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

Thursday, January 27, 2005  

via Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things

Bluetooth virus infecting Lexus firmware?

A Russian security outfit is speculating on the possibility that a virus could infect a Lexus's firmware, using Bluetooth as a vector.

It's not clear whether or not this has ever actually happened, but apparently someone asked Kaspersky Lab if they knew 'how to cure a virus, which 'infected the onboard computers of automobiles Lexus LX470, LS430, Landcruiser 100 via a cell phone,'' and they conjecture that a virus could potentially use Bluetooth to jump from a Symbian-powered cellphone to the navigation system of certain Lexus models.

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

via LILEKS (James) The Bleat

Got Up At Six

Began the day with that deep-down weariness that makes you realize the entire day will be one long march towards sweet sleep.

“What did you dream about?” she asked.

“Cleveland,” I said.

posted by Gary Williams at 12:43 AM | link |

Tuesday, January 25, 2005  

via Mandarin Design

Positioning Text Within Pictures

My friend Meg's trick of the day is floating text inside your pictures, like this:

This is a paragraph with 50% opacity applied.

This is a paragraph with 50% opacity applied.

The code looks like this:

<DIV align="center">
<div style="width:300px;height:200px;border:1px solid black;background:url(">

<p style="width:200px;text-align:justify;border:1px solid black;
padding:5px;font-weight:bold;position:relative; top:-180px;left:10px;color:black;
This is a paragraph with 50% opacity applied.


<DIV align="center" style="position:relative;top:-80px;">
<div style="width:160px;height:160px;border:1px solid black;background:url(">

<p style="width:200px;text-align:justify;border:1px solid black;
This is a paragraph with 50% opacity applied.


If you copy this code, you'll probably need to take out most of the linebreaks, or blogger will insert <BR> and mess up the page formatting. There's another trick here that's probably neede -- I think the extra space can be removed by relative positioning the lower <DIV>'s with negative values (like the negative values -180 px for Meg's picture, or the -150 px for mine) for all the text after the pictures, because I think blogger (or the browser) is inserting lines for the text that's been moved backwards. Meg put a note in her comments, but couldn't add the fix because I think she posted this stuff at lunch, so she needed to get back to work...

Anyways, if I figure it out, or Meg gives me a tip, I'll correct this...

Update: Meg's showing the fix, which I've adjusted to fit here: I've added style="position:relative;top:-100px;" to the centering DIV around the json.jpg:
<DIV align="center" style="position:relative;top:-100px;">.

Oh, and <DIV style="position:relative;top:-250px;"> around all the stuff after the 3D mobius picture, json.jpg... (including, of course, this).

Further update: Oh, and as you might note, all this relative positioning fiddle does leave a big gap of white space after all this...

It turns out that the preview feature in blogger doesn't match the page as it appears on the public page, so in the original corrected version of this the corrected offset was -100 px, but that makes the json.jpg picture overlap the threebottles.jpg picture above. It's a neat effect, which I'm adding below here, with a json.gif version with transparent background:

This is a paragraph with 50% opacity applied.

This is a paragraph with 50% opacity applied.

posted by Gary Williams at 4:46 PM | link |

via Courting Disaster

Comic Of The Day

posted by Gary Williams at 1:56 PM | link |


Bird flu likely jumped between humans: study News Staff

A Thai girl who died of bird flu last year likely transmitted the disease to her mother and aunt, concludes a worrying new study.

That would mark the first documented case of human-to-human transmission of the virus.

'It's ringing alarm bells that tells us we need to be concerned about H5N1 -- and that avian influenza could be the next pandemic,' Dr. Andrew Simor of Sunnybrook and Women's Health Sciences Centre in Toronto told CTV News on Monday.

'If not this year or the next, the following year.'

People normally catch bird flu from infected birds, usually chickens and ducks. Health experts have been worried that the H5N1 bird flu virus could one day mutate into a form that passes easily between people, perhaps leading to a major flu pandemic that would rival the Spanish flu of 1918.

posted by Gary Williams at 10:58 AM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

The F.D.A. and Plan B

Published: January 25, 2005

The Food and Drug Administration continues to drag its feet on granting women over-the-counter access to the morning-after emergency contraceptive known as Plan B.

Under federal guidelines, the agency was supposed to issue a decision by Friday. Instead, the F.D.A. told the manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals, that it was still conducting its review. The agency said it hoped to act soon, but set no specific date for action.

Yet, by now, there is no excuse for delay. No one questions that Plan B, which contains a concentrated dose of the progestin hormone found in daily birth control pills, is safe and effective. Moreover, by proposing to limit its availability over the counter to women over 16, Barr has removed as an issue the effect on adolescents, which the agency cited as a concern last May when, bowing to political pressure, it overrode scientific research and the overwhelming recommendation of two expert advisory panels to reject making Plan B available without a prescription to all women, regardless of age.

An internal memorandum by Dr. John Jenkins, director of the agency's own Office of New Drugs, suggests that the agency failed to follow proper procedure in making the decision. The memo, which is cited in a new lawsuit challenging the agency's May ruling, notes that drawing a distinction between different age groups is a departure from the agency's usual approach to contraceptive products.

