Friday, April 30, 2010

A Glaring Rabbit

"Duster and Cola"
Tanya, via Disapproving Rabbits (April 29, 2010)

(from Tanya, via Disapproving Rabbits, used w/o permission)

"And keep hitting Snooze until I tell you to stop!"

A rabbit with attitude: Who knew?

Life on Mars: Reality Check

Or, 'But I Read It in the Paper!'

"NASA: Claims of Life on Mars 'Positively False' " (April 29, 2010)

"Despite recent media reports that NASA found evidence for life on Mars, the U.S. space agency says proof that we are not alone is still a ways off.

"A Wednesday article in the U.K.'s 'The Sun' newspaper entitled, 'NASA: Evidence of Life on Mars,' reported that they agency had unveiled 'compelling evidence' for Martian organisms. But NASA officials and veteran Mars mission scientists say 'no.'

" 'This headline is extremely misleading,' said Dwayne Brown, a spokesman for NASA based at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. 'This makes it sound like we announced that we found life on Mars, and that is absolutely, positively false.'

"The piece claimed that the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have been wheeling around the surface of the red planet since January 2004, found pond scum, which the paper calls 'the building blocks of life as we know it.'

" 'I think they have taken this stuff out of context,' Brown said.

"Such a discovery would truly have been groundbreaking, since pond scum, scientifically known as cyanobacteria, are actually a form of life themselves, not just building blocks for it...."

Oh, dear. I suppose the Sun reporter and editors should get points for enthusiasm and interest. Besides, with the sort of deadline pressure folks in the newspaper business have - still, that's a little like a sports announcer calling a one-base hit in the first inning a touchdown that won the game. (References to baseball and American 'football,' respectively.)

I suspect the NASA announcement will set off more conspiracy theories - Well, that can't be helped.

Why do I Deny That Life Could Exist on Mars?

Actually, I don't. It's (remotely) possible that we've already 'discovered' life on Mars - but haven't realized it yet. (Exploding Martians and the Viking Life Experiment, in "Life on Ceres? Could Be" (March 5, 2009))

What I'm quite certain of is that we haven't identified a living organism on Mars.

That would be news - and particularly in today's budget situation, NASA executives would be talking themselves hoarse in interviews, if their organization had found life on another planet. Even a Martian bacterium would be exciting.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:
Other posts, about Related posts, at

An Airplane - With Toes?!

"Perching R/C Airplane"

bdmlstanford, YouTube (April 29, 2010)
video, 2:54

"The Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab at Stanford University has developed a system that enables a small aircraft to land and take off from vertical surfaces."

This short video isn't likely to win awards for cinematography - but as a documentary, it gets the job done.

The small airplane - about 18 inch wingspan - has a "autopilot," according to the video: So I don't know quite what to make of the "R/C" (Radio Controlled) in the title. Maybe the autopilot's 'brain' isn't in the plane, and communicates with it's 'body' via radio. They don't say.

It's a remarkable little machine - with feet and a couple clawed toes on each foot. I've seen birds - and a bat - approach walls the same way, basically. The animals are better at it.

Well, this is a sort of prototype.

And quite impressive.

More:The same video, from a groovier YouTube account, was embedded in a Discovery News post: "Aircraft Lands on Side of Wall, Vertically, "Tech News, Discovery News (April 29, 2010)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the Web, No One Knows You're a Rabbit

"Sidetracked by Wikipedia’s Tangled Web of Information, Bunny Wastes Day, Learns Little"
Prongs, via Cute Overload (April 28, 2010)

"I did not know that the world's largest carrot weighed in at 19 pounds and was grown in Palmer, Alaska. Nor did I realize that the first lawn mower was invented in 1927 by Edwin Budding. Interesting…it seems cumin is the second most popular spice after black pepper. Who knew!..."

(from Prongs, via Cute Overload, used w/o permission)

That should satisfy the average adult daily requirement for cute.

Say! You don't suppose this is the hacker that Tech Bites' Craig Berry had trouble with? Nah: coultn't be. (""iTunes account hacked" - Widespread and Under-Reported?" (April 29, 2010))

"iTunes account hacked" - Widespread and Under-Reported?

"Hacked! iTunes account compromised"
Craig Berry, Tech Bites (Undated, prob. posted recently)

"After working on the web for almost 15 years, 12 of those working in Information Technology, and doing a considerable amount of work in computer forensics and security, you’d think I picked up a thing or two about how to protect yourself online. Nonetheless, I got hacked. Specifically, my Apple iTunes account was hacked.

"Synopsis on how it went down…

" * Was trying to update an app on my iPad. After submitting my iTunes password, I kept getting incorrect password errors.
" * I went online to my iTunes account and reset the password. I was then able to log into iTunes, but my apps appeared to be associated with a different account. I figured something got corrupted with my account.
" * Contacted Apple support, and was eventually transferred...."

There's more. Quite a bit more. This is one of the more detailed, calm discussions of a hacked account - by the victim - that I've read.

iTunes Accounts Hacked - Credit Card Data May be Vulnerable

Craig Berry, the Tech Bites blogger may have company. Lots of company: "...After doing some Googling on 'itunes account hacked', it seems that this problem might be widespread and under-reported....."

I tried Googling "itunes account hacked," and got about 53,900 results. Some of them are the sort of "I hate itunes" mini-rant that I tend to take with a truckload of salt, and a few in the top 10 results all seemed to be discussions of the same incident: but many folks seem to have had trouble with iTunes like Craig Berry did.

From the sounds of it, having an iTunes account is fine - if you remove credit card information from your account. Which my household has done, now. (I interrupted writing this post to have that done.)

The "Hacked" post ends with some really good advice: basically, stay on top of your financial information: and if you see that you've been buying stuff and don't remember it - act promptly.
A tip of the hat to , on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

Harbors, Barbers, Doctors and Walt: Quotes

"Crazy Quotes"
Damien at the Speed of Life (undated - and, for the most part, timeless)

" 'There's always another way to do things and that's your own way.'

" 'Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'
Mark Twain

" 'Ever wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup?'
John Mendoza...

There's more: Benjamin Franklin on doctors and barbers; Rodney Dangerfield on a second opinion; Aeschylus on words.

Some are funny, some are serious, some are both.

And a few are, I think, top-rate advice. Like this:

" 'Sometimes we reach the boiling point before we realize that the stove is on. Become aware of your feelings – keep your eye on the stove.'
Karen Dougherty

Not all of the quotes include who's supposed - or assumed - to have said or written them. Which I'd rather see, than a list where nifty quotes are attributed so someone - whether or not the person making the list is sure.

One more thing: There's something that's not quite a quote - it is, but it's not the aphorism/one-liner that many others are. It's about what happened to a fellow who was fired for lack of creativity. His name was Walt.
A tip of the hat to rileycentral, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

Lemming Tracks: Check Back in a Few Hours, Okay?

The Lemming is off his feed a bit, so today's posts well be delayed a bit. Shouldn't be more than an hour or so.

Or maybe three. Make that four?

Well, as soon as the Lemming gets his ducks in a row.

(Lemming? Ducks?)

Seriously? I'm hoping no more than a few hours, and the Lemming will be skittering around the Web. If "skitter" is what lemmings do.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And Now, for Something Completely Different: A Strange Poem

"It’s Okay – Random Twitter Poem for Apr 27th"
Wanderer Thoughts Poetry (April 27, 2010)

"It’s Okay is a sad poem about a depressed or hurt individual that is living with emotional pain and waiting for someone to comfort them. It is a poem about isolation and being depressed and was inspired by the 16 random entries submitted on twitter (in blue). Thanks to the following players today:..."

