Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Inequality is Real

"The fact is that income inequality is real. It has been rising for more than 25 years." that quote comes out of the mouth of our president. wow. he noticed. i'm surprised. but how long did it take him to speak up.
that quote is from a reuters story today. the president talks about the lavish salaries and perks of CEOs and how that might affect the stockmarket. he says government can't dampen overperked business people. it's up to the companies.
can you imagine, conscious guided execs could still have a comfortable life, be compensated well and at the same time, let the folks toward the bottom of the earnings chain make more money. what a concept. what are the chances?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Long Bets

a story in the NYT today asks: can humanity survive? the optimistic writer of the story says yes and he's made a bet on longbets.org that humans will live past 2100. i would bet not. a story about longbets was written a bit ago in Science & Technology mag.

longbets is a web site funded by amazon's jeff bezos, who's on his own mission (to space) and it's kept by Martin Rees, a cosmologist at Cambridge.
anyone can go there to make a "long bet." it's interesting to see who's betting and what they're betting. Like Vint Cerf, the Internet guru who bets:

"By 2010 more than 50 percent of books sold worldwide will be printed on demand at the point of sale in the form of library-quality paperbacks."
and here's one of his other bets:
"By 2010 more than 50 percent of books worldwide will be read on digital devices rather than in print form."

in addition to predicting the end of human kind, Rees bets this:
"By 2020, bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event."

here's another interesting prediction:
"The People's Republic of China will successfuly place a living human on the surface of Mars before any other nation."
most of the predictions are pessimistic. some are funny:
"As of March 7th, 2005, Osama bin Laden is dead."
here's a fun one:
"Evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence within the solar system will be confirmed before evidence from several light-years away."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ataxia II March 6

record label says March 20. john's web site says March 6. thanks to a visitor for pointing that out. march is good.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Barack Obama on Health Care

people say they don't know what Mr. Obama stands for. i say read his books, visit his web site.
here's a portion of his BRILLIANT speech made today:

Well we can't afford another disappointing charade in 2008. It's not only
tiresome, it's wrong. Wrong when businesses have to layoff one employee because
they can't afford the health care of another. Wrong when a parent cannot take a
sick child to the doctor because they cannot afford the bill that comes with it.
Wrong when 46 million Americans have no health care at all. In a country that
spends more on health care than any other nation on Earth, it's just wrong. And
yet, in recent years, what's caught the attention of those who haven't always
been in favor of reform is the realization that this crisis isn't just morally
offensive, it's economically untenable. For years, the can't-do crowd has scared
the American people into believing that universal health care would mean
socialized medicine and burdensome taxes - that we should just stay out of the
way and tinker at the margins. You know the statistics. Family premiums are up
by nearly 87% over the last five years, growing five times faster than workers'
wages. Deductibles are up 50%. Co-payments for care and prescriptions are
through the roof. Nearly 11 million Americans who are already insured spent more
than a quarter of their salary on health care last year. And over half of all
family bankruptcies today are caused by medical bills.But they say it's too
costly to act. Almost half of all small businesses no longer offer health care
to their workers, and so many others have responded to rising costs by laying
off workers or shutting their doors for good. Some of the biggest corporations
in America, giants of industry like GM and Ford, are watching foreign
competitors based in countries with universal health care run circles around
them, with a GM car containing twice as much health care cost as a Japanese car.
But they say it's too risky to act. They tell us it's too expensive to cover the
uninsured, but they don't mention that every time an American without health
insurance walks into an emergency room, we pay even more. Our family's premiums
are $922 higher because of the cost of care for the uninsured. We pay $15
billion more in taxes because of the cost of care for the uninsured. And it's
trapped us in a vicious cycle. As the uninsured cause premiums to rise, more
employers drop coverage. As more employers drop coverage, more people become
uninsured, and premiums rise even further. But the skeptics tell us that reform
is too costly, too risky, too impossible for America. Well the skeptics must be
living somewhere else. Because when you see what the health care crisis is doing
to our families, to our economy, to our country, you realize that caution is
what's costly. Inaction is what's risky. Doing nothing is what's impossible when
it comes to health care in America.It's time to act. This isn't a problem of
money, this is a problem of will. A failure of leadership. We already spend $2.2
trillion a year on health care in this country. My colleague, Senator Ron Wyden,
who's recently developed a bold new health care plan of his own, tells it this
way: For the money Americans spent on health care last year, we could have hired
a group of skilled physicians, paid each one of them $200,000 to care for just
seven families, and guaranteed every single American quality, affordable health
care. So where's all that money going? We know that a quarter of it - one out of
every four health care dollars - is spent on non-medical costs; mostly bills and
paperwork. And we also know that this is completely unnecessary. Almost every
other industry in the world has saved billions on these administrative costs by
doing it all online. Every transaction you make at a bank now costs them less
than a penny. Even at the Veterans Administration, where it used to cost nine
dollars to pull up your medical record, new technology means you can call up the
same record on the internet for next to nothing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chili Peppers Headline 07 Coachella


coachella
photo, Janes page

Little Miss Sunshine

abigail breslin, the 10-year old who played Olive in Little Miss Sunshine, can't wait to go to disneyland. NPR interviewed her today on her supporting actress oscar nomination and asked her what is she most looking forward to? Disneyland, where her parents are taking her following the oscars, or the oscars?

