November 14, 2003

Blog-free weekend

We will be on property (here) all weekend. There is no internet there (yet).

Looking at tractors and installing weather station.

Blogging will resume Sunday evening.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

article on WalMart and its effect on other businesses

from Fast Company

The giant retailer’s low prices often come with a high cost. Wal-Mart’s relentless pressure can crush the companies it does business with and force them to send jobs overseas. Are we shopping our way straight to the unemployment line?

Posted by Dave Halliday at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

GM Farm Scale Trials

Excellent article at Spiked Online regarding the Farm Scale testing of Genetically Modified food crops.

Couple of good points:

GM technology is simply another tool for plant breeding


Meanwhile, back on the organic farm, the ‘organic horse’ bolted long before ‘stable doors’ had been invented: organic farmers use old-fashioned herbicides that, because they are less specific in their toxicity, are rather poisonous beyond their intended victims, the weeds. Yet they are in use, because their adoption preceded the regulations now required for approval of modern herbicides.

This is one thing that gets me whenever I read about Organic Farming. Some of the chemicals allowed in Organic Farming are very toxic but because they come directly from natuaral sources, they are considered “Organic” and therefore OK to use.

Rotenone insecticide is one example of this. Any runoff is deadly to fish and it is a very broad-spectrum insecticide so you wind up knocking out your beneficial insect population too. But it’s “Organic”

Ryania, Pyrethrin, Sabadilia, Quassia - these are all OK to use for Organic Farming because of their plant-based origin but they are very toxic and broad-spectrum.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

Potato farmers fear epidemic of new disease

from The Guardian

Ring rot, a disease which could destroy half of Britain’s potato crop, has been found for the first time in this country, on a Welsh seed potato farm.
The potentially devastating bacterium, which could ruin the industry, has prompted a search to trace any contacts with the farm to prevent a foot and mouth-style epidemic.

Environment department officials have traced the outbreak to the Netherlands and seed potatoes supplied to the Welsh farm for cultivation. A search is now on for other British farms which may have imported Dutch potatoes. All their stock will be tested.

The outbreak was discovered in routine laboratory checks of Provento potatoes being exported to the Canary Islands. The Spanish authorities have been warned and all the potentially infected stock impounded.

A search on Google for the bacteria turns up over 4K entries - a lot of them are refering to Gene Sequencing so maybe a GM potato is being developed with a resistence…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

Web design Usability

from A List Apart

ALA was designed in 1998 and until recently was maintained by hand. Many magazine, library, government, and education sites began life the same way and face similar hurdles as they make the transition to standards-based design powered by database-driven publishing tools.

Excellent points here for anyone who maintains or designs a site.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

FCC opens more 5GHz spectrum space

from Infoworld

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has increased the radio spectrum available for unlicensed devices using wireless networking services, it announced Thursday.

bq. The FCC made an additional 255MHz of spectrum available in the 5.470GHz to 5.725GHz radio frequency band, an increase of 80 percent, it said.


The 802.11a standard defines 54Mbps wireless LAN equipment operating in the 5GHz band. The 802.11a standard transfers data at faster rates and with less interference — but over shorter distances — than the more commonly used 802.11b networks.

Cool stuff!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

two articles on Africain Uranium to Iraq/al-Qaeda

from Expatica

LYON, France, Nov 13 (AFP) - A representative of al-Qaeda bought enriched uranium capable of being used in a so-called dirty bomb from the Congolese opposition in 2000, according to sworn testimony quoted in a French newspaper Thursday.


Only highly enriched uranium can be used in the manufacture of an atomic bomb, but anti-terrorist experts take more seriously the threat of a “dirty bomb”, in which radioactive material is disseminated via a conventional explosive.

from The Guardian

Iraqi agents have been negotiating with criminal gangs in the Democratic Republic of Congo to trade Iraqi military weapons and training for high-grade minerals, possibly including uranium, according to evidence obtained by the Guardian.

A delegation of five Iraqis was arrested in Nairobi by the Kenyan secret service last November while travelling to eastern Congo on fake Indian passports, a western intelligence officer said.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that leaders of the Mayi-Mayi, a brutal militia embroiled in the country’s civil war, visited Baghdad twice and offered diamonds and gold to the Iraqis. Uranium was not mentioned in the documents but the intelligence officer said the Mayi-Mayi would be able to obtain the material in areas it controlled.

Initial contact between Baghdad and the militia was said to have been brokered by a Sudanese general who offered Sudan as a conduit for Iraqi oil and arms.

This article was first published September 25, 2002 when Saddam was still in power but while we were “working” with the UN Security council and some ‘Old Europe’ nations.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

McDonalds closing vending machines

from the Washington Post

Turns out McDonald’s was thinking a little too far outside the box.

After a year-long experiment, the fast-food giant is pulling the plug on all four Redbox automated convenience stores in the Washington area, dashing the hopes of vending industry executives who predicted that time-strapped U.S. consumers were ready for a 24-hour glass box that dispensed products as varied as portobello-and-goat-cheese sandwiches and toilet paper.

The 18-foot-wide, 130-item Redbox machines — in Adams Morgan, Bethesda and Baltimore-Washington International Airport — remain in place for now, their contents removed. A cardboard sign inside the Adams Morgan Redbox thanked loyal customers for their support.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

Death of the Websafe Color Palette?

from Web Monkey

One of the givens of Web design, the holiest of holy truths, is the sanctity of the 216 websafe color palette. It’s a rite of initiation for every Web designer or developer: Use only these colors, we are told, and don’t question why.

But it’s been more than three years since Lynda Weinman assembled her “browser safe palette” for Photoshop, and a lot has changed in the world of Web design since then. Designers have kept up with changes in client-side technologies, such as dHTML and Flash, and we’ve given up font tags in favor of CSS styles, tables for divs. Yet we cling to the 216 websafe color palette even though it continues to be the bane of a Web designer’s existence.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

iTunes for Windows breaks older iPods

from Slashdot

In our office we’ve been running an older 5gb iPod with both Macs and PC’s (using Xplay), but when we installed iTunes for the PC the iPod stopped working. Songs and playlists transfer over fine, and you can see them and play them in iTunes, but you can’t listen to them on the iPod, itself. It shows the song details and so forth, but skips through the tracks, playing 0 seconds of each one until it finishes. This only applies to tracks added since iTunes was installed. No amount of reformatting, or rolling back firmware seems to work.

When I called Apple, they stated that they simply don’t support the use of the older Mac iPods on PC’s and are not responsible, even though they admit that it was their own software that caused this. We’re not alone, see this thread at Apple. I’m not quite suggesting that this was deliberate, but they are aware of it and don’t seem to care.” Does anyone have ideas on possible fixes for the afflicted iPods?
(emphasis mine)

Customer support?

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

more on Global Warming

Bizarre Science has an excellent article on the current Global Warming issue.

Too many scientists have based their research, their reputations and their incomes on the greenhouse theory to let it go now.

So rather than debate the growing evidence that the greenhouse theory is fundamentally flawed, many greenhouse-believing scientists have begun viciously attacking those who question its conclusions and denouncing any agnostic as a heretic — especially ones presenting uncomfortably challenging proof.


The “hockey stick” has been among the holiest of holies in the greenhouse priests’ liturgy. It purports to show relatively stable climate for the 900 years from 1000 to 1900, then a sharp spike upward from 1900 to today. Its implications for the greenhouse theory are so central that it formed an integral part of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s vaunted 2001 report, the one that claimed to confirm disastrous manmade greenhouse warming.

We have known for a long time that the hockey stick compared apples and oranges — reconstructed temperatures from 1000 to 1900 (temperatures deduced from studying tree-ring growth and ice cores, et cetera) and measured temperatures from 1900 onward. When the 20th century’s temperatures are “reconstructed” they don’t show the warming the hockey stick theory shows.

But what McIntyre/McKitrick also reveal is the data used to craft the hockey stick are based on “collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation … obsolete data, geographical local errors, incorrect calculation … and other quality control defects.” The wrong places, the wrong dates and the wrong numbers were jumbled together to produce the results the authors desired — proof that industrial societies are threatening the planet and only global regulation by the UN can save it.

For instance, the data used for calculating Central Europe’s climate history stops at 1730, but the source data available goes back to 1659. Coincidentally (or not) those 70 missing years were the coldest of the Little Ice Age. If your goal was to show flat temperatures for 900 years, followed by a steep rise during the Industrial Age, leaving out those seven decades would help do the trick.

Three such “unjustified truncations” were uncovered by McIntyre/McKitrick. Of 112 temperature records used to create the hockey stick, 13 were incorrectly copied down, 18 mismatched the year and temperatures, 19 made unjustifiable extrapolations to cover missing data, 24 contained obsolete data and all 28 that used tree-ring data miscalculated the information obtained by reading the rings. That’s a total of 105 records with errors, although some contained multiple errors, so there were more than seven data sets that were error-free, but not many more.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

NY Times - 25 science questions


A list of 25 science questions and essays on the answers. Some good ones here…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

Essay on anti-sematism


While Israel built up an entire country from the ground of a desert land, the Palestinians still sat in flimsy tents, drinking out of the same dirty cups which belonged to their fathers, obeying the same tribal principles which had never created them anything but inter-tribal strife, and listening to the same stories told of how they were once a great nation, which they had never been. The Arab world looked to Israel with seething jealousy and saw the only thing they could do; the only thing they had ever done when Jews were successful; the only thing that Europeans have done whenever Jews were successful. They chose yet again to kill it. And because Europe was in a decline of power, and the European economic state in ruins, they hopped along as well. They were old friends in that hatred; they have shared it so many times together.

