25 Mar

You sure taste purty! Creating artificial sight with a tongue prosthesis?

in Inventions, Science & Technology

Not quite Daredevil, but pretty damn cool:

The BrainPort converts visual images into a series of electrical pulses which are sent to the tongue. The different strength of the tingles can be read or eye-tongue_336786sinterpreted so the user can mentally visualise their surroundings and navigate around objects. The device is a tiny video camera attached to a pair of sunglasses which are linked to a plastic "lolly pop" which the user places on their tongue to read the electrical pulses. L/Cpl Lundberg explained: "It feels like licking a nine volt battery or like popping candy. "The camera sends signals down onto the lolly pop and onto your tongue. You can then determine what they mean and transfer it to shapes. "You get lines and shapes of things. It sees in black and white so you get a two-dimensional image on your tongue - it's a bit like a pins and needles sensation. "It's only a prototype, but the potential to change my life is massive. It's got a lot of potential to advance things for blind people.

Blind soldier 'sees' with tongue device - Science, News - The Independent

24 Mar

The long, national HCR nightmare is over

Sod's law, eh? The laptop goes kaputz just when things get interesting. Health care? Baby killers?? Perez Hilton?! I'll never be able to catch up here without quitting my day job, so I'll just rapid-fire some responses here:

The HCR bill stinks up the joint
At the risk of agreeing with the mouth-breathers on this one, the bill does too Map_symbol_hospital_02 little, rolls in at an anaemic pace, and suffers from the poor branding of laissez-faire leadership. Worse, an individual mandate without a public option is like ... well, it precludes a clever analogy. I doubt there is precedent for effectively forcing someone to give money to a private enterprise without offering a non-profit alternative. That said, this is an intellectual difference rather than a literal one - our money already gets funnelled to such agencies through our tax revenue. Whether you're unwilling or unable to pay for your health care matters little when the money still has come come from somewhere.  I, for one, would rather not have to share the expense of amputating your leg after you spent months not getting that mole checked out.

The American people don't want HCR
This is an utterly surreal debate. Obama campaigned on health care (including, despite his latter-year politicking to the contrary, a public option) and the voters overwhelmingly approved. Poll after poll showed a population united in a desire for reform that should have sailed through were it not for GOP drones spending the better part of a year dangling the false promise of bipartisanship while slowly whittling away at the most beneficial elements.  After a long campaign to break the bill, I would expect nothing less than the audacity to complain that the bill is broken, but to pull out polling showing how the American people pacman disapprove is disingenuous at best. Despite a barrage of scare tactics and outright lies, we want what we've always wanted - a bill with teeth, a bill with meaningful protections, and, in an unprecedented display of unity, Americans want a bill with a public option. If, like me, you're unhappy with the bill we got, the polls indicate that most of you wish it were more, not less, liberal.

HCR will do nothing until 2014
While it is true that some of the major reforms will take time, there are actually quite a few elements that will benefit all of us. Today. The Huffington Post has a nice run-down of some of the immediate benefits including: an end to pre-existing conditions, better prescription coverage for seniors, no life-time caps, no rescission (i.e. you can't be dropped for becoming ill), and a more regulated appeals process. To paraphrase Joe 3499659098_1c9cf98513 Biden, "this is a big Cheney deal" and will help America at least start to catch up with the rest of the world. Someday, we may even hope to have a healthcare system as enviable as Rush Limbaugh's new home.

Republicans will campaign on HCR Repeal
Two words: Puh leaze. No matter how much the passive masses spew GOP talking points about waking up in a 'socialist cesspool', the fact is that a vast majority of Americans will benefit from this bill and it's only going to get better. As Dave Johnson points out, over a sufficiently long timeline, facts have a way of catching up with lies:

Like the Iraq War there are facts and there are Republican lies. Over time facts catch up with lies. In spite of what the Republicans had most of the country believing, over time the public came to understand that Iraq did not attack us on 9/11. Over time the public came to understand that Iraq was not preparing to attack us with nukes ... And just as with Iraq, over time the public will come to understand that Republicans have lied to them about health care. There are no "death panels." There is no "government takeover." Etc. Over time the public will become comfortable with the reform that has 2409717256_1877c94ced passed and it will become unthinkable to go back.

Within 24 hours of this bill being signed, the public is already trending towards approval and even thoughtful conservatives are under no illusions that this bill will ever be repealed. Let the Republicans campaign on taking away grandma's meds.  At this point, the best chance they have, outside of petulant little temper tantrums, may lie with their corrupt buddies in the Supreme Court.

15 Mar

Sea lions “euthenized” to ease the suffering of chronic eating. Oxygen dependency to follow.

in Animals, Environment(alism), WTF?!

We are a truly vile species sometimes:

A California sea lion last week became the first salmon predator to be euthanized this year under a program that has been denounced by those who say there are far greater dangers to salmon - including the series of 3614436029_19292a99fdhydroelectric dams on the Columbia. … Last year, 11 sea lions were euthanized. Another four were transferred to zoos or aquariums.

… The sea lions represent a massive he adache each year as chinook salmon begin arriving at the Bonneville Dam east of Portland, congregating in large numbers as they return from the ocean. Sea lions have become keenly aware that the dam is a great spot to feast on salmon, easy pickings as they wait to go up the dam's fish ladders.

Leaving aside that I highly doubt this issue wasn’t raised in the environmental survey prior to the damn being built, we basically created a giant food bowl, filled it with a delicious endangered species, and then decided to kill all animals that availed of the tasty morsels.  Well, all except the poor fisherman “who have watched sea lions snatch salmon right out of their gill nets.”

And just for the record – ‘euthanized’?  Really?!

