Sunday, December 30, 2007

When oil at $100?

Crude prices of $100 a matter of ‘when not if’
By Neil Dennis

Oil prices pushed higher this week as concerns over the health of the US economy were overshadowed by a bullish combination of geopolitical events and falling US stockpiles.

Nymex West Texas Intermediate began a fresh assault on the $100-a-barrel level, hitting a one-month high of $97.79 on Thursday.

The assassination in Pakistan of Benazir Bhutto unleashed a fresh wave of speculative buying as geopolitical tensions in Asia and the Middle East intensified. On Wednesday, Turkey attacked Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, while Russia’s sale of an anti-aircraft missile system to Iran also ruffled some feathers

Meanwhile, Thursday’s US inventory data revealed a further drop in the country’s crude oil stockpiles below the five-year average.

Paul Horsnell at Barclays Capital said: “Since the end of June, US crude oil inventories have fallen by more than 60m barrels, and they are still falling relative to normal seasonal patterns.”

Full Article

What's in the container?

Mystery container found on beach

Enlarge Image

Experts are trying to identify a huge metal container that has been washed up on a beach in the Western Isles.
The tank, which is 27m high, has no markings and is thought to have fallen from a ship before being washed up on the west of Benbecula.

It was discovered by a dog walker on Poll Na Crann beach - known locally as Stinky Bay - near Griminish.

Stornoway Coastguard is using two numbers on the container to try to find out where the item has come from.

The beach is known as Stinky Bay because of the fermenting seaweed found there.

Alasdair MacEachen, assistant director of environmental services at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar told BBC Scotland: "It's certainly generated a fair bit of interest with people walking on the beach or just travelling along the road, because you can actually see it from the main road along the west side of Benbecula.

Full Article

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Also time goes slower

For a decade, scientists have puzzled over a surprising phenomenon: Supernovae stars viewed at extreme distances seem to be moving away from us faster than those nearby.

Most researchers have assumed that the stars have somehow accelerated – or that, more precisely, the rate of the expansion of the post-Big Bang universe itself has accelerated over time.

This was particularly odd given that the universe was thought to be dominated by matter, which should, through the aggregate gravitational effect of each bit pulling on the others, have led to a deaccelerating expansion, rather than the opposite. Thus, scientists have postulated an unknown kind of energy, now known as "dark energy," which would be responsible for the acceleration.

But hold on just a minute.

A group of scientists from the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, and Spain's University of Salamanca have offered a different idea. Maybe it's the passage of time itself that's slowing down, they say. The distant galaxies only look like they're accelerating because our deep-space telescopes are essentially looking back in time to see them, to when time was going faster.

The theory, outlined in the New Scientist and the UK Telegraph, and in a paper published in Physical Review D, is based on a complex bit of string theory that remains entirely speculative today. Under this theory, our entire universe is embedded in a multidimensional "brane," which itself is floating through a higher dimensional space that we can't detect.

Naturally, the theory has a few chilling conclusions. If time is slowing, it could – in billions of years – actually come to a complete halt, University of the Basque Country professor José Senovilla told New Scientist.

Would that mean everything freezes in place forever? Apparently. Does forever mean anything if time itself has literally stopped? Pass...

In short, a brain twister. Of course, there's a catch, which Senovilla says his group hasn't yet considered. Another group of physicists has postulated that there may actually be two dimensions of time, rather than just one we all know and fear. Which would explain where all that lost time goes, I suppose.

Time is running out - literally, says scientist [Telegraph UK]
Is time slowing down? [New Scientist]


City of Snowmen

City of snowmen

Lost and found

Friday fun link: the long-lost first film of Frankenstein, produced by Thomas Edison's studio in 1910.
An interesting document in its own right, it is also an example of the ways censorship does not merely suppress art, but influences the shape of the art that does appear. Rich Drees writes:
As the popularity of motion pictures grew, so did the attention they received from moral crusaders and reform groups, who decried the new medium as being dangerous and encouraging of immorality. Some called for strict laws governing film content and some communities banned theatres all together.
Knowing that these groups could pose a serious threat to his bottom line, Edison ordered that not only the production quality of his films be improved, but also their moral tone. The Trust even set up the first Board of Censors, consisting of film executives and religious and education leaders.

Frankenstein was the perfect choice to kick off production under this new moral banner. It's a story that deals with the extremes of the human condition, life and death, and the dangers of tampering in God's realm.
Plus, Edison made sure that publicity stressed that some of the more sensational elements of the Mary Shelly's novel had been toned down....One of those changes made to the narrative concerns the creation of Frankenstein's monster. While Shelly's novel did not go into specifics about the monster's creation, the creation scene in the film certainly owes more to alchemy than science.
The film certainly didn't stress the danger of unchecked scientific experimentation, not when the boss has transformed the world with his own scientific marvels. Instead, the monster is cast more as a reflection of Frankenstein's baser instincts and dark reflection of a mind that presumed to meddle in God's domain.
The film itself is a mixed bag, and parts (particularly the beginning) are poorly preserved. But there are moments of real power, notably the creation of the monster and the creature's final exit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I "saw" a bad smell

New method enables scientists to see smells
Animals and insects communicate through an invisible world of scents. By exploiting infrared technology, researchers at Rockefeller University just made that world visible. With the ability to see smells, these scientists now show that when fly larvae detect smells with both olfactory organs they find their way toward a scented target more accurately than when they detect them with one.

“Having two eyes allows us to have depth perception and two ears allows us to pinpoint a noise precisely,” says Leslie Vosshall, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior. “Sensing odors in stereo is equally important.”

In research to be published in the December 23 online issue of Nature Neuroscience, Vosshall and her colleagues show that odor information is easier to perceive when it is smelled with both olfactory organs. By genetically manipulating flies to express odorant receptors in one olfactory organ or both, they show that the brains of Drosophila melanogaster larvae not only make use of stereo cues to locate odors but also to navigate toward them — a behavior called chemotaxis.

To study this behavior, Vosshall and her colleagues had to figure out which direction the larvae move with respect to the source of the odor. But since odors are invisible, the researchers could neither predict how the flies would move in relation to these scents nor guess whether the odors were concentrated in patches or along a gradient. To complicate matters, odors whisk to and fro at the mercy of the slightest stir, making it impossible to determine their concentrations at particular locations.

Full Article

Ice-Skating comes from Finland

The origins of ice-skating have been traced by scientists to the frozen lakes of Finland about 5,000 years ago, when people used skates made from animal bone.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University have calculated that skating on the primitive blades would have reduced the energy cost of travelling by 10 per cent, suggesting that it emerged as a practical method of transport and not as recreation.

Southern Finland has been identified as the most likely home of skating through an analysis of the shape and distribution of lakes in central and northern Europe, which shows that the early Finns would have had most to gain from travelling on the ice.

Archaeological evidence indicates that skating began about 3,000 BC, as skates made from bone dating to this time have been discovered in Scandi-navia and other parts of northern Europe. The reason why people started skating and where they did it has always been a mystery. The new research, led by Federico Formenti and Alberto Minetti of the university’s Institute of Biophysical and Clinical Research into Human Movement, has offered an answer to both questions.

“In Central and Northern Europe 5,000 years ago, people struggled to survive the severe winter conditions and it seems unlikely that ice skating developed as a hobby,” Dr Formenti said. “As happened later for skis and bicycles, I am convinced that we first made ice skates to limit the energy required for our daily journeys.”


When finance meets science...

Late last week, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) released a so-called “report,” pointing to hundreds of alleged independent scientists who agree with him about climate change — which is to say, they deny the reality of global warming.

More than 400 scientists challenge claims by former Vice President Al Gore and the United Nations about the threat of man-made global warming, a new Senate minority report says.

Far-right blogs pounced, heralding Inhofe’s “expose.”

There is, however, one small problem: Inhofe’s report plays fast and loose with the facts.

“Padded” would be an extremely generous description of this list of “prominent scientists.” Some would use the word “laughable” (though not the N.Y. Times‘ Andy Revkin, see below). For instance, since when have economists, who are pervasive on this list, become scientists, and why should we care what they think about climate science?

Full Article

Next Generation Identification system

The FBI has announced it plans to assemble the world's largest biometric database, nicknamed the Next Generation Identification system. Currently, the FBI stores fingerprints, facial features, and palm print characteristics at its facilities in Washington DC. The agency's $1 billion dollar database, however, will hold far more information on any given person.

Moving forward, the FBI expects to make this comprehensive biometric database available to a wide variety of federal, state, and local agencies, all in the name of keeping American safe from terrorists (and illegal immigration). The FBI also intends to retain (upon employer request) the fingerprints of any employee who has undergone a criminal background check, and will inform the employer if the employee is ever arrested or charged with a crime.

