Archive for March, 2005

When you shouldn’t edit food pictures

March 30, 2005 3 comments

Last Sunday I was in Latte Time in Normal when the owner, Driss, was about to have his lunch.  He asked me; “Hey George, have you got your camera with you?”

I did, and he asked me to take a picture of his lunch – a new item on his menu.  I took the picture and made a note to email the image file to him when I offloaded the memory chip.

Today I was editing pictures and came across this one.  It was about 11:30 in the morning and I was hungry.  Being susceptible, I fell victim to the very advertising effect Driss had hoped for.

Lunchtime arrived and I walked right over and ordered one.  What a weakling.  Next time I’m editing pictures right after lunch.

Categories: Personal

Ridiculous day

March 29, 2005 3 comments

For the second night in a row I’m just too bushed to type anything worthwhile; it was a ridiculous day.  It started out with attending a seminar in which I spent two and a half hours listening to a lawyer from New York talk about discrimination law. 

I’ll leave you to speculate how much I enjoyed the experience – especially since the chairs in that room seem to be from the catalog of the Marquis deSade School of Furniture Design. 

But afterward several of us went to Ming’s restaurant in Bloomington (next to Hooter’s, which serves mainly as a prominent landmark for giving directions to Ming’s.)  This is the best buffet in town – I had delicious baked salmon, crisp vegetables of excellent quality, a piece of pie and a Pepsi for $8. 

Then in the afternoon I worked on a new Windows XP office build, which is a lot of little details.  It’s very important to me to get those right, since they get cloned to multiple units.  If I make a mistake, everyone gets to suffer with an exact copy of it.  Whee!

Categories: Personal

Bill Gates calling Terminex!

March 28, 2005 2 comments

I’m way too tired to write anything substantive tonight, so I’ll just post these two images from Information Week magazine that kind of tickled my fancy:

Not much actual content to this post – if you are in computer support, you know why I found them funny; if not, you can guess.  Three years ago, Microsoft made a big deal about how they were going to supply “trustworthy computing.”  Now our computers are less trustworthy than ever, but they sure are bogged down with features no one wants.

I often hear users belittling themselves – “I’m so stupid with computers” – and it really bothers me.  It is not them that is stupid, it’s the computer – and by extension the company that created the software.  If you have read anything by design guru Don Norman, you are familiar with the idea that when thousands of ordinary people have the same problem with your product, the problem is with your product, not with them.

Often the person claiming stupidity has advanced degrees in business, runs a department, or has some other really obvious achievement proving they are a lot smarter than the average bear. 

Today I took a brand new computer out of the box, turned it on, opened Internet Explorer and clicked on Tools/Windows Update (Do that last thing once a week, please) and let it scan the system for crucial updates.  It found sixteen – and eleven of them contained the phrase: “…a vulnerability which could allow an attacker to take complete control of your computer…”

Microsoft keeps saying they’re going to get it right any day now…

Categories: Geeky, observations

Bioethics of ultimate pain

March 26, 2005 3 comments

Sometimes you open a magazine and see something so awful you just want to close it again and pretend you didn’t see it:
New Scientist -  Maximum pain is aim of Navy study

THE US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture…

The rest of the article describes a laser/plasma weapon which triggers nerve impulses, and the effort to “optimize” the effect in animal tests.

The contract … asks researchers to look for “optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation” – in other words, cause the maximum pain possible. Studies on cells grown in the lab will identify how much pain can be inflicted on someone before causing injury or death. (emphasis mine)…

To make matters worse, it reminded me that the US Army is researching the basis of chronic pain following surgery, and has found tantalizing hints that the brain continues to receive pain signals even during anaesthesia.  The brain overcompensates afterword in some individuals, resulting in untreatable chronic pain. 

It is a neurochemical mechanism where pain can trip the nervous system over onto another level of sensitivity.  A battlefield wound, or even routine surgery, can lead to a lifetime of pain.

This is of more than academic interest to me, since I suffer from a chronic pain disorder which began years ago after several bouts with kidney stones and surgical procedures.  Is this what lies in store for protesters (let’s not kid ourselves; it will be used on protesters) who are hit with the new weapon?

…Amanda Williams, a clinical psychologist at University College London, fears that victims risk long-term harm. “Persistent pain can result from a range of supposedly non-destructive stimuli which nevertheless change the functioning of the nervous system,” she says…

It makes me think of that scene in the original Star Wars movie where Han Solo is tortured by a horrible machine.  I remember thinking; “Someday someone is going to build something like that.”  It didn’t occur to me that it would be a “nonlethal” weapon that could be fired into a crowd.

