Please note: the viewport design is copied from Steve Den Beste's excellent blog, USS Clueless. Used with permission.

Saturday, December 11, 2004  

Mr Yushchenko's
appearance changed
almost overnight
via William Gibson

Yushchenko Poisoned By Dioxin

So when you slip a megadose of dioxin into your opponent's borscht, it makes them look like an old-school Politburo hack with an IV Stolly drip and a liver the size of a suitcase!

That's like something out of a Bruce Sterling novel!

posted by Gary Williams at 10:59 PM | link |

Looking At The News

I just finished looking at the news. Literally, on

This from the site: "Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input."(

This is one of the most creative spins on delivering the news since the blog. In my opinion it would be worth your time to take a "look".
Cheers, Joel

posted by joel at 9:58 AM | link |

Friday, December 10, 2004  

via -- The Star Ledger

New J&J drug hits 'off switch' on TB

Compound blocks energy for killer disease
Friday, December 10, 2004
Star-Ledger Staff

For the first time in nearly 40 years, scientists have produced a drug that in lab tests appears to cure tuberculosis, a disease that is one of the world's worst killers.

The antibiotic, called R207910, was developed by a team of Johnson & Johnson scientists who worked quietly on the project for a decade in locales ranging from Raritan, N.J., to Beerse, Belgium.

They unveiled the patented work last night in an electronic edition of Science magazine. The compound, which appears to work better and faster than existing treatments, acts like a switch to cut off the energy supply of the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis.

posted by Gary Williams at 6:43 PM | link |


Fusion: Stepping closer to reality

Fusion reactors represent a kind of holy grail for an energy-dependent world.

Now, researchers are poised to take the next big step in evaluating the technology's commercial potential. Scientists say they are more confident than ever that they can successfully build and operate a planned experimental fusion reactor. The bigger hurdle now looks political. The six-nation project - called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER - is caught in a big-money squabble over where to put the $5 billion reactor. Japan and France both want the privilege.

Scientists, meanwhile, are chafing to loose the bulldozers.

'There have been dramatic advancements in our scientific understanding' over the past five to 10 years, Goldston notes. The basic conclusion: The 'fire' in the type of reactor planned for ITER may not be as finicky to control as many had previously believed.

Initial simulations had suggested that triggering and sustaining the fusion reactions might be too difficult. But 'we've made enormous steps forward,' says Anne Davies, director of the US Energy Department's Office of Fusion Energy Science. An International Atomic Energy Agency meeting last month in Portugal generated considerable excitement because experiments with test reactors around the world suggested ITER's reactor would work as designed.

posted by Gary Williams at 4:33 PM | link |

via Bad Signal

What About TV's House?

bad signal

So Adi Tantimedh says to me, you
should see this new series on US TV
called HOUSE, because the
protagonist could be one of yours.
So I downloaded the fourth episode
the other night, and watched it
before bed last night.

Two surprises: the lead is played
by British comedian Hugh Laurie,
and the credit sequence uses the
excellent "Tear Drop" by Massive
Attack with Liz Fraser.

Hugh Laurie's only done a little
straight acting that I'm aware of --
some light stuff in a Ken Branagh
fillum and a quick thing in SPOOKS.
Here, he wears a near-beard, an
American accent -- not perfect, I
suspect -- a limp, a cane,
and a voice dropped an
octave into an earthy croak as
Gregory House, a nasty medical
consultant in a nice hospital.

House is a cranky genius with the
social skills of a wild boar. He is the
Unpleasant Doctor we've all met.
I like stories about clever people,
but I like some intimation of method,
and House appears to be psychic
in his apprehension of an epidemic
in the hospital based on two babies
getting sick. It's a bit, you know,
this man arrived at the morgue with
two sticks of dynamite covered in
his own prints lodged in his lungs, but
it was Moider and I Resign and Dr
Quincy You're Amazing.