Lofty goals are one thing, practical implementation is another. The biometric database the FBI envisions will rely heavily on realtime (or very nearly realtime) comparisons. According to the Washington Post, this could include general face recognition, specific feature comparison (notable scars, shape of the earlobe, etc), walking stride, speech patterns, and iris comparisons. To date, facial-recognition technology hasn't exactly reshaped the face of law enforcement. A German study last year showed some progress in the technology—existing implementations proved more than 60 percent effective during the day—but accuracy fell to 10-20 percent at night. German law enforcement officials have stated they would accept a 0.1 percent error rate across a 24 hour period, which leaves current technology with quite a gap to close.

The FBI plans to work closely with the CITeR (Center for Identification Technology Research) research center to improve existing metrics and create new ones. CITeR is reportedly working on an iris scanner that can identify people at up to 15 feet as well as a facial-recognition scanner capable of identifying faces accurately at a range of up to 200 yards.

The FBI's decision to implement this kind of tracking and identification system raises a number of concerns regarding citizen privacy , as well as serious questions about the accuracy of collected data. Any database that isn't closely monitored and continuously updated will inevitably grow out-of-date. It's also not clear that a biometric system of the type the FBI espouses couldn't become confused simply by the natural aging process, weight loss, weight gain, injury, or permanent disability. While there are proven methods of identification that remain accurate even in the presence of such factors, none of them yield realtime results that can be immediately pegged as belonging to an individual even in a crowd of people.

Certain aspects of the FBI's track record in recent years make this proposal even less attractive. In 2003, the FBI exempted its National Crime Information Center, the Central Records System, and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime from subsection (e) (5) of the 1974 Privacy Act. That particular subsection mandates that each agency that maintains a system of records shall "maintain all records which are used by the agency in making any determination about any individual with such accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the individual in the determination."

According to the FBI, discharging this duty conflicts with the agency's primary purpose as a law enforcement organization, because it is "impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely, and complete." Information once thought innocuous may also eventually prove to be critical may eventually shed critical details as an investigation continues, and the restrictions of (e) (5) "would limit the ability of trained investigators and intelligence analysts to exercise their judgement in reporting on investigations and impede the development of criminal intelligence necessary for effective law enforcement."

At this point, the FBI's proposed biometric identification system contains no recourse for citizens who are misidentified, no formal method for the update and correction of biometric information, and no indication that citizens would even be allowed to view their own biometric profiles.

The organization's technology track record is anything but good. The organization's Trilogy project launched in 2000 as an effort to update the FBI's IT infrastructure and create a new type of Virtual Case File (VCF) ended in collosal failure in 2005. The agency is currently working on a new, more ambitious system (codenamed Sentinel), but little information is available on how that project is progressing at this time. Once considered the definitive voice of bullet analysis, a six month investigation by CBS television show 60 Minutes and the Washington Post recently uncovered fundamental flaws in the FBI's methodology and basic premises. As a result, evidence presented as fact for the past 40 years has now been called into serious question, simply because the FBI, which claimed it could match bullet fragments to similar bullets—right down to the very same box—never scientifically tested the basic premise.

Even in the best of scenarios, it's unclear whether or not any national database of biometric information could be kept secure, updated, and available for citizen review. The FBI's past history and the agency's decision to remove itself from the requirements of the 1974 Privacy Act leave the current scenario far from ideal, and open the door for any number of misidentifications or abuses.

Joel Hruska

Religious discriminations...

Teachers banned a nine-year-old boy from his class Christmas party because his parents had barred him from RE lessons.

Douglas Stewart was forced to stay at home while his friends received presents from Santa and tucked into ice cream and jelly.

His parents were told he was not welcome at the celebration because they had pulled him out of religious eduction classes earlier in the year.


When downloading gets expensive...

A man who went on a TV show downloading spree after misunderstanding the terms of his cellphone contract has been hit with a bill for $54,000. The factory worker, 29, who fears being made bankrupt said: “I just laughed out loud. How on earth could I afford to pay that?” A loan, maybe? Santa?

Most people know that downloading TV shows doesn’t usually cost anything when you get them using BitTorrent.

However, Ian Simpson, a 29 year old factory worker found a way to make them cost - lots. After taking out a cell phone contract which he thought included ‘unlimited’ internet use (albeit with a ‘fair use’ clause), he got some advice from a friend who showed him how to connect his cell phone to his laptop.

According to a Stewart Maclean report in the UK’s Daily Mirror, Simpson said: “My mate told me how to wire my mobile to my laptop as a modem. It meant I could download faster than on the handset and get a proper internet connection in my flat.”

However, after downloading TV shows for a month, Simpson’s service was disconnected: “I probably downloaded 20 or 30 TV shows and four albums” he said. “I assumed it’d be OK, but they cut me off. I rang up and they said I owed them nearly £30,000.”

“If I’d known it would cost so much I wouldn’t have done it” he added.

That is without any doubt, I say...

Full Article

An American Revolution

A revolution in America — no matter how you choose to define or characterize it — is still an American Revolution

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” — Thomas Jefferson

What happens when the threat to American government comes from within? There is the subtle and invisible war that is taking place at home. This War is between Americans with different understandings of what it means to be “American” and what it means to be “Free”. This war will NOT take place in the trenches and won’t be won with guns or knives.

This revolutionary war is taking place among America’s elite over control of our nation’s future. What better way to spearhead the revolution than the advancement of technology? The revolutionary charge from libertarians and anti-war liberals has already started to make members of the establishment a bit nervous. Radicals want change and there will be no compromise on one key idea: Defending liberty at home is essential to fighting the “war on terror” ™ and necessary to restore our Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

David hunting down Goliath

Can the principle, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” apply to this kind of war?

Can Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians band together to bring about this change? Will the change sought shake up Washington and restore American faith in Democracy? Americans sense the the threat to freedom that has come from within. If you haven’t noticed, Libertarians have come out of the woodworks and have amassed a viable force to counter the threat of “super patriotism”.

The force is especially noticeable with the rise of Ron Paul, a Texas libertarian that will no doubt impact the outcome of the Republican primary. His band of revolutionaries will likely help decide the 2008 election no matter how Ron Paul fares in the primary.

Defending the Constitution vs. “Securing” our Nation

Were the founding fathers revolutionaries or “terrorists?”
Full Article

This way Italy could solve its financial problems...

Cairo - In a potential blow to themed resorts from Vegas to Tokyo, Egypt is to pass a law requiring payment of royalties whenever its ancient monuments, from the pyramids to the sphinx, are reproduced.

Zahi Hawass, the charismatic and controversial head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told AFP on Tuesday that the move was necessary to pay for the upkeep of the country's thousands of pharaonic sites.

"The new law will completely prohibit the duplication of historic Egyptian monuments which the Supreme Council of Antiquities considers 100-percent copies," he said.

"If the law is passed then it will be applied in all countries of the world so that we can protect our interests," Hawass said.

He said that a ministerial committee had already agreed on the law which should be passed in the next parliamentary session, while insisting the move would not hurt Egyptian artisans.

"It is Egypt's right to be the only copyright owner for these monuments in order to benefit financially so we can restore, preserve and protect Egyptian monuments."

However, the law "does not forbid local or international artists from profiting from drawings and other reproductions of pharaonic and Egyptian monuments from all eras - as long as they don't make exact copies."

"Artists have the right to be inspired by everything that surrounds them, including monuments," he said.

Asked about the potential impact on the monumental Luxor Hotel in the US gambling capital of Las Vegas, Hawass insisted that particular resort was "not an exact copy of pharaonic monuments despite the fact it's in the shape of a pyramid."

On its website, the luxury hotel describes itself as "the only pyramid shaped building in the world," but Hawass said its interior was entirely different from an ancient Egyptian setting.

Hawass's declarations came after the opposition daily Al-Wafd published an article on Sunday called for the Las Vegas hotel to pay a slice of its lodging and gambling profits to the city of Luxor.

"Thirty-five million tourists visit Las Vegas to see the reproduction of Luxor city while only six million visit the real Egyptian city of Luxor," the paper lamented.

Samir Farag, head of Luxor town council in southern Egypt, home to the legendary Valley of the Kings, said that it would be difficult to prohibit use of pyramid shapes.

"We can't forbid people from using the name of Luxor and copying monuments from (Luxor) city, which is the world's richest city for monuments," he said, adding that "tourists going to Las Vegas doesn't affect our city's business."


Monday, December 24, 2007

E-Hypnosis, the next fronteer of self knowledge

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The Dolce Vita was just a movie

There is no sour Italy since there was never a sweet one.
The Dolce vita at Fellini's time, as well as at our time. belonged to a few.
For all others, and especially at that time, life was hard and sour.
Things have changed for a short while, with Italy, as many other countries, enjoying a better life thanks to new technologies and a certain share of the revenue.
But this gave Italians the wrong idea that you can have something, or a lot, the easy way.
China, India and soon Africa and South America, came up to remind that life and richness doesn't belong to a few.
Resources must be shared and it is not right that 2% of the world's population enjoy 90% of its richness.
Italy realized that sooner, but do not worry, others will follow.
A cloudy future is ahead of us all.
Either we learn the meaning of the word sharing or we are condemned to a long lasting war.
War fought with real weapons and with economic weapons.
I do not know what hurts more.
At the end the result, either we like it or not, is what any physic would predict:
If you have to bowls linked together and in one you put one liter water, slowly the water will flow also in the second one, till it reaches the balance which is 50% each...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Technology is getting Pink

The marketing of electronic equipment is becoming increasingly geared to women, the chief executive of consumer electronics giant Best Buy has said.