Categories: News

Astoundingly foolhardy

March 26, 2005 1 comment

A sign on the door at Gold’s Gym this week read something like this:

3 cars have been broken into in our parking lot this week, with windows smashed and valuables stolen.  Please do not leave valuables in plain sight in your car, and report any suspicious activity.

Try to picture the setting here: Gold’s has many kinds of members.  Some are like me, middle-aged with physical problems and trying to stay off the disabled list.  Others are smart young people trying to keep from ending up like me when they reach my age.  A few are elderly yet in amazing, fantastic shape.  There are many – both men and women – who look like they could bench-press a semi-truck.  Some of those do kickboxing or karate to stay limber.  A few are professional body builders and trainers ranging in age from twenty to fifty.

It may not be the smartest place to get caught breaking into cars.  The odds are excellent you’d be caught by someone who could squash you like a grape.

Oh yes, a lot of cops work out there too.  If you were lucky, you’d be caught by one of them.

It just makes you wonder what some people are thinking…

Categories: Humor

Other news stories

March 25, 2005 3 comments

Some interesting stories this week were overshadowed by the one everyone (including me) is all worked up about:

You’d hardly know a Minnesota teen killed 9 people with a gun this week.  It’s a story, but not an issue because there isn’t much political capital to be gained by grandstanding it.  The school had good security.  He took the gun from someone who owned it legally.  No one noticed he was edging toward a meltdown but what can you say except what every parent already knows: “Pay attention to your kids?”  And even if you do, can you always figure out what’s going on?

Also, Congress has fallen silent on the Terri Schaivo issue after their illegal $35m intervention fell flat against public disapproval.  Is there any clearer evidence that the whole thing was for political advantage?

My favorite story this week, which almost no one noticed, was about a shopkeeper in Iraq who fired back at insurgents.  He’s fed up!  I love what he said about it:

“We attacked them before they attacked us. We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come, and we will show them.”

The man and his sons fought back, killing several attackers and sending the rest scurrying back under their rocks.  I hope we see more of this kind of action.  Large numbers of the insurgents are from outside Iraq; maybe the locals are getting tired of it!  You can read the rest in the article in the New York Times.  (free registration required)  Who says the liberal media never reports any good stuff happening in Iraq?

Then there’s just one more, terrifying thought about Terri Schiavo…

My youngest son has picked up the excellent habit of writing comments in the margins of the newspaper.  In a story about Terri Schiavo, he saw a quote from Laurie Zoloth, a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine:

“It’s one of the extremely painful features of this case – that it looks so much like Schiavo is responding, yet everything that neurologists tell us is she cannot respond… It’s terrifying and terrible to imagine someone in a condition where they’re physically present but completely unable to think or feel or process information.”

… at which place my son wrote;

It is far more terrifying to imagine being mentally lucid while unable to respond

That is a terrifying thought.  Fortunately the evidence suggests Terri is simply gone, and there’s no one there to endure such a torture.  But what if there were? Philip Sandefur describes, in his post entitled “Terri Schiavo”:

The attempts by some to claim that the mechanical reactions of her body indicate that she still has some consciousness are understandable in some videotapes, she appears to move her eyes, blink, even smile. But the doctors, who know a lot more than radio talk show hosts about the functioning of the human mind and body, say that these are mere physical reactions. Nobody has ever recovered from the condition Terry Schiavo is in. Never. Not once. Ever. She is dead.

Let us suppose, however, that she is not. Let us suppose that her mind survives, that she is conscious, but inside of a body that is incapable of responding to her consciousness.* She can hear and understand everything and can perceive everything her eyes happen to focus on. After fifteen years trapped in such a cage, she would be at least insane if not insane, she would be so horribly depressed that it is impossible for me to imagine her wanting to remain on a feeding tube. What if she is screaming inside let me go? Would that make any difference? All of the evidence so far indicates that, were her consciousness still in existence (which, I hasten to repeat, it is not) that that is just what she would be screaming.
- Philip Sandefur

(from Dispatches)

Categories: News

Reasoned legal opinion

March 25, 2005 1 comment

Of course, no judge has decided in the abstract that Terri Schiavo would be better off dead than alive. Rather, multiple court proceedings have found clear and convincing evidence that it would be her intention to be liberated from artificial life support.
-Steve Sanders, Reason and Liberty

Certainly no one has been able to demonstrate to the court(s) that Terri’s intention was for her brainless husk to be kept warm and twitching in a ghoulish excess of misguided medical intervention. 

