Internet Revives Public Libraries

Ye gads - for once the Internet gets credit for doing something good. What's the world coming to?

The New York Times' Steve Lohr reports on the effects of the Internet on public libraries, namely that the installation of Internet-connected computers have been largely responsible for a rebirth in public libraries and increasing attendance, particularly by 'teenagers, people age 50 and older and members of ethnic minorities' as well as low-income patrons without computers at home.

(link) [Slashdot]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link


You call that a standard?

A fascinating glimpse into the world of standards organizations, complete with bribery, politics, money and power. Not to mention "openness":

...the whole issue of openness is really a red herring. I can say that my process is completely open and anyone in the world can participate. But let's schedule my meetings every quarter and once in Tokyo and once in Berlin and once in Vienna and once in Vancouver and once in Washington. Effectively only the biggest players in the world can play. So, making it open, but making it infeasible to participate means it is, in effect, not open.

Robert Glushko, Berkeley professor who was involved in early XML proceedings, decries how powerful interests have distorted the standards process.

(link) [CNET News.com]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link


Hammerstead Gets an Honorable Mention

The Green Man, a fine blog I frequent from the Land Down Under, has noticed news of our impending infestation by the 17 year cicadas.

I promised pictures of the little buggers as they arrive - so watch this space over the next couple of months. And thanks to the Green Man for remembering his readers in the American bush ...

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link


Catching Up on the Home Front News

Things have been so busy around here that I've not had the time to post about everything that's been going on - so here's a "catching up" post.

First, some housekeeping: many have written me after having noticed that their comments disappeared. When the server went down on April 12th, I lost all comments from March 4th onward. Sorry about that, but there's not a blasted thing I can do: mercifully, it was the only data we permanently lost. And the backup schedules/paths have been adjusted to reflect the current set up, so this won't happen again.

Another interesting event: on April 4th, we "inherited" two baby goats. A neighbor (actually Kevyn's nephew, had a doe that busted up a leg in the birthing process. He's an ag student at Purdue, and he was actually contemplating taking the babies to his dorm room and feeding them himself! Crazy kids (pun intended)! But since he knew we had Sweet Pea (oh yeah, our bottle lamb obviously acquired a name, too!) he asked if we'd mind taking care of his twin goats.


All of our bottle babies in the East lot: Donner, Blitzen and Sweet Pea.

Feeding the goats is a trip ... they seem to have nothing but sheer, raw desire to eat, and will hardly wait for you to get a bottle near them before they begin to bump and nibble anything resembling a teat. They do have quite an instict to find those however, and it seems to not be very species specific. Kris would add a note here that it's not a good idea for human females to bend over baby goats...

Of course, we named them, too: Donner and Blitzen (Thunder and Lightning) were the twin buck goats that pulled Thor's chariot - seen here in a battle with Jotuns (giants). You can draw your own conclusions about the origins of Santa Claus from that ... Donner is marked solid red on the head while Blitzen has a white splash across his forehead - so the names seemed appropiate.

And finally, I'm not going to be posting squat until next Monday! We're actually taking a trip together - out to the May Day Moot in central Oklahoma. We found a good place to board our Willie dog: it's called "For the Dogs", and it's a cage free boarding/doggie daycare facility. It's surprisingly not that much more expensive than regular boarding, and having had bad experiences in the past with kennels, we figured that this would be a good place for the pooch to stay without getting totally stressed out. Here's an article from the Indianapolis Star on them.

So that's all the news from home - the only thing I'm not looking forward to about this trip is coming home to a SPAM filled inbox and an overflowing news aggregator. But oh well - we've not had a trip together since we got the farm, and it'll be good to be on the road with my sweetie.

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link


Defenders of Christianity Rush to Debunk 'The Da Vinci Code'

I found this to be a fine novel - but the mad rush from the Christian community to "debunk" it leads me to wonder if there's not something to the whole background plot after all.

Besides, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, "A religion without a goddess is halfway to atheism!"

Word that Ron Howard is making a movie of the book has increased the intensity of rebuttals from churches and Bible scholars.

(link) [New York Times: NYT HomePage]

00:00 /Asatru | 0 comments | permanent link



Low-Watt Radio Wields Its Power

This is an interesting idea - I'm currently involved with a project called OdinLIVES! that does a Heathen radio broadcast on shortwave (and, soon, over the 'Net). The airtime is cheap enough, and the coverage is [theoretically] very good, but I can't help but beleive that a "network" of these kinds of stations would assist us in getting the word out far more effectively than a shortwave or Internet-only broadcast.

Four years ago the FCC made honest people out of a few pirates. Community broadcasters are moving ahead, but getting a license doesn't automatically mean success. Jason Silverman reports from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

(link) [Wired News]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link


Mouse gets a new home

A busy day on the farm, yesterday. Kevyn sold his miniture donkey Mouse, who'd been staying here for almost a year, to the daughter of a neighbor as a 4H project. He took off to get groomed and pampered ... poor Mouse! Not!

I wish I could say I was sorry to see him go, but I can't bring myself to lie like that in print! About all Mouse accomplished here was teaching Hammer to "punt" the chickens, and bothering the Hel out of Wulfie (our Highland cow) by continually trying to nurse! Guess he thought he was a calf, or was at least hoping no one would notice! What a strange little beast!