When it first opened in the 1980s, Best Buy was a self-confessed "boys' toy store".

But today, everything – from the lighting, to the volume of music, to the types of conversations with salespeople – is influenced by the power of the technologically savvy female shopper.

"Sure, our stores used to have one primary customer in mind…that was the young, techno-savvy male," Best Buy chief executive Brad Anderson told USA Today.

"Today we know there are more than just young men in our stores – men and women, all ages, all ethnicities and uncountable backgrounds."

However, the vice president of Best Buy, Julie Gilbert, told the newspaper the company would be careful not to "alienate the guys", insisting: "We're not going to paint the stores pink."


The Sun shines for all, but just a few grab it

Solar-electric plant at the Air Force's Nellis Base.

The plant, which just went online this week, is the largest single photovoltaic plant in the U.S., beating out Google's by a hefty margin.

The plant uses traditional silicon PV cells and provides enough power to juice about a quarter of the Air Force base. Really, 14 MW is still a pretty insignficant amount of energy. And this plant doesn't approach the production power of Nevada-One, a solar thermal plant. But many people believe that the true future of solar power is converting the sun's energy directly into electricity instead of using the heat from the sun.

The project is financed by MMA Renewable Ventures (which we wrote about last week) and the panels and installation work was done by SunPower.

Solar-electric projects like this are more expensive per kilowatt than solar-thermal plants. However, they are more efficient and take up less space. And it's possible that photovoltaics, if mass produced, could eventually become cheaper than solar thermal.

And the only way to drive the price down is to provide incentives to produce them. This project is certainly doing that, which we're happy to commend.

One for all and all for one

The complexity of the human brain and how it stores countless thoughts, sensations and memories are still not fully understood.

Researchers believe connections between individual neurons, forming networks of at least a thousand, are the key to some of its processing power.

However, in some creatures with simpler nervous systems, such as flies, a single neuron can play a more significant role. The latest research suggests this may also be true in "higher" animals.

The team, from the Humboldt University in Germany and the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, stimulated single neurons in rats and found this was enough to trigger a behavioural response when their whiskers were touched.

A second research project from the US suggests the computational ability of the brain cell could be even more complex, with different synapses - the many junctions between neurons and other nerve cells - able to act independently from those found elsewhere on the same cell.

This could mean that, within a single neuron, different synapses could be storing or processing completely different bits of information.

Computing power

Dr Douglas Armstrong, the deputy director of the Edinburgh Centre for Bioinformatics, said the research did not mean all neurons had an individual role to play but that, in some instances, they might be capable of working alone with measurable results.

He said: "The generally accepted model was that networks or arrays make decisions and that the influence of a single neuron is smaller - but this work and other recent studies support a more important role for the individual neuron.

"These studies drive down the level at which relevant computation is happening in the brain."

Full Article

What is your IQ?

Those who compose intelligence tests can only measure skills similar to their own.
Conventional IQ tests would be useless in assessing the spatial intelligence of a Rudolf Nureyev, the musical intelligence of a Pavarotti, or the visual intelligence of Michelangelo.
We are overly impressed by the ability to calculate and rationalize and inadequately impressed by the ability to see possibilities and make connections.

For a long time the meaning of giftedness has been restricted to the rigid confines of achievement and accomplishment. Academic toppers are, and should be entitled to their share of glory, but in the process of lauding top scorers and scholarship winners we may be crowding out those who actually have advanced and complex patterns of development but just don’t fit the system’s definition of ‘top students’.

Characteristics of gifted individuals: If 75 per cent of the following 37 characteristics fit you, you are probably a gifted adult.

Are you a good problem solver?
Can you concentrate for long periods of time?
Are you a perfectionist?
Do you persevere with your interests?
Are you an avid reader?
Do you have a vivid imagination?
Do you enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles?
Often connect seemingly unrelated ideas?
Do you enjoy paradoxes?
Do you set high standards for yourself?
Do you have a good long-term memory?
Are you deeply compassionate?
Do you have persistent curiosity?
Do you have a good sense of humor?


Are you a keen observer?
Do you love mathematics?
Do you need periods of contemplation?
Do you search for meaning in your life?
Are you aware of things that others are not?
Are you fascinated by words?
Are you highly sensitive?
Do you have strong moral convictions?
Do you often feel out-of-sync with others?
Are you perceptive or insightful?
Do you often question rules or authority?
Do you have organized collections?
Do you thrive on challenge?
Do you have extraordinary abilities and deficits?
Do you learn new things rapidly?
Feel overwhelmed by many interests/abilities?
Do you have a great deal of energy?
Often take a stand against injustice?
Do you feel driven by your creativity?
Love ideas and ardent discussion?
Did you have developmentally advanced childhood?
Have unusual ideas or perceptions?
Are you a complex person?
*Adapted from the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development.

One way to identify gifted individuals is their style of thinking. They usually employ divergent thinking. Their style is original and they tend to come up with crazy ideas, which other people find strange. But sometimes it is these crazy ideas that go on to become the most recognized ones of our time.

Gifted individuals face many challenges, with one of biggest being the inability to be correctly identified by the individuals who should be helping them realize their true potential.

As with any other student, it would be a shame if parents, teachers and peers did not recognize the strengths of gifted students and allow them to reach their true potential. But what must educators and parents do in order to make sure this does not happen?

However until more help is readily available, what are the gifted to do?

Sadly, not enough is known about giftedness. More time and energy need to be spent identifying traits among the gifted, especially since it is these students who go on to contribute much to improving the state of our world.

Acknowledge the possibilities, identify your capabilities and allow yourself to be different. You never know, you may be the next Einstein.

Robin Bal

Life on Mars?

Researchers are considering the implications of what Cornell's Steve Squyres, principal investigator for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission, calls "one of the most significant" mission discoveries to date: silica-rich deposits uncovered in May by Spirit's lame front wheel that provide new evidence for a once-habitable environment in Gusev Crater.

Squyres and colleagues reported the silica deposits at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in early December in San Francisco.

On the other side of Mars, Spirit's still-healthy twin Opportunity is creeping slowly down the inside of Victoria Crater, where layers of exposed rock are confirming findings made at the much smaller Eagle and Endurance craters -- and where deeper layers could offer new insight into the planet's history.

Spirit, which has been driving backward since its right front wheel stopped turning in March 2006, was exploring near a plateau in the Gusev Crater known as Home Plate when scientists noticed that upturned soil in the wake of its dragging wheel appeared unusually bright.

Measurements by the rover's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and mini-thermal emission spectrometer showed the soil to be about 90 percent amorphous silica -- a substance associated with life-supporting environments on Earth.

"This is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence for formerly habitable conditions that we have found," said Squyres, Cornell's Goldwin Smith Professor of Planetary Science, in a Dec. 11 interview with the BBC.

Full Article

Presumed Guilty

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China has long regarded cyberwarfare as a critical component of asymmetrical warfare in any future conflict with the U.S. From China's perspective, it makes sense to use any means possible to counter America's huge technological advantage. A current wave of hacking attacks seems to be aimed mainly at collecting information and probing defenses, but in a real cyberwar, a successful attack would target computer-dependent infrastructure, such as banking and power generation. "Can one nation deliver a crippling blow to another through cyberspace?" asks American Sami Saydjari, head of the private computer-security group Cyber Defense Agency and former president of Professionals for Cyber Defense. "The answer is a definite yes. The Chinese know we are much more dependent on technology, and the more you depend on it, the more vulnerable you are."

Hacking attacks from the Middle Kingdom aren't new. In 1999, after U.S. planes bombed Beijing's embassy in Belgrade, and again in 2001, when a Chinese fighter crashed after a collision with a U.S.
surveillance plane, Chinese hackers conducted cyberbattles with their U.S. counterparts. For several years beginning in 2003, U.S.
government servers were subjected to a coordinated series of hacker attacks, code-named Titan Rain, which officials said had originated in China.

Tan Dailin lets out an audible gasp when he is told that he was identified in the U.S. as someone who may have been responsible for recent security breaches at the Pentagon. "Will the FBI send special agents out to arrest me?" he asks. Much as they might want to talk with him, though, FBI agents don't have jurisdiction in Chengdu, the capital of China's Sichuan province, where Tan lives. And given that he has been lauded in China's official press for his triumphs in military-sponsored hacking competitions, Tan is unlikely to have problems with local law enforcement. But Tan and his seven companions, who make up the self-proclaimed Network Crack Program Hacker (NCPH) group, are taking no chances. A couple of weeks after they spoke to TIME, they shuttered the group's website, on which they used to proudly post specially designed hacking programs that could be downloaded for free. Visitors now find only a notice that the page is being redesigned.