Read the whole thing…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

I knew it...



Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

PC Case Mods


Caution - severe geek overload…

This person builds PCs and then custom makes cases that are absolute works of art. Great stuff!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

Viable virus manufactured in lab in two weeks

from USA Today

But an important technical bridge towards the creation of such life was crossed Thursday when genomics pioneer Craig Venter announced that his research group created an artificial virus based on a real one in just two weeks’ time.

When researchers created a synthetic genome (genetic map) of the virus and implanted it into a cell, the virus became “biologically active,” meaning it went to work reproducing itself.

Fascinating stuff…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

Babys being named after Corporate Brand Names

from the BBC - US babies get global brand names

Mr Evans, a professor at Bellevue University, Nebraska, has studied baby names in the US for 25 years.

He has found that car models are a popular source of inspiration; 22 girls are registered as having the name Infiniti while 55 boys answer to Chevy and five girls to Celica.

Seven boys were found to have the name Del Monte - after the food company - and no less than 49 boys were called Canon, after the camera.

Designer firms and types of clothing were also well represented, with almost 300 girls recorded with the name Armani, six boys called Timberland and seven boys called Denim.

Sheesh - should I change my name to IBM?

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

General Wesley Clark’s career...

interesting New Yorker article on this


Clark told me. “I’m the only commander in the twentieth century, I think, that really knew his adversary.” Berger asked Clark what would happen if the threats didn’t work, and, later, General Joe Ralston, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, pressed him on the same question.

“I know Milosevic,” Clark said, over and over. “It will work.”

We all know that it did not work…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2003

James Lileks

is on a roll here

The country that gave the world Voltaire is telling us the right to free speech doesn’t include the right to be scornful?

Read the whole thing…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

States settlement with tobacco companies...

is being pissed away - here

States that cashed in on a landmark $246 billion settlement with tobacco companies five years ago are spending little on programs to curb smoking, an anti-smoking group charged on Wednesday.

With budgets stretched thin, most of the 46 states that joined the 1998 tobacco settlement are using only a fraction of the funding that health officials recommend for anti-tobacco efforts, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.


Only four states — Maine, Delaware, Mississippi and Arkansas — are still funding anti-tobacco campaigns to the level advised by the CDC.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

Victor Davis Hanson - part three of a four-part series


Worth reading.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

Master and Commander

Saw this tonight at a preview screening.

Excellent excellent movie - if you have not had the joy of reading the Patrick O’Brien series, they are really worth checking out. The books are strongly chronological so start at the beginning with Master and Commander.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)


serious Geek drool factor here

Only $5K-bucks — should I do a PayPal contribution button or add it to my lish-wist…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

History of Milorganite Fertalizer


and the citizens of Milwaukee get royalties??? Hmmm???

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

Global Warming

Cox and Forkum (a new cartoon every weekday) have an excellent one today along with a short comment with some good links

Check it out!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

Article about Cider Making

Good article in the Rocky Mountain News about a home cider maker.

Had the pleasure of sitting at Dick Dunn’s table at the Cider Tasting dinner last weekend. Fun people!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

NY Times on Cider Fetival

Cider With the Soul of Wine

THE second-floor chapel of the old Brick Meetinghouse in this Berkshire mountain town was standing room only. Simple white pews spilled over with hard cider enthusiasts, amateur fermenters and fall-color weekenders who found their way here earlier this month for Cider Day, the largest — and possibly only — national celebration of artisanal ciders, heirloom apples and every doughnut, juice and jelly in between. On the first weekend of November, Colrain and other towns across Franklin County held apple festivals and grafting workshops, cooking demonstrations and cider making clinics.

In the Colrain church, volunteers patrolled the aisles, pouring generous samples of hard cider, while six cider makers sat at folding tables under the altar, explaining production methods and gently sparring over issues of pest management and sulfite use.

The ciders —- sparkling and still, sweet to bone dry, all less than 10 percent alcohol —- won’t be found in supermarket beer sections. Part of a renaissance of cider making over the past decade, they are complex blends and varietals made in the styles of northwestern France, western England and Colonial America.

Cider Day was founded nine years ago by Terry and Judith Maloney, who helped lead the revival in 1984 when they started West County Cider. They produced 300 cases their first year; this fall they expect to make 2,100. They still ferment cider in their basement, crammed now with giant stainless steel fermentation tanks, which look like wayward props from the set of “Lost in Space.”

Hard cider, nearly eradicated by Prohibition, showed signs of a comeback 20 years ago on the heels of the microbrewing movement. Like many early microbrews, artisanal ciders are labors of love. Cider makers — some still holding day jobs as orchardists, emergency room physicians and cattle farmers — have tirelessly promoted their product in restaurants, liquor stores and specialty-food shops. The proselytizing has paid off, and producers are seeing a loyal (and finally expanding) customer base.

Producers have been inspired by the trend toward sustainable agriculture —- these ciders rely on fresh juice from local sources. Cider makers are constantly fighting the consumer perception that their products fall into the same category as mass-produced ciders made from the concentrated juice of nondescript apples.

“Once you taste an artisanal cider, which usually takes about a year from the time you start fermenting, versus the stuff that’s made in under a month, it’s like night and day,” said one of the panelists, Roger Mansfield, whose Traditional Company is based in Culver, Ore.

Mr. Mansfield and his Cider Day colleagues have different solutions to the perception problem. Mr. Mansfield calls cider the other white wine. Flag Hill Farms in Vershire, Vt., uses the slogan “Cyder with a `Y.’ ” The spelling of Furnace Brook Winery’s barrel-aged cidre declares the drink’s ties to French production methods, and Rhyne Cyder in Sonoma, Calif., refers to its sparkling cider as “Champagne-lite,” promoting its low alcohol content.

“It is not simply alcoholic fruit juice, but it’s not wine either,” said Charles McGonegal of AEppel Treow Winery in Burlington, Wis., which uses the labor-intensive Champagne method to produce cider. “It has its own tartness and tannin profile that sets it apart.”

Most ciders retail for under $10, but Matt Wilson, the fine- and rare-wine specialist at Chelsea Wine Vault in Manhattan, made cider history by charging $24.99 for Farnum Hill’s 2001 varietal reserve, Kingston Black. “People love the idea that it’s dry and palate-cleansing,” Mr. Wilson said. “A lot of people drink it with sushi. I like it with simple stuff like roast chicken or turkey.”

No one expects hard cider to regain the prominence it held centuries ago when taverns and families made their own and children were given a weakened version called ciderkin. Hard cider constitutes only one-tenth of a percent of the alcoholic beverage market in the United States, according to Impact Databank, an industry publication. Most producers are not set up to navigate the complexities of interstate alcohol distribution laws, and so, to cider enthusiasts’ consternation and travelers’ delight, artisanal ciders are likely to remain treasures to be experienced in situ.

“There’s a lot of potential for growth, but it’s really one person at a time” said Ben Watson, the author of “Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own” (Countryman, 2003).

Steve Wood, from Farnum Hill Ciders in Lebanon, N.H., agreed.

“We practically have to kneel on people’s chests and pry open their mouths to get them to drink this stuff,” Mr. Wood said. “And then they generally like it.”

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:11 PM | Comments (0)

Light blogging today

I will be here getting (hopefully) one or two of these for this.


Just got back after sucessfully bidding on a 2,000 gallon all-Stainless Steel tank with chilling jacket. Now the fun begins!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2003

Virgina Postrel in the NY Times - Milton Friedman

Economics - here:

Twenty-five years ago, I took my first economics class. Like many other college students, I wanted to understand why the economy of our teenage years was such a scary mess, with inflation and rising taxes eroding our parents’ paychecks, interest rates soaring and unemployment an ever present threat.

By my freshman year, inflation had morphed into “stagflation,” combining rising price levels with relatively high unemployment. For most economists, stagflation was a puzzle. There was supposed to be a trade-off - the so-called Phillips curve - between inflation and unemployment. If you had one, you weren’t supposed to have the other.

The “Great Inflation” of the 1970’s challenged and permanently altered economic theory. It vindicated the once-controversial analysis of Milton Friedman, then at the University of Chicago.

” Friedman’s monetary framework has been so influential that in its broad outlines at least, it has nearly become identical with modern monetary theory,” said the Federal Reserve governor Ben S. Bernanke, at a recent conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

(The NY Times article posts a link that is no longer available for the full text of his speech…)

Mr. Bernanke is not a former Friedman student. He did his graduate work at M.I.T. Someone reading Milton Friedman’s monetary economics today is likely to miss its significance, Mr. Bernanke noted, much as an apocryphal student called Shakespeare’s plays “just a string of quotations.”

“His thinking has so permeated modern macroeconomics that the worst pitfall in reading him today is to fail to appreciate the originality and even revolutionary character of his ideas, in relation to the dominant views at the time that he formulated them,” he said.

