Monthly Archives: November 2003

CHOP … Bzzzzzzzzzzz…..

Check out who's been outside chainsawing… (Not me; Rachel)

First, if you want to see something crazy, check out Orbax's page and look at the burn pictures, espcially the first ones… You may not have known this, but you can actually cut his arm off and after about two weeks, another one grows back. It's crazy, I've not seen any other real humans that can do that.

Anyway, I ran a poll a little while back asking, “is it acceptable to cut off a part of your child's genitals?” Not surprisingly, 73% of people said it was never acceptable. 21% would accept it given the right culture, and 6% had no problem with it whatsoever. I followed this up with “is it acceptable to circumcise your child?” Now, it's basically the same question, just asked using different words, but the results were dramatically different — only 47% objected to the idea, with fully 34% having no problem with it whatsoever (19% accepted it given the right culture).

I also ran a follow up poll and it turned out at 14% of people didn't know that circumcision involved the removal of genital tissue (how is that even possible?), and 4% of those refused to believe that it did! My personal take on it is that if someone gets or is given any modification, they should have to be old enough to consent and want it… and that includes circumcision except when medically needed (which is extremely rare of course).

Anyway, I might do a few more experiments in the future seeing how people answer the same question differently depending on how it's worded. For example, I'll bet that if you asked “is it acceptable to kill someone who has committed a very serious crime?” you'd get a different response from “is the death penalty acceptable in the case of very serious crimes?”… And those two are really closely worded.


Since there's some discussion of the technical aspects of using/quoting parts of BME in research projects, I've built in tools to make that easier in the encyclopedia. Now when you click the “revision history” link on any of the entries, it'll tell you exactly what you need to write. For example, here's a simple one, but it also handles complex entries with multiple authors and revision dates like this one that Chris and I co-wrote.

Also, I don't know how many of you read typealice's mygambia blog (which I think I've recommended here before), but I got this postcard from her and I wanted to share some of what was written (I hope that's OK) because I think it's an important thing for folks to read:

People work hard here. Selling fish, oranges, peanuts, fixing cars, reusing metal and plastics. Nothing is going to waste, nothing is thrown away. Everyone has a skill.

The pace is slow. Greetings are such a huge part of the culture, it makes me realize how cold we are to one another in the Western world. Although this is one of the world's poorest countries, the people are always happy.

Makes me think that we've got it all wrong at home.

November 16th, 2003

I don't normally promote specific events here, but in this case I'm making an exception. Those of you in Holland or surrounding I really want to recommend the Dutch Meet and Ego Kornus Performance on December 20th. Click here for more information; there will also be discussions of future events in the area and more! I got to meet Kor while in Amsterdam and really have nothing but good things to say!

Saw a weird comment on ./ last night… In a discussion of Google Code Jam, someone was upset about the winnings — not a single American had been able to place with the awards going to Europeans, Scandinavians, and a Canadian (this is fairly normal on the TopCoder competitions; it's fairly rare for Americans to rank — although I think it's important to point out that the numbers may be skewed because of the volume).

Last time I checked, Google was an AMERICAN company. You think that they would have the decency or the patriotism to give at least one award to an AMERICAN. Sorry Google but you are no longer my search engine of choice. Altavista here I come.

It just seemed kind of weird that one would expect that the “decent” thing to do would be to give an award to an unqualified person as a form of national pride — or that when seeking a tool, quality of engineering is less important than nationalism… I don't know about you, but if “my team” doesn't have a winner this season, it would be kind of embarassing to have a sham victory. It would make us look kind of dumb…

SNL's opening last night was disturbing (maybe not as disturbing as the fact that they've had Alec Baldwin host eleven times now)… Just a weird upsetting and not-at-all-funny parody of Bush going on about killing Americans, screwing them over, things getting worse and worse, the elections all being rigged, and so on. SNL is definitely not a part of the right wing media conspiracy it seems.

Things continue to get decidedly worse in Iraq, with another successful guerrilla attack downing two black hawk helicopters (more, more) killing almost twenty more Americans — and, perhaps more dangerously, allowing the guerrillas to show the population that they can win. As long as these types of small victories continue, the guerrillas can keep recruiting people (more, more) for more:

"What difference does it make? If they arrest two [from the resistance], another 100 will take their place."

Not a nice thing to read alongside stories about National Guardsmen being sent over for the long haul (more), talking about how important it is to them to spend time with their kids because they just might not be coming back.

When National Guardsman John Schreiber learned he could be sent to Iraq before Christmas, his 7-year-old son told him, "Dad, you're going to die."

Also stateside, the Republicans are funnelling money from children's charities into late-night neocon parties (more) — it's crazy, it just sounds so Cruella DeVille, but it's real! The thing I don't get about this is that it's so self-destructive. I think it was Seymour Hersh that pointed out recently that Bush won't get (legally) re-elected because “you have a war fought by the underclass, financed by the underclass and for the profit of the upperclass.”

So the question that's really being answered right now in America is,
“does the underclass have a voice?”

Well that's disturbing…

Artificial viral life that reproduces (more). Yeah, that could go very, very very, bad if we're not insanely careful. Emphasis on insane all around. Admittedly Phi-X (the virus they built) is pretty safe and well understood, but given that it eats bacteria I figure we should be careful. Incidentally they say that building human-like creatures from scratch will take about five years.

“I for one welcome our new mutant overlords.”


I haven't written about this in some time now… An interesting point of morbid “trivia” about the war in Iraq: so far (in basically half a year), more US troops have died in this phase of the Iraq war than died in the first three years of the Vietnam War (more) — and that doesn't include the significant numbers of troops from other nations who've been killed as well. Nor does it include the significant numbers of people coming home without arms and legs (more) — one of the “benefits” of the excellent bullet-proof vests that many soldiers are issued is that it leaves hospitals full of people with strong unharmed torsos with their extremities shot to bits. And keep those bodies coming! Bring on the draft! (more)

Guerrilla forces in the area are operating on significantly superior intelligence than US troops (more), making the losses faced by the “crumbling coalition” grow to the extent where Italy, Japan, and other allies are pulling out or on the edge of totally reversing their support (more). But don't worry — while those other countries promise to put value on the lives of their citizens, and don't feel like killing them in a pointless corporate war, Rumsfeld promises there'll be no reduction in US corpses — “There is no decision to pull out early, indeed quite the contrary!” (more).

After all, extranational corporations are making a fortune from tricking the US population into paying for all this bloodshed with their taxes (more) — with the US government on their payroll, why should it stop? This is a losing war though, at least if we're to believe Bremer (more) or the CIA, who put the insurgent force at over 50,000 and growing (more) — remember, a guerrilla force can often successfully fight an invading army hundreds of times larger. The big companies don't care if America crumbles — they know that money is like energy — you can't destroy it, you can just move it from place to place… And you can bet Halliburton is perfectly happy to sell its wares in Euros.

How's it going to end? I've already mentioned folks like Senator Lott calling for a border to border nuclear levelling of Iraq — is that what it will take?

PS. In other news, conservative groups finally got the National Parks Service to stop playing a video that implies that Lincoln would have supported civil rights or opposed to things like anti-semitism (more) — after all, who could believe that a gay man like Lincoln (more) would support gay rights?