The poem:

"It's Okay

"No secret to being happy you hear some say
world filled with an infinity of gullible people
simple enjoyment some foreign revolutionary emotion
as realistic as a fungible salesman in real estate

"Euphony of screaming from the window
some mercurial action to ease the pain this time
sanity thin and frail like a tearing moire
laughter a delicatessen dessert sold out...

The word "fungible" is my contribution. I wondered what Dragon Blogger would make of it. As a noun, fungible means "of goods or commodities; freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind in the satisfaction of an obligation" (Princeton's WordNet)

In the context of this poem, as a sort of metaphor - I think it works.

And: I can't say that I "like" "It's Okay" the way I like Jello - but I've had days like that, and appreciate the poem.
A tip of the hat to dragonblogger, on Twitter, for putting "It's Okay" together.

Cubicle Bunnies Disapprove: Quietly

"JD and Ickus"
Haley, via Disapproving Rabbits (April 27, 2010)

(from Haley, via Disapproving Rabbits, used w/o permission)

"Cubicle bunnies quietly note you took an extra five minutes for lunch."


Fists, Eggs, and a Smoke Bomb: Ukraine's - Colorful? - Parliament

Note: The Lemming doesn't post about politics as a rule: but this was just too weird to ignore.
"Fists fly in Ukraine parliament punch up"
CNN (April 27, 2010)
(Includes video)

"Lawmakers in Ukraine scuffled with each other, throwing punches and eggs, as parliament met Tuesday to ratify a treaty with Russia that extends the latter's navy presence in the Ukraine's Crimean peninsula until 2042.

"The ruling Regions party eventually ratified the treaty but not before howls of protest from the opposition.

"Someone set off a smoke bomb inside the building, while Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn sought refuge behind an umbrella as he was pelted with eggs...."

I suppose the MPs who didn't like the deal have a point. Russia is (bribing?) Ukraine to keep that base.

"...The deal extends Russia's lease of a major naval base in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol for an additional 25 years, in exchange for a 30 percent cut in the price of natural gas that Russia sells to Ukraine...."

I won't pretend that this is a simple situation, or that the Russian Federation is a 100% wonderful country with absolutely no imperfections. But those dudes in the Ukrainian parliament: I suppose I should remember that not all cultures have the same standards of conduct.

Maybe Members of Parliament throwing eggs and setting off smoke bombs is a cherished cultural tradition for Ukrainians. Or, not.

"Smoke grenades, eggs & tomatoes turn Ukraine parliament into battlefield"

RussiaToday, YouTube (April 27, 2010)
video, 9:34

"Ukraine's parliament has turned into a battlefield with politicians setting off smoke grenades and throwing tomatoes over the ratifying of extending the lease to Russia's Black Sea Fleet of Sevastopol's naval base. The same ratification process is underway in Russia's State Duma - but it is passing through a lot more quietly."

That video gives quite a bit of background. For example, Russia has had a naval base in Ukraine for about three centuries.

(Historical note: The Soviet Union is a strictly 20th-century phenomenon. (see "Timeline: Soviet Union," BBC) Russia, as a nation, is a whole lot older. And Russia is, except for a few less-than-ideal ports, a landlocked country.)

There's more. And, yes: It's RussiaToday. And despite the British accents - here's how RT describes itself: "...The channel is government-funded but shapes its editorial policy free from political and commercial influence. Our dedicated team of news professionals unites young talent and household names in the world of broadcast journalism...."

I'm hardly one of those folks who saw Commies behind every door, and I realize that "Russia" isn't the "Soviet Union." Also, I remember 1991.

On the other hand, I apply that proverbial pinch of salt when there's a financial connection between a news service and whatever's being covered by them.

Smoke Bombs in Congress?

What really got my attention was the smoke bomb(s).

Of course, I'm applying American standards to Ukraine's legislative body. Over here, if members of one party set off smoke bombs in Congress - after the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and possibly CIA got through with them, there'd be consequences.

Never mind the rather dim view American courts sometimes take of setting off pyrotechnic devices in (or near) federal buildings. Come the next election - we'd likely see a major shakeup in the political landscape.

Maybe Ukrainians are more laid-back about the sort of nonsense they'll put up with, when it comes to their national leaders. Me? I expect some bombast. Smoke bombs: not so much.

San Francisco Computer Hijacker Convicted

"S.F. Admin Guilty of Hijacking City Passwords"
Threat Level, Wired (April 27, 2010)

"After a six-month trial, a San Francisco city admin was found guilty Tuesday of a sole felony count of hijacking the city's computer system.

"Terry Childs, 45, was guilty of one count of locking out the city from its FiberWAN network containing city e-mails, payroll, police records, information on jail inmates and more — virtually an all-access pass to City Hall...."

"...Childs' $5 million bail was set five times higher than most murder defendants' because the authorities feared that, if released, he might permanently lock the system and erase records...."

Like Juvenal said, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

About that high bail? I think it's reasonable, under the circumstances. And, something of a relief. At least one court seems to have caught on that crimes involving computer networks can be very, very serious: and affect a whole lot of people.

More, about San Francisco City Hall cybertrouble:That CNET News article gives a little more detail than some, of what Childs' lawyer claimed was his motive:

"...Childs' attorney had claimed that there was no destructive intent and that Childs was merely protecting the network from incompetent city officials who were trying to force him out of his job."

Sound a little like "the paranoids are after me!" - maybe Childs really thought that only he could defend the network against those officials.

Actually - with a little work - there's a seriously tacky B-movie science-fiction plot lurking here.

Seriously? I hope San Francisco's city government gets someone with good technical skills and a full sack of marbles to give the city's network a thorough going-over. Just in case the former admin left a little surprise in the code.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

News Flash: Earth is Not Like a Cadbury Egg

"Is the Earth's core solid?"
Earth News, Discovery News (April 26, 2010)

"Even if you breezed through a few geology classes in your day, it's easy to think of the Earth's interior like a Cadbury Egg: solid on the outside and molten in the center. Yet we've known for more than 60 years that the very center of the Earth is actually solid.

"Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann made the discovery in 1936 when she noticed seismic waves bouncing off a boundary point deep within what was believed to be a liquid center. With her finding, the world learned that Earth's core is solid at the center and liquid on the outside...."

Okay. I get it. Earth isn't like a Cadbury Creme Egg.

It's an interesting article, though: with a bit of 'what we're pretty sure about so far - and few things we're not so sure about.'

By the way, there's another major environmental crisis. Earth's core is cooling, and won't generate a magnetic field when it freezes.

A few billion years from now.

I shouldn't joke. There may be a PAC soon, advocating sanctions against Iceland for wasting Earth's precious heat. ("How do You Pronounce "Eyjafjallajökull," or "Eyjafjallajokull:" You Know, Iceland's Volcano?" (April 24, 2010)), and all that)

Wimbley the Hedgehog

"Let me shake your hand"
Meg, via Cute Overload (April 24, 2010)

"Thank you, dear blog visitor. [Stretches out paw] For all the appreciation you’ve shown us Hedgehogs...."

(from Meg, via Cute Overload, used w/o permission)

Just one word: Awwwwww!

IKEA was not the First: DIY Building, 6th Century BC

"Ancient Building Came With DIY Instructions"
Archaeology News, Discovery News (April 26, 2010)

"Italian archeologists have unearthed the remains of a 6th century BC Greek temple-like building that came with detailed assembly instructions just like an 'IKEA do-it-yourself furniture pack.'

"The elaborate structure was discovered at Torre Satriano, near the southern city of Potenza, in Basilicata, a region where local people mingled with Greeks who settled along the southern coast and in Sicily from the 8th century B.C. onwards.