Naturally enough, a bunch of babies
get sick. And the hook of the episode

is that they have two possibilities
as to the disease, with two different
treatments. Which means that
some babies will be given one treatment,
and some the other, and obviously
one method or the other will lead
to dead babies.

Which, for US TV, is kind of
interesting. I mean, it's squeezed
dry of emotional milk, and naturally
enough one of the young and
pretty supporting cast (including
a wasted Omar Epps) has a dead
child in her past and blah blah --
but for soft American entertainment,
that's actually kind of hard stuff.

House isn't jagged enough to be a
complete bastard, although one of
his troops names him such, but
that's less Laurie's fault than the
script's. Long and crooked, Laurie
stumps around the place like a
wounded spider, a murky fog of
Hate trailing behind him. Standing
in the maternity ward, another
doctor comments that it's unusual
to see him willingly be in the presence
of patients.

"Patients don't bug me until they
get teeth."

The actress -- I've blanked on her
name -- who did that turn as Sam's
Prostitute Friend in WEST WING
appears here as the hospital
administrator, a thankless role in
this kind of show (the person who
has to tell Quincy it's not Moider
and therefore be Wrong every
week), and pulls it off with some

Clever Scumbag shows tend not to
have a great lifespan in American
and PROFIT come to mind. They
do better over here in Britain, where
it's something of a tradition. HOUSE
isn't a great Clever Scumbag, but
it's nice to see US TV trying it again.

-- W

Sent from mobile device
probably from the pub

posted by Gary Williams at 1:58 PM | link |

via pbristow

Because some in my readership may not have seen it yet...

There's stuff here that every Christian needs to think seriously about. Read it carefully; check the facts as far as you can and need to, and take it to God in prayer. Demand to know the truth, however uncomfortable the implications may turn out to be.

Remember: 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.' Losing a bit of skin as the manacles are wrenched off is worth enduring.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

(For those who don't have the luxury of staying home all day to read and think about this, I recommend taking it one or two parts per day.)

posted by Gary Williams at 2:20 AM | link |

via Without Looking Back

Poem That Begins With An Excerpt From Bertrand Russell’s Biography And Proceeds to Paradox

… and it turned out on logical analysis that there was an affinity
with the ancient Greek contradiction about Epimedies the Cretan,
who said that all Cretans were liars. Though Crete is now divided
on the question, sipping thimbles of dark coffee at one end, ouzo

at the other. Far from Paris, where your young Greek girlfriend
screams at you on the second tier of the Eiffel Tower. Yesterday
Melina fancied a limited print propped up against the Quay
that would be perfect in the dining room of the small house

you mean to have when you’re both sure of things. Someone was juggling
on the broad concrete foyer of the Pompidou: a badminton birdie,
a bowling ball. A chainsaw would have completed the flashback
to Venice Beach where you first saw Melina walking nine dogs

posted by Gary Williams at 1:54 AM | link |

Thursday, December 09, 2004  


British GP saved

The British Grand Prix has been confirmed with a five-year deal between the British Racing Drivers' Club - owner of the Silverstone circuit - and F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone. The deal is a compromise between the two parties which will involve the teams making less money but will safeguard an important race. It does however mean that the F1 World Championship will go to 19 races in 2005 - and four of them will be within five weeks in July.

The actual date will be confirmed tomorrow by the FIA World Council but it will be July 10.

It is believed that as part of the deal the British government will give the race tax breaks.

posted by Gary Williams at 4:33 PM | link |


Congress lame-duck-OKs private-spaceflight bill

Suborbital artist viewBy Alan Boyle
Science editor
Updated: 3:09 p.m. ET Dec. 9, 2004

WASHINGTON - On the verge of adjournment Wednesday, the U.S. Senate gave final congressional approval to a bill that could open the way for suborbital space tourism.

The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, or H.R. 5382, now goes to the White House for President Bush's signature. It would put a clear legislative stamp on regulations already being put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration — and more significantly, allow paying passengers to fly on suborbital launch vehicles at their own risk.

The age of commercial space travel got its start this summer with SpaceShipOne's first private-sector spaceflights. Since then, hundreds of would-be tourists, including William Shatner of "Star Trek" fame and "Alien" actress Sigourney Weaver, have voiced interest in taking their own suborbital space trips aboard the successors to SpaceShipOne, which may be ready for flight by 2007.

posted by Gary Williams at 4:08 PM | link |


Lawmaker: Spy Project Threatens Security

The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 8, 2004; 8:50 PM

WASHINGTON - Congress' new blueprint for U.S. intelligence spending includes a mysterious and expensive spy program that drew extraordinary criticism from leading Democrats, with one saying the highly classified project is a threat to national security.

In an unusual rebuke, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, complained Wednesday that the spy project was "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and dangerous to the national security." He called the program "stunningly expensive."

Rockefeller and three other Democratic senators - Richard Durbin of Illinois, Carl Levin of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon - refused to sign the congressional compromise negotiated by others in the House and Senate that provides for future U.S. intelligence activities.

Update: via Defense Tech


Sen. Jay Rockefeller put Capitol Hill -- or, at least, it's defense wonk division -- in a bit of a tizzy Wednesday, when he criticized a classified spy program as "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and dangerous to the national security."

So the AP decided to read some tea leaves, and figure out which program Rockefeller was talking about. Their conclusion: "Almost certainly a spy satellite system, perhaps with technology to destroy potential attackers."

Rockefeller's description of the spy project as a "major funding acquisition program" suggests a price tag in the range of billions of dollars, intelligence experts said. But even expensive imagery or eavesdropping satellites - so long as they're unarmed - are rarely criticized as a danger to U.S. security, they noted.

As regular Defense Tech readers know, the Pentagon has a whole stack of projects, in varying stages of development, to strike evil-doers in space. In October, the Air Force declared operational it's radio frequency-based satellite jammer, the Counter Communications System. Back in January of 2003, the Defense Department launched its Experimental Satellite Series (XSS), which is developing pint-size orbiters, largely for offensive purposes. Recently-revealed XSS designs include a "blocker" microsat, which uses a "circular, gimbaled, opaque fan" to stop up enemy communications in space. There's also an orbiting "grabber," equipped with a mechanical arm, meant for "docking with and reorientation of enemy spacecraft." With this "grapple feature," the mini-ship will "attach itself to [an] enemy satellite, [and] benignly cause disorientation."

Satellites from hostile countries aren't the only ones which could be blocked or grabbed by the American machines. In a recent report, the Air Force declared that orbiters from neutral nations, private companies -- even weather satellites -- were all on the target list, too.

posted by Gary Williams at 3:41 PM | link |

via Pharma Watch

Is this a worry?

Is this a worry? Pharmaceutical companies sponsoring “decision support tools”
for diagnosing diseases like asthma. It sounds like those drug company-funded screening programs for young people with depression. Should we be letting people with a financial interest take the leading role in tacking underdignosed/undertreated conditions?
Do these schemes really help tackle untreated diseases, or are they just drumming up more business for the pill makers?

posted by Gary Williams at 3:03 AM | link |

via Sky and Telescope

Planet Parade & Geminid Meteors Come in Mid-December: A Line of Planets

For a few days in mid-December 2004, the planets Mercury through Pluto are arranged from east to west in Earth's sky in the same order that they're positioned outward from the Sun. This situation begins when Mercury passes inferior conjunction (between the Sun and Earth) on December 10th, and it ends when Pluto leaves the evening sky on the 13th. Only the planets Venus through Saturn are observable with the unaided eye on these nights, with Uranus and Neptune visible in binoculars and telescopes. Both Mercury and Pluto are hidden in the Sun's glare.

Such a lineup is rarer than a transit of Venus. Apart from a similar brief interval in November 2002, the planets have not been arrayed in their natural order westward from the Sun since before the invention of the telescope, and they won't be again for at least four centuries.

