Tuesday, November 30, 2004

LOTR: ROTK: EE

All I want for Christmas is my final boxed set, my final boxed set ... see the trailer here. The movie includes an additional 50-minutes of movie!

LOTR: ROTK: EE

All I want for Christmas is my final boxed set, my final boxed set ... see the trailer here. The movie includes an additional 50-minutes of movie!

Lying is hard work

Wired News is reporting that a study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has found that the brain works harder when lying instead of telling the truth. The researchers found seven areas of the brain that activated with lying and only four with truth telling.

Secrets of the Y Chromosome

Discover Magazine, Dec. 2004
   I read this Discover Magazine article this morning on the subway. Below is a summary that doesn't do it justice.
   The Y chromosome is unlike other chromosomes. It doesn't have a matched pair. In the process of meiosis to create a sperm, the Xm and Y chromosomes separate in anaphase -- likewise in the creation of an egg, the two Xf chromosomes separate. Our high school biology tells us that the possible outcomes for the child are two XfY and two XfXm. Over generations, the X chromosomes get pretty mixed up in the genetic pool as the offspring gets one from both parents. The Y chromosome in contrast, remains unchanged and gets passed on from father to son. The only changes come from mutations each man provides to the Y chromosome he has received from his father. In fact, the Y chromosome of each man today, is thought to be 99.99% the same as the one carried by 'Adam' who left Africa about 50-60,000 years ago. (Similar work done on mitochondrial DNA -- DNA that's passed down from mother to daughter -- traces 'Eve' back to Africa as well, to around 50,000 years ago.)
   Mutations in DNA that are neutral, doing neither harm nor good, simply accumulate over time in the genome, being passed on from one generation to the next. A mutation that is common in a group of people therefore indicates that they have a shared ancestor. The small mutations each man provides his Y chromosome then, acts as a genetic marker, recording the human species migration pattern across the planet over time. Going back to our roots in Africa, we can now trace our migration using the genetic markers. 50-60,000 years ago, we left Africa for the grasslands of Central Asia. From there, we branched out about 30,000 years ago -- one branch heading to Western Europe, the other for the Altai Mountains of western Siberia and western Mongolia. Roughly 10,000 years later, the group from Siberia/Mongolia branches, with some heading across the Bering Strait to North America. Then, just under 1,000 years ago, the original branches meet, as Europeans arrive in North America.
   The mutations at the single-nucleotide level on the Y chromosome occur rarely and provide the big picture view of migration patterns, spanning thousands of years. The smaller, more frequent mutations however -- those that occur on the microsatellite level -- the repetitious sequence of DNA that can change in the number of repetitions that occur from one generation to the next, such as CACACACA to CACACACACA -- provide a finer resolution to the migration pattern. It was this type of mutation for instance, that was used to profile Thomas Jefferson and prove that he had fathered a son by his slave, Sally Hemings, who's descendant was now living in Pennsylvania today. Looking at DNA samples collected from Central Asia at this fine a resolution, genetists found a pattern that repeated more often than expected. That led to a startling conclusion.
   In 1162, just east of the Altai Mountains, "a prodigious fornicator named Genghis Khan splashed into the gene pool like a cannonball." Genghis Khan has been quoted as saying, "Man's greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions ... use the bodies of his women as a nightshirt and support, gazing upon and kissing their rosy breasts, sucking their lips which are as sweet as the berries of their breasts." He is said to have continued campaigns into his sixties -- massacring and bringing home a new wife from each campaign. His harem was said to have had 500 wives. Genghis did two things in life apparently -- he killed and he copulated. He sowed his genes. His sons and grandsons ruled his empire and like Genghis, would have had all the opportunity to continue sowing his genes. One grandson, Kublai, was emperor of China. What the researchers had found in the repeated pattern, was Genghis Khan's Y chromosome. From a genetic perspective, Genghis is a success story. He remains with many today.
   Genetists are working against time. The migration trend of the past no longer holds true for the future. People move from region to region around the planet on a regular basis, and genetic history is quickly disappearing. The Human Genome Diversity Project is struggling to get off the ground due to misunderstanding and cries of exploitation. It's not that genetic diversity is disappearing -- far from it -- but the history of how the human population migrated across the planet is, another victim of globalization. Hopefully though, we'll come to realize that we're all the same, and all the mixing will create a global population with no colour. After all, we all came from a small gene pool some 60,000 years ago -- and genetically, we're almost identical to each other.
   For too much on this topic, see the links below:
  • The 1998 Expedition that collected DNA samples from Eurasia
  • African Origin of Modern Humans in East Asia: A Tale of 12,000 Y Chromosomes [PDF]
  • A Genetic Landscape Reshaped by Recent Events: Y-Chromosomal Insights into Central Asia
  • The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols
  • A Novel Y-Chromosome Variant Puts an Upper Limit on the Timing of First Entry into the Americas
  • Where West Meets East: The Complex mtDNA Landscape of the Southwest and Central Asian Corridor
  • Polynesian origins: Insights from the Y chromosome [PDF]
  • Reduced Y-Chromosome, but Not Mitochondrial DNA, Diversity in Human Populations from West New Guinea
  • Patterns of inter- and intra-group genetic diversity in the Vlax Roma as revealed by Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA lineages [PDF]
  • Hierarchical patterns of global human Y-chromosome diversity [PDF]
  • Founding Mothers of Jewish Communities: Geographically Separated Jewish Groups Were Independently Founded by Very Few Female Ancestors
  • Y-Chromosome Lineages Trace Diffusion of People and Languages in Southwestern Asia
  • Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations [PDF]
  • Genes, peoples, and languages [PDF]
  • An apportionment of human DNA diversity [PDF]
  • Reconstruction of human evolution: bringing together genetic, archaeological, and linguistic data [PDF]
  • Population genetic implications from sequence variation in four Y chromosome genes [PDF]
  • The Eurasian Heartland: A continental perspective on Y-chromosome diversity
  • Out of Africa: Map showing where different Y chromosome lineages spread around the globe

    Sedna? Quaoar? Planet X?

    I got a question via email regarding a previous post I made on planet-like bodies beyond Pluto. Luke asks, "What's the deal on these discoveries of Sedna and Quaoar? Is it just Planet X repackaged?" In short, the answer is no. Sedna and Quaoar are quite real. For those who don't know, Planet X was first proposed back in the mid-19th century to explain the perturbations in the motion of Uranus -- then Neptune. Percival Lowell, an American astronomer, named it Planet X, and conducted extensive searches for it in the early 20th century -- to no avail -- although his images did record a faint image of Pluto, which wasn't recognized until Pluto's discovery in 1930. Some astronomers still hold out hope for a large planet, possibly several times larger than Earth, with a highly elliptical orbit that has taken it out to the farthest reaches of our solar system. This planet they suggest, can explain the appearance of long period comets that we see. Sedna, Quaoar and their ilk are far from Planet X however. They're more like Pluto -- not a planet. Their mass and orbit suggest that they may be the norm for the environment beyond Neptune. What this all goes to show us is, just when we, the general public, are getting comfortable with our own solar system, we realize that we really know just a little about it. It's huge, and possibly quite stranger than we thought it was. For more on this topic, check out the following:
  • The Size and Distribution of Trans-Neptunian Bodies -- Trilling, Allen, Brown, Holman and Malhotra [PDF]
  • The Planet X Saga -- from Bad Astronomy
  • Sedna? Quaoar? Planet X?

