Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mr. Sunshine.

One would think that weather forecasts in a major media market like Charlotte, North Carolina would be professional and appropriate. One would think...

(Thanks Greg!)

UPDATE: What happened to this zany weatherman? Read here.

A Good Read.

It's rare that a deeply insightful book makes me laugh out loud. Naked by David Sedaris is a fantastic look at the life of an odd, but hilarious young man. Amazingly, Sedaris applies unrelenting humor to describe his life in a manner that leaves not just himself, but the world naked before the reader. This is the best book I've read in a while.

Up next -- Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
What are y'all reading these days?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Outing Myself.

I've had a deep, dark secret for a while. I've worked in stealth trying to conceal this habit from nearly everyone I know. It's been tough. It's been painful. Finally I'm ready to admit it.

I read comic books.

Yes, I'm one of those geeky guys that's still reading them. I can't help it. They're so damn entertaining. Lately I've been reading heaps of graphic novels. Really, these are just comic books for adults. Holy crap, they're so good.

One of the best series I've been reading has now been adapted into a motion picture. Sin City was drawn and written by Frank Miller. I'm a sucker for anything noir and this graphic series doesn't disappoint. The film comes out this weekend. Yes, I'll be one of the nerds standing in line, anxious to get a peek.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Banner Day For The Boy Scouts Of America.

The Boy Scouts of America is a real bang up organization. First they banned homosexual boys from participating in their activities. Now we hear that one of their top administrators is a child pornographer. Way to go Boy Scouts of America!

The Golden Anniversary

April marks the 50th anniversary of the national polio immunization program. Polio, a viral illness swept the nation and terrorized its citizens. It's worth remembering the heroic effort that scientists made back then. Interested in learning about the man behind the vaccine? Read about Jonas Salk here.

These days we could never imagine coming down with polio. Hell, the March of Dimes now spends most of its time trying to eradicate birth defects. Thank God we have a vaccine.

Innocent But Incompetent.

An interim report has cleared Kofi Annan of any wrongdoing in the UN's Oil for Food program. The inquiry did reveal, however, that Annan's own investigation was inadequate and poorly managed. I wonder why Kofi would have led such a poor investigation? I doubt that his son's involvement would have had any impact... Nah, that would make Kofi a scoundrel.

It's heartbreaking to see such corruption within the UN, the supposed watchdog for the world.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Ding Dong You're Dead.

This has got to be the best E-Bay item I've ever seen. It's a haunted pachenko machine named "Thomas." Apparently Thomas has already foiled one attempted burglary at the owner's home by threatening to kill the burglar. Incidentally, the seller claims that this pinball machine was once owned by a telepathic witch. Man, if only I had children. I can imagine it now -- enjoy your new pinball machine lil' Timmy. By the way, it's haunted... muahahahahaha!

Guess Who's Got My Info?

I just received the following e-mail from the graduate division at Berkeley:

"Dear Graduate Student:

I am writing to advise you that a computer in the Graduate Division at UC Berkeley was stolen by an as-yet unidentified individual on March 11, 2005. The computer contained data files with names and Social Security numbers of some individuals, including you, who applied to be or who were graduate students, or were otherwise affiliated with the University of California."

Oh fantastic. The e-mail goes on to claim that they don't think that anybody's using the info on that computer.

YOU DUMBASSES!!! Over 98,000 grad students, past and present, now have all of their personal info in the hands of some crack smoking crook. Jesus F. Christ...

The Color and Pageantry of Bollywood.

Ahh, Bollywood. Where else can you break out in song and dance in an instant while wearing colorful wardrobe? There's something fantastic about Bollywood movies. While sometimes cheesy and behind the times, they're also incredibly fun. The music and dancing is phenomenally entertaining and the lesson you'll learn in Hindi will last a lifetime. The trendy plotline in Bollywood movies has been a love story revolving around conflict. Wait, that's also a trend in Hollywood.

I just finished seeing a great Bollywood film called "Veer Zaara." Yes, it too was a love story orbiting about troubling circumstances. This flick was much more than your average Bollywood story. It touched upon love, redemption and the ridiculous state of affairs between India and Pakistan. The music was great and the actors were able to hit the dance floor with alarming ability.

By the way, if you're interested in seeing another great Indian movie check out "Earth." It's a Bollywood movie based upon the novel "Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidhwa. After watching Earth, you'll definitely develop a deeper appreciation for the damage caused by the 1947 partition of India.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Order of Things.

A Nice Sunday Read.

Like most of you, I read voraciously. Which is why I think Project Gutenberg is a fantastic find. (Thanks mindful!) Michael Hart, the founder of this group has worked diligently since 1971 to bring older texts to electronic form. Currently Project Gutenberg has 15,000 books online, all of which may be downloaded freely. Wanna read Ulysses by James Joyce? They've got it. Wanna read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? They've got it. The copyright for all of these texts has lapsed, so you're not breaking a single law by downloading and reading them.

This online repository is proof that sensible intellectual property practices can yield fantastic results on the internet.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Death and Bling Bling.

Diamonds are forever a point of controversy. What is it about diamonds? Why are we willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for the distant cousin of graphite? They're a gemstone, sure. Are they worth it? What happens to the money pumped into this industry? Read this article from the Harvard International Review. You might think twice about buying a diamond the next time you're at the jewelers.

It has long been a goal of scientists to make synthetic diamonds. After a considerable struggle it looks like there's been a heap of progress. In fact, such advances may spell trouble for diamond cartels such as de Beers. A couple years ago Wired had a great article about synthetic diamonds and their impact on the diamond market.

You'll often see that synthetic diamonds are yellow in appearance. This is due to Nitrogen impurities which are trapped within a diamond's crytalline lattice during its synthesis. Such impurities absorb blue light, making the diamond appear yellow.

If you really want to go all out, how about making a synthetic diamond out of a dead friend or relative? Doesn't sound possible does it? Although bizarre and preposterous, it can be done.

Brad and Jen. Boo Fu*king Hoo.

I just checked and guess what one of their headlines is -- "Jennifer Anniston files for divorce from Brad Pitt." Jeez, I'm really glad that CNN is keeping us abreast of important events that we, the public, should be informed of.

Really, does anybody really give a crap that Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt are getting divorced? How will any of our lives be affected by their split? Well, maybe their breakup is more important than "typical" stories involving genocide, national and international security, economic and political upheaval around the globe. Those "boring" stories only leave us better informed about the world around us. Thank God for CNN. Where would we be without them?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Things. Bad People.

So here's the skinny on me: I'm bitter. I've tried to be a good person. Sure, I've made some mistakes. Generally, I try to help others. I try to be selfless. I try to abandon my ego. Over and over again I've seen terrible people advance by hurting others, being selfish, living off of their ego.

Clearly, I'm doing something wrong. Should I change? Are success and happiness really coupled to being a bad person? Were Machiavelli, Rousseau and Spinoza right?

As Voltaire clearly stated in Candide, we simply do not live in the best of all possible worlds. Does this give us reason enough to stop trying to be the best people we can be?

Tonight my closest friend told me that a terrible person will soon be on the receiving end of a fantastic windfall. I couldn't help but feel sick.

I grew up regaling in stories about superheros. I was fascinated by the notion of people with exceptional abilities that protected the weak. At the age of five I tearfully realized that I would never fly, stick to walls, or exhibit superhuman strength. I recall approaching my father who explained to me, "Son, you don't need to be able to leap tall buildings to be heroic. Nor do you need the capability to fly. The most superhuman power any person can possess is a good heart. Dedicate your life to those in need. If you do that, you will be a hero."

I've tried to live by my father's words. Although lately it feels like Superman may need to be more like The Prince to get anywhere in this world.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Guy #2: Piss Off.

While on the bus today I overheard an appalling conversation:

Guy #1: If you knew you would have an autistic kid would you abort it?

Guy #2: Oh yeah, there's no way I'd keep it.

"What the f*ck!" I thought. Just because your child would be born autistic you wouldn't keep it? How screwed in the head are you? Although autistic children are difficult to raise, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be given the opportunity to live. What a piece of sh*t Guy #2 was.

Listen, I'm pro-choice. I fully support a person's right to choose, but Jesus F. Christ, don't abort your child simply because they're different.

I started looking up information about autism. Apparently art is one way to help children with autism develop. This isn't so shocking when you think about it -- art is a means for young children to express their relationship with and interpretation of the world around them. Autistic children often have difficulty expressing themselves and relating to others. Thus, artistic expression is a beautiful way to help them address both issues simultaneously.

I dug up a fantastic article about Gregory Blackstock, a well known autistic artist. Take him for example -- had he not been brought into this world think of what would have been lost. Just because he is different does not mean that he cannot provide meaning to his life and others.

Dear Guy #2, I wish I could go back in time and tell your parents that you'd turn out to be an idiot. Maybe they'd do the right thing and we'd all be spared from hearing your ridiculous musings while on the bus.

Above is "George Washington Bridge with the Light Pillar Reflections" by Jessica Park, another talented autistic artist.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Joker.

You've gotta love/hate the antics of Moammar Ghadafi. At the Arab Summit in Algeria, the terrorist turned democratizer lashed out against the west. Ghadafi complained that EU leaders asked him more about women's rights and circumcision than world politics during his last visit. He also proclaimed that a New York woman's leading of Islamic prayer will create more Bin Ladens around the globe. Seems to me like circumcision is a much more appropriate thing for this moron to talk about than world politics. See here.

Death Trap.

Help, my death bed is killing me! Check it out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Science Can Save Her.

I've intentionally avoided the Terri Schiavo issue on this blog. Partly because I know you've all been deluged with information about it. Partly because I wasn't sure what to say about the issue. I keep hearing people say, "we should do the right thing for Terri." I honestly haven't been too clear about what the "right thing" means in this situation. I just haven't been able to take a side. One critical problem is that I simply don't know what "persistent vegetative state" means. Does it really mean that the person is brain dead? What is the quantitative measure of whether or not a person is brain dead? As a result of the sloppiness in definition I've wavered on the issue.

I'm done with the indecision. Here's the deal -- Terri Schiavo needs to undergo an fMRI. What the hell is fMRI? It's functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. (also see here) Using this technique, scientists can directly and quantitatively observe Terri's cerebral response to physical and intellectual stimulation. This should tell us conclusively if her mind really is the black hole that everyone claims it is.

Let's say the fMRI indicates that Terri's brain is simply not reacting to stimulation. In that case we should save her -- pull the feeding tube and let her die. If the results show that she is, in fact, not brain dead then save her -- put the feeding tube back in and let her parents take care of her. Her parents can put her in therapy and use fMRI further to track Terri's progress. If her husband won't grant permission for the fMRI, then get a court order for it to be done.

It's that simple.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Culprit.

I was saddened to see that a student in Minnesota has killed his grandparents and continued his madness via a shooting spree at his school. What we can expect -- right wing groups will claim that video games and rap music caused this young man to spray his classmates with bullets. Wait, they'll also claim that he read a novel such as East of Eden by John Steinbeck that depicted a man killing his brother. No wait, they'll realize that this was an allusion to the biblical story where Cain slays Abel. In that case, murder in literature is okay. That couldn't have been the cause.

Why are our children going postal? It has nothing to do with listening to too much Beastie Boys, playing Grand Theft Auto or reading Tom Sawyer. It has everything to do with poor parenting and a lack of understanding of the stresses that children face today. Moreover, lock your damn guns up! If you're going to be a poor parent, at least make sure to keep your gun in an inaccessible locale.