Against the conventional wisdom, Mr. Friedman argued that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” Inflation had nothing to do with aggressive unions, greedy businesses or even oil cartels - the bad guys who took the blame in the confusing 1970’s. Prices shot up everywhere because the federal government made the supply of money grow faster than the real economy created value. Based on the historical record, he argued, the effects of monetary policy were fairly predictable.

In a 1970 lecture, “The Counterrevolution in Monetary Theory,” Mr. Friedman outlined 11 propositions about how monetary policy affects the economy. All were wildly controversial, almost disreputable, at the time. Most are accepted today.

The first six propositions described the effects of tightening or loosening the money supply.

Changing the money supply, Mr. Friedman argued, raises or lowers nominal national income - production multiplied by the price level - after six to nine months. That change appears initially in output, so an increase in the money supply spurs production. After another six to nine months, however, prices adjust. Real, as opposed to nominal, income does not change.

With Mr. Friedman’s original caveat that these empirical relationships are not perfect, Mr. Bernanke said, most policy makers and economists today would consider that 1970 description “spot on.” A large body of empirical research has confirmed the same general pattern in many different countries.

More revolutionary still was Mr. Friedman’s proposition that monetary policy can affect real output only in the short run. The Phillips curve works only for a few months. Long-term economic growth depends on real factors like innovation, investment and entrepreneurship.

This proposition “is universally accepted today by monetary economists,” Mr. Bernanke said. “When Friedman wrote, however, the conventional view held that monetary policy could be used to affect real outcomes - for example, to lower the rate of unemployment - for an indefinite period.”

That belief led to terrible economic policy. Trying to maintain full employment, the Federal Reserve of the 1970’s pumped out money faster than the real economy grew. A result, Mr. Bernanke said, was the “Great Inflation of the 1970’s - after the Great Depression, the second most serious monetary policy mistake of the 20th century.”

Today, most macroeconomists also accept Mr. Friedman’s most famous proposition - that inflation is always a monetary phenomenon. Contrary to what I learned in macroeconomics class, “cost push” inflation was a myth. Pay and price increases did not drive inflation; they reflected it. Americans wanted higher nominal wages and prices to keep up as the real value of each dollar declined.

To combat cost-push inflation, the Nixon administration imposed wage and price controls in 1971. Various controls, notably on energy prices, lingered throughout the 1970’s. But inflation did not go away, because all these policies treated the symptom, not the cause.

A few of Mr. Friedman’s propositions remain subject to debate and research. He contended, for instance, that government deficits cause inflation only if they are financed by creating money. Economists do not yet agree on the exact relation between unsustainable government spending and inflation.

Mr. Friedman tracked monetary policy by tracking the growth of the money supply. While theoretically sound, that practice has become increasingly difficult. Financial innovations keep changing the definition and growth rate of money.

Beyond these descriptive propositions, Mr. Friedman’s greatest monetarist legacy is a prescriptive one.

“The most fundamental policy recommendation put forth by Milton Friedman,” Mr. Bernanke said, “is the injunction to policy makers to provide a stable monetary background for the economy,” avoiding both inflation and deflation.

“Monetary stability actively promotes efficiency and growth,” Mr. Bernanke said. It also makes the economy more resilient, because when people are not afraid of general inflation, they adapt more easily to shocks like rapid jumps in energy prices.

Over the last two decades, central bankers here and abroad have worked to keep inflation low and stable, and they have largely succeeded. Back in the 1970’s, Milton Friedman didn’t think that was politically possible. About that one thing, perhaps, he was wrong.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

10,000 to test eye scan and fingerprint scheme

In Merrie Olde England - The Guardian

The electronic “biometric” eye scans and fingerprints that lie at the heart of the new national identity card scheme are to be tested by 10,000 volunteers in a six month Home Office trial starting in the next few weeks.

The draft bill setting up Britain’s first national identity card scheme for nearly 50 years is expected to follow in January. The Commons home affairs select committee announced yesterday it will conduct a detailed inquiry into the proposals this autumn.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

Fnu in Los Angeles

Not a good time to be visiting the LA area:

The L.V. Sun reports:

Thunder roared, lightning ripped through the skies and hail slammed into four counties Wednesday as an intense storm flooded streets and freeways, darkened neighborhoods and interrupted air travel.

Rain in the most severely hit areas was coming down at 3 inches an hour, the National Weather Service said. Five inches of rain fell at 96th Street and Central Avenue in South Los Angeles in less than two hours, the agency said.


Nearly 10,000 customers were without power for extended periods, Southern California Edison Co. spokesman Steve Conroy said. Outages included Compton, 10 miles south of Los Angeles, neighboring South Gate and Watts, then east through the San Gabriel Valley to Montebello, Covina, Monrovia, El Monte, West Covina and into San Bernardino County, where Chino Hills was especially hard hit.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:20 PM | Comments (0)

CDs 'could be history in five years'

interesting article from Ananova

Compact discs could be history within five years, superseded by a new generation of fingertip-sized memory tabs with no moving parts.

Scientists say each paper-thin device could store more than a gigabyte of information - equivalent to 1,000 high quality images - in one cubic centimetre of space.

Experts have developed the technology by melding together organic and inorganic materials in a unique way.

They say it could be used to produce a single-use memory card that permanently stores data and is faster and easier to operate than a CD.

They go on:

A report in the journal Nature described how the researchers identified a new property of a polymer called PEDOT.

PEDOT, which is clear and conducts electricity, has been used for years as an anti-static coating on photographic film. Researchers looked at ways of using PEDOT to store digital information. In the new memory card, data in the form of ones and zeroes would be represented by polymer pixels.

A bit more detail:
PEDOT is PolyEthyleneDi*OxyThiophene and has been around for a while.
* the Di is actually a Thi but the original compound was Di and the ‘nym stuck…
Water based, fairly (hell yeah at 1.5pH) acidic.
Interesting uses are cropping up all over - it’s also used for LEP displays and organic semiconductors.
Limited temperature range so far so I would not leave the “music stick” on the dashboard of my car during summer but still…

Science Blog has some more information

From Princeton University:
New memory device could offer smaller, simpler way to archive data
Discovery of new property in commonly used plastic leads to invention

The research was done in Forrest’s lab by former postdoctoral researcher Sven Möller, who is now at HP in Corvallis, Ore. Craig Perlov, Warren Jackson and Carl Taussig, scientists at HP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., are also co-authors of the Nature paper.

Möller made the basic discovery behind the device by experimenting with polymer material called PEDOT, which is clear and conducts electricity. It has been used for years as an antistatic coating on photographic film, and more recently as an electrical contact on video displays that require light to pass through the circuitry. Möller found that PEDOT conducts electricity at low voltages, but permanently loses its conductivity when exposed to higher voltages (and thus higher currents), making it act like a fuse or circuit breaker.

This finding led the researchers to use PEDOT as a way of storing digital information. Digital images and all computerized data are stored as numbers that are written as long strings of ones and zeroes. A PEDOT-based memory device would have a grid of circuits in which all the connections contain a PEDOT fuse. A high voltage could be applied to any of the contact points, blowing that particular fuse and leaving a mix of working and non-working circuits. These open or closed connections would represent zeros and ones and would become permanently encoded in the device. A blown fuse would block current and be read as a zero, while an unblown one would let current pass and act as a one.

This grid of memory circuits could be made so small that, based on the test junctions the researchers made, 1 million bits of information could fit in a square millimeter of paper-thin material. If formed as a block, the device could store more than one gigabyte of information, or about 1,000 high-quality images, in one cubic centimeter, which is about the size of a fingertip.

Lots more work to be done but this is really cool!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:03 PM | Comments (0)

We're From the Government and We're Here to Help

from Tech Central Station comes an interesting article and book…

Dan Peruchi, father of four, enjoyed fixing up old cars and reselling them. Because the dealers he worked with dealt mainly in cash, he usually had lots on hand. Peruchi was driving home to Ft. Worth, Texas when he noticed the flashing lights of a police car behind him. After pulling him over, the officer asked to search Peruchi’s car. Peruchi had about $19,000 in a satchel, but nothing criminal to hide, so he consented. The officer found Peruchi’s cash, and immediately suspected Peruchi was involved with drugs. He called in drug-sniffing dogs, who then reacted suspiciously to Peruchi’s satchel (most all of the U.S. money supply carries faint amounts of drug residue, mostly cocaine).

The dogs’ reaction, no more, was enough for the West Memphis police department to seize Peruchi’s money. When Peruchi protested, the police officer retorted, “Carry checks next time.”

Peruchi was never arrested. He was never even charged. But his money was gone, under the absurd premise that property can be guilty of a crime, even if its owner isn’t. The police department deposited Peruchi’s money into its own operations budget, as it was permitted to do under Arkansas’ drug forfeiture laws. Peruchi was told that if he tried to fight the county, his case would be turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Try fighting the feds,” he was told. Even if Peruchi had won in court, his legal costs would likely have amounted to more than the $19,000 he was fighting for, and it’s improbable that he would have been reimbursed for his legal fees.

Peruchi is but one of many similarly outrageous stories told the new book Mugged by the State, by Randall Fitzgerald.

