November 20th, 2006

(no subject)

Sunday November 19, 2006. What interests me most in science fiction these days: obscure future possibilities. Not "[Soviet Union/Radical Islam/current boogyman] takes over entire civilized world, and also places outside the US," or "People who, like the writer, believe in the only sane ideology set up space habitats in which everyone is free." But -- let's say a writer in 1946 predicting something rather like the Internet, instead of human-form robots (Murray Leinster, "A Logic named Joe" Or predicting in 1955 that Canada would have legal same-sex marriage before the US did. Or, of course, equivalent predictions which didn't work out -- but which might have.

From an essay under construction, "The Beast With an Unlisted Number:"

'In 1981, the Soviet Menace was obviously (in the US) a major problem. And it was going to continue being a problem well into the 21st century.

'This was obviously a minor problem: "On July 4th, the CDC reports that during the past 30 months, 26 cases of Kaposi Sarcoma have been reported among Gay males, and that eight have died, all within 24-months of diagnosis."

'Ten years later, the Soviet Union was no longer a threat. On the other hand: "Number of known deaths [from AIDS] in US during 1991 -- 20,454."

'Fiction set in the future is likely to have one or both of these problems: 1) Author assumes the future will be like the present in certain ways (smoking habits of 1950s Americans will continue at least through the 21st century, the US and USSR will be the two superpowers, England will continue to be a world power), and the future doesn't cooperate. 2) Author assumes certain changes. But people refuse to replace their groundcars with flying cars, the Soviet Union neglects to take over the world, humanity is foolish enough not to adopt sane sexual attitudes (leaving the author still part of a minority).

'A comment I made in this discussion

'"Really likely speculation without handwaving" in the 1950s would have excluded anything like the Internet as we know it; anti-smoking laws (everyone knew smoking was a harmless pleasure, except some religious cranks); the Soviet Union falling apart with relatively little violence; India having nuclear weapons; the European Union....'
Writing: "The Beast With an Unlisted Number" -- got restarted on it.

Self-help information:

Decluttering: Trash out.


I am not making this up

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Party of one - and it isn't Lieberman
By Brian Lockhart
Staff Writer

November 17, 2006

The political party formed by U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman after he lost the Democratic primary in August has a new chairman - and it's not Lieberman.

However, according to the bylaws adopted by its new chairman, Lieberman critic and Fairfield University professor John Orman, the senator is an eligible party candidate.

According to bylaws established by Orman, anyone whose last name is Lieberman may seek the party's nomination - or any critic of the senator.

Orman seized control of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party this week after registering as its sole member and electing himself as chairman.

Got this from

(no subject)

From's newsletter:

My weekly Law Bytes column focuses on the Canadian parliamentary review of national privacy legislation which is scheduled to commence today. The column calls for four changes to the law - the inclusion of security breach disclosure requirement, providing the privacy commissioner with order making power, naming the names of organizations found to have violated Canadian privacy law, and address concerns over cross-border data flows. Toronto Star version at
Homepage version at

China's easing of a ban on the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia appears to have been short-lived. Users reported Friday that the site was unavailable in several parts of China, barely a week after it suddenly became accessible.

Adobe might sue Microsoft if it is not satisfied with the EU's steps to ensure Microsoft's new Vista operating system does not shut out rivals. Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said the company could either sue Microsoft directly or to work with the authorities and provide them with the necessary information.

The Japanese government has set up a panel to discuss Internet network neutrality and how the surging popularity of services such as is impacting the infrastructure. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said it will call for inputs from companies such as Google, Yahoo Japan and Apple Computer, as well as phone operators and television networks, and aim to compile a final report on the subject by July 2007.
From the livescience LiveJournal feed:

Male Chimps Prefer Older Females
A new study could shed light on how the more chimp-like ancestors of humans might have behaved.

Science Press Releases

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Extraordinary life found around deep-sea gas seeps
An international team led by scientists from the United States and New Zealand have observed, for the first time, the bizarre deep-sea communities living around methane seeps off New Zealand's east coast. This is the first time cold seeps have been viewed and sampled in the southwest Pacific. Cold seeps are areas of the seafloor where methane gas or hydrogen sulphide escapes from large stores deep below.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Ocean Exploration, New Zealand Institute of Atmoshpheric Research, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Hawaii

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Geophysical Research Letters
Level of important greenhouse gas has stopped growing
Scientists at UC Irvine have determined that levels of atmospheric methane -- an influential greenhouse gas -- have stayed nearly flat for the past seven years, which follows a rise that spanned at least two decades.
NASA, Gary Comer Abrupt Climate Change Fellowship

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
American Journal of Education
Does student achievement really spur national economic growth?
Educational policy discourse supports the idea that increases in science and mathematics achievement correlate to nation-wide economic gains. However, a thought-provoking new study from the American Journal of Education challenges the perceived causal links between educational achievement and economic growth. Francisco O. Ramirez (Stanford University) and his co-authors find that without the so-called "Asian Tigers," the correlation diminishes and all but disappears.

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Touch tracking bypasses mind control
For people unable to simultaneously rub their stomach while patting their head, a new twist may be at hand. Touch, rather than concentration, could let people multi-task with their hands, and this may also potentially help improve the performance of people with coordination problems, according to psychologists.
National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Canadian Medical Association Journal
OPICAN study in 7 Canadian cities reveals prescription opioid abuse more prevalent than heroin
A new study conducted in seven Canadian cities reveals that prescription opioids, and not heroin, are the major form of illicit opioid use. These findings raise questions about the current focus of Canada's drug control policy and treatment programs.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Annals of Internal Medicine
Medicaid patients less likely than those with private insurance to receive recommended cardiac care
Medicaid patients with acute coronary syndromes were less likely to receive evidence-based therapies and had worse outcomes than patients with HMO or private insurance according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Archives of Dermatology
Marathon runners may be at increased risk for skin cancer
In an Austrian study, marathon runners had more atypical moles and other skin lesions suggestive of a risk for skin cancer than did a comparison group of age- and sex-matched controls, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Report card on Vancouver's safer injecting facility
Wood and colleagues summarize the findings from evaluations of a Vancouver safer injecting facility opened in September 2003.
"Findings show that the facility has attracted injection drug users at high risk of HIV infection and drug overdose and that there have been large reductions in public drug use, publicly discarded syringes and syringe sharing.

"Use of the facility has also been associated with decreased HIV risk behaviour and increased uptake of addiction treatment services. The program has acted as a central referral mechanism to a wide range of other community resources."

Public Release: 20-Nov-2006
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Got cotton? Texas researchers' discovery could yield protein to feed millions
Researchers at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station used RNAi to reduce the toxic compound gossypol from cottonseed to a level that is considered safe for consumption, but left the compound in the rest of the plant to ward off insects and disease. Once commercialized, seed from these plants could provide a new, high-protein food available to 500 million people a year.
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station

Public Release: 19-Nov-2006
Nature Neuroscience
Fighting like a girl or boy determined by gene in fruit flies
Fighting like a girl or fighting like a boy is hardwired into fruit fly neurons, according to a study in the November 19 Nature Neuroscience advance online publication by a research team from Harvard Medical School and the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna. The results confirm that a gene known as "fruitless" is a key factor underlying sexual differences in behavior.
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences