Archive for August, 2008

Looking for the mouse: the revolution of interactivity

August 23, 2008 Comments off

If you are involved in moving ideas from one head to another head, or to several heads, watch the remarkable video; Looking for the mouse posted by Coturnix at Blog Around The Clock. 

What is a cognitive surplus?  Where does time come from?  What is the ‘architecture of participation’?  And what’s the One Big Thing that people in the media (and I would add, in education) just don’t understand, the thing that blindsides them?…

Categories: observations

Political funnies for Saturday

August 23, 2008 1 comment

An oldie but goodie comedy routine from ‘down under’ – the front of the ship fell off!  But rest assured that’s very unusual. 

Certainly would bear on the question of drilling in fragile ecosystems. Hat-tip to Revere.

Regular-guy John McCain spends every year more on gardeners and servants than your house is worth, if you are an ‘average American’.  So who does the word “we” refer to when he says; “Celebrities don’t have to worry about family budgets. But we sure do.”?  Maybe that elitist Obama can explain it to us. 

By the way, Obama picked Biden.  I’m OK with that.

The right-windbag blogosphere is buzzing over Obama’s comment the other day praising China’s infrastructure improvements.  But the quote they use sort of cuts off in mid-thought. (Big surprise, right?  But that’s GOPSOP).  Anybody know where I can find a transcript of the whole speech, or even a longer video clip?

Categories: Politics

Make this important adjustment to your Gmail account

August 22, 2008 4 comments

Les at Stupid Evil Bastard explains why If you use Gmail you should enable the SSL feature right now.

SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer” and it makes your Gmail account much more secure.  This has suddenly become important because a new Gmail hacking tool will be released in about a week and enabling SSL is the antidote.

Here’s what to do: Just open Gmail, click on “Settings”, scroll down to the bottom of the “General” tab and click “Always use https”.  Then click Save Changes.  That’s it.  Your Gmail now works the same way it did before, only more securely.

(Thanks Les.  We appreciate you watching out for us.  It’s easy for this kind of thing to slip off the radar.)

Categories: Geeky, Security

Mixed feelings about the crazy preacher guy

August 18, 2008 8 comments

Out on the Quad today my friend Pete and I saw a tumult of students and walked over for a closer look.  There on a high perch was The Crazy Preacher Guy, in his bright blue shirt and red suspenders and bow tie, handsome gray hair and rugged features, waving a bible and preaching against sin, I guess.  He reminded me of Robert Duvall in The Apostle.

From what I could make out he was energetically preaching the usual guff about The Second Coming and about how God would send sinners to hell – homosexuals, fornicators, abortioners, drunkards and whatnot.  Pretty much nonsense and certainly worthy of the mockery he was receiving from the crowd. And yet…
And yet I felt bad for him.  Somebody sprayed water on him and he paused for a moment, and kept going.  Even the crazy have a right to be secure from assault.  He was delivering a message of crucial importance, by his lights, but in a totally ineffective way. 

The whole unseemly spectacle just seemed kind of… sad.  From the time I lived in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, I knew quite a few guys like him.  And they lay awake nights worrying about lost souls.  Disagree with them, think they’re nuts, but they really did care. 

Categories: Religion

Next Generation Energy

August 18, 2008 7 comments

This cartoon makes delightful fun of a fundamental misconception about “alternative energy.”  Before carbon energy came along and rocketed our species through the industrial revolution, (and apart from cookfires), “alternative” energy was the only kind available.  We built windmills and water wheels and harnessed solar energy in various clever ways.  And we’re doing those same things now, in more advanced ways.  But it seems like we have boxed ourselves in.  We want a single, amazing energy source that can step in and give us clean, dependable energy without expending too much of our own energy.

But it’s easy to forget that weaving carbon energy into our culture was not exactly the work of an afternoon.  The infrastructure we take for granted today not only took more than a century to create, it hides complexities most people never suspect.  Whatever we do next is going to have to ‘dovetail’ rather neatly with existing energy delivery technologies if it could be expected to do us much good at all.

I’ve been meaning to draw attention to the new ScienceBlog, Next Generation Energy for a while now.  But the Shell sponsorship has been a ‘caution’ sign to me.  Experience has taught me to be suspicious when carbon energy companies talk about green initiatives.  All too often it just ends up being a way of stalling and obfuscating.

But no worries; the blog seems to be pretty independent.  So far they’ve talked about various permutations of concentrated and PV solar, and about biomass research using cyanobacteria.