Over 20 years as a reporter for Reader’s Digest, Fitzgerald wrote stories about innocent people who found themselves mistakenly entangled with unforgiving environmental regulations, draconian drug laws, or coldhearted, uncompromising bureaucrats. With the sober, detailed eye of a journalist, Fitzgerald’s book recounts the most egregious of his encounters in two decades as a reporter.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 08:26 PM | Comments (0)

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad both said Wednesday that they would consider entering a new ceasefire

from LGF

They link to a Jersulem Post article:

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad both said Wednesday that they would consider entering a new ceasefire with Palestinian Prime Miister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) to end attacks against Israelis.

Adnan Aspur, a Hamas spokesman in the West Bank, has announced that the organization is prepared to consider a new Hudna (temporary ceasefire).

But we will always give predominance to resistance so long as a conqueror remains on Palestinian soil,” he continued.
Emphasis mine

A unilateral cease-fire declared by the Palestinian terrorist groups on June 29 collapsed six weeks later in a new cycle of violence.

They will consider a cease-fire but they would rather go back to killing Israeli mothers and children. They had many generous offers of land, seperate states, etc… but their ‘leadership’ is locked into the old Soviet mold that created him and is dragging the entire population down with lies and corruption.

I feel sorry for the Palestinian people but sorry because they have been brainwashed and lied to by their leadership. They have been told things that are not true and a small militant cult of them have been paid very generously to play the role of supporting terrorist. They have studied the West and know all about P.R. and Spin and know that very few Westerners bother to even read the English language translations of their Arabic speeches so they can say one thing in English and yet another in Arabic and less than 1% of the population will know the difference. Sad really…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

Arafat Urges an End to Violence

from NY Times

Yasir Arafat swore in a new Palestinian cabinet today, ending a period of political turmoil that had paralyzed his government and clearing the way for Israelis and Palestinians to rejuvenate efforts on a Middle East peace plan.

In a speech before the Palestinian Legislative Council, Mr. Arafat addressed the Israeli people directly in what appeared to be a conciliatory call for an end to violence. But he also criticized Israeli blockades of Palestinian areas and other measures in what he described as a criminal war.

“The Israeli government says we do not want peace. I tell them this is not true,” Mr. Arafat said in his speech to the council, the Palestinian Parliament, as reported by the Palestinian news agency. “We will not retract this recognition of the rights of the Israeli people to live in security and peace, alongside the Palestinians, independent in an independent state.”

Yeahhhhh… Riiight… This is the guy who is right now paying $50,000 per month to fund al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.

He also has personally diverted $900 million into bank accounts that he alone controls.

And what with help from other countries, cash keeps flowing into the terrorist groups. Hamas (another of the primary groups):

John Pistole, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, said that based on U.S. intelligence, Hamas’ annual budget is estimated to be at least $50 million.

There is a long-standing tradition of saying one thing in English and then doing something else. It will not be surprising if Arafat declares that he is unable to work with the new cabinet or that talks have broken down or some such bunk - this whole thing is staged. It is fake. They are lying to us.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

AIDS vaccine trials fail

from ABC News

.bq The results of a large-scale test of an AIDS vaccine in Thailand have shown the inoculation method to be ineffective.

The findings confirm the results of an earlier test conducted by the US pharmaceutical firm Vaxgen, which created the vaccine.

The Thailand test was a late-stage clinical trial, the most advanced trial of any AIDS vaccine so far.

In the test, 105 participants who received a placebo were infected with HIV and 106 others who received at least one injection of the vaccine were infected.

The annual rate of infection, both for those receiving the placebo and those receiving the vaccine, was 3.1 per cent.

The test was carried out in 17 medical centres in the Bangkok area.

The first test on the vaccine, conducted in North America, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands, also delivered disappointing results.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

Retaliation for Truck bomb

from Voice of America

U.S. military officials say two suspects were killed and five other detained in the Baghdad operation. One target of the strike was a warehouse U.S. officials say guerrillas used to plan attacks on U.S. forces.

Earlier Wednesday, a truck exploded after it crashed through barriers in front of Italian military police headquarters in Nasiriyah. That attack resulted in the first casualties among the Italian contingent that is part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

It will be interesting when we find the nationalities of the attackers… This one was bad in that it happened in the otherwise quiet 90% of the country rather than in that 10% of the country where the Baathist hangers-on are located.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

unstability in Georgia

from The Telegraph

Troops sent into Tbilisi as civil war fears rise
By Julius Strauss in Tbilisi
(Filed: 12/11/2003)

Georgia inched closer to civil war last night as interior ministry troops were ordered into the heart of the capital, Tbilisi, and President Eduard Shevardnadze denounced opposition leaders.

Outside parliament thousands of angry protesters gathered for a fourth day, swearing defiance. Many were waving images of St George, their patron saint.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

New Crime wave

From the Financial Times

Gangs based in Eastern Europe have been found to have been launching waves of attacks on corporate networks, costing the companies millions of dollars in lost business and exposing them to blackmail.

The most recent cases of affected companies have surfaced in Britain where the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) is investigating how one betting site was brought down and then received a threat that it would be attacked again unless tens of thousands of pounds were paid. It is co-operating with international law enforcement agencies, with the perpetrators thought to be based in Eastern Europe.

The attacks involve gangs commandeering as many as hundreds of computers through hacking methods to use without their owners’ knowledge. A command is then issued to each one simultaneously to make a series of bogus requests to the servers of the victim. The weight of traffic brings the servers to a halt and legitimate requests to carry out transactions cannot be completed.

The emphasis in the last quote is mine. These computers are infected with virusses by the inaction or poor operation of their owners. Keep current on your patches. If you get an email with an attachment, check with the sender to make sure they sent it to you. If you get a Security Alert email from Microsoft, ignore it, they never send security alerts via email. Think before you click!

set RANT=off

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

Bad Toon Rising


Bad Toon Rising is a collection of drawings of well-known cartoon characters produced by amateur artists entirely from memory and without any reference materials whatsoever. We can all picture what Mickey Mouse or the Pink Panther look like in our minds, but getting that image down on paper is another matter! Never mind, we think that some of the worst drawings are the best.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

BT Cotton test in India not sucessful

A test of BT Cotton in India was not sucessful with reduced boll count and size plus the same level of predation.

There is however, no indication in the report of the care given to the BT cotton over the care given to the control crop or the methodology of the test.

What catches my eye is Table #1 (Comparison between Bolls and Fibre of Non-Bt and Bt-Cotton). The reduced boll count and size makes me think that the crop was stressed and would indicate that the BT crops were given less than optimal care. If there was a small statistical variation, I would believe there was a viability issue but to go from an average of 95 bolls to an average of 50 bolls is a bit steep. Going from 6-8 Grams to 3.5-5 Grams boll weight is odd too…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Vatican conference on GM foods

Should be interesting…

The Vatican hosted a two-day conference entitled “GMO: Threat or Hope”
They have not published their findings as yet but this will be an interesting one to watch - the benefits of increased crop production and less labor required versus (as quoted in ABC news):

Two Jesuits told a Vatican biotech conference Tuesday that tinkering with God’s creation by making new plant species went against church teaching, adding a moral voice to a debate dominated by scientific, political and economic interests.

CBS reports:

The conference organizer, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has spoken out frequently about the potential benefits of the technology, and some participants said his lineup of speakers was skewed toward the pro-biotech camp.

CBS continues:

Martino opened the two-day conference “GMO: Threat or Hope” by acknowledging the charged nature of the debate, and the implications of genetically engineered products on the future of the world.

“We are fully aware that the stakes are high and delicate,” he said, citing the divide in public opinion, the commercial interests and ethical questions involved, as well as “the difficulty in defining scientifically a material that is subject to evolving research.”

But he said the Vatican’s aim was to find some common ground for the benefit of mankind, and particularly the poor. The issue of poverty and hunger is a major concern for the Vatican, which rejects arguments that limiting family size by using contraception is one way to improve food security in the developing world.

Martino has suggested in newspaper interviews that the Vatican might consider endorsing biotech crops as a way to help alleviate hunger, arguing that the controversy was more political than scientific. He has said he suffered no ill effects from the GM foods he ate while living in New York as the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations for 16 years.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)


from Wired News

Citing concerns that Diebold Election Systems installed uncertified software on some electronic voting systems in a California county without the state’s knowledge, officials are forcing the company to pay for an audit of all the company’s voting machines used in the state in order to win certification for a new model.

An investigation of how and when the software was installed in Alameda County is still underway. But Tony Miller, special projects coordinator for Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, said Monday that the state would certify Diebold’s AccuVote-TSx touch-screen voting machine for the time being under several conditions.

The certification is contingent on Diebold paying for an independent audit of all its hardware and software used in 13 other California counties to determine if uncertified components have been installed elsewhere.


Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

more on French ELF scandal

Glen Reynolds has a nice collection of links regarding France’s Total Fina ELF scandal, the stiff jail sentences that are being handed out and how this may impact the operation of a California insurance company.

from the Financial Times:

The sentences bring to an end an investigation stretching back over eight years and which has thrown light on the corruption rampant in the final years of the late Francois Mitterrand’s second term in office as president. A total of 37 people stood trial in this case, preceded by an earlier one involving corrupting charges - rejected on appeal - against former foreign minister Roland Dumas.