By the way, 34 children were killed in Detroit, Michigan in 2002. The media seems to ignore the death of children at the hands of poverty and inner-city violence. They seem to focus on dramatic events such as today. Why?

Nice Try.

Kofi Annan proposed today major reforms at the UN. Among them he wants a full restructuring of the National Security Council to better represent a global consensus on UN action. Also, he's interested in creating a democracy fund to help third world nations institute democracies.

All of this sounds great. The UN is a weakened entity with little to offer the world. Restructuring and rethinking how it operates sounds like a good idea. It's all good food for thought. Sadly, I doubt much of it will result in any action.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I Need More Space.

As a kid, I used to gaze at the stars. My father, a satellite engineer, used to teach me about the constellations and how rockets worked. You can understand why I was elated back in January of last year when President Bush indicated his interest in sending a man to Mars. It sounds like that was nothing more than grandstanding by our fearless leader. I haven't seen any new initiatives or increased funding on said projects. (Maybe I've missed them, a little help!) I don't even hear the media talking about it. Sigh.

Anyways, there are also plenty of other ways we can explore the universe around us. I was cruising around the website for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. It's the world's largest astronomical telescope. Wanna learn more about this amazing instrument? Go here.

UPDATE: I just read a great article that I picked off of It details why we should colonize the moon before we head off to mars. Check it out.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Playin' The Hits.

It's been a while since I've made some music recommendations. Here goes:
The Magnetic Fields "I"

The Magnetic Fields is a band that I've only recently discovered. This group has the amazing capability to mix disparate instrumental sounds into one hot rocking album. The lead singer, Stephin Merritt's voice soars over the subtle sounds of cellos played beneath a bed of electronic music. The album smacks of eighties pop, which is a good thing in my book. This is an absolutely amazing CD, well worth the purchase.

George Harrison "Brainwashed"

It's not folk. It's not quite rock. It's just damn good. A close friend of mine lent me this CD and yowza, it's exceptional. Best song lyric ever: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." This album constitutes George Harrison's final recorded work before he died in December 2001. Some Harrison fans may prefer his older stuff. I think this is some of his best work.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Scarlet Asterisk.

Look, you used anabolic steroids. Now you use some cockamamie "I don't want to talk about the past" line in front of congress when asked. Mark McGwire -- you suck. Barry Bonds -- same for you. It's clear that you used steroids. Hell, your unwillingness to answer questions in a straightforward manner only points to your guilt (and that you possess the skills necessary to become the president of our country).

It makes sense these guys used steroids. They're paid millions of dollars and much more with ego filling entries in the record books if they do so. What doesn't make sense is their inability to, in a straightforward manner, proclaim their guilt. Are these athletes unwilling to admit what they've done because they'll have to wear a scarlet "*" for the rest of their lives?

Admit your guilt, take the "*" -- at least then I can still respect you. When you answer questions (especially those asked by congress) like our buddy Big Mac did, you deserve a second "*". See legend below:

Mark McGwire**
Barry Bonds**
Jason Giambi*

* = Yes, I used steroids. I made a mistake.

** = Yes, I used steroids. I am also a pathetic coward and cannot accept the consequences of my actions.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Numbers Game.

Researchers at Harvard University have discovered that fewer children are enrolled in madrassas, contrary to conclusions drawn by the 9/11 commission. The team found that fewer than .3% of the children in Pakistan are enrolled in these religious schools. Previously, the 9/11 commission claimed that a vast number of children in the middle east and Indian subcontinent are enrolled in such programs, making terrorist recruitment of these youngsters a cinch. Once again, we see that our nation's interpretation of Muslims abroad is in error.

I applaud this study -- it uses hard data to draw meaningful conclusions about the state of affairs in a nation critical to the war on terror. Moreover, this report demonstrates that enrollment in reputable schools in Pakistan is on the rise. It's a much needed change in this third world country.
We need to continue to critically evaluate the stream of information we receive about the lives of Muslims around the globe. Absent such skepticism, we are prone to develop misconceptions about the Muslims and their religious activities. Absent such skepticism, we are lambs led to slaughter.