A line of planets stretching to the east of the Sun is equally rare. This occurred in late February and March 1801, and it won't happen again until April 2333!

posted by Gary Williams at 1:30 AM | link |

via whiskey river

Courage For The Most Strange

'That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called visions, the whole so-called spirit-world, death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.'
- Rainer Maria Rilke

posted by Gary Williams at 1:15 AM | link |

Wednesday, December 08, 2004  

via Kung Fu Monkey


Recently I linked to a Digby post, where he reported on a 5 year study on Fundamentalism. The neat kicker to this little thrill ride is that the researchers surmised that there isn't Islamic Funadamentalism, and then Christian Fundamentalism, etc., etc. There's just one, universal fundamentalist model, which is co-opted by various agendas. Like, a D20 system of intolerance.

(The excellent book I'm currently reading, Fundamentalist World by Stuart Sim, analyzes the rise of fundamentalism in various social aspects. It's a bit more about the 'how' of fundamentalism than the 'what makes it tick', but also worth your time.)

The (allegedly) universal agenda of fundamentalism consists of:

1. Men are dominant, rule the joint and make the rules.
2. All rules must apply to all people, no pluralism.
3. The rules must be precisely communicated to the next generation.
4. 'they spurn the modern, and want to return to a nostalgic vision of a golden age that never really existed.' (spiffy fascism/fundamentalism parallel made here)
5. Fundamentalists deny history in a 'radical and idiosyncratic way.'

posted by Gary Williams at 11:58 PM | link |

via Mandarin Design

Setting Up A Magazine Style Initial Letter

My friend Meg at Mandarin Design has a feature this week on using a magazine style initial big letter to feature your lead paragraph. It looks like this:

For this one we want to force the first big letter to span about five lines. The font-size is adjusted to exactly 100 pixels font-size:100px; while the line height is 70 pixels line-height:70px;. We tried a line-height of 80 but that leaves a little too much white space. To make the top of the first big letter align with the text a padding of 2 pixels padding-top:2px; was added to make the initial letter drop down ever so slightly.

While Meg's styling matches current magazine styles, it occured to me that it's very similar to the medieval caps, where they use a carved wooden block to for the initial capital. It would be easy to modify Meg's CSS code simply, like this:

For this one we want to force the first big letter to span about five lines. The font-size is adjusted to exactly 100 pixels font-size:100px; while the line height is 70 pixels line-height:70px;. We tried a line-height of 80 but that leaves a little too much white space. To make the top of the first big letter align with the text a padding of 2 pixels padding-top:2px; was added to make the initial letter drop down ever so slightly.

But that's too simple -- we can add a background image to boost up the inital cap, and -- if we use a simple grid -- still be modern and magazine-like:

For this one we want to force the first big letter to span about five lines. The font-size is adjusted to exactly 100 pixels font-size:100px; while the line height is 70 pixels line-height:70px;. We tried a line-height of 80 but that leaves a little too much white space. To make the top of the first big letter align with the text a padding of 2 pixels padding-top:2px; was added to make the initial letter drop down ever so slightly.

Here's the code you'd use to get this effect:

<center><div style="text-align:justify;width:400px;">
<span style="background:url(;background-color:#00FFFF; float:left;
color:#0000FF;border:5px solid #0000FF; font-size:100px; line-height:70px; padding-top:2px;font-family: times,"times new roman";">F</span>or this one we want to force the first big letter to span about five lines. The font-size is adjusted to exactly 100 pixels <code>font-size:100px;</code> while the line height is 70 pixels <code>line-height:70px;</code>. We tried a line-height of 80 but that leaves a little too much white space. To make the top of the first big letter align with the text a padding of 2 pixels <code>padding-top:2px;</code> was added to make the initial letter drop down ever so slightly.

posted by Gary Williams at 8:53 PM | link |

via ABC News

Chicken Genome Should Boost DNA Research

Red Jungle Fowl
A red jungle fowl is seen in this undated handout photo. Researchers have assembled the genome sequence of the Red Jungle Fowl, the ancestor of all domestic chickens. The analysis found that chickens and humans share more than half their genes. (AP Photo/Bill Payne, Michigan State University)
In their first detailed and comprehensive look at the DNA of chickens, scientists have found that 60 percent of the bird's genes have close cousins in humans. They say such analysis should prove valuable in learning more about the human genome.