12 Mar

Sarah Palin’s world looks a lot like Detroit

in Republicans, Taxation, Tea Party

We've been seeing a lot more stories lately of cities and states resorting to unpopular measures to make up for budget shortfalls. For example, the radical conservative Colorado Springs - you know, the city that recently made the news for banning puppet cleavage - has not only sharply curtailed or eliminated public works such as street lights and highway maintenance, but  even police and fire protections in the wake massive tax cuts.

moransLest one assume that this is just the product of the wingnut me-first, screw-everyone-else crowd or waning manufacturing belts, the problem is actually nationwide. With Arizona becoming the latest high-profile regression, Andrew Winston makes the point that, no matter what the teabaggers might claim, this is what "small government" looks like in real life

The entire teabagger premise of taxation is based on a separation between self and the collective. If you see government as something forced upon you, then there is logic to not giving 'them' your money. I, on the other hand, really don't want to be bother filling in potholes and chasing down serial rapists, nor do I want to be bogged down in the details of how to coordinate these and other activities with surrounding communities, states, countries, and the world-at-large. I would much rather hire others to do those things for me. As Winston notes:

The Tea Party doesn't seem to get that "government" actually covers an amazing range of things that you want -- roads, police, firemen, hospitals, schools, consumer protections, environmental protection, and on and on. Oh, and libraries.

Though to be fair, I've seen little evidence that teabaggers would care about the latter.

10 Mar

Doris “Granny D” Haddock Dead at 100

in RIP

Amidst all the tabloid voyeurism of an 80s hearthrob’s demise, you may have missed that Doris Haddock, the 90 year-old woman who walked across the country ten years ago to raise political enlightenment, died today at the age of 100.

Granny D was the quintessential embodiment of American ideals that have been nearly extinguished in this age of capitalist excess.  She remained politically active through the final weeks of her life and most recently proposed a constitutional amendment to strip corporations of personhood in the wake of the Citizens United travesty.

Would that we had thousands more like her in this world.

38Doris “Granny D” Haddock
1910 – 2010

I can imagine the end of this century quite differently. I imagine the great Appalachian Mountains in all their beauty, the coal operators long gone and the people again making a thousand good uses of the bounty of nature. I can imagine a people who look to their children as the nation's greatest resource. I can imagine a political environment where there is still the great moving balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of the group. I can see the day when government has become much smaller, more the town hall, because great scale is no longer needed to keep check on the monstrously overscaled corporations that once terrorized the people and no giant machinery is needed to protect us from the mayhem we incite in the world. It is now the small government, the small business, the creative enterprise, the family-sized group that drives the economy so efficiently and profitably, and in balance with the natural surroundings. We will learn to do all that in this century, or we will die.

08 Mar

Best Oscars 2010 Quote Evuh!

in Entertainment, Funny

oscarthegrouch From August:

I went to bed early … Did the movie about how good white people are at helping black people win, or did the movie about how good white people are at helping blue people win?

06 Mar

Free ebooks correlated with increased print-book sales

in Copyright / Copyfighting / Piracy

As someone with my second book on the way, I find myself torn between not wanting to fight with my publisher yet remaining faithful to my ideals regarding CC licensing.  After all, it is much more important to me to be read than to make a few extra sheckles off of my ideas.  Besides, I’m fairly certain that having a larger reader base will lead to more actual book sales – even if there are more people reading for free.  Finally, there is a bit of empirical evidence to back it up.

Those publishers who insist on draconian, DRM-crippled merchandise might want to consider this little gem from Brad Colbow (click to enlarge):the_brads_drm

28 Feb

Trent Franks (R – Hell): Black Americans Better Off Under Slavery

in Racism, Republicans, Video

From Satan’s Congressional Representative:

Slavery, said Franks, "is a crushing mark on America's soul, yet today half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more black children, far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery."

As Ryan Grim notes, “One hundred percent of African Americans born into slavery, however, were born into slavery.”

Besides, when you start a sentence disparaging something abhorrent, there is no room for a ‘yet’ in the second half. Try these on for size:

  • Racism is really bad, yet …,
  • The European genocide of native Americans was truly awful, yet …
  • I sure am sorry I raped and disemboweled your 11 year-old daughter, yet …

Here’s the video – clip starts about 6 minutes in:

On a side note – and I can’t believe I’m even taking the bait on this ridiculous spew – but Franks is likely referring to this study on the abortion rate, though the study itself highlighted lack of contraceptive access over policy.  Moreover, the comparison is unfair anyway as we have no real data on abortion policy during either slavery or medical prohibition.  How many slaves were forcefully aborted by landowners not wanting to sacrifice their free labor in the name of childrearing?  How many more slaves underwent amateur abortions so as not to incur their master’s wrath?  Just because it is no longer underground and undocumented does not mean it didn’t exist.

25 Feb

Women, Know Your Limits

in Funny, Gender. Femenism & Patriarchy, Politics, Republicans, Video

Almost missed this piece from the National Journal – a profile of Jan Larimer, the GOP’s kinder, gentler face for recruiting more women to the privileged white male party:

Larimer has spearheaded the party's efforts to recruit and train more women candidates. And based on the GOP's efforts this year, the party needs the help … "We're working with the women in Congress ... to empower the women in their states to get involved and to participate," Larimer told Hotline OnCall in an interview at the party's annual Winter meeting in Honolulu.

"Women sometimes need a little more handholding, or they need their friends to help them make a decision. And by our going in and talking to them and recruiting and educating and training them to either get involved in a campaign or become a candidate, we're giving them the tools so that they can do that on their own," Larimer added.

Lest there be any confusion, this isn;t some low-level PR lackey - this is the RNC co-chair! Off the record, Larimer later noted that the GOP is far more gender-evolved today than ever before.  Women can wear trousers, drive cars, and even decide for themselves when they should have dinner on the table.