Wednesday, August 31, 2005
"Scientists have known for six decades that cutting the caloric intake of rodents by 40 percent or 50 percent results in dramatically longer lives for them.
"You can practically double their life span," Phelan said. "The same result has been found in fish, spiders and many other species. If it works for them, some thought, it should work for us; I'm here to tell you it doesn't." "
But for humans:
"Their mathematical model shows that people who consume the most calories have a shorter life span, and that if people severely restrict their calories over their lifetimes, their life span increases by between 3 percent and 7 percent -- far less than the 20-plus years some have hoped could be achieved by drastic caloric restriction. He considers the 3 percent figure more likely than the 7 percent."
What's more, just because a rodent lives longer doesn't necessarily mean they're enjoying it:
"The rodents placed on severely restricted diets bit people who tried to hold them, and had an unpleasant demeanor, unlike the more docile animals given more "normal" amounts of food, Phelan said."
And why does it work well for rodents but not humans?
""When you restrict the caloric intake of rodents, the first thing they do is shut off their reproductive system," said Phelan, citing a finding from his dissertation. A normal rodent reaches maturity at one month of age, and begins reproducing its body weight in offspring every month and a half. If humans shut off reproduction by severely limiting calories, "our reduction in wear and tear on the body is minimal," he said."
I will go enjoy my moderately sized dinner tonight, and I probably won't feel like biting anyone either.
"Marwan Sudah, chairman of the Arab Solidarity Committee for Supporting the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front and the Struggle of the South Korean People, released a statement on Aug. 14 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Korea's liberation. He recalled that the U.S. imperialists have so far imposed unbearable sufferings and misfortunes on the south Korean people by converting south Korea into their colony and military base."
And in other news on the site, youth day was celebrated in style:
"Evening galas of youth and students were held in different parts of the country on Aug. 28 in celebration of the Youth Day. The evening galas began as the song "Waltz of Youth Day" resounded forth. Youth and students in Pyongyang danced to the tune of "Dear Name," "Pride of Youth," "Girl on a Galloping Steed," "Let's Meet on the Front" and other songs"
"Let's meet on the Front" is a song to celebrate youth day? Wish I knew the lyrics...
Of course, it is fair enough for Janet to compare the reaction to Brogden's insult to the non reaction given to Latham calling her (Janet) a "skanky ho". As Janet says:
"Call me precious but an insult that means "smelly whore" seems just a tad personal and demeaning. Back then feminists, such as Anne Summers, were silent. But yesterday she was waving her metaphorical finger: "It's good to see that racist remarks attract such swift and unanimous condemnation ... but let's hope we can be equally outspoken against sexist comments and behaviour." Anne, you forgot to be equally outspoken a few years ago when sexism was aimed at your opponents."
And on the Labor party reaction generally:
"The mock outrage from Labor types over the past few days might be an easy look but it's not a convincing one. Their commitment to civility arises just long enough for them to confect outrage for political purposes. That makes them not merely hypocrites, but contributors to the lowering of standards."
Also, there's nothing like a suicide attempt to make critics go a bit sheepish. Carr is reported as saying before the resignation:
"I just think this guy's got to be evacuated from the Liberal Party leadership by close of business today," Mr Carr told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
"I think that his apology is entirely unacceptable to Helena and that is the greatest insult not only to her but of every woman of Asian background." "
Mr Carr was sounding much gentler about it this morning on Radio National (along the lines of everyone makes a mistake, but he has a good future in politics etc) but I can't find a transcript yet.
Here's Carr from the Sydney Morning Herald today:
"Mr Carr said he and his wife were willing to forgive Mr Brogden for describing Malaysian-born Mrs Carr as a "mail-order bride".
The comment about Mrs Carr, and revelations about Mr Brogden's behaviour towards two women journalists, led to his resignation on Monday.
Mr Carr said Mr Brogden still had a possible future in politics and as a family man.
"We're a forgiving society," he told reporters.
"Bob and Helena Carr forgive what was said about Helena. Helena wants me to say that.
"Let's get on with it, let him rebuild his life, he's got a big role as a citizen and as a father and husband."
Mr Carr said he did not regret his refusal earlier in the week to forgive Mr Brogden for his comments about Mrs Carr.
"I'd be hypocritical if I didn't say I was very, very angry about what was said," he said"
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I missed the above duck story with a happy ending (more or less) that started a couple of weeks ago. (Short version: woman nurses hurt wild duckling back to health. State officials come to sieze it, since people aren't supposed to keep wild ducks. State relents and Gooey the duck is back home. Until he decides to leave.)
I like this part from the Yahoo link above:
"Last Friday, two state Fish and Wildlife agents showed up at Northwest Territorial Mint asking for Erdmann, who's a manager at the company.
Kristin Donovan, assistant to the company president, said she heard "a very loud, very booming, very aggressive-type voice."
"He said, 'Give me the duck.' I heard a pause, then, 'If you don't give me the duck, I'm going to arrest you.'"
When Erdmann refused to hand Gooey over, she said the officers became more stern. One of them showed her his handcuffs. As she cradled Gooey in her arms, the other one lunged at her and grabbed the duck, striking Erdmann on the chest, she said."
The Seattle Times story (see second link above) has a pic of Gooey too. He (or she?)is a fine looking duck.
The link above is to a story about how it seems that women experience more pain than men because of oestrogen. It notes that men taking female hormones (for sex change purposes) often start to experience chronic pain. (I wonder if Zoe Brain has thought about this?)
