Apple's secret sauce

Apple's turned 30, and here are a couple of the best articles about the event...

Sizzle may be subjective, but Apple's definitely got it, says CNET's Charles Cooper.

(link) [CNET]

What drives the colorful Apple CEO? He's happy to tell you. Compiled by Owen W. Linzmayer.PLUS: Wired News' full coverage of Apple's 30th anniversary.

(link) [Wired News: Top Stories]

Update: Here's another perspective...

So Apple's turning 30--CNET's Michael Kanellos wants to know what the big deal is about.

(link) [CNET]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer

OK, I have a question here about Christian (or, for that matter, Islamic or Jewish) prayer. Let's assume for a moment that the God being prayed to is in fact the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the Universe. How can any prayer be effective? Can prayer offered by a human change God's mind?

As a young Christian I was exhorted to close my prayer with "Thy Will be done", or "Not my will, but Thine, O Lord!". What, exactly, is the point of such a prayer? Maybe it has some effect as a supplication, but surely this is otherwise an exercise in futility: God's will will be done in any event, regardless of the prayers of mere mortals...

And then there's the whole omniscience thing:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chon. 7:14

Now how's that work? If God's omniscient than He already knows if the folks are going to pray or not, and if he's not, well, then the whole paradigm sort of breaks down, and God's no longer in total control of things.

Which is precisely the position my gods and goddesses are in: they're within and part of the natural world, and while I believe they have some influence over events in Midgard, they're neither omniscient or omnipotent - and I wouldn't want them to be. Because the very existence of such a being would make all other beings essentially slaves, and the universe naught but a clockwork. There can be no free will at all in such a deterministic universe.

The "answers" to such prayers are simple: if the desired effect happens than it was God's will that it happen. If it doesn't happen, then it wasn't. My question is simple: what would have happened without the prayer? The only possible answer in a Christian context is: God's will! Therefore prayer is pointless.

I think Christians pray because it makes them feel better, and makes them believe they have some influence on the world, even though their core theology tells them otherwise. The ignore their own scripture because the consequences of the teachings therein are simply too terrible to contemplate for long.

Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.

(link) [New York Times]

00:00 /Asatru | 1 comment | permanent link

Ex-DeLay aide pleads guilty to fraud

You know what makes me really ill about all this? It's the shameless way these people are using Christians to push their agenda.

The Dallas Morning News has an editorial up about this morass, in which they quote one of this buffoons co-conspirators:

In an e-mail released by a Senate committee, Mr. Scanlon discusses how his clients can use the gullibility of Christians to their own advantage: "The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the Internet and telephone trees. ... Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them."

I hate to see anyone lied to like this, even if I don't agree with the "wacko agenda". It does a terrible disservice to civic discourse, and the the republic itself, to have people such as this with the reins of power in their slimy little hands.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich...told Time that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for Democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: "Had enough?"

Yep - we have.

A former senior aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to fraud conspiracy, saying he joined a scheme with lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others to enrich themselves and illegally influence members of Congress.

(link) []

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Biotech for Your Backyard

If you wonder why us "natural" or "organic" farmer types are generally terrified by bio-engineered crops, read this article. If this grass were to get loose in our pastures it would be an unmitigated disaster. My carefully mixed and cultivated forages would be obliterated by this alien invader - and the article doesn't say if it's palatable to ruminants or no. But I can certainly assure you that it isn't as tasty to a cow as alfalfa. Let's hope that reason prevails. But the fact that we're even discussing implementing something to make golf courses easier to maintain that also has the potential to destroy the livestock industry means I'm not holding my breath.

Jim Hagedorn wants to sell you the pest-proof, no-mow, genetically engineered lawn of the future. But first he has to head off a grass-roots rebellion. By David Wolman from Wired magazine.

(link) [Wired News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Agriculture | 5 comments | permanent link

Indiana Moves to Daylight-Saving Time

The last line of the article says it all: it's a mess. Watch for some changes here to remind folks about the true (standard) time ... and watch the local elections this November when the Republicans pay the price for this idiocy.

AP - Seven months a year, Deano's Tavern cashes in on Indiana's refusal to observe daylight-saving time. Ohio residents whose bars close at 2:30 a.m. can go four miles up the road to Deano's for another hour of drinking before last call.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 1 comment | permanent link

Snake Orgy

Snakes alive!

Well, the title of this post should generate some interesting hits from Google ... but it's a sure sign of spring around here when the garter snakes all get together and do their thing. Taken this morning in the south pasture.

