Steve's No Direction Home Page :
If he needs a third eye, he just grows it.
Updated: 10/23/2004; 11:51:49 AM.


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Friday, December 06, 2002

U.S. Writers Do Cultural Battle Around the Globe. The Bush administration has recruited American writers to give readings around the globe in a campaign to use culture to further American diplomatic interests. By Michael Z. Wise. [New York Times: Arts]
You get the feeling that most of what a lot of the world knows of American culture is Baywatch and its ilk, the stuff of TV. I have no idea how our writers are seen around the world, but this seems to be a good thing to me.
11:44:38 PM  Permalink  comment []

Why no Muslim outrage about Nigeria?

Carl Hiassen:

As we in the Western world struggle to comprehend Islamic fanaticism, along comes a boob named Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi. He is deputy governor of Kamfara, a largely Muslim state in northern Nigeria. Last Monday he decreed that true Islamic believers should rush out and kill a writer named Isioma Daniel. She writes about fashion, which is usually not the most dangerous job in journalism. Her death-deserving offense was to pen a column suggesting that the Prophet Mohammed would approve of the Miss World...

A key line: "The same religious zealots who complained about the immorality of a bathing-suit competition expressed no qualms about the bloodbath." 215 people died in these riots. What a mad world.

9:57:21 PM  Permalink  comment []

Some Tentative First Steps Toward Universal Health Care. Worried that the growing number of uninsured patients will undermine the health care system, insurance executives are pressing for steps toward universal care. By Milt Freudenheim. [New York Times: Politics]
In 93, instead of trying to work with Clinton on an insurance plan, the Insurance Industry spent millions in advertising to stop it. Each time a state has attempted an experiment in universal coverage, the industry has spent millions to stop it, most recently this fall in Oregon. You can be that what they're pressuring for now with the Bush Administration will really be designed to help one group: our friends, the insurance companies.
9:53:42 PM  Permalink  comment []

Abrams Back in Capital Fray at Center of Mideast Battle. Elliot Abrams's selection as President Bush's director of Middle Eastern affairs plunged him into one of the sharpest disputes in the nation's capital. By Steven R. Weisman. [New York Times: Politics]
Man what a parade we're having, a regular hall of shame from past Republican Administrations. Henry Kissinger. John Poindexter. Elliot Abrams. When do we get Ollie North? Bob Haldeman? Chuck Colson ready to run over his grandma for the president?
9:38:32 PM  Permalink  comment []

Dave reminds. Dave reminds: "the bootstrap of Blog Browsers continues. This was originally a Brent-Dave collaboration, but other people are now working on browsers, and other blogging tools are producing archives in a compatible format." [and this is a reminder that RSD can help you make your archives discoverable and make it possible for Blog Browser software find your archives with nothing more than your homepage URL.] [Archipelago]
8:25:47 PM  Permalink  comment []

NY Times Books -- Editors' Choice

The Times Editors pick the best 7 books of the year. I read two of them. William Kennedy's Roscoe is a brilliant novel, one of the best new novels I've read in some time. Timothy Ferris' Seeing in the Dark combines the author's memoirs of his own astronomical experiences with stories of what amateurs have and continue to contribute to astronomy.

Of the others on the list, Ian McEwan's Atonement and Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 look most interesting to me.

7:49:01 PM  Permalink  comment []

Dogs don't play poker

Long time pal Roger sends me a link to the Phil Hendrie Show. I guess this radio show is syndicated nationwide, but we don't, apparently, get it in the Bay Area. There are lots of excerpts here, and it's some funny stuff; something to offend everyone. Crude, but not Howard Stern. Totally addictive.

4:38:01 PM  Permalink  comment []

Dog's Best Friend. It turns out that we're the ecological niche for dogs, and exploit us they do. By Stephen Budiansky. [New York Times: Opinion]

[A]ccording to a number of recently released scientific studies, dogs are not merely emotional con artists: they are also intellectual con artists. They've learned not only to fake love; they've managed to convince us that they are a lot smarter than they really are. In both cases they play us for the saps we are. Dogs have evolved gimmicks that are perfectly attuned to turning humankind's instinctive foibles to their own purposes.

In the natural order of things, any self-respecting prehistoric cave-dweller would have thrown a rock at any wild animal that showed up to steal some food. But the same wheedling, appeasing gestures that keep the lower members of a wolf pack from getting walloped by the alpha wolf effusive greetings, mournful whining, abject cringing turned out to work like a charm on egotistical, anthropomorphizing human beings. The best wheedlers lived to pass on those wheedling genes to the next generation, and the rest was dog history.

 A new study on dog intelligence, carried out at Harvard, now finds that dogs also have evolved a particular ability to pick up on human gestures. It is an ability other species notably lack. When the Harvard researchers tried to teach chimpanzees that the way to find a hidden snack was to notice which of two bowls the human experimenter looked at, pointed to, or tapped on, the chimps seemed mostly mystified. Dogs aced the test. Even puppies that had had minimal contact with people did well on this test; wolves, however, did not.

3:32:49 PM  Permalink  comment []

Reverse theory of the origin of life.. Up to now, most theories of life had presumed that life had to start with the creation of its building blocks, organic self-replicating molecules. Those then have to somehow be able to construct cells. Thinking out of the box, two researchers propose a new model, where cells are created first, thus providing a nano-environment for the organic molecules to do their stuff. []

Interesting stuff. For those who don't know the difference (i.e. you creationists and Intelligent Design afficianados), this is what science looks like. It makes predictions that can be tested (that is, if this theory is true, there are ways to verify it's true). It is falsifiable -- that is, if those predictions are not borne out, then it can be agreed that the theory is untrue or needs to be altered. Nobody is saying, "this is the new word that some voice gave me," or "it's this way because it was said to be that way in some bunch of legends created by non-scientific peoples thousands of years ago."  And it encourages further research -- Intelligent Design means that you say, "Oh, some intelligence -- nudge nudge wink wink -- created life, and there's nothing we can find out about it."

The Kuro5hin site also has a link to a nice layman's explanation on the new-to-me Origin of Life Site.

3:11:27 PM  Permalink  comment []

Barlow's reasons for joining the EFF [bOing bOing]
Read this and then join. You can get a nifty hat and t-shirt, plus a 1 year key for the Anonymizer. But they're trifles compared to what we have to lose if the efforts of the EFF and the ACLU fail. If you're not a member of the ACLU, hie thee hither and join up with them, too. It's the end of the year, and I'm trying to find good ways to reduce my tax hit; these are better ways than most.
2:54:04 PM  Permalink  comment []

How to Lie

How to Lie With Statistics. It probably wouldn't hurt to spend a few minutes with Darrell Huff's How to Lie with Statistics and John Allen Paulos's Innumeracy : Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences as well. Or you can simply decide to trust what the experts tell you. [McGee's Musings] []
The Huff book is really great; a small book like "The Elements of Style," if you read it and pay attention, it can change the way you learn about the world by showing you how statistics presented in all sorts of contexts are often distortions and half-truths if not outright lies. Sometimes it's hard to see this when you're looking at what are supposedly "hard" number. Highly recommended, and while I'm thinking of it I should take a look at it, too. It's been a good 20 years since I read it.
2:40:04 PM  Permalink  comment []

New in OJR: Early adopter and interesting guy Harry Shearer (the voice of Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders on "The Simpsons") sounds off about digital television, the disappearance of local radio, and record companies "bloviating." [JD's New Media Musings]

 I happen to believe that when record companies, in particular, start bloviating about "artists' rights," it is time to head for the hills with a week's supply of food and water. These guys wouldn't recognize an artist's right if it was shoved up their pantlegs.  The CD business was, and still is -- see a story in [last] week's NYT -- based on an interesting premise -- use the dubious claim of better sound quality to induce boomers to buy their favorite music again, and, hopefully, again.  When that merry-go-round slowed down, they had a sales slump.   And they blamed the consumers, for downloading instead of buying their fine new music.  Blame, threaten and sue your customers -- now there's a business model to emulate. 

2:28:51 PM  Permalink  comment []

Show and Tell Music - Thrift Store Vinyl.. Show and Tell Music - Thrift Store Vinyl. There are lots of vinyl sites out there, but some of the items in this collection had me floored. And the quantity is just as impressive as the quality -- several pages of unintentionally funny Christian vinyl you have to see to believe. MP3 samples too! Via BoingBoing, but got lost under a lengthy EFF post (which was also good). [MetaFilter]
A must-see!
2:11:09 PM  Permalink  comment []

Mutating Their Message

Proponents of Intelligent Design are mutating their message, attempting to downplay the religious nature of it in order to get it taught in schools. But at its core, it's still religion, not science.This piece is about the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. One of the Center's Fellows is  Jonathan Wells, a Unification Church member who says that he decided to "devote my life to destroying Darwinism" at the behest of the Rev. Sun-Myung Moon. Another is Philip Johnson, author of that work of nonsense, Darwin on Trial,and retired UCal Law Professor. What's funny is that they're using, if not lies, then not close to the truth, either in order to inject "morality" into the schools. The first paragraph of this piece is nice:

 It must take guts to be a "young-Earth" creationist. After all, imagine rejecting virtually all of modern science based on a literal interpretation of Genesis. Imagine opening yourself up to ridicule by insisting that Adam and Eve lived alongside the dinosaurs, Dinotopia-style, and that Noah crammed brontosauruses onto the Ark -- necessary inferences if you think the Bible is true and that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. Sure, these views are way outside the scientific mainstream (though polls suggest nearly half of Americans may hold them). But young-Earth creationism is so rigid in its adherence to religious doctrine that there's almost a kind of perverse integrity to it.

2:09:50 PM  Permalink  comment []

What will you really die from. The news media have been fear mongering like a Baptist preacher at a revival for about 1 year, 2 months now. I would like to point out how screwed up and irrational their view of terror is. []
This piece lists the leading causes of death in this country. Contrary to what you might be led to believe by the fear industry (media, politicians) in this country, neither terrorism nor homicide are among the leaders. Motor vehicle accidents are up there, and the various effects of pollution. Good story, good followups.
10:28:07 AM  Permalink  comment []

Hoax or real?

 Test your pop culture literacy. All of these images have circulated widely both in the media and on the internet. A number of them have probably shown up in your e-mail. Can you guess which are the hoax photos (i.e. those that have been digitally manipulated or staged in some way) and which are real?

[from Goodshit] I only got 7 of 10 right on the first page!

9:54:38 AM  Permalink  comment []

Berkeley & Albany in oil

Gary sends me this link to the artwork of a local who nicely captures the light and feel of lots of locations in Berkeley and Albany. Fun to take a tour through. The bench at Jewel Lake in Tilden Park is nice, so is Barney's and Liu's Kitchen on Solano.
9:45:41 AM  Permalink  comment []

Mars Canyons Tied to Rains After Meteor Impacts. The vast canyons and river valleys of Mars may have been carved by brief bursts of near-boiling torrential rains that followed giant meteor impacts. By Kenneth Chang. [New York Times: Science]
9:40:52 AM  Permalink  comment []

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