"Much like the instruction booklets of the Swedish home furnishings company, various sections of the luxury building were inscribed with coded symbols showing how the pieces slotted together.

" 'So far we have uncovered a hundred inscribed fragments, all related to the roof assembly system. The inscriptions also reveal that the palace was built by Greek artisans coming from the Spartan colony of Taranto in Puglia,' Massimo Osanna, director of the archaeology school at Basilicata University, told Discovery News...."

The article has eight photos/illustrations, too.

I was particularly interested in the Discover article's last paragraph:

"...'A taste for Greek styles among the local pre-Roman population might have prompted an industrious builder to produce DIY structures on the model of classical Greek buildings,' Osanna said."

From my point of view, this is another example of how people were - people - hundreds and thousands of years ago. And, for that matter, hundreds of thousands of years ago. It's quite a change from the view of "primitive" "natives" that was still getting flushed out of Western culture in my younger years.

Not-quite-unrelated posts:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Organizing Your Home Office: Pretty Good Advice, and an Oddly-Numbered List

"5 Tips for Multi-use Office/Guest Rooms"
TLC Home

"Be honest. Is your home office more like a workspace/storage closet/guest room? You're not alone. It's a common challenge around the home: If you don't have enough rooms for a separate workspace and guest suite, then you might have some kind of hybrid space.

"You probably know all too well that it's challenging to get a room intended to serve two purposes to do both things well. But thanks to some simple design tips and transformational, space-sensitive furniture...."

Although it's short, you'll have to click through several pages to get the whole article. On the up side, you won't be doing much scrolling.

The points are in numeric order. Sort of. I'm not making this up:

1: Get Organized
2: Make a Plan
3: Create a Multifunctional Space
2: Provide Storage Space
1: Keep It Clean

Then there's a page titled, "Lots More Information." It's got a few links, and URLs for three retailers. No links: just the text URLs.

The five-point plan has some nice photos that sort of go along with what's being discussed. And, happily, you don't have to have a huge operating budget to do some of what they describe.

Overall? I'd say this (article? post?) might be worth skimming, if you're thinking about refitting a room in your house as a bedroom/office.

The Lemming Did a 'Hubble' Post Just Yesterday: But LOOK At This


"Capture the extraordinary. Explore the universe through Hubble's eye, and witness the most dangerous, spectacular and mysterious depths of the cosmos...."

From some sources, I'd think that might be hype. This is the Hubble space telescope's website, though. It's more a simple statement of fact.

"Planetary Nebula NGC 2440 "

That's a preview for one set of Hubble wallpaper.

"The Cat's Eye Nebula: Dying Star Creates Fantasy-like Sculpture of Gas and Dust"

I scaled that image down a bit. You'll find more sizes at "The Cat's Eye Nebula...."

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Doesn't Want Just Anybody Linking to Them

When an organization doesn't want incoming links - well, that's what they want. Or, rather, don't want.

The Lemming was going to do a micro-review of a website run by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. There's a little story behind that - I'll get to that at the end of this post.

I went to the LLS website, planning to take a look around, discuss what they're doing, and provide contact information. What I ran into was one of those outfits whose leaders are - I suppose "careful" would be a nice way to describe it.

Information About Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma

I put together a short list of, in my opinion, useful online resources about leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma at the end of this post. Happily, the CDC, National Cancer Institute, and Mayo Clinic do not appear to be concerned about receiving publicity.

There's Caution - and There's Common Sense

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society doesn't want just anybody linking to them. I've reformatted some of their legalese on their "Link Policy" page, to make it a bit more readable, but the words are copied exactly from the LLC website. I'd usually provide a link: But you'll see why I'm not doing that.

"...LLS expect persons or organizations that link to the Sites to provide factually correct information and to uphold high ethical standards in developing and presenting information. Permission to link to the Sites is limited to:
  • "(i) active volunteers or participants in any event sponsored or benefiting LLS or its affiliates;
  • "(ii) donors or sponsors with formal affiliations with LLS or its affiliates;
  • "(iii) recipients of LLS grants or sponsorships using language outlined in the funding contracts;
  • "(iv) organizations actively participating in blood cancer research or education or aid to blood cancer survivors or other activities in fulfillment of LLS mission;
  • "(v) community non-profit organizations serving the needs of blood cancer survivors; or
  • "(vi) individuals or organizations that, through the approval of LLS, are members of advocacy or grassroots fundraising groups.
"If you do not fall into any of these categories, please contact LLS prior to linking...."

The Lemming tries to "uphold high ethical standards in developing and presenting information." That's just enlightened self-interest. The way I see it, if you catch on that I'm bamboozling you: The Lemming has lost a reader.
I Don't Get It: But That's Okay
I don't understand why The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is so - cautious. But, I can take a hint. That section following "Permission to link to the Sites is limited to...." makes it clear that LLC desires only the online society of certain classes of persons.

I still don't get it. But if they don't want free publicity, that's fine by me.

Besides, I doubt that I qualify for inclusion in the exclusive circle outlined by points (i) through (vi)

And there may be a reasonable explanation for the LLC's desires.

Who's Got That Kind of Time?

My hat's off to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: They permit those desiring the privilege of linking to them to make the request via email. After reading their declared preferences, I thought it possible that they would accept no correspondence that wasn't neatly typed and sent by the USPS in a #10 business envelope with enclosed #9 SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope).

Sure, I could submit an email, add a note to my tickler file, hope that the LLS got back to me: and if they didn't, take more time to decide whether to re-submit, or update my tickler file.

Does that sound like a lot of fuss and bother? I thought so.

Which is why the Lemming is writing this post instead.

What Started This?

A friend of mine died of leukemia when she was 16. My mother-in-law died of something very similar a few years ago. Leukemia and Lymphoma are serious medical conditions - and I think it's a good idea to promote research that might lead to effective treatments.

So when a telemarketer called, yesterday, asking if I'd mail a little over a dozen letters for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I declined. The arrangement sounded a bit too much like the 'bother your friends for us' proposals I get now and again.

So I offered to write about the organization, instead. The telemarketer kindly provided me with some contact information, including the LLC's URL. (You can find it easily enough, by using a search engine like Google - I hope my writing that isn't a violation of LLC's preferences.)

The LLC has an impressive website.

They're very interested in leukemia and lymphoma, it seems.

And they're very, very careful about what sort of person they associate with online.

I've now fulfilled my obligation, by writing this post.

The person I talked with yesterday gave me additional contact information, including a toll-free number and a mailing address: but under the circumstances, I'm not at all sure that The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society would desire that I divulge that information in a common public post such as this.

If you're interested in The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: You can probably find them. I wish you well.

Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma: There is Information Online

I checked, by the way: It really is "myeloma," not "melanoma," which is also bad - and another disorder.

If you're looking for information about leukemia and lymphoma, there are places online that do not shun publicity, and seem to know what they're doing:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hubble: 20 Years; Amazing Pictures; Serious Science


"Starry-Eyed Hubble Celebrates 20 Years of Awe and Discovery"
HubbleSite (April 22, 2010)

"NASA's best-recognized, longest-lived, and most prolific space observatory zooms past a threshold of 20 years of operation this month. On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle and crew of STS-31 were launched to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope into a low Earth orbit. What followed was one of the most remarkable sagas of the space age. Hubble's unprecedented capabilities made it one of the most powerful science instruments ever conceived by humans, and certainly the one most embraced by the public. Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology...."

In short, Hubble's a pretty big deal. And it's 20 years old. Yesterday.

Related posts:

Don't Mess With This Chick

"Tough Fluff"
Prongs, via Cute Overload (April 23, 2010)

"Gah head, make an 'I love shredding chicken' joke. I dare you."