You can access the study here.

IRA Be Gone.

I'm relieved to see that our government is no longer pandering to Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. After the brutal murder of an Irish man and a 50 million dollar bank heist, it looks like the world has finally had enough of the Irish Republican Army. How is it that the IRA, which openly used terrorist acts to promote their cause, has survived this long?

What's Up With St. Patrick's Day?

All my life I've been wearing green on St. Patty's day. Never knew why. Well, I didn't want some fat kid pinching me if I didn't -- that's why. Who was St. Patrick and why do we celebrate on March 17th? Take a look.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Bye Bye A-Hole.

I've never understood activists standing against capital punishment. Scott Peterson killed his wife and unborn baby, brutally. He deserves to live... for about the amount of time it takes to inject pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride into his body. Fortunately, he's been sentenced to death. He represents the worst of what exists in society. What I find unfortunate is that he didn't commit this crime in Nebraska. There, they still have the electric chair running. To make this the official macabre edition of Tedrow Drive, read more about executions here. Here's the real issue -- Is the appeal process too long? While I support capital punishment I do think the appeal process is necessary and just. We don't want to confuse anyone innocent with Scott Peterson.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

On His Way Out?

Holy crap -- members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University have just delivered a vote of no confidence in Larry Summers' ability to lead the nation's oldest academic institution. Although the vote has no official impact on the President's job, there are now whispers Summers may have to resign. This is a significant outcome -- it demonstrates that the balance of power may be tipping in favor of the faculty.

Again, I don't think he should lose his job for speaking his mind. It's interesting that his controversial remarks about women in science seem to have precipitated outspoken angst about his management style. Again, holy crap.

Leaving Early.

The NFL draft is five weeks away. I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. He argued that it was wrong for underclassmen to leave school early to enter the draft. I totally disagree. College players are welcome to return to their respective university and take classes on the side to complete their degree. Look at Farleigh Dickinson University. They've established an innovative degree completion program that allows players to receive their bachelors while in the NFL. For these players, playing professional football is a lifelong dream that shouldn't be jeopardized by staying in college. What jeopardy, you say? See here.

It simply makes no sense to stay in college if your shot at the NFL beckons.


I never really cared about Martha Stewart's brush with the law. I've been more concerned with the conviction of Bernard Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom. Here's a guy that led his company through 11 billion dollars worth of book cooking. Ebbers was found guilty today on 9 counts. Forget about Martha, let's make an example out of Ebbers. When will Kenneth Lay and his minions at Enron face the fire? Not until next year.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Separate but Equal.

The notion of "family values" still lives on within the Republican party. Recall that Republicans are advocating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Have they lost their minds? Probably. I simply cannot see how banning gay marriage will protect the institution of marriage. In a major victory for gay rights groups, the California Supreme Court ruled today that a voter approved measure to ban gay marriage in California is unconstitutional.

Why do we care about the sex lives of consenting adults?

I've heard arguments regarding consistency in state to state recognition of marriages. Perhaps the federal government needs to take a stance one way or the other as my friend the happy capitalist tells me. Seems to me that separate but equal isn't the way.

Fight! Kikkoman.

Everybody likes fish headed guys that fight for soy sauce goodness, right?
Please go here. Press start once the flash presentation has loaded.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

My Crystal Ball.

Gerhard Schroder has announced that he is in favor of lifting Germany's arms embargo on China. So has Jacques Chirac. When asked about lifting the arms embargo, Schroder claimed:

"It was a justified reaction to the massacre at Tiananmen Square. Now there is a new government in place in China that has taken modest steps toward liberalization. For me that is certainly not enough. But still, first steps have been taken, and therefore I think the embargo is ready to be lifted. Germany has no intentions whatsoever of delivering weapons to China." Time Magazine, 2/28 page 6.