But as to the great mystery of why the chicken crossed the road, no answers yet.

"That question is still out there," said Richard K. Wilson of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

He's senior author of the chicken DNA analysis, which is presented by an international team of scientists in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The chicken genome the creature's complete set of DNA is the first from a bird to be "sequenced," which means scientists identified the 1 billion letters of its DNA code. That job was completed and results made available earlier this year.

posted by Gary Williams at 6:46 PM | link |


Report: NASA should send shuttle to fix Hubble, not robot

By Bloomberg News
Wednesday, December 8, 2004

NASA's plan to service the Hubble Space Telescope with a robotic device is more risky than a manned shuttle mission and would leave the orbiting observatory inoperative for a longer period, according to a report to Congress by the National Research Council.

The technology being considered for the robotic mission is unproven and the robot wouldn't be launched until 2010, well after the telescope's batteries are due to expire, the council said in the report.

Shuttle missions to the Hubble have been carried out successfully before. A shuttle flight would be as dangerous as a trip to the International Space Station, a risk that is accepted by NASA, the council said in its report, which was prepared at the request of Congress.

posted by Gary Williams at 6:35 PM | link |

Tuesday, December 07, 2004  

via BrykMantra -- Do you hear what I hear? (Probably not.)

The Sysadmin Price List

My favorites: 'Calling me with a stupid question you can't quite articulate - $30;
Implying I'm incompetant because I can't interpret your inarticulate problem description - $1000 punitive damages.'

Being the only one in the office who knows half this stuff: Priceless.

posted by Gary Williams at 11:46 PM | link |

via AKMA's Random Thoughts

How Would We Know

I’ve been surveying the usual suspects, web sites that comment on the present unhappy controversies in the Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion. Although I respect and sympathize with Archbishop Rowan Williams, I have the sinking feeling that his hopeful outlook may not be as well-founded as he seems to think.*

I wish I thought we Anglicans could keep together. I will be overjoyed to find that I’m wrong, and I will grieve deeply if “churches will go their different ways, even to the point of competing with one another.” What causes me unease lies in the tone of the observations I find on the various contending sites, and especially on the unwavering confidence the various speakers reflect. I’m especially uneasy when I ask myself, “How would we (or ‘they,’ however ‘we’ and ‘they’ get constructed) know if we (or ‘they’) were wrong?”

posted by Gary Williams at 11:39 PM | link |

via WorkingForChange

Getalongism Or The Power Of Negative Thinking

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Washington Post Writers Group

In the wake of President Bush's narrow election victory there's much musing suggesting that Democrats are obligated to try to work constructively with the White House. The advocates of what we'll call Getalongism insist that Democrats will pay a price for 'obstruction' -- which, of course, is just another word for standing up against ideas they oppose.

In a world in which Democratic ideas could get the same attention and the same chance for an open vote in Congress as Bush's, such criticisms might have some bite. But that world does not exist. What is actually being demanded of Democrats is that they work with Republicans to pass programs (such as Social Security privatization) that they oppose on principle.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:46 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required>

String Theory, at 20, Explains It All (or Not)

String theory, the Italian physicist Dr. Daniele Amati once said, was a piece of 21st-century physics that had fallen by accident into the 20th century.

And, so the joke went, would require 22nd-century mathematics to solve.

posted by Gary Williams at 11:11 AM | link |

Dad's Puzzle Start

Dad's Puzzle Finish
via | Puzzles

A hard, simple problem

Dec 2nd 2004
From The Economist print edition

Has an inventor found the hardest possible simple sliding-block puzzle?