"both, i think," was her response, but she seemed to really want to say disneyland! disneyland! disneyland! now there's a reality check for these movie folks who think they've been appointed to god's court. it's an award. a career achievment for a movie.

with that, Little Miss Sunshine is a must see if you haven't. what struck me, besides the surprise ending and the offbeat middle, is the interaction among the characters. it was superbly acted.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Our Cold, Your Scurvy

most of socal's oranges are cold and ruined, thanks to our snappy weather. it has been rather lovely.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Altoids Gum


i used to love altoids gum. it was pepperminty and soft, lasting hours upon hours. then a few months ago, i noticed i couldn't find the red and silver tins of white gum pellets anywhere. i asked various store clerks but no one knew what happened to my gum. i even wrote an email to the company asking what happened to my happy little gum. here's the dull reply, which didn't even answer my question:

Thank you for visiting altoids.com and for your interest in purchasing our products. We are always happy to hear from our consumers and truly value your comments.

We encourage you to visit our online "shoppe" at www.altoids.com. Please be sure to visit frequently for updates and new product offerings.

Again, thanks for contacting us, and we hope you'll continue to enjoy our products.

Sincerely,

Laura Richards
Consumer Affairs Representative

after a few weeks absence, stores started carrying them again. i was happy, that is, until i tasted it. had my familiarity with the gum changed? it was hard and nasty. then i compared the ingredients listed on an old tin compared to a new tin and sure enough, the ingredients are different and reordered! how could they! the first ingredient on the good altoids is gum base. the first ingredient of the bad altoids is sorbitol.

the moral of this story: altoids gum stinks and so does altoids consumer affairs.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bank it Like Beckham

i'm already sick of david beckham and his spicy wife, posh. non-stop press since news yesterday that he signed with the la galaxy. he'll make $1 million a week. i had no idea he was that popular.
a few yawns to beckham's arrival

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Get Rid of Your Foes

are "terrorists" bothering you? well, if you want to get rid of your "terrorists" call the USA! we're ready and willing to bomb your country, big or small. just give us a target. we will get rid of those "evildoers" until evil falls off its axis.

now somalia? how absurd is it to think the US can just keep bombing the "terrorists" (and anyone else in the way) until they're all dead? how do we know somalia didn't just have a few people it wanted to get rid of?

democrats? religious leaders? anybody?

i don't want to get all "pat robertson" on you, but this is set to be a really bad year, folks, especially for those of us who know better. brace yourselves.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ataxia II March 20


that makes this a John Frusciante day!
it's coming... the second Ataxia record is expected to be released in the u.s. March 20, according to recordcollectionmusic.com. this record is the followup collaboration of the lovely John Frusciante, Joe Lally and Josh Klinghoffer. the first CD was called Automatic Writing, a brilliant album.

Dolby Lowers Volume

dolby has a new technology that lowers the volume of commercials. yay!
there you are, watching tv at a reasonable volume. then the commercial comes on and you have to lower the volume, and then your show comes on and you have to raise it again.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pursuit of Unhappiness

this is the last few sentences of a NYT story about positive psychology:

“My personal satisfaction is the personal measure for me, and my personal satisfaction is great,” he explained. “I hate to say this, but really in the scheme of things we’re not going to change the war in Iraq.” Then he paused and thought how that sounded. “We can only fix the world one person at a time.”
can i just say "ick."

Positive psychology teaches people to be “happy.” But not just Happy Happy, as in pursuing pleasure, rather Authentically Happy, as in being of service others.

Well, promoting a more generous society seems to be a plus for positive psychology, but, gosh, why do we have to be happy? Isn’t it just as selfish to say that we should give to others because it will make us happy? How about being kind to others and giving for its own sake? Why do we have to get something in return? What if giving to others or being kind was painful? Does that mean we shouldn’t do it?

what is happy anyway? According to the dictionary: favored by luck or fortune; enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment.

Seems to me our society’s constant pursuit of happiness, whether it be the Happy Happy kind or the Authentically Happy kind, is driving the madness. We feel so entitled to happiness. If we don’t feel happy, we take drugs – prescribed or otherwise – we eat, we shop, we work, we find religion, we try to push our religion on everyone else. We are in a word: selfish.