Making Plan B available over the counter would prevent thousands of unintended pregnancies and thousands of abortions annually. It's time for the F.D.A. to allow women easy access to Plan B.

posted by Gary Williams at 10:36 AM | link |

via GEOLOC geolocalisation des internautes

GEOLOC, qu'est ce que c'est ?

Geoloc est un nouveau service de localisation g?ographique des visiteurs. C'est un service unique qui permet de cr?er une interactivit? avec les visiteurs de votre site.
Il permet de savoir en temps r?el, qui est en ligne et d'o? sont les internautes visitant vos pages.
La conjugaison de nos scripts et de nos bases de donn?es en fait un outil puissant et fiable.

posted by Gary Williams at 3:55 AM | link |

via Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things

Windows error-message generator

This Windows error-dialog-generator lets you pick an icon, enter title and error text, and three buttons' worth of text and then it spits out a plausible Windows error-message. Link (Thanks, Atom!)

posted by Gary Williams at 3:35 AM | link |

via Chief Blogging Officer

Attack Of The Paradigm Shift

Anyway: Ich bin unpolitisch. Sort of. If pressed, I guess I'd say I'm more for casting Molotov cocktails than votes -- but only because it's a halfway decent line and I take my poetic license seriously. (Perhaps because getting my learner's permit was such a bitch.)

I feel worst about my slur on your use of 'paradigm shift.' A low blow, I admit. However, where I come from, that's an actionable offense. And I don't mean 'actionable' the way CEOs say that. 'We need an actionable business plan.' Looks like ever since Enron, they've been getting their wish.

But dude, even T.S. Kuhn stopped saying 'paradigm shift' -- and he invented the phrase. Sorry, but you owe me 50 bucks. Lucky for you it's a first infraction. Far as I know...

More seriously, I think it worth pushing back on the Negropontean notion that being 'wired' makes us some sort of privileged elite. Well... actually, it makes too many of us suspect we are just that; and that's the problem. Having cable or DSL or whatever fat bandwidth and however killer Javascript skilz, makes us no different from 10,000 pornographers and Google only knows how many Aryan Nation sites. I know I'll be reviled for saying this, yea verily, but I dunno... I think I'd rather take my chances with a barroom full of Aryan Brothers than with a standards-committee style of governance enforced by The Dotters of the American Slash. (I'm keeping this in secret code to cut down on the flame mail.)

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

Monday, January 24, 2005  

via WKOW

Contaminated Stem Cells

Mon 01-24-2005 , 5:03 pm

University of Wisconsin (UW) researchers say California study results are no surprise

A new study released by scientists at the University of California - San Diego says all of the existing federally funded stem cell lines are contaminated, but UW researchers say this is no surprise. According to Terry Devitt, UW director of research and communications, the human embryonic stem cells are grown in a culture that includes animal cells. He says the presence of animal cells compromises the use of these stem cell lines in treating humans, but these cell lines were developed for research, never intended for use in humans.

posted by Gary Williams at 11:21 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registratioin required)

Exposure at Germ Lab Reignites a Public Health Debate


Published: January 24, 2005

Last year, while working on a vaccine to protect against bioterrorist attacks, three laboratory workers at Boston University were exposed to the bacteria that cause a rare disease called tularemia, or rabbit fever.

The workers recovered, though two of them had to be hospitalized. But the prognosis is less certain for the university's ambitious plan to build a high-security biodefense laboratory, part of a national boom in germ defense research touched off by the Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax letters of 2001.

The tularemia episode, acknowledged by university officials only after inquiries last week from the news media, has outraged opponents of the proposed $178 million laboratory and reignited a national debate over whether the rapid expansion in work with dangerous pathogens is adequately regulated and scientifically justified.

The Boston case follows other mishaps in germ research, including the accidental shipment of virulent live anthrax from Maryland to California last March, and an investigation that revealed multiple spills of anthrax bacteria in the Army's biodefense laboratory. Such incidents have led some scientists to ask whether the growing number of germ laboratories - financed from the $14.5 billion in federal money spent on civilian biodefense since 2001 - may pose a menace to public health comparable to the still uncertain threat from bioterrorism.

Dr. David Ozonoff, a professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health who originally supported the new laboratory but now opposes it, argues that biodefense spending has shifted money away from 'bread-and-butter public health concerns.' Given the diversion of resources and the potential for germs to leak or be diverted, he said, 'I believe the lab will make us less safe.'

Dr. Mark S. Klempner, associate provost for research at Boston University's medical school, says the proposed laboratory, to be designated a National Biocontainment Laboratory along with one to be built in Galveston, Tex., will pose no public hazard. To be designated Biosafety Level 4 - the highest level of security - it will develop drugs and vaccines to protect not only against bioterror agents but also such natural emerging diseases as SARS and West Nile virus, he said.

'The nation needs this lab,' Dr. Klempner said.

Such disparate views among scientists reflect deep uncertainty about the scale and imminence of the bioterror threat. Some experts believe an attack that could kill tens of thousands of people is plausible today. Others argue that the known terrorist groups have little sophistication about biological weapons. Instead, these critics say, the biodefense expansion has been fueled by a scramble for federal money.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:42 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registratin required)

As William Safire Retires, He Tells Us: How to Read a Column


Published: January 24, 2005

At last I am at liberty to vouchsafe to you the dozen rules in reading a political column.