SLIDING-BLOCK puzzles look easy, but they can be tricky to solve. The best known is the “15 Puzzle”, which became hugely popular in the late 1870s. This involves square tiles labelled with the numbers 1 to 15, which must be arranged in the correct order inside a four-by-four frame. Another popular one, called “Dad's Puzzle”, involves moving a large square tile from one corner to another, by rearranging other, smaller tiles around it—akin to moving a piano across a cluttered room.

The best such puzzles are easy to explain, yet difficult to solve. Historically, they have been devised by trial and error. But earlier this year, Jim Lewis, an inventor based in Midland Park, New Jersey, set out to find the hardest possible “simple” puzzle, using a computer-based search.

To play Dad's Puzzle online, click here.

For a variety of online sliding block puzzles, click here.

posted by Gary Williams at 4:05 AM | link |

Catnip mouseCat With Catnip Mouse



Catnip and Catnip Mousevia Quantum Tea: Fresh Brewed Weblog

Knitting And Felting A Catnip Mouse

Working on a couple of catnip mice, which taught me how to do bobbles. Or rather, how to attempt to do bobbles, reason that the cats will only chew on them, and to leave well alone. Also learned this about hand felting cat toys:

  • It takes a while
  • A long while
  • Hot water helps
  • Boiling water is not a good idea
  • Poking the wet mouse in boiling water with a dishwashing brush doesn’t help it felt
  • Boiling water makes wool smell funny
  • Never even consider putting your wet knitting in the oven to dry
  • It looked fine before you tried to felt it anyway
  • It’s a cat toy. It’s going to get drooled on, bitten, kicked, scratched, clawed, and otherwise abused, just let it be.
  • Step away from the microwave
  • Kitchen roll holders make good temporary drying racks for wet mice
  • It takes ages to dry
  • Put the hairdryer down
  • Start another mouse for pity’s sake, and let the first one dry naturally
  • Never try hand felting anything ever again

So cat toy #2 will not be felted, just stuffed, sewn and given to the cat. They won’t care so long as it has a nice long tail, it’s all about the string for them. Both of them are made with the leftovers from the Coronet hat, Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted yarn in Raspberry.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:47 AM | link |

via A Voyage To Arcturus

What Awaits Us On Titan

In Gamble of a lifetime for space odyssey to Titan, Robin McKie, Science Editor of The Observer, interviews John Zarnecki, who paints an enchanting picture:

As the probe's batteries start to fade, Huygens will drop on to Titan's surface and Zarnecki's science package will send back its data, including indications of whether the spacecraft is floating, bouncing or squelching. Zarnecki is clear about his hopes, however. He wants a splash-down, giving his team the honour of finding the second world, after Earth, with an ocean on its surface. He has also calculated that, if such seas of methane and ethane exist, they will be swept by giant, slow-moving waves - a paradise for surfers.

'We will probably only have a few minutes' power left by the time we settle on the surface, so I would like to pick up readings showing that we are bobbing up and down on a sea,' he said. 'Then, just as the batteries are beginning to fail, the cameras will spot a 100-foot waves rushing toward the probe. Our instruments will show the craft is pitching over, then everything will go black. It would be a great way to go.'

Indeed. Thirty-nine days and counting!"

posted by Gary Williams at 1:29 AM | link |

via whiskey river

World Of Phenomena

'As for the world of phenomena, we are inclined to believe that it is illusory, separate from reality. And we think that only by ridding ourselves of it will we be able to reach the world of true mind. That is also an error. This world of birth and death, this world of lemon trees and maple trees, is the world of reality in itself. There is no reality that exists outside of the lemon and maple trees. The sea is either calm or stormy. If you want a calm sea, you cannot get it by suppressing the stormy sea. You must wait for the same sea to become calm. The world of reality is that of lemon and maple trees, of mountains and rivers. If you see it, it is present in its complete reality. If you do not, it is a world of ghosts and concepts, of birth and death.'
- Thich Nhat Hanh

posted by Gary Williams at 12:34 AM | link |

Monday, December 06, 2004  

Ocean 3 Previews Available Today


posted by Gary Williams at 8:03 PM | link |

via Astrobiology Magazine

Planet Swapping

based on Univ. Utah report

Computer simulations show a close encounter with a passing star about 4 billion years ago may have given our solar system its abrupt edge and put small, alien worlds into distant orbits around our sun.