Given the state of world affairs, if we're any kind of thinking, feeling human being, how can any of us have an overall state of mind that is “happy?”

Here’s a better question: should we be happy?

Happiness is overrated. I think we need pursue another state of mind, one that is unhappy and irritated and called to action because we care and because we DO think we can change things like the war in Iraq, rather than seek out “personal satisfaction” like the student in the story and settle for happiness.

Friday, January 05, 2007

UFO Group Perturbed

for not being named as the original source for the chicago tribune's story a few days ago and for the reporter's comments that the UFO group tried to get the reporter to write that earth was visited by an alien spaceship.
here is a second report of the sighting.
the group has a transcript of the NPR interview with the reporter here.
this from the national UFO reporting center
regarding the ufo sighting in chicago:

Moreover, it is unclear why Mr. Hilkevitch responds to the question by saying, "...they ((i.e. Peter Davenport, Director of the National UFO Reporting Center)) kept wanting me to say this was a visit from some other world and further proof that, uh, we, on this planet are visited regularly by other beings..." To set the record straight on this point, no such representation was made to Mr. Hilkevitch. His claim we consider to be a misrepresentation of the facts regarding our role in the case. We did nothing more than contact the Chicago Tribune in mid-December to apprise that newspaper of the sighting, and to provide Mr. Hilkevitch with details of the case, to include our subjective view of the veracity of the reports, and the apparent credibility of the witnesses. In the final analysis, once we were satisfied that the Chicago Tribune was interested in following up on the case, we contacted eyewitnesses, to request that they contact Mr. Hilkevitch directly, if they were willing to do so.

Contrary to Mr. Hilkevitch's claim during his interview on NPR, we did not attempt to influence him as to what he wrote in his article.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Amazon to Sell Space Travel?

too much money leads to....space travel. maybe jeff bezos will sell trips on amazon. if you're an aerospace engineer, jeff is looking for you!
cool photos
from BBC

The Goddard launch took place in Texas in November 2006
Spaceship launch
The billionaire founder of Amazon.com has released the first images of the launch of a private spacecraft that could bring space travel to the masses.
A video of the cone-shaped Goddard vehicle shows it climbing to about 85m (285ft) before returning back to Earth.

The test launch took place in November 2006 in a remote part of Texas, but details have only now been released.

The images mark the first time Jeff Bezos has broken his silence on the work of his space company, Blue Origin.

Writing on the company's website, Mr Bezos said: "We're working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go; and so that we humans can better continue exploring the Solar System."

"Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we're working on it methodically."

Short trip

Mr Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the intention of developing a vertical take-off and landing vehicle, called New Shepard, able to take passengers to the edge of space.

No timescale for commercial trips has been announced but documents released by the US Federal Aviation Administration suggest they could start as early as 2010.

The latest videos show there is still a lot of development work to do before the company reaches that stage.


My only job at the launch was to open the champagne
Jeff Bezos

The footage shot on 13 November 2006 from a site about 200km (120 miles) east of El Paso in Texas shows the first craft to launch under the New Shepard programme.

Called Goddard, the retro-looking development vehicle is shown standing on four legs before blasting off in a cloud of smoke from thrusters on its base. The vehicle continues to ascend for approximately 10 seconds, reaching a height of nearly 300ft (90m).

It then starts to descend before making a controlled landing back on its feet approximately 25 seconds after take-off.

The launch, described by Mr Bezos as "both useful and fun", was watched by friends, family and a team of engineers.

"My only job at the launch was to open the champagne," said Mr Bezos.

The website message does not say whether the vehicle contained any passengers or why there was a delay between the launch and release of the footage.

Commercial space

Mr Bezos now hopes to recruit a team of engineers to the New Shepard programme to develop the design and increase the altitude and duration of flights.


In particular, he is looking for "experienced propulsion engineers" and people with "experience on large, modern vehicles such as Delta IV or Atlas V".

Blue Origin is one of several private companies vying to open up space to the public.

US-based Space Adventures has already taken four space tourists to the International Space Station, while in September 2006, Sir Richard Branson unveiled a mock-up of a rocket powered vehicle that will carry six passengers and two pilots to an altitude of about 140km (85 miles).

His Virgin Galactic design is based on SpaceShipOne, the craft designed by Scaled Composites that won the Ansari X-Prize in 2005. The first passengers could take off in 2009.

Other entrepreneurs jostling for their place in space include hotel tycoon Robert Bigelow who launched Genesis 1, an experimental inflatable spacecraft, in July 2006.