Tan and his fellow hackers may be lying low for now. But the controversy over the activities of hundreds of Chinese like them will only continue to grow. Though the evidence remains mostly circumstantial, a picture is emerging of a coordinated effort by Chinese-military authorities to recruit hackers such as Tan and his group to winkle out information from computer systems outside China and launch cyberattacks in future conflicts.

The scale and sophistication of the activities apparently conducted by Tan and his group--and their alleged ties to the People's Liberation Army (PLA)--are an insight into China's effort to establish a corps of civilian cyberwarriors. A recent series of intrusions into the systems of Western governments and major corporations was blamed on China (though none of the intrusions have been specifically tied to Tan and his group). This month British media reported that the country's top antiespionage official had sent a letter to 300 major corporations warning that they faced attacks from "Chinese state organizations." In May computers in the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel were compromised by programs that had originated in China. In June U.S.
military officials said an attack from China had penetrated a computer system at the Pentagon--though nonclassified, it included a server used by the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Beijing denies that it is behind hacker attacks. Jiang Yu, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, described such reports as "wild accusations" and said they reflected a "cold war mentality."

Outside China, however, the worries continue. "Recent events have made Western governments very nervous that this is just the tip of the iceberg," says Saydjari. "[The Chinese] have launched the equivalent of a Sputnik in cyberspace, and the U.S. and other countries are scrambling to catch up."

Meet the Geek Brigade
Gathered around the table at a restaurant in Chengdu on a recent evening, Tan, a.k.a. Withered Rose, and seven other members of the NCPH workshop don't look as though they could bring the U.S. economy to a halt. All in their early 20s, rail thin and with the prison pallor acquired from long nights spent hunched over monitors, they look like what they are: a bunch of nerds. They refuse to give their real names, referring to one another by nicknames--Blacksmith, Firestarter, Fisherman, Floorsweeper, Chef, Plumber, Pharmacist. All vehemently deny having anything to do with attacks on U.S. government systems. "Messing with the U.S. Department of Defense is no small thing," says Floorsweeper. "We read about arrested terrorists, about Guantánamo. Who gets away with messing with the U.S. government?"

O.K., so what does the NCPH, which Tan founded in 2004 when he was a student at Sichuan University of Science and Engineering, actually do?
The answer starts out vague, but eventually pride gets the better of the young men. They acknowledge that the group first got its reputation by hacking 40% of the hacker associations' websites in China. That was during their "young and hotheaded college days," as Fisherman puts it. The NCPH is also famous for the remote-network- control programs they wrote and offered for download. These programs, which allow hackers to take over other computers, are exactly the kind that were used to obtain documents, spreadsheets and other materials from U.S. government offices in the most recent attacks.

By Simon Elegant/Beijing

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The secret of weight loss

This is the One Million $ question.
And this is the One Million $ answer:

1) Forget Diet Pills
2) Forget drinking cups of Wu Long tea
3) Forget weight loss patch
4) Forget herbal supplements
5) Forget electronic belt

Forget all what you already tried and didn't work.
The first step is thinking you can eat all you like, that will be useful to fight the depression of thinking about what you shouldn't eat.
There is nothing worse than thinking you cannot do something.
That makes you craving for that, and food easily becomes an obsession and the obsession something is difficult to win.
Try the only thing that really works and works forever: the Magnetic Diet.
It is a mixture of physical and mental exercises.
The result? Tremendous health benefits on the physical, mental, and emotional levels.

2008: the year of Video Quality

Time magazine writes, "So if 2006 was the year of You, 2007 was the year of Them. Big media companies (like this one) stuffed their sites with blogs, podcasts and video." We find this view of web UGC about as far-sighted as the people who said, "Oh, TV is just a fad. Radio. That's where it's at".

Sure, the big media companies have rushed to cash in on the legions of online eyeballs there for the taking. With sorta-kinda ubiquitous broadband and much better codecs, web video has undergone an amazing transformation over the last few years. Who didn't expect big media to cash in, or at least try? There's gold in them there broadband connections, and the suits in LA and New York can smell it, even over their D&G cologne.

The rub lies in licensing; both for content, and for the airwaves. Big media is big media simply because they control the means of production. It takes millions to start a TV station and, it takes millions to license a TV episode. For those reasons, TV has to "get it right" nearly every time. Get ratings, or get canceled. That's the Hollywood way.
Web content, on the other hand, can be produced on the cheap. Ok, sure, that means there'll be a ton of terrible content. Really bad, really lousy, really unwatchable content that not even a mother could love. There will also be gems. There are far too many talented writers, actors, comedians, and would-be directors on this little blue orb for us to claim UGC is stillborn. 2008 isn't the year UGC dies; It's the year UGC grows up. Individuals producing content won't win the day, at least not in series form, but small dedicated teams of people with ideas, writing skill and equipment -- which gets cheaper by the day -- will.

We say, with all due respect, screw Time Magazine. Here are our predictions for 2008:

YouTube's lousy quality and miserable interface will cost them marketshare

High-quality UGC begins to blur the lines between pro and amateur

Seesmic will die a horrible death. Complete with French accents

Great writing + better than average production * reasonable length = gold

Semi-pro daily shows will win the 2008 race


Friday, December 21, 2007

They say about technology...

18 thought-provoking technology quotes

“If the human race wants to go to hell in a basket, technology can help it get there by jet. It won’t change the desire or the direction, but it can greatly speed the passage.”
Charles M. Allen

“In guessing the direction of technology, it is wise to ask who is in the best position to profit most.”
Ben Bagdikian

“The environmental crisis is somber evidence of an insidious fraud hidden in the vaunted productivity and wealth of modern, technology-based society.”
Barry Commoner

“America’s technology has turned in upon itself; its corporate form makes it the servant of the profits, not the servant of human needs.”
Alice Embree

“Technology . . . the knack of so arranging the world that we need not experience it.”
Max Frisch

“If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery, in impoverishment.”
Michael Harrington

“In an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost.”
Aldous Huxley

“Modern technology has led to the concentration of economic and political power, and to the development of a society controlled (ruthlessly in the totalitarian states, politely and inconspicuously in the democracies) by Big Business and Big Government.”
Aldous Huxley

“A world technology means either a world government or a world suicide.”
Max Lerner

“Our technology, wiser than we, has given us to the unforeseen and unforeseeable means of worldwide understanding at the moment when worldwide understanding is the only possible means to lasting peace.”
Archibald MacLeish

“The nihilism of technology lies not only in the fact that it is the most perfect expression of the will to power . . . but also in the fact that it lacks meaning.”
Octavio Paz

“The technocratic imperative: ‘What can be done must be done.’”
Theodore Roszak

We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.”
David Sarnoff

“Technology . . . is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”
C. P. Snow

“The law of unintended consequences governs all technological revolutions.”
Joel L. Swerdlow

“Technological innovation consists of three stages, linked together into an self-reinforcing cycle. First, there is the creative, feasible idea. Second, its practical application. Third, its diffusion through society. The process is completed, the loop closed, when the diffusion of technology embodying the new idea, in turn, helps generate new creative ideas.”
Alvin Toffler

“Man cannot live by technology alone.”
Arnold J. Toynbee

“Technology: the invention, manufacture, and use of tools.”
Arnold J. Toynbee

The Lie which is better than Truth

It's OK to let your children believe in Santa Claus, psychologists say.

Some parents may worry about the effect of the Santa story on kids once they figure out who's really been eating the cookies and milk left by the fireplace, but giving kids an immediate dose of reality on the subject isn't necessary, says child psychologist Bruce Henderson of Western Carolina University, because young children often use their imagination and make-believe when they play.

"Santa is just one of the many fantasy figures that exists in a preschooler's world," Henderson said. "Adults might just be wasting time trying to get a child at that age to give up on such a warm and fuzzy character to accept adult realities."

Tell the truth or keep the myth?

A peskier problem for parents comes when children are older and start thinking more concretely about the world and wondering how Santa can make the worldwide journey in just one night, bringing up the inevitable question: "Is Santa Claus real?"

Should parents tell their kids the truth or encourage the myth?

"Most parents do not worry very much that encouraging the Santa myth is harmful or that eventually spilling the beans will make their children mad at them," Henderson said. "They are torn, however, about what to do when their children directly confront them with their doubts."

Parents and experts alike vary on how to respond to children in this situation.

"At one extreme are those who suggest that any kind of deception is wrong," Henderson said. "On the other extreme are those who consider most any fantasy to be valuable for stretching the child's imagination."

If the Santa bubble does get burst, parents shouldn't worry too much about their child's reaction, Henderson said.

"A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that children are remarkably resilient in response to hurt and disappointment," he said.

But oh, the deception!

For those parents who are particularly concerned about deceiving their children, it might be best to tone down the Santa mythology from the beginning, Henderson said.