    I got a question via email regarding a previous post I made on planet-like bodies beyond Pluto. Luke asks, "What's the deal on these discoveries of Sedna and Quaoar? Is it just Planet X repackaged?" In short, the answer is no. Sedna and Quaoar are quite real. For those who don't know, Planet X was first proposed back in the mid-19th century to explain the perturbations in the motion of Uranus -- then Neptune. Percival Lowell, an American astronomer, named it Planet X, and conducted extensive searches for it in the early 20th century -- to no avail -- although his images did record a faint image of Pluto, which wasn't recognized until Pluto's discovery in 1930. Some astronomers still hold out hope for a large planet, possibly several times larger than Earth, with a highly elliptical orbit that has taken it out to the farthest reaches of our solar system. This planet they suggest, can explain the appearance of long period comets that we see. Sedna, Quaoar and their ilk are far from Planet X however. They're more like Pluto -- not a planet. Their mass and orbit suggest that they may be the norm for the environment beyond Neptune. What this all goes to show us is, just when we, the general public, are getting comfortable with our own solar system, we realize that we really know just a little about it. It's huge, and possibly quite stranger than we thought it was. For more on this topic, check out the following:
  • The Size and Distribution of Trans-Neptunian Bodies -- Trilling, Allen, Brown, Holman and Malhotra [PDF]
  • The Planet X Saga -- from Bad Astronomy
  • Half Life 2 Case Mod

    I'm impressed. Here is a case mod inspired by the Half Life 2 game.

    Ctrl. Alt. Del.

    I got this off Slashdot -- apparently the US Air Force is following the lead of the US Navy in giving Microsoft more than their PCs. They've struck a deal for a specially configured version of Windows for all their personnel, that will provide added security and reduce the problems of apply patches. Microsoft will administer automated patch updates for the Air Force. Doesn't the Air Force realize there is no such thing as a secure Windows platform? Hackers love to hate Microsoft. And Microsoft has already delivered a version of Windows that has automated patch updates capability -- it's called XP -- it just buggers things up royally when used.

    Project Ornithopter

    Ornithopter
    Leonardo Da Vinci dreamed up a flying machine in 1490. His was human powered. It inspired a great many people -- some of whom actually wanted to build a flying craft that achieved sustained flight by flapping its wings. A group of researchers from the University of Toronto are now trying to achieve just that -- building an engine-powered, piloted aircraft, and achieve flight by flapping wings.

    Moon Eclipses Jupiter

    Next week Tuesday, about an hour before dawn, the crescent Moon will eclipse Jupiter -- at exactly 3:53:57 EST to be exact. Jupiter will appear on the other side of the Moon at 5:00:21 EST. Don't bother waking up early, as the eclipse starts on the bright side of the crescent Moon, and will finish on the dark side. So waking up at 5AM to look at it is when you'll probably catch it. If you have a small telescope -- and have clear skies -- you'll be able to see three of Jupiter's moons. Callisto and Ganymede will appear before Jupiter does, and Europa will follow about 2 minutes after Jupiter appears. Check out this NASA site for more.
    NASA Image: Jupiter with its moons emerging from behind our Moon -- click for a NASA animation of the event!

    Sunday, November 28, 2004

    Artists?

    Everybody is a friggin' artist these days -- and when you think that most supposed artists are 50% pretension and another 50% BS, well, why couldn't everybody be an artist? Well, everybody can't. Motorola however, doesn't care what I think. So they've proclaimed every one armed with a phonecam an artist, and are inviting them to display their art in the world's first phonecam art show -- on the internet. (OK, so I'm jealous that I don't have a phonecam!) [Thanks for the link Darren.]
    The artshow -- refreshed every 5 seconds.

    Chicken Soup

       A couple of weeks ago, I was at Tim Hortons for lunch. I ordered their chicken noodle soup. It was shocking! I got two pieces of chicken! I quickly devoured it before anyone found out and confiscated my soup.
       I just imagined though -- at some other Tim Hortons, the manager was throwing a fit -- their piece of chicken was missing! Now their chicken noodle soup could no longer be safely called "chicken" noodle soup.
       The consequences I further imagined, flowed right back to Tim Hortons HQ, where an investigative committee is formed to find the missing piece of chicken. Eventually, they would narrow it down to a mistake one of their new chefs made. The culmination of the investigation would be punishment for the guilty. I could see a small Indian man, probably a doctor or nuclear scientist who couldn't find a job he was qualified for in Canada, being dragged to the middle of a warehouse as other Tim Hortons employees looked on. He would be sobbing protests and excuses in his native tongue. His shirt would be ripped from his back. He would be hauled up by the chains secured to his hands. The crowd would part to let the Tim Hortons official flogger through -- a giant, with troll like resemblance. The flogger would raise his whip, and the guilty chef would scream, "Aieeeee!" before the whip even struck him.

    Thin Foil

       I just read this little blurb on Slashdot regarding the US e-enabling their passports. Apparently there are privacy concerns. The experimental chips chosen for the passports can be read from 30-ft. away -- which would be a boon for identity thieves. The proposed solution: wrap the passport in thin foil. ... OK, have you finished laughing yet?
       This got me thinking -- in a future of information ubiquity, where everything speaks to everything else, and personal information is constantly being exchanged for identification and authorization purposes, how does one fight identity piracy? I think the thin foil solution isn't such a bad idea. In the future, we will use embedded chips, biometric technology, various wearable computing devices, all connected via a personal area network, which in turn will communicate to the greater world of people and machines. Information silence would become the concupiscence for future society -- and a burgeoning market. Bauxite producing countries will enjoy a boom. Thin foil hats will become the fashion for society's malcontents, subversives and revolutionaries -- those that wish to kill the embedded chips from broadcasting their bank accounts, personal preferences and global position. Putting on a thin foil laced jacket for clubbing to protect one's modesty will be hip.
       Choosing when to share and what to share may not be the only times when one would want to wear a body glove of thin foil. There are those who will seek to take from you what you don't want to share. Call them body hackers or identity pirates -- phishing phreaks that wish to jack into you to hijack your digital personality for unscrupulous profits. These need not be the criminal types -- think of what corporations could do with the information on all their mindless consumers. If the criminal types are successful, you could build a global spanning record -- buying, authorizing, creating -- unknowingly being responsible for a chain of illegitimate transactions that fuel an underground economy. Your life could be destroyed. Your property foreclosed to pay your debts racked up in far off lands. Your spouse filing for divorce after it's found out where you've been spending all those 'overtime' hours -- and don't bother arguing; there will be location and biometric data to prove you were there and doing what you weren't doing. When law enforcement officials come breaking down your front door -- oh wait, that's not your front door anymore -- you'll welcome the respite and quiet prison life will offer.
       There is an alternative scenario -- another market for the nefarious minded. Virtual identity. When the future arrives, the sum of you will be data from your transactions and interactions with the machine world. How long will it be before someone clever creates entirely new identities, complete with histories, life but no physical existence? Want to buy a weekend as a high roller in Vegas? No problem. A quick download and you're ready to go. You'll be equipped with a multimillion dollar account, spending habits and a life of your design for the weekend. Ready made, with a 'best before' due date.
       The future is inevitable. This information dominant future seems inescapable. You may live multiple lives unknowingly -- live beyond your means and potential, even if just for a weekend, knowingly. You could be more than one person -- knowingly and unknowingly, without having multiple personalities. Or maybe multiple personality disorder will come to have new meaning. No matter what happens, remember, with thin foil, you have a choice. So the US government thinks anyway.

    Saturday, November 27, 2004

    Metis Honour

    I'm not sure how to take this tidbit of news -- today, Andy Scott (M.P. Federal Interlocutor for Metis, and Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development) and Paul DeVillers (Member of Parliament for Simcoe North) will be visiting the Historic Metis Community of Ontario. There, DeVillers will be receiving the Metis Nation of Ontario citizenship card -- becoming the first MP to be registered with the Metis Nation. Like I said -- I don't know how to take this one. For more information on this topic, see the links below:
  • Self-Government for Aboriginal People in Urban Areas [PDF]
  • The Nature of Metis Claims [PDF]
  • An Historical Introduction to Metis Claims in Canada [PDF]
  • Thursday, November 25, 2004

    Dog and Fire Hydrants

    I'm trying a creative experiment on my forum. I'm trying to start a collaborative effort with my visitors, to write a story together. The way it works: each person adds a little to the story -- someone has to first start it -- based on what has been written before. I've left a picture I scanned from a magazine as inspiration. Drop by -- register -- and add your tidbit.

    The Top Givers

    BusinessWeek Nov. 29, 2004
    My youngest tonight received a Joey & Toby Tanenbaum award at the University of Ryerson for Business Management. Over the years the Tanenbaums have given over Cdn$200 million to various causes. On the subway ride to work this morning, I was reading this week's cover article from BusinessWeek magazine: The Top Givers. It's the magazine annual report card on the top philanthropists in the US. The richest country in the world produces more philanthropists than Canada, and probably elsewhere in the world -- the magazine proudly proclaims that their top 50 donors [PDF] have given away US$65 billion in their lifetime. A noble achievement indeed, and something to be proud of. The Gates' top the list, having given away more than have their net worth thus far -- an amazing sum of US$27,976 million. No one comes close to Bill and Melinda Gates in giving. Last year alone, they gave US$3 billion to their foundation. The sentiments of Alfred Mann probably echoes those of the top philanthropists: "Money is only worth what you can do with it. Other than that, it's not worth a damn." For these philanthropists, solving today's problems is of more value than bequeathing their riches. Jansen and Katz of McKinsey have found that this is sound reasoning as well, as the present value of future donations drop dramatically.


    As much as they give though, these top donors are in the minority. On average, the 1% richest people in the US have two-fifths of the country's wealth, but donate just 2% of their annual incomes each year. Those on the bottom of the income ladder however, give 6% of theirs. 20% of the richest estates leave absolutely nothing to charity. The wealth stays locked up and doesn't flow back into the economy. The article is quite an eye-opener. You may be surprised by who you find on the top 50 list and how they're donating their money. The sidebar article on the lower income givers is also a good read. There are a lot of good people in the world, along with the misers.

    Kraft's Crash Diet

    BusinessWeek has a short article on Kraft's 'crash diet.' The packaged food producer is huge, with 2004 expected sales of US$32.3 billion. It's accomplished this with the huge investments it has made in purchasing big name brands and bringing them into the fold. Its strategy however is starting to backfire. Competition from private label brands are take a big bite out of Kraft's earnings and its ability to charge premium prices. Kraft is partly to blame for oversaturating store shelves with variations of the same product -- I remember reading elsewhere that there are about 20 different types of Oreo cookies. The biggest problem for Kraft however, is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is commoditizing packaged food. They're reducing varieties by only stocking the products with the greatest turns. Wal-Mart makes its money by moving volumes, not moving low quantities of niche products. So Kraft is retooling its brand strategy and selling off the low performers, deciding to stick with the giant brands that it intends to dominate with. This is a direct opposite move from the latest in marketing trends, which seeks to mass-customize products for consumers. Interesting.

    Ontario Place and Exhibition Place

    Great thing about Canada -- we talk. We're a great country for conversation -- wanting to discuss every issue, no matter how mundane. It should come as no surprise then that we have dusted the cobwebs off David Crombie and asked him, as Chair of Ontario Place and Co-Chair of the Ontario Place/Exhibition Place Steering Committee, to solicit public input into the vision for the two venues. Really, who has time for this? Well, public interest groups are bound to show up -- you can always count on a do-gooder with the public interest to come out of the woodwork. But the other groups that will likely try to make the talks their own are the business self-interest groups that are looking to dip their greedy hands into the public pockets. Let the conversation begin! If you've nothing better to do with your time, you can go and heckle both sides this afternoon at 3:30PM at the Atlantis Pavilions of Ontario Place. The Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation owns this process.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2004

    Today's Reading

    Some reading that I did while ignoring weirdos on the subway today, included a few articles in BusinessWeek magazine, commenting on the state of business at a few of the large technology companies. Here they are:
  • To The Tech Giants Go The Spoils -- while IT spending is predicted to be low this year, the big tech companies are seeing stronger rise in revenues. What gives? Businesses are investing their limited dollars in the trusted giants and are shying away from the small players.
  • Getting Intel Back On The Inside Track -- Intel has seen its once firm grip on the chip industry erode due to a few missteps and the smart moves by rival AMD. How will Intel regain its dominance?
  • Will Solaris 10 Make Sun Shine Again? -- with the new release of Solaris, Sun is hoping it can resurrect itself once again. But is Sun really relevant in a space that's slowly being overtaken by Linux? Sun thinks so. They have the technology, but is the market willing to buy?
  • BEA: A Little Down In The Valley -- like Sun, BEA has great technology. Technology that's probably better than rivals from IBM and Oracle. Yet the company is losing market share, and some blame the technologist CEO, that sees little value in developing a strong Marketing arm.
  • Sears + Kmart

    Edward S. Lampert -- The Next Warren Buffett?
    Just last week, BusinessWeek magazine's cover article was on Edward S. Lampert. The cover trumpeted the question: "The Next Warren Buffett?" Seems like Lampert can't do much wrong for the investment community -- as BusinessWeek suggests, "Lampert has become a brand unto himself." After taking control of Kmart from the bankruptcy, Lampert has squeezed the retailer until it coughed up US$3 billion. He accomplished this by selling off select Kmart real estate holdings and reducing the retailer to bare bones, survival level efficiency. In under two years, Kmart stock has increased by close to $100. With Kmart's cash hoard, Lampert is now purchasing Sears, Roebuck and Co. for US$11 billion. When the deal was announced last week, both Kmart and Sears stock rose -- the investment community signaling their approval. Combined sales of both firms will be US$55 billion, making it the third largest retailer in the US, behind Wal-Mart and Home Depot -- and kicking Target down to fourth place. The combined company will have 2,370 stores and with focused marketing, could grow. That's if Lampert wishes to be a retailer. If he simply wishes to turn Sears into an outfit to bankroll his future investments, we will see the slow demise of one America's trusted and long lived brands.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    Spamusement

    Spamusement -- why not? This site features poorly drawn cartoons inspired by spam subject lines. I don't know -- but I suppose it's better than reading spam.

    My New Forum

    Yes, blogging wasn't enough. Here's my forum -- again. I'm not sure what I want to do with this. The blog is more static, the forum should be dynamic. That's the idea anyway. Stop by, join, post, and it may become something. It's no fun having a conversation all by myself.

    Encyclopedia Obscura

    'Lurking in the shadows of pop culture -- so you won't have to.' That's the tagline for this site that collects the pop culture's garbage -- not just any garbage, but the garbage from the oft dismissed dump that caters to crap that are forgotten before they're even made -- crap, thanks to this site, that are now elevated posterity. There are sections that chronicles movies/tv, games, comics/books, toys, music and other weird stuff. Crap, yes. But what entertaining crap!

