding them. Hajime Kimata of Moriguchi-Keijinkai Hospital reports his findings in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol 62, p 699. Using a Charlie Chaplin film (which one?) as the experimental condition and the weather information channel as a control, he took samples of breast milk and…

Two milk feeds later, he also measured their babies' allergic reactions to dust mites and latex. Those infants whose mothers had laughed had markedly reduced reactions.

Kimata also found significantly higher levels of melatonin in the laughing mothers' milk. The hormone is associated with relaxation, and levels are reduced in people with eczema.

Laughing Mothers' Milk sounds like a good name for a band. It only gets 2 results on Google as of now but once the Star-(*$$)-bucks execs get wind of this information you'll find it in your latte con madre grande. Laughing mothers' milk -- the best medicine.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wannation-undergod Pledgelings

Here's a file I found on this hard drive that I had sent to the FSM (Flying Spaghetti Monster) guy but which never made it into hyperspace (AFAIK).

I appreciate the important work that you have done to bring Pastafarianism into the Kansas public schools as an alternative to the 2 mainstream theories of human origin: devolution and unintelligent design error.

However, I think the threat to Kansas schoolchildren may be less than supposed. Perhaps they will even take science even more seriously, as students' critical thinking faculties are stimulated by the incredible line of bullshit they are being fed.

A far greater threat, and area where the Flying Spaghetti Monster teachings could be more effectively applied, is in the public schools nationwide, where millions of schoolchildren are asked, every school day, to recite a public prayer and affirmation of monotheistic beliefs. While agreeable to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, this affirmation obviously offends atheists as well as followers of Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto and other belief systems, as these people worship either zero gods or multiple gods or spirits. Even the teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as I interpret them, do not rule out the existence of other, equally "supreme" beings.

Speaking of the Supremes, although the California courts have ruled favorably in a case involving this pledge, Grand Ayutollah John Roberts, a former Republican party activist, may act to enshrine this pledge in our nation's laws as an article of faith. Look at what has happened to flag-burning: once prescribed as the proper way to dispose of a flag, it is now a federal crime as the flag has morphed into a religious icon in this culture.

I believe the time is ripe to propose to legislators the modification of the National Schoolchildren's Undergod pledge. I have attached the Eisenhower-undergod version below, together with two proposed modifications. I submit these for your examination and that of other FSMists.

Pledge of Allegiance
("Undergod" version by Dwight Eisenhower, June 14, 1954)

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Pledge of Allegiance (US domestic release)
(Proposed by Blues Tea-Cha, September 23, 2005)

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the Pirate States of America,
and to the Creator of the Universe:
the Flying Spaghetti Monster,
With Meatballs and Noodly Appendages. (Ramen)

Alternate Proposal: (World Version)
(First Draft Version, September 23, 2005)
I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,
and to the Pirates who for Him stand:
One world, Pastafarian,
With Parmesan* and Meatballs* for all.

(*This last line could be modified by individuals in accordance with their own beliefs; vegetarians may want to invoke mushrooms, pepperoncini, tabasco, or other herbs, for example.)
My Yahoo news source has vanished from hyperspace, but it had said:
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God." Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Suica and Pasmo as RFID money

My Suica card has been developing some funk. It has been slamming the gate shut on my legs, which leads me to think I haven't gone through, but when I check it, they say I have gone through. Then today it didn't work in the subway. It whacked me in the legs when I went back into JR, so I thought I hadn't gone in. The JR man placed it on his electronic tray and did something to it and told me to go through again. I didn't get slammed.

I'm not sure what it is but the problem I usually have is slipping through too quickly, because I tend to walk fast and somehow get through while it is reading the card, but it fails to slam on me or detect anything until I try to get out of the station and find I still haven't entered. I thought maybe they had upgraded the software of the machines or something but maybe the card is getting fried. What is the design lifetime of these things? I guess I will run the remaining ¥3000 down to zero and retire it in favor of the Pasmo, my newest card. I wasn't sure that the Suica would be interoperable when the Pasmo came out, although I knew the Pasmo would. Answer: Yes, the Suica became interoperable on all the same services the new Pasmo works on, so I never needed to buy the Pasmo in the first place.

I didn't like the RFID-based Suica at first, but had to switch to it when the io card (pictures) was phased out. I came to like it since there was no need to register any personal data as I expected, and you can buy lots of things with it, not just train rides, but bus and other transport. You can use it in vending machines and pay for things with it at convenience stores and probably other stores, restaurants, and hotels by now. That eliminates the need to carry coins and bills around and the unsanitary disease-carrying physical money. It still seems that if you just scan it, the one charging you could just grab all of the value off of it, though, so it isn't the most secure thing, and won't replace cash, but is a convenient variation of cash.