But the best advice, as with many parent-child relations, is to let the child provide the cues for what they're ready for, he said.

"Forcing an elaborate Santa Claus story on children serves no good purpose for child or parent," he said. "On the other hand, following the child's lead in fantasy play about Santa Claus is likely to do no more harm than imaginative play surrounding Elmo or Mickey Mouse. Parents can respond to direct questions honestly with answers appropriate to their children's developmental levels."

Andrea Thompson,

Norway chooses "Open Standards"

The Norwegian government has mandated the use of open document formats from January 1st, 2009. I’ll give a brief overview of what the article actually says.

There are three formats that have been mandated for all documentation between authorities and users/partners, namely:

HTML for all public information on the Web.
PDF for all documents where layout needs to be preserved.
ODF for all documents that the recipient is supposed to be able to edit

Goverment, state and regional agencies, authorities and services may also publish in other formats, but they must always publish in one of these formats. The decree is retroactive, and by 2014 all documents published prior to this decree must have been converted and made available in one of the three formats.

While the decree doesn’t mandate any format for internal documentation, I still have hopes that every interested party will standardize on the same formats for internal use as well, and it is also my hope that a real competitive market for information systems is created.

Either way, for me as a dedicated user of Linux, proponent of open formats and standards, this is delightful. I’ll end it with a quote from our minister for information technologies, Heidi Grande Røys, with some emphasis added from my side:

Everyone should have equal access to public documents. From 2009, every citizen will be able to choose which software they want to use to get access to public information. The goverment’s decision will also improve the terms of competition between software providers. In the future, we will not accept that govermental agencies lock the users of public information to closed formats.


Reasons to change your eating habits next year

Around holiday time, a common comment I hear is, "I cooked for 6 hours and we ate everything in 20 minutes." Well, aside from the fact that there must be zero socializing at that holiday table, it seems to me that eating a couple thousand calories in 20 minutes is a little fast. Could you enjoy the food just as much by slowing down?

I started to look into the affects of slow versus fast eating and then tried a little experiment with some of what I learned. My experiment was with chocolate candy because it's something I really like a lot.

Generally, I feel as if I have to eat three or four candies to be totally pleased. But recently I noticed that if I take a 10-15 min pause after two candies, I have significantly less or even no desire at all to eat the third one. This resulted in less consumption which, when speaking of candy, is a good thing.

I started wondering why this happens and began my research, which turned into learning the effects of slow eating.

Portion control & Overeating prevention. When you eat slowly it is definitely hard to overeat. Slow eating little by little decreases the desire to eat, so you can stop eating before your plate is empty. It is suggested that it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to produce the hormones telling your brain that you are full.

Weight control benefits. Slowly eating habit reduces the risk of becoming overweight. Recently Japanese researches found strong positive correlation between higher eating speed and obesity.

It can't hurt you. Slow eating doesn't have any negative effects on your health, but can bring you a number of benefits without extra costs.

Taste and enjoy your food. When you eat slowly, you end up tasting your food more. You will experience more of the flavors, textures and smells of the food you eat. At the same time this may become a small step to a more healthy diet. If you won't like what you eat when you eat it slowly, probably the next time you will choose something of a better quality.

Digestion. Eating slowly and chewing properly improves your digestion. It is well known that digestion begins in the mouth. The more we chew our foods, the easier it is to digest them.

Heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux). Eating food quickly may cause a type of indigestion called gastroesophageal reflux.
And a tip for those who have difficulty maintaining slow eating pace. Take a forced pause shortly before your plate is empty. Switch over from your meal to some other activity for a short time (10-15min), e.g. make a phone call, or look through a newspaper. When you return to your dish, probably you won't continue eating or at least the chances you will empty the plate are very small.


One of the most important thing to insure is your "Heartbeats"

Illnesses are something we never think about, or , if we do, it's always something happening to the "others".
Because when you are well and in good health you take it for granted, and it looks like it will always be like this.
But life has something good and something bad for everybody, that is why it pays to be ready also for the worst.
Of course with a good Insurance.
I usually do it, first because I am kind of pessimist, and second because I like to feel safe, even when everything looks good and OK.
It makes me feeling better to know I have a good Health insurance that is going to cover also what I hope will never happen to me.
That includes extensive cover for any kind of treatment including out-patient consultations, diagnostic tests and therapies, the chance to have a good choice of consultants and specialists, cover for acute heart and eligible cancer conditions ( I had a brother who died for a Malignant Melanoma at 49), and of course all the available medical information and guidance.
When you opt for an Insurance, you can choose for different level of covering, of course with a different level of cost.
If you want a ‘health insurance quote’ you can click on my link and decide what better suits your need.
You will also find a good guide and answers about the most common questions about health insurance.
Because it is important to have a good Insurance, but it is also important to know everything before deciding.
It always pays off to spend a few minutes more Before, then regretting later...

Marry with robots

Humans could marry robots within the century. And consummate those vows.

"My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots," artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands told LiveScience. Levy recently completed his Ph.D. work on the subject of human-robot relationships, covering many of the privileges and practices that generally come with marriage as well as outside of it.

At first, sex with robots might be considered geeky, "but once you have a story like 'I had sex with a robot, and it was great!' appear someplace like Cosmo magazine, I'd expect many people to jump on the bandwagon," Levy said.


In-Depth iPod & iPhone Video

This year, Apple gave the iPhone and the new Classic, Touch, and Nano models improved TV out features while harmonizing the AV cables used by its entire product line. Here's a look at what's what's changed, a review of Apple's recently released AV Cable kits, why the invented controversy about Apple's new cables is simply misinformed, and how using an iPod for video output compares against Apple TV.

New Cable Kits vs Old Cable

Apple formerly sold the headphone-jack iPod AV Cable as a standalone $20 cable or as part of the $99 iPod AV Kit that also included a Dock, power adapter, and remote. Alternatively, third party cables could extract composite video either from the headphone jack or the Dock Connector. With the removal of composite video from the headphone jack of all 2007 iPhones and iPods (a move explained below), Apple now sells two cable packages, both of which use the iPods' Dock Connector:

Composite AV Cable
Component AV Cable

The new cables are longer, and rather than providing three short leads that split off for stereo audio and video like the old iPod AV Cable (below, right side), the new cables split in three directions: USB, video, and stereo audio jacks (below, left side). This is an improvement in that it allows the cable to be used in applications where the video jack isn't right next to the audio jacks, such as would be the case if you wanted to plug the video directly into the TV but route the audio into a stereo receiver more than a few inches away. This design also results in a longer and more complex cable. The component version of the new cable kit is identical apart from having three video plugs rather than just the one on the composite cable.


What else? China...

Yahoo! Found Guilty of Mass Copyright Infringement
Written by enigmax on December 20, 2007
It is being reported by the IPFI that Yahoo China’s music search feature violates the law when it deep links users to pirated music. Yahoo China’s music search has been confirmed illegal in a Beijing court ruling which states that under new copyright laws it facilitates mass copyright infringement.

After being hounded by the IFPI since April 2006, Yahoo! China - partly owned by one the world’s most prominent internet businesses, Yahoo! - today had its music search (via deep linking) deemed illegal by a Beijing Court, who said the service violates Chinese law by facilitating mass copyright infringement.

Yahoo! China had appealed against the guilty verdict reached in the case in April, but this was today dismissed by the Court.

In an earlier case it was decided that another company, Baidu, also facilitated copyright infringement when it used similar methods to Yahoo!, but under Chinese laws in operation at the time they had committed no offense. However, new copyright laws came into force in 2006 and it was under these that Yahoo! China was found guilty, as explained by John Kennedy, Chairman and CEO of the IFPI:

“We are disappointed that the court did not find Baidu liable, but that judgment was about Baidu’s actions in the past under an old law that is no longer in force.”

The IFPI say that when sites like Yahoo! and Baidu - or even Google - deep-link “to hundreds of thousands of pirate tracks” they are “a huge drain on efforts to develop a legitimate music market in China.”

According to IFPI statistics, music sales in China were just $76 million in 2006, with 99% of all music downloading done in a way that infringes copyright.


If you have dog, you should read this

There are a few essential commands that you should make an effort to teach your dog. Even if you teach him nothing else, he should return to you as soon as you call his name, be able to sit on command, lie down, walk to heel and be able to walk on calmly when he is off the lead.

This level of basic training will give you the confidence that you can control your dog in any situation. A happy dog loves learning something new: the mental stimulation helps to keep life interesting for him, and he too will gain confidence from his training.

Happy Dog Tip

If you have a toy breed, don’t think he is too cute to bother with obedience training. Toy breeds can be highly intelligent dogs and they enjoy learning quite complicated commands and tricks.

Clicker Training

Clickers are extremely useful training tools that positively reinforce and reward good behavior. They are inexpensive and widely available from pet shops and other retail outlets.

A clicker is a plastic box with a metal tongue inside. When pressed with the thumb, this makes a distinctive double clicking sound. The clicker is small enough to hide in one hand.

The idea is that the dog soon associates the clicking sound with a reward, and once he makes this connection it is easy to get him to repeat a behavior. The clicker can be gradually phased out once a behavior has been learned, but is invaluable when training begins.

Introducing the Clicker

Accurate timing is the key to successful clicker training. Practice until you are confident that you can use one with pinpoint accuracy. Test yourself by throwing a ball into the air and clicking before it hits the ground, or throwing it against a wall and clicking before it reaches the wall.

You will also need very tasty treats to offer the dog as soon as you have used the clicker. Begin by throwing down a treat and clicking just before the dog eats the treat and returns to you. Only click once and avoid holding the clicker close to his head or ears. Repeat this exercise several times. This will begin to create an association between the clicker and the treat.

Some people, (particularly those with less nimble fingers) prefer to keep both hands free and hide the clicker under one of their feet.

Training Teaching Recall

For your dog to come as soon as you call him, he needs to make the connection that returning to you is always a positive experience and worth leaving whatever interesting thing he may be doing. Here’s how to teach recall:

When your dog is a little way away from you, call his name in an excited high-pitched voice. Call his name only once, as you want him to respond immediately. You can also get his attention by rattling a treat pot.
As soon as the dog turns to face you, click. When he walks towards you, reward him instantly with a treat.
Repeat this exercise several times, making sure you reward him generously with treats or a few seconds of play with a high-value toy each time. Once your dog returns to you quickly, you can say his name and introduce a verbal command such as ‘come’. Click as he starts to walk towards you and reward him as soon as he get back to you.
Never punish your dog for not returning to you. He will simply associate coming to you with an unpleasant experience and be even more reluctant next time. You should also avoid chasing after him, as he will think this is a great game!

How to Have a Happy Dog

An expensive prohibition

Washington, DC: Marijuana prohibition costs US taxpayers nearly $42 billion dollars per year in criminal justice costs and in lost tax revenues, according to an economic analysis released this week.

According to the study, "Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws," law enforcement spends $10.7 billion annually to arrest and prosecute marijuana offenders. This amount comprises nearly six percent of America’s total criminal justice expenditures.

Pot’s criminalization also artificially raises the plant’s retail price and diverts billions of dollars into the black market economy, the study finds. According to the report, Americans spend some $113 billion dollars annually to consume an estimated 31.1 million pounds of pot. By criminalizing this market, the study estimates that the government loses more than $30 billion per year in tax revenue.

"The market in marijuana in the United States is illicit, illegal, and as such it diverts capital away from the channels of the licit or legal economy, especially the channels from which local, state, and the federal government collect tax revenue," the study concludes. "If [the billions of dollars America’s currently spend on marijuana] were spent on legal commodities … those economic transactions would produce billions in tax revenues for local, state, and the federal government."


Google's next moves

December 20, 2007 (Computerworld) -- There's little doubt that Google Inc. is indeed king of online media. In August 2007 alone, Google captured 57% of worldwide market share among search engines, with more than 37 billion search inquiries, according to analyst firm comScore Inc. in Reston, Va. Add to that a mind-boggling stock price of $711 per share on Nov. 5. Not surprisingly, this dominance has led to endless rumors about where Google is headed next.

Dozens of blogs feed the rumor mill daily, and speculation about Google's next move ranges from stories of an undersea cable to Asia to talk about the upcoming gPhone, new data centers and a Google virtual world.

Only Google knows for sure -- but Google watchers have their own educated guesses on the company's next business maneuver. They're going out on a limb with some bold predictions for 2008 and beyond.

1. 'You're Watching ABC Google'

In its quest for more advertising revenue, the company might acquire more-traditional media properties.

"They'll move into radio and television at some point," says Rob Enderle, principle analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose. And if that happens, media buyers would take their advertising dollars to Google first to leverage its multimedia offerings. "I'm not yet convinced that they'll buy a network," Enderle adds, "but that's a possibility" -- as is the purchase of a group of radio stations that Google could aggressively shift to an online delivery model that could enhance the value of its advertising package. At the very least, he says, Google will partner with media outlets for exclusive relationships to secure its revenue stream.

"Their end goal, if they're successful, is to become bigger and more powerful than the combination of Microsoft, IBM and AT&T in their heyday," Enderle says. "And they actually have a strategy that could do it ... by either taking the [ad] money or trivializing the contributions by the other companies."

2. Get Your Free Google PC

In 2008 and beyond, most of the hardware and services that we now pay for are going to be available from Google for free -- or at drastically reduced prices, says Chris Winfield, president of 10e20 LLC, a global search marketing company based in New York. Cell phones, wireless Internet access and even laptops will all be completely ad-supported. "A lot of people would gladly take a free laptop [in return for watching] some ads every now and then," he adds.

Google has already started down this path. It bought Urchin Web analytics software in March 2005 and then offered portions of it for free to users as Google Analytics. It also rebranded Keyhole 3-D satellite imagery as Google Earth and offered it up for free.

"They do that to get more control and more eyeballs and more people using their products," Winfield says. "It would be the same with a laptop or cell phone."


Legal drugs?

"The Global War on Drugs can Be Won"
No, it can't. A "drug-free world," which the United Nations describes as a realistic goal, is no more attainable than an "alcohol-free world" -- and no one has talked about that with a straight face since the repeal of Prohibition in the United States in 1933. Yet futile rhetoric about winning a "war on drugs" persists, despite mountains of evidence documenting its moral and ideological bankruptcy. When the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on drugs convened in 1998, it committed to "eliminating or significantly reducing the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008" and to "achieving significant and measurable results in the field of demand reduction." But today, global production and consumption of those drugs are roughly the same as they were a decade ago; meanwhile, many producers have become more efficient, and cocaine and heroin have become purer and cheaper.

It's always dangerous when rhetoric drives policy -- and especially so when "war on drugs" rhetoric leads the public to accept collateral casualties that would never be permissible in civilian law enforcement, much less public health. Politicians still talk of eliminating drugs from the Earth as though their use is a plague on humanity. But drug control is not like disease control, for the simple reason that there's no popular demand for smallpox or polio. Cannabis and opium have been grown throughout much of the world for millennia. The same is true for coca in Latin America. Methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs can be produced anywhere. Demand for particular illicit drugs waxes and wanes, depending not just on availability but also fads, fashion, culture, and competition from alternative means of stimulation and distraction. The relative harshness of drug laws and the intensity of enforcement matter surprisingly little, except in totalitarian states. After all, rates of illegal drug use in the United States are the same as, or higher than, Europe, despite America's much more punitive policies.

"We Can Reduce the Demand for Drugs"
Good luck. Reducing the demand for illegal drugs seems to make sense. But the desire to alter one's state of consciousness, and to use psychoactive drugs to do so, is nearly universal -- and mostly not a problem. There's virtually never been a drug-free society, and more drugs are discovered and devised every year. Demand-reduction efforts that rely on honest education and positive alternatives to drug use are helpful, but not when they devolve into unrealistic, "zero tolerance" policies.

As with sex, abstinence from drugs is the best way to avoid trouble, but one always needs a fallback strategy for those who can't or won't refrain. "Zero tolerance" policies deter some people, but they also dramatically increase the harms and costs for those who don't resist. Drugs become more potent, drug use becomes more hazardous, and people who use drugs are marginalized in ways that serve no one.

The better approach is not demand reduction but "harm reduction." Reducing drug use is fine, but it's not nearly as important as reducing the death, disease, crime, and suffering associated with both drug misuse and failed prohibitionist policies. With respect to legal drugs, such as alcohol and cigarettes, harm reduction means promoting responsible drinking and designated drivers, or persuading people to switch to nicotine patches, chewing gums, and smokeless tobacco. With respect to illegal drugs, it means reducing the transmission of infectious disease through syringe-exchange programs, reducing overdose fatalities by making antidotes readily available, and allowing people addicted to heroin and other illegal opiates to obtain methadone from doctors and even pharmaceutical heroin from clinics.

Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have already embraced this last option. There's no longer any question that these strategies decrease drug-related harms without increasing drug use. What blocks expansion of such programs is not cost; they typically save taxpayers' money that would otherwise go to criminal justice and healthcare. No, the roadblocks are abstinence-only ideologues and a cruel indifference to the lives and well-being of people who use drugs.

"Reducing the Supply of Drugs Is the Answer"
Not if history is any guide. Reducing supply makes as much sense as reducing demand; after all, if no one were planting cannabis, coca, and opium, there wouldn't be any heroin, cocaine, or marijuana to sell or consume. But the carrot and stick of crop eradication and substitution have been tried and failed, with rare exceptions, for half a century. These methods may succeed in targeted locales, but they usually simply shift production from one region to another: Opium production moves from Pakistan to Afghanistan; coca from Peru to Colombia; and cannabis from Mexico to the United States, while overall global production remains relatively constant or even increases.

