Saturday, September 20, 2003

'Warming Trends'

Alaska warned about warming

KAKTOVIK, Alaska -- Skeptics of global warming should come to this Eskimo village on the Arctic Ocean, roughly 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It's hard to be complacent about climate change when you're in an area that normally is home to such animals as polar bears and wolverines, but is now attracting robins.
...The U.S. Navy reports that in areas traversed by its submarines, Arctic ice volume decreased 42 percent over the past 35 years, and the average thickness of ice below water declined 4.3 feet. The Office of Naval Research warns that "one plausible outcome" is that the summer Arctic ice cap will disappear completely by 2050.

'Over 11,000' dead in French heat

An estimated 11,435 people died in France's heatwave in the first half of August, according to the country's Health Ministry.

Danube Reveals its Metal Graveyard

The Danube has fallen to its lowest level for more than 120 years, paralysing shipping and at one stretch, between Serbia and Romania, revealing the wrecks of a long-forgotten fleet of World War II German warships.

Fires are causing increasing destruction

[T]he record heat wave in Europe this summer has turned trees into tinder as far north as Sweden and as far east as Russia. Portugal has lost about 1 million acres to fire this year, which is more than a 300 percent increase over the nation's average annual losses during the last two decades, the U.N. agency said.
... The average annual acres of Alaskan and Canadian boreal forests burned surged from 3.7 million acres a year in the 1960s to 7.4 million acres a year in the 1990s, Kasischke [a geography professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on boreal forest fires] said. There does not appear to be a similar rise in acreage burned in forests in the lower 48 states, he said.
The increase in boreal wildfires appears to be linked to global warming, Kasischke said. The 1990s were the planet's warmest decade on record, while 1998 was the warmest year and 2002 was the second-warmest.

Heatwave Part of Global Trend

In nine out of the past 12 years, average temperatures worldwide have been higher than at any time since records began in the 19th century and it is very likely that the 1990s were the warmest decade for 1000 years.
...Sea temperatures in the Mediterranean region are two to three degrees warmer and reached their peak a month earlier than usual.

Side Note: It takes a lot of energy to warm up the ocean, a lot.

Whether you 'believe' in global warming or not, *something is changing*, noticeably, and government and citizenry need to respond. Lifestyle changes. Coming to terms with new animals entering an ecosystem as migration patterns change. Economic shifts as different geographical regions change - for good or ill - their agriculture, disease, and use of the ocean.

So. Let's ask questions that make sense to nations and their elected officials:

If the breadbasket of the world shifts farther and farther north, how will that effect, say, the standard of living in the American Midwest? Points farther south?

If rice is no longer a viable crop due to decreased rainfall in, say, Vietnam, what crop can replace it, and how?

If the Danube consistently stays low over the next decade, how can other areas of European infrastructure compensate to maintain necessary shipping?

How will citizens migrate in response to changing temperatures, both seasonally and permanently? Can your town handle becoming a tourist trap? Can your town handle losing visitors because it's *too* hot? What countries will face an influx of immigrants from nations losing their agricultural base?

Friday, September 19, 2003

Cool Campaign Article

Dean-a-Palooza: A Front-Runner Takes to the Skies

The author had a major professional/personal epiphany about "the shiny" -- you know, the multiculturally diverse citizens greeting The Man Who as he arrives in town, the cute schlock that no thinking human being (read, next year's votor) bothers with -- and the press corps' response to it.

"To be full of shit in American politics is a signal to our political press that you are serious..."

Yep. Not only do you need to be able to woo the citizenry, you need to woo the press. And they are two very different animals.

via Eschaton.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

"[it] changed everything"

Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam's weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans.
"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."

I just have to snarky, here: it's not lying! It's emphasis! Yeah! Emphasis!

...Senior officials decided that unless action was taken, the Middle East would continue to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Officials feared that young Arabs, angry about their lives and without hope, would always looking for someone to hate — and that someone would always be Israel and the United States.