Actually, the whole article surprises me a bit because I had not realised that women "have long been known to experience more pain than men." Well, I suppose it was obvious that they have more painful events (like childbirth and, for many, monthly period pain,) but I didn't realise that apart from that they generally have more pain, as the article suggests. So the old excuse of "not tonight dear I have a headache" is accurate after all?
The article notes that it may help women with chronic pain to give them testosterone, but "giving testosterone to women is more complicated than giving it to men." Yeah I guess growing a beard and getting a deep voice is a pretty big price to pay for pain relief...
Maybe some have missed his appearance on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. You can watch it here.
What is disturbing about it is the rabid enthusiasm of the Daily Show audience for every pearl of wisdom that comes from Stewart's mouth. I think I have read that this show is very influential with the college age crowd in the States. And to be honest, a lot of the writing is pretty sharp and funny. But it is so unrelenting liberal it is a worry.
Hitchens barely gets to fit a word in between Stewart's rants, but his audience doesn't care.
If you want to be more depressed, go to this liberal site (Crooks & Liars) and read the comments on the interview. It has obviously become fashionable amongst liberals to dismiss rational argument by continually alleging the writer is an alcoholic. If Hitchens is technically an alcoholic, he certainly must be a very "high functioning" one, as his output in various magazines and books is pretty phenomenal.
Friday, August 26, 2005
The doctors who wrote this report deserve some stick, I think.
I would have thought that the obvious way to look at it is whether a premature baby under 29 weeks, of which there is plentiful experience, appears to experience pain. Like by crying. And a doctor sceptical of this research agrees (to quote from the above New York Times article):
"Not all physicians agree. Dr. K.S. Anand, a pediatrician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said: "There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that pain occurs in the fetus."
For example, he said, tiny premature babies, as young as 23 or 24 weeks, cry when their heels are stuck for blood tests and quickly become conditioned to cry whenever anyone comes near their feet."In the first trimester there is very likely no pain perception," Dr. Anand said. "By the second trimester, all bets are off and I would argue that in the absence of absolute proof we should give the fetus the benefit of the doubt if we are going to call ourselves compassionate and humane physicians." But despite his view, Dr. Anand did not recommend trying to anesthetize fetuses during abortions. "It is premature at this point to say we should do this or not do it," he said. "As a scientist, I'm not sure we have the best methods."
Dr. Anand said he did not oppose abortion, but had testified that fetuses feel pain at hearings called by legislators seeking to ban late-term abortions."
As far as I am concerned, that is game set & match.
The argument against this would have to say, I suppose, that the crying is a reflex which does not reflect true processing of pain in the undeveloped brain. But this is running not a million miles from the Peter Singer argument that you can ethically treat even full term babies as less than fully "human" because they don't have the same self awareness that even a smart animal has. (I don't think I am misrepresenting his position here.)
Nope. If a human body cries when stuck, you gotta deem it to be human and ethically assume that causing the crying is a bad thing.
Anyway, there seem to be precious few readers who visit this site with much regularity. And no one leaves comments (except for Zoe Brain once, I think) He (when still a he) also gave my blog a recommendation, but hasn't added a link as far as I can see. I think about 4 or 5 blogs have linked to me, the most popular of which would be the widely read and well written Currency Lad. I have emailed Tim Blair a couple of times on stories or inviting him to look here, but no answer.
Seems small "reward" for the number of times I post here. (Not a huge number of posts, but pretty regular, and causing my work efficiency to suffer no end.)
Oh well, I enjoy the process of posting stuff that interests me for all the world to see. But I feel like how Barbra Striesand must have felt before she won an Oscar. (That's a line I never thought I would use.) Namely, a need for a little bit of acknowledgement from someone that they like me (well, my blog.)
Hmm, this leads me to look at Barbra's official website. Could be awful.....Yes it is!
Who would have guessed that she blogs on politics so much? Her most recent words of wisdom:
" August 6, 2005 marks the 60th anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima. The Atomic Bomb, which decimated the Japanese city and its people, was never used in combat again. This day is also the anniversary of another "bomb" that was dropped 4 years ago, this time into the lap of President Bush in the form of a memo titled 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US.' While on yet another extended vacation at his Crawford ranch, the President chose to neglect his duties as Commander in Chief by refusing to act decisively and immediately on this impending threat, leading to the worst terrorist attack in American history. These anniversaries remind us to learn from our past actions in order to ensure a safer more secure future."
(Now back to me, me, me. Comments - or even one comment - to cheer me up welcome, but I shouldn't expect any..)
Thursday, August 25, 2005
See above link for recent article about cycling induced erectile dysfunction. The reason:
"the high pressures in the perineum while straddling a saddle compress and temporarily occlude penile blood flow. They also hypothesized that the lining vessels of the compressed arteries become damaged, thus leading to potential permanent artery blockage.
However, not all men who ride bicycles will develop erectile dysfunction. One past study suggested that sexual health consequences adversely affect 5% of riders (based on survey data that would therefore include 1,000,000 riding men with ED). "
And this line I like:
"Schrader further concluded that "the health benefits from having unrestricted vascular flow to and from the penis are self-evident."
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
"About a decade ago Canadians switched on their televisions and were confronted by 'shocking' images of the town's populace passing the day snorting drugs, glue, petrol and pretty much anything else to hand.
