December 4th, 2006

(no subject)

From's newsletter:

A tough California bill that would have prohibited companies and individuals from using deceptive "pretexting" ruses to steal private information about consumers was killed after determined lobbying by the motion picture industry. The bill, SB1666, was written by state Sen. Debra Bowen, and would have barred investigators from making "false, fictitious or fraudulent" statements or representations to obtain private information about an individual, including telephone calling records, Social Security numbers and financial information. Victims would have had the right to sue for damages.,72214-0.html

CITY OF MANCHESTER PLANS TO OFFER FREE CITY-WIDE WIFI Manchester could become the biggest free wireless internet hotspot in Europe under plans unveiled by the city council. The network, inspired by projects in San Francisco and Amsterdam, would cover 90% of Greater Manchester and reach up to 2.2 million people.

SECURITY OF ELECTRONIC VOTING IS CRITICIZED An assessment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology has found that paperless electronic voting machines used throughout the Washington region and much of the country "cannot be made secure". The findings present the most sweeping condemnation of such voting systems by a federal agency.
<> [Washington Post]
From the livescience LiveJournal feed:

Survival of the Loudest: Urban Birds Change Their Tune
To survive the urban jungle, birds change their tune, with faster-paced and higher-pitched songs to make them heard above the din.

Public Release: 4-Dec-2006
American Naturalist
Why do males and females of some species look so different?
Why and how do males and females of the same species often look so different? Armin Mocsek (Indiana University) has shown that in a certain group of insects, sex-differences in appearance are not the product of growing structures in a sex-specific manner, as previously assumed, but rather are generated by the sex-specific loss, or removal, of structures initially grown alike by both males and females.

Public Release: 4-Dec-2006
Current Anthropology
Gendered division of labor gave modern humans advantage over Neanderthals
Diversified social roles for men, women and children may have given Homo sapiens an advantage over Neanderthals, says a new study in the December 2006 issue of Current Anthropology. The study argues that division of economic labor by sex and age emerged relatively recently in human evolutionary history and facilitated the spread of modern humans throughout Eurasia.
'"Earlier hominins pursued more narrowly focused economies, with women's activities more closely aligned with those of men with respect to schedule and ranging patterns," write the authors. "It is impossible to argue that [Neanderthal] females and juveniles were fulfilling the same roles—or even an equally diverse suite of economic roles—as females and juveniles in recent hunter-gatherer groups," they add.'
[Remember the distinction between "argued" and "proven."//Anyone care to guess how long till someone uses this as a stick to beat feminism with?]

Public Release: 4-Dec-2006
American Naturalist
Why do some queen bees eat their worker bee's eggs?
Worker bees