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    WMOB: The Wiretap Network

    This one has got my curiosity. Let me quote directly from the site:
    The Frank & Fritzy Show -- Girl problems. Mafia beefs. High blood pressure. A difficult boss. Listen to what's bugging two real-life New York gangsters in these secret FBI wiretaps. It's Seinfeld meets the Sopranos: a series about nuttin'.
    It's funny! You can listen online or read the transcripts of the recording.

    "Leaders in Action for Education"

    It's a dumb title, but it's a title nonetheless -- the Peel Board of Education is kicking off a one-day conference today for middle and secondary school students at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton. The keynote speech will be given by Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire, who led UN operations in Sierra Leone in 1999, when the UN stood by and did nothing to stop the systematic rape, mutilation and murder of the civilian population. The conference focuses on the impact of war on children and education -- the aim is to teach students that they have responsibilities beyond their borders; raise awareness of their place in the world; and develop leadership skills. It's a great idea, but it's a one day conference. It will rely on teachers going back to the classroom and doing something about it. I have little hope. The little I have, I reserve for the few that will perhaps be impacted by the conference -- the few that will perhaps not forget when they get back to school tomorrow.

    New Photos

    Photographs of clouds (mostly)
    I've placed some new photographs online. I took these a couple of weeks back. My wife and I were out and about. Click on the image to be taken to the gallery.

    Saturday, November 20, 2004

    Dell sued over patent infringement

    This is a funny one -- Dell is being sued by DE Technologies for infringing on a patent covering international transactions handled over a computer. That could potentially impact US$15 billion of Dell's revenues. The fact that the US Patent office granted a patent for the process of companies conducting international transactions is the scary part. Makes me wonder if I could apply for a patent of applying for a patent and then sue everyone who's applied for a patent, and get away with it.

    Corn based DVD

    Pioneer Corp. has developed a prototype of the next generation Blu-ray DVD, containing 87% natural polymer derived from corn and other biodegradables. The disc is coated with a 0.1mm layer of resin that makes it hard -- so while it can technically be eaten, it should probably be cooked first.

    Taipei to Cloak City in World's Largest Wi-Fi Grid

    Reuters reports that city planners of Taiwan's capital, Taipei, plan to cloak the city in the world's largest Wi-Fi grid by the end of 2005. The service is expected to cost US$4.50-US$12, about 25%-50% less than the cost of fixed-line broadband in the city. There are questions as to whether the service will really take off, as 80% of the city already has broadband internet service.

    Museum of Bad Art

    The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) -- Art too bad to be ignored. They claim to be "the world's only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms." I'm not sure if they're the only one, but they sure do have a lot of bad art.

    SHECKYmagazine

    Here's a site that takes comedy, the standup kind, seriously. It reports on the goings on in the comedy world. No jokes.

    How to Survive the End of the Universe (In 7 Steps)

       I love the title of this article from Discover Magazine, written by Michio Kaku. It is adapted from his book Parallel WorldsParallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. The article is tightly packed with astrophysics -- so much so, that to really get it all, you either buy the book or research the details on the internet -- either option is tantalizing if you have the time and find the topic engaging. To begin with, back in 1998, astronomers concluded that the universe is open. It's expanding rapidly and the rate of expansion is increasing. Whatever is aiding the expansion has been label "dark energy" and "dark matter" -- dark, cause we can see it, but the math says it has got to be there -- or our models are wrong -- a possibility. To make matters (pun intended) worse, as the universe expands, there appears to be more dark energy present to make it expand faster. Current estimates from the WMAP analysis suggests that 73% of the universe is made up of dark energy, another 23% of dark matter and only 4% is made up of the stuff we know -- the stars, the planets, the gas clouds, etc.
       Eventually, the universe will run out. The density will be so low, that it will become dark, cold and lonely. The stars will flicker out of existence and the most advanced civilizations will have nothing but Hawking radiation from black holes to keep them warm -- and eventually, that will run out too. With temperatures hitting absolute zero, everything will die. Even the machines. That may be millions or trillions of years away. Before we reach that end, we will first have to survive ourselves here on planet Earth. Stop killing each other, the planet and cure all diseases. As well, we would have to be capable of interstellar travel in order to escape from our solar system 5 billion years from now when the Sun goes boom. If we survive all that and make it to the end of the universe, we'll want a way out, and the only place to go will be to another universe.
       Parallel universes was an idea Andrei Linde proposed, built from Alan Guth's inflationary theory. Linde suggested that inflation may not have been a singular event, but may have created a parent universe that spawned baby universes, each baby universe itself a parent universe that spawned other baby universes, and so on, in a never-ending cycle. To get from one universe to another, one would have to hop a ride through an Einstein-Rosen bridge -- a wormhole. This is not science fiction. Scientists are searching for evidence of parallel universes, perhaps existing no more than a millimetre or atomic distances away from ours.
    The Seven Steps
    (1) To get anywhere close to escaping the end of the universe, an advanced civilization will have to discover the laws of quantum gravity -- basically, find a theory of everything. The leading theory we have today is string theory or M-theory. String theory proposes that all subatomic particles are different vibrations on a tiny string or membrane that exists in higher-dimensional hyperspace. Our universe might therefore be a huge membrane hanging in 11-dimensional space, and could be one of many such membranes, existing enticingly close to each other -- and to get from one to another, we would simply have to find a bridge.
    (2) Find a naturally occurring wormhole. The Big Bang released an incredible amount of energy -- this may have left behind all sorts of weird things, such as cosmic strings, false vacuums, negative matter or energy, and wormholes.
    (3) Black holes may be another way of escaping the universe, and the good news is, there are lots of them. The bad news of course is the event horizon. While it is theoretically possible to pass through a black hole, we would have to learn a lot. One tantalizing prospect is that of a Kerr ring -- a mathematical proposal by Roy Kerr that a rapidly spinning black hole will collapse not into a singularity, but a ring due to centrifugal force. The possibility of a Kerr ring serving as an elevator shaft running through floors that are each a universe brings up interesting possibilities.
    (4) Create a black hole in slow motion to study them, wormholes and space-time.
    (5) Create a wormhole using negative energy/matter. In 1988, Kip Thorne and colleagues showed that by using negative energy/matter, a wormhole could be created to allow travel between vast distances. To do this, we would have to create negative energy/matter in vast quantities -- today, in the lab, the Casimir effect has produced detectable amounts of negative energy.
    (6) Create a baby universe ourselves. The amount of matter required to create a baby universe isn't that much -- maybe a few ounces. The big problem comes in being able to force that matter into a small enough spot to create a false vacuum. Two options of doing this are: a) using powerful lasers -- although each laser would have to be powered by a nuclear bomb; b) use a cosmic atom smasher -- think of a particle accelerator with the diameter of our solar system.
    (7) If we find out that only atom-sized particles could travel through a wormhole, a future civilization would have to send a nanobot through to recreate the entire civilization. Think of it as colonization the way Arthur C. Clarke envisioned it 2001: A Space Odyssey. The nanobot would have to be able to replicate itself, and then have stored in it, the DNA, personality and memory of every person alive in colonizing civilization.
    For further exploration of some of the topics raised by this article, check out the links below:
  • Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) -- analysis of cosmic background radiation
  • Dark Energy [PDF] and Dark Matter -- the stuff we can't see
  • Einstein-Rosen bridges [PDF] -- or wormholes
  • Alan Guth [PDF] -- inflation theory
  • Andrei Linde [PDF] -- extension of inflation theory; a review of the multiverse concept [PDF].
  • Gravitational Physics [PDF]
  • The Universe's Unseen Dimensions
  • Large Hadron Collider -- searching for exotic particles [PDF] that may indicate parallel universes in higher dimensions
  • Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) -- searching for gravity waves
  • Nikolai Kardashev -- classification of civilizations [PDF] based on their energy consumption
  • Roy Kerr -- mathematical possibility of a Kerr ring [PPT] from a rapidly spinning black hole
  • Kip Thorne -- creation of a wormhole using negative energy [PDF]
  • Hendrik Casimir -- the Casimir effect [PDF]
  • Artificial Fin