Elf, set up as a state run company by Gen Charles de Gaulle to ensure French independent sources of oil, had long been used as an unofficial arm of French foreign policy, as well as to provide under-the-table funds to political parties.

from Forbes:

The inquiry sparks public criticism when the court hears how Elf secretly financed President Jacques Chirac’s RPR political party and paid bribes to African leaders to win business.

Zonitics links to the Crédit Lyonnais scandal that is part of the biger picture:

In April 1991 a California insurance company called Executive Life, having gone bust, became the object of an investigation by the state of California. In 1992 what had once been France’s most successful bank, Crédit Lyonnais (now a decrepit institution), put together a deal whereby the bank would buy Executive Life’s junk bond portfolio, and a new French insurance company would take over Executive Life’s insurance business. At the time of the deal, Crédit Lyonnais was owned by the French state. Under U.S. federal law banks could not own insurance companies; under California law state-owned companies could not own insurance companies. The deal was agreed to because U.S. insurance regulators were assured that the new insurance company was independent of Crédit Lyonnais. In 1995 the French government created the Consortium de Réalisation (CDR) to take over Crédit Lyonnais’ bad assets, including Executive Life’s bond portfolio. But in 1998 it was discovered that the French insurance company that had taken over Executive Life’s insurance business was not independent of Crédit Lyonnais.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

Hats off to Italy

from LGF and Reuters

from Reuters:

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi vowed Italy would keep troops in Iraq to help U.S. forces despite a bombing on Wednesday that killed 15 military personnel and urged political adversaries to unite in national mourning.

from LGF:

A big LGF cheer for Silvio Berlusconi, who makes the United Nations and the International Red Cross look like the cowardly weenies they are.

Some nations get it, some do not. Italy gets it…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

US Department of Energy - science funding

The US DOE has released it’s roadmap for science funding:

from the New Scientist

Making clean energy by nuclear fusion and building supercomputers to speed up scientific research are the top priorities in physical science, according to a new US Department of Energy road map.

Other major projects given a top ranking include designing microbes to scrub the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and the search for the mysterious dark energy that is driving the expansion of the Universe.

However, high energy physics (HEP) experiments that smash particles together did not fare so well in the 20-year plan announced on Monday. HEP experiments could one day unite quantum mechanics and general relativity, and explain why our Universe has mass.

But the Linear Collider, described as “the next big step” in the field, was ranked only 13 in a list of 28 priority facilities. Furthermore, three projects that a HEP task force ranked as “absolutely central” in March did not make the list at all.

Not so good for the big-iron particle physics but not too bad for energy (Fusion) and supercomputers (where a lot of basic work can be done)

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2003

our friends the French

from Forbes Magazine

Opening paragraph:

Behind the deterioration of Franco-American relations over Iraq and the savage animosity between George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac lies a sordid and complicated business scandal that could end with several highly placed French businessmen—two are close friends of Chirac’s—taking up residence in U.S. prisons.

An interesting read and an insight into the difference between the “Old” EU culture and the US


More on this from the 11/10/03 issue of the Seattle P.I.

PARIS — Political kickbacks, luxury villas bought with public money, illegal party funding. The corruption trial surrounding oil company Elf has already tarnished the French establishment and ruined careers.

Now the decade-long investigation into the former state-owned company comes to its climax on Wednesday, with the announcement of verdicts in France’s biggest-ever graft scandal.

A total of 37 defendants have been on trial since March for their roles in the alleged embezzlement of some euro300 million($345 million) from Elf during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Among them is a trio of former senior officials from Elf - now a part of the Franco-Belgian oil group Total - including its ex-president, Loik Le Floch-Prigent.

The case has stained the reputation of France’s political and business elites, raising damaging allegations of illegal party funding to both sides of the political spectrum and shining a spotlight on France’s handling of its African oil interests.

Convictions are inevitable for many of the key defendants, observers say. Le Floch-Prigent, 60, and his former second-in-command, Alfred Sirven, have admitted some of the charges, faced with detailed evidence gathered during an eight-year probe.

Total Fina Elf was the main oil company participating in the U.N. Oil for Food program with Iraq.
There has never been a public accounting of the money…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

Point / Counterpoint

from the NY Times

from Derek Lowe

NY Times:

Your recent editorial on the Apo-A1 Milano therapy for atherosclerosis is strong stuff. For example, you say that “. . .infusing H.D.L. cholesterol directly into the body, was shown effective in animals more than a decade ago, but the industry never really pursued it. One reason was that companies saw little economic incentive in using a normal body protein for therapeutic purposes, since it would be hard to gain patent protection. A medicine that could be made and sold by anybody had little potential for profit.”

Derek Lowe:

So, your editorial bungles its key scientific and legal points. Then you follow that up by lecturing academic and industrial researchers who actually know what they’re talking about - here we go: “But the fact that such a promising treatment was widely ignored because there was no immediate profit potential is disturbing. . .This story makes one wonder how many similar gaps exist in the vaunted American research establishment.”

Well, speaking as a member of the vaunted American research establishment, I find it irritating to be harangued by the New York Times about a subject you’ve clearly made little attempt to understand. Spend an hour reading the medical literature before you load up the cannons again - it’ll be worth it, trust me. Fill in your own gaps, and then we’ll talk.

And this was just the last two paragraphs - check out the entire article… :-)

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

UI discussions and a comic strip

check out OK/Cancel
New comics every Friday

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)

McJob - Merriam Webster v/s McD's

Merriam Webster has a web page that lists new words to be included in it’s dictionary.

A few days ago, McJob was included - now it’s gone. Or is it…

Take a look at the source code for the web page and the following line is included surrounded by the comment tags:

< ! - pulled 11/10/03 <p>
<a name="McJob"></a><strong>McJob</strong> .&nbsp;.&nbsp;.&nbsp;.
<em>noun</em> (1986) <strong>:</strong>
a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides 
little opportunity for advancement
- >


Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

Energy Fundamentals

An excellent article (PDF) on Energy Fundamentals by Don Lancaster

Some Hydrogen articles from his website.

His website homepage

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

Enviro-scare tactics - pesticide residue

from Fox News

The New York Times reported this week that “apples, peppers, celery and cherries top a list compiled by an environmental research organization of the 12 fruits and vegetables it considers the most contaminated by pesticides.”

The brief 201-word article is an excellent example of hit-and-run reporting designed to scare rather than inform readers.

The article breezily reported that the Environmental Working Group used government data to “rank pesticide contamination” for 46 fruits and vegetables. “The most-contaminated list also includes imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries” while “the 12 considered least contaminated are asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples and sweet peas,” reported the Times.

The article reported that EWG’s so-called “dirty dozen” list remains the same as their initial list published in 1993, but concluded that “the availability of organic produce (search) has made it easier to avoid most pesticides.”

What is at issue here is that we now have the ability to detect molecular levels of anything. The presence of pesticides is not anything to be scared about if the quantity is small (which it was in these studies - well below any regulatory threshold).

Another thing to be concerned with is that (to quote from the article):

The EWG report was financed by Stonyfield Farm, the largest organic yogurt manufacturer and hardly a disinterested party. Stonyfield markets its products by scaring consumers with labels claiming, “No yucky stuff … standards prohibit the use of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones” and “yogurts made without the use of antibiotics, hormones and toxic pesticides.”


The Times reported that apples, cherries, peaches, raspberries and strawberries were among the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide contamination.

Coincidentally (or not), Stonyfield just happens to offer organic yogurt in these very flavors. How convenient.

Was Stonyfield’s sponsorship and business interest mentioned in the Times article? Of course not.


A detailed overview of the Environmental Working Group can be found at the excellent Consumer Freedom website. Here is their homepage.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

Victor Davis Hanson

Excellent essay regarding Veterans Day

Never Forget

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

resource for tools

was turned onto this place by Kevin Kelly’s website

Posted by Dave Halliday at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

AP list of terror attacks around the world


Notice anything missing??? A specific country perhaps???

Wasn’t Israel having some problems with people blowing themselves up and breaking into houses and shooting mothers and children.

Wouldn’t this imply a really bad case of bias on the part of the Associated Press?

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

Nikon may outsource low-end Digital Cameras

from DigiTimes

Jillian Shih, Taipei; Steve Shen, [Tuesday 11 November 2003]

Nikon plans to introduce low-priced DSC (digital still camera) models in 2004 and does not rule out outsourcing the products to Taiwan’s DSC makers, Shiro Itakura, managing director of Nikon Hong Kong, said in Taipei yesterday.

The expansion of its product lines is a response to the continued growth in global demand for DSCs, Itakura said at a press conference to introduce the company’s latest digital SLR camera, the D2H.

According to Itakura, global demand for DSCs is expanding by 30% annually, but growth in China is more spectacular, rising by 100% a year.

Sales of DSCs in China are expected to reach two million units this year, doubling from about one million in 2002, Itakura said.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

Computer Security

great rant from Ask Tog

regarding computer security:

When I want to register for a new service I try to use one of my usual passwords. Then I get: Password not allowed.

I have a very secure password, and yet I am being forced to use a less secure one!

Alright, I have to think of a simpler only-letter password. Done and registered. For this time, I can use the service. But the next time I surely won’t remember this special password. Then the “Forgotten your password?” cycle starts. That is, if I can remember my account name…


Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

more on TacoGate

a reprint of an article in the November 26, 2000 Washington Post.