This closeup shows just what a tough egg this chick is.

Like they say, 'look out for the small ones.'

Another Face Transplant: News, Video, and Opinion

"Spanish doctors conduct full face transplant"
CNN (April 24, 2010)
(includes video)

"Doctors in Spain say they have carried out the world's first full face transplant on a man who severely damaged his face in an accident.

"Doctors at Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron University Hospital say they were able to give the man a new nose, lips, teeth and cheekbones during 24 hours of surgery.

"Thirty doctors were part of the surgery that occurred in late March.

"The patient had undergone nine failed operations before being considered for the transplant.

"The medical team's leader, Joan Pere Barret, told reporters that the patient was satisfied when he saw his new appearance. He has scars on his forehead and neck, but they will be concealed in the future, Barret said...."

"World's first ever full face transplant completed by Spanish doctors"

RussiaToday, YouTube (April 23, 2010)
video, 0:25

"Spanish doctors have successfully performed the world's first full-face transplant in a 24-hour operation carried out by more than 30 medics. The patient had lost his jaw, nose and cheeks in an accident 5 years ago, and had had to breathe and be fed through tubes since. Ten partial face transplants have so far been carried out around the world, but this was the first full operation."

Essentially the same video - extended version:

"Spain performs full face transplant"

AlJazeeraEnglish, YouTube (April 23, 2010)

"Spanish surgeons have announced that they have carried out the world's first full-face transplant.

"The hospital, in Barcelona, performed the surgery on a young man who lost his face in an accident five years ago. Since then, he'd been unable to swallow, speak or breathe properly.

"Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith reports."

I'm pretty sure that, as this sort of medical procedure is refined, there'll be a 'fuller' face transplant fairly soon. This reminds me of the days when reattaching severed limbs was cutting-edge medical science.

The CNN article didn't discuss ethical aspects of face transplants, but that aspect of transplant surgery has been covered elsewhere.

My own take on this - as a Catholic - is that organ transplants are okay, provided that the benefit/risk ratio is proportionate. And, donating organs on your death is "meritorous." In other words, it's a good thing to do.

We've got - what else? - rules about organ transplants, of course. For example, Catholics aren't supposed to kill somebody else to get his or her parts for a third party - or ourselves, for that matter. (A Catholic Citizen in America (May 6, 2009))

Speaking of which: Celebrities can breathe a little easier. In this case at least, the young man who got someone else's face doesn't look like the (deceased) donor. Just as well, for all parties concerned.

And, provided that ethically-challenged doctors and patients get the memo: we won't hear about Hollywood stars who were killed so that someone else could have their face.

Judging from some of the remarkably imprudent things we read about in the news, though: I wouldn't be all that surprised if someone tried, eventually.

Related posts:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Disapproving Rabbits Jasime and Dodger: Wait, There's More

"Jasmine and Dodger"
Helmi, via Disapproving Rabbits (April 20, 2010)

(Helmi, via Disapproving Rabbits, used w/o permission)

"Begone, human! We want nothing to do with you!
You are not fit to...

This is a sort of two-panel joke. The punch line is another photo, on that Disapproving Rabbits post.


Blippy: Credit Card Numbers Shared - or - Hey, World! Wanna Watch Me Buy Dental Floss?!

"The Blippy Leak: How Credit Card Numbers Got In Google"
PCWorld (April 23, 2010)

"I don't know if you've heard, but social shopping site Blippy made a little slippy.

"Blippy, a four-month-old startup funded partially by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, lets you create a 'social stream' of all your credit card purchases. You set up an account, punch in your credit card number, and then Blippy automatically posts all of your purchases (including their prices) to your profile.

"It's basically a massive privacy invasion, only it's voluntary -- and, for whatever reason, people like it. Today, however, a few of Blippy's users realized the service was inadvertently sharing far more than they realized...."

Apparently it didn't affect everybody on Blippy, but some folks wound up with their credit card numbers in the HTML code or their profiles. A casual look at the page with a browser wouldn't show them - but a targeted Google search would 'see' the credit card numbers.

From what PCWorld said, anybody with a text editor should be able to get at the things.

Good news: Blippy says they've fixed the glitch; and it wasn't all that bad, anyway.

Blippy could be right.

What floors me is that there are enough people interested in sharing what they buy with credit cards to make Blippy a viable business.

I could see the fascination, if a vapid celebrity had a running data stream of their credit card activity. Folks buy those 'Hollywood gossip' magazines, after all. And I suppose there is a certain fascination in knowing just what Fifi VaVoom or Dirk Broadchin does each day.

Maybe most folks live more exciting lives than I do.

How do You Pronounce "Eyjafjallajökull," or "Eyjafjallajokull:" You Know, Iceland's Volcano?

The Lemming thought this might be worth repeating from last Saturday:

Eyja- - - How do You Pronounce That?

"...NPR librarian Kee Malesky checked with Iceland's embassy in Washington and came away with this: 'AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul.'..."
Works for me. That's a sound approach, by the way: taking a question to someone who's likely to know the answer.
(April 17, 2010)

Related posts:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Success, the Best Advice, Journalists, and G. K. Chesterton

"...On the whole, I think I owe my success (as the millionaires say) to having listened respectfully and rather bashfully to the very best advice, given by all the best journalists who had achieved the best sort of success in journalism; and then going away and doing the exact opposite...."
Figures in Fleet Street, "The collected works of G.K. Chesterton" Gilbert Keith Chesterton

You've probably read this quote paraphrased as "I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite."

The original is available on Google Books.

I rather like G. K. Chesterton's approach.

"Eyjafjallajökull" or "Eyjafjallajokull:" Either Way, Iceland's Volcano is Making (Seismic) Waves

I say "Eyjafjallajökull," you say "Eyjafjallajokull:" Either way it's a pretty big eruption. This post is a sort of scrapbook of what's happened recently.

I've noticed that American-English news often turns Eyjafjallajökull into Eyjafjallajokull. My guess is that it's a whole lot easier for folks at the keyboards. Icelandic and English both use a Latin-based alphabet, but we've made regional modifications in the fifteen centuries since imperial Rome went out of business.

Then, some headlines avoid the name entirely:

"European Airlines Press to Get Everyone Home "

AssociatedPress, YouTube (April 22, 2010)
video, 1:22

"European airports sent thousands of planes into the sky Thursday after a week of unprecedented disruptions, with airlines piling on more flights and bigger planes to try to get as many people home as possible. (April 22)"

Need something to worry about? Try this on for size:

"Scientists warn Eyjafjallajokull could trigger the Katla volcano to erupt"
Helium (April 21, 2010)

"While the after effects of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull are slowly beginning to dissipate, scientists warn that there may be more to come in the near future. The concern is not centered around Eyjafjallajokull erupting again now or in the near future, the new concern surrounds Katla volcano. While some consider this concern unwarranted or alarmist, history often has a way of repeating itself, and Eyjafjallajokull and Katla have plenty history...."

Good news: with less ash coming out, European air traffic is getting sorted out.

Not-so-good news: This isn't over yet.

"Iceland Volcano Tremors Stay Strong, Ash Plume Low
ABC News (April 22, 2010)

"Iceland's volcanic eruption was still causing strong tremors on Thursday, though far less ash and smoke was pouring out into the air.

"Huge ash clouds spewed from the volcano last week and led to European air traffic being grounded for days. The smoke and fumes coming from the volcano have much less ash now and the plume has stayed at low levels.

"However, the tremors coming from it are stronger now than when the ash plume was at its highest, at about 9 km (5.6 miles), said meteorological office geophysicist Steinunn Jakobsdottir.