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Technology's Just a .240 Hitter

An excellent essay on the pitfalls of adding technological complexity to an inherently simple sport. One thing that tech hasn't changed about the National Pastime is the timing of the game: baseball is the only major sport in the US that is not played to or by a clock: it's entirely self-timed and self-pacing. Which is oh-so-refreshing after watching the endless stream of timeouts called in the last 2 minutes of any football or basketball game, often to merely postpone an inevitable defeat.

Not that baseball doesn't have complexities of it own: I learned statistics while crunching numbers from the diamond, and I daresay that many another American of my age group did so as well. Fantasy baseball plays so much better than other mathematical sports diversions because of the games dependence on statistics.

Baseball is a simple game, really, played on fine green fields and requiring few adornments. So why does technology have to barge in and screw things up? Commentary by Tony Long.

(link) [Wired News]

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Immigration debate seen skirting root cause

10 foot pole
This is a 10 foot pole. Notice that it's not touching the story.

Reuters - President Vicente Fox paused for a long moment before answering a question on how long it would take Mexico to reach a stage where citizens no longer want to cross the U.S. border to seek work.

"Generations," he finally said.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Who gives a @#$% about profanity?

I can curse like a sailor - in private situations. But I really do try to avoid using "inappropriate" language in public, and my darling wife will call me on the carpet if I get too out of control.

Curiously enough (or perhaps not) the swear words I try hardest to avoid are "God" and "Jesus Christ", finding it particularly hypocritical on my part to swear by deities that I don't acknowledge. Those are the major words of public cursing I hear others doing - not "fuck", "shit" or even "Hell", but a god's name! And a god the curser presumably honors! Go figure ... this isn't the "Age of Profanity", it's the Age of Stupidity.

You probably hear these words often, and more than ever before. But even though we can't print them, we can certainly ask: Are we living in an Age of Profanity?

(link) []

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Lukashenko regime is 'beyond the pale'

There's no doubt that Belarus is Not a Nice Place™ ... but I've not heard of people being threatened with judicial execution for changing religions there. I don't think they have a Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice. And you never hear of an honor killing in Minsk, do you?

Methinks our State Department may have it's priorities a tad bit skewed.

AFP - Belarus President Alexander Lukoshenko, who claimed victory recently in a disputed election, runs a regime that is "beyond the pale," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Supreme Court hears eBay's patent appeal

Maybe they get it ... in any event, this case promises to be pivotal in the ongoing debate about the validity of so-called "business method" patents.

Some justices joke that patent related to "Buy it Now" feature in online auctions is too vague to be taken seriously.

(link) [CNET]

00:00 /Copywrongs | 0 comments | permanent link

Physician experience related to accurate identification of third heart sound

Another "Study in the Obvious". Here's some more facts these researchers may wish to note: Folks who have worked in a hatchery for 10 years are better at sexing chicks than people who started on the job last week. Carpenters who've stick built 37 new homes can drive a nail straighter then the new apprentice that started yesterday. Pilots who've logged 10,000 hours fly better than students on their first solo.

Isn't this the definition of experience?

Physicians with more experience are better able to detect a third heart sound that is an indicator of heart disease, according to a study on stethoscope accuracy in cardiac patients at UCSF Medical Center.

(link) [EurekAlert]

00:00 /Humor | 0 comments | permanent link

Windows Is So Slow, but Why?

Excellent exposition of the reasons behind the increasing frustration of Windows users and developers: it seems as though market dominance comes with a price after all.

Because of Microsoft's past success, keeping Windows working with existing software is becoming increasingly difficult.

(link) [New York Times]

Update: Here's ESR's take.

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Sandals and Ponytails Behind Slow Linux Adoption

Then that's to their own detriment ... programmers and other engineers need a dress code like a fish needs a bicycle. It's a strict meritocracy in OSS, and if you can't cut the mustard technically, a $300 Armani suit won't help you.

And that's a good thing.

CNet is reporting that according to former Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn 'the lax dress code of the open-source community is one of the reasons behind the software's slow uptake in commercial environments.' In particular, Quinn blames the 'sandal and ponytail set' for sluggish adoption of Linux by businesses and governments. From the article: "Quinn, who faced plenty of scrutiny over his support of the OpenDocument standards-based office document format, said proponents of open source in government faced formidable opposition from vested interests if they went public."

(link) [Slashdot]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Sewage Searched for Cocaine Metabolites

The "War on Some Drugs" hits a new low ...

Fairfax county, Virginia recently agreed to participate in a White House pilot program to search for the byproducts of cocaine usage in community sewage.

(link) []

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link