The original discovery of StarLink corn in taco shells produced by Kraft Foods was no accident. It was the result of a fishing expedition by a coalition of environmental groups, led by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, that aim to discredit the regulatory system and damage consumer confidence in the biotech industry. These groups, which oppose most modern agricultural methods, hired a testing company to analyze more than two dozen processed foods specifically for traces of StarLink. The taco shells were the only place where they found what they were looking for.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

Food allergies with GM crops

Interesting article from the Center for Global Food issues regarding GM crops and the potential for food allergies.

Gives a rundown of the StarLink corn issue from a few years ago (StarLink was for animal feed but it accidently found its way into tacos).

Allergy risks hit the headlines again in 2000, when traces of StarLink biotech corn were found in a variety of processed American foods. StarLink had been approved for feed use, but not for food, because a potential allergy risk had not been ruled out.

Seventeen consumers claimed they suffered allergy attacks due to StarLink “leaking” into food products. However, tests showed that the Cry9C protein in StarLink was at least 500 times less allergenic than peanut butter. Then, Centers for Disease Control testing found that none of alleged victims had antibodies to the StarLink protein. Whatever attacked the consumers wasn’t StarLink. (Our widely present foodborne bacteria are a far more likely cause.)

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

eVoting error

from the Indianapolis Star

MicroVote software showed 144,000 votes cast. Only problem was that there were fewer than 19,000 registered voters…

I’ll stick with the hanging chad thank you.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

Robot Hall of Fame

check it out

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

Geo. Bush Sr. essay pulled from Time Magazine

thanks to the Memory Hole

On 21 September 2002, The Memory Hole posted an extract from an essay by George Bush Sr. and Brent Scowcroft, in which they explain why they didn’t have the military push into Iraq and topple Saddam during Gulf War 1. Although there are differences between the Iraq situations in 1991 and 2002-3, Bush’s key points apply to both.

But a funny thing happened. Fairly recently, Time pulled the essay off of their site. It used to be at this link, which now gives a 404 error. If you go to the table of contents for the issue in which the essay appeared (2 March 1998), “Why We Didn’t Remove Saddam” is conspicuously absent.

Because of this erasure, we’re posting the entire essay below the portion we originally excerpted. Below that, you’ll find a copy of the actual page from the magazine, courtesy of Bruce Koball and Boing Boing.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

Pacifist Europeans have short memories

by Mark Steyn

The EU has done a grand job of trumpeting its weakness as strength, but the fact remains that there’s something hollow at the heart of European identity. You can’t be a great power without great power: Slobodan Milosevic called the EU’s bluff on that a decade ago.

When you say as much to Euro-grandees, they say, ah, but you wouldn’t understand, here on the Continent we have seen the horrors of war close up, the slaughter of the Somme casts long shadows. I’ll say. In the New Statesman last week, Philip Kerr managed to yoke All Quiet On The Western Front with Joan Baez and John Lennon, and unintentionally underlined just how obsolescent the Sixties folk-protest canon is. Where Have All The Flowers Gone? would have made a great song for the First World War, but not for Afghanistan or Iraq or anything we’re likely to fight in the future.

In our time, mass slaughter occurs only in places where the West refuses to act - in the Sudan or North Korea - or acts only under the contemptible and corrupting rules of UN “peacekeeping”, as at Srebrenica. In Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere, technological advantage changes the moral calculus: it makes war the least worst option, the moral choice. At the 11th hour of the 11th day, we should remember those who died in the Great War, but recognise that it could never be “the war to end all wars” and never should.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

Cox and Forkum

Excellent as always:

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2003

Veeery interesting test

Click on the color of the word, not what the word says.


Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

Microsoft Hit Wizard - R&B Edition

from the Men Without Hats website here

Posted by Dave Halliday at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

BP - Back to Petrolium

Despite billing themselves as Beyond Petrolium and very greeny, BP is actually spinning the issue and is, at heart, a traditional oil company.

From Paul K. Driessen

Yes, BP (formerly British Petroleum) spent some $200 million on its “Great Beyondo” image enhancement campaign. But that’s the same amount it spent over a SIX-year period on the renewable energy technologies that were the centerpiece for its slick marketing ploy. It’s also a measly 0.2% of the $91 billion it spent to buy Arco and Amoco back in the 1990s.

Things really got interesting after BP had milked the renewable energy hype for all it was worth. In February, the company announced it was spending $6.75 billion for a 50% controlling interest in rich Russian oil prospects – and another $20 billion over the next five years exploring these and other new fields. BP was going Back to Petroleum – and hopefully Bigger Profits – after it was forced to lower its oil and gas production estimates three times in 2002; the company’s return on capital sank below that of archrivals ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch/Shell; and investors expressed their displeasure by dumping BP stock

Then in June, CEO Lord John Browne confessed to executives attending the 2003 World Gas Conference that the world won’t really be heading to an alternative energy future for at least 20 more years. Until then, “hydrocarbons will not just remain the most important source of energy – they will actually become more important.”

In fact, continued Browne, all the renewable energy produced across the entire planet, excluding hydroelectric power, “would barely meet” Tokyo’s needs. BP’s own cumulative global wind and solar output, he might have added, is barely enough to keep the lights burning in Boise, Idaho. And a single new 555-megawatt gas-fired generating plant in California produces more electricity in a year than do all the state’s 13,000 wind turbines.
(emphasis mine)

Moreover, the gas-fired plant occupies about ten acres. The giant 200-foot-tall “eco-friendly” windmills dominate half a million once-scenic acres, and kill thousands of raptors and other birds every year. Current photovoltaic technology is just as habitat hungry.

The other issue with photovoltaic is one of extreme pollution. Greenpeace and the other organizations have always gotten down on computer chip makers for the toxic chemicals used in their manufacture. Arsenic and some other really fun stuff. The surface area of chips in the average computer is about the same as a playing card and you are concerned about this but want me to install square yards of the same stuff on my roof?

Posted by Dave Halliday at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

Vietnam and the anti-war protestors responsibilities

Wonderful essay by David Gelertner

We are haunted by the image of Vietnamese who trusted and supported us trying frantically to grab a place on the last outbound helicopter; by Vietnamese putting to sea in rowboats rather than enjoy Uncle Ho’s “Workers’ and Peasants’ Paradise” one more day. We are haunted by the consequences of allowing South Vietnam to collapse. Tens of thousands of executions (maybe 60,000), re-education camps where hundreds of thousands died, a million boat people.

We put them in those rowboats — we antiwar demonstrators, we sophisticated, smart guys. The war was nearly over when I graduated from high school. But high school students were old enough to demonstrate. They were old enough to feel superior to the fools who were running the government. And they were old enough to have known better. They were old enough to have understood what communist regimes had cost the world in suffering, from the prisons of Havana to the death camps of Siberia.

Today we are haunted, in thinking about Iraq, by the fact that a noisy, self-important, narcissistic minority talked the United States into betraying its allies. (Loyalty didn’t mean a lot to antiwar demonstrators; honor didn’t mean a lot.) We betrayed our allies and hurried home, to introspect. They stayed on, to suffer. We were eager to make love, not war, but the South Vietnamese weren’t offered that option. Their alternatives were to knuckle under or die.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

U.N. controlled Internet?

This is a really stupid fuckwitted typical idea from the ever so effective and useful United Nations… ( from the Financial Times )

Poorer nations such as Brazil, India, South Africa, China and Saudi Arabia, as well as some richer ones, are growing dissatisfied with the workings of California-based ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the semi-private internet address regulator set up five years ago.

The critics argue that the internet is a public resource that should be managed by national governments and, at an international level, by an intergovernmental body such as the International Telecommunications Union, the UN agency that is organising the information summit.

However, the US and the European Commission are staunchly defending the Icann model, which is based on minimal regulation and commercial principles. Icann members are predominantly drawn from industrialised countries and the established internet community.

The majority of those nations calling for U.N. regulation are those with egregious security and human rights problems. Nice people…

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

8-in-1 Digital Photo Card to CD Copier

from DP Review

Alera Technologies, developer and manufacturer of Advanced DVD and CD Recording Solutions proudly debuts its new Digital Photo Copy Cruiser that copies digital photos directly from camera memory cards to CD without a computer. The Digital Photo Copy Cruiser is compact and transportable, so you can copy your digital photos to CD instantly wherever you are, for quick distribution and your memory cards can be easily cleared for reuse.

This has a very high geek factor. There are digital wallets out there but they are in the $450 price range and are limited to 20-40GB capacity. This unit lists for $299 and uses blank CD-ROM disks so you never run out of capacity. It also functions as a stand-alone USB-2 CD burner.

Cool stuff!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

25 simple things you can do...

…to get the word out about your Independent Project

1. Develop a plan

Whatever your project is, whether it’s a zine, a book, an album or a movie, your main goal, after completing that project, is to get the word out. Promotion. Marketing. Sales. Even if you’ve got the most amazing, one-of-a-kind, stop the presses kind of project, if you don’t plan a strategic marketing campaign, and work your plan, then no one outside of your circle of friends and family is going to hear about it.