" 'We don't know exactly what this is telling us. This is kind of telling me that it is not stopping yet ... As it looks now it could go on for a while,' she told a news conference...."

Bad news, for Iceland:

"Iceland closes airports for first time due to volcanic ash cloud "
CNN (April 22, 2010)

"Iceland will close two airports on Friday for the first time, a week after ash from an Icelandic volcano forced the shutdown of airspace over much of Europe and stranded thousands of passengers around the world, the Icelandic aviation authority announced Thursday.

"The Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavík International Airport will be closed beginning early Friday morning, the aviation authority said, according to a statement on the Keflavik airport's website.

"Though the ash cloud originated in Iceland, the country's airports have been spared from closure until now. Strong northwest winds had been blowing ash from the volcano, in the south of Iceland, out to sea and over Europe.

" 'Now the winds have died down, and the cloud is lingering around Iceland,' said Chris Almond, a forecaster with Britain's Met Office, the nation's national weather service...."

Really good news: The news is about airline schedules and people fussing about having travel plans being disrupted. We could be reading about cities being abandoned. The Eyjafjallajökull is a pretty big deal: but it's a damp firecracker, compared to some blowouts Earth's had.

Related posts:

The Eiffel Tower: Still Pretty Cool

the official site of the Eiffel Tower
(English/UK version)

"...The end of the XIXth century saw a considerable number of inventions that have revolutionized our lives, from the telephone to car racing and the vaccine against rabies. At the time, Jules Verne was writing his futuristic novels, France was building a colonial empire, trade was prosperous and the industrial revolution was in full swing. Things were moving, everything was changing. This period, sometimes called 'the spring of technology', was a time of creative effervescence, crowned by Gustave Eiffel's 'Grand Iron Lady'. The 'A' over the Champ-de-Mars symbolized the beginning of a major movement that has continued to this very day...."
(From "All you need to know about the Eiffel Tower," on the official site of the Eiffel Tower)

The Eiffel Tower is possibly the most recognizable landmark in Paris. It was also, when it was built, one of the world's great technological / engineering marvels. One thing I particularly appreciated about the *.pdf-format document I quoted, above, was the glimpse at 19th century history, culture and technology. It's good, I think, to be reminded now and then of what the 'good old days' were actually like.

Take rabies, for example. 'Rabies shots' are no fun: but now people in many parts of the world don't have to die if they're bitten by an infected animal.

All things considered, I'd rather live now.

But that's another topic.

Back to that landmark of Paris and its website.

It's visually impressive, and fairly 'intuitive' to navigate. A refreshing combination. Some of the main sections are: News; Practical Information; Children's Corner; Documentation (That's where I found that 'all you need to know' document); The Tower At Leisure (includes a virtual tour and wall paper); Professional Services; Employment Opportunities.

And, of course, there's quite a bit about how to get there and what to do when you do.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

DIY For Painterly Silhouettes

"diy project: kate's painterly silhouettes"
design*sponge (April 21, 2010)

"i love the crisp, graphic nature of silhouettes. I know that you’ve seen a lot of silhouette designs though, so i tried to give you a project that rethinks the traditional form a bit by allowing you to add your own style to it. the great thing about working with these contact paper cut-outs is that you can paint any way you want! i went for a fun stripe inside silhouettes of masculine objects, to make a gift for my man (they kind of remind me of the jack spade look, which i love). but you could go crazy with the painting style here: splatters, drips, impressionistic, color blocking, camouflage, it would all look great! once you cut the shape out cleanly, you don’t have to worry much about painting accuracy, which is the other great thing about cut-outs. trust me, there is nothing more satisfying than peeling back the paper to reveal a perfect, pristine outline. i hope you have fun experimenting with this one. have fun! – kate...."

(from kate, via design*sponge, used w/o permission)

well, aside from the not-entirely-even 'e. e. cummings' approach to capitalization, i think you'll find this an interesting post. maybe even useful.

hey, if somebody feels more artistic and creative if they don't use capital letters - well, it makes the reader work a little harder. those capitalization conventions we have were developed to make reading a bit easier so were the spelleng an punchuation wuns

But if you're okay with that: it ain't again' the law.

On the 'up' side, the post has a pretty good step-by-step how-2 "after the jump." It includes a nine-point materials list - including tools (kudos!). Also cost (under $10 USD, provided you do this sort of thing fairly regularly) and estimated time required (about three hours, plus drying time).

Finally, there's a 10-point how-2, with photos. It looks like fun.

Even if you never make something like this, you can look at the photos.


Being Prepared:

"Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed."

The FEMA website has several major links from the homepage: Ready America; Ready Business; and Ready Kids. The last one's got some moderate entertainment value in its splash screen, by the way.

And, there's a three-part generic plan:
Pretty good advice, I think. That "be informed" part acknowledges that the sort of disasters folks living in, say, Los Angeles, need to prepare for aren't quite the same that we should be concerned about here in the heart of darkest Minnesota.

I may want to review my household's plan. We did some serious evaluation back when the Y2K situation made temporary collapse of the power grid and a few other systems - not likely, but possible. Because of where we live, and the way we live, our 'preparedness plan' was to drain the pipes, except in the basement, put a sheet of insulation over the stairway, and wait it out in the basement.

We live in central Minnesota: so we didn't need to worry much about keeping the frozen food frozen. Not in January.

What we don't have, I see, is a "Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both" I suppose that could be remedied.

If I sound blasé, unconcerned, I'm not. But we live on a low, sandy ridge toward the top of the Mississippian watershed, in an area whose wild climate encourages a fail-safe approach to house construction.

A few houses blow up toward the start of each heating season: but that's happening less often these days.

As far as being able to seal up a 'safe' part of the house, if we had to protect ourselves from something lethal in the air? We get a sort of practice run for that sort of thing, each time someone upwind turns their manure pit.

He is Not Spock: It's Official Now

"Leonard Nimoy Hangs Up His Spock Ears" (April 21, 2010)

"Leonard Nimoy, the actor who has famously portrayed "Star Trek's" original alien Spock for over 40 years, has announced he's officially hanging up the pointy Vulcan ears for good.

"Nimoy, 79, plans to retire shortly from show business and the 'Star Trek' convention circuit, according to the Canadian newspaper Toronto Sun.

"The actor, director and photographer will be attending the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo this weekend, and told the paper that beyond this event he only has a few more public appearances scheduled...."

There's quite a bit more about Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek in the article. It's not a 'Trekkie' approach, but you might be interested.

Or, not.

I remember Star Trek in its first runs, most of season two and three, anyway. I was - and am - something of a fan.

I also think that having one of the lead roles in Star Trek was something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it pretty much guaranteed an income from convention appearances. On the other hand, it was hard to shake your role.

For a serious actor - which I think is a reasonable way to describe Leonard Nimoy in the early seventies - being immediately identifiable as Mr. Spock, the pointy-eared alien in Star Trek must have made getting other roles something of a challenge. Anybody remember "I Am Not Spock?" And how several of Nimoy's characters smiled - a lot - after Star Trek?

James Doohan, of course, embraced his role as Scotty. But that's another topic.

Earth Day, 2010 - or - We Won: Deal With It

This is an op-ed post. I generally start the title of these with "Lemming Tracks:" but not this time.

Earth Day, 1970-2010

Today is the 40th Earth Day.

It's a pretty big deal.
I Care About Earth As Though I Lived Here
I'm as concerned with 'the environment' now, as I was in 1970. Managing natural resources and having air that doesn't make my eyes water isn't the most important thing in my life: but it's important.

So why have I spent so much time, in the days before Earth Day's 40th anniversary, writing about lint?

Partly, it's to let folks know that lint isn't just stuff that clogs up dryer filters and occasionally burns down homes. It's a recyclable resource: and surprisingly useful.