So, as any impeccably progressive soft-lefties would, Her Majesty's Government in Ottawa decided to build the Mushuau a new town a few miles inland a state of the art, money no object, new homes, new heating systems, new schoolhouse, new computers, plus new more culturally respectful town name (Natuashish)....
Two years after the new town opened, the former Mushuau chief and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police both agreed that there were more drugs, alcoholism, gas-sniffing etc., than ever before. Also higher suicide rates."
"The net result of 40 years of a 'caring' policy intended to maintain communities in their traditional 'culture' is that Canadian natives now have tuberculosis, diabetes, heart disease and brain damage at levels accelerating further and further away from those in society at large, not to mention lower life-expectancy, higher infant mortality, and endemic suicide."
Mark's column then diverts into a broad ranging swing at multiculturalism, but his key point on the problem of indigineous cultures being "maintained" in countries like Australia and Canada is summed up as follows:
"By pretending that all cultures are equal, multiculturalism doesn't 'preserve' traditional cultures so much as sustain them in an artificial state that ensures they all develop bizarre pathologies and mutate into some freakish hybrid of the worst of both worlds."
I think he might be playing a bit loosely with the term "culture" in this column.
I guess I would be more inclined to say that it is not that all aspects of aboriginal culture are undeserving of existence (although certainly parts of it should be done away with); it's just that it is harmful to encourage the belief that such remote communities with no real integration with the actual economy of the country can be socially successful. If that means that some aspects of their "culture" are lost, well that is the cost of the greater good known as "being alive and moderately healthy." Anyway, it is not as if there is much culture being preserved by brain damaged petrol sniffing youth.
What should the government actually do? Well, the fundamental thing, I think, has to be to have policies that discourage remote communities with no prospect of economic integration from continuing to exist. Primarily, this would have to be by encouraging the young to get out of there. If the adults want to stay in their train wreck of a community, so be it, although there may be forms of incentive to re-locate that would work. But the young should definitely be taught that there is a better future for them somewhere else.
In Brisbane, gray lizards known as water dragons hang around many residential areas which are near creeks or watery spots, and they can easily reach 2 (or maybe a bit more)feet long. However, the article about iguanas talks of them being up to 6.5 feet long! Sorta like having goannas in your backyard. No wonder they aren't so popular.
Oh, and personally I blame John Howard.
Monday, August 22, 2005
This way of thinking is what is holding Labor back from winning elections at the Federal level. They cling to the idea that it is the Left that is naturally morally superior in its attitude to everything from aboriginal issues to the environment, migration etc. Part of the whinge is also that there are no "big ideas" about Australia's future under Howard, which of course assumes that fuzzy "big ideas" are important in the first place. That we have become culturally boring is another line commonly run. (Jonathon Biggins keeps writing articles whining about this in the Sydney Morning Herald.) Of course, our great selfishness under Howard is a common theme in Margo's Webdiary.
"Sometimes, working in the media in this country at this time, you sense this is a culture in free-fall, that it no longer knows exactly what it believes, or indeed if it believes in anything beyond self-interest, Anzac Day and the fortunes of our various sports teams - these, incidentally, being the interests of the Prime Minister who, as our politics become more presidential, becomes increasingly emblematic of us. Overlooked in this process are such aspects of his past as zero active interest in the environment, repeated flirtations with the politics of race and a farcical victory in the last election that he chose to fight on interest rates."
Giving the game away a bit by calling it a "farcical victory" aren't you Martin.
And he ends with:
"Let's fire up, as we say in sport. Let's have a real debate. Let's revive the idea of Australia."
Oh dear. I can see how useful that suggestion is going to be.
I can save Martin, Jonathon, Margo and their ilk many hours of writing by teaching them to say this: "Jeez I hate John Howard and it pisses me off that people keep voting for him." That's all you are saying guys, over and over and over again.
What's more, the majority have not become morally depraved or uninterested in serious issues. They just don't agree with your take on them. That's all.
And to the extent that the culture might be suffering, to large degree it's because it is generally comprised of dills like you whose material either has the text or subtext that most Australians are bad or dumb because they tolerate this government.
As to "big ideas" how about this one: that a government's job is to defend the country and its inhabitants, manage an economy to be as robust as possible in the circumstances, and to legislate to otherwise protect and provide a reasonable degree of services that governments are best at providing for the general population. (Took me about 2 minutes reflection to come up with that.) How in practice those things are done is a legitmate area of debate. But to suggest that we are bereft of inspiration unless we have sat around and come up with some "mission statement" for the nation reeks of 1980's management theory and is well past its use by date.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Just in case I have readers who think I post too often about space stuff, I will divert into philosophy for a minute.
The above link (perhaps obviously) is to the Amazon page for a 1980's book "After Virtue" by Alasdair MacIntyre, and I have stumbled across it before. I am not familiar with MacIntyre, but the reviews make it sound of great potential interest to me. This is the first reader review (sorry it is lengthy, but it is easy to follow, and even the non-philosophically inclined reader might see the relevance of it to current left/right debate about the Iraq war):
"After Virtue is a delightful book which presents the contemporary problem of moral philosophy today. MacIntyre says that there is an interminability of moral debate today. No consensus solution to the variety of moral issues such as abortion and war will present itself because proponents of both sides of the arguments in these two issues argue from a different set of premises from a different tradition of moral philosophy. You have Thomistic ideals of the value of life and justice against Rousseauist ideals of individuality, for example, in life issues. Can any of the enlightenment moral philosophies really help us make rational, clear decisions about the morality of a particular decision? MacIntyre investigates the moral philosophies of Kant, Hume, & Kierkegard, showing how each of them miserably fail as possible moral systems. Utilitarianism, pragmatism, and emotivism are also wonderfully skewered.