1. Beware the pundit's device of using a quotation from a liberal opposition figure to make a conservative case, and vice versa. Righties love to quote John F. Kennedy on life's unfairness; lefties love to quote Ronald Reagan. Don't fall for gilding by association.

2. Never look for the story in the lede. Reporters are required to put what's happened up top, but the practiced pundit places a nugget of news, even a startling insight, halfway down the column, directed at the politiscenti. When pressed for time, the savvy reader starts there.

3. Do not be taken in by "insiderisms." Fledgling columnists, eager to impress readers with their grasp of journalistic jargon, are drawn to such arcane spellings as "lede." Where they lede, do not follow.

4. When infuriated by an outrageous column, do not be suckered into responding with an abusive e-mail. Pundits so targeted thumb through these red-faced electronic missives with delight, saying "Hah! Got to 'em."

5. Don't fall for the "snapper" device. To give an aimless harangue the illusion of shapeliness, some of us begin (forget "lede") with a historical allusion or revealing anecdote, then wander around for 600 words before concluding by harking back to an event or quotation in the opening graph. This stylistic circularity gives the reader a snappy sense of completion when the pundit has not figured out his argument's conclusion.

6. Be wary of admissions of minor error. One vituperator wrote recently that the Constitution's requirement for a president to be "natural born" would have barred Alexander Hamilton. Nitpickers pointed out that the Founders exempted themselves. And there were 16, not 20, second inaugural speeches. In piously making these corrections before departing, the pundit gets credit for accuracy while getting away with misjudgments too whopping to admit.

(Note: you are now halfway down the column. Start here.)

7. Watch for repayment of favors. Stewart Alsop jocularly advised a novice columnist: "Never compromise your journalistic integrity - except for a revealing anecdote." Example: a Nixon speechwriter told columnists that the president, at Camp David, boasted "I just shot 120," to which Henry Kissinger said brightly "Your golf game is improving, Mr. President," causing Nixon to growl "I was bowling, Henry." After columnists gobbled that up, the manipulative writer collected in the coin of friendlier treatment.

8. Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day. When the two-topic writer strains to tie together chalk and cheese, turn instead to a pudding with a theme. (Three subjects, however, can give an essay the stability of an oaken barstool. Two's a crowd, but three's a gestalt.)

9. Cherchez la source. Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled "analysis") without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word "respected" in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read "According to the disrespected (whomever)."

10. Resist swaydo-intellectual writing. Only the hifalutin trap themselves into "whomever" and only the tort bar uses the Latin for "who benefits?" Columnists who show off should surely shove off. (And avoid all asinine alliteration.)

11. Do not be suckered by the unexpected. Pundits sometimes slip a knuckleball into their series of curveballs: for variety's sake, they turn on comrades in ideological arms, inducing apostasy-admirers to gush "Ooh, that's so unpredictable." Such pushmi-pullyu advocacy is permissible for Clintonian liberals or libertarian conservatives but is too often the mark of the too-cute contrarian.

12. Scorn personal exchanges between columnists. Observers presuming to be participants in debate remove the reader from the reality of controversy; theirs is merely a photo of a painting of a statue, or a towel-throwing contest between fight managers. Insist on columns taking on only the truly powerful, and then only kicking 'em when they're up.

In bidding Catullus's ave atque vale to readers of this progenitor of all op-ed pages (see rule 10), is it fair for one who has enjoyed its freedom for three decades to spill its secrets? Of course it's unfair to reveal the Code. But punditry is as vibrant as political life itself, and as J.F.K. said, "life is unfair." (Rules 1 and 5.)

posted by Gary Williams at 1:00 PM | link |

Sunday, January 23, 2005  

via Northeast Intelligence Network (

Website Closed by Department of Homeland Security

'Primum non nocere'

By Douglas J. Hagmann

22 January 2005: As many have pointed out, the Internet site referenced in this article remains online. It was the subject of official investigation as noted in the NPR report, but was not closed as reported below. I apologize for this mistake, however it does not change the controversy surrounding the site or the sentiments expressed in this article. -- Douglas J. Hagmann

22 January 2005: National Public Radio is reporting that Internet website was taken down on Friday by federal officials for publishing 'reports about tips on possible terrorist activity that have been filed with the Department of Homeland Security.'

posted by Gary Williams at 1:33 PM | link |

via Sinfest

Comic Of The Day

posted by Gary Williams at 1:05 PM | link |

via Hitherby Dragons

Cats Are

Cats are made of cat.
Cats are made of cat!
It's bizarre
That they are
But cats are
Made of cat.

They say you are
What you eat
But a cat
Is no cat's meat.
They don't eat cats for lunch.
(on each other)

Cats are made of cat
Though there's no cats crammed in them at all
It still is fair to call
The things inside
Pure cat!

Cats are made of cat
Cats are made of cat!
It's bizarre
That they are
But cats are
Made of cat.


posted by Gary Williams at 12:41 PM | link |

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