    Fuji, a 34-year-old mother dolphin living in an aquarium in Okinawa, Japan, is now swimming and jumping like other dolphins after receiving an artificial fin from Bridgestone. Fuji lost 75% of her tail to a disease, and while she could still swim, it was slower and she was unable to jump. The artificial fin, which is only worn part of the day, allows her to have fully mobility.

    MPAA Wants on Internet2

    News.com is reporting that the MPAA has been slavering at the doors of the Internet2 consortium hoping for a place at the table, where they can influence and monitor illegal file sharing of movies on the network. Internet2 is an ultra-highspeed, next generation internet infrastructure that aims to deliver future applications and services, but is today used primarily for research. A DVD for instance could potentially make it across the network in 5-seconds. This is scary to the MPAA, and they're looking to sue someone.

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    Santa Claus Parade

    Santa Claus Parade
    The 100th Santa Claus parade will be held this Sunday in Toronto, but you can see Santa early. He will most likely be on hand at Nathan Phillips Square this afternoon (1PM) for the unveiling of an Ontario Heritage Foundation plaque, in recognition of 100 years of floats, bands and everything between being dragged through Toronto's streets.

    Microsoft Warns Asian Governments of Linux Lawsuits

    As reported in Slashdot, Ballmer has warned Asian countries that they could be sued for using Linux by Microsoft. Ballmer claims that Linux violates 228 Microsoft patents, but didn't give any details. This is too funny. Seems like Ballmer is an inexhaustible windbag.

    Google's Keyhole

    Google is offering a subscription service, called Keyhole, that proclaims itself as the "ultimate interface to the planet." What is it? Satellite imagery, allowing you to fly in from space, straight down to your house -- or visit places around the planet. In Toronto, imagery resolution is down to 0.7 metre. The highest resolution offered is down to 1 foot. A one-week, free trail is available. This service is for the ultimate voyeur.
    Screenshot of Keyhole.

    Google Scholar

    Google recently introduced Google Scholar, in beta. According to Google, its new service "enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research." Now where was this when I was in school?
    Google Scholar

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    Extreme Ironing

    This site's welcome proclaims it to be the home of extreme ironing -- "the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt." I don't think much else needs to be said. Check it out.

    Wind Power influence on the Global Climate

    Wind Farm in California.
    In a report published in the Nov. 16th issue [PDF] of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, David Keith, et al, took a look at the large-scale impact of wind farms on the global climate. In simulations, using enough windmills to generate all the world's power needs, of around 2 terawatts, the local and global climate would be impacted. Wind farms would "extract kinetic energy" from the climate -- create surface drag -- "altering turbulent transport in the atmospheric boundary layer." But that's not necessarily bad. The alteration of circulation would not change global-mean surface temperature, but would succed in increasing the equatorial temperature and lower the polar temperature -- not a bad thing, considering that CO2 related global warming is melting the polar regions today and slowly changing the global climate. Of course, the additional benefit of using wind power is the lowering of dependency on fossil fuels that pump CO2 into the atmosphere. Neat!

    Today's Reading

    BusinessWeek, Nov. 22/04.I kept myself occupied on my two hour transit time today with the latest BusinessWeek magazine, despite the best efforts of a magazine thief today.
  • Cause Marketing -- more and more businesses are trying to secure customers by giving to causes. It's become mandatory in a company's marketing war chest to have money and effort dedicated to adopting giving to popular cause. Why? Being charitable is viewed as a good thing by consumers, who don't have enough time or money to help others -- being able to shop and give at the same time, satisfies consumers -- they're more likely to go out of their way, pay slightly higher prices, to feel good about themselves. For more information on sponsorships, check out the IEG Sponsorship Report.
  • Online Ad Surge -- today, premium ad space on the big internet portals can cost twice or three times the amount it cost just a year ago, and that's only if advertisers are lucky to land any available premium space. While the ad industry has seen growth of 7.7% a year, the internet has seen growth of 28.8%. Why the growth? Internet ads have matured as technology in the space has matured. Now, ads can be behaviourally targeted; effectiveness can be quantified; and businesses can reach millions of eyeballs -- more so than TV and print.
  • Why are Internet Ads are growing?  Graphic Source: BusinessWeek.
  • Microsoft's New Markets -- Microsoft recently made two announcements indicating a shift of resources and another attempt to usurp a rival's market. Firstly, Microsoft has announced a deal with Comcast to offer Microsoft's new cable set-top boxes, loaded with Microsoft software, that aims to be the TiVo killer. Secondly, Microsoft announced the beta-testing of its new MSN search engine, built from scratch and ready to take on Google.
  • Broadband Over Powerlines -- delivering broadband over electrical powerlines seems inevitable. Electricity travels over powerlines in low-frequencies, leaving the high frequency part of the spectrum free to carry information. It's already expected that broadband could easily hit 3Mb/s on powerlines. Apart from easy access to highspeed anywhere, and instant home networks, there is a huge benefit to the power companies. Suddenly, they would have access to consumption information in real time -- suddenly they will have the ability to manage demand instead of reacting to it; not to mention the ability to proactively manage their networks instead of reacting to problems after they've occurred.
  • The Return of the King

    AOL left Netscape to die a quiet death a couple of years ago, amid a surge in popularity of Microsoft's IE. Now, with the recent success of Firefox, AOL has decided that it will restart development of Netscape -- this time, it will be based on the Firefox browser. Neat! Except that AOL seems as confused as ever. They continue to develop extensions to IE for their AOL service, which they're calling the AOL Browser. Make up your mind AOL!

