Archive for May, 2005

The Tasmanian Devil, that is. Susan, my mother-in-law, sent me this very sad story (NY Times) about a mysterious form of cancer that’s killing off the Tasmanian Devil. And doing it in a gruesome and terrible way.

Making the problem worse is a lack of genetic diversity among the Devil population. Add that to the animal’s unique physiology and the lack of information about treating them, and the scientists are starting at a disadvantage. Left to progress this disease could wipe them out, and that would be terrible.

Susan also noted that cloned animals might have this same sort of problem, and that’s a good point.

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Memorial Day

The Gettysburg Address

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

You can view a draft copy of the Gettysburg Address at the National Archives

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Koran Abuse

This analysis of recent Koran abuse stories by blogger Blackavar is a good reminder of why the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

Particularly when the folks flinging around allegations have every reason to lie, no consequences for doing so, and lots of people on the outside willing to uncritically report everything they say.

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Wired News has a short essay about how people saved their lives on 9/11 by ignoring authority. They survived by discarding the safety advice and training they’d been given and acting on their own initiative. I’m not surprised. People really aren’t stupid, and I don’t think people in emergency situations panic nearly as often as we’ve been led to expect. And, as they point out, the people in the buildings with cell phones were better informed than the dispatchers in the 911 call centers.

One example the article gives is using elevators vs. stairs to evacuate the towers. The usual advice is to take the stairs, and for able individuals in smaller structures this probably is a reasonable precaution. But for the WTC buildings this advice didn’t make much sense. There were too many floors, too many injured people, and too much smoke and confusion. Some people who were on elevators at the time of the attacks undoubtedly died, but the working elevators kept working long enough that many people were able to use them to get out quickly. While hundreds of others who did as they were told were stuck in stairwells when the buildings collapsed.

I’ve seen a lot of buildings with signs that warn that "Elevators will automatically be disabled in the event of a fire". I think that’s a serious mistake. If an elevator is damaged badly enough to be riskier than the fire then it should shut itself down, but shutting down all elevators everywhere in the building whenever a fire alarm sounds seems more like legalistic CYA than an intelligent evacuation plan. Is it risky to use an elevator to evacuate a burning building? Probably. But being in a burning building is already pretty risky, and the person best able to evaluate the sitation is the person who’s there.

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Once upon a time there was an obscure TV series from the 1970’s called Salvage-1. The plot of the TV movie that started it all had Andy Griffith’s character building a nifty rocket from materials found in a junkyard. They then staged a lunar mission to salvage the Apollo equipment NASA left behind on the moon. The series that followed had his team of experts doing all sorts of challenging but improbable salvage operations.

The original series isn’t available on DVD but, seriously, I think Salvage-1 would be a good candiate for a modern remake. Especially considering we have shows devoted to building cool things from junk, and even real live private spacecraft. That’s pretty cool, even if they aren’t moon rockets powered by magical fuels and piloted by Andy Griffith.

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This cool graffiti archaeology site is a very clever use of a Flash interface.

It shows the progression of graffiti on various buildings and locations in San Francisco. You can view the same locations/structures and go back or forward to pictures taken at different times, from back in 1998 until the present, and see the various layers of tags and artwork that have come and gone over the years. The photos are resized and perspective corrected so that they overlap the same areas and give a more seamless presentation. Neat, and it makes graffiti more interesting than I thought it could be. I’d like to see the same presentation applied to other topics too.

Lascaux, by the way, is a cave in France famous for the incredibly detailed cave paintings of animals and symbols. Very early graffiti. 🙂

I came across this site via this photo on flickr, which shows one of the railway tunnels featured on the site.

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Wow, someone on AtariAge posted a link to this gallery at Coin-Op Warehouse, in Hagerstown, Maryland. They have an amazing collection of arcade games, pinball machines, and jukeboxes. I don’t know much about jukeboxes, but this one looks like something from George Jetson’s house.

I do know a bit about arcade games. Here’s a scarce Baby Pacman pinball/arcade hybrid, a bunch of miscellaneous early Bronze Age arcade games, and a ton (literally) of Pac-Man cabinets. Lots of rare and uncommon games in what look to be decent condition. Very impressive.

If I ever happen to be in Hagerstown with some time to spare I might have to stop by this place. Not that I’d have the room or the dollars to take anything home, but I can dream, can’t I?

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The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster.

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James "Jimmy ‘me boy!" Lileks has some thoughts today on the last episode of Enterprise, and on Trek in general. A loving tribute, as usual.

With the end of Enterprise it’s been announced that the franchise will be taking a hiatus for a while. That means no new series for at least a year or two. I’ve watched every episode of the original series more times than I can remembr, and then every new series since.  and it’ll be strange not to tune in to a new Star Trek episode every week.

Ah, well. I just downloaded a complete set of the Animated Series, and there are plenty of episodes in syndication to satisfy my urge to Boldly Go. I’ll live. And unlike Chekov, I’ll even enjoy it.

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News Weak

Newsweek runs a poorly sourced and badly researched story of dubious value. Story sparks riots and recriminations, including 15 deaths. Newsweek says "Our mistake, nevermind" and issues the weakest apology I’ve ever seen:

The Press’ Abu Ghraib: Newsweek Apologizes, After 15 People Are Dead.

Thus proving, once again, that far too many of today’s journalists are more interested in shock value and political expediency than accuracy. And not interested at all in the consequences of their reckless and shoddy reporting. I have a current Newsweek subscription that I got for free somewhere. I think it’s  time to cancel it.

More background from Insty.

And yes, it is pretty scary that Muslims (or anyone else) would kill and riot in the streets over someone descrating the Koran. But I suspect that it was, as usual with these things, an cynically opportunistic response by ever-scheming clerics looking to shore up their own power with some deadly rabble-rousing.

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