The United States, despite voicing its concern over the EU's interest in lifting the embargo, continues to give China the coveted Most Favored Nation trading stamp of approval. Let's think about this. The EU is giving their approval for arms transactions and the US is providing the dough. Recall that China is approaching the Taiwanese issue with increasing hostility.

And we act surprised when we see global conflict. It doesn't take a fortune teller to see this one coming.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Systematic Future Of Biology.

My field of interest is systems biology. What the hell is systems biology? Glad you asked.

Owing to its Linnean roots, biology was largely a descriptive science focused on the task of classification and characterization. The recent revolution in biology is towards pure quantitation and measurement. The quantitative understanding of how DNA, RNA, proteins and other biomolecules act in concert to sustain life on the cellular level has revolutionized the way we think about microbial systems. Having actual numbers in hand, scientists are now generating mathematical and computational models which they believe may allow the prediction of cellular behavior. Whoa. Let's think about that -- biology, which was once a field dedicated to classification may suddenly become predictive. Given an environmental perturbation, we can predict how a cell will respond.

For example, why is it that Salmonella is so dangerous? Turns out Salmonella senses its external environment and can rapidly adapt to survive in its new surroundings. When we take antibiotics to fight salmonella, those antibiotics bind to this bacteria's flagellae (effectively the tails it uses to swim with). Once salmonella senses that its flagellae has been disabled by the antibiotic, it then grows a new set of tails that don't interact with the antibiotic! Imagine this -- if we can predict how Salmonella would respond to a drug, we can develop a better means to fight it. We're a long ways away from being able to do so, but we're getting there.

Should systems biology pan out, the benefits of such research would be enormous. Read about systems biology here.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Moderate Muslims Fight Back.

I have mentioned before that the battle for Islam will be waged by moderate Muslims. Again, I claim that those performing terrorist acts are in clear violation of Islamic teachings and are not Muslims. Unfortunately, Islam has become closely associated with terrorist acts as a result of the action of these madmen. I was elated to see that Muslim clerics in Spain have issued a fatwa (a.k.a. edict) today condemning Osama Bin Laden. This edict comes on the first anniversary of the train bombings in Madrid. Read more about the fatwa here.

Perhaps this fatwa will help mobilize moderate Muslims. It is we moderates that have the best chance to convince hard line Islamists that they are in error. Hopefully,this move will also help convince more Americans that Islam is not their enemy.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


I've been following a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of Agent Orange. We all know that Agent Orange, a dioxin laden herbicide was used extensively by American forces during the Vietnam war. At the time, the dangerous side effects of dioxin were not well understood. We now know that dioxin contributes to birth defects, diabetes and a whole host of other disorders. Want proof? See here. Want to learn more about the factors behind the use of Agent Orange? See here.

Vietnamese plaintiffs sued Dow Chemicals, Monsanto and a whole host of corporations to redress the litany of health problems caused by the use of Agent Orange. A judge dismissed the case today. I agree with the defense in this case. The suppliers of the chemical should not be held responsible for the actions of the American government. Don't get me wrong, I feel for these poor people whose children have been born without limbs or eyes. I wish something could be done to address their suffering. This lawsuit just didn't seem like a sensible way to do so.

Moreover, I've been thinking about reparations. African Americans wanting reparations for the sins of slavemasters shouldn't receive payment. Yes, slaves were treated horribly. They suffered and endured more than I can imagine. Their great grandchildren, on the other hand, have not. I simply do not believe that the social suffering of one generation necessarily translates into suffering for the next generation. Take my family as an example. My maternal and paternal grandparents (God rest their souls) grew up impoverished in a third world country and suffered during political upheaval. None of their grandchildren have suffered as they had. Do I deserve payment for the woes of my grandparents? Of course not.

The Vietnamese plaintiffs, on the other hand, may deserve something for their agony. It is a biological fact that the suffering of their predecessors has affected their lives. This court case, however, was simply not the way to do so. It is surprising, however, that chemical manufacturers were willing to pay 180 million dollars to settle with American Vietnam veterans in 1984 and are unwilling to do the same now.