With what are we left? It seems as if after the failure of these systems we are left with the Nietzschean amorality of total chaotic relativism. MacIntyre understands the enigma of Nietzsche's ideas and shows how his attacks toppled the pompous, arrogant ideals of the Enlightenment. But Nietzsche's system seems impossible from a human standpoint, since, for example, we are left with the unsettling discovery that events such as the Holocaust are not really "wrong" in any objective sense. MacIntyre interjects that there is another alternative: go back to the source of the Enlightenment project. Sometime around then a bald decision was made philosophically to abandon the Neo-Aristotelian metaphysics that had supported Western thought for the previous 2000 years whether in the purest Aristotelian form or rather in highly developed Thomistic incarnations such as that which the Catholic Church held (and still does) and similar ones influences by Islamic and Jewish philosophers during the middle ages. Can this form of moral philosophy withstand criticism and ultimately rise as a viable alternative to Nietzsche? MacIntyre thinks so, and he spends a large amount of time laying the groundwork for a revived account of such a system. When he poses the question, Nietzsche or Aristotle, finally I at least think that he has made a compelling argument in favor of Aristotle (and Aquinas as some of his later work will evolve towards)."
Given my tiny readership here, I am unlikely to get a response. But: does anyone know about this book or author?
"Active" shields have a lot of practical problems.
Although I find this area depressing (because it is another blow to easy exploration of space by humans) it does strike me a little as being similar to the challenges facing early maritime exploration of the earth. For example, the navigation problem of accurately determining longitude, solved by inventing an accurate transportable clock. Or perhaps there is more similarity with scurvy, suffered by sailors until they realised taking citrus juice would prevent it.
Anyway, although there are already engineers and scientists thinking deeply about it, I wonder whether this is another case (like the longitude problem) where the government ought to offer a reward for a good solution. It just seems possible to me that some sort of "new" idea for active shielding might be being overlooked.
Short version of the linked story for those who can't be bothered clicking: just as in the case of Dr Patel (the enthusiatic but untalented and rather deadly surgeon who skipped town as soon as his case came to light), the apparently fake psychiatrist from Russia that Queensland Health employed for Townsville hospital who is now suspected of being a paedophile (practiced not just in Russia but perhaps also here) has fled the country. Unlikely to be seen again.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Readers with a science/ science fiction interest will know that the type of space suit discussed in the above link has been a feature of future technology used by some sci fi authors since the 1970's. (Jerry Pournelle springs to mind, but I am sure there are others.) Anyway, its good to see that it is still under active research, and actually looks a goer.
Sounds very hard to get into though. I also wonder about women's breasts getting painfully squashed by these. Any thoughts, Zoe?
Thursday, August 18, 2005
As Rosemay Neill says:
"A notion of cultural autonomy that discounts the importance of real jobs and formal education simply divorces indigenous communities from mainstream power structures, even as they are flooded with the worst aspects of Western culture, from junk food to drugs."
What a pleasure to read such common sense.
Just last week, Phillip Adams up at Garma was interviewing someone who said that it was obvious from the festival that an active aboriginal culture can save lives (pointing out all the young ones who had evident musical talent at the festival.)
My suspicion is that active culture is still only successful if it results in that particular community being better integrated with the actual economy.
No one would expect success from a new community of (say) a few hundred white folk who had the idea of going to live in a remote and infertile part of Australia so that they could be successful musicians who connect with Gaia (or some such equivalent to aboriginal "connection to the land".) Not unless the said group also had a proper plan as to how they were going to deal with growing food, getting a source of clean water, building and maintaining adequate housing, etc. I suspect that all "hippy" communes (which is the nearest real life example of my theoretical case) which are successful are in fertile areas, grow a substantial part of their own food, and are not hundreds of klicks from the nearest town or hospital.
So why do liberals think that for aborigines culture alone is enough to live on?
As Ann says:
"The logical, intellectual and ethical shortcomings of such a statement are staggering. If one dead son means no one can win an argument with you, how about two dead sons? What if the person arguing with you is a mother who also lost a son in Iraq and she's pro-war? Do we decide the winner with a coin toss? Or do we see if there's a woman out there who lost two children in Iraq and see what she thinks about the war? "
But the line I liked most in the column is this:
'Dowd's "absolute" moral authority column demonstrates, once again, what can happen when liberals start tossing around terms they don't understand like "absolute" and "moral."'
I have been meaning to write something at length about my belief that a major problem with current day liberals is their apparent lack of knowledge of some pretty basic moral philosophical concepts. But it will probably have to wait for another day...
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
See the link to Hitchen's take on Cindy Sheehan's grandstanding. It is what you would expect (pretty scathing).
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Mem Fox takes on the phonics/whole language debate and seems to side strongly with whole language. I am not sure she makes a well argued case. For example:
"Parents often make the understandable mistake of believing that phonically sounding out words is reading. But we do most of our reading in silence: the meaning is on the page, not in the sound.... Is it necessary to have a grasp of phonics in order to be able to read? Broadly speaking, the astonishing and contentious answer is no, otherwise we wouldn't be able to read silently;"
This is a bit of a reach, isn't it? I thought the point of phonics was the assistance it gives to children (or adults) learning to pronounce a new word. The fact that you may not rely on it much as an experienced reader is neither here nor there to debate on education in primary schools.
