Monthly Archives: January 2010

Americans bringing democracy to the Iraqis is like Columbus bringing Christianity to the Indians

The Daily Show paid tribute to Howard Zinn this week in their “moment of zen” segment which had a clip from his 2005 interview. You can see that interview in its entirety above.

And note that in both respects – paying tribute to Zinn, and interviewing him in the first place, the Daily Show has (once again) surpassed even the so-called “liberal” National Public Radio (NPR) which, in their segment on Zinn’s passing, somehow felt compelled to bring in a rightwing crank to “critique”/diss Zinn! What would we do for decent news coverage in the mainstream media in this country if not for comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the soon to retire Bill Moyers? Enjoy that narcotic while you can…

The iPad’s future shock, and the puzzling reactions of the technorati

The following article comes close to my feelings watching the tech world and many of my friends go bonkers over Apple’s announcement of the iPad this week. Will I get one myself – maybe not the first generation, but sure, I can see plenty of uses for a device like this. And I speak as someone who’s been using an iPhone for a few months and am really impressed at how intuitive and easy to use that device is – even to my 4-yr-old. Will it replace my desktop/laptop computers? Probably not. But really, for most of what I use my laptop for on a daily basis – email, reading papers, web browsing, writing, making and presenting lectures, even field data collection – I can easily see an iPad being perfectly adequate for most of this. Personally, I’d like to wait and see how it all plays out rather than pass judgment – but I suspect this article is closer to the mark than much of the ranting I’ve read elsewhere. Oh, and the name iPad doesn’t bother me any more than having to use a notePad bothers me in daily life – so I wonder why folks who might find the idea of a bachelor Pad exciting are upset about this moniker! Its just odd. But read this, especially if you share those misgivings:

I can’t help being struck by the volume and vehemence of apparently technologically sophisticated people inveighing against the iPad.

Some are trying to dismiss these ravings by comparing them to certain comments made after the launch of the iPod in 2001: “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.” I fear this January-26th thinking misses the point.

What you’re seeing in the industry’s reaction to the iPad is nothing less than future shock.

For years we’ve all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the “average person.” I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.

Secretly, I suspect, we technologists quite liked the idea that Normals would be dependent on us for our technological shamanism. Those incantations that only we can perform to heal their computers, those oracular proclamations that we make over the future and the blessings we bestow on purchasing choices.

Ask yourself this: in what other walk of life do grown adults depend on other people to help them buy something? Women often turn to men to help them purchase a car but that’s because of the obnoxious misogyny of car dealers, not because ladies worry that the car they buy won’t work on their local roads. (Sorry computer/car analogy. My bad.)

I’m often saddened by the infantilizing effect of high technology on adults. From being in control of their world, they’re thrust back to a childish, medieval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges.

If the iPad pushes us even a little bit further in this direction – towards making technology more accessible and easier to use for most folks (and eventually cheaper/affordable as well), then what’s not to like? As a friend commented on a Facebook thread, the real promise of technology can only be realized if it can be democratized, and made available to as many people as possible, and if it breaks up the monopoly of elites on information. Seems to me, as the above article suggests, that Apple’s approach to the OS may finally be breaking the monopoly of the OS-congnoscenti elite! And that can’t be all bad.

Now that’s one fairly odd parent…


Three piglets rests next to their adoptive mother, Sai Mai, an eight-year-old tiger, at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand’s Chonburi Province

What an incongrously touching image! And I wonder whoever thought of making this happen! What became of the piglet’s biological mother? More importantly (in the larger rarity scale of things), what became of the tigress’ cubs? She’s surely had some recently if she’s able to nurse…

Posted via web from a leaf warbler’s gleanings

Seminar today: Step-by-step evolution of the vertebrate blood coagulation system

Friday, January 29, 2010

3:00-4:00 PM in Science II, Room 109


Dept. of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

University of California, San Diego

La Jolla, CA

The availability of whole genome sequences for a variety of vertebrates is making it possible to reconstruct the step-by-step evolution of complex phenomena like blood coagulation, an event that in mammals involves the interplay of more than two dozen genetically encoded factors. Gene inventories for different organisms are revealing when during vertebrate evolution certain factors first made their appearance or, on occasion, disappeared from some lineages. The whole genome sequence databases of two protochordates and seven non-mammalian vertebrates were examined in search of some 20 genes known to be associated with blood clotting in mammals. No genuine orthologs were found in the protochordate genomes (sea squirt and amphioxus). As for vertebrates, although the jawless fish have genes for generating the thrombin-catalyzed conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin, they lack several clotting factors, including two thought to be essential for the activation of thrombin in mammals. Fish in general lack genes for the “contact factor” proteases, the predecessor forms of which make their first appearance in tetrapods. The full complement of factors known to be operating in humans doesn’t occur until pouched marsupials (opossum), at least one key factor still being absent in egg-laying mammals like the platypus.

Two denialists walk into a bar…

… and one of them comes off looking like a champion of science going by this quote highlighted by Al Gore:

“I have a choice of believing the 98 percent or the 2 percent,” Kennedy said. “If you believe my 98 percent and we go ahead and try to reduce our carbon, we’ve gotten rid of the dirty fuel, we’ve made ourselves energy independent, improved our national security, improved our prosperity and quality of life and health for American citizens. If we believe Mr. Blankenship and his 2 percent, and they’re wrong, the whole of civilization is destroyed.”

Nice quote and sentiment I have no quarrel with. Yet I can’t help but wonder why Mr. Kennedy cannot apply the same criteria towards the science on the risks of vaccines? For there, on the issue of the connection between vaccines and autism in particular, there is probably an even stronger than 98% consensus among scientists that there is no link – yet Kennedy is a leading denialist of that science! What gives? Why this selective rationalism?

Nevertheless, Kennedy is on the right (left) side on the issues of mountaintop removal, alternative energy, and global warming – while Blankenship says some really astonishing (to me anyway) things highlighting his ignorant denialism. If the above edited excerpts have whetted your appetite, you can see the entire debate on YouTube (parts 1, 2, and 3.

A People’s History of the United States – read it and add your own voice

1. Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress

2. Drawing the Color Line

3. Persons of Mean and Vile Condition

4. Tyranny is Tyranny

5. A Kind of Revolution

6. The Intimately Oppressed

7. As Long As Grass Grows Or Water Runs

8. We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God

9. Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom

10. The Other Civil War

11. Robber Barons And Rebels

12. The Empire and the People

13. The Socialist Challenge

14. War Is the Health of the State

15. Self-help in Hard Times

16. A People’s War?

17. “Or Does It Explode?”

18. The Impossible Victory: Vietnam

19. Surprises

20. The Seventies: Under Control?

21. Carter-Reagan-Bush: The Bipartisan Consensus

22. The Unreported Resistance

23. The Clinton Presidency and the Crisis of Democracy

24. The Coming Revolt of the Guards

24. The 2000 Election and the “War on Terrorism”

You have this book on your shelf already, heavily dogeared and annotated, don’t you? No? If not, you better get a start on this real history of this nation, not the imperial history sanctioned in the formal textbooks! Thanks to the History is a Weapon website, you can also read the entire text online via the above links, but you’re better off getting an actual copy (or several to share!). Read it and weep, for the voice we have lost today with the passing of Howard Zinn. Read it and raise your own voice and follow his path, for he showed us how not to let the victors in history silence the rest of us!

Posted via web from a leaf warbler’s gleanings