Friday, September 27, 2002

Happy Birthday, Good Twin!

From the Evil(tm) one.

[Being a twin means learning the "you cut, I choose" strategy for sharing very early on in life. Not a bad thing, IMO.]
Harry Potter Letter Campaign

I've just been informed of a letter-writing campaign to promote the casting of Jason Carter (imdb() ref) as Sirius Black in the upcoming third Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. For those non-HP-book-readers, one thing of relevance to you is that SB does appear in later books as well.

For more information, visit the campaign itself.
Why is This a Big Deal?

From Reuters
A divided Senate will begin a fifth week of debate on Monday on legislation to create the department, as Democratic and Republican negotiators try to strike a compromise on a dispute over labor protections for the 170,000 workers that would fall under the massive proposed agency.

"I'm for workers rights ... but in the name of national security this administration, future administrations, need flexibility to put people in the right place at the right time in order to protect America from an enemy which still wants to hurt us," Bush told political donors in Denver.

Okay. What is the big deal? I mean, what is so special about the Department of Homeland Security [I mean, aside from the facist name, initial legislation creating it passing at warp speed with little to no oversight, and general Bad Idea-ness(tm), IMO] that the anticipated 170,000 workers to be employed there should be denied certain labor protections already enjoyed by other government employees?

The implication in Bush's remarks is that the Homeland Security Dept is the only government agency with a chance of "protecting America".

What is this, the Army? Because if it is, let's be up front about it.

More News Bang for Your Buck

I am in love with Google's new Google:News service. This is fabulous. Go on, show me headlines from around the world, culled automatically from 4,000 different sources. I dare ya.

Gimme, gimme, gimme.

It's still in beta, but this is definitely a winner.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Ecstatic Parkinsonism

The recreational drug Ecstasy may trigger Parkinson's.

Ew. Ew. Ew. Double-ew.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Solar-Powered Surgery

Oh, now this is just darn cool.

SOLAR SURGERY. Even some large hospitals find laser surgery too expensive. So physicists at the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research in Israel resort to nature. They collect and focus sunlight, and then transport it in an optical fiber to a surgery theater where it can be brought to bear on tissue (figures at In general, the advantage of using laser light for surgery is not its coherence but high power density at adequate power levels. In this regard the solar unit can match typical surgical lasers in terms of power (8 watts) and power density (10 watts/mm^2). Jeffrey Gordon (, 972-8-659-6923) and his colleagues report that tests on chicken breasts and chicken livers have been successful and that the next step will be to perform surgery on live mice with the solar optical fiber system. The goal for the project is to deliver cheap sunlight for killing human cancers with minimally invasive procedures. (Gordon et al., Applied Physics Letters, 30September 2002; homepage,

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News Number 606 September 25, 2002 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Read A Book!

Hot damn, it's banned books week! How could I have forgotten! Time to read a banned book. Of course, it's always a good time to read a banned book.

How about some Harry Potter? Or Flowers for Algernon? Or James and the Giant Peach? Or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? The Handmaid's Tale, perhaps?

Get to the library, there's books to read. This week, every week.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Being Human

You see it on TV all the time, in films, on the news, everywhere. When disaster strikes, we all pull together as a community. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes. Famine relief. Whenever there's an event no one could have anticipated.

We have to help. We're a helping species. We build communities, and those communities are vital to us -- to our survival as individuals, to our survival as a species. It's part of what makes us human, this desperate need to help.

We pull together as human beings, as members of the same species, and cultural, gender, even religious differences cease to matter. Because the disaster is so large in scope, that nothing else makes a difference in the face of it, except for us standing together, helping one another, for the simple fact that we are human beings, and here is a fellow human in need.

Homeless because of an earthquake. Lost because of a tornado. Wounded by extremists who have walked away from what it means to be human, who are so outside our understanding of the world, they and their actions are literally inconceivable.

It drives us crazy when we can't help, or when we don't know what to do. And those are the times we must be most careful. Do I swear eternal vengeance on terrorists? Do I give 3 billion US in aid to the Red Cross (ok, that seems like a no-brainer)? Do I invade another country? What to do, what to do...

What to do, is, think compassionately, remembering that you are a human being, think heal, not hurt. Think, before all else, do no harm. Think with care.

What to do, today, right now? Pull off the road when you see a stranded motorist, see if you can help. Buy jumper cables and keep them under your passenger seat. Give a bum your french fries and bottled water, he needs them more than you do. Smile. Make a stranger laugh. Donate blood every 2 months.

It's not hard to be helpful, and it's easier every time you do it.