UPDATE: Looks like the people of Vietnam are none too happy with the court decision. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bankruptcy Is Fun!

I'm appalled that the senate is close to enacting tougher bankruptcy measures. For years, credit card companies have been offering their services to an increasingly young and risky clientele. The interest rates on such cards are preposterous. I find it ironic that credit card companies are willing to make a killing on interest rates for their cards but refuse to accept any risk associated with such actions. If they're willing to give anybody a credit card, then they must face the consequences.

Moreover, bankruptcy is not easy. If you've known anybody that's declared bankruptcy, you know it's no walk in the park. Senator Politician says, "I know! Let's make an already heartbreaking process tougher! That'll teach 'em!" The system is fair as is. Companies take risks when lending and make a huge profit as a result.

Leave it to politicians to protect big corporations while hanging the average American out to dry.

Hard Labor.

Graduate students are a miserable bunch. They are overworked, underpaid and often poorly treated. The European Union has now enacted a "career charter" that encourages proper treatment of graduate students. In Europe, students often work without any contractual agreements between themselves and their advisor. As a result, such students are often at the mercy of their research mentor. The charter specifies that young scientists are to treated as professionals. What a concept...

The EU will introduce the policy on March 11th, with high hopes that the 25 member body will adopt it.
There exists widespread skepticism that the charter will do little to improve working conditions for young scientists in Europe. Still, it's a big step forward.

Graduate students perform a majority of the cutting edge research that is eventually vital to our nation's economy. Considering the important role young scientists play in shaping scientific advancement, why doesn't this country do more to protect them? I say if it's good enough for the EU, it's most certainly good enough for us.

To read about the EU career charter read
here. Note: This will only work if you have a subscription to Nature magazine. So much for open access, sheesh!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Sun Shines On Bethe.

Hans Bethe, the man behind the theory of solar fusion, has died. Bethe, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1967, was an ardent advocate of nuclear nonproliferation. He was a great man in all that he did.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Two Tales.

Is it just me or does our society deal with sexual misdeeds in an inconsistent manner? I'll illustrate through two cases:

Case One: Tracy McIntosh (a male) is a well known professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He drugged a young woman and raped her repeatedly. He pleaded no contest to sexual assault and possession of a controlled substance. Rayford Means, the judge hearing the case sentenced McIntosh to serve one year under house arrest and twelve years of probation. Huh? Doesn't sound like such a bad deal for the rapist, does it? The judge cited McIntosh's service to stroke victims as a rational for the light sentence. Since when do we allow rapists to go virtually scott free because of their service to others? I guess his "good deeds" in the medical community give him carte blanche to rape women. Give me a break...

Case two: Five high school students from the Milton Academy in Massachusetts were expelled after receiving oral sex from a girl in a locker room. The girl involved has said that she was not coerced into her actions. Just days before, this same girl gave oral sex to four other boys and the day after the locker room event she did the same to another boy in front of classmates at a party. The girl was given time to discuss the situation with her family, yet all five boys were removed from the academy. This poor girl clearly needs therapy. Is it right that she should go virtually scott free while the boys involved are punished? If academy administrators would like to send a clear message that sexual acts are not tolerated on campus grounds, shouldn't they be consistent in how they punish their students?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How Soon We Forget.

How many out there forgot all about the nut that was mailing anthrax to government officials shortly after 9/11? I hear nothing about the investigation these days. How close or far away are we from catching the son of a bitch that was sending that crap out in the mail? Why isn't this story being covered by CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS etc... ? Is it no longer "fashionable" to report about this story?

Biological terrorism is scary. Absent media coverage, I'm afraid that a suitable amount of pressure won't be placed on authorities. They are charged with the responsibility of elucidating the identity of the perpetrator. Anyone disgusting enough to send toxic microbial agents by mail needs to removed from our society immediately. If the authorities cannot do so then they must face public scrutiny.