As you can see from the top scan, my suica card has developed an interesting appearance from scratching against coins and keys in my pocket. The third card is an image from wikipedia of how it is supposed to look when it is new.

Better Dead than working-with-gays?

There were so many things wrong with the thinking behind this story of the dismissed gay Arabic-speaking linguists (May 23) that it is hard to even count them. First of all, the people doing the judging are the failed military administrators who are responsible for all of the smart planning (and mega-deaths) for post-war Iraq, while our best guess as to the culpability of the ones who are being judged is that they experienced some kind of prenatal hormonal imbalance that predisposed them toward homosexuality. Secondly, although they were discharged under the Clintonesque "Don't Ask! Don't Tell!" policy, they did not disclose their preference, nor were they asked, but their communications were intercepted and read. Technically it may not be unreasonable search and seizure since it was a government computer, but it is a little like collecting DNA samples and fingerprints from employees by CSI analysis of their work stations. Third, the information gathered in this way was used prejudicially to dismiss only those who sent gay-sounding e-mails. Heteros were let off with a warning. Fourth, it is unlikely that the soldiers in the field would prefer to have their limbs all blown off or die
rather than face having a gay person working in the organization somewhere. These linguists aren't necessarily trained field soldiers but may just be translators working in offices. Overall, the very idea that a branch of the government would have as its official policy this refusal to even allow someone to work and serve on the basis of something like sexual preference is really a shockingly regressive policy. It seems that ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, and other factors beyond the control of the person should not be grounds for dismissal.

How would a nut-winger defend such a ludicrous position? I got to see one in action. Former NYC mayor Julie Rudiani Judy Ruliani Rudolph Giuliani defended the policy of discriminate-and-dismiss by saying that allowing gays in the military is a social experiment that should not be performed in the middle of a war. Think about that for a second. We can't have experiments in a time of war. That would be like… The Manhattan Project, the U2 rocket, or the development of the jet engine. We wouldn't want to have anything like that. Why of course not. In World War Two they didn't try anything different from World War One. There were no social experiments at all at that time. No women in the workplace or social change of any sort. Certainly no Blacks or Asians were allowed into the military in a time of war! Baka yaro!

That statement alone should disqualify Adolf Rudolph for further consideration as a pre-mental candy-date.

Update: I see from the actual transcript that Julie-Annie never said the word "experiment" in his response, but just said that nothing "disruptive" should be tried. My comments still stand. Wolf Blitzer, an actor who plays a newsman on TV, embedded misinformation in his question when he said that these people had "announced" that they were gay. In at least some cases, according to the reports, they did not announce it, but they were spied on as they used military computers and were found out that way.

BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, recently we've learned that several talented trained linguists -- Arabic speakers, Farsi speakers, Urdu speakers -- trained by the U.S. government to learn those languages to help us in the war on terrorism, were dismissed from the military because they announced they were gays or lesbians.

Is that, in your mind, appropriate?

GIULIANI: This is not the time to deal with disruptive issues like this.

Back in 1994 we went through this. And it created a tremendous amount of disruption. Colin Powell, I think, was still the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before he left at the beginning of the Clinton administration.

He came to the view that this was a good policy.

And I think in time of war, in a time where we're trying to deal with this transition to a new kind of warfare that we have to be fighting -- and we haven't gotten all the way there yet. We need a hybrid army, we need to look at nation-building as part of what we have to teach our military. I don't think this would be the right time to raise these issues.

BLITZER: Thank you.

GIULIANI: And I think we should rely on the judgment of our commanders in a situation like this. They know what's disruptive and what's not. And at a time of war, you don't make fundamental changes like this.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mayor.
Message received: We will happily torture the hell out of your grandmother if we think it could save New York City from a "dirty bomb" but God forbid we should ever allow a gay person to be allowed to work for the military. We would rather die. That makes about as much sense as George Bush's cruel prank of creating a new federal Homeland Security agency to confiscate your nail clippers before you fly while allowing an estimated two million people to slosh back and forth across the border and one-half of one percent of containers coming into the US to be inspected.

Military Families Speak Out

You own it now! And it comes with this rock-solid guarantee of continuing death, destruction, debilitation, dementedness, humiliation, and defamation.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Babylon 66

As much as I like Route 66, I don't think we can compare the cultural value of the ruins along it to those left by 7,000 years of (four major) civilizations in what is now Iraq, even if we assume the viewpoint of a 36th century archaeologist. A list of 100 sites worldwide by a US group, the "World Monuments Fund's 2008 watch list" included Route 66 and Iraq among the most endangered sites worldwide, according to this AFP news story.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Atheists in Foxholes and CNNholes

I tuned in to CNN yesterday to find a 2008 presidential campaign in full gear a year early. Before the presidential campaign begins they need to have the nominating campaign for the ruling duopoly (two-party state).
CNNj is a special network made just for Japan. Unfortunately, it was a huge step backwards from what we had before, CNN International, which was up to international broadcast standards. CNNj is a direct feed from the US most of the time, earning it the name CNNjesusland or Jesusland Direct. I'm not sure how it is different but we don't have "Nancy Grace or "Glenn Beck".