Mr Bigelow hopes the water-melon shaped craft could form the basis of a future space hotel.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Amazon's Fluctuating Prices

ever wonder why items in your shopping cart go up after a while:

The Mystery of Amazon's Fluctuating Prices
All David Streitfield wanted to do was buy a book. Looking around for a copy of THE IRON SKILLET COOKBOOK to "boost [his] dubious culinary skills," the LA Times writer found a copy at Amazon.com, put it in his shopping cart, and forgot about it. The next day, he decided to buy it, only to get a pop-up message that the price had increased from $11.02 to $11.53. He checked with friends, who noted the price increase as well. How could this happen?

read the rest at media bistro's galleycat

Stranger to the Rescue

when all the world seems to have gone mad...
from the NYT

January 3, 2007
A Man Down, a Train Arriving, and a Stranger Makes a Choice
By CARA BUCKLEY
It was every subway rider’s nightmare, times two.

Who has ridden along New York’s 656 miles of subway lines and not wondered: “What if I fell to the tracks as a train came in? What would I do?”

And who has not thought: “What if someone else fell? Would I jump to the rescue?”

Wesley Autrey, a 50-year-old construction worker and Navy veteran, faced both those questions in a flashing instant yesterday, and got his answers almost as quickly.

Mr. Autrey was waiting for the downtown local at 137th Street and Broadway in Manhattan around 12:45 p.m. He was taking his two daughters, Syshe, 4, and Shuqui, 6, home before work.

Nearby, a man collapsed, his body convulsing. Mr. Autrey and two women rushed to help, he said. The man, Cameron Hollopeter, 20, managed to get up, but then stumbled to the platform edge and fell to the tracks, between the two rails.

The headlights of the No. 1 train appeared. “I had to make a split decision,” Mr. Autrey said.

So he made one, and leapt.

Mr. Autrey lay on Mr. Hollopeter, his heart pounding, pressing him down in a space roughly a foot deep. The train’s brakes screeched, but it could not stop in time.

Five cars rolled overhead before the train stopped, the cars passing inches from his head, smudging his blue knit cap with grease. Mr. Autrey heard onlookers’ screams. “We’re O.K. down here,” he yelled, “but I’ve got two daughters up there. Let them know their father’s O.K.” He heard cries of wonder, and applause.

Power was cut, and workers got them out. Mr. Hollopeter, a student at the New York Film Academy, was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. He had only bumps and bruises, said his grandfather, Jeff Friedman. The police said it appeared that Mr. Hollopeter had suffered a seizure.

Mr. Autrey refused medical help, because, he said, nothing was wrong. He did visit Mr. Hollopeter in the hospital before heading to his night shift. “I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help,” Mr. Autrey said. “I did what I felt was right.”

Monday, January 01, 2007

UFO in Chicago



who doesn't love a good ufo story. apparently, chicago airport workers spotted one, according to today's Chicago Tribune. there's also a video at the site, but not one of the ufo, just the reporter saying that the witnesses were serious but the FAA denied it at first.
original case report

Jon Hilkevitch

In the sky! A bird? A plane? A ... UFO?
Video: UFO over O'Hare Airport?

Published January 1, 2007
It sounds like a tired joke--but a group of airline employees insist they are in earnest, and they are upset that neither their bosses nor the government will take them seriously.

A flying saucerlike object hovered low over O'Hare International Airport for several minutes before bolting through thick clouds with such intense energy that it left an eerie hole in overcast skies, said some United Airlines employees who observed the phenomenon.

Was it an alien spaceship? A weather balloon lost in the airspace over the world's second-busiest airport? A top-secret military craft? Or simply a reflection from lights that played a trick on the eyes?

Officials at United professed no knowledge of the Nov. 7 event--which was reported to the airline by as many as a dozen of its own workers--when the Tribune started asking questions recently. But the Federal Aviation Administration said its air traffic control tower at O'Hare did receive a call from a United supervisor asking if controllers had spotted a mysterious elliptical-shaped craft sitting motionless over Concourse C of the United terminal.

No controllers saw the object, and a preliminary check of radar found nothing out of the ordinary, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said. to read the rest you have to register, unfortunately.


here's what some of the eyewitnesses said:
Witnesses shaken by sighting

"I tend to be scientific by nature, and I don't understand why aliens would hover over a busy airport," said a United mechanic who was in the cockpit of a Boeing 777 that he was taxiing to a maintenance hangar when he observed the metallic-looking object above Gate C17.

"But I know that what I saw and what a lot of other people saw stood out very clearly, and it definitely was not an [Earth] aircraft," the mechanic said.

One United employee appeared emotionally shaken by the sighting and "experienced some religious issues" over it, one co-worker said.

A United manager said he ran outside his office in Concourse B after hearing the report about the sighting on an internal airline radio frequency.

"I stood outside in the gate area not knowing what to think, just trying to figure out what it was," he said. "I knew no one would make a false call like that. But if somebody was bouncing a weather balloon or something else over O'Hare, we had to stop it because it was in very close proximity to our flight operations."

if you see one, here's the report form