Kofi, Jesse: Where Are You Now?

The government of Niger announced today that they will cancel a ceremony in which 7,000 slaves were due to be released. Yes, you read this correctly. Despite a government wide ban of slavery in 2003, some 43,000 people in Niger are slaves. These people are subject to rape, torture and other atrocities. What I'd like to know is -- where the hell is the United Nations? How is it that 43,000 people can be enslaved and abused without even as much of a peep from the UN?

Moreover, where the hell is Jesse Jackson? Here's a guy that "fights" for civil rights and racial harmony and yet he can't be bothered to help enslaved Africans... Jackson hasn't even once made mention of the slavery situation in Niger. He has, on the other hand,
threatened the NFL over their lack of apparent fairness in hiring African American coaches. If there's a camera at an event and it involves racial equality, rest assured -- Jesse will jump in front of the camera. Here's a cause with no fanfare. Guess what -- No Jesse. Sigh.

I'm sick of the UN and I'm sick of Jesse Jackson. The slaves of Niger need help. I suppose it's up to us. Make a donation to Anti-Slavery International.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Media Whores.

I'm often sickened by "pundits" that pose as journalist on shows such as Crossfire and the McLaughlin Group. A good journalist remains unbiased and reports about the facts. Unfortunately, major media outlets have begun to use opinions in place of facts, theatre in place of sober reporting. In case you haven't seen this clip, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show was a guest on Crossfire. I loved seeing him hammer on Tucker Carlson. Surprisingly, Stewart delivered a well versed diatribe about the state of modern journalism. Media outlets need to realize that the news is supposed to be informative, not entertaining. As a public, we need to start evaluating situations based on pure facts as reported by responsible journalists. If we continue to subscribe to media hacks and their opinions, journalism will surely continue its downward spiral.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Chasing Tailwind.

Steve Fossett's remarkable journey around the world was favored, in large part, to the ingenious design of the GlobalFlyer. The aircraft was designed to take advantage of heavy tailwinds in the event of any unexpected fuel losses. It's a phenomenal example of how far we've come in aeronautics. Learn more about the GlobalFlyer here.

Incidentally, birds also take advantage of tailwinds during their migrations. Apparently, El Nino provides birds with a strong tailwind that translates to what
scientists call extra "spunk" that our feathered friends use while mating.

Go Fossett! Go Tweety!

The Sport of Kings.

Maverick's surf contest just ended here in the bay area. Anthony Tashnick took the grand prize.

Who's This Guy Kidding?

This has got to be the worst listing I've ever seen on E-Bay.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Running on Empty.

Alan Greenspan announced today that current federal budget deficits are "unsustainable." Greenspan pointed out that either spending will have to be limited or taxes will need to be raised. Wow. We really should give this guy a raise. I mean, whoa, it's shocking to hear that the current administration's reckless spending and ridiculous tax cuts are actually bad for the country. How do you think the Bush administration will react? My guess is that they'll continue to extend tax breaks to the wealthy and spend money up the wazoo. Man, this administration blows...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Intergalactic Advertising.

Trying to sell your car? How about find a date for Friday night? Not only could you place a post onto, but you can have that post beamed to outer space! Read here.

Getting Schooled.

Teachers within the Berkeley Unified School District are no longer assigning written homework assignments to their students. After two years without a pay raise, instructors say they refuse to grade such assignments in their free time. Seems to me like these teachers have a legitimate gripe, but really -- to refuse to grade homework or even assign it? I absolutely support their demands for better pay. Hell, I'll stand around after school and picket with them. Their current actions, however, are pathetic. The only people that are punished as a result of their irresponsible behavior are their students. Does anybody within the district really believe Arnie will increase statewide education funding as a result of their refusal to teach? This is the kind of stuff that makes me sick. We should give them a raise *and* they should stop their deplorable tactics immediately.