Partly, it's a sort of tongue-in-cheek suggestion that it's okay to be a little less tense about Environmental Issues.

The way some folks talk, you can almost see the capital letters.

Me? Despite the name of this blog, the Lemming cares. The problem, for some folks, is that I don't care "deeply, passionately, hysterically, about the 'right' things.

1970: That's So Sixties

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, 2010 isn't 1970. Quite a bit has changed. For the most part, I'd rather live now, than then. I remember the 'good old days.' Happy Days weren't, not for everybody. And the sixties? I made it out, and don't want to go back.

Not everything that's happened since 1970 is an improvement, of course.

But environmental awareness? That's changed. In general, I think, for the better.

Take phrases like "environmental awareness." They're part of America's vocabulary now. 1970? Not so much.

If you say "ecology" now, you will get a variety of responses: but not the uncomprehending look you'd be likely to see, back in 'the good old days.'

We Won: Deal With It

Not everybody's completely satisfied with today's status quo. With upwards of 307,000,000 people in America, as of July of last year, If all Americans kept insisting that life and the world were just simply wonderful - I'd be concerned. Very concerned.

But words like "pollution" and "environment" are so emotionally-charged for so many people now, that some politicians use them the way other politicos (presumably) used phrases like "motherhood, the flag and apple pie" before the sixties.

Sure, human beings still live in North America, and we haven't razed our cities to make room for green growing things.

But - how can I break this gently? We won: the tree-huggers; folks who think digging up undisturbed prairie to get at the sand underneath is a bad idea; people who think that we need to be responsible about using natural resources.

That's a hard pill to swallow, for some. It's so much more satisfactory - in a way - to feel like that lonely, heroic figure: valiantly striving for some great cause.

After your side wins, trying to play that part doesn't look quite so - heroic?

Not to worry, though. This is an imperfect world, and there's generally something for the more earnest of us to get upset about.

Me? In commemoration of the 40th Earth Day, I decided to earnestly extol that under-appreciated sustainable resource, lint.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Auburn, New York; Eminent Domain; Earth Day - and Lint

"Hotel Conference Center May Trump Private Property in Eminent Domain Case"
FOXNews (April 21, 2010)

"In Auburn, New York, the city is threatening to invoke eminent domain to seize private property for a private hotel conference center, saying the public good outweighs the private property rights of some citizens.

"Would you let the government take your car and give it to someone else? How about your computer, television set, house, or business? What if the government said you would be paid yet you had no choice?

"That's the dilemma in Auburn, New York, where the city is threatening to invoke eminent domain to seize private property for a private project - a hotel conference center, saying the public good outweighs the private property rights of some citizens. And it's legal.

" 'This is abuse, it's one case of eminent domain abuse,' says Renee Smith-Ward, owner of a dog grooming salon, Wag'In Tail, that could be plowed down for the hotel's parking lot. 'I don't believe it's right to take someone's property away from them for a hotel, for a private developer.'..."

I sympathize with Ms. Smith-Ward, but in Auburn, New, York, city hall has the most basic "right" of all. They're bigger, metaphorically speaking, than the property owners. And the Supreme Court of the United States says it's okay for the dudes in city hall to take property away from one person and give it to another. The Supreme Court has more legal clout than any town or city, so that's the way it is.

'For Public Use?' Sure: My Pal Frank, Here, is a Member of the Public, Ain't He?

"Eminent domain" means "the right of the state to take private property for public use; the Fifth Amendment that was added to the Constitution of the United States requires that just compensation be made." (Princeton's Wordnet)

Or, as of five years ago, the right of the state to take private property for private use by somebody who'll do something that city hall thinks is a good idea.

"For the public good," of course. According to whoever is behind the big desk.

The Lemming is a bit skeptical, but I grew up in the sixties: and lost my blind faith in "the government" a long time ago.

Eminent Domain, Old Style: No Guarantee of Honesty

The old definition of "eminent domain," where private property could be seized for things like roads, had its problems too. A town could 'just happen' to award construction contracts to companies owned by the city council's members and buddies.

We got rules about submitting bids and going with the lowest one out of that sort of abuse. Then we're having to make new rules about submitting bids for what the contractors will really charge.

Cynical? The Lemming doesn't think so. Americans are human beings, and that means trouble. I've posted about that, in another blog. Some of us decide to be a little like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, some decide to emulate Joseph Burgess. And some of us have hardware and software (wetware?) glitches in our heads that affect decision-making. Which is yet another topic, in another blog.

Bottom line? Human beings, as a group, are trouble.

Has the Lemming No Compassion? No Sympathy?

I'm making allowances for personal feelings in the case of Ms. Smith-Ward. She's almost certainly put a great deal of time, money and effort into building the Wag'In Tail into the business it is today. And location counts. A lot, for any business that depends on clients or customers finding the place.

Getting your hard work rewarded by an offer you can't refuse - whether from city hall or a more informal authority - doesn't feel good.

Having a decorative bush, two evergreens, and three old trees torn out of my front yard didn't feel good, either: but it happened. That was, in my opinion, a more legitimate application of "eminent domain:" I live on an arterial street that's needed re-engineering for a long time.

I didn't like it: but the project made sense, from a practical point of view. And about 4,000 other people live in this town, too. What my household finds convenient and aesthetically acceptable has to be balanced against what everybody else needs and expects.

The Lemming isn't being altruistic, particularly. I live here, too: and it's nice to have usable streets and sidewalks.

Eminent Domain, Private Projects, and Public Interest

Just when you think you've got your stereotypes in order: something like this happens.

The Lemming hasn't done a thorough job of researching reaction in the blogosphere to the Auburn eminent domain case. And I don't intend to do so. I'm taking medication for high blood pressure, have a low tolerance for daft viewpoints, and don't need that kind of stress.

My guess is that not many people are writing that Auburn's civic leaders are commies, or fifth columnists bent on the subversion of Uncle Sam, Motherhood and Apple Pie. Frank Burns was like that: but he's a character in a seventies sitcom. "Creeping socialism" may even be on the way out, as a too-familiar cliche.

Oddly, at least one of the people at Auburn, New York's, city hall doesn't fit the 'commie pinko' stereotype:

"...'Eminent domain, no one likes it,' concedes Auburn Mayor Michael Quill, a no-nonsense former Marine and long time former Fire Chief of the city, who has a photograph on this desk with former Governor Sarah Palin and Todd Palin. The Palins visited Auburn last summer, in commemoration of the 1867 purchase of the Alaska territory by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, whose house is across the street from City Hall.

"But it is Auburn's current land dispute that has caused so much controversy here, as Mayor Quill and other officials contend the benefits of the hotel project simply outweigh the concerns of the property owners. 'We have a responsibility to the entire community,' Mayor Quill explains, saying 'we do not want to hurt an individual property owner or business owner, but we have to look at the long range for the entire community.'..."

Mayor Quill fits another stereotype: one I became familiar with while doing time in America's higher education system. Which is yet another topic.

"Fair" isn't Always Realistic

"It's not fair!" is something people start saying somewhere in childhood. Fairness isn't a childish idea, though. You can make it sound more grown-up by using longer words, like "equitable," but it's still the same basic idea.

Sounds simple? Not.

"..."Do you want to use eminent domain to get those properties?" asks the head of the Auburn Industrial Development Agency, Jim Dacy. "I don't think anybody wants to use eminent domain." But that is the exact threat if the landowners say they don't cower under the pressure from big business in partnership with the city.

"Dacy told Fox News that 'there has to be a good reason' for eminent domain to be used, 'and in this case there is.' He says the property owners are 'being offered more than a fair price for their property,' noting there guidelines call not just for a current appraisal, but a second independent one, and that the offers have been 'generous, above current appraisals.'