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link


Militants in Europe Openly Call for Jihad and the Rule of Islam

Maybe we here in the US don't have nearly as much of a problem as our European friends ...

They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the "Magnificent 19" and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe.

The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe, and is being answered, counterterrorism officials say.

(link) [New York Times: NYT HomePage]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link



Getting Auto Lease Harder as Carmakers Fear Risks

Shakespeare had a solution for New York: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." [Henry VI, Part 2].

The 1924 law establishing "vicarious liability" was intended to hold livery owners responsible when their penniless drivers caused damage they could not pay for. In recent years, however, lawyers have figured out how to use the statute in cases involving leased cars.

Since 1924 was well before insurance was mandated, the law was originally intended to act as a "insurer of last resort" kind of thing ... but how are they using it now?

In 1999, Mark Chilberg of Youngstown, N.Y., ran over and severely injured his 15-year-old daughter, Amber, while she was sunbathing in the driveway. Last year a jury awarded Amber $1 million in damages and, on the principle of vicarious liability, decided that most of that sum had to be paid by the company that had leased Mr. Chilberg his car, the Ford Motor Credit Corporation.

If this wasn't so freaking outrageous, I'd have to put it in the humor category! How in the world could any reasonable person find a credit company liable for this?

A law that holds owners of vehicles responsible for any accidents is proving too much of a financial risk for car companies.

(link) [New York Times: NYT HomePage]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link



Ethanol From Waste Straw

The article referenced contends that:

...conventional corn and grain-based ethanol requires as much energy to produce as it releases when burnt, once the energy for tractors and pesticides are taken into account.

Ethanol from farm waste is an important breakthrough, no doubt about it. But if our goal is to conserve our petroleum reserves, perhaps a simpler solution would be to return to a less energy intensive agriculture. It could be done, too, while retaining reasonably high levels of productivity. Of course, it would be more labor intensive, which would mean a resurgence of the family farm, both in the US and abroad (where Third World smallholders have a terrible time competing aginst multi-national agribusinesses).

But it would also cut the oil companies out of the loop - so don't look for it to happen anytime soon.

The CBC is reporting that 'Iogen Corporation of Ottawa has developed enzymes to break down waste straw and wood chips into ethanol on a commercial scale.

(link) [Slashdot]

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Former N.F.L. Player Killed in Afghanistan

There are still a few men of honor out and about: read this entire article, it describes one.

Tillman assiduously guarded his privacy and never publicly discussed his reasons for abandoning football for the military. He was concerned that his decision would be interpreted as a publicity stunt.
...
One of Tillman's last surprises came during the Army recruiting process. Since Tillman had a college degree, he was offered the chance to go through the officer-training program before proceeding on his attempted Rangers career track. Tillman declined, telling Army officials he wished to start at the bottom and work his way up.

Pat Tillman, who walked away from his professional football career to join the Army Rangers, was killed in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said today.

(link) [New York Times: NYT HomePage]

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IT Workers Not Eligible for Overtime in New Rules

Another reason for me to love this Republican Administration. I cannot recall any government in US history (with the possible exception of Coolidge or Hoover) being so blatently pro-business and anti-labor.

the San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that the Department of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao unveiled new rules that seem to specifically target IT workers and other white collar workers for exemption from overtime pay.

(link) [Slashdot]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link


Rhino gets amorous with car

I wonder where the photos will turn up?

A rampant rhinoceros gave a group of visitors a glimpse of nature in the raw at a British safari park when he tried to have sex with their car.

(link) [CNN]

00:00 /Humor | 0 comments | permanent link



Advice from a Perfect Stranger


Are you in need of good advice? Are you having a problem with your husband/wife, friend, or job? Call Patti, The Perfect Stranger. I can help. I am not a licensed therapist. I am a good ear, with logical, sound, unbiased advice, and will keep your problems strictly confidential.

Cost is only $5 per call (One problem per call, please). Ask for Patti 212-861-2327.

Problems? For $5, She'll Listen

(link) [New York Times]

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link


As Wealthy Fill Top Colleges, New Efforts to Level the Field

Quoting Homer: "Doh!"

My eldest daughter will graduate from IUPUI this year with her Masters in Social Work. It's a community type college - no residency. She's worked all the time she was in school, at everything from waitressing to housesitting. It's took her 7 years to get her undergrad degree - she was lucky enough to get enough financial aid to do a "fast track" masters in a year.

I'm not rich, by any means, but I think (or used to, anyway) I'm pretty solidly middle class. I've helped her out with school, of course, not paying for all of it, but for a good percentage.

...they also have much steeper tuition bills than in the past, and this seems to have turned off many middle- and low-income families. Some students are not willing to take on the tens of thousands of dollars of debt that is often necessary

She has nearly $50,000 in unsecured debt. That debt load is nearly double her starting salary. It's a larger debt load than I carry - it's a larger amount than the cost of my first house, 20 years ago.

The cost of an education at some of the top schools discussed in the article below is that amount per year!

At prestigious universities, more and more students from upper-income families are edging out those from the middle class.

(link) [New York Times: NYT HomePage]

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