Nobody Asked, But ...

Winston Rand…he was a pretty good guy.


21:03 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Thinking of Security Vulnerabilities As Defects

Don't just think of them as defects, treat them that way. Because they are! Doh!

ZDNet Zero-Day blogger Nate McFeters has asked the question, 'Should vulnerabilities be treated as defects?' McFeters claims that if vulnerabilities were treated as product defects, companies would have an effective way of forcing developers and business units to focus on security issue. McFeters suggests providing bonuses for good developers, and taking away from bonuses for those that can't keep up. It's an interesting approach that if used, might force companies to take a stronger stance on security related issues.

(link) [Slashdot]

09:22 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

'Mr. Clock Radio' Wakes Up the Horror

Hmmm, should I go Yule shopping early?

Buyers looking to round out their evil toy collection should make room on the shelf for Mr. Clock Radio, "The Talking Robotic Clock Radio." Mr. Clock Radio will rouse you into grim consciousness with 50 variations of soul-crushing banter and music delivered in his hellish howl from the abyss.

(link) [Wired]

09:20 /Humor | 0 comments | permanent link

No Country for Young Men

We have our problems, China has theirs. And in a lot of ways, theirs are potentially worse.

The one-child policy was instituted in an attempt to hamper the wild growth of the Chinese population. But, in the process of plugging one hole, the government may have left another open. The coming boom in restless young men promises to overhaul Chinese society in some potentially scary ways.

(link) [The New Republic]

via MyAppleMenu:Reader

07:50 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Landmark Ruling Enshrines Right to Own Guns

In one of the worst decisions it ever handed down, the Dred Scott case in 1856, the Supreme Court nonetheless provided a rather clear enumeration of the rights that citizens possess. It's not just the right to bear arms that's being eroded as this passage from the opinion shows:

More especially, it cannot be believed that the large slaveholding States regarded them as included in the word citizens, or would have consented to a Constitution which might compel them to receive them in that character from another State. For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling embraced the view that the Second Amendment protects the personal right to own a gun, and seemed certain to usher in litigation around the U.S.

(link) [New York Times]

06:37 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Attorney who took on big tobacco faces sentencing

I wonder how much the judge in the tobacco case raked in...???

AP - Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, a prominent attorney who took on tobacco, asbestos and insurance companies, was scheduled to be sentenced Friday for his role in a high-profile judicial bribery case.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

06:28 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

The Fight to End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding

Maybe next week he'll demo a perpetual motion machine, too.

This "research" tickles me, because it's motivation is so transparent: fear of death. It's alchemy reborn, only with modern tools and jargon. But it'll get no further than it did five hundred years ago. No Philosophers Stone, and no Fountain of Youth, just wasted days fearing the inevitable.

Think about it - without death, there can be no life. And everything that lives will someday die. How far human life can be extended is open to some debate, but immortality, which is the real, unspoken goal of these wingnuts, is a contradiction and, in the end, a potential nightmare.

In research that will first be presented on Friday at the conference, Methuselah-funded scientists will demonstrate a proof-of-concept experiment for using bacterial enzymes to fight atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries.

(link) [Wired: Top Stories]

18:21 /Technology | 2 comments | permanent link

Intel says 'no' to Windows Vista


Windows Vista is not for Intel, it has been claimed. The chip giant will not be installing the new operating systems on its many thousands of desktop PCs. It has "no compelling case" to do so.

(link) [The Register]

06:10 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Load Up the Pantry

When the Journal speaks, who listens? We'll see. For the record, our freezer is full, as is our larder.

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

(link) [Wall Street Journal]

20:54 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Comedian, author George Carlin dies at 71

I never understood how 'Tits' made the list either, George. RIP.

Groundbreaking comedian George Carlin, known for his raunchy, but insightful humor, died Sunday in Los Angeles, his publicist said. He was 71. Carlin was best known for his routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television," which appeared 1972's "Class Clown" album.

(link) []

06:39 /Home | 2 comments | permanent link

Record corn prices mean more expensive meat, dairy

If you don't have a chest freezer, get one now. Meat is gonna be mighty scarce this time next year.

AP - Raging Midwest floodwaters that swallowed crops and sent corn and soybean prices soaring are about to give consumers more grief at the grocery store.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

20:35 /Agriculture | 3 comments | permanent link

Pagans mark longest day at Stonehenge

and in Zionsville, Indiana, at the Kindred of Ravenswood.

Stonehenge, England (AP) -- Thousands of partygoers, pagans and self-styled druids cheered and banged drums Saturday to greet the dawn at Stonehenge on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice.

(link) []
Ravenswood Logo

14:15 /Asatru | 0 comments | permanent link

Oil production lags demand, U.S. official says

Ya don't say? Is "Samuel Bodman" just an alias for that infamous superhero, Captain Obvious?

Oil prices are hitting record highs because production has not kept pace with increasing demands, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told reporters Saturday.

