Friday, February 27, 2004

Safety board wants airline passengers weighed: "Air travel would be safer if airlines weighed their passengers from time to time to make sure they know how much weight their planes are carrying, the National Transportation Safety Board says.

"Following its investigation into a commuter plane crash last year in North Carolina, the NTSB said on Thursday that airlines should at least periodically make passengers step on a scale."

Reread that first sentence. The airlines don't know how much weight their planes are carrying. How can you operate an airline efficiently if you don't? Imagine the possibilities. Computer assigned seating for optimal weight distribution. Weight-based fares (yes, "fat class"). Wouldn't it be easier to weigh the loaded planes than to weigh each of the passengers and do the math? If your plane is overweight, just stop at the gas pump after taxiing over the scale...or return to the gate and put someone off.
U.S. Reverses Land Mine Pledge, Draws Anger: "'This new land mine policy is not just a gigantic step backward for the United States, it is a complete about-face,' said Stephen Goose, executive director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch.

"The charity Land Mine Action added: 'While 141 countries around the world -- including all other NATO countries -- have now banned land mines, the U.S. is choosing to continue to use this outmoded and indiscriminate weapon that kills and injures thousands of people every year.'"

It has been pointed out before that one of the reasons 'they hate us' is that we don't understand why they hate us. This is one of the other reasons...
Pigs May Hold Key to Diabetes: "In a study at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers took pig cells from very young embryos and transplanted the cells into diabetic rats. The rats, even without drugs to prevent immune rejection, adopted the pig cells as their own and produced their own insulin."

Great. Look for America to get even fatter, and for the pig population to increase dramatically at the same time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

An Unusual Love Story: "Birds do it. Bees do it. And, it turns out, even the penguins at the Central Park Zoo do it. So let's do it: Let's let gay people make a lifelong commitment to each other openly and in public."

The subhead says it: "Penguins accept same-sex commitments. Why do some people have so much trouble with the idea?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Nearly one quarter of GLBT people surveyed thought they could already get married in the U.S.: "The data show that 51% of respondents mistakenly believed that civil unions are the same as marriage, while nearly a quarter of respondents (21%) thought same-sex couples can already get married somewhere in the United States. The survey was completed weeks before Massachusetts's highest court reaffirmed its decision ordering that same-sex marriage be permitted no later than May 17 and before San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, at a time when same-sex marriage remained unavailable and illegal throughout the United States."

They're wrong, of course. Which points out one of the bigger problems with modern politics and the reliance on polls. A majority surveyed believe something that's definitively false. The public is largely misinformed. Who knew? At some point, a polititian is going to be wildly successful by ignoring the polls, and telling people to do the right thing because it's right, rather than the wrong thing because it's popular.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Why Cloning Didn't Happen in U.S.: "Researchers say there are many reasons why Koreans -- and not Americans -- were standing at the podium Thursday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Seattle, not the least of which is the support of the federal government. "

Bow to the religious fundamentalists and ban the inevitable. Make sure others get there first, and watch them reap the benefits while we remain at a disadvantage.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Thief makes off with streakers' car: "Three men who made a racy run through a Denny's restaurant earlier this month were themselves the victims of a keen-eyed customer who apparently made off with the naked men's car -- as well as the clothes they left inside. "

Isn't keyless entry a nifty feature? Bet they wish they had it. Also, they're not being prosecuted -- note to perps: become the victim, avoid prosecution.
Feds step up push to wiretap VoIP calls: "The Bush administration plans to ask the Federal Communications Commission to order Net telephony providers to comply with a law that would permit police to wiretap conversations carried over the Internet. "

We should know later today. If the FCC rules that VoIP is neither telecommunications nor a telecommunications service, it may be hard to consider the VoIP providers as "telecommunications carriers" under the law. If that happens, the Feds come up empty, at least on this attempt.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A Way Out of Automated Phone Hell: "The angrier the caller becomes, the greater the energy that will be apparent in the wave pattern. Once the wave pattern hits the level the computer is programmed to recognize as the frustration cutoff point, the caller will immediately be transferred to the operator. "

It is a good thing to reduce anger and frustration users feel from dealing with automated systems, but is it a good thing to reward profanity and abuse with escallation? Is dealing with one of the standard humans going to reduce their anger and frustration, or just give them someone to vent on? Does this only reward bad behavior?

Monday, February 09, 2004

Government agency exposes day-care data: "Two separate databases with personal information about children and their families were exposed. In one case, a list of children in the county's low-income day-care program was intentionally posted for download on Jan. 22 to a Web site used by computer programmers to hire temporary help. Another database, listing families participating in the county's foster care program, was posted to the same Web site in November. Both remained on the site, free for anyone to download, until they were removed Thursday."

Aside from calling people when they make silly and exceptional mistakes, there seems to be little being done to institutionalize the concepts of privacy and security of personal data within the government and their contracting community.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The power of Google: "On the 3rd of February 2004, this page (or rather the page that was here) was swamped by requests and the server subsequentially failed. The reason was traced to Google introducing a fractal looking logo (see below), which when clicked, performed an image search for 'julia' and 'fractal'. The two most interesting resulting images on the top row of the list were on this page (or rather the page that was here). "

Thanks in part to San Francisco Bay area listeners of KFOG radio, who discussed the fractal logo on-air with a Google staffer. Not only the power of Google, but the power of promotion in the largest US technology center (KFOG also has a San Jose transmitter for Silicon Valley.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Create a Hoax, Earn Damnation: "'Mac users are nuttier than a fruitcake,' Andy said. 'People have an unnatural emotional attachment to object(s) like computers. For some, their reaction was akin to me butchering their parents or a beloved pet.' "

Apple (well, Steve Jobs) has always strived to make "insanely great" systems. Why should it be a surprise that many of their buyers are insane? See for the original article. I'm not a Mac user either, but I've been very impressed by the G5 system design.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

America Gripped By Breast Terror: Sunday's SuperBowl Half-Time show stunned many. I was stunned by the disjointed choreography, missed queues, inappropriate lyrics, flag descration, simulated sex, Justin Timberlake, and the suggestion of violence against women. Others were stunned by the briefly redeeming appearance of Janet Jackson's right breast. I don't get it -- if you're worried about keeping the show to appropriate family fare, why is the rest ok but brief partial nudity crosses the line? To me, it seems that those who are offended are offended by the wrong things. Of course, to me, the marching band was the best part of the half-time show.

There have also been many insisting that Janet exposed her bare breast, which is not accurate. She was wearing a large nipple shield held on with a barbell through her pierced nipple. She was wearing a Shield Style #7 from This isn't like a pastie in that it doesn't cover the nipple -- more adornment than concealment.

Monday, February 02, 2004

The Farewell Dossier: "'The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire,' writes Reed, 'to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space.' "

Occasionally, our intelligence succeeds brilliantly. Here is a story on the winning of the cold war, as told by William Safire.