Wednesday, June 30, 2004

hey, what a great time to change careers and become a doctor

to get an understanding of the comedy of errors that is my life, take a look at this post on decling physician compensation.


while i was in college, undiligently studying computer science and biophysics, people in the real world were minting money in IT and biotech. when i graduated, i stepped right into a really fun recession that forced me to work 80 hour weeks for partially subsidized diet coke and trail mix, while all my doctor friends were pouring out pellegrino for their homies that couldn't make it to the top tax bracket. now, i'm applying to medical school right as a mini-boom in IT is heating up and doctors are getting squeezed. FUCK!!!!!

Despite an overall national trend of rising income and general economic prosperity in the late 1990s, and first three years of the new century, physician net income from the practice of medicine declined markedly and their private office overhead as a percentage of revenue surged to an estimated 54%, a substantial rise from 36% in 1997, and more than twice the 1980 median of 25%. (1)

Between 1995 and 1999, with CPI inflation averaging 2.5%, the average United States’ Professional Technical worker income rose 3.5%. In comparison, the percent change in average income decreased by 5.0% for all physicians, 6.4% for Primary Care physicians and 4.0% for Specialists physicians.

In addition, there is an increasing and demoralizing disparity between provider workload and compensation. The American College of Physicians (ACP noted that between 1999 and 2000, physician income declined by 13.9%, while total hours worked underwent a 6.7% increase.

but s'okay mang! i'm going into medicine for my niggas in the struggle!!

a bunch of other interesting figures in the post, check it out when you get a chance.

reducing medical error

neil versel has a great new blog on IT in healthcare, clinicalit. he posted about medical errors earlier this month, specifically in reference to this parade magazine article on the topic. here are some snips from the magazine article:

According to a groundbreaking 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences, as many as 98,000 patients die in the more than 5000 U.S. hospitals each year because of medical errors. Such mistakes are the eighth leading cause of death in America—ahead of car accidents, AIDS and breast cancer—according to the IOM’s most conservative estimates.
Reasons for preventable hospital errors include poor communication among staff, overworked or minimally trained workers and a faulty system of checks and balances. “Starbucks has more procedures in place for catching errors than many hospitals have,” contends Dr. Clancy.

Another important factor is the shortage of nurses. According to the American Nurses Association, there will be a shortage of 139,000 registered nurses this year and 275,000 by 2010.

There is a direct relationship between the number of nurses, patient care and hospital errors. One study by Linda Aiken and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing showed that the number of patients dying after common surgeries in hospitals jumps when there is more than the average 4:1 patient-nurse ratio. A 7% increase in deaths is tied to a 5:1 ratio, and a 31% increase results from an 8:1 ratio.
The type of hospital you’re in also matters. A study by Prof. Eric Thomas of the University of Texas revealed that patients in for-profit hospitals, government-owned minor teaching hospitals and all government-owned nonteaching hospitals are at least 1.6 times more likely to suffer “preventable adverse events” than those in nonprofit hospitals. This suggests that bottom-line concerns may affect the quality of patient care.
“Studies have demonstrated that as much as 40 minutes per shift can be gained by using electronic charting,” says Terri Price, a nurse in the hospital’s department of patient services. “That’s 40 minutes more that a nurse can spend with patients.” And more nursing care can lead to fewer errors.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sleep is for the Weak...or the sane

If you don't know, my summer "research" (aka free labor) job this summer involves a small science named neuroscience. Perhaps you've heard of it, perhaps not. Anyway, there is a theory that relates Delta Sleep (third cycle of sleep before it reverses on itself and goes to REM) to schizophrenia. Apparently the less Delta Sleep someone gets, the worse the symptoms are...who knew? Anyway, I was looking some stuff up on the inter-web and discovered some information that I was unaware of:

Abnormalities of sleep quantity and sleep depth persist for months into recovery from alcohol dependence, and are more profound in African American alcoholics compared to Europe-American alcoholics. The decay of delta sleep in alcoholics is coupled with impairment in the regulation or plasticity of slow wave sleep.

But why the African Americans? What is it about their DNA that makes them different? I mean isn't it bad enough the people already sterotype them as "unhealthy" drinkers?

Another interesting point:

Psychoactive substances have acute and chronic effects on sleep architecture. Several aspects of sleep are compromised in individuals taking these drugs, depending on the drug. Difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep as well as poor sleep quality are common in patients on opiates. In fact, heroin addicts seeking treatment often report sleep disturbances, notably insomnia, as precipitating causes of relapse.

Drug studies always have interested me, just what makes this interesting is that SLEEP is what makes people relapse. I wonder how many people took that into account during addiction studies?

So what does this all mean? Probably that I shouldn't stay up late doing whatever it is that I do late at night on the Internet and why all my friends who stay up late and wake up early always feel emotionally unbalanced. Now I really wish I didn't stay up so late at night when I was in grade school to watch TV, but alas, the foilies of youth.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

messaging as the ultimate abstraction of information

mike sippey blogs about how he wants to receive/use/share information:

yet the more I think about this problem of information discovery, sharing, routing and group forming, the more it seems that we're headed to a deeper merger of the mail client, the browser and various and sundry publishing and content archiving systems.

I remain unconvinced that there would be anything better suited to this task than an email-like application that's well integrated with the browser. What we're talking about here is messaging: reading incoming messages (whether via email, RSS or whatever comes next), and writing outgoing messages: some to individual contacts, some to public spaces (like or delicious), some to semi-private group spaces (on orkut or flickr or mailing lists), some to a personal archive, and some to one or more of those destinations (cc, anyone?).

a pretty interesting post, especially his categorization of information along the two axes of privacy and context (which i didn't snip). i think the information appliance he describes is almost here. between haystack, gush, hello, and bloglines (via their email functionality), i think we have the components of such a system, but nothing completely integrated.

btw, haystack has a new tool, a semantic web browser. now if only we had a semantic web to browse. - Annenberg Political Fact Check - Annenberg Political Fact Check

live searches

so it turns out that basically every fucking site on the net provides the search feeds that i shot a load over yesterday.

feedster, daypop, bloglines, and all do it, although bloglines and daypop seem to just provide snips instead of full posts, but you can't really tell if the search engines are snipping or if the actual content producers only provide clips. i'm putting them all head to head with my emacs pubsub to see how they compare.

interestingly, the feedster search feeds also provide icbm data (longitude/lattitude), so you can also track the geographical distribution of memes as they propogate.

on a tangential note, the rss weblog has a series of interviews with people that are involved in the aggregation/syndication biz:

  1. luke hutteman (sharpreader)
  2. mark fletcher (bloglines)
  3. brent simmons (netnewswire)
  4. greg reinacker (newsgator)
  5. nick bradbury (feeddemon)

Saturday, June 26, 2004

sarah silverman

sarah silverman interview plus some quotes:

SportsHollywood: Which do you enjoy more: Getting a basket in front of a crowd or getting a laugh in front of a crowd?

SILVERMAN: They're both great. You can't compare them. What do you like better: cumming on a porn star's back, or watching your first child be born into the world? --See, they're both wonderful.
"A couple nights ago, I was licking jelly off my boyfriend's penis . . . and I thought, Oh, my God--I'm turning into my mother!"


essay on diamonds

i overheard a girl one day talking about how she hates diamonds and would never want one for an engagement/marriage. i stopped her on the street and asked her if she would marry me on the spot. she said she would consider it.

There's this woman I know. Besides her diamond engagement ring and the diamond wedding band, each time she gave birth to one of her two sons, her husband brought her a diamond necklace. In the hospital. Good job, honey. Thanks for ripping your pussy open.
I just don't get it, I mean, who ARE these women and WHAT are they doing for these diamonds? ... Are their pussies cleaner than mine?

guess where i found this essay...that's right, my blowjob pubsub.

Friday, June 25, 2004

information overload and why i love girls named tracy

so i was checking my referrer logs the other day and i saw that someone came to the site via a pubsub link. i guess the service has been around for a while, but i never knew about it. anyway, it is basically a continously updated search with results provided over rss. so you drop the rss feed into your aggregator and it's all gravy baby: you're now subscribed to a service that lets you know when people start talking about a subject that interests you.

not only can you subscribe to feeds based on search words, but you can also track URI's, so it's a near-realtime technorati. they don't just do blogs either: if star trek conventions are your thing, you can track newsgroups, and if you're the type that jacks off to maria bartiromo, you can get SEC EDGAR feeds.

if rss is too proletarian for you, you can publish the feed over the jabber protocol (XMPP), so you can get your data LEGITIMATELY PUSHED in real-time to you your lazy ass [read this and this too].

you still want more? a fucking REST interface, okay? i don't even know what good that does, but it gives carlos perez a boner, so that's about as much street cred you can ask for in a technology.

ultimately, i think it's a pretty good way to combat the information overload that a lot of us are going through right now. while it does drop even more to my already overflowing plate o' shit, the information presented seem more high-value to me. more "blog for your buck" so to speak.

mike davidson discussed information overload recently and prefers an agent-based solution. pubsub is the first step towards such an information environment. incidentally, davidson also points to newsmap, which is a really cool use of treemaps providing a news-media zeitgeist.

(the newsmap site also has the most beautiful 404's i've ever seen, nudging past france's ministry of culture's 404's). check the hive group if you want more treemap goodness).

so of course, the first pubsub feed i made was for blowjobs, continuing my long standing tradition. unfortunately, most of the links were stupid and about jeri ryan or bill clinton or some other nonsense that i couldn't care less about. but there was some GOLD my friends.

like this lady (pic) with a phd in pharmacology from the university of texas houston medical school that gave blowjobs for doing her favors like helping her move, guitar lessons, etc. she also was a prostitute for charity. her name's tracy, and she's one more data point in an ever-growing list of reasons why girls named tracy make my world go round. girls named abby are my numero dos.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

another radiohead cover

again, via boingboing:

grab this mp3 of a percussion ensamble playing radiohead's paranoid android.

has covering radiohead reached some critical mass? i'm waiting for fratboys to do idioteque with nothing but burps and farts before i request a kibosh to be placed on the phenomenon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - Source: Mary-Kate Olsen treated for eating disorder - Jun 22, 2004

sad news droogs.

did you know the olsen twins are attending nyu this fall? nyu has just shot up to my #1 choice for med-school.

the medium is the massacre

via adrants:

the nyt reports on a nato ad campaign in bosnia that they hope will lead to the capture of suspected war criminal radovan karadzic:

The military alliance paid for a billboard advertising campaign to coincide with Radovan Karadzic's birthday last Saturday. He is the most wanted suspect, the former Bosnian Serb leader.

The advertisements offer him a free one-way plane ticket to The Hague, the home of the United Nations war crimes tribunal. Advertising campaigns have been tried before, but without success.

i'm not sure if the 'free plane ticket offer' is meant to be "ha-ha funny" or "i-think-it's-time-to-blow-my-brains-out funny". in either case, it looks like nato supreme allied commander europe joseph ralston is doing peyote again. (i love how nato doesn't put an 'of' inbetween 'commander' and 'europe' in that title. that's how hardcore nato is: they want to kill your ass so badly that they don't even take the time for prepositions.)

but they better find karadzic soon, because they bought that ticket on, and you can't change the dates on those things.

"I like to think of NATO as a military alliance and not a P.R. company," said Mirza Hajric, a Bosnian Muslim and a onetime adviser to the former Bosnian Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegovic.

"NATO has been here for over 3,000 days, and it has not succeeded in arresting a few war criminals. That seriously undermines its credibility."

mirza, mirza, mirza...why do you always have to be so negative? why can't you focus on all the good things that nato has done? like bombing the fuck out of your country?

you know what this ad campaign really needs? you know what would give it some teeth?


the onion

gawker links to an interview with the onion's senior editor, carol kolb.

also, here's a 'fresh air' interview with kolb and onion editor-in-chief robert siegel, but it's not as good.

The emails I like the best are the ones where someone believes The Onion is real, or someone doesn't really get a straight-faced or sarcastic article and soapboxes to us the very point that we were trying to convey with the article. The emails are really hilarious, actually. When we did this op-ed, "Mary Kate Is Dragging Ashley Down" and we got 800 emails in big pink letters protesting this. They were the best thing ever.
HB: You've been involved with the publication since 1996, which I believe qualifies you as a "seasoned veteran" in the world of humor writing. Are there any tips or words of advice you can offer to all the budding satirists out there?

CK: Yeah, have a really awful childhood. Get fingered by your uncle when you're eight or something like that. No, I think that it helps to just write a lot. Try not to fall in love with your writing. Find some people that you think are funny and find out what they laugh at. But ignore the advice of everyone else. If you're trying to be funny, then make sure you complete that job. Don't let the "point" drag the piece down. Don't shy away from controversial topics, but be careful who ends up as the target of your joke. You know, there's no reason not to make a joke about homelessness or whatever, but making fun of a bum for stinking probably isn't the way to go. Well, unless the joke has funny wording. Ah, I don't know. Listen to me talk. What do I know?

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Pizza Ingredients Law

In Italy, they passed a law that stipulates what ingredients and type of oven must be used to call a Neapolitan pizza a true Neapolitan pizza.

Good thing there isn't a war going on.

Next big thing

I just want to go on record now to state who I think will be the next big thing. Much like how I thought that a young Natalie Portman in "The Professional" was going to be a very attractive women when she grows up, I feel the same about a one Emma Watson.

She's the one who plays Hermione in the Harry Potter movies. Mark my words, she will be very attractive when she grows up.

Just another thought from In the Crease.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

mozilla stuff

via /.:

scott collins, one of the old timers at netscape and a current evangelist for mozilla does an interview with ars technica.

he starts off by talking about microsoft:

It's not going to be that somebody else actually knows better, because Microsoft actually does have a pretty good idea of what one generalized virtual person wants. But I think in the new world it's not about one big program to solve everybody's needs, it's about a zillion tiny programs all stuck together. Stuck together one way for you, stuck together another way for me that do the right thing. I think people are becoming savvy enough where they don't want a general program, they want something customized, they want a software kit that does what they want. Maybe if you're a business, it's not that every employee has a software kit, but maybe you are willing to spend to have two IT guys take an existing software kit and make it exactly what your business needs.

i kinda don't agree with this one. it's not that i think microsoft software's good, but as a user of emacs, i prefer a monolithic program (of course, an infinitely scriptable one) over a bunch of smaller tools. having a bunch of little tools is good, and i appreciate the unix "pipe" philosophy , but having systems built from small interlocking tools means that i have to actually learn how to use a bunch of different tools. emacs lets you learn one thing, and then customize the hell out of it, which i really really appreciate. both solutions have the same goal, creating a system tailored to individual usage patterns, but the emacs-way (so to speak) is better in my opinion. in fact, i wish mozilla was more emacs like almost every day.

he then goes on to talk about mistakes netscape made:

Ars: You mention mistakes made by Microsoft. What do you feel are mistakes that Mozilla has made in the past?

One: There was a fundamental mistake made by Netscape management, twice, which cost us a release at the most inopportune time. I think we can attribute a great deal of our market share loss to this mistake that was pretty much based completely on lies from one executive, who has since left the company (and left very rich) and who was an impediment to everything that we did.
Two: We made a version of COM, called XPCOM, a fundamental piece of every component of every part of the software. We took COM all the way down to the lowest levels of the system, and I think that XPCOM is a fantastic useful tool. We had great and important places to use it, but we used it too deeply, we allowed it to influence our memory model across the board, and there continue to be costs associated with that which I don't think we need to be paying.
Three: I was the head of the team that fought hard with Netscape management to get a system of XML to define the user interface. I named it the XML User Interface Language, or XUL (pronounced zool). David Hyatt is the primary implementer of it, and one of the ideas that we had is that we would have a cross-platform interface, but that you specify native controls with XUL. It turned out that specifying native controls with XUL was hard. They were limited, and hard to write, and we waited a long time. People kept telling us that Mozilla would never be good until we had the native controls, and we knew they were wrong, it is good without native controls, but boy, people really really want their native controls. And they really rewarded us when we gave them native controls. When we gave them things like Firefox, which looks native on the platforms that its on, and Camino, which is native in OS X. They thought it was fantastic.

We should have used native controls as soon as it was possible, despite of the fact that they're harder to write, because we ended up going that way anyway.

points 2 and 3 seem to be supporting evidence for "worse is better", which is dissapointing. the first point just goes to show that management sucks, which is refreshing.

goes on to obliquely talk about software engineering methodologies and other crap:

Ars: Can you talk a bit about some of the lesser known Mozilla products, like the web tools? Bugzilla is used by a large number of high profile OSS projects, how come isn't marketing these tools as much?

You could probably define the web tools as our primary product in a way. During the great migration away from AOL and Netscape, every engineer that ever worked there took with them Bugzilla, Tinderbox, and the others. . . Once you use Tinderbox, you cannot work on big software without it. You see people working on big software without Tinderbox and you say to them "You guys are idiots! How do you know if your tree builds?" and they always say "Oh, our tree never builds, we know when a guy comes around and tells us when our tree builds."

Something interesting about Netscape: when I first got there, the tree was broken all the time. Every once in a while there was a day where the tree would build, and you pulled on that day. Someone would yell out "The tree is green!" and you would do everything you could to merge your stuff, and then the tree would be broken again, and it would be broken forever. When we wised up and started writing these tools things started to change, and along the way we came up with these cultural and behavioral standards. For instance, when the Tinderbox shows "RED", you don't check in. You don't check in on red. And if you do check in on red, someone will be there to kick your ass, and that person is the sheriff, and they have a sheriff badge and everything. In Code Rush you see Tara walking around with that bat, that was mostly symbolic but her job was to kick ass.

Everybody who checked in since the last freeze is "on the hook," so when the tree burns, everyone who checked in code during that cycle is responsible for fixing the tree. Life got better when there were serious consequences and it got to the point where in the old days everyone just checked in whenever they wanted. In the new days, you would be ashamed to check in something that broke the tree. It would be a big deal when you broke the tree. I checked in stuff that broke the tree on two occasions and the same guy fixed my shit twice, and I went out and bought him a bottle of Shiraz because I was ashamed that I broke the frickin' tree and I was grateful that he fixed it.

Friday, June 18, 2004

for my jewish friends

just saw the website for heeb magazine, the self proclaimed "new jew review". if nothing else, check out the store for t-shirts that say (among other things): "moses is my homeboy", "what would barbara do?" (streisand), and, laconicly, "heeb".

philly cart food, inflation

i have a dream, and that dream is to one day document every fucking food cart in philly. every time you meet someone new in this city, they tell you about a cart that you haven't tried yet. some carts seem magical, like the indian/mexican one over near penn that supposedly makes burritos with chana masala. others (like that falafel cart over on 17th and chestnut), you see once and you forget where you saw it and you spend countless afternoons wandering around looking for that fucking cart until finally a year later you find it again randomly while trying to find that belgian cafe that makes the sugar waffles.

sadly, the day of my food cart blog will never come. because i am a lazy shit, and documenting food carts would require me to elevate from the sofa. and that's not happening.

on a related note, the philly inquirer has an article about inflation hitting the cart vendors hard:

Operators of Center City's ubiquitous lunch carts have begun tacking on quarters and half-dollars to the price of Philadelphia's signature sandwiches. For years, the cart owners swallowed temporary swings in the wholesale cost of meat, cheese and processed foods - but now some fear that inflation is here to stay.
"I took a beating" when wholesale cheese prices nearly doubled on top of a 40-cent-a-pound hike in beef earlier this year, Tsoukalos said. "I jacked my prices up" 25 cents a sandwich last month, he said, and he is bracing for more.
The 300 licensed Center City food carts typically operate in groups associated with restaurants or commissaries, where they can store food and clean their equipment. Many are owned by Greek, Korean or African Americans, and they often hire recent immigrants from Pakistan, Russia or Cambodia who are willing to work standing for hours in extremes of heat and cold.
The American cheese Kotridis buys for hoagies and other sandwiches has zoomed from $28 for a 20-pound box last winter to between $48 and $53 recently. "And I buy 40 pounds a week," he said.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

the first rule of kannadiga liberation army?

do not date telugu girls:

Maoist rebels in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have responded positively to last week's invitation by the state government for peace talks.

But the outlawed People's War Group (PWG) insisted that the government should first declare a ceasefire.
Our correspondent says ceasefire demands have often been made by the PWG, and the state government has frequently avoided replying to them.

The state home minister argues that a ceasefire is normally only declared in the case of a war between two sovereign countries.

Mr Reddy said that for all practical purposes there had been no fighting between the two sides for some time.
It is estimated that the Maoist insurgency and counter-violence by the police during the last 30 years has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

why the fuck is there an armed communist rebellion in a country that has multiple communist parties in their government?

note to cnn

guys, you have GOT to put up pictures with a story like this:

BOZEMAN, Montana (AP) -- A tractor-trailer overturned on a curve on a highway, spilling its load of hundreds of bee hives and unleashing some nine million angry honey bees.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

nigga i GOT you

akshay buddiga, go ahead and brush your shoulders off. yeah, so you fainted during the spelling bee (video), but you bounced right up and fucking spelled alopecoid like it was your bitch.

so if anybody every tries to give you a hard time about that, let me know, and i will cut them.

if they make fun of you for playing the harp, i can't really help you out on that one. but as far as the other shit goes, i got you covered.

man, i miss espn sometimes

i know all you fools with televisions have probably already seen larry bird's comments on race ad nauseum, but this shit is hilarious:

"The one thing that always bothered me when I played in the NBA was I really got irritated when they put a white guy on me," Bird said. "I still don't understand why. A white guy would come out (and) I would always ask him: 'What, do you have a problem with your coach? Did your coach do this to you?' And he'd go, 'No,' and I'd say, 'Come on, you got a white guy coming out here to guard me; you got no chance.' ... For some reason, that always bothered me when I was playing against a white guy.

"As far as playing, I didn't care who guarded me -- red, yellow, black," Bird added. "I just didn't want a white guy guarding me. Because it's disrespect to my game."

i literally did a spit-take that lasted 30 seconds when i read that.

conversation with jagdeesh q. public

via autopr0n, foreign policy magazine has this "interview" with your average american slob. it was generated from survey data on various topics and then morphed into a conversational format.

the results paint a picture of a pretty much level headed average american (although that could be due to interpretive bias applied to the survey data by the piece's author):

FP: Do you think that seeing the United States overthrow Hussein has given the North Koreans pause?

JP: No, it probably made them more motivated than ever to build nukes. They're not stupid—they know the United States has never attacked a country with nuclear weapons.

FP: What do you think about some limited use of military force, such as bombing their nuclear facilities?

JP: I don't think so. Besides, I'm not sure we have the right to do that kind of thing.

FP: What about overthrowing their government?

JP: Definitely not.

FP: What do you think about how the United States has approached North Korea?

JP: We should take a more diplomatic route, rather than trying to intimidate them by implying we might attack. I mean, isn't their fear that we would attack them exactly what got them all riled up in the first place?

FP: What do you think about using food aid as a bargaining chip?

JP: Definitely. Whatever it takes to get them to disarm. And our pounds are overflowing anyway. We could get Kim Jong Il's finger off the button of Armageddon, rid America of stray dogs, AND keep those dirty Koreans fed for YEARS.

okay, so the last exchange is by yours truly, but i am positive that's what the average american would say if asked. fuck, that's what the above average american would probably say too.

the only eyebrow that i raised was during the discussion of civil liberties:

FP: Let's talk about the domestic front of the war on terrorism. How do you feel about the creation of the Department of Homeland Security?

JP: I guess it is doing a fine job, but I am not sure that putting all those efforts into a single agency really adds anything or if it just creates more bureaucracy.

FP: Shortly after the terrorist attacks, the U.S. Congress passed new legislation called the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which removes certain limitations on the government's ability to monitor and detain individuals. How well do you feel you understand that legislation?

JP: Not very well.

FP: Based on what you know, though, would you say that the Patriot Act is a good thing overall?

JP: Basically, yes.

FP: Do you think it is necessary for Americans to be ready to give up some of their civil liberties to more effectively fight terrorism?

JP: Right after September 11, I thought that maybe we did, but now I am more inclined to believe that we don't. I am certainly not ready to give the government a complete pass. Civil liberties are important to me, even if we are talking about terrorism.

FP: Do you think the government has gone too far in compromising civil liberties?

JP: No. But I am concerned that it might.

FP: Are you aware that U.S. citizens have been detained under suspicion of being involved in a terrorist group?

JP: Yes.

FP: In such cases, should these suspects have the right to an attorney?

JP: Definitely.

FP: And is it your impression that they do have such a right?

JP: Yes, of course. Don't they?

this is great

from the bbc:

The Sri Lankan authorities have ordered an inquiry after a dove freeing ceremony intended to symbolise peace went disastrously wrong.
"The dove was one of seven due to be released by dignitaries and politicians at a United Nations ceremony last weekend," said BBC cameraman Sriyantha Walpola.
"Unfortunately the bird that was due to be freed by the Public Security Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, was dead almost as soon as it was handed to him by a white gloved soldier," he said.

Instead of soaring majestically into the air to symbolise the government's commitment to peace and goodwill, the dove "dropped like a brick" on to the ground.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

more reasons to read

i can't remember where i first saw this, but it's great:

LONDON (Reuters) - In a bid to lure men in Britain away from TV soccer games and into book shops, publisher Penguin Books will send out a sexy model to offer 1,000-pound ($1,837) prizes to males spotted reading a selected title.
At the same time, Penguin, a unit of Pearson Plc, released results of a poll in which 85 percent of women said a man could increase his chances of getting a date by talking about a favorite book.

By contrast, more than half the men polled said they believed that flattering a woman would suffice to impress her.

not unexpectedly, the same report goes on to say that reading blogs DECREASE your chances of getting laid to a value that asymptotically approaches negative infinity.

UPDATE: i found it over at adrants. jhc

furniture porn

the blogger's greatest ordeal is deciding whether or not to tailor their posts to the audience. should i post something about campaign finance reform and risk alienating those that troll the blog for naked pictures of star jones? or 'tis nobler to risk the opposite?

that being said, sometimes you get a link, like this one on furniture porn, that you know everyone will love, not just the hardcore economists but also the future inmates of our nation's fine correctional facilities.

the movie of two chairs fucking is great.

tip of the hat goes to bennifer for sending me the links.

Monday, June 14, 2004

the talented mr. torless

since young torless is overseas at the moment, i will be forced to take his place and post the requisite amount of nyt drivel for the summer.

unfortunately for yinz, this one has to do with developing nations too (via boingboing). but this time, it's about outsourcing prayers:

American, as well as Canadian and European churches, are sending Mass intentions, or requests for services like those to remember deceased relatives and thanksgiving prayers, to clergy in India.
In Kerala's churches, memorial and thanksgiving prayers conducted for local residents are said for a donation of 40 rupees (90 cents), whereas a prayer request from the United States typically comes with $5, the Indian priests say.
But critics of the phenomenon said they were shocked that religious services were being sent offshore, or outsourced, a word normally used for clerical and other office jobs that migrate to countries with lower wages.
However, congregations in Kerala say the practice of ordering prayers is several decades old. "The church is not a business enterprise, and it is sad and pathetic to connect this practice to outsourcing software work to cheaper labor destinations," said the Rev. Vincent Kundukulam of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary in Aluva, near Cochin.
The Rev. Paul Thelakkat, a Cochin-based spokesman for the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, said, "The prayer is heartfelt, and every prayer is treated as the same whether it is paid for in dollars, euros or in rupees."

dude, i'm seriously going to start a religion one of these days. it seems like a good racket. wally and i have already discussed starting a cult where we worship robocop and nail disaffected chicks (incidentally, that's where the blog's tagline comes from), so it's only a short hopskipandajump from that to a megachurch. (megachurch link via patricklogan).

i don't know how to say this, but

shiv sena, you guys have GOT to get it together!

what the fuck are you doing? focus UP! shouldn't you be feeding starving people or something?

Hindu hardliners have destroyed posters of a recent Bollywood film about lesbians, called Girlfriend.

i can't wait to see it.

strictly for the songs of course.

voter turnout in recent eu elections

wow, this is amazing:

The indications are that there has been a record low turnout of about 44.2% for the EU as a whole.

European Parliament provisional results also suggest that turnout among the new 10 members was just 26%.

i hope this trend doesn't carry across the atlantic this fall...

Sunday, June 13, 2004

some links from my older brother

here's random crap that was pretty interesting:

american culture

another one via boingboing:

here's an interview with dj spooky:

IDEAS: "Rhythm Science" criticizes American culture for being both alienating and conservative.

MILLER: Young people today have grown up in an era of multiplex consciousness, a media-saturated culture where meaning is no longer tethered to the ground of its origins. So why isn't there a broad artistic movement focused on coping with the information vertigo we experience daily? Except for a few turntablists and software-swapping geeks, Americans are trapped in what I call a micro-niche mentality. We lack any awareness of the big picture, we passively accept the status quo, we do nothing besides pressing PLAY.
most Americans are conditioned to be consumers -- we spend millions on the products of top-down corporate culture, we're hypnotized by reality television, we have no awareness of history. "Dj Spooky" is an art project intended to encourage people to understand the dynamics of the broadcast mentality, to play with the culture instead of just pressing PLAY. I'd like Americans to become "actionary" instead of reactionary, to collect and exchange samples of our culture and use them to create new forms, new styles, new ways of thinking.

dj spooky gave a talk at the creative commons launch party at the end of 2002 where he showed parts of his remix of birth of a nation, which is pretty good. video of the event can be found here on lisa rein's blog.


via boingboing:

bluegrass meets radiohead

click on the image at the top of the page to download the mp3.

seriously considering subscribing to the economist

subscribing to the economist is the bourgeois equivalent of hitting the long ball -- and chicks dig the long ball.

the latest article to go yard is this one on applying the open-source model to the pharmaceutical field. while in the crease is busy painting toe nails and circling 'problem areas' with his sharpie-clutching sorority sisters, i'm actually interested in doing something productive, e.g., lowering health care costs and passing the dutch to alan greenspan.

the article talks about distributing the cost/risk of pharma research by using the open-source model.

CAN goodwill, aggregated over the internet, produce good medicine? The current approach to drug discovery works up to a point, but it is far from perfect. It is costly to develop medicines and get regulatory approval. The patent system can foreclose new uses or enhancements by outside researchers. And there has to be a consumer willing (or able) to pay for the resulting drugs, in order to justify the cost of drug development. Pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to develop treatments for diseases that particularly afflict the poor, for example, since the people who need such treatments most may not be able to afford them.
Open-source research could indeed, it seems, open up two areas in particular. The first is that of non-patentable compounds and drugs whose patents have expired. These receive very little attention from researchers, because there would be no way to protect (and so profit from) any discovery that was made about their effectiveness. To give an oft-quoted example, if aspirin cured cancer, no company would bother to do the trials to prove it, or go through the rigmarole of regulatory approval, since it could not patent the discovery.
The second area where open source might be able to help would be in developing treatments for diseases that afflict small numbers of people, such as Parkinson's disease, or are found mainly in poor countries, such as malaria. In such cases, there simply is not a large enough market of paying customers to justify the enormous expense of developing a new drug. America's Orphan Drug Act, which provides financial incentives to develop drugs for small numbers of patients, is one approach.
In a paper presented this week in San Francisco at BIO 2004, the Biotechnology Industry Organisation's annual conference, Stephen Maurer, Arti Rai and Andrej Sali—two lawyers and a computational biologist, respectively—called for an open-source approach to invent drugs to fight tropical diseases. It would work like this: a website they call the Tropical Disease Initiative would allow biologists and chemists to volunteer their expertise on certain areas of a specific disease. They would examine and annotate shared databases, and perform experiments. The results would be fully transparent and discussed in chat rooms.
Eric von Hippel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, is investigating how secondary uses for drugs are discovered, with a view to harnessing doctors and patients to record data. Many medications are approved for one purpose, but are regularly prescribed for another, “off-label” use. In many instances, new uses for a drug are discovered only after it is on the market, when a sort of natural experimentation takes place. For instance, Botox was approved in America for treating eye-muscle disorders, and only later found to remove wrinkles. In Europe and America, as many as half of all drug prescriptions for certain diseases fall into this category. The drugs often do not go through the formal process for other uses because the cost of regulatory approval is so high.
Dr von Hippel's idea is to decentralise the process of obtaining data on the off-label use, by collaborating with volunteer doctors and patients. By defraying costs in this way, it might then be possible to obtain regulatory approval. It is, in effect, an open-source clinical trial. Because the drug has already been approved, it has passed first-phase tests for safety. These do not have to be repeated. Second and third-phase drug-approvals test for efficacy and side-effects—and these are the very areas where getting formal approval for off-label use is sensible.
Peter Lansbury's...research is examining the therapeutic effect of a thousand approved drugs, on which the patent has expired in most cases.
Dr Lansbury refers to the work as “not-for-profit drug discovery”, but he sees direct parallels with the open-source approach. For one thing, his group places much of its data in the public domain. Secondly, though the research is mainly happening among different research labs within the confines of Harvard at the moment, the goal is to involve other scientists around the world. Only through this sort of collaborative, distributed approach will treatments be found for these diseases, he says.

if you are interested in the concept of advancement through the distribution of risk & costs, i think you'll find this mitworld lecture by noam chomsky interesting.

UPDATE: here's a pdf of the essay the maurer et al. people wrote for the bio conference. jhc


according to fast company magazine, the irs spends 45 cents for ever $100 it collects, making it "the most efficient tax collection organization the world has ever known."

it's official

the olsen twins are 18.

let the festivities commence.

One for the guys

I have a roommate. We get along great. We both would have no problem watching television all afternoon and/or evening; we both would rather sleep in than get up; and we both know that the bathroom needs cleaning, but neither of us do anything about it. So now you know, we share a bathroom.

Taking a look into this bathroom, one would notice the plethora of bathroom related objects. In the shower- bottles of shampoo, conditioners, Caress soap, body wash, Noxzema facial cream, shaving cream, and razors. Around the sink- toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, a couple of hair styling products, facial astringent, skin lotion, and those facial strips to clean out your pores.

Now, one thing you need to know about my roommate...she's a woman. So now you must be thinking to yourself that most of these products make sense - the Noxzema, the Caress, the hair products, the astringent. There's also one more thing you need to know about my roommate...she doesn't use these things.

That's right, the pink soap, the Noxzema, the astringent, and the hair styling products are all mine. I'm secure enough to admit it. I mean, Caress doesn't dry out my skin, Noxzema just makes your face feel clean, the astringent is great to avoid razor burn, and the hair has to look good somehow. For the record, I never bought the facial strips for cleaning out the pores. Sadly, I have used them.

So I'm writing this for all the real men out there. I support the men who can admit they use more facial and hair products than their female roommate. It's time for the 21st century man to stand up and be counted. It's hard work looking this good. And if hair and facial products are the price to pay for good hair and clean pores, I have only one thing to say - "Do you take Visa?"

I, for one, am not afraid to make a stand.

This has been Jesus Henry Christos, and I use more products than my female roommate.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

more reasons to hate europeans

do you know what the eu's anthem is?

beethoven's ode to joy.

what kind of shit is that?

also, there was less of a turnout in the 1999 eu elections than in the 2000 us presidential elections. that's kinda sad.

both are from this quiz on the eu on bbc.

in australia, you are fined if you don't vote. i think they should implement that policy in america as well. of course, i've never voted once in my life, so i'm one to talk. they also have instant run-off elections in australia, which we should totally do in america.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Popcorn spill pollutes sea water

Last night while laying in bed trying to fall asleep, I was listening to BBC World Service on the radio. They ran a story about how some coastal city was dumping popcorn into the sea to simulate an oil spill. I looked this up and found an article about it.

Now, this article may not be the same event the report was referring to, but close enough. Interesting how something so simple, and environmentally safe (any uncollected "oil" will be eaten by the fish and birds), can be so useful. The radio story talked about how the popcorn, after it absorbs water, begins to act much like oil does in water, ie how water currents and weather affect where the "oil" flows.

Unfortunately, attempts to simulate gasoline in car tanks using popcorn have failed; as have rice to simulate an electrical current, and shampoo to simulate cooking fuel. Although, the combination of shampoo and conditioner have yet to be tested, but hold promise.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

insulting reasonable people on a daily basis.

since i feel like having nothing but posts on economics and informatics goes somewhat against the original intent of excellence through mediocrity, i will hit you with some of the good stuff. first up? kate beckinsale. good god woman, are you trying to kill me?

next up is mandy "manderson" moore.

so fresh so clean.
you'll like the above mandy moore links. click them.

finishing up the round is a personal fave and a hometown girl, christina aguilera. she is flanked by sharon stone who probably has just said something dumb about tibet, and lindasy lohan, who i am no longer feeling. of particular import, notice miss aguilera's ass, highlighted below for your viewing pleasure and future discussion:

could this ass be any better? possibly. as is, it appears to have been engineered by technicians who reside at levels quite proximal god, so it is doubtable that superior posteriors could be found on this mortal coil....

i'll be talking about microfinance tomorrow, so enjoy while you can.

Posted by Hello

the didactic blogger: BRICs

i was talking to in the crease and he was bashing me for posting "dissertations". well i would like to be the first to extend a big "fuck you" to our new blogging friend in the crease. what kind of a name is that anyway? it's gay porn, that's what it is. it's not even a proper noun: it's a prepositional phrase.

if in the crease has his way, the blog is going to in google's top ten hits for gay porn. we're already in the top ten for:
  • rumspringa
  • pie 3.14 (note, people are mispelling pi "pie". i weep for the future of our nation.)
  • and tanushree dutta's ass (fratocrates mission statement #24 is now fulfilled.)

today's lecture is on the projected economic grow of Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- collectively referred to as the BRIC nations. The BRIC nations really started to gain attention when dominic wilson and roopa purushothaman of goldman sachs published global economics paper #99 "dreaming with brics: the path to 2050" (pdf).

people have been getting hyped about this paper since october 2003 when it was first published because it predicts a dramatically different economic world. we all know that the developing nations are...well, developing, but i don't think that any of us (in america) really realize the amount, speed, and capacity for growth in the region. their paper tries to create a predictave framework to analyze those topics. the results are summarized in the following bullet points culled from the beginning of their paper:

  • If things go right, in less than 40 years, the BRICs economies together could be larger than the G6 in US dollar terms.
  • By 2025 they could account for over half the size of the G6.
  • Currently [the BRICs] are worth less than 15% [of the size of the G6].
  • Of the current G6, only the US and Japan may be among the six largest economies in US dollar terms in 2050.
  • The list of the world’s ten largest economies may look quite different in 2050.
    The largest economies in the world (by GDP) may no longer be the richest (by
    income per capita)
    , making strategic choices for firms more complex.
  • The relative importance of the BRICs as an engine of new demand growth and spending power may shift more dramatically and quickly than expected. Higher growth in these economies could offset the impact of greying populations and slower growth in the advanced economies.
  • Rising incomes may also see these economies move through the ‘sweet spot’ of growth for different kinds of products, as local spending patterns change. This could be an important determinant of demand and pricing patterns for a range of commodities.

while you guys are yawning, i am getting a boner over this. the growth talked about in this paper is explosive at times, and if this pans out, it will be happening in our lifetimes -- with some movements happening in the blink of an eye. can you imagine a world in which america isn't the dominant economic force (in terms of gdp at least)? what will this mean for american hegemony? will it effect our moral imperative to help those less fortunate than us (important to note that americans will still be the richest individuals, i.e., american will still have the highest gdp/capita)?

of course, the model relies upon certain changes in the policies and infrastructures of the BRIC nations. the following are listed as the most important steps towards growing an economy:

A set of core factors -- macroeconomic stability, institutional capacity, openness and education -- can set the stage for growth. Robert Barro’s influential work on the determinants of growth found that growth is enhanced by higher schooling and life expectancy, lower fertility, lower government consumption, better maintenance of the rule of law, lower inflation and improvements in the terms of trade.

the report goes on to say that of all the BRIC nations, india has the most work to do with regards to improving its infrastructure and education system. infact, the numbers suggest that india will have a pretty slow start out of the gate, and will not start to gain steam until the midway point. recent export data (a component of gdp) mirrors the sentiment (perhaps in spirit only, these are long term predictions after all...and i'm not exactly an economist.):

Export growth in 2003 in key developing countries, including Brazil, Russia, China and South Korea, has outdone India's 13.48 per cent rise registered during April-December.

While China tops the list with a growth of 32.8 per cent during January-October 2003 with exports valued at $333.7 billion, Russia's exports rose by 25.3 per cent in 2003 to $133.7 billion.

Similarly, Brazil posted a record $24.8 billion trade surplus last year on account of a 21 per cent surge in exports that helped pull the economy out of a slump.

Compare this with India's figures. According to commerce ministry's statistics, India is fourth among the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) group, with total exports during April-December valued at $42.4 billion. Exports surged by 42 per cent in December.

of course, there are those that view the report and its april '04 sister report, global economics paper #109 "India: Realizing BRICs Potential" (if any of you have access to this report, can you forward it to me?) with large grains of salt:

Ergo, India’s cost advantage will continue and India will also get a sizeable chunk of the US outsourcing pie. But at best, outsourcing from the US and other countries will account for 1.5 per cent of India’s labour force. This BRIC report has the standard comparison between India and China and highlights not only China’s head start on reforms, but also manufacturing as the locomotive for growth in China vis-a-vis India’s service sector. Whether service sector growth alone can propel India to the 8 per cent plus category is debatable. GS thinks such an alternative to manufacturing-led growth is possible.

However, even if possible, consider the following. “Growth in IT — and services overall — will not result in a massive shift in employment, as has happened in other economies. India’s services sector may provide some incremental job growth, but it will only be a drop in the bucket for the labor force. Services employment is expected to rise to 107 million by 2007 from 102 million currently, creating only 5 million new jobs. Employment in agriculture is expected to remain roughly stable at 190 million. Also, services tend to concentrate in urban centers, potentially exacerbating the differences in income and development between the rural and urban sectors”. Thus, we can’t really separate the reform agenda from the question of reforms for whom?

coincidentally, philadelphia was virtually indistinguishable from a third world nation today: oppressive heat, perpetual construction on 18th around rittenhouse blocking the sidewalk on both sides, that gag-reflex-inducing stench coming from the giant hole in the ground around 17th and arch, and steam dissolving hundreds of years of destitute-produced urine eminating from sidewalk vents and winding its way into the old-growth rainforest that is your crotch.

by the way, i hope you've all been paying attention, because this will be on the quiz.

Extras in the movie called "Your Life"

Have you ever thought that your life is a movie, and God is the producer, and has run out of extras for your 'movie'. What I mean is, you see the same person multiple times throughout your day, but in completely different situations.

Much like how "Law and Order" will use an actor in one episode, then in another episode, you'll see the same actor but instead of being an attorney, he's a crack dealer. (Watch enough reruns on A&E an you'll see what I mean.)

Case in point. One morning I was riding the shuttle to school. As I sat in my seat waiting to leave, a girl sat in the seat in front of me. A very attractive blood girl who was wearing a red flower print blouse, tight black pants, and a blue thong. Not that I was trying to look, but as she bent over to sit down, her pants slid down and exposed her thong. Kind of a nice way to start the day, actually.

Well, as the day progressed, I ended up eating lunch with a friend. As we sat there waiting for our food, I began to tell him about blue thong girl. As soon as I finished the story, a girl walks in with a friend and begins to fill out a work application. Seeing her, I thought she looked very familiar. And as soon as she sat down, there it was. The blue thong. Same girl, different situation.

I don't know, maybe it's me. In any case, this was just another observation from In the Crease, reminding everyone, blue thongs are good food.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

guess what bitches?

i'm back, and the blog is going to be more diabolical than ever.

i hung out with the young torless this weekend and subjected him to the usual castigation for not posting his trademark fueled diatribes. he offered a well-worn litany of excuses, but i wasn't buying any of them. who cares if he has to finish his dissertation on n-dimentional manifolds? i'm calling 'bullshit' on you young torless.

so, i'm going to break the 3rd rule of blogging (thou shalt not blog on the weekend) to point you guys to a couple of articles from the economist. (incidentally, dj i have no friends broke the 1st rule of blogging when he told my parents that i have a blog. et tu brute? i'm checking my referrer logs like i have ocd and debating whether or not to point to in my parents' hosts file.)

the first article has to do with hamburgers, and i was shocked to find it in a publication that spells 'favorite', 'favourite' and has 'letters to the editor' which bizarrely all begin with the salutation 'Sir'. although, perhaps you are a responsible adult and have know about the economist's big mac index since its inception in 1986, but it's much more likely that you are a complete and miserable failure like myself:

HOW fast is the world economy growing? How important is China as an engine of growth? How much richer is the average person in America than in China? The answers to these huge questions depend crucially on how you convert the value of output in different countries into a common currency. Converting national GDPs into dollars at market exchange rates is misleading. Prices tend to be lower in poor economies, so a dollar of spending in China, say, is worth a lot more than a dollar in America. A better method is to use purchasing-power parities (PPP), which take account of price differences.

The theory of purchasing-power parity says that in the long run exchange rates should move towards rates that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in any two countries. This is the thinking behind The Economist's Big Mac index. Invented in 1986 as a light-hearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level, our “basket” is a McDonalds' Big Mac, which is produced locally in almost 120 countries.
The average price of a Big Mac in four American cities is $2.90 (including tax). The cheapest shown in the table is in the Philippines ($1.23), the most expensive in Switzerland ($4.90). In other words, the Philippine peso is the world's most undervalued currency, the Swiss franc its most overvalued. [ED NOTE: the table shown in the online version of the article has listed additional countries which change these results. see below for more. jhc]
One big implication of lower prices is that converting a poor country's GDP into dollars at market exchange rates will significantly understate the true size of its economy and its living standards. If China's GDP is converted into dollars using the Big Mac PPP, it is almost two-and-a-half-times bigger than if converted at the market exchange rate. Meatier and more sophisticated estimates of PPP, such as those used by the IMF, suggest that the required adjustment is even bigger.
Small wonder, then, that global economic rankings are dramatically transformed when they are done on a PPP basis rather than market exchange rates. America remains number one, but China leaps from seventh place to second, accounting for 13% of world output. India jumps into fourth place ahead of Germany, and both Brazil and Russia are bigger than Canada. Similarly, market exchange rates also exaggerate inequality. Using market rates, the average American is 33 times richer than the average Chinese; on a PPP basis, he is “only” seven times richer.
This helps to explain why commodity prices in general and oil prices in particular have been surging, even though growth has been relatively subdued in the rich world since 2000. Emerging economies are not only growing much faster than rich economies and are more intensive in their use of raw materials and energy, but they also account for a bigger chunk of global output if measured correctly. As Charles Dumas, an economist at Lombard Street Research, neatly puts it, even if a Chinese loaf is a quarter of the cost of a loaf in America, it uses the same amount of flour.

interesting stuff. in case you were wondering and were too fucking lazy to click a fucking hyperlink, the country with the most OVER-valued currency according to the big mac index is kuwait, with a gaudy 153% currency-to-big-mac overvaluation (a big mac there costs $7.33). iceland is second with a 107% overvaluation ($6.01). the most undervalued currency with regard to big mac purchasing power is morocco, undervalued by -91% ($0.26 ... that's right, you can buy a big mac in morocco for 26 cents). saudi arabia (-78% and $0.64) and the uae (-77%, $0.67) follow closely behind.

the second article from the economist is about the conclusions of the copenhagen consensus, which i blogged about previously. for those who don't know, the copenhagen consensus brought together a group of economists that debated over how to most effectively spend a hypothetical $50 billion for advancing humanitarian causes. the number one use of money in their minds? aids prevention:

With something close to unanimity, the panel put measures to restrict the spread of HIV/AIDS at the top of the ranking. The challenge paper on communicable diseases, by Anne Mills and Sam Shillcutt of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, having reviewed the literature, reckoned that a package of preventive measures costing some $27 billion (in purchasing-power-adjusted dollars) over eight years would prevent nearly 30m new infections (reducing expected infections from 45m over the period to 17m).

the copenhagen consensus' website goes on to claim that the expenditure of $27 billion would result in "benefits almost forty times as high" (~$1 trillion). providing micro-nutrients, trade liberalization, and controlling malria round out the "very good" category of recommendations.

wondering what the cc says was the worst use of the money? climate control (i.e., the kyoto protocol). however, as stated in the article (and unbenounced to me when i first blogged about the cc), the prime mover of the endeavor was bjorn lomborg, the famously embattled author of "the skeptical environmentalist". most people familiar with lomborg's work are now likely crying foul over the summit -- as the disinfopedia certainly is:

Due to take place over May 24-28 2004 - with the support of The Economist magazine - it will take the form of a meeting of a selection of nine eminent, generally right-wing economists, all of whom are from wealthy, industrialised countries. These economists will consider a set of ten "challenge papers" on subjects such as education and climate change, and prioritise economic solutions to these problems. The ten challenge papers will be published as a collection by Cambridge University Press, which published the English language version of Lomborg's The Sceptical Environmentalist.
Since the conference was first announced, five of the seven board members of the EAI [ed note: lomborg's environmental assessment institute] have resigned: two for personal reasons, and three in protest at the conference, which they say goes far beyond the EAI's original remit by considering subjects such as financial instability, corrupt governance and infectious diseases. [3], [4]

The exercise has been strongly criticised by NGOs such as Oxfam for drawing attention away from the existing consensus built up over several years and codified in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

It has also attracted criticism for an approach which tries to define development goals without involving any representatives from developing countries.

Finally, it has been questioned if a panel of exclusively free-market thinkers, several of whom have published views sceptical of the Kyoto consensus, can produce what is supposedly a neutral output on the issue.

so is this anti-kyoto grandstanding by lomborg? who the fuck knows. on the whole though, i think that with $50b, dealing with aids and malnutrion have got to be the 1-2 punch. but if any of you guys actually know anything about econ or the environment etc., drop some links in the comments for me to read up on when you get a chance.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

greatest story ever - 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' clears murder suspect - Jun 1, 2004

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

more on children, magic, and tribal war, especially general butt naked

here's those articles i promised in the previous post:

vice mag takes insouciance to new levels by examining west african civil war through the fashion statements proffered by west african mass murderers:

We have heard about illegal uranium purchases, rebel armies, warlords, drugs, diamonds and even slavery, but in the center of all this mayhem one question keeps popping up that no one can seem to answer: What are they wearing?
In the late 90s, Sierra Leone (considered by the UN to be the worst place to inhabit in the world) took “thug life” to a new level, and in so doing showed us what humongous pussies our rappers are. This isn’t a place where you get mugged for your $200 Jordans; it’s a country where you get shot in the head for your hand-me-down Notorious B.I.G. shirt so someone can use it as a uniform (in the B.I.G. Army—no joke). It’s a place that just capped off a ten-year civil war, establishing a tenuous peace that will probably last for only a few days. There’s just too many fucking armies for any kind of peace to last.
If Sierra Leone’s soldiers can be said to be analogous to Bloomingdale’s shoppers (safe, proven fashions), then the warriors of next-door-neighbor Liberia are strictly Lower East Side boutique habitués (willing to take tasteful risks). The most notorious and fashion-daring Liberian faction was the Butt Naked Gang [Ed. note: This is not a joke. We know you don’t believe us but we swear to God this is serious], headed by the Vivienne Westwood of West Africa, Gen. Butt Naked. According to a phone call he says he received from Satan as a teenager [again, this is fucking TRUE], Butt and his boys would be invincible in battle so long as they fought nude. Understandably emboldened, the general and his followers waged a campaign of gruesome combat. Some chose the undeniably timeless look of birthday suit, fake Chuck Taylors, and rifle. Others went for more chaste ensembles of powdered wigs, purses, and floral dresses. It takes a real man to wear a blouse into combat, but as Butt Naked has said, “We were nude, fearless, drunk, and homicidal.” Today reformed, he pastors a congregation in Monrovia. Can we shoot the words “ooooooh kaaaye” out of a rocket launcher so our reaction can do this guy’s life justice?

not to be outdone, slate has an entire article on the crossdressing-warrior phenomenon in liberia. again, the fact that people are getting dismembered with machettes takes a back seat to the fashion fashion statments of war criminals, but i guess none of this even matters since people are more interested in jessica simpson's itunes playlist anyway.