She does make one valid point, in that she points out that languages based on pictographs don't use phonics at all. However, although Japan, for example, claims a very high literacy rate, I believe it does have the downside that it takes many years of school before they can read newspapers or similar "adult" material with full comprehension, because of the rate it takes to learn the couple of thousand pictographs that are necessary.
Her main argument seems to be against going back to a phonics only system of teaching. But is that really the likely outcome of the current federal government inquiry into literacy teaching? If the report simply wants all teachers to be able to effectively teach phonics to those student who benefit from that approach, it may not necessarily mean whole language is completely out the window. The current problem may be that some teachers may be too wedded to whole language.
And even it if did recommend going back to phonics only, if the empirical evidence is that literacy levels overall were better under that system, what is the point of insisting on whole language or a combined system being best?
To further confuse the argument, Mem then ends up with this:
"Phonics comes into its own as soon as children begin to learn to write. Josie is now courageously struggling to write. She has to match the sounds of language to the letters she scrawls across a page. During the complex battle between her brain and her hand she's now coming to grips with phonics and spelling. Those people who argue for an exclusively phonics approach in reading misunderstand what phonics is and forget how absolutely fundamental it is in learning to write."
Huh? Suddenly sounds like a bit of an argument for phonics to get more emphasis. I don't see her point here.
That Josie, by the way, is an acquaintance of hers who at age 3 can "read anything from atlases to adult books on dream interpretation."
Just what we need, more 3 year olds with a deep understanding of dream interpretation!
Mem obviously has a fair bit of sympathy for whole language, and I guess it may work well for some. The debate is more about those it doesn't work well for. Mem fails to approach the issue in this article with any empirical stuff at all.
She also had a few meetings with Mark Latham and seems to have liked him quite a lot. Maybe that says a lot about her judgment too.
Monday, August 15, 2005
What impresses me a lot, though, is the rapid willingness of LGF and the other right wing sites to admit that it is looking like the allegation against the 9-11 commission may be a lot less than it first seemed.
Even if the allegation proves unreliable, Mark Steyn's point in this article (that it is still entirely possible for Atta to have been in the States prior to June 2000) seems solid. However, Mark seems to be much less emphatic about the veracity of the Florida story than before, saying that Atta "might [my italics] have been in Florida, attempting to get a U.S. Farm Service Agency loan for the world's biggest cropduster, as reported by USDA official Johnell Bryant."
He's a great read anyway, even if the Florida stories were to be debunked.
Surely then there were some flight attendants still able to work out what to do with the (presumably) incapacitated pilots. I mean, even if the cockpit crew all passed out due to an undetected or sudden air leak (which is rather puzzling in itself), obviously someone in the aircraft activated the emergency oxygen in time to keep some people alive. (Or is it automatic at a certain level of depressurisation?) If an attendant was alive, why couldn't they revive the pilots (or at least, taken the controls for a time and stopped a descent into a mountain?) I wonder if flight attendants all know how to use the radio in an emergency. Surely they would have to be taught?
Maybe flight attendants and the cockpit crew all passed out and it was only passengers moving around wondering what to do. Again, you would think shoving some of oxygen on an attendant would have revived one, and couldn't a passenger fly the plane at a steady, low altitude until someone could make radio contact?
If it all happened in a short space of time, it would be more understandable. But it seems to have taken place over a considerable time.
Oh well, guess we will know eventually.
For the first time today, I looked at my blog with IE, and found the font was really uncomfortably small.
Other sites don't seem to have much difference between IE and Firefox, but then most people use additional software that I haven't investigated yet.
Oh well, sorry to any IE user who has had a problem with my font.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
"KUALA LUMPUR (AP): Despite increasingly congested detention centers, Malaysia will not deport illegal immigrants immediately, but will stick with its policy of sending them to trial and sentencing them to the lash, the home minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.
"If they are charged and then punished with whipping, they would think many times before running the risk of re-entering the country," Home Minister Azmi Khalid was quoted as saying by the national news agency Bernama.
More than 9,000 illegals, mostly Indonesians, are being held at the centers throughout the country as they await their trials to start or be completed, according to Azmi.
"This is due to delays in the legal process," Azmi was quoted as saying by the Berita Minggu newspaper. "The cases drag on (sometimes for more than a year) due to many postponements, whereas illegal immigrants are caught almost every day."
Azmi said congestion in detention centers will worsen as the government steps up the operation to round up illegals by empowering civilian volunteers - besides police and immigration officers - to detain them.
Whipping was introduced as a punishment for illegal immigrants as part of a crackdown launched in March 2005."I had not heard of this in the Australian media, but maybe I missed it.
Puts our treatment of such people in some sort of perspective, doesn't it.
Friday, August 12, 2005
I had never heard this before:
"Some community members bought cars "like tennis shoes", dumping them in what he called a "World Heritage Car Dump" within sight of Uluru when they broke down.
"I counted about 1000 cars there – that's about $4 million ... of money that has potentially been wasted," he said."
Meanwhile, this week's Phillip Adams' Late Night Live radio show has been up in Arnhem Land doing tedious reports on the Garma festival, an annual event which has previously escaped my attention. If I can believe Phil, it would seem that the communities up there are much healthier than the ones further south. Maybe it has something to do with being nearer to a big city, and having some decent natural resources to live off. Anyway Phil, rather than rubbing shoulders with the relatively successful, and their white groupies, why not do a week from the Uluru community and help them workshop ideas to get out of their appalling mess?