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    Subway Reading

    I spend my commuting time to and from work, reading. From today's reading, here are a few BusinessWeek articles that may be of interest.
  • The US Supreme Court -- now that Bush has been reelected, he may have the chance to name replace four of the existing justices on the supreme court. What will a conservative Bush do? BusinessWeek speculates.
  • Bangalore Madness -- one place outside of the US that was hoping Bush would be reelected was Bangalore. Kerry had positioned himself as an outsource killer to Bush's let businesses run their business. With Bush back in office, the outsourcing deals continue to be made -- but now, there may be a consolidation of the service providers as they jockey for market dominating positions.
  • European Smoke -- anti-smoking is taking off in Europe. Ireland, Norway and Malta has already banned smoking in work places, including bars and restaurants. Sweden will follow next year, and Britain is taking steps to curb smoking. France, which already has laws to curb smoking, have started enforcing them. The tobacco industry it appears is dying a slow death.
  • Unforgivable Blackness -- Geoffrey C. Ward

    Unforgiveable Blackness, by Geoffrey C. Ward.
    In 1908, Jack Jackson beat Tommy Burns to win the heavyweight boxing title. In 1910, James J. Jeffries came out of retirement to take on Jack Jackson. The match went 15 rounds, and Jack Jackson won. James Jeffries came out of retirement to return the heavyweight title to White America. Before there was Muhammad Ali, there was Jack Jackson. An uncompromising black man in white America. Born to ex-slaves, Jack Johnson grew up wanting great things, and he wasn't going to let the notion of segregation get in his way. With his winnings he had a lavish lifestyle -- a fleet of luxury cars, stays in expensive hotels, expensive custom made suits -- all the riches his money could buy. He broke the taboo of inter-racial relationships -- his three wives were white. For his bucking the status quo, he got it from both sides. He was despised by whites, who didn't like the way he threw his wealth in their faces and mocked segregation with his actions -- and disliked by blacks who didn't like the attention he was bringing to them. Geoffrey C. Ward's Unforgivable Blackness chronicles the Rise and Fall of Jack Jackson. The book sounds like it's a great read. One that I may pick up if I see it at a certain used book store. The book is a companion to a PBS film of the same title -- for a video preview in RealVideo format, click! [4.5 minutes, 7.8MB]

    Corruption Perception

    Transparency International (TI) has assessed the nations of the world in 2004, how corrupt their public figures and politicians are perceived to be, and recently released their findings [PDF]. The results are a measure of human greed and abuse of power -- 106 out of 146 countries scored less than 5 out of 10 on the index -- 60 countries scored less than 3 out of 10, indicating rampant corruption -- and the worst countries of all, scoring less than 2 out of 10: Bangladesh, Hati, Nigeria, Chad, Myanmar, Azerbaijan and Paraguay. Why is corruption bad? It's devastating to countries, as wealth is stolen from the local economies. TI estimates that $400 billion US is lost every year to corruption. Imagine if that money was reinvested into local economies what a difference it would make. For the curious, Canada ranks number 12 -- right behind the UK. The number one spot is held by Finland. USA ranks number 17.
  • For a comprehensive report on global corruption, check out TI's Global Corruption Report.
  • [Thanks for the link Darren.]

    MPAA Sues First Movie Swappers

    The MPAA, following the lead of the RIAA, have decided to sue their customers -- customers that use peer-to-peer networks to share movie files without permission. There is debate however on whether file swappers are hurting the movie industry -- just as there is evidence that file swappers weren't hurting the music industry, but was having the opposite effect. In the last two years, according to BigChampagne -- an online media-metrics firm -- use of peer-to-peer networks have risen 22% in the US. The RIAA however, have used other numbers in their publicity campaigns to demonstrate that suing is working -- they've used numbers from Pew and Nielsen to show that file sharing use has dropped. Pew however, doesn't track users under the age of 18 and Nielsen doesn't track all P2P networks.

    Celebrating Diversity

    Now here's something different -- Jews and Arabs neighbours not trying to kill each other. The Temple Har Zio and the Jaffari Islamic Centre in Thornhill have been neighbours for the last 25 years. They've shared many things -- from a common parking lot to collaborating on a number of programs, including an educational initiative called "Breaking the Circle of Hate." Tonight they will be recognized for their efforts by the Harmony Movement, a group founded in 1994, to promote diversity.

    We Are Toronto

    Week 2 of Toronto's branding campaign kicked off yesterday at Ryerson University. The Toronto Branding Project is looking for input from Torontonians on how to brand and sell Toronto. This week question is: "How do we tell the Toronto story?" ie. what are the big themes and images that come to mind about the Toronto story? The campaign will have people out and about the city to gather your thoughts -- and you can also provide input at their website. Last week, the question was, "What is your vision for the future of Toronto?" The project is a partnership between Tourism Toronto, the City of Toronto, The Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation and the Toronto City Summit Alliance -- their goal is raise Toronto's profile as a major global tourist and business destination. Check out the site and tell them what you think.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    Managing Risk

    McKinsey Quarterly has an article on risk management that I tend to agree with -- it's not the first time I've seen similar opinions being expressed, and it's a convincing argument. Risks are not bad -- if they're managed well -- and that's where most companies fail. They don't manage risks well, or they don't understand the risks they're exposing themselves to. The article calls on a study McKinsey did from 1997 to 2002 of about 200 leading financial companies. What they found was alarming -- and should be to shareholders and regulators alike. In a significant percent of the companies, the leadership didn't fully understand the risks their businesses faced and didn't have processes in place to deal with the risks, should they arise. While risks can cause unexpected financial losses and harm credibility with customers, employees and investors, it is risk taking that generates shareholder value. Therefore, striking a balance between risk aversion and risk taking is what is needed. That's where risk management comes to play. Risk Management is loosely defined as the processes that identify, control and minimize the impact of uncertain events -- it reduces risks while putting in place a process to obtain and maintain approval for taking risks. McKinsey broadly categorizes risk as coming in four varieties:
  • Market Risk -- "exposure to adverse market price movements"
  • Credit Risk -- "exposure to the possibility that a borrower or counterparty might fail to honor its contractual obligations"
  • Operational Risk -- "exposure to losses due to inadequate internal processes and systems and to external events"
  • Business-volume Risk -- "exposure to revenue volatility ... stemming from changes in demand or supply or from competition"
  • To manage risk, it must first be understood what risks are being undertaken and what the appetite is for risk taking -- ie. how much financial exposure would a company be comfortable with. Risk exposure must be understood broadly, and have visibility at the board level. Risk management does not equal risk avoidance. A risk taking culture is a good thing, and needs to be nurtured.

    Miss Digital World

    Here's another beauty pageant to add to the list -- a digital one. 3D graphic artists can submit their models to the contest and web surfers vote on the models they think are the best. The winning artist will get some money -- but more importantly, the model agency running the contest is looking for the next big thing -- the digital model will then be pimped to everything from video games, ad agencies to the movie industry. The plan is to create the next big digital model.

    New Photos

    There are some new photos in my online gallery. Click on the thumbnail image to get to them.

    Blind Date

    Roland Piquepaille reports in his blog on the world's first online dating contest, featuring video profiles. It seems like UK cellular providers want to help singles find love online. These seekers of random love are apparently making video profiles of themselves and submitting it online for potential suitors (suckers? victims?) to preuse and make their choice. The meat market just went online! [Thanks for the link Darren.]

    2004 US Presidential Elections -- Visual Summary

    Cartograms are diagrams that present numerical information via spatial representation. Some folks from the University of Michigan have poured over the data from the US election and came up with some interesting diagrammatic representations of the numbers -- not to mention a bit psychedelic. Check them out -- quite representative of the elections -- and they show how really close the race was. If only ... just, if only ... [Thanks for the link Darren.] One of the researchers, Cosma Shalizi, does some other interesting work as well -- and has a slight interest in the Talking Heads.

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Canada's Women Victorious!

    Canada's Women Hockey Team continue their victories, coming out on top with a final 2:1 victory over the US in the 2004 Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid. In the first game, Canada tied with the US, then went on to beat Sweden 3:2, and Finland 4:1. In a hockey starved country, what else could you need?!

    Reliving the Election

    The US presidential dog race maybe be over -- and Bush may have been the slavering dog that caught the jackrabbit, but you can still have the last laugh -- again and again and again! Check out MiniClip's political entertainment -- short movies and only games to bring democracy to the masses!

    Sunday, November 14, 2004

    Ontario Greenbelt Protection

    Ontario has embarked on the journey to set aside land for permanent agricultural and environmental protection -- the Greenbelt Plan. They will be kicking off public hearings on the subject tomorrow at the Ontario Science Centre at 7PM. This may be a start of a good thing -- maybe -- if they follow through.

    Free Tech Books

    This site collects technology books that are freely available on the internet. Quite a few are hardcore tech, but one that I found interesting from a historical perspective, is "How it works: the computer" -- first published in 1971, and revised in 1979. The books are lavishly illustrated and stuck in time. Check it out to see how the world was.

    Smart Mobs

    Check out this blog that chronicles the "communication and computing technologies (that) amplify human talents for cooperation."

    Saturday, November 13, 2004

    Star Wars Kid

    Remember the Star Wars kid? A 15-year-old from Montreal recorded a video of himself in mock battle using a golf ball retriever as a lightsaber. His peers at school, wanting to make fun of him, uploads it on the internet. At first, people laughed at him. Then some geeks got pissed. The Star Wars kid was them, at 15, being laughed at. They fought back. The Star Wars kid got some cool toys sent his way, and his video got remade, with special effects added. Suddenly there are over a hundred clones of his videos, and no one is laughing at him anymore. Star Wars kid -- hero!

    This Weekend?

    Things that may be on my agenda this weekend:
  • Njacko Backo: African Rhythms, Sunday 1PM at the York Quay Centre ($8)
  • Fish Eyes, Saturday 2PM at The Studio Theatre ($10)
  • Friday, November 12, 2004

    DUH! (Dilbert's Ultimate House)

       Scott Adams continues to amaze -- where does he get the ideas? From our everyday misery apparently. Adams has tapped into his readers to help design the ultimate house -- a house designed the way an engineer would go about it -- by first gathering the requirements of the occupant. Why design Dilbert's Ultimate House? In Adams' words:
       "As you probably know, most of the people who design houses hate your guts. For example, they know you'll never use the formal living room, yet they include it so you'll have to pay extra. They tease you with a fancy-schmancy dining room, making you fantasize about hosting important dinners for heads of state, despite the reality that you eat your meals directly from the refrigerator.
       Lord help you if you want to get a cat, because there's no good place in your house for heaping mound of stinky kitty litter. Or maybe you want to do some rewiring for your sound system and you realize you don't have time to train the team of genetically enhanced burrowing squirrels that would be needed to run the new cables through your walls. Do you want lots of space for storage? Forget about it, because you used your closet for the home office. Have you looked at your gas and electric bill lately? It makes you want to drive your SUV to Saudi Arabia and start slapping anyone who's in a good mood."
       It's actually a very cool design -- practical, and it works. Hopefully Adams will actually build the house. It would be a dream place for quite a few people. [Thanks for the link Darren.]

    Narrowing the Gender Gap

    The statistics are alarming. Among Ontario teachers under the age of 20, one in five is male; one in 10 elementary school teachers is male; and one in three high school teachers is male. The average age of teachers in Ontario is 45 -- and it's projected that Ontario needs to hire between 8,000 - 9,000 teachers per year for the next five years to replace retiring teachers. Can we do it? Probably not. Let's face it -- society already undervalues educating our future generations that will take care of us when we get old. You can see that in the inaction from parents and the action of governments that the public elect. The teachers are broken. The education system takes whatever they can get, and it is mostly mediocrity. There is no spending to sustain good education and good skills in those that teach our children. Want to know why men don't teach? They don't take the profession seriously. They can make more money elsewhere, be valued for the skills they bring and get further in live. If Ontario wants to reverse the gender gap -- or fix it -- it'll take money, lots of hard work, and time. Unfortunately, governments can't think beyond the next election and will only spend on tactical problems that can show an immediate return. So we're screwed. Check out the Ontario College of Teachers report: Narrowing the Gender Gap: Attracting Men to Teaching.

    Music on the ride home

    Tonight my MP3 player kept me going with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Haere Ra and Khaled -- amongst others.
    The Killing Jar -- Siouxsie
    Down where this ugly man
    Seeks his sustenance
    Down in the blue, midnight flare
    A glass hand cuts through the water
    Scything into his twisted roots
    Then from his eyes
    Spring fireflies
    Breathing life
    Into a roaring disguise

    Needles and sins, sins and needles
    He's gasping for air
    In the wishing well
    Dust to rust, ashes to gashes
    Hand around the killing jar

    A soft hoodwink of shadow
    The size of make-believe
    Punches through his spike of rage
    A glass hand cuts through the water
    Snuffing out the magic fury

    Then from inside
    Bolt lightning cries
    Swiftly crushed
    The final, muffled sighs

    Needles and sins, sins and needles
    He's gasping for air
    In the wishing well
    Dust to rust, ashes to gashes
    Hand around the killing jar

    Beyond Pluto

       Pluto's distance from the Sun ranges from 2.8 to 4.6 billion miles, with an orbital period of 249 years. Yes, roughly three generations will go by before Pluto makes one revolution around the Sun. We're tiny, the universe is massive -- and our little solar system is probably bigger than we thought -- and I don't mean just the size of it -- I mean, there is more out there than we first thought. Pluto is not the furthest planet in our solar system. There are more -- and more will be found as instruments become better and the hunt heats up.
  • Ixion -- about 3.7 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of about 250 years. It's about half the size of Pluto.
  • Quaoar -- about 4 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of about 285 years. It's about two-thirds the size of Pluto.
  • 2002 UX25 -- about 4 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of about 278 years. It's about half the size of Pluto.
  • Varuna -- about 4 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of about 283 years. It's about half the size of Pluto.
  • 2002 TX300 -- about 4 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of about 283 years. It's about half the size of Pluto.
  • 2002 AW197 -- about 4.4 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of about 327 years. It's about half the size of Pluto.
  • 2004 DW -- about 4 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of about 250 years. It's about the size of Pluto.
  • Sedna -- ranges from 7 to 90 billion miles from the Sun, with an orbital period of 10,500 years. It's about as large as Pluto.
  • This is an artist's impression of the icy Kuiper belt object 2002 LM60, dubbed

    Buddha of Bamiyan

    Before the US could route the Taliban from Afghanistan, the Taliban succeeded in a crime against their country's history -- and crime against human history -- they dynamited two statutes of the Buddha -- one 125 feet tall, the other 180. Why? The Taliban considered representations of the human form idolatrous and offensive. Yeah -- OK. The statutes have been standing there since the 5th century AD -- I think if Allah had a problem with them, he'd have blown them up himself ages ago. To say the Taliban and their supporters are dumb-fucks is probably an understatement -- same goes for all fanatical religious groups -- they should have dynamite inserted somewhere and the fuse lit. But I digress. The Afghans are today debating what they should be doing with the scar that remains. Some favour rebuilding them -- but we know it will never be the same -- others favour leaving the scar as a memorial for the atrocity against human history. I'm not sure which one I favour. There is evidence however that there might be a third statute -- one of a sleeping Buddha -- buried. Archaeologists are busily looking for it. Here I have an opinion. Stop! These people have proven themselves irresponsible for taking care of a human treasure -- don't unearth another one so some other moron can come along and blow it up! Until Islamic nations become civilized, they should not be entrusted anything of remote historical value -- not even the treasures of the Muslim world. At the pace they're currently going, civilization will not be arriving in this or the next generation. So wait. Let the sleeping Buddha sleep.

