EdgeWise 2004/1

2004-01-30

Panic Disorders Due to Lack of Receptors

Interesting article on the causes of Panic disorders. It basically says that people who are prone to panic disorders lack key neuroreceptors. Those who were treated with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs like Zoloft, Prozac, etc.) develope an increased number of those receptors, even after such treatment stops. So basically, people can take Prozac for anxiety, and after some period be wholely or partly cured, and not need to keep taking the drugs.
posted at 12:01:52    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-24

Ann Arbor Social Software Metropolis

Sweet. Ann Arbor is so cool. We have an Ann Arbor Distributed library, a collaborative recommending event calendar, and on friday I met with some of the ArborBlogs folks, and we've got some ideas (and capabilities) to make some new community building software tools.
posted at 22:33:20    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-20

Schadenfreude: Offshoring Lawyers

Ah yes, the circle is nearly complete. They've begun offshoring lawyers, who make 5 times what their Indian counterparts do, rather than just reaping the paltry 20% savings on US Software engineers. This might force an honest discussion about the practice. I hope CEOs are next.

I'm not sure offshoring requires a protectionist response (although it might if global labor supply will always exceed industrialized countries' demand). I just think that we need some kind of response. Free education and job retraining to displaced workers would be nice. After all, few of us could prove ourselves even 20% more deserving of a job than our foreign counterparts (and especially not 500%). There's got to be a solution acceptable to everyone.
posted at 16:47:44    #    comment []    trackback []
 

Health Insurance

"Health insurance is a pretty simple concept--individuals pooling their resources so that when one of their number falls ill, he or she can afford to pay for treatment. That's really all it boils down to." [via This Modern World]

Regular medical procedures (e.g. dental cleaning) are expected costs of obtaining the average quality of life in our society. There is no risk to be spread, so they're badly served by an insurance system.

If you don't floss, you can reduce your life expectancy by one year. If the average person avoids all the regular, expected medical treatments (dentist, eye doctor, gynecologist [the average person is a woman], etc.) life expectancy declines precipitously. How much would you pay to not die? A lot, right? How can a free market rate for essential, regular medical treatments avoid the temptation of price gouging?

Either strict regulation of a private system, or a public service is required. We currently have neither, and we use an insurance system to deal with expected costs. Is it any wonder we have the most expensive system in the world, and one of the crappiest qualities of life in the industrialized world? Sheesh.
posted at 15:33:04    #    comment []    trackback []
 

Well, That Was Unexpected

Big surprise in Iowa primary. 1. Kerry, 2. Edwards, 3. Dean. Gephardt dropped out after his poor showing. Kucinich has wonderful proposals, but seems doomed to failure. So who to support?

Healthcare - All the democrats have healthcare plans that call for universal coverage for (all or most) kids up to 18. Some go up to 21, some to 25. Some cover low income adults, some have subsidized COBRA for changing jobs or unemployed for some period of time. Of course, Kucinich goes farthest with universally free healthcare for all, but no clearly craptacular plans.

Taxes - Bush has shifted the tax burden to the middle class by cutting federal income taxes (which automatically cuts state income taxes) for the wealthiest, and not increasing state aid during a recession. States have responded by increasing regressive taxes (e.g. sales), fees, fines, etc. Some of the candidates want to fix this, some want to go farther and make things much better. Clark (eliminate income tax for those earning less than $50K) and Dean (reform regressive payroll tax) seem the best.

The other issues I need to research the candidates more on are Education (Clark gives two years free), Instant Run-off Voting (Kucinich and Dean support), Intellectual Property (Kerry is a little too chummy with the RIAA and MPAA, Edwards is progressive and well thought out).

Hell, I don't know at this point.
posted at 14:24:48    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-19
Via Brad DeLong, an H.G. Wells quote that resonates with me:
"But must life always be like this? I could die, indeed, I would willingly jump into this cold and muddy river now, if by so doing I could stick a stiff dead hand through all these things in the future,--a dead commanding hand insisting with a silent irresistible gesture that this waste and failure of life should cease, and cease forever."

"But it does cease! Each year in its proportions it is a little less."

I walked in silence, and my companion talked by my side.

"We go on. Here is a good thing done, and there is a good thing done. The Good Will in man--"

"Not fast enough. It goes so slowly--and in a little while we too must die."

"It can be done," said my companion.

"It could be avoided," say I.

"It shall be in the days to come. There is food enough for all, shelter for all, wealth enough for all. Men need only know it and will it. And yet we have this!"
posted at 18:36:32    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-18

Natural and Toxic Beauty

Miche Hallendal has a beautiful picture from Iceland of "The Face In the Water" which I missed last time I was there. (yes, I'd love to go again) It looks like this:

Meanwhile I finally found Edward Burtynsky, the photographer who specializes in finding the beauty in toxic waste. I had previously seen this photo:

I hadn't know his name, or the photo's, so I had basically given up. Turns out he's got a book collection of his toxic beauties. Cool.

Totally unrelated, but someone highly recommended Carl Sagan's "Demon haunted World (ISBN: 0345409469) book to me last night.
posted at 13:35:44    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-17

18,000 dead versus Your Bill

Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States.
Sigh. This statistic does not actually persuade anyone of anything they didn't already think. The statistic that does persuade people is how much more the average person pays for medical care in order to subsidize the emergency room trips by the poor who's untreated, cheaply preventable conditions become critical. This second statistic is more elusive, and I haven't seen good numbers for a decade. Anyone seen them lately?
posted at 19:32:00    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-16

Mars is warmer than Michigan

Great. It was 12 degrees on Mars while it was just 2 degrees here. If we're lucky, the High today may match the high recorded by the Martian rover.
posted at 10:55:44    #    comment []    trackback []
 

Books: Neuroscience, Woker Co-ops, and Nonviolent Communication

Mmmm... I want this book on Popular neuroscience (ISBN: 0743241657). I'm currently reading the Real World of Employee Ownership (ISBN: 0801483948) and Nonviolent Communication (ISBN: 1892005034). The Nonviolent communication is a very easy read, but the Employee Ownership (Worker Co-op & ESOP) is a little more challenging, despite my interest.

None of these is currently in the beta feature of Google for searching books in print, so the first chapter is not freely available online (indexing by ISBN). For instance, here's the first chapter of "The Dream's Our Stuff is Made of". If you replace the ISBN with a book you're interested in, sometimes you can read the first chapter for free online and decide if you want to buy it, depending on whether Google has added it. Pretty cool. Amazon allows you to search the full text of many (most?) books, but there's no way read any part of the relevant text. (They do sometimes let you see a few pictures of the covers and a few pages, but that's not related to the search thing)
posted at 10:32:16    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-15

Why The Media Sucks Even When They Try Not To

The Columbia Journalism Review, publication of record for journalists nation-wide, has published an analysis of media training, and the ways in which guests have transformed interviewing into PR.
Every PR firm offers media training, which includes how to avoid answering questions, and all the other things that make interviews suck so much. Interesting tidbit about how most florists (FTD, etc.) are trained to change the subject when asked about price gouging for roses around valentines day.
posted at 17:30:24    #    comment []    trackback []
 

Great Quote

"The people have spoken," the Labour MP replied to the programme, "... the bastards."
Apparently the BBC set up a poll for their listeners to suggest new legislation and got a minister of parliament to guarantee they'd introduce it. Wacky pranksters hijaaked the poll to pick the worst option the system allowed. Regardless, what a great quote.
posted at 12:18:56    #    comment []    trackback []
 

Robot Scientist

Oh come on now. I know I was being somewhat alarmist about technology and offshore implying there are few "safe" jobs, but they've gone and created a robot scientist (or via boston globe), apparently. The robot is capable of observing a behavior, generating hypotheses to explain it, devising experiments to test the hypotheses and observing the results of the experiments. I'm sure it doesn't work well or really threaten any scientist jobs, but it does seems a bit ridiculous in light of the other job destruction going on.
posted at 12:14:40    #    comment []    trackback []
 

Localfeeds.com

This is kinda cool. You can look up all the blogs that are near by you. Of course, I'm blatantly posting this to test if I show up there.

Update: Hot Damn! It shows up in their aggregator and everything. I had to add the meta tag with my coordinates in it to my main page though.
posted at 01:02:40    #    comment []    trackback []
 
2004-01-14

More Random Stuff

First, This video of the Tetris finals is of near superhuman Tetris speed. I wonder what the song sounds like.

Meanwhile, over at Amazon, the second spotlight review of "The Story of Ping" is hilarious:
Ping! I love that duck!, January 25, 2000
Reviewer: John E. Fracisco (see more about me) from El Segundo, CA USA
PING! The magic duck!

Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix's most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized.

The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).

The title character -- er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear.

If you need a good, high-level overview of the ping utility, this is the book. I can't recommend it for most managers, as the technical aspects may be too overwhelming and the basic concepts too daunting.
Problems With This Book
As good as it is, The Story About Ping is not without its faults. There is no index, and though the ping(8) man pages cover the command line options well enough, some review of them seems to be in order. Likewise, in a book solely about Ping, I would have expected a more detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure.

But even with these problems, The Story About Ping has earned a place on my bookshelf, right between Stevens' Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, and my dog-eared copy of Dante's seminal work on MS Windows, Inferno. Who can read that passage on the Windows API ("Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous, So that by fixing on its depths my sight -- Nothing whatever I discerned therein."), without shaking their head with deep understanding. But I digress. --This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition
posted at 17:36:48    #    comment []    trackback []
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