For all the lawyer jokes we hear, it’s easy to forget that for every amoral, corporate tool sucking the life out of our society, there are a number of even-headed, worthwhile human beings at the bar who take the time to understand how things fit into the legal framework we call a stable society.  Steve is a law student on his way to becoming one of those people. I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a judge someday, and we’d be the beneficiaries if he does.

The quote above is from his post, Have the Schiavo parents crossed a dangerous line.  Here, Steve examines the intent of the supporters who have surrounded the Schindlers – activists who want to undermine trust in the judiciary.

Categories: Issues, News

Governor acting really scary

March 24, 2005 2 comments

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a headline for this post.  It’s just too extreme, too hard to fathom, and words fail me -

BBC News Online: “A judge in the US state of Florida has rejected a bid by Governor Jeb Bush to become the legal guardian of brain-damaged woman Terri Schiavo.”

This simply boggles my mind.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any friggin’ crazier…

Is there ANY MORE DOUBT these nutcase whackos want to invade every aspect of our personal lives?  Can we just explain it away anymore?  It’s like watching a train wreck – awful, but you can’t take your eyes off it.

Categories: Issues, News

Caveman commentary

March 23, 2005 5 comments

I’ve been a fan of BC by Johnny Hart ever since I learned to read so I hope he won’t mind if I say he’s missing a point or two here…

Hart is a fundamentalist Christian not known for subtlety, and he often puts overtly religious messages into his comics.  And that’s fine with me – the market obviously supports him just as it does Howard Stern and (shudder) Ashlee Simpson.  And after all these years he’s funny most of the time.

Anyway, “Church and State” seems to be a point of contention between fundamentalists and secularists (I fall into the latter camp).  Challenges to entanglement of religion and government are often interpreted as attacks on religion by the faithful. The ACLU is often accused of trying to push religion out of the public square, but they aren’t.  They just want the government to do what it’s supposed to do, which is keep “hands off.”  It’s the church’s job, not the government’s, to promote religion.

First of all, the separation between church and state is a good thing for religion.  Look at Europe where there are official state churches – very secular and getting more so every day.  Religion is not taken very seriously there.  Now look at the US – religious and seemingly getting more so.

Second, the separation does not prevent the practice of religion.  Kids can pray in school.  Stores can have all the religious expression they want.  There are almost no boundaries – the government even subsidizes religion with tax exemptions!  So you really don’t want the government getting any more involved.  Entanglements are a “be careful what you wish for” thing.

Finally, I believe the whole point of the scripture the bird is quoting here is that it makes no difference what anybody does – it simply isn’t possible to externally destroy the relationship between a believer and Christ.  Not that I believe there is such a thing but Johnny does.  So chill out, Johnny.  You’re covered.

Categories: News, Religion

You are not reading a blog…

March 23, 2005 5 comments

… because the word simply doesn’t exist!  At least according to this letter to the editor in today’s Chicago Tribune:

Lately I keep seeing the words “blog” and “blogger” popping up in newsprint.  Who started it anyway?  I looked in my Roget’s Thesaurus and my dictionary – they’re not in there anywhere…

I know our English language is supposed to be dynamic to a degree, like incorporating the word “ain’t” into our diction, but to drop a new word on us out of the blue is a little like dropping propaganda leaflets over London in World War II.  What are they and who needs them?

When I see the word “blog” appear, I can feel a seismological shudder and that shudder I know is my 8th grade teacher, Miss Riddle, turning over in her grave.

Do the writers think they’re being cute, innovative or clever?  They ain’t being none of these in my opinion.  They are committing etymological infidelity.

Bruce M., Roscoe, IL

Miss Riddle turns over in her grave every time someone uses the word, “blog?”  Well then she might rise up and mount a zombie English-teacher attack on the Chicago Tribune if they keep it up!  And she might not be alone.  Aaaugh!  Zombie English Teachers!

(That would be a pretty good movie.  Bruce Campbell would play the editor with his staff of writers and reporters, fending off the attack of the Grammatically-Correct Undead.)

I love the part where he compares new words to propaganda leaflets. That’s good stuff, there.  No New Words!

Actually, I don’t like the word “blog” simply because it has an unpleasant sound.  I much prefer weblog, which would have a logical etymological place next to email.  (You miss hyphens?  Then you can put in the extra keystroke.)  But it hardly makes enough difference to be worth even writing a whole weblog entry about.  Oh, wait…

Categories: Blogging, Geeky