Yeah… those cyanobacteria.  Found almost everywhere, but with some tweaking they can make diesel fuel out of whatever.  You put ‘em in the right place and give ‘em a job to do, and they’ll do good work.  Thing is, for the reasons I mentioned above, we need liquid biofuels, and it’s important it be made from stuff other than food.  So this is a good thing – even if an oil company is doing it.

Categories: Uncategorized

No, greed is not good

August 18, 2008 5 comments
Categories: observations

Stone soup and gas prices

August 18, 2008 4 comments

Saving money on gas is a combination of faith and works:

BBC News: Rocky Twyman, 59, a veteran community campaigner, started Pray At The Pump meetings at petrol stations in April. Since then, the average price of what the US calls gasoline has fallen from more than $4 a gallon to $3.80.

“We don’t have anybody else to turn to but God,” Mr Twyman told the BBC. “We have to turn these problems over to God and not to man.”

A few percent savings seems like a weak effect from the God who parted the Red Sea.  But the Twyman and friends aren’t just relying on God either:

“We believe not just in prayer – because we believe that faith without works is dead. So we’ve encouraged people to car-pool more and organise their days more, because it’s a combination of faith with these other factors.”

Excellent stone soup!  It would be even better with some carrots.  Maybe a little potato.  Beef broth, onions…

Categories: Religion

2 new Decrepit features

August 17, 2008 Comments off

I’ve added a couple new features.  In the ‘Sidebar Spotlight’ there’s now a link to my Google Shared Items page so you can see stuff I’m currently reading from the InterWebs’ deluge.  Also in the sidebar I’ve compiled a list of old posts called ‘Decrepitude’.  Thing is, I chose the posts from the small set of ones I could actually remember writing.  So if you have nominations, feel free to weigh in.

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

Interesting stuff from the Interwebs

August 17, 2008 Comments off

Clarence Page reports that white supremacists have mixed feelings about the Obama campaign.  Apparently they’re positive thinkers, glass-half-full types, those guys.  David Duke says “Obama is a visual aid for white Americans who just don’t get it yet that we have lost control of our country, and unless we get it back we are heading for complete annihilation as a people.”  And that Swift Boat guy, Jerome R. Corsi, author of the bestselling ObamaNation… why aren’t his white supremacist ties being given more attention?

If you’re involved in education in any way, including raising children, or even just paying property taxes, you owe it to yourself to check out these two videos at DoyceTesterman. (hat tip to ***Dave) If nothing else, it will help your kids not to stress too much about choice of career.  Because odds are, they’ll wind up working at a career that doesn’t exist yet.  But the videos also raise questions about what and how we ought to be teaching.  And one other little thing, name the following country: wealthiest, currency the world standard of value, center of world business and finance, most powerful military, highest standard of living, best education system…

On a lighter note, Greg Laden brings us two Chinese characters who teach the right way to say Beijing.  (hint: the Frenchie-sounding ‘Beissjhing’ is wrong). And some really revealing pictures: Dust on Mars (really, really close-up) and volcanoes of Enceladus!  Remind me… why do we have people riding a can around the Earth in low orbit, not doing much of anything in the way of science?  You can send a Mars probe for what a single shuttle resupply mission to the ISS costs.

National Geographic reports an amazing find in the Sahara by paleontologist Paul Sereno – a cemetary from the holocene era.  There are some wonderfully evocative photos and a video.  Remind me, what the big difference is between us and our primitive ancestors?  Oh right, they didn’t have the interwebs.

On SmartEnergyShow, there’s a Stanford podcast from last April in which historian Naomi Oreskes asks; “Where are the press getting their information about climate change?”  And how is it, exactly, that while scientists have a very high level of consensus on the issue, that public perception is the opposite?  And who is the “Western Fuels’ Association”? (Hat tip to Tim Lambert at Deltoid)

Finally Vjack at Atheist Revolution has a thought-provoking post on America’s deepening cultural divide; implications for atheists.  But it’s really implications for everyone, not just atheists.  Suppose you’re a right-wing Christian and you want to win public acceptance over the secularists – you’re facing exactly the same issues.  The post asks some questions I’m short of answers for.  (Another hat tip to ***Dave, who may be writing a post of his own about it)

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

Struggling to survive

August 14, 2008 4 comments

BBC Photographer Jake Price spent a day at the tracks in Lecheria, Mexico, learning about the lives of those passing through.  He produced an excellent slideshow with audio narration.  Something’s got to be done about conditions in Mexico, but I’m damned if I know what.

Before anyone thinks getting tougher on illegals will stop the inflow to our country, consider that even China has an illegal immigration problem, from North Korea. They’re even building a wall to try and stop it. 

Categories: Economics, Politics