August 2008 Archives

Items of Interest

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-- This is totally random video of some guy who decided to see how close he could get to the DNC convention in the Pepsi Center in Denver riding his Segway. It does show a lot of the street closure around the center for security purposes and there appears to be a lot.

-- More from The Uptake website. The video quality is horrible but the interview itself is interesting. The reporter talks with Mavis Leno, Jay's wife, who's active in the Feminist Majority organization, about Hillary's speech. Short version, she really liked it and she's really enthused.


-- Wondering what to wear while you're canvassing or have a party to go to after you get done volunteering on the Obama campaign?

Sparkle-Plenty has just the thing for you. Order the shirt style of your preference decorated with Obama art in Swarovski crystals. And it's on sale now!

Ready for the convention

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This may tell you a little bit about my priorities. We had free tickets to go to the Mets game tonight. I didn't remember that Michelle Obama would be speaking when I said, "Sure I'll go to the game." Of course, I would be going for the people watching aspect of the game. (I don't care what my husband says. Baseball is boring.) But luckily my daughter came to the rescue and found a friend of hers who would appreciate the ticket much more than I would. So I get to stay home and watch the convention without familial interruption.

I chatted with my friend, Madame Defarge, online today and it turns out that she made it to Springfield on Saturday and sent me some pictures of the event to post.

The main event:




A t-shirt she saw that she really liked:


Madame and Mademoiselle Defarge at the Obama-Biden rally:


She said it was a great day though it was hot. She lamented all the tall people around her when she was trying to take pictures.

Mystic Seaport

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It was a gorgeous day today in Connecticut and we spent it at the Mystic Seaport. And as an added bonus, the Antique Model Yacht Regatta was underway.

Watch the full-size slide show here for better quality images.

My favorite from the Beijing Olympics

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Yep, it's Michael Phelps mom, Debbie Phelps. The image of her staring at the scoreboard after Michael's so-close, win-by-a-fingertip race still hasn't left my mind. But what made me appreciate her more was a couple articles I read about her before the Olympics started - one in the Boston Globe and one in the NY Times.

But if you really want to know about Debbie and her famous son, you'll need to spend some time with Michael Sokolove's 2004 NY Times Magazine article, published shortly before Michael's appearance in the Athens Olympics. It's long but it's good.

Grandpa and 'Barbie' fishing rod land a record catfish

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What grandpas won't do for their granddaughters. This one is just so cute. 3-year-old granddaughter talked grandpa into taking her fishing and then handed off her short pink Barbie fishing rod when she had to run inside and use the bathroom.

Twenty-five minutes later and after granddaughter's anguish that grandpa was going to break her fishing pole, grandpa caught a record-breaking catfish. McClatchy has all the details. But the Greensboro News Record has the best picture.

It's Michael Phelps

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Or not. Poor guy. It's hilarious. [via]

Rare Video: Barack Obama Circa 1995

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Blogger Existenz at OldManMcCain blog has uncovered video of a 1995 interview that Barack Obama did right after his book, Dreams from My Father, was first published. As Sully notes, he has the calm, steady, polished under pressure approach even as a younger man.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Being Green means Wine in a Box

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It seems that Italy has announced that some wines granted the government's quality assurance label may now be sold in boxes as well. The NYT op-ed goes onto point out just how much carbon footprint is reduced by selling wine in a box vs. a bottle. In the US, it's a significant reduction when you add up all the consumption we do.

But now that wine producers are talking about reducing their carbon footprint -- that is, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the transportation of wine -- selling the beverage in alternative, lighter packaging instead of heavier glass seems like the right thing to do.

More than 90 percent of American wine production occurs on the West Coast, but because the majority of consumers live east of the Mississippi, a large part of carbon-dioxide emissions associated with wine comes from simply trucking it from the vineyard to tables on the East Coast. A standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters of wine and generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when it travels from a vineyard in California to a store in New York. A 3-liter box generates about half the emissions per 750 milliliters. Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars.

But here's another reason to sell wine in a box. America will soon become the largest wine market in the world. In recent years, we overtook Italy, and France is now in our sights. (This is total consumption, not per person; we are still well behind by the latter measure.)