The study, which used a supercomputer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., was published in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Nature by physicist Ben Bromley of the University of Utah and astronomer Scott Kenyon of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:34 PM | link |

Give Up The Red States For Original Comics?

bad signal

A few weeks ago, I threw out the
playful notion that original comics
don't actually sell in the Red states
of America -- that the political
borderlines there are also cultural
borderlines. Just as there are
isolated political Blue islands in
Red America, there are also island
comics stores, to be certain -- but
that the audiences for progressive
comics are largely contained in
the coasts and those few Blue
states in the north. The broader
sweep of Jesusland is a dead zone,
to massively generalise.

So after that I got an email from
a publisher I know. Telling me that
he and his staff had been discussing
the same thing. They looked at
their sales documentation. And,
in fact, it looks to them that they
do the vast majority of their
business in the Blue states.

So they're talking about changing
their PR campaigns. Focussing on
Blue America and those handful
of island stores. They figure that
if Red America isn't listening, then
fuck Red America. And if you're

in Jesusland and you can't get
their books anymore, then frankly
you should have tried harder to
make your store order you the
stuff you wanted to read. (And,
for God's sake, I've been telling
you that for years, so this
shouldn't come as a surprise.)

No company has an endless
marketing budget, and they need
to put those dollars where they'll
do the most good. So why not try
to maximise their market in the
areas where people don't freak out
at the idea of a comic that wasn't
invented forty years ago?

The idea lends itself to all kinds of
interesting secondary concepts,
like coastal tours -- for a reasonable
amount of money you could send
a creator, or a group of them,
the length of California, or up the
East Coast. (Something Vertigo
should have done five years ago.)

Anyway. Interesting development,
I thought.

-- W
Sent from mobile device
probably from the pub

posted by Gary Williams at 11:51 AM | link |

via Dave Barry at

Dave Barry's Gift Guide:

Storm Defender Cape
$55-$65 from Storm Defender, PO Box 18598, Fairfield, OH 45098-0598;

Suggested by Jocelyn and Robert Brokamp of Fredericksburg, Va.

Meat-Flavored Water
$5.97 plus shipping and handling from Nutri-vet Nutritionals, Boise, ID;

Suggested by Pam Spencer of Klamath Falls, Ore.

We Americans really love our dogs. Why? Because dogs ask so little, and give us so much. All you have to do for a dog is feed it, and provide it with a place to live, and walk it every morning even when you're really tired and it's raining, and regularly take it to the veterinarian for shots and de-wormings and various other procedures that can run you into the thousands of dollars if for example the dog has -- and this is not out of the question -- swallowed a toaster-oven. And for doing these things for your dog, you get, in return, an animal that really and truly and sincerely loves you, or anybody else who happens to feed it.

You cannot put a price on that kind of loyalty, although the dog-product industry is doing its darnedest. Today you can buy every kind of merchandise and service for your dog -- dog spas, dog massages, dog apparel, gourmet dog food -- all the things that make it possible for a dog owner to say to a dog: ``I have absolutely no sense of perspective.''

Storm Defender CapeIn that spirit, this year we present two fine gifts for the special dog on your holiday list. One is the Storm Defender cape, which, according to the manufacturer, ''gives relief to dogs who are excessively afraid of thunderstorms.'' This cape is for indoor use only. You put it on (on the dog, we mean) ``when the dog first begins to get agitated due to an oncoming electrical thunderstorm. . . . The cape reduces the dog's sensitivity to the static charge that precedes and accompanies a thunderstorm.''