Thursday, August 11, 2005
It's about a recent study that indicates there were well over a thousand cases of euthanasia actually administered in a year in the Netherlands. (Country population: about 16.5 million; still seems a lot to me.)
A few points of interest:
"Project leader Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen said she was surprised that "the most important reasons for doing the request are not strictly medical." The survey asked physicians the reasons that patients sought help in ending their own lives, with the most frequent being pointless suffering, loss of dignity and weakness.
In cases in which doctors denied the requests, the most common reasons were not wanting to be a burden on their family, tired of living and depression.
Well, Australia's scientist/ aboriginal adviser/death-loving creepy doctor Philip Nitschke wouldn't have any such doubts and must think it is a stupid law then, if he can't help people who are just old from topping themselves.
"Under a law that took effect in 2002, euthanasia is restricted to terminal patients suffering unbearable pain with no hope of improvement, and who request to die when they are of sound mind. Each case is reviewed by a panel of medical experts."
The study also reportst that 13 % of those who requested euthanasia changed their minds.
The report continues:
"But in a critical accompanying editorial, University of Minnesota law professor Susan Wolf said the important question is whether mercy killings are taking place that do not follow the strict guidelines the Dutch have put in place.
The study could not determine that, she said, because doctors self-reported on whether their efforts complied with Dutch rules, among other reasons."The ultimate question remains — if you permit physicians to take life deliberately by assisting suicide or performing euthanasia, can you control the practice? Can you keep it within agreed boundaries? ... We do not yet know the answers," "
If I can't trust my hospital doctor to wash his or her hands, I am not sure I should trust them with this either.
But then again, maybe if the spacecraft is thickened up a bit from the average density of the old Apollo craft, maybe death is avoidable. This interesting article (from NASA, so maybe it is more optimistic than it should be) indicates that the Apollo command module would have given a fair degree of shielding. Maybe the real concern during Apollo was for the astronauts if they were caught on the moon during a flare. I am sure the Lunar Module would have offered pretty pitiful shielding, as there was not much to it.
I also found this nice little site about the possible replacements for the Shuttle. The little rocket based on the shuttle solid rocket booster looks very neat, and I don't think even I would have much worry about riding a solid rocket. From what I gather, they are pretty damn simple devices, and don't tend to blow up. Unfortunately, looks like you still need a liquid fueled second stage too. D'oh...
However, an opinion piece in The Age caught my attention. The writer, one Neil Hooley from the academia of education, talks about how being teachers forced by the terrible Federal government to use a simple scale to rank children's achievements is "letting the kids down".
"Apparently, parents are confused by other terminology that might use words such as "established", "consolidated", "developed" and the like. A grade of B, for example, is very explicit and everyone knows what it means."
Well, yeah. But in the world of education, nothing can be allowed to be so clear:
"We have a distinct choice here. Either it is appropriate to draw up an absolute scale that measures achievement, or we look at progress that has been made over time. In the former case, the context is really unimportant - all that matters is product at the time. Contrast this with the latter case, where the conditions are crucial and really shape what is achieved."
Here we go:
"The allocation of absolute grades to the learning of children fits into a particular logic of knowledge. This says that schools are involved in the passing on of predetermined information or subject content that can be known, taught, assessed and rated accurately at each age or year level. Under this arrangement, the logic is internally consistent and defensible. There trouble is, there is another logic.
An alternative view indicates that children learn by building their own knowledge and that learning is always a work in progress."
Fair enough. The problem comes with the next sentence in that paragraph:
"Under these conditions, it is highly problematic whether predetermined content can be known, taught, assessed and rated accurately. With this logic, a graded system of assessment is therefore entirely inconsistent and indefensible."
Why? Every sensible person agrees that it is good for an education system to encourage students to "build their own knowledge" and realise that you can go through life continually learning, if you want to. But why should that preclude being able to give a simple assessment of where the student is in their level of objective knowledge of a subject at any particular time?
Surely he is getting at something more subtle, and it would seem to be the lingering postmodernist idea that, at heart, there is no objective truth about anything. No point in testing kids for how much they remember or understand it then. Go on, admit it Hooley!
His ending is particularly silly:
"An imposed system of A to E labels assumes one logic. It assumes that schools are only about the passing on of knowledge from elsewhere, that both teachers and children are disconnected from their knowledge and that imposed external judgments are accurate and necessary.
Parents will make up their own minds, but children may have little option to do so, locked in the iron cage of A to E determinism."
Look, if teachers want to comment on a student's "progress over time" or general aptitude etc, can't they still do it in the way they always have (at least in primary school)? That is, little Johnny gets a C in maths, but teacher writes at the end of the report card that "Johnny could do better with increased effort" or "Johnny has improved considerably, but further effort should see better results." Damn simple, it you ask me. At high school level, you can test in other ways about general aptitude and combine it with the other testing of stuff learnt to get a general idea of a kid's potential.
And it is absolute rubbish to suggest students are going to be "trapped" by their school grades anyway. Surely everyone knows of fellow high school students who didn't do well there, but after a few years maturing have gone back to study properly and ended up with tertiary qualifications and well paying careers.
Oh,and he also starts by criticising the government not (he believes) allowing the aboriginal flag to be used at schools instead of the Australian flag. Yes indeed, I am sure the lack of that flag must account for so much of the educational difficulties in aboriginal society.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Funnily enough, one of the comments posted after the article says this:
"The thing that Saunders does not understand is that in wealthy societies where there is no starvation or dying from exposure, poverty is about being unable to participate in the society with respect and esteem.
