April 2003 Archives

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Lots to agree with in “Unrestricted free access works and must continue”:

The policy on release of unpublished data from large genome centres has generated considerable discussion and some confusion, as your Editorial “Sacrifice for the greater good?” makes plain (Nature 421, 875; 2003). In our view, data sets from large, centralized, expensive genome data-collection projects should be freely available to the entire scientific community, immediately and with no restrictions or conditions.

Some friends were in town over the weekend (see the diary for more about that), and they were lamenting the lack of love Google has for “JosieKat”, their daughter’s site.

I told ‘em I’d look into fixing that. grin

ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies meeting.

ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies 2003 Conference & Expo is the first business-oriented forum to address the recent emergence of Weblogs into the business world and their rising importance as a medium of communication. This conference will bring together Webloggers who are pioneers, experts, and technologists. Together, they will present the latest developments, strategies, and success stories behind what is now becoming known as the Business Blog, or B-Blog for short.

“B-Blog”? gag

Cool stuff from Dan Bricklin:

There has been a lot of talk lately about how computers are too hard to learn to use. There is a longing for devices you can just pick up and use without training. Microsoft’s Kai-fu Lee was quoted in The New York Times as saying, when discussing the more “natural and intelligent” user interfaces he hopes to create, “My dream is that the computer of the future is going to be an assistant to the user.”

This type of thinking strikes me as strange. We don’t ask for our automobiles to be more natural and intelligent, nor do we call for the next generation of cars to be like chauffeurs. With cars, we talk about responsiveness, comfort, power, cargo size, and safety. Tools are effective and appropriate to the task. Learning to use them is part of being human.

G’awn, read the whole thing, it’s great.

(I need to install a lawn-mowing module in my general purpose house…)

I need to set up a sigmonster on my work account, and I’m thinking “How to Write Maintainable Code” and “How to Write Unmaintainable Code” would be good things to use as seeds.

Also in the “going to need this at work” bin: Perl Beginners’ Site.

A couple for the “GRRRRR” column:

First, in “ Breast-feeding in a time of war”, we find the story of a Canadian mother who was (allegedly) threatened with detention and legal charges after she decided to breast-feed her child on a Continential flight. There’s a bit of “she said, they said” going on with the actual events; I care less about that than what Continential offers up as their official policy:

Continental Airlines spokesman Rahsaan Johnson told me that the airline does not have a policy that prohibits breast-feeding on board.

Which also means, of course, that they don’t have a policy that says you’re allowed to, either — which in all practical terms means that it’s up to the discretion of the flight attendants. Which brings us to this:

But Wolfe says a flight attendant told her that if someone - anyone - complains, the mothers are supposed to change diapers in the bathroom and nurse at the back of the plane. This has its own unpleasant connotations, never mind the fact that passengers must stay in their seats during takeoff, landing and turbulence.

Something to consider the next time you’re selecting an airline.

And also in the “naked boobies must be smutty” category, I should note last week’s story about a Dallas area woman whose children were removed from the home after an over-zealous PhotoHut employee decided that some snapshots of a breastfeeding child were child pornography.

Digital cameras, moms and dads, digital cameras. And be damn careful who you show the “baby’s first bath time” vidoe to…

I was thinking that the next major electronics purchase around here would be an upgrade of the audio part of the “home entertainment” stack, but maybe I should instead breed a mediabeast.

(For future reference, I’ve seen a number of people say nice things about Freevo as the software layer in projects like these.)

Most inappropriate Mother’s Day gift ever.

One for the “oh, so very wrong” category: USB Floppy Disk Drive RAID

I probably should have posted this a couple of weeks ago, when I first ran across it, but

An Army of One” is still good for either a chuckle, a head-shake, or both.


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This site is currently the number one hit in a Google search for ‘SARS sequence’.

That’s really just sort of wrong; the CDC page on SARS sequencing might be of a bit more use.

Man, sometimes having all this Google juice is just a curse, I tell ya…

I just purchased a copy of the Readerware bundle (which is software for cataloging books, CDs, and DVDs), with the “free CueCat” option. I’ll post a review once I have a chance to play with it a bit.

Yesterday, I wondered if SARS was known to be caused by the coronavirus that everybody is feverishly working on. Turns out that Koch’s postulates were satisfied a few weeks ago. (Koch’s postulates being the rules that scientists use to answer the question “does ‘X’ cause ‘Y’?”).

I honestly can’t work out if the current administration is just utterly, completely “tone-deaf” and not at all aware of how their actions will be perceived, or if they’re all too aware and just screwing with the people who don’t agree with them. (Yes, this is yet another varient of the age-old “stupid or evil?” question.)

The latest thing to bring this issue up is the appointment of a former DoubleClick exec as the new “privacy czar”. No word on when we’ll see a former Arthur Anderson exec as head of some accounting ethics board, but I’m sure it’ll happen, given time.

In the “at least two sides to every story” category, here’s a rather different version of the “Saving Private Lynch” events. Don’t look for the movie-of-the-week of this version for a bit, though.

(Via Interesting People)

Speaking of rocking and wishlists, I’ve been finding a lot of disks that I want to buy while listing to a live365 station called “Left of the Dial”. It’s cool because half the playilst is stuff I already own and really like (even wierd early 90s stuff that nobody seems to be into anymore, like Ultra Vivid Scene), and the other half is stuff that I’d like to buy. I’m seriously considering the idea that the station is being run by a future me, come back in time to improve the economy by forcing me to spend all my money on CDs. Anyway, give it a go; here’s the live365 station page (where you can start the stream) and the station’s blog. Good stuff.