The carrot, in the form of economic development and assistance in switching to legal crops, is typically both late and inadequate. The stick, often in the form of forced eradication, including aerial spraying, wipes out illegal and legal crops alike and can be hazardous to both people and local environments. The best thing to be said for emphasizing supply reduction is that it provides a rationale for wealthier nations to spend a little money on economic development in poorer countries. But, for the most part, crop eradication and substitution wreak havoc among impoverished farmers without diminishing overall global supply.

The global markets in cannabis, coca, and opium products operate essentially the same way that other global commodity markets do: If one source is compromised due to bad weather, rising production costs, or political difficulties, another emerges. If international drug control circles wanted to think strategically, the key question would no longer be how to reduce global supply, but rather: Where does illicit production cause the fewest problems (and the greatest benefits)? Think of it as a global vice control challenge. No one expects to eradicate vice, but it must be effectively zoned and regulated -- even if it's illegal.


Better prevent than cleaning up later

One of the most common thing that can happen when you're online is that your identity is stolen.
And of course not for a joke, but for using it in the worst way.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Isn't that what we think Heaven should be?

How would you like a garden IN the garden?
A place where you can relax, work, live your free time, like if you were in your garden, but being in a sheltered place, no rain, no snow, no cold, no heat?
Gardens, and I talk because I have a house with a big garden, are wonderful to look at, but there are so few days a year you can actually enjoy being there.
Either is Winter and it is too cold, or there is too much snow.
Or it is Spring and the garden looks alluring, but it mostly rains and the days are still quite cool and short.
Or it is Summer and you would think you can spend most of your time in the garden.
But it is usually too hot, there are mosquitoes, too much sun and so on...
But actually having a garden in the garden a shelter where is never too warm or too cold, where it never rains or snow, that is a real dream.
No more today.
You can buildgarden offices or garden places where you can do whatever you would like to do in a garden, providing you have the right place in it.
Garden Escapes combine innovative design with the natural beauty of your garden; traditional materials like wood and glass with sophisticated technology to create a garden building where you can actually "live" and work, a home office, an elegant garden room or just a place to relax away from the house. Together with Garden Escape comes an experienced team of technicians, that will design a room tailored to fit your individual needs.
What about a big party?
You do not need to look at weather forecast.
Your garden is always available.
Or just resting and looking outside, feeling comfortable and in the same time, being close to Nature?
Or having your office, a place where you can comfortably work, in the green and best of all, where the only noise is the chirping of the birds.
Isn't that what we think Heaven should be?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One or many?

Seth Godin | Seth’s Blog - One story per blog. Your story could be the “everything is interesting” story of boingboing or the very narrow story of But just one story per blog.

Anita Campbell | SmallBizTrends - As a general rule you are better off creating niche blogs, and sticking to a niche. As a reader, I personally do not care to read blogs which are a hodgepodge without a strong common theme.

John Chow | - I would put it on one because it’s better to have one big site than a bunch of smaller one.

Maki | - It depends on your goals and resources. If you are creating a blog purely for fun and to satisfy your interests, it doesn’t really make a difference if you build multiple sites or a single blog. If you’re using the blog as a means to generate direct or indirect income, you should probably start by examining your resources to see if you have the time or energy to market and maintain multiple niche blogs.
If you have the resources (money + time ), you could build up several niche blogs simultaneously and inter-promote them, especially if they are in related fields. The problem with this approach is that it can be very tiring; you should probably have some prior experience with blog development, along with an intense desire for success. You need to know how to systematically and consistently promote each of your niche blogs.

Chris Garret | - Either strategy can work. I have a personal blog where I write with zero concern for building an audience, have both tightly and loosely focused blogs, while at the same time I write for many highly topic-focused blogs belonging to others. Blogs can be targeted at a specific theme, a specific audience or not focused at all.

Wendy Piersall | eMoms at Home - I think it really depends on your goals for your blog as a whole. But I have found that focusing too tightly on one topic makes it difficult to continuously come up with new material.

Penelope Trunk | Brazen Careerist - One. A good blog is really really hard to maintain. Be good at something instead of mediocre at a bunch of things, it’s more rewarding.

Leo Babauta | Zen Habits - The question, to me, isn’t the topics or their common thread … it’s your target audience. Does your target audience want to read about all of the topics, or are you really speaking to several audiences.

Glen Stansberry | - I’d have to say that it all depends on the writer. For me, if the blogger can captivate me with entertaining and useful posts, I personally wouldn’t care if he blogged about lima beans!

John Wesley | PickTheBrain - It all depends on how closely the topics are related. If there is a good chance your readers are interested in all of them, they I think you’d be better off sticking with one big blog. If you try to create a bunch of niche oriented sites, the risk is that you’ll be spread too thin to really develop any of them.

Liz Strauss | Successful-Blog - Once, when I first started blogging I heard a veteran blogger give a young man this advice, “If you start a second blog, one will always get more time than the other. You will never give them both the best of yourself.”
Do I, with three blogs of my own, want to admit this is so? No.

Tamar Weinberg | Techipedia/Top-Digger - Personally, I think that if you spread yourself too thin, you’re going to lose a core of your audience. Some of the biggest blogs feature content that may not be relevant to particular users, and that’s okay.

Donald Latumahina | LifeOptimizer - I will do it on a single blog in the beginning. The purpose is to test the water. First, I’d like to know whether or not there is sufficient response to a particular topic. And second, I’d like to know whether or not I have the passion to write about that topic.

Yaro Starak | - That really depends on the topics. I’m inclined to focus on one blog only as the blog you write to because I aim for a two hour “blogging” day,

Henrik Edberg | - I think it depends on how remote the common thread is. If it’s really not much of a common thread then you may be better off with a few blogs to not confuse your readers with a weird mix. But if the thread is a little less remote then one blog would probably better to pour all your energy into.

My conclusion:
It depends on the one who writes.
If he feels to write more than one, why not?
I personally am quite Italian in that.
I began with one and then my appetite grew.
I just made as many as I felt like making.
And then one grew and the others survived.
Easier to write in one all what I felt like writing.
If you begin a niche blog you can always widener the niche.
A blog should be the expression of the writer and of course a writer is not just one subject.
And it is not true that many become a "hodgepodge without a strong common theme".
The common theme is always one and it is the writer.
Because whatever you say or write, it is you who comes in between the lines.
I guess a blog is homogeneous in the fact that reflects what you think and feel.
You can write about whatever you like, but it will always be "your style" writing as "your style" seeing, as "your style" living.
When we are born, we borrow a certain space on this world, space that will grow and one day will disappear and will belong to somebody else.
It is up to us to leave a print or not to leave it...

The cost of pollution

Last year, the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, a report commissioned by the UK government, caused a stir with its conclusion: The world's economies must pay relatively modest costs today to curb global warming or face an enormous bill later. Cost today? 1% of world GDP. Cost in the future? Reduction in world GDP of 5% to 20%.

It was the first analysis of its kind from a renowned economist, and it's been taken to task for using an incorrect discount rate. Still, the conclusions are hard to knock, evidenced by a recent Stern supporter: Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics and Professor Emeritus of Stanford University. He took a fine, hard look at Stern's conclusions and says they're spot on. Not an ounce of smoke and mirrors:


Are you a green traveler?

It’s easy to to think that individuals can’t make a difference when it comes to the issue of global warming. How often do we hear reports of governments and large companies making sweeping changes to help reduce their carbon pollution compared to smaller micro schemes? I often question the impact of individuals only to realise that real measurable change will only happen when everybody acts together. It is entirely possible to travel in an environmentally responsible way whereby you save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s a list of ideas and techniques that when applied to your life will save you money and help protect our environment.

1. Where possible, walk: Start with the simplest option first. Don’t drive everywhere, walk those small trips. In stating the obvious, by leaving the car behind and simply walking or riding a bike you are doing both yourself and the environment good. Not only will you save money on fuel and the general upkeep of car but other knock on effects include the improved outdoor air quality and reduction on road congestion.

2. Get on your bike: You’ll not always be able to walk to your destination. Jump on your bike for those trips where you’d normally be jumping into the car without a second thought. You’ll develop your muscles, improve cardiovascular health, reduce congestion and generate zero emissions.


We might as well face up to the fact that we live in a car culture, and it won’t change overnight. Fortunately there are a multitude of ways in which you can vastly improve the fuel efficiency of a vehicle so it can drive further on less fuel, emit fewer greenhouse gases and save you some money. Here are a few to get you started.

3. Get ready first, then go: How many times have you jumped into the car and realised your laptop or bag is still inside the house, then left the car idling while you fetch it? Plenty of times, it happens to us all. While you’ll never stop this from happening ever again, you can reduce the emissions by making sure you have everything you need before starting the engine.

4. Put your seatbelt on before starting engine: I read some time ago that on average we waste several hundred pounds / dollars (x2) of fuel by starting the engine and then putting on a seatbelt. Optimise your efficiency and maximise savings by securing your seatbelt first.