(link) []

14:01 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Singularities and Stupidities

My friend James over at within the crainium posted a link to an interesting article at the New York Times by Donald MacNeil taking on the doom and gloom "End of the World" thinkers and arguing that we are approaching an economic "singularity" that will, somehow, save us from ourselves and obviate the problems caused by the depletion of fossil fuels and overpopulation. Exactly what this singularity is and how it will work he doesn't say, and indeed he cannot say, because if he could it wouldn't be a singularity, but his optimism almost wells through the page like a newly struck Saudi oil gusher.

Unfortunately, his article (and the articles he links in support of his premise) are filled with so much fiction and misunderstanding of history as to make the whole premise untenable. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

He starts off with a straw man, trotting out Thomas Malthus and his early 19th century arguments on population and agriculture, and essentially saying "See, this fellow was wrong two hundred years ago when he predicted gloom and doom, therefore those who predict the same today are wrong as well." Malthus was wrong, and discredited, for failing to see the rise of the Industrial Revolution, therefore anyone who predicts disaster today must be failing to see the rise of ... what? Who knows?

Funny thing - I haven't read the name "Malthus" in any of the reading I've done of late on "Peak Oil", even on the most doom laden sites. Perhaps I've merely missed it, but that doesn't make the argument any less specious: should I be pessimistic about the future because so many utopian visions have been disproven? The fact that some person or group was wrong in the past when pontificating about a general premise does not mean that all persons/groups holding forth today on the same topic are necessarily wrong (or right). It's a footnote, not an argument.

Following his trip down memory lane to the early ninetheenth century, Mr. MacNeil proceeds to trot out another modern bogeyman: animal agriculture. This is a subject I know a little bit about:

The whole world has never come close to outpacing its ability to produce food. Right now, there is enough grain grown on earth to feed 10 billion vegetarians, said Joel E. Cohen, professor of populations at Rockefeller University and the author of “How Many People Can the Earth Support?” But much of it is being fed to cattle, the S.U.V.’s of the protein world, which are in turn guzzled by the world’s wealthy.

There are a number of problems with this: first off, it's only in the US and other "modern" agricultural economies that cattle are fed grain - in the rest of the world they graze over non-productive land eating the grasses and weeds that can grow there. The reason we feed cattle grain here is speed - it takes much less time to finish a bovine for slaughter on corn than it does on grass - about half the time, in fact.

Secondly, even vegetarians require protein, and cereal grains aren't exactly a good source of that particular nutrient. Which means more beans and other legumes, which are considerably more intensive to grow that the cereals (which are grasses). Which cuts down on the amount of possible production.

But the most egregious error is one of economics - no body can serious dispute that we can't grow enough to feed the current population - obviously, the current population is being fed (albeit many at a subsistence level). The real problem is distribution. And that requires energy. Lots of it.

In fact, the whole "Green Revolution" requires energy - a subject that Mr. MacNeil's article seems to be studiously avoiding. The fertilizers, tractors, reapers and technology that made the productive explosion in agriculture possible absolutely depend on cheap energy, and in the case of fertilizers, oil. As if to underscore his ignorance of this basic fact, the word "energy" never appears in MacNeil's article at all!

In another article from the Times, this one by John Tierney, also linked by James (in fact, it was the leader link in his blog post), MacNeil's piece is treated as gospel, and then the real fun begins. We're off to the Singularity.

This is Ray Kurzweil's vision, a future in which no one dies, because everyone is uploaded to a computer. Douglas R. Hofstadter, author of the AI classic Godel, Escher, Bach has described Kurzweil’s work as “if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can't possibly figure out what's good or bad. It's an intimate mixture of rubbish and good ideas, and it's very hard to disentangle the two."

Exactly what this "singularity"has to do with economics is not made clear. In fact, Tierney ignores energy as well, and the other article he cites only mentions it once:

The population of smart machines would explode even faster than the economy. So even though total wealth would increase very rapidly, wealth per machine would fall rapidly. If these smart machines are considered “people,” then most people would be machines, and per-person wealth and wages would quickly fall to machine-subsistence levels, which would be far below human-subsistence levels. Salaries would probably be just high enough to cover the rent on a tiny body, a few cubic centimeters of space, the odd spare part, a few watts of energy and heat dumping, and a Net connection.

This is the ostrich approach to peak oil and fossil fuel depletion: if we pretend it doesn't exist, perhaps it'll just go away and we can have all the energy we need to build our immortal machines. And these are the guys who think Malthus was nuts? I want some of whatever they've been smoking.

This whole "everything will come up roses because the human race is so incredibly inventive" strikes me as nothing more than the other side of the "we're all doomed because the human race is so greedy and stupid" coin. If you want a realistic picture, try standing the coin on edge: yes, we're inventive, but our inventiveness has never saved us from major dislocations and disruptions. Yes, we're greedy and arrogant, but that's never stopped us from being humane and compassionate.

The world will not end in twenty years time. But we're not going to dematerialize into uploaded bliss ninnys either. And a little more realism would go a long way towards making the transitions we're going to have to make as painless as possible.

08:52 /Politics | 1 comment | permanent link

Dino Jesus
Jesus on a Dinosaur

What can I possibly add to this?

via Hit & Run

07:12 /Humor | 1 comment | permanent link