The cross-dressing "dual identity" isn't just a source of battlefield bravado, though. Cross-dressing has deep historical roots in West African rites-of-passage rituals involving "medicine men" who would recommend wearing masks, talismans, and bush attire as a means of obtaining mystical powers. Rebels dressed in gowns and wigs and adorned with bones, leaves, and other "forest culture" trappings are practicing a modern variation on this technique of using symbolic "clothing" to access sources of power far stronger than their own. And in common Liberian initiation rituals—which exist in memory throughout the country, if not always in practice—a boy's passage to adulthood is symbolically represented by the donning of female garb. He must first pass through a dangerous indeterminate zone between male and female identity before finally becoming a man. A soldier dressed in women's clothes—or Halloween masks, or shower caps, etc.—on the battlefield is essentially asserting that he's in a volatile in-between state. The message it sends to other soldiers is, "Don't mess with me, I'm dangerous."

jet city jimbo highlights his travel-log with a story from the ap wire (presumably "out of africa: butt naked battalion" by tina susman).

"But the Butt Naked Battalion stood out, not just for its nudity but for its brutality and its apparent fearlessness. Blahyi says this was the result of a contract with the devil, sealed at the age of 11 when he was initiated into a satanic society that demanded regular human sacrifice and nudity on the battlefield to ensure protection from his enemies."

"He started out as an armed robber and killer - killing too many people to count, Blahyi says - and was recruited into the war in 1994 when Johnson asked him for help."

"'I agreed, because at that time they offered me a lot of money. Everything I did, I did on a commercial basis.' said Blahyi, speaking in the dingy, shabbily furnished second-floor apartment he shares with several other people in Monrovia."

"Blahyi said he was required to make a human sacrifice before battle. Usually it was a small child, someone whose fresh blood would satisfy the devil."

"'Sometimes I would enter under the water where the children were playing. I would dive under the water, grab one, carry him under and break his neck. Sometimes I'd cause accidents. Sometimes I'd just slaughter them,' he said in a matter-of-fact manner."

pretty crazy, right? fielding's 'the world's most dangerous places' has a nice historical look at the turmoil in liberia. in addition, there's some content there about the preponderance of cruise ships with liberian registry. as the site states:

Instead of freedom for all, Liberia became a free-for-all, reduced to primal clashes among rival clans, randomly slaughtering each other with old machine guns from the back of ancient, dented jeeps. Bands of marauders cut swaths across the rain forest plateau, donning Halloween masks and bolt-action rifles, as they rape and pillage in small villages before finally razing them. Calling the situation in modern Liberia a "civil war" is giving it too much status-crediting it with too much organization and purpose. The reality is villagers slaughtered by tribal-based militias that mark, like dogs pissing on a tree, their territory with the skulls of their victims.
Ever notice that small type that follows those cool cruise ads? It usually says Liberian Registry. Yes, you read right, Liberia, the country without a postal system, phone network or even a government, sells a lot of flags and registrations. Over 1,600 ships totalling 59.8 million gross tons fly the Liberian flag. In fact, the $50 million in fees paid to the Liberian government comprises 90 percent of the revenue to the government in tough times.

don't think that this sort of rough-housing is limited to just western africa as well -- the secular web has an article about similar battle field antics in uganda:

No longer an Acholi boy but a man of forty years, Kony is the self-appointed successor to his aunt, Voodoo Priestess, "Alice Lakwena." (Lakwena is "messenger"in the Acholi tongue.) [3] It was this charismatic woman, the reputed channeler of a deceased, World War I Italian army officer, who led thousands of Acholi fighters to their deaths in one-sided battles with President Yoweri Museveni's military.[4] During the tribal revolt, from 1987 to 1988, Lakwena's ill-fated Holy Spirit Army tried to storm Uganda's capital city of Kampala, armed with sticks, stones, and voodoo toys. Alice promised her followers that stones thrown at the enemy would explode like grenades.[5] In the bloody battles that followed, with only a few rifles in their possession, the Holy Spirit Army was completely routed by heavy machine gun and artillery fire.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Kony had been tutored by his aunt, the Acholi Priestess, Lakwena, who herself had engaged in brutal kidnappings (forced conscriptions) into her Holy Spirit Army.[6] From the start, Joseph Kony exhibited a ruthlessness in war noted for an arrogant flaunting of the 1949 Geneva Convention. In one decade alone, over 8,000 children were kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army. Most of these unfortunate children are now presumed dead, killed either in combat or in the murderous crossfire of warring sides. Tragically, these prisoners of war are transported, tied in columns by rope as slaves, to LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) camps.[7] When shooting breaks out, the conscripts often are unable to escape. If the kidnapped children survive the long journey to the LRA camps, they are forcefully indoctrinated into the LRA's grand vision of an Acholi nation based on the Ten Commandments--savage beatings are meted out to all nonbelievers. The child captives are taught the rebel leader's belief in an apocalyptic arrival of "The Silent World." Joseph Kony believes there will be a time in history when all guns worldwide will fall silent and only those knowing how to use crude weapons, like stones, spears, and machetes, will prevail against their enemies.[8]

and if memory serves me correctly, granta #62 also has an article written by richard lloyd parry on indonesian tribal killings entitled 'what young men do'. i can't find any excerpts online, and i would have to dig through some boxes to find my copy, so i'll try to pull out some interesting points from the essay after finals are over.

a quick entry before hiatus resumes

ah, remember the amber hued days of youth coming up as a shorty in sierra perhaps this will refresh your memory:

yeah, that's a 10 year old with an AK. i blame it on the rap music.

the picture comes from a bbc article on forthcoming war-crimes trials against those who recruited child-soldiers during sierra leone's civil war. as the article states, this is kinda the way civil warriors get down in central africa.

i'll post some more on the comedy of gigantic proportions that is western african warfare when i get home today, but for now, i will provide you with this series of articles (parts 1, 2, and 3) on the liberian civil war by canadian journalist alexandre trudeau:

I try to remember the characters I knew here in 1997. Many of the politicians and fighters I interviewed then have fled or are dead. One of them, Jack the Rebel, was a heart-eating mass murderer: one of Taylor's top bad boys. In a strange way, he had been my friend. He wore aviator glasses, and had a raspy voice and the bloodshot eyes of a crack addict. He was illiterate, inarticulate and highly volatile. I would bring him liquor and he would talk about the mysteries of Africa. Beneath his burden of horrendous sin, there was something wise, even likeable about him. But now I learn that after I left, he was captured by LURD forces. They set him free in the bush -- but not before cutting off his arms and legs. Jack had it coming. He would have been the first to admit it. But I still feel a little saddened by this grim news.
In Tubmanburg, I encounter a young fighter who calls himself Bad Blood. He wears a rosary and is of the Kpelle tribe. His story is a common one. The fighters came into his village and ran amok, killing his parents and torching his house. When they finally moved on, he had no choice but to follow them. Bad Blood and most of his comrades-in-arms do not have homes or families anymore. The only culture they have in common is the wild culture of war.


postings from the jesus will be non-existent this week due to finals.