Time to add yet another disk to the wish-list: Yo La Tengo has a new one coming out. Here’s a nice interview of the band

Yo La Tengo are not U2. Yo La Tengo are not REM. Not for Yo La Tengo the albums recorded in the bright light of the world’s most expensive recording studio, with one eye on trends and one eye on sales. Not for Yo La Tengo the summits in Rome to decide the band’s future. Not for Yo La Tengo the tedious explanations as to why this album should be seen as a reaction to that album. Oh no.

Yo La Tengo rocks.

Nicked from the Monastary, two links that probably have high cross-over appeal for the Flutterby gang:

The team that did the break-neck sequencing of the (probable?) SARS coronavirus is talking about some preliminary analysis that they’ve done. Good news/bad news: it doesn’t look much like other coronaviruses. Bad because it means we’re starting from the back tee in terms of treatment, good because it’s not like we have great treatments for the coronaviruses we know a lot about (frex, the common cold).

By the way, I said ‘(probable?)’ above because I haven’t really been keeping up with the research linking this virus to the syndrome — does anybody know how that’s looking? Any chance that this isn’t the causitive agent, or that it requires a co-factor, or anything?

Brief, sad story about a couple beginning the process of breaking up: “Scenes From a Separation” (Not recommended if you’re going to have a cruddy day at work.)

So, did the Google gang run over Andrew Orlowski’s dog, or what? This bit:

These questions shall be answered soon. It’s clear from recent mail that many of you find the Google-blog relationship somewhat creepy.

was particularly funny. There is no Google/blogger cabal, man.

<s> genehack, card-carrying Google/blogger cabal member since 1998

Step-by-step guide for a Linux-based “media jukebox”, aka “DIY TiVo”. Too bad that (a) it’s tax time, so we just sent the big part of the discretionary income for the next little bit to the Federales, and (b) we’re not watching that much TV at the moment, due to the lack of comfy furniture in the “media room”. (And that’s not a bad thing, by the way — we’ve got plenty of other stuff to be doing.)

But maybe, one day… /me scribbes note on long-term TODO list.

Hmm, time to look into getting that temporary tattoo paper for the inkjet, I think: kbarcode

KBarcode is a barcode and label printing application for KDE 3. It can be used to print every thing from simple business cards up to complex labels with several barcodes (e.g. article descriptions).

Interesting info graphic, presenting the relative amounts spent on bombs in Iraq and the planned amount of post-war aid for Iraq. Again from what looks to be a left-leaning source, but the information is sourced, apparently. Anybody have pointers to other figures?

Opps. Looks like somebody remembered those pictures of Special Forces in Afghanistan “going native”, and asked the obvious question.

Nice summary of what’s being called PATRIOT II — the latest salvo in the the DoJ’s contining “shock and awe” assault on our Constitutional protections.

Note: I realize that AlterNet.org (the site hosting the article) is pretty left-leaning, and that some people will discount it as a result. Question: how come I’m not seeing more right-wing outrage over the DoJ’s actions? Regardless of whether or not you think the current administration has the country’s best interests at heart, don’t you have to consider that some future administration might be less than enlightened? Or, to put it another way, if you’re in the camp that thinks Bill Clinton was the most evil, incompetent person to ever hold his particular office, and Janet Reno the same for hers, would you want them to have these powers? Because they’re not going to magically expire once the Bush team leaves, you kknow…

Frankly disturbing story about a incident of credit card fraud that could, depending on your general level of paranoia, be a terrorist at work. Regardless of whether or not you think there was anything behind that aspect of the story, it’s hard not to wonder why the defrauded person had such a hard time getting a responsible party in government to listen to her.

She e-mailed the White House, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration, all the Philadelphia TV stations.

She received two responses.

A man from the Pennsylvania homeland security office called late Saturday night to say he could do nothing with her information until 9 a.m. Monday — an hour after Nasir was due to depart Philadelphia — because the agency’s employees work “banker’s hours.”

A GSA employee named Jim Zawada sent Gould an e-mail sympathizing with her, but said the issue was not under GSA’s jurisdiction.

She called the Philadelphia police again, who gave her two phone numbers, one for the FBI, which was disconnected, and the other for the airport cops, who again said they couldn’t do anything.

Anybody out there know of a Perl module that will take a UserAgent string as input and produce a browser name as output? No version info, no nothing fancy; I just want something that I can feed a big list of UserAgent strings into and get output binned by major browser type (i.e., Mozilla, Opera, LWP, wget, MSIE, “other”) out the other end — basically what Analog does for the ‘Browser Summary’ report. Just trying to keep the wheel re-invention down to a dull roar while I once again crawl through web log parsing hell…

I was beginning to worry that we, as a nation, were on a dangerous solo crackpot course with our pre-emptive “coalition of pretty much one” invading ways. Not to worry, however:

The existence of this secret bloc of countries — dubbed by some “the shadow coalition” or “the coalition of the unwilling to be named” — is now neither confirmed nor denied by US officials when they boast of global support for the current conflict exceeding that of the 1991 Gulf War.

See, the lurkers support us in email.