A relativistic definition of poverty is not adopted by Âthe leftÂ just so they can advocate redistribution of income. It is favoured because it is the only real way of understanding what it means to be poor. If parents cannot afford Nike trainers for their child, the child ÂfeelsÂ poor. The lack of money for trendy shoes ÂmeansÂ poverty in our society."
What to make of this post? Surely she can't be saying that it reflects good, sensible values to say that children have a right to have the "coolest" brand names rather than simply a reasonable quality shoe? If she saying that, it plays exactly into Saunder's criticism of why a relative treatment of poverty is pretty stupid and unhelpful.
Picking brand fetishism as a way of illustrating being "unable to participate" is pretty startling, so much so that I wonder if she is having us on. But I don't think she is.
I'm a dog person. Not fanatical, but a dog person nonetheless. (Cat people have a good chance of having brains affected by mind altering parasites, remember.)
The link above is to a nice Guardian story on dogs fighting depression. My favourite bit is this:
"Maureen Hennis is chief executive of Pets As Therapy, a charity which has been making the most of the therapeutic benefits of animals for over 20 years. The not-for-profit organisation currently visits more than 4,750 different medical establishments throughout the UK, and Hennis is convinced of the programme's efficacy.
"I'm very lucky because I've visited patients with depression with my own dogs, so I've actually seen the benefits in action. I remember at one of the places we visited there was one woman who would wait for us and when we arrived she would shout, 'There's my ray of sunshine! There's my reason to stay alive!' It was the dog she was talking about, not me." "
So, apart from my advocacy of cognitive therapy, send in the dogs too. I wonder if they help schizophrenics too? Yep, probably.
I heard recently on the ABC that the lack of doctors is acute all over the Western world, so there is a huge "market" for qualified doctors from just about anywhere to work in the Western country of their choosing. But surely to God Medical Boards in other States or countries have done a better job at ensuring applicants are not forging qualifications.
It is also presumably a good time to study medicine if you are inclined. I know someone whose son is in first year of medicine. The joke going around the students was "what do you call the med student who comes last in exams? Answer: ' Doctor' ".
More on what some doctors will do is here (abort late term pregnancies because the mother doesn't the financial cost of a child.) Good to see a prosecution happening for this.
Meanwhile, I don't really understand this whole oil price thing. Why does just the threat of terrorism against westerners in Saudi Arabia cause the price to go up? If the threat was directly against oil production facilities, maybe I understand. But attacks on housing estates, hotels and embassies, which is the character of many past attacks, doesn't seem to have that much to do with oil production to me.
The Economist reports briefly on what oil rich countries are looking at doing with their new oil wealth. Building super luxury resorts and shopping centres is much of the answer. But how many westerners want to holiday in the Middle East at any point in the near future? These nations ought to remember Nauru , I reckon. It will all end in tears before the century is out.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
First some NASA info on the current heat shield is here. It says an average of 50 tiles are replaced between every mission, although there is lots of other work done on it every time it is refurbished for the next flight.
I think I read once (years ago in a science magazine) that they had to check the bonding of almost every tile between flights, but I haven't found a reference to that on the internet (yet).
As for the history of heat shields generally, this article briefly summarises it, and contains this interesting snippet of information:
"China developed recoverable spacecraft that reputedly used wood as an ablative material. While this may seem primitive, wood (in some cases cork) is actually used as an ablative material for some American rocket engine areas and payload shrouds, which heat up as the rocket flies through the atmosphere."
It also mentions an advanced idea:
"One promising idea that has been proposed for the future is the use of a plasma torch to form an artificial shockwave in front of a reentry vehicle. Just as the shockwave generated by a blunt body can protect a spacecraft by keeping hot gasses away from the skin of the vehicle, the plasma shockwave could theoretically protect a vehicle traveling at hypersonic velocity (Mach 6+) for sustained periods of time. But there is as yet no demand for such a thermal protection system and it remains only a laboratory experiment."
Pity if it went out suddenly though.
Inflatable shields also get an article here.
Not so long ago, using water as part of a shield was discussed in New Scientist.
So, seems there are limited options to explore for future heat shielding. Maybe I'll just wait for a space elevator to be built.
More googling has revealed that in fact the cancelled X 33 project involved a new metal based thermal protection system, that did get some testing before the whole project was cancelled. See links here, and here. In fact, one NASA media release indicates it was fully tested and ready for flight.
A more recent (2002) article about metallic reentry shields generally is here.
And while wandering around the Web, I found the forgotten (by me anyway) story of the Air Force's Lenticular Reentry Vehicle, a proposed nuclear powered, flying saucerish bomber from the dawn of the Cold War. The Popular Mechanics story on the link has a Brisbane connection too.
Gee, those 1950's boffins knew cool looking design, didn't they...
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Friday, August 05, 2005
The sentence means he is potentially able to get parole at 71. I can't see why he should ever be released. As it is, he has the potential to have a "normal" life for a decade or more after release.