...Beyond that, the Bush administration decided it must flex muscle to show it would fight terrorism, not just here at home and not just in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but in the Middle East, where it was thriving.

...Former CIA Director James Woolsey said on Nightline this week that although he believed Saddam was a serious threat and had dangerous weapons, going to war to prove a point was wrong.

Reason for War?

Wolfowitz Admits Iraq War Planned Two Days After 9-11

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Don't Cheat the Monkey

Monkeys Show Sense Of Fairness, Study Says

Researchers studying brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) have found that the highly social, cooperative species native to South America show a sense of fairness, the first time such behavior has been documented in a species other than humans.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Monday, September 15, 2003


Greeks "borrowed Egyptian numbers"


Over at Alas, a discussion on the music industry and copyright:

My point is not to be anti-copyright - I actually agree with Tyler Cowan, who (if I'm reading him correctly) approves of the general idea of copyright law but disagrees with how they're currently implemented. My point, rather, is that when two negotiating parties are enormously unequal, then copyright (and all the protections copyright entails) will inevitably wind up in the hands of the stronger party - and that party is usually not the artist.

Until the vast inequality in bargaining position between musician and 'the industry' is resolved, this (deal memos and bands getting a pittance in the end, etc.) is never going to change.

So. What is the source of this inequality, and what can be done about it?

The true source is centralization of music distribution in the hands of 5 or 6 companies, giving them control over *access* to music listeners, which is what bands need in order to have any success whatsoever.

Can it be circumvented? How? Well, the Internet permits persons to interact with transparancy regarding their physical location, and congregate and share data (in its literal sense - data, binary or text) on a shared interest with no oversight of any kind. This is grass-roots self-control of audience access, circumventing the centralized control exerted by these larger corporate entities. A band that attempts to plug in to *that* needs strong word of mouth, a website, and good music*.

Well, there you have it. In two short steps, why the RIAA hates technologies like Napster.

[*] One might also note that the success a band will have from online exposure instead of a major record deal is a very different entity -- and some bands may not want to pursue that. The likelihood of screaming groupies, jetting about world tours, and cult of cool that the industry promotes as 'music promotion' is much smaller. Want your face on the cover of Rolling Stone when you break up? Self-publishing online may not be the road for you. The current standard of success is a major record deal. Maybe that needs to change.
My Species!

Investigation into the Group Behavioral Dynamics of the Species Homo Techie-Nerdus. Oh, this is just cute as the dickens. It's genuinely both amusing and quite accurate. I've been so many of these at different times...

Kudos to Bog of Lost Scholars, for the link in private e-mail.
Books. E-Books.

Blackmask Ebooks. I got lost just in the history section, but there's pulp novels and all kinds of cool old stuff.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Book-y Covetousness

Madeleine Albright's memoir: Madam Secretary. I definitely plan on reading this.

CNN Interview with Albright. Interesting.
Gender and Writing Style

Gender, Genre and Writing Style in Formal Written Texts (PDF, 32 pages)

I'm not done reading it, but it's interesting so far, and I'm intrigued by a couple of different possiblities.

  1. The impact of blogging, a typically 'conversational' style, on male and female writing styles overall.
  2. The impact of formal education in different schools of thought on writing style (i.e., literary criticism v. philosophy v. physics), and how they may in turn be weighted due to the gender distribution in those fields.

There's a site called Gender Genie that uses a simplified version of the algorithm described in the above text to predict your gender (take it). I took it with four different entries from this blog, and got male, then female, male, male. I haven't seen the implementation code, but there's a feminine-keyword count and a masculine-keyword count that appears to be the basis for this assessment.

One of the things that is non-obvious to me is how a keyword gets gender-marked in the first place. (Perhaps this is discussed in the paper, as I said, I've not finished it.)

Hm. What does it mean to write like a woman? What does it mean to write like a man? A white? A black? A heterosexual? A homosexual? A college graduate? A blue-collar worker?