5. Improve MPG: Most road users don’t have a clue about how to look after their car never mind improving the Miles Per Gallon it can achieve. That sort of knowledge doesn’t need to remain within the car sub-culture. You can easily improve the MPG on any car by keeping tyres inflated to their manufacturer-specified pressure, employ steady acceleration and drive at a steady speed that requires fewer gear changes.

6. Don’t idle the engine: A modern car is designed to work efficiently as soon as it starts, so you don’t need to start the engine and let it warm up before you drive. Not even on cold winter mornings.

7. Smooth gear changes: shift up a gear when you hit 2500rpm for petrol cars and 2000rpm for diesel cars. Research indicates that a car travelling at 37mph in third gear uses 25 per cent more fuel than it would at the same speed in fifth gear.

8. Turn off air con: A car engine generates enough pollution without having to power an onboard air conditioning unit. It might be hot outside, but if you want to be serious about protecting the environment you’ll just have to keep the air conditioning turned off! Need further impetus? You’ll save money by driving for longer because of improved fuel efficiency.

9. Don’t charge electricals off car battery: It might be convenient, but charging your iPod / mobile / laptop / whatever off the car battery greatly increases fuel consumption. Of course you’ll still indirectly generate emissions when charging electrical gadgets at home, but it is still more efficient than doing so in a car.

10. Drive with windows up: This sounds so trivial, but it has been proven to work. If you keep your windows up your car will be subject to less drag, which improves the aerodynamic profile of the vehicle. Therefore, cars driven with the windows up are proven to achieve much higher MPG.

11. Remove rook racks: If you have roof racks installed on your car, remove them. If you surf / ski / snowboard, stow the boards inside the car. Roof racks increase the car’s weight and reduce aerodynamic efficiency, which increases the amount of fuel burnt to power the car.

12. Service regularly: This one can’t be overstated enough. If you want to make sure that your car performs at peak efficiency then you’ll have to get it serviced on a regular basis. Get the oil checked, swap out the brakes, check the exhaust etc. The idea is that a well-kept car will consume less fuel, pump out fewer greenhouse gases and also last longer, which in the longterm helps the environment and your bank balance.

14. Alternative forms of fuel: Refuel your car with an alternative form of fuel such as biodiesel instead of diesel. It can be quite expensive in the short term but it is possible to refit your vehicle to run on gas, ethanol or used fats and vegetable oils. This tactic is especially good if the fuels are locally produced.

15. Use premium fuel: If it is not possible to change the type of fuel your car can run on to bio, purchase the more expensive but environmentally friendly premium petrols. While these are still produced from oil, they are more efficient and much cleaner.

16. Carpool: Organised carpooling with your co-workers has quite a few advantages. You actively reduce air pollution, increase outdoor air quality by having 1 car on the road instead of 4. Also, carpooling saves you money and everybody can do it - you might even form some new friendships. You can use a variety of tools online to arrange or find carpooling opportunities - especially on Facebook

17. Hybrid Options: Opt for a hybrid hire car on your next holiday. Not only will you be reducing emissions while you drive, but you will be sending a positive message to the car hire industry by your endorsement of the ‘green’ car. Plus, you get to test drive a hybrid and put it through the motions! Make a more substantial commitment and consider a new hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius or get one of the ultra efficient small cars such as Citroen C4.

Public Transport

It’s widely considered to be the holy grail of environmentalism, but it’s sadly not quite there yet. Governments take big back handers from the car lobbyists, so we shouldn’t expect the world’s public transport networks to get massively better any time. Of course, there are cities around the world where the local government has invested heavily in public transport infrastructure - but you probably don’t live near one. Here are a few ways to maximise the positive environmental impact of what public transport is available to you.


Incorporating a company

What about incorporating your company in Nevada?
I will tell you why you should.
"South Dakota, Nevada, and Wyoming are the nation’s most entrepreneur-friendly states, according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council".
For example, compared to California,the amount of paperwork and all kinds of government forms is much less and less complicated.
Besides, doing business is not only about the hassle with bureaucracy. It is about having a good relationship with your customers.
Most of the businesses in “un-friendly” states might be doing much better than businesses in the most friendly states.
Another important issue is the fact that you pay much less taxes - close to zero in Nevada for example.
And it is so easy, you can do it on the Internet.
The Nevada corporationwill be processed in 60 minutes.
You also get help for the steps after setting up the company (Tax ID, Initial List of Officers/Managers/Members as well as the Company minutes).

The joy of life is in small things like shaving

If I told you a way you could improve your health, save money, help the environment, and feel better about yourself by doing something you already do every day, would you be interested?

As a reader of Zen Habits with values of simplicity and efficiency … I thought so. What’s surprising is this method has been around for over a hundred years. I’m talking about a traditional wet shave using a shaving brush, shaving soaps/creams, and a double edge razor. Before you scoff at this idea, let’s take a look at the benefits.

1. Improve Your Health. By far, the predominant reason men find traditional wet shaving is the promise of healthier skin. Fed up with razor burn, ingrown hairs, redness and bumps, many are searching for alternate methods to achieve a smooth face. Not only can wet shaving help with shaving problems, your face will thank you for the extra attention. Whereas the normal canned goo and aftershaves are made with chemicals and low cost ingredients, traditional products are full of nutrients and skin-friendly moisturizers. Your face will look better and feel healthier.

2. Save Money. I was drawn to wet shaving for the economical benefits after being increasingly frustrated with the multi-blade cartridge racket. Outside of the $100 initial investment, the daily consumables cost pennies a day. For instance, where a marketing driven cartridge razor can cost over $3 a piece, a typical double edge blade costs a quarter, a savings of over $140 per year on blades alone.

3. Reduce Your Environmental Impact. With traditional wet shaving, the only waste is the lather you wash down the drain and a simple metal blade, which is easily recycled. Shaving soap bowls can easily be reused if you buy refills. Even the lather down the drain is friendlier to the environment as it’s just soap rather than chemical ridden goop. Try a straight razor (yes, they’re still used) if you want to reduce your footprint even more.

4. Improve Your Wellbeing. It is well known that when you look your best, you feel better. Starting the morning off with an excellent shave, followed up by a quality aftershave leaves you feeling clean, professional, and smelling good. It consistently amazes me how good my day starts when I take a few minutes to treat myself to a good shave. I feel awake, more energy, and confident to tackle the day.

5. It’s fun! I had to add one more reason. It may be surprising, but for the reasons above, you may even find shaving to be fun. Scrubbing your face with a badger haired shaving brush with nice smelling lather is luxurious every time. You may also find yourself proud of learning to use traditional shaving items, which do require some skill to use correctly. You may even venture into the world of straight razor shaving and learn to shave the way your great-grandfather shaved, bringing to your life a sense of tradition and connection to years past.

A Quick How-To
Now that I have you convinced, you’re probably wondering how this all works. With apologies to the ladies, this brief guide will be directed at the gentlemen. However, fear not, the same basic approach can be used for hair removal of the female variety as well (my wife is a wet shaver!).

1. Prep Your Beard. One of the keys to any proper shave, regardless of the tools, is good preparation. There are a number of methods, but the key is to sufficiently hydrate the beard. Wet hair equals weaker hair, which means it’s easier to cut and results in less pulling and irritation. One of the easiest methods is to shave right after your shower giving your beard a few minutes to absorb the water.

2. Create and Apply The Lather. The easiest method to creating lather is to place an almond sized dollop of cream in a bowl. Take your pre-wetted brush and swirl the cream in the bowl until you get thick meringue-like lather. Use the brush to apply the lather to your wetted face using a swirling or painting motion depending on your preference.

3. Shaving the Beard. Cartridge razors are designed to remove as much hair as possible at once. This leads to a very quick shave, but also a poor one. A double edge razor is the normal razor of choice for the wet shaver, primarily due to the quality of the shave and ease of use. With a double edge razor, gradual beard reduction is the key, and typically results in 3 passes. Sure, this may take a bit longer, but the results are worth it. The key to mastering the DE razor is to use very light strokes at the proper angle. It will take a little experimenting to get it right, but anyone can learn to use one.

4. Post-Shave. Now that you have a smooth face, it’s beneficial to follow-up with an aftershave. This helps reduce any irritation that may have resulted, especially in the early stages of learning, and protects the skin during the day. Properly hydrated skin is healthier and looks better.

As I said, this guide is brief. You may very well find success using these simplified instructions. However, if you‘d like more information, there is an amazing amount of knowledge online regarding traditional wet shaving, from product recommendations to help with specific problems. One such place is, the largest online community devoted to wet shaving and men’s grooming (ladies welcome).

John Koontz happened to find wet shaving while looking for a better, less expensive shave about 2 years ago … and was hooked. Shaving became an enjoyable hobby instead of daily chore, and he’s now a moderator of the Badger & Blade forum where he’s been spreading the benefits of traditional wet shaving for 1.5 years

You forget something most Italians do, or used to do: sing your favorite piece of Opera. That really helps.