This crime was so appalling that it reminds me of the Port Arthur massacre. As in that case, you can't really fathom the mental state of the killer, but there is no doubt that they were aware of their actions as they were executing their victims. John Sharpe also had weeks of forethought and planning, it would seem. I am generally against the death sentence, but there are some murders so terrible, where the facts are known with absolute certainty, that I feel they deserve an exception. This is one of them.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
I suppose that if you don't already know that this exists, you're not enough of a nerd to care. Anyway, the above link is to the NASA site for sighting times for the shuttle and ISS listed for all major cities. I forgot to check earlier this week, and may have already missed the best chance. But it goes over fairly high over Brisbane this afternoon at 5.42, and as sunset is about 5.20, it should be visible (clouds permitting).
Go impress your kids by taking them outside to see it.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
It's about what you would expect from the world's craziest socialist dictator stronghold. Some things I like to read about:
Kim Jong inspects the "the command of the large combined unit and Unit 615 honored with the title of Kum Song Lifeguard of the KPA situated in the forefront area in the central sector of the front....
Expressing satisfaction over the fact that the officers and men of the unit have thoroughly implemented the military line of the WPK, thus consolidating the military bulwark of Korean style socialism as firm as a rock, he set forth the highly important tasks which would serve as guidelines in further increasing the militancy of the unit and turning the defence theatre into an invulnerable fortress....
He dropped in at the operation study room to learn in detail with the training of the commanding officers of the unit. There he set forth tasks to be fulfilled to increase the unit's combat capability in every way."
Wait for it:
"Then he moved on to the duck farm built by the unit.
He put forward the tasks to be fulfilled to boost the duck production, saying that the farm should operate at its fullest capacity to pay off profusely. He had a photo session with the servicepersons of the unit."
I hope avian flu has got nothing to do with this.
We also learn that Korea's "liberation" was celebrated recently in the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, and Democratic Congo, where:
"Otete Gaston Mboyo, chairman of the National Committee of the Genuine Lumumbist Patriotic Party of Democratic Congo, in a lecture praised the undying feats President Kim Il Sung performed by defeating Japanese imperialism and bringing about a great event of the liberation of Korea after embarking upon the road of revolution in his teens. He noted that the feats of the President are shining more brilliantly thanks to leader Kim Jong Il."
Forgive my ignorance, but that the first time I have heard of the Lumumbists of Congo, who it would appear have been around for quite a few decades. Must be hard to pronounce after a drink.
Update: Sorry - individual links to articles within the North Korean site don't work.
See the above article in (surprise!) The Age which gives a strong defence to the non application of the Geneva conventions to one D Hicks. An article contradicting this will probably appear soon.
And by the way, this stuff about some US military lawyers criticising the whole commission procedure. I am sure there is a considerable lack of understanding in the general public about the relative seniority of various military ranks that causes confusion. An army captain (but not a navy captain) is a low ranking officer, and major is only one step up from that. The US military has many, many lawyers, and it should be no surprise that some relatively junior ones (most likely very young) will have strong feelings against the military commission set up. Even if they were older and more experienced, everyone has to remember that lawyers are basically designed to disagree. Just because some of them see a great injustice in something doesn't necessarily mean they are right.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
In the meantime, the SMH today in its article on vegetarianism (which, it claims, no longer has good PR) pointed me towards this article on the Australian Vegetarian Society website as an example of vegetarians not exactly doing their image a favour.
The essay has a great title: "The Sitting Toilet - An Inconspicuous ‘Carcinogen’?" and goes into great detail about the alleged benefits of squatting over sitting.
There may be something to some of the points made the article, as it does actually cite at the end a lot of proper sounding medical journal articles. But a lot of it is pretty silly.
Having to use a squat toilet is, I think, more of an issue for men than women because of the, shall we say, different angles that are involved . When trying to use one while travelling, I have never worked out what to do with my pants, especially long pants. You wouldn't want to take your shoes off in the average squat toilet (to allow for complete pants removal) but crumpling long pants down well out of any danger is a real pain, and makes the balancing act required quite difficult. That is the real reason squat toilets are unpopular with western men, I think.
Any guidelines as to what I should be doing on my next trip would (seriously) be welcome. Yobbo at his blog didn't seem to be able to work it out either.
Monday, August 01, 2005
'Actions were a peaceful protest over the Iraq war' is the headline on the above Times article on the arrested London bombing suspect Osman (caught in Rome). According to his female lawyer:
“He has justified his actions as a form of protest against the fact that civilians are suffering in wars at the present time. He has taken part in many peace marches and has never had any contact whatsoever with any terrorist organisation."
That will go over so well before a judge.
"The lawyer said that her client, who appeared at an initial extradition hearing on Saturday, was “calm” but would “prefer to stay in Italy”."
You bet he would.
And Italy being Italy, the lawyer herself is attracting much of the attention:
"Osman’s arrest has attracted huge publicity in Italy and made Signora Sonnessa, 40, into a minor celebrity. Her bronzed skin, long black hair and plunging neckline grabbed the attention of Italian newspapers, which carried prominent photographs of her in their coverage of the story."
Wait while I google for a picture of her
Here we go...
The link is to a story about how Royal Melbourne Hospital will soon open a room to deal with the severely obese, who can weigh from 350 to 500kg!
At 182 cm and about 82 kg, this is as if I was around 4 to 6 times heavier than my present weight. And I guess most obese people are shorter than me, so the ratio of their actual to their "ideal" weight is likely worse for them.
What I don't understand is this. Isn't there something seriously wrong in a person failing to recognise when they hit, let's say, 3 times their "ideal" weight that they just can't continue putting on more weight? I mean, mentally wrong. Doesn't the fact that they can no longer sit in a normal car or bus seat indicate something to them? I just can't comprehend it.