...boxes are perfect for table wines that don't need to age, which is to say, all but a relative handful of the top wines from around the world. What's more, boxed wine is superior to glass bottle storage in resolving that age-old problem of not being able to finish a bottle in one sitting. Once open, a box preserves wine for about four weeks compared with only a day or two for a bottle. Boxed wine may be short on charm, but it is long on practicality. [...]

The main obstacle to a smaller carbon footprint for wine is the frequently abysmal quality of wine put in boxes. But that's an easy fix: raise the quality.

In the past few years, the boxed wine sold in America has shown some signs of improvement. There's been wine in a stylish cardboard tube made by a top winemaker in Burgundy. There's a good, old-vine grenache from the Pyrenees sold in a box. A succulent unoaked malbec from organically grown grapes in Argentina is now available in the United States thanks to the 1-liter TetraPak, which is also being used by three renegade Californians who have a line of wines that are sold in 250-milliliter packages -- about the size of juice boxes, but without straws. And then, of course, there's the news from Italy.

So keep your eyes peeled when you go to the local wine shop and see what they offer in the way of boxed wines. Could save you a few dollars and reduce your carbon footprint too. Such a deal.

Overweight and Fit vs. Skinny and Unfit

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This is nice to hear. Actually, I knew it already since I'm in the one third group.

Weight as Main Measure of Health May Be Misguided

Last week a report in The Archives of Internal Medicine compared weight and cardiovascular risk factors among a representative sample of more than 5,400 adults. The data suggest that half of overweight people and one-third of obese people are "metabolically healthy." That means that despite their excess pounds, many overweight and obese adults have healthy levels of "good" cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other risks for heart disease.

At the same time, about one out of four slim people -- those who fall into the "healthy" weight range -- actually have at least two cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with obesity, the study showed.

I can recall doing one of those pinprick cholesterol tests at the Y in the early 80's and having the machine error out because my combined cholesterol level was less than 100 and it wasn't calibrated to measure less than that. It's a little higher now. Over the past 20-25 years it's ranged from 110 to 134. What's been funny has been the doctors' reactions when they get the results. They always seem a little surprised that someone who's overweight (and I am) has a cholesterol level in such good shape. And yes, my "good" cholesterol level is just great ... at least per the last doctor to be "surprised" a couple months ago.

Jack Cafferty for breakfast, BOPM style

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Jack Cafferty has done some blistering commentary on John McCain lately and Bill in Portland Maine serves it up for breakfast today in style in his daily front-page post, Cheers & Jeers.

Breakfast...served up by Jack Cafferty on a silver platter (See also czardingus's diary. And then remind me again why Obama's surrogates rarely speak this plainly.)

Start with a juicy melon wedge:

It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries.

Some toast with jam (blueberry's my favorite):

Asked about his greatest moral failure, he cited his first marriage, which ended in divorce. While saying it was his greatest moral failing, he offered nothing in the way of explanation. Why not?

Eggs Benedict:

He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich. One after another, McCain's answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has---virtually none.

Home fries:

He no longer allows reporters unfettered access to him aboard the "Straight Talk Express" for a reason. He simply makes too many mistakes. Unless he's reciting talking points or reading from notes or a TelePrompTer, John McCain is lost.

And a fresh cup of coffee:

Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been. I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him.

Urp! When's lunch?

Items of Interest

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-- Ohhh, The Onion is keeping its writers busy: Obama's Hillbilly Half-brother, Cooter Obama. [via]

-- I've always liked Ernest Borgnine though I didn't realize he was still around till I saw this item. Still haven't figured out what he whispered to Steve Doocy.

-- From the Billings Gazette, via dkos, what a bear really does in the woods. "One of [the USGS] cameras caught amazing video of a wolf interacting with a sow and two cubs. The wolf and the cubs appear to want to play, though mama isn't too keen on the idea."

Pentagon's Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission

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No cars in Manhattan

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They had fun in the street on Saturday in Manhattan. [via]

Items of Interest

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-- Good for a smile, even a chuckle. Opus of Bloom County gets it right. H/T to Sully.

-- webranding shares the story of his grandfather, a hometown doctor not seen these days.

-- This is sad. Imagine being selected to sing because you had the most perfect voice for the children's song and then rejected because you didn't project the right image according to some old male party official. Well, Yang Peiyi doesn't have to imagine it because that's what happened to her. From the Vancouver Sun:


Agence France-Presse revealed Tuesday that the darling little girl in a red dress who charmed the audience by singing "Ode to the Motherland" - a hymn of the revolution - during the ceremony wasn't singing at all.