"But Ms. Smith-Ward blasts the offers as a 'very insulting price for our property,' and said she was stunned to learn that the city was considering seizing the business she and her husband Doug had sunk their life savings into only to hand their land over to someone else. She told Fox News she always thought eminent domain was 'for power lines, roads, schools, hospitals and not for a private developer.'..."

Before going on, The Lemming points out that "power lines, roads, schools, hospitals" are, for the most part, built by privately-owned firms. And there are privately-owned and operated schools and hospitals. Moving along.
Being Insulted Doesn't Make Something 'Unfair'
About the "very insulting price" - I don't know what that price was, or what the real estate market is like in Auburn, New York. I was reminded of a vaguely-parallel situation in the town I live in.

Someone (I've got to be a little vague - this is a small town, and increasingly net-savvy) put a great deal of time and effort - and money - into fixing up a small house. Then they put it up for sale. It's a nice little place, in a fairly good location.

It didn't sell. For a long, long time. I don't doubt that the price they were asking was "fair," in the sense of reflecting the amount of money they sunk in remodeling the place. But that "fair" price was 'way, 'way above what anybody in this town would pay for a house and lot that size.

There's "fair," and there's paying attention to what a property is actually worth. Those aren't always the same thing.

The Lemming's mentioned that things aren't always simple, right?

The Lemming Doesn't Know

Maybe it's reasonable to seize private property and hand it over to another private entity, so that a hotel conference center can be built in a good location. Those things can draw in a whole lot of people - and generate business for retailers and vendors who aren't directly involved in the hotel business.

But what about 'the masses?' The hotel, and the businesses that will profit from the hotel's being there hire people and help pay for street work. That's an even more indirect benefit to the ordinary citizen in Auburn.

All of which assumes that the hotel actually gets built.

Things don't always go as planned. For example, "...five years ago the United States Supreme Court ruled that communities could use the power of eminent domain to help private interests, if the result was for the public good. The case centered on New London, Connecticut, where a neighborhood was razed to make way for a private development that never came.

"The main plaintiff was resident Susette Kelo, whose little pink house was move to another part of town and now stands as a symbol of regular citizens fighting the government's use of eminent domain. The blocks that were torn down remain largely empty to this day, save for the overgrown weeds and wild cats that roam the desolate area. The city's plans fell through. 'In the wake of Kelo, we have learned about this abuse of power,' notes Christina Walsh of the Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C., which has advised the Wards...."

The Lemming is as sentimental about little pink houses as the next fellow. There's a place up the street - but I am not going off on another tangent.

There's a photo of that pink house, in The New York Times, along with a sort of follow-up piece:It's a cute-looking house, it's pink, and there's some interesting background in the text.

But I still don't know enough to have a firm opinion on whether or not the New London case was "fair." I feel that it smells like a dead muskrat: but that's emotion, not facts.

Apathy is Rampant, but Who Cares?

I've discussed why this blog is called Apathetic Lemming of the North before. Quoting myself, briefly: "...Apathy, of course, was anathema to the anguished campus activists of the sixties and seventies. The cultural pressure to care: deeply, passionately, hysterically, led to the slogan 'Apathy is Rampant, But Who Cares?' I still treasure the sight of those words, emblazoned upon a bumper sticker...." (September 9, 2007)

The Lemming is - to put it mildly - not happy about the latest high-profile "eminent domain" SNAFU. The New London, Connecticut, case apparently prodded 43 state legislatures into upgrading their states' laws. That may be a good thing.

The Auburn, New York, case may jolt folks in responsible positions into action again. Which may or may not be a good thing.

I remember the time, about a half-century back, when the Interstate system was being built. "Eminent domain" was used, wholesale, to buy up neighborhoods and farmland. Quite a few people weren't happy about that. Including me. The Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul to non-Minnesotans) lost at least one of its more colorful locales in the interests of Progress.

And a fair number of farmers had to abandon land that they owned, which is now - in some cases - over a dozen miles away, thanks to widely-spaced overpasses. Some of those little triangular divots weren't particularly easy to sell.

"Fair?" Maybe. The Interstate system made (relatively) safe, (fairly) economical (moderately) high-speed transportation across America possible. That wouldn't have happened with the patchwork of local and regional road networks we had, coming into the 20th century. On the other hand, there's that little neighborhood that I'll never see again.

As nearly as I can tell, reconstructing childhood memories and consulting what I got from superficial research, the site where the "seven corners" intersection was is now under what locals called "the spaghetti bowl" a few decades back. You can see why, in this satellite photo:

View Larger Map

Do I think that the Interstate project was bad, because I'm sad at the loss of "seven corners?" No, the Lemming has a big ego - but not that big.

Do I think that "eminent domain" was handled perfectly during the seizure of land for the Interstates? No: don't be silly. Human beings were involved. We don't do "perfect."

Never Mind the Hotel and Dog Grooming Business: What About Lint?!

Tomorrow is the 40th Earth Day. As the Lemming has said before, I remember the first one. It was groovy. I felt groovy about it.

Which brings up a sinister silence on the subject of lint.

Why, one may ask, does FOXNews ignore: IGNORE! the lint impact of this proposed hotel convention center? Is it ignorance?! Or a CONSPIRACY?!!!

Surely they are not ignorant of the amount of lint generated by hotels!!!

How DARE they seek to undermine this Great Effort to provide Auburn - and the masses throughout New York State - with pounds, no: TONS of LINT!!!!

Recyclable lint! Sustainable lint! Lint for the masses! Lint enough to provide hand-made paper and Halloween masks for generations yet unborn!

Arise, People of New York! Arise! Fight for your lint!

These days, I'd better make this disclaimer:
    • About the lint
    • And the conspiracy
      • I don't even think Elvis was involved
        • Talk about being close-minded!
Eminent domain? That I think is a serious concern. So is lint, in its own way.

More, about lint:Related posts:

Your Daily Adult Requirement of Cute: A Pygmy Slow Loris

"Pygmy! Get yer fresh Pygmys heah!"
Cute Overload (April 20, 2010)

"[Ballpark Peanut salesmen voice] Pygmy Rabbits! Get yer fresh Rabbits heah! Get your Rule of Cuteness #45 Pygmy fix HERE!..."

The post has four photos of pygmy animals: a pygmy rabbit, slow loris, marmoset, and hippos. Here's the pygmy slow loris. Actually, I think there's more than one in that photo.

(from Duke U. Lemur Center, via Meg, via Cute Overload, used w/o permission)

There's a larger version of that photo on the Cute Overload post.

I'd say this is the normal adult daily requirement of 'cute.'


Tanning Beds, Addiction, and Pale Mutants

"Indoor Tanning Is Addictive, Study Finds"
LiveScience (April 19, 2010)

"Some people's indoor tanning habits qualify as an addiction similar to being hooked on alcohol or other addictive substances, a new study suggests.

"The results show that about one-third of college students who frequent indoor tanning facilities could be considered addicted based on criteria used to diagnose substance abuse addiction. And these tan-o-holics also reported a greater use of alcohol and marijuana, and had more symptoms of anxiety than those who weren't considered hooked.

"The findings back up previous indications that sunbathing, both artificial and the real thing, can be habit-forming. A small 2006 study found that those who persistently visit tanning beds can experience withdrawal symptoms if they don't get their UV-high. And a 2008 study revealed that about 18 percent of outdoor tanners qualified as addicted. (Ultraviolet, or UV, rays emitted by the sun are what cause sunburns).

"The results of the current work, which is based on a larger sample and possibly more robust research methods, also suggest that reducing the risky behavior might take more than just public awareness campaigns. For some, it might require interventions more along the lines of what's used as treatment for substance abusers...."