Good stuff regardless of what kind of project - music, print, business venture.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

Ten most overpaid jobs in the U.S.

from CBS Marketwatch

What follows is a list of the 10 most overpaid jobs in the U.S., in reverse order, drafted with input from compensation experts:

10) Wedding photographers
9) Pilots for major airlines
8) West Coast longshoremen
7) Airport skycaps
6) Real estate agents selling high-end homes
5) Motivational speakers and ex-politicians on the lecture circuit
4) Orthodontists
3) CEOs of poorly performing companies
2) Washed-up pro athletes in long-term contracts
1) Mutual-fund managers

Interesting - some of these surprised me. The article goes into more detail.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

Dr. John Gray's PhD came from a diploma-mill

from Rick Ross' excellent CultNews site:

The relationship guru who constantly promotes himself as "Dr. John Gray" and lists a "Ph.D." has only one accredited degree, a high school diploma.

Previously reported that Gray's doctorate is "worthless." According to California's attorney general a "diploma mill" that was later shut down issued it.

CultNews kept checking further and can now report that both of John Gray's other purported degrees are also unaccredited and essentially worthless too.

Neither his BA nor his MA is from an accredited institution of higher education.


Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

A breakfast lesson in the art of friendship, Prodi-style

from the U.K. Telegraph

It was left to the head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, to get to the key point.

Mr Ailes was taken with Mr Prodi's declaration that the EU would not give any money to the reconstruction of Iraq. "Did the Europeans realise," he asked, "that American taxpayers spent billions reconstructing Europe?" "They did," replied Mr Prodi expansively, "but friends could differ."

"Did the Europeans realise," continued Ailes, unabashed, "that their position in supporting the elimination of sanctions against Saddam when he was in power and refusing to aid rebuilding Iraq when he was gone, appeared 'odd'?"

Mr Prodi's English became more Italianate and his arm gestures more expansive. He appeared to be conducting Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries . It was not the case that the EU did not want to help reconstruction, he said, but there was no legitimate government in Iraq to which the EU could give any money.

Ailes continued: "The United States has some reservations about organisations the EU gives money to as well as regimes it supports. In Iraq we are trying to build a new government with some democratic standards. Why won't you help us?" he asked. "No, no, no," Prodi said theatrically. "We will not give money when we don't know to whom." Which of course explained the hundreds of millions given to the Palestinian Authority by the EU. They must have known it would end up in Mr Arafat's Swiss bank account. I had fleeting visions of jolly African dictators cashing their Euro-cheques.

One sympathises with Mr Prodi. If you have the dual goal of acting against the US while maintaining the image of acting in friendship, one's charms get stretched. The problem is the way that the EU developed and is continuing to develop. Now it stands for Western values in name only. In substance, it stands for accommodation with those forces of the world that are the opposite of such values.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)

Lost radioactive materials - dirty bomb

from Salon

Nov. 10, 2003 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal investigators have documented 1,300 cases of lost, stolen or abandoned radioactive material inside the United States over the past five years and have concluded there is a significant risk that terrorists could cobble enough together for a dirty bomb.

Studies by the Energy Department's Los Alamos laboratory and the General Accounting Office found significant holes in the nation's security net that could take years to close, even after improvements by regulators since Sept. 11, 2001.

"The world of radiological sources developed prior to recent concerns about terrorism, and many of the sources are either unsecured or provided, at best, with an industrial level of security," the Los Alamos lab concluded two months ago in a report that was reviewed by The Associated Press.

Scary stuff...

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

Pollutants from Shipping

article in Nature

Each year tankers, container ships and trawlers emit a quantity of nitrogen oxides (NOx) similar to that released by the entire United States, the study finds1. "A single industry's emissions rival an entire nation," says marine-policy researcher James Corbett of the University of Delaware in Newark.

Nitrogen oxides are potent pollutants. Produced in large amounts by ships' burning of heavy diesel fuel, called bunker, they can release complex cocktails of reactive gases, such as ozone, into the atmosphere.

Bunker fuel is nasty stuff - consistancy of tar. It has to be kept hot in order for it to flow.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

Penn State and RIAA

from The Register

Last week, it was announced that Penn State University was paying for a Napster subscription for each student to they could download "free" music into their computers.

Now it turns out that there was a big political element behind this decision:

For those keeping a close eye on the music download service scene, we'd like to introduce you to Barry K. Robinson.

Robinson sits on Penn State University's Board of Trustees, and, as it turns out, serves as senior counsel for none other than the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This is a handy coincidence. You might recall that Penn State announced a deal last week to subsidize the Napster music service and give all of its students free music downloads.

more here:

Penn State's deep ties to the RIAA are intriguing. Along with Robinson, the school's President Graham Spanier serves as co-chair of the Committee on Higher Education and the Entertainment Industry with Cary Sherman who is President of the RIAA.

The money comes out of the student's IT fees - you cannot save the songs (an additional $0.99/song fee is needed for this) and the music goes away from your system if you disconnect the computer from the Penn State network. Plus, it only runs on Windows.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

Vegetarinism is good for you?

Two interesting reports regarding vegetarianism and health:

from the U.K. Independent

Vegan and macrobiotic diets have led to the return of rickets in Britain, according to experts. They say cases among children are rising, more than 50 years after the disease was virtually eradicated by better health and nutrition.

Please note - this is a summary since the article is more than one-week old.

and a bit of interesting news from Prevention

Vitamin B12 deficiency
A new German study found B12 levels low enough to cause attention, mood, and thinking problems in a whopping 68% of vegetarians, and low enough to raise blood homocysteine--a risk factor for heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's--in 38%. Remedy: a daily multivitamin with 100% of the daily value for B12 (6 micrograms).

The article doesn't provide a link to the German study but this is of interest...

You are what you eat.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

GM foods - the Rat and the Potato

from the Life Sciences Network
(my emphasis)

Witch-hunts usually target people, Lance Kennedy writes. But in recent years one of the most successful witch-hunts targeted an innocent technology.

It all began in 1997 with a piece of incredibly shoddy science. A researcher fed raw genetically modified potatoes to lab rats and notice they became sick. He passed the results on to the world¹s media and what followed was a frenzy with Armageddon-like declarations. On the back of this free publicity the anti-GM lobby launched their crusade.

Six months later two findings were ignored. The first was that the GM potatoes were harmless. All raw potatoes, GM or not, are toxic to rats.

The second was that an anti-GM crusade was an ideal way to arouse public fear and paranoia. Membership in anti-GM lobby groups was up and so was fund raising.

Some of the larger groups, over six years, increased their earnings from under $50 million to over $150 million US per year. Anti-GM hysteria was very profitable. These groups had vast amounts of money under their control and that meant increased power.

Even when the scientific claims that launched the crusade were found lacking the campaigns continued. Today they rely upon lies, wild speculation and emotionalistic propaganda. If we discard the red herrings that are thrown out we are left with two important issues surrounding the use of genetically modified crops and foods.

The first question: Is it safe?
The second: Is it useful?

For all government approved GM crops and foods the safety issue is clear. They are totally safe. The list of scientific, extra-governmental bodies that have researched and approved GM foods is almost endless: the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations Food Program, the British Royal Society, the French Academy of Science and Medicine and many more.

When it comes to safety GM foods are the most studied foods we eat. Just in the United States alone each GM crop or food undergoes about 1,000 laboratory and field tests.

So far over 2 billion people have eaten GM foods for over a decade and there is not one single scientifically confirmed case of any harm, no matter how slight, arising from the genetic modification of these foods.

Are they useful? Absolutely.

GM sweet potatoes in Africa are immune to a devastating disease that often kills 100 percent of vital food crops. The inventor, Dr. Florence Wambugu says this will feed an extra ten million starving Africans. The most used GM crop is a herbicide resistant soya bean. Using it allows no-till agriculture that saves one billion tonnes of topsoil from erosion each year in the United States alone.

GM corn is cultivated without the use insecticides and reduces the amount of toxic pesticides by 5,000 tonnes per year. That figure is increasing.

Golden rice is a GM variety with extra vitamin A. It has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of children from going blind.

Anti-GM witch-hunters are causing enormous human suffering.

In Zambia, where 3 million people are starving, the United States offered food aid in the form of corn that contained some GM varieties. Americans have been eaten those varieties for years with no harm. But the anti-GM lobby got to the Zambian government with a staggering lie: GM corn is toxic.

In the Philippines 30 percent of children suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Golden rice, which was to be released there, was stopped by anti-GM lobbyists. They claimed it could cause impotency or make one¹s hair fall out.

Greenpeace was especially vitriolic in it¹s attack. Some proponents suspect this is because Golden rice is especially useful and if it were seen to have dramatic benefits it would undermine the entire anti-GM crusade.

What of the future?

Experience with past witch-hunts suggests that hysteria eventually reaches a peak. And it appears the hysteria against GM is peaking. From now on we can expect to see the rational elements growing stronger till the anti-GM lobby is discredited. Apart from a few die-hards the campaign will cease.

Much damage has already been done and the lives of thousands have been lost by these ill advised attacks. But again if history is an indication the witch-hunters will simply move on to new hysteria. Already some of the anti-GM crowd are gearing up to launch a campaign to oppose the fledgling science of nanotechnology. Nonsense never ends.