Lin Miaoke was lip-synching to the voice of seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, who was rejected by a senior member of the Communist Party's politburo at a rehearsal because she had a chubby face and crooked teeth.

"He told us there was a problem, that we needed to fix it, so we did," said the ceremony's musical director, well-known contemporary composer Chen Qigang, in an interview with a state broadcaster that aired Tuesday.

AFP reported that the interview with Chen appeared briefly on the news website before it was apparently wiped from the Internet in China.

"Little Yang Peiyi's failure to be selected was mainly because of her appearance," were among the Chen comments that were made to disappear. "The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression. Lin Miaoke is excellent in those aspects. But in terms of voice, Yang Peiyi is perfect, each member of our team agreed."

It was beautiful... both the children and the song:

-- Walmart strikes again. From The Consumerist:

If you combine a mindless and petty tyrant with Walmart's draconian photo rights policies, you get a story like the one Boingboing reported today, where a woman in Florida was told she couldn't scan an 80-year-old portrait of her dead grandmother, because its copyright is surely held by the studio that took it--and copyrights last forever.

If you're going to scan old photos at Walmart, you may want to brush up on copyright basics, since clearly Walmart isn't bothering to train its employees.

-- Lightning in super-slo-mo: [via]

Following all the links backwards from one blog to another reveals that it is a clip from the BBC series The Power of the Planet

HPV vaccination misinformation and bias in Medscape

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Lindsey Beyerstein pointed out this post from the blog Science-Based Medicine at Majikthise.

David Gorski catches Medscape recycling pseudoscience about the HPV vaccine Gardasil and does a characteristically thorough job of debunking these claims.

I clicked through and yes, it's thorough and interesting and written so that a non-health scientist can understand it. It just underscores how careful you must be in evaluating the sources from which you obtain health-related information and what biases they apply to the information they supply.

I skimmed through some of the more recent posts. Some challenging reading but it looks like a good place to watch for the debunking of fraudulent health news. And it includes a post made 3 days later noting that Medscape has pulled the offending article. I'd still recommend reading his evaluation just to get his take on the vaccine - anti-vaccine arguments and what has valid weight.

Staying cool, baby moose style

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-- Staying cool -- playing in the sprinkler just like human kids:

H/T to one of Sully's mental health breaks

Items of Interest

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-- For those who are into maps, here's a really cool new one that's being developed. A digital geological map of the globe.


TreeHugger has more details.

-- From The Economist via Sully, "Religious diversity may be caused by disease". It's not quite as far-fetched as it sounds.

Mr Fincher and his colleague Randy Thornhill wondered if disease might be driving important aspects of human social behaviour, too. Their hypothesis is that in places where disease is rampant, it behoves groups not to mix with one another more than is strictly necessary, in order to reduce the risk of contagion. They therefore predict that patterns of behaviour which promote group exclusivity will be stronger in disease-ridden areas. Since religious differences are certainly in that category, they specifically predict that the number of different religions in a place will vary with the disease load. Which is, as they report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the case.

Proving the point involved collating a lot of previous research. Even defining what constitutes a religion is fraught with difficulty. But using accepted definitions of uniqueness, exclusivity, autonomy and superiority to other religions they calculated that the average number of religions per country is 31. The range, though, is enormous--from 3 to 643. Côte d'Ivoire, for example, has 76 while Norway has 13, and Brazil has 159 while Canada has 15. They then did the same thing for the number of parasitic diseases found in each country. The average here was 200, with a range from 178 to 248.

Obviously, some of the differences between countries are caused by differences in their areas and populations. But these can be accounted for statistically. When they have been, the correlation between the number of religions in a place and how disease-ridden it is looks impressive. There is less than one chance in 10,000 that it has come about accidentally.

The two researchers also looked at anthropological data on how much people in "traditional" (ie, non-urban) societies move around in different parts of the world. They found that in more religiously diverse (and more disease-ridden) places people move shorter distances than in healthier, religiously monotonous societies. The implication is that religious diversity causes people to keep themselves to themselves, and thus makes it harder for them to catch germs from infidels.

Of course, correlation is not causation. But religion is not the only cultural phenomenon that stops groups of people from mixing. Language has the same effect, and in another, as yet unpublished study Mr Fincher and Dr Thornhill found a similar relationship there too. Moreover, their search of the literature turned up work which suggests that xenophobia is linked psychologically with fear of disease (the dirty foreigner...). Perhaps, then, the underlying reason why there is so much hostility between ethnic groups is nothing to do with the groups themselves, but instead with the diseases they may bring.

Hmmm ... a biological excuse for xenophobia. Just what we need. ... Not.

Music In Memoriam: One year ago today

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Otteray Scribe has written a diary in memoriam of the first anniversary of his son's death while serving in the US armed forces. He describes the service that they held to honor their son in the National Cemetery and the music that they chose and why. Though Amazing Grace was done at the service by bagpipe, he selected the stunning youtube version below to share with us.

Our son spent time in Alaska and loved the Inuit people, their culture and especially the art. He talked often about the way the native people were treated, and was very concerned about the loss of their traditional way of life. The melting of sea ice, glaciers and loss of winter habitat is impacting the whole ecosystem of Alaska. He would call home when the northern lights were active and describe what he was seeing from his apartment deck. Everyone has heard Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, but this is a version sung in the Inuit language.

There's something about that song, no matter how it's rendered, that touches the soul. The visuals that accompany this version underscore the amazing.

He has some other music selections along with comments on their personal significance. Warning: kleenex may be necessary.

Items of Interest

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-- ColorLines magazine has an enlightening article on women of color who are serving as soldiers and what happens to them both on active duty and when they return to civilian life as veterans. Definitely sheds a somewhat different light on the "egalitarian" opportunities that the Armed Services offer.

-- Found at the Colorlines blog while surfing the tubes, advice on how to approach a racist comment:

-- Just for comparison's sake. Here's video from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and from bloggerinterrupted of the free-lance photographer who interrupted Obama's appearance in Ohio to ask for the Pledge of Allegiance to be said. Though both have some of his explanation after the rally about why he spoke up, bloggerinterrupted has more. The Plain Dealer clip shows what happened before the interruption and how Obama handled it.

Cleveland Plain Dealer blog entry about incident including video:

bloggerinterrupted's blog post about the event:

-- There's a gaping hole in the DNS system that the World Wide Web is based on. Per the CNN article, it was first alluded to in July though no details were given to allow time for DNS servers to be patched. As of this point, it looks like 30% of them remain unpatched. Be careful out there.


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Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died. He was a truth-teller extraordinaire. My experience with him came from studying his book, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," though I can no longer remember if it was in a high school or college lit class. Per CNN, it was a novella published in "a literary journal in 1959. The story was based on his own experiences at a labor camp in Kazakhstan where he worked as a miner, bricklayer and foundryman, and was later printed on a wider scale in 1961."

I just remember how powerful his language was. As one of my friends often says, a story from the heart and in this case, I think, the gut. There was nothing mushy about it.

Thanks, Mr. Solzhenitsyn.

Items of Interest

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-- A new ancestor of T-Rex has been found in Poland. Those dinosaurs sure did get around.

-- In contrast, the world's tiniest snake has been discovered in Barbados -- so small it can curl up on a US quarter. Check out the pic. It eats termites and insect larvae but isn't venomous.

Hacker Education

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Newsweek has an article about a college prof who's teaching students about the finer points of hacking, much to the chagrin of large computer companies. I think that the prof makes a good point.

Ledin insists that his students mean no harm, and can't cause any because they work in the computer equivalent of biohazard suits: closed networks from which viruses can't escape. Rather, he's trying to teach students to think like hackers so they can devise antidotes. "Unlike biological viruses, computer viruses are written by a programmer. We want to get into the mindset: how do people learn how to do this?" says Ledin, who was born to Russian parents in Venezuela and trained as a biologist before coming to the United States and getting into computer science. "You can't really have a defense plan if you don't know what the other guy's offense is," says Lincoln Peters, a former Ledin student who now consults for a government defense agency.

That doesn't mean Ledin isn't trying to create a little mischief. His syllabus is partly a veiled attack on McAfee, Symantec and their ilk, whose $100 consumer products he sees as mostly useless. If college students can beat these antivirus programs, he argues, what good are they for the people and businesses spending nearly $5 billion a year on them?

I have to admit that the McAfee's and Symantec's of the world appear to be giant ripoff industries that deliver very little value in return for a lot of money. Something needs to happen to change the equation. Perhaps this will help.

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