I've run into quite a bit of silly science, as the decades roll by. (December 17, 2008) This 'tanning addiction' thing sounds like it might not be another of those weird little exercises in wishful thinking we get from the 'experts' now and then.

I'm not terribly surprised to learn that some experts say that tanning beds and booths cause cancer. For a while there, just about everything caused cancer. Except maybe water. And that drowns people. I've sometimes felt it was a wonder that some PAC didn't try to ban water, in the interests of public safety.

Tanning, though, really could be a problem. There's fairly solid evidence showing a link between (over) exposure to ultraviolet light and cancer.

A Digression on Pale Mutants

Like I said, over-exposure to UV can be bad for people. Particularly for melanin-deficient people like me.

My ancestral roots, as far back as the family's found them, are in northwestern Europe. And I look it: That's a photo of my right eye.

Homo sapiens sapiens developed - as far as we're able to tell - in a nice, sunny part of this planet. Then some of us moved to other places. Eventually, one lot wound up in what's now northwestern Europe. Like all people, they needed exposure to sunlight now and again. UV is involved in how we make vitamin D and serotonin, among other things.

Back where we're 'supposed to be,' that's no problem. Up in northwest Europe, the climate is: not sunny. The cold and damp strongly encouraged folks to cover up with furs, cloth - just about anything that would keep them warm.

My forebears kept warm, but they also were deprived of sunlight. Often, all they got was a few minutes a day, on their faces. If they were lucky.

With normal pigmentation, that's just not enough for people.

Normal people.

Something happened to that isolated bunch. We lost most of our ability to produce melanin. That made our skin pale enough for sunlight to get through - even if it was for a few minutes a day over a fraction of a square foot.

We survived, but now we look funny. Pale. Often with freckles. Leave us out in the sun too long, we burn and peel. Don't get me wrong: I've grown up among people who look more-or-less like me, and I'm used to our appearance. It can even be attractive.

But, like I say, we look funny. Different.

Somewhere in the 20th century, the idea that folks who simply can't have a normal complexion and stay healthy should be "tan" anyway caught on in America.

I make it a point to get outside on a regular basis and let my skin adapt by adding a little to the meager supply of pigmentation my ancestry gives me. But I make sure that I don't get over-exposed. I may sound like James Earl ("Darth Vader") Jones: but I've long since come to terms with the fact that I'll never have his complexion.

We're not all alike. And, I think, that's okay.

Back to Tanning, Cancer, Addiction, and All That

'Tanning addiction' may be partly psychological - but there may quite likely be a physical component, too.

"...The results suggest that tanning and drugs might be similar in terms of the way they get people hooked, the researchers say. Indeed, the UV-light from tanning beds has been shown to put people in a good mood, possibly because it triggers the release of pleasure-inducing chemicals in the brain, called endorphins...."

The article does a pretty good job of discussing the effects of tanning beds, and the studies of that point toward tanning being an addictive behavior. What it does not do is describe - adequately, in my opinion - the people being studied. I may have missed something, but the only demographic information I found about them was that they were "undergraduates."

Maybe the amount of melanin in a person's skin has nothing whatsoever to do with the way that person's skin reacts to sunlight or artificial UV. Somehow, though, I rather doubt it.

Generally, I don't think who a person's ancestors were is all that important. But for some things, like sickle cell anemia and a tendency to burn in the sun, it does matter where your ancestors came from.

The LiveScience article wasn't all that long, so maybe someone decided to drop references to how the researchers sorted out the people studied.

I've been talking about ethnicity quite a bit in this post: because I think it may reasonably be considered a factor in tanning addition. At least, the researchers should be able to say that, based on their data, people with normal complexions are just as likely to be addicted to tanning as the washed-out Euro-Americans.

Welcome to the Wild, Wonderful World of Coeds and College

There was a time when American "undergraduates" were, with a very few exceptions, nice young men from nice Yankee families. And their southern counterparts, of course.

That was the 19th century.

In the 20th century, women (finally) got the vote, and started showing up as undergraduates. In droves. American academia also got a bit more comfortable with the idea that people who weren't from the 'right' families might be educable, too.

Change happens.

This is the 21st century, folks. An American undergraduate is a man or woman who may bear a passing resemblance to delegates from any member state of the United Nations. Some WASPs are having conniptions about that, but I'm okay with the idea. Partly because I only look Anglo.

But I'm getting off-topic again. Time to stop writing.

An only vaguely-related post, but it might be interesting. Or not:
Related posts, at

X-37B Test Flight Scheduled For Tomorrow: Robots, Spaceships, and Feeling Safe

Update (December 4, 2010)
"Experimental X-37B Robot Space Plane to Launch Thursday " (April 20, 2010)

"The United States Air Force plans to launch its first robotic X-37B space plane Thursday on a mission that is a forerunner of things to come. A second mini-space plane is already under contract and is projected to be launched next year.

"New details regarding the mini-space plane and its upcoming Thursday liftoff atop an Atlas 5 booster were discussed today during a U.S. Air Force-held media press briefing.

"The X-37B vehicle's history stretches back to the late 90s, with NASA kick-starting the project. It was later picked up by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and ultimately found a home within the Air Force. The project is now under the wing of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. [X-37B spacecraft photos.]..."

Back in the fifties and sixties, quite a few people predicted that we'd have spaceships by the 21st century. What just about everybody missed was how many of those spaceships would be robots. Not piloted by robots, or with robots in the crew: spacecraft that were robots.

The X-37B is more of a reentry vehicle than a spaceship, but I think you get the idea.

The article does a pretty good job of summarizing what the XB-37B project is, and how it got to being ready for a test flight.

It's a test vehicle for a larger space plane: one that could carry people. But the XB-37B is also designed to get a little work done while developers learn what works- and what doesn't.

"...The small X-37B spacecraft resembles a miniature space shuttle and is equipped with its own payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed – ample space to hold a couple of small satellites that are a few hundred kilograms each, [U.S. Air Force Deputy Under Secretary for Space Programs Gary] Payton noted.

"According to released specifications, the X-37B space plane weighs about 11,000 pounds and is just over 29 feet in length. It stands slightly more than 9 1/2 feet in height and has a wingspan just over 14 feet across.

"The initial X-37B flight is designed to loiter in space up to 270 days. After retracting its solar array and closing payload doors, the space plane would re-enter in automated mode...."

I don't have the fear that some folks had, of robot vehicles with no human hand at the controls. There are circumstances where I'd feel a lot safer, knowing that my life wasn't in the hands of some dude in the front.

Personal Reminiscence: Which Has a (Very) Little to do With the XB-37B

The automated BART trains made the news while I was living in San Francisco. The BART system pays guys to stand in the control room that's currently at at the 'front' of the train. Mostly, I suspect, to help nervous passengers feel safer.

Anyway, the 'driver' is supposed to let the train know when he's leaving the cab.

This dude noticed some kids playing with the doors of the train. So he left the cab, and the train, walked back and asserted his authority with the kids. (That's one reason for having a human around, BTW: but someone on the platform could have done the job.)

Then the train, not realizing that a token human wasn't in the cab, left the station. With the 'driver' running along the platform, trying to catch up.

No, I do not necessarily feel safer with a human at the controls.

Related posts:More:
Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle online store

Pinterest: From the Man Behind the Lemming

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts

Today's News! Some of it, anyway

Actually, some of yesterday's news may be here. Or maybe last week's.
The software and science stuff might still be interesting, though. Or not.
The Lemming thinks it's interesting: Your experience may vary.
("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

Who Follows the Lemming?


Family Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory