Archive for January, 2011

Hottest year on record

| January 31, 2011 | 10 Replies
Hottest year on record

From IPS:

The year 2010 was the hottest ever measured since the beginning of the recordings, 130 years ago,” Anders Levermann, professor of climate system dynamics at the Physics Institute of the Potsdam University told IPS.

Over at Common Dreams, Sandy LeonVest despairs that this monumental finding doesn’t even make a blip in the national news. Nor is there any national concern about this:

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its annual projections for 2011, announced that it still expects fossil fuels to supply over three quarters of US energy consumption in 2035. The share of fossil fuels is expected to decline by only 5 percentage points — from 83 percent in 2009 to 78 percent in 2035.

I can’t get rid of that thought in my head – – that we will get what we deserve. It’s just the natural order of things.

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High schoolers deprived of education re evolution

| January 31, 2011 | 6 Replies
High schoolers deprived of education re evolution

From Mother Jones:

Based on data from the National Survey of High School Biology teachers, the authors estimate that only 28% of all biology teachers consistently teach evolutionary biology, while 13% explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design.

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Lack of Al Jazeera on cable TV bears on need for net neutrality

| January 30, 2011 | 28 Replies
Lack of Al Jazeera on cable TV bears on need for net neutrality

If you want to follow the uprising in Egypt through Al Jazeera, you almost certainly won’t find it on cable TV. Here’s why.

This is yet another reason why we desperately need net neutrality. Violating net neutrality would turn the Internet into cable TV. Your carrier would become your nanny, screening information it deemed to be inappropriate or inconvenient.

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Surviving the Blue Screen of Death

| January 29, 2011 | 11 Replies
Surviving the Blue Screen of Death

The BSoD, to those who may not know the term, is an epithetic reference to Microsoft’s simple message that your computer has been hosed, so to speak. The infamous blue screen has been the incitement of many a sincere and profane invective, since it was first seen in MS-DOS.

As a software developer, I have seen my share of BSoD’s. They were relatively common in the DOS versions of Windows, that includes Win3.x, Win95, 98, and ME. The Win2k and XP versions were built on a more stable platform, called NT for “New Technology”.

I had never seen a BSoD in Win2K or XP until this week. I tried to install a webcam driver for an older camera.

At first, I was not overly concerned. In previous versions of DOS and Windows, a simple reboot let me go in and fix things.

Reboot failed to BSoD. So I tried booting to Safe Mode. Fail. I tried several other things, including Googling the exact message from my laptop. I spent a couple of hours tinkering with BIOS settings and running tests from a bootable CD. I removed the “new” old driver files. No luck.

In XP, the BSoD apparently means SOL. I had a dead system.

But, I do make regular backups. All my data files were copied to a USB hard disk a week earlier. And I had a complete clone of my drive from 7 months ago; full O/S bootable.

Now I had to make a decision. My 2005 machine has since been upgraded to the max RAM, and I’ve quadrupled the hard drive as pictures and videos required it. But if I have to go through all the work of updating an old disk and installing missing newer programs and grooming my newer preferences, maybe it is time to get a significantly faster new machine and do that work on it. I almost went to go buy one.

But in the name of parsimony, I first got my clone from the bank (safe deposit boxes survive house fires and burglaries much better than local backups), swapped the drive in, and booted. It worked fine. So I spent a whole day updating it. Windows, browsers, program updates, anti-virus program and updates, Quicken, Turbo Tax, et cetera, ad nauseum.

I have a USB adapter that converts any SATA or EIDE drive into a USB drive. But I could not use it directly on my desktop, because Windows “helpfully” finds system data from all bootable drives, corrupting the desktop. Wisdom is what you learn the hard way.

So I connected the BSoD drive using USB on my laptop via my home network, and copied all newer files using an XCOPY batch file . It took several hours.

Then I used my usual xcopy batch to make sure I had all the newest data on my regular USB drive. Then a day of testing to see if I can find anything I missed.

When I was confident that the drive pulled from the bank (bottom edge in the picture) was good, I had to clone it back to my newer drive (in the drive bay upper right). I used the EaseUS free disk copy utility. Another few hours. And much worrying about having maybe missed files, or (worst case) cloning the wrong way.

I had some real worries, because my older disk (the one that now worked) had 8 unreadable sectors. But after cloning, I ran a CHKDSK on the clone, and everything was actually okay. EaseUS copies all sectors, including those known as bad to BIOS. So after two days of work, I now have my 6 year old computer back to where it was 2 days ago.

Yay?

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Upside down starships

| January 29, 2011 | 16 Replies
Upside down starships

Here’s some important information on upside down starships.

I’m reminded of “upside down” earth photos, and maps.

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Ayn Rand’s real world position regarding government benefits

| January 29, 2011 | 34 Replies
Ayn Rand’s real world position regarding government benefits

I recently spotted this excerpt in Wikipedia (I left the footnote references so you can backtrack):

A heavy smoker, Rand underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1974. Although she had long opposed government assistance programs, she eventually accepted Social Security and Medicare payments for herself, under the name of “Ann O’Connor”, and her husband as well.[87] A July 1998 interview with Ewa Joan Pryor, a New York state social worker, conducted in 1998 by the Ayn Rand Institute, revealed that Pryor assisted the two with filing. Federal records obtained through a Freedom of Information act request confirmed that between December 1974 and her death in March 1982, Rand collected a total of $11,002 in monthly Social Security payments.[88] O’Connor received $2,943 between December 1974 and his death in November 1979.[89]

Rand, is often cited today by conservatives touting extremely limited federal government, including many Tea Party advocates who are currently collecting social security payments and Medicare benefits. Here is the Wikipedia opening paragraph on Rand:

Rand’s political views, reflected in both her fiction and her theoretical work, emphasize individual rights (including property rights) and laissez-faire capitalism, enforced by a constitutionally limited government. She was a fierce opponent of all forms of collectivism and statism,[3][4]

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The Onion explores America’s obsession with Sarah Palin

| January 29, 2011 | Reply
The Onion explores America’s obsession with Sarah Palin

The Onion explore America’s attraction to Sarah Palin:


Morbid Curiosity Leading Many Voters To Support Palin

In this second piece, The Onion also takes a swipe at our Snow IQ:


Snowy Conditions Proving Hazardous For Nation’s Idiots

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Micheal Mpagi and the Atheist Association of Uganda

| January 28, 2011 | 2 Replies
Micheal Mpagi and the Atheist Association of Uganda

Note: I had nearly finished this post when the death of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was reported.

By taking odd jobs, like cleaning and washing clothes, Micheal Mpagi earns his living. His true life’s work: to help rid his society of theocracy and religious bigotry.

Micheal Mpagi is President of the Atheist Association of Uganda (AAU).

Mpagi wants to challenge the theocratic elements in Ugandan politics. He started AAU because Uganda’s older (and still extant) atheist organization, Freethought Kampala, is basically apolitical (he is still a member). In an email, Mpagi told me “AAU is more [concerned with] public policies and how theocracy is swiftly becoming the foundation of our government.”

In an email to Atheist Alliance International, Mpagi wrote:

This is going to be a long road for atheists and humanists. Most atheists take a purely philosophical approach to religion with too little emphasis on promoting human rights and democracy. And that’s probably because human rights in North America are a given. Here in Uganda–and in Africa in general–what come first are the rights of a murderous god, a god of human division, a god of hate.

The Ugandan freethought movement has a Herculean task before it. Uganda’s population is 84% Christian (roughly split between Catholics and Protestants), and highly conservative if not reactionary in their religion. A proposed bill that would make certain homosexual acts–already illegal–capital crimes, was inspired in part by American evangelicals like Scott Lively, and given tacit support by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has said that homosexuality is “against God’s will”.

AAU opposes the 2009 bill, which would make homosexuality punishable by prison or death. “We stand for human rights,” Mpagi says.

Mpagi has also taken a stand against extra-governmental forces that threaten human rights. Since 1987, Ugandans in the northern part of the country have been terrorized by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), headed by the murderous Joseph Kony:

[More . . . ]

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Ignorance of the Past Breeds Optimism for the Future!

| January 27, 2011 | 2 Replies
Ignorance of the Past Breeds Optimism for the Future!

In 1912, three months after the death of his father, a little boy was born with what should have been a silver spoon in his mouth near Stockholm Sweden. He grew up in a wealthy home with his mother (who remarried six years later), stepfather, one brother and one sister. His family was well-connected. His grandfather was a Swedish diplomat and envoy to Tokyo, Istanbul, and Sofia. He was educated in America and became fluent in at least four languages.

It was in 1944, after the Hungarian government undertook a massive deportation of Jews to almost certain death in Auschwitz that the young man, Raoul Wallenberg, secured his place as one of the great heroes of recorded history. Ultimately, more than 430,000 Hungarian Jews were deported. Most of them were killed on arrival. But tens of thousands of people (some estimate as high as 100,000) were saved by a small group of volunteers led by Wallenberg.

After creating a phony Swedish Embassy encompassing 32 buildings in Budapest, Wallenberg began disseminating “protective passports” to Hungarian Jews. He had the implicit – but not the official support of the Swedish government which had denied him any assistance beyond looking the other way while he forged official looking documents. The “embassy” was a front. The “passports” were created by Wallenberg himself and were not issued by the authority of the Swedish government. For all practical purposes, he was on his own.

If you ever get the chance to visit the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, take some time to view the archived video interviews with some of the survivors. One of them describes an instance in which Wallenberg came into a warehouse filled with families that were trying to evade deportation. The eye witness account says Wallenberg was crying when he entered the building. He said “I wish I could save all of you.” “But I can only take your children.” “Please let them come with me.” This story was told by one of the surviving children.

Wallenberg’s driver describes another account that illustrates how determined and how persistent he was in saving a trainload of people that were about to be shipped to Auschwitz.

Then he climbed up on the roof of the train and began handing in protective passes through the doors which were not yet sealed. He ignored orders from the Germans for him to get down, then the Arrow Cross men began shooting and shouting at him to go away. He ignored them and calmly continued handing out passports to the hands that were reaching out for them. I believe the Arrow Cross men deliberately aimed over his head, as not one shot hit him, which would have been impossible otherwise. I think this is what they did because they were so impressed by his courage. After Wallenberg had handed over the last of the passports he ordered all those who had one to leave the train and walk to the caravan of cars parked nearby, all marked in Swedish colours. I don’t remember exactly how many, but he saved dozens off that train, and the Germans and Arrow Cross were so dumbfounded they let him get away with it!

Today, January 27th, is recognized around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Even Iran of all places will mark the occasion. International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be honored in Israel in addition to the better known national holiday, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which is (with a few exceptions) observed on the 27th of Nissan on the Jewish calendar and occurs in the spring on Western calendars. The Jewish holiday is also known as “Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah” (Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the Heroism).

About 63 years ago (conflicting accounts place his death between 1945 and 1947), Raoul Wallenberg, one of the greatest human beings who ever lived, is believed after having been imprisoned and tortured to have died in a Soviet prison camp. It was not the Nazis, but the Soviet Union that finally got him.

More than 30 years later (1979), one of the world’s sorriest excuses for a human being, Joseph Mengele, died while swimming in Brazil having enjoyed a comfortable, mostly secure and prosperous life. He never had to face responsibility for his actions. With the exception of having been born into privilege, the only thing these two men seem to have shared is the amazing lack of justification for how each of their lives turned out.

Let’s recap.

[More . . . ]

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