Lance Kennedy, B.Sc., is the author of the recently published book Ecomyth. This opinion piece is provided as a public service by the Institute for Liberal Values. For more information contact

10 November 2003

All raw potatoes are toxic to rats - you think that this would have caused the anti-GM foods people to re-evaluate their position but no... They keep on rollin' along.

Science is all about re-evaluating your ideas in the light of new data.
The anti-GM people are running a political campaign based on hysteria and false information. They are not based on science.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

Aussie Greens want gvt to pay for sex change surgery...

from the Australian Herald Sun newspaper:

THE Australian Greens have demanded that taxpayers fund sex-change operations under Medicare.

Senator Kerry Nettle is pushing for sex change surgery to be included in the Federal Government's $917 million Medicare package.
The Greens want voters with alternative sexual preferences to get access to Medicare in both the public and private health systems under their Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex policy package.

Health Minister Tony Abbott has written off negotiations with the Greens and instead opened the door to discussions with the Australian Democrats.

Under current laws, recipients of sex change operations are eligible for a 20 per cent tax break if costs exceed $1500 a year.


Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

Earth to California: thank environmentalism for your wildfires

Interesting commentary from Robert Bidinotto

The first spark of the California fire season ignited unseen, 'way back in 1988, when its kangaroo rat was declared an "endangered species." Since then, compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 has forced California communities, and countless more across the nation, to develop species and habitat "conservation plans" that severely limit human activities in "protected" areas.

"Protected," that is, from everything except wildfires--especially on the vast tracts of government lands and forests in the West. "Species protections" and "wilderness" designations have erected formidable legal barriers to common-sense forestry management measures such as cutting new roads through forests for fire-fighting equipment, bulldozing "firebreaks," and clearing away dead branches, underbrush, and sage scrub--fuels which send fires leaping to the crowns of trees and raging out of control.

The General Accounting Office warned in 1999 of the dangerous accumulation of fuel, but environmentalist pressures continued to prevent humans from managing environments that greens preferred to keep "pristine." In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Robert H. Nelson surveyed the resulting damages and body counts. In 2000, 8.4 million acres went up in smoke. In 2002, 6.9 million more acres were reduced to ashes, as were 800 homes, in firestorms that also took the lives of 23 more firefighters, and cost $1.7 billion. Now, three-quarters of a million acres of California are gone, and with them, over 3,500 homes, $2 billion, and 22 more human lives. And all this doesn't count the impact on critters, either. These conflagrations destroyed many of the very "endangered species" and habitats that environments claimed they wish to protect.

He gives a bunch of links to back up his ideas - well worth thinking about...

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

Nanoparticles clearly finger the culprit

from the New Scientist

Oil-seeking nanoparticles could give police the clearest fingerprints yet, suggests new research.

Law enforcement officers currently search for prints by dusting a crime scene with fluorescent powder. This sticks to the oily residue left by the fingertip, showing up the whorls and ridges. But sometimes the prints are not clear enough to finger a suspect.

The new dust made of sticky nanoparticles could help. The powders used today work because oily prints have a natural tackiness. But the nanoparticle dust being developed at the University of Sunderland in the UK will actively seek out any oil.

The nanoparticles are tiny glass spheres between 200 and 600 nanometres in diameter. As well as being speckled with a fluorescent dye, they are coated with hydrophobic molecules, which are repelled by water and attracted to oil. So they fix tightly to the fingerprint.

Cool use of technology!

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

Toxic US ghost ships should 'go home'

from the New Scientist

Four toxic US "ghost" ships, which have been legally barred from being dismantled in a UK port, should return home says the UK government.

However, UK authorities acknowledge the vessels may not be able to safely traverse the Atlantic during the winter. If this is the case a "safe and environmentally sound storage" must be found for the antiquated vessels.


However, the company's waste management licence to dispose of the ships has been ruled invalid. Furthermore, even if they do dock, an injunction against any work other than safety work being carried was granted by the High Court to three Hartlepool residents and FoE on Wednesday.

The dilapidated vessels, which have languished in the James River, Virginia for decades, hold hundreds of tons of asbestos, oil and the gender-bending chemicals PCBs. Bringing them to the UK is "extremely hazardous and poses serious pollution threat" says FoE.

So basically, the U.K. company won the bid to disassemble the ships and remediate the toxins but three people (and Freinds of the Earth) won an injunction to stop this. Now, the ships will be sitting at anchor off the U.K. coast until something breaks...

Posted by Dave Halliday at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines

from Jakob Nielsen

Summary: There are ten usability mistakes that about two-thirds of corporate websites make. The prevalence of these errors alone warrants attention, especially since they appear on sites with significant investment in usable design.
I typically focus my top-ten lists on issues that I think are the most important and most in need of attention. This time, I've used a different criterion: I've focused on the known usability principles that designers most frequently violate. Whether big or small, the very prevalence of these usability problems makes them worthy of attention.

The frequency statistics are based on the numerous homepage reviews that my company has performed since I published my book on homepage usability. This data source introduces a bias, because only big companies or government agencies with a substantial usability commitment will invest $10,000 to have an independent expert assess its homepage design. However, we can turn that bug into a feature: if companies with a demonstrated commitment to usability make certain mistakes, they must be particularly slippery pitfalls.

For each of the ten most frequent mistakes, I state the deplorably low percentage of homepages that follow the guideline. I've sorted the list by compliance rate: number one is the guideline that the fewest sites follow (that is, the mistake that's made most often).

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

Chess match in VR

from Wired

While Neo slugs it out with Agent Smith on the silver screen, chess champ Garry Kasparov is about to face off against a different -- but no less formidable -- computer adversary in New York this week.

In what's becoming an annual tradition, Kasparov will take on the world's best chess-playing computer program, ChessBase's Fritz, for a $200,000 purse.

The four-game match, running from Nov. 11 to 18 at New York's Athletic Club, is once again billed as "Man versus Machine," but with an added twist.

The match is the "first official world chess championship in total virtual reality," proclaims organizer X3D in the best carnival-barker tradition. "A chess spectacle like none ever seen before."

Playing a special version of Fritz, which has been given a 3-D interface, Kasparov will sit in front of a monitor wearing a pair of 3-D glasses. The board will appear to float in front of Kasparov's face. Keeping it virtual, Kasparov will use voice commands to stop the clock and move his pieces.

Despite the 3-D gimmick, the tournament is a serious test of the state of computer chess, said Mig Greengard, a chess writer and one of the tournament's commentators.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

Goose Creek incident

Glen Reynolds has a good writeup on the Goose Creek Incident


On Friday, police in Goose Creek, South Carolina raided Stratford High School in search of drugs. At the behest of Principal George McCrackin, they burst in, and forced students to lie face-down in the hallways while they menaced them with drawn guns. (You can see the video here.)

The security overkill led to considerable humiliation for the police and principal — though not nearly as much as they deserve — when no drugs were found, and when footage from the dozens of security cameras in the high school made the news, offering graphic evidence that the Goose Creek police were acting like thugs. Parents, not suprisingly, are “infuriated.”

Principal McCrackin would seem to be this year’s poster-boy for home schooling. With an Orwellian network of video surveillance (if you play the news video linked above, you can see him sitting in front of a bank of TV screens), with “confidential informants” among the students, and with a police force willing to raid a high school as if it were a nest of terrorists, he still couldn’t find the drugs. If, indeed, there were any drugs to begin with. Why would anyone pay taxes to support this sort of expensive and nasty foolishness? A lot of Goose Creek residents may ask themselves that very question.


Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)

Uganda conflict 'worse than Iraq'

from the BBC

The humanitarian situation in northern Uganda is worse than in Iraq, or anywhere else in the world, a senior United Nations official has said. UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland was speaking to the BBC after visiting the area affected by 18 years of civil war.

"It is a moral outrage" that the world is doing so little for the victims of the war, especially children, he said.

And the U.N. is doing exactly what to help this situation?



Posted by Dave Halliday at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

EU scores steel victory over US

from the BBC

Steel tariffs have raised costs for US industry

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has confirmed that US tariffs on steel imports are illegal.

The WTO's announcement is a victory for the European Union (EU), and puts fresh pressure on Washington to withdraw import duties on steel.

The WTO appellate body upheld the decision of a panel of trade judges that the tariffs were not consistent with international trade rules.

The US said it "disagrees" with the ruling and would review the decision.

The trade organisation said the US measures were "inconsistent" with free trade agreements.

We hope that President Bush will act quickly to remove the... restrictions, so that we can get on with supplying our US customers on a fair and equitable basis

Spokesman for Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus

It said: " The appellate body recommends ... the United States to bring its safeguard measures, ... into conformity with its obligations under WTO rules", the 186-page ruling said.

The EU, whose steel industry has undergone a painful reorganisation, had joined forces with Brazil, Japan, and other exporters to complain to the WTO about the US tariffs, imposed 21 months ago.

The European Commission has drawn up a hit list of US imports worth about $2.2bn a year - including Harley Davidson motorcycles, citrus fruits and textiles - which will be targeted with retaliatory sanctions.

Riiight - they are going to gripe about our tarrifs on steel and turn around and impose tarrifs on our stuff... That's going to go over really really well.

Note that this is the EU - "New" European countries who aren't in the EU are doing just fine and don't need this level of protectionism.

Posted by Dave Halliday at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)