Anyway, I turned it on yesterday to find that there was a program called "Faith and Politics" (seriously!) which interrogated the candidates under bright lights about their "faith". What is this supposed to have to do with politics? Isn't it just about exactly the opposite? It was pretty ugly. I heard John Edwards talk about "the lord" so much I don't know if I can stand to hear him anymore. Even if it had been the lord buddha, that would have been too many mentions, enough to constitute an unhealthy obsession and cult of personality. Soledad O'Brien was on but was followed by Paula Zahn, who always shocks me with insensitive questions like "Tell us how it felt to watch your only child swept away by the raging river." The best she could do yesterday was to ask what candidates prayed for.

It was depressing to watch that, but it could be worth it if a candidate gets the "born-ag'in" vote and promptly institutes a godless socialist dictatorship upon taking office.

There was a little comic relief when Dr Jack Kevorkian was on Larry King Live and seemed to promise Larry to secretly tell him techniques for ending his own life off air during the break, in violation of his parole. To the best of my knowledge, Larry didn't take any of his advice and is still on-air.

Meanwhile the Repuglicants who outbid each other last debate for who would torture earlier and more often were today competing for who would be the quickest to nuke Iran. Yes, actually entertaining the use of battlefield nuclear weapons. There are some very sick puppies in that party who were lined up across the stage for this third (?) depublican rebate (NYT transcript). Only Ron Paul made any sense at all. If the US were a one-party state in which the nominee became the supreme leader and commander-in-chief, as they like to call generallisimo el busho these days, it would be necessary to rally behind that one. They also moved further away from that funny "evilution" talk that yall mighta heard tell bout, and reaffirmed that the world is around 6000 years old and that man is a creation of a god, not "the descendants of a primate".

googlemaps streetview in Loisaida

I was able to see my old place at 647 E. 11th St. on Google Maps Street View. I had wanted to see this place again sometime and thought of asking someone to take a picture. I checked out zooomer a few times. I didn't expect Google to do this. My room in the top corner of this walk up had a great view of the World Trade Center. Most of the surrounding buildings were burned-out and/or abandoned in 1981. There used to be a fire burning in a steel drum near the corner where a lookout kept watch. The door was plexiglass painted black with another guy there to ask to see your tracks. The users bought the junk on the steps and sometimes shot up there, too. I think the rent was around $200-something a month this deep into Alphabet City, while over on 1st Ave or Avenue A a studio would run closer to $800 or $1000. A friend and I shared it. There were 2 bedrooms. We furnished the place with discarded furniture we lugged up the stairs, such as a sofa with a broken leg and a heavy hardwood chest of drawers that would later fly out of the window in a gravitational experiment that reduced it to chopsticks and axhandle-sized fragments. We were not mugged but burglarized a few times before the place caught fire for the second time, and part of the (slate!) stairs collapsed. With six(?) flights of stairs, many of which were missing, and some landings missing, too, I moved out to my girlfriend's place before concluding that Manhattan was not a good place for me to be at that time (if not a hopeless hellhole unfit for human habitation).

So this area of the East Village or Loisaida looks quite different now with what appears to be functioning cars parked on the street and actual trees growing there. There had been some trees in the project thing across C and community gardens at C and 10th St. The population of the city has risen but I wonder if it makes even less sense to live in Manhattan now than it did then.

What are the rental prices now? Maybe $1600 to $3000 a month?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Human Variation and Genetic Diversity: Understand in Grace

My friend Erik sent me this link (some time ago) to the doll test on this site of the American Anthropological Association.
I found everything on the site to be worth exploring, especially since we still hear nonsense about the "Hispanic race", support for "interracial dating", and "race" categories used by the Census Bureau and U. S. Government to classify people. I have always felt shocked and offended to find a form where I need to decide my "race". Although it might seem to be worth it, if for the purpose of achieving greater equality, it can never achieve that goal as long as these false categories exist. In fact, the comparison of racial categories in censuses around the world (by NYU sociologist Ann Morning) was one of my favorite parts of the site. This presentation should also be required material in every school.

Much less subtly, the mass promotion of racism by propaganda in the US in World War 2 and the Vietnam War have also done damage not unlike the damage of slavery that takes decades if not centuries to heal.

The URL looks like "Understand In Grace .org" but should be read "Understanding Race .org".