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    The Cost of Ideas

    Sun and Kodak recently settled their intellectual-property (IP) dispute over Sun's implementation of Java -- Kodak successful claim was over three object oriented patents it had obtained when it acquired Wang Labs back in 1997. Java however is a development language, and therefore, the IP in question is implemented wherever Java is implemented. Since most businesses don't license Java from Sun, it raises interesting questions about their liability -- similar to SCO's suit against Daimler-Chrysler and Auto Zone. Just who is liable for violating IP? What kind of indemnification protects businesses? InformationWeek has a summary on the subject.

    Remembrance Day

    More than 1,500,000 Canadians have served overseas in wars we were an official part of. More than 100,000 never came back -- their lives taken at perhaps the darkest hour, when there was no hope left -- or some were just cheated of life when victory was close at hand. Many others served in peace time duties, to help bring calm in troubled countries -- sadly, many of those gave their lives to anger and hate -- enduring pain, agony, bullets and bombs for us. Today, let us remember them -- their sacrifice allows us to continue live in peace and stability, and have made Canada such a welcoming haven for many fleeing hopelessness, dispair and violence. They were -- are -- our heroes -- the real heroes -- because they never came back.
    IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.
    - Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army.

    All You

    Time Inc. recently launched a new women's magazine -- All You. This magazine is aimed squarely at 40-something women, with an OK household income. It features models of all shapes and skin tone, wearing clothes from discount clothiers -- and has some practical recipes, with prices and advise on how to be Mrs. Fixit around the house -- "because even if they have a man around, chances are he's not doing it for them," says editor Bell Price. All this and it's cheap. Sounds great? One problem. To get one, you have to go to Wal-Mart. It's not sold anywhere else. With over 3,000 stores and more than 138 million shoppers per week, Wal-Mart has grown to become the largest magazine retailer -- having 15% of the market -- and some speculate, around 20-25% of the market for women's magazine. The Wal-Mart effect is again being felt. The fears here is that with such clout, Wal-Mart will do what it has done in other media segments -- force producers to make Wal-Mart versions -- special packaging for content they may feel is too racy, or just an outright ban on specific issues because of questionable content. Wal-Mart has already done so by canceling orders for the book The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America -- because it showed the heads of the Supreme Court justices superimposed on naked bodies. Publishers are looking at Time Inc. moves and are already preparing new magazines for potential distribution at Wal-Mart only. Scary I suppose, but fitting in an America that has embraced conservatism. Read more at BusinessWeek.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    Energy Diplomacy

    BusinessWeek has a status update and summary on China's continued demand for energy -- focusing on what the Chinese are doing to address the increasing demand for fuel to power their economic growth. China already consumes over 12% of the world's energy supply -- about half of what the US consumes -- and that demand will continue to rise. China is already working to secure its future supply of energy. They have a plan that will diversify their energy sources, while hopefully addressing their increasing carbon emission problem. The plan calls for securing supplies from outside of China, moving away from coal, utilizing more hydroelectric power, tapping into solar and wind power, and building up 30 new nuclear reactors in the next 15 years. Ambitious -- but China has the political will to make it happen. For more on the topic, check out a brief at the US DOE.

    Simpler?

    The site has been simplified. Hopefully it's simpler. If you can't find something, check the links page.

    Murphy's Law and a lot more

    This site will take a long time to digest -- take it in bite-sized gulps, and save some for later.
  • The Murphy Philosophy: Smile . . . tomorrow will be worse.
  • It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
  • Incoming fire has the right of way.
  • The buddy system is essential to your survival; it gives the enemy somebody else to shoot at.
  • Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.
  • The attention span of a computer is only as long as it electrical cord.
  • A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.
  • The first myth of management is that it exists.
  • If mathematically you end up with the incorrect answer, try multiplying by the page number.
  • All things are possible except skiing through a revolving door.
  • Rule of Accuracy: When working toward the solution of a problem, it always helps if you know the answer. Corollary: Provided, of course, that you know there is a problem.
  • Alligator Allegory: The objective of all dedicated product support employees should be to thoroughly analyze all situations, anticipate all problems prior to their occurrence, have answers for these problems, and move swiftly to solve these problems when called upon. However, when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.
  • Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    Google Browser?

    Here's a compelling argument for why Google should enter the browser business. Sure, Microsoft owns 94% of the browser market, having skewered Netscape -- but Google may not have much choice. It needs to expand its market and stave off Microsoft, who's not only entering the search business at a decent clip, but along with other portal sites, own the eyes of surfers who start their surfing with them. Sure, Google may be the search darling, the underdog and the one we want to win -- but we also wanted Netscape to win. MSN today gets more eyes on their ads than Google does. Google treasures its simplicity and clutter free site -- but how does it promote its other services, such as email, online groups and photo management? A browser would help. A browser would also be a bigger step to the desktop -- bigger than Google's search bar, which only infests today's browsers. Imagine a Google browser that allows you to search for content on your PC or local network -- then, when the search results are displayed, along comes with contextual ads. A Google flavour browser is not so hard to accomplish. Google could build on the Mozilla Foundation's open-source browser -- Firefox, which is built on Mozilla, is already a favourite for the security minded. Heck, Google could even co-opt Mozilla's email client as well. Still think this may be farfetched? Check out who owns gbrowser.com.

    Jon Lee Anderson's The Fall of Baghdad

    Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker magazine was in Iraq as the bombs and air raid sirens heralded the oncoming US invasion. In his book, the Fall of Baghdad, he narrates the events of the war and stories of Iraqi life with the voices of Iraqis -- voices of everyday citizens, to Dr. Ala Bashir, a confidante of Saddam. He tells of the surreal day to day activities of Iraqis leading up to the ground invasion to the everyday cynicism of Iraqis for Bush's intentions. BusinessWeek has a short review -- it sounds like a sad, yet compelling book.

    Bush for the World

    BusinessWeek magazine has an outlook on what the second term of the Bush administration may bring -- what challenges lay ahead for the US and the world -- and what are the likely moves by crowned one. The general consensus is, expect more of the same. Bush isn't about the change. He will likely stay the course, and with the majority in Congress, will most likely try to force through his mandates. The Dems aren't happy -- and will most likely fight tooth and nail, every step of the way. Check out the article -- if you need more to be depressed about, it delivers.

    Singularity's Praises

    In an email conversation with Bill DeSmedt, he sent the following quotes regarding his book, Singularity -- he actually got Kip Thorne to read it -- wow!
    I very much enjoyed Bill DeSmedt's Singularity. Aside from a few implausibilities, Bill got the vast majority of the physics right, which is highly unusual - especially in a book that is such a good read.
    - Kip Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, California Institute of Technology, and author of the national bestseller Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy.
    Singularity is an uncommonly good science thriller, quite free of what always bothered me: the poetic license writers take with the laws of nature in order to put together the yarn. Those are thought provoking scenes, where quantum indeterminacy and human mind interact. I can certainly recommend it.
    - Jacob D. Bekenstein, Michael Polak Professor of Theoretical Physics, Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and co-discoverer of Bekenstein-Hawking black-hole radiation.
    As a physicist, I find that one of the most satisfying aspects of Bill Desmedt's Singularity is that it does time travel right. It has a wonderfully complete feeling, reminiscent of Isaac Asimov's story "The Red Queen's Race" or Terry Gilliam's movie "12 Monkeys". And, as a specialist in black hole astrophysics, I would also have to say that this is one of the most creative uses of primordial black hole theory in existence.
    - Scott A Hughes, Assistant Professor, MIT Department of Physics and Center for Space Research.
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