We don't know whether this cape works or not. But we DO know that it makes the dog look phenomenally stupid. And that is enough for us.

Meat Flavored WaterOur other recommended canine gift this year is a highly scientific nutritional water specifically formulated for dogs. It comes not only in bacon flavor, but also chicken and beef. These flavors entice the dog to drink the water, which contains, according to the manufacturer, ''a proprietary blend of vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes.'' Of course if they REALLY wanted the dog to drink this water, they would give it the flavoring that dogs love most of all: toilet.

posted by Gary Williams at 11:05 AM | link |

via Pharma Watch

'Don't Use Celebrex in Heart Risk Patients'

I'm surprised we haven't heard anything in the media about the TGA's latest warning on Celebrex and cardiovascular disease. In it's latest Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin, the agency said that doctors should consider all coxibs to have a risk of cardiovascular side effects until proven otherwise. And they recommend that alternatives are used in any patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease - that would be about 80% of Celebrex patients, given that most people with arthritis are elderly!

This is potentially as big a situation as the Vioxx recall. Imagine if celecoxib is shown to have some cardiovascular effects in longer term studies - and that a GP doesn't warn patients about this ADRAC advice ... I bet the plaintiff lawyers are filing this little bulletin away for future reference ...

Update: via AP Wire

Study: Celebrex Appears Safer Than Vioxx

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA - New research suggests that top-selling pain reliever Celebrex does not carry the same heart attack risk as Vioxx, a similar drug pulled from the market in September because of safety concerns.

The study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania is the first to compare the two arthritis drugs since the recall, and contradicts claims by other scientists that all so-called cox-2 inhibitors may carry similar dangers.

'Vioxx and Celebrex look different. Relative to Celebrex, Vioxx had about a threefold greater risk of heart attacks,' said Dr. Stephen Kimmel, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and lead author of the study. 'What that implies is that all cox-2 inhibitors may not be the same.'

The study, funded by the makers of both drugs and the federal government, was published in Tuesday's Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers surveyed 1,718 patients in the five-county Philadelphia area who had heart attacks and were treated at one of 36 hospitals, and a comparison group of 6,800 people in the region.

The chances of having a heart attack were 2.72 times greater in Vioxx users than in Celebrex users, the researchers said.

Further Update:

Hub doctors issue warning on Celebrex

By Jennifer Rosinski
Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Two Boston doctors are cautioning physicians to prescribe pain relievers called cox-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex only as a last resort in patients at risk for heart attacks.

The news comes even as a new study suggests Celebrex is not as dangerous as Vioxx, a similar drug pulled from the shelves recently.

``It's more cautious advice,'' said Dr. Axel Finckh, a rheumatology researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital who co-wrote an editorial on the class of drugs known as cox-2 inhibitors. ``We do not really know what triggered the increased heart attack risk in patients. We felt that we cannot exclude that there is a possibility of a cox-2 class effect.''

posted by Gary Williams at 1:55 AM | link |

via 2005 US Chessmaster Championships

New Yorkers Take U.S. Chess Championships

U.S. Chess Champions
Hikaru Nakamura of White Plains, NY is the new US Champion! The 16-year-old swept the playoff match against Alex Stripunsky 2-0. Rusa Goletiani, also from NY State, won her playoff against Tatev Abrahamyan with the same 2-0 score to win the Women's Championship. Above the new champions pose with AF4C president Erik Anderson (left).

posted by Gary Williams at 1:07 AM | link |

Sunday, December 05, 2004  

via riley dog...half baked cookies in the oven...fruitcakes in the street...

The Quiet World
In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
the government has decided to allot
each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
When the phone rings, I put it
to my ear without saying hello.

In the restaurant I point
at chicken noodle soup.

:: listen to each other breathe

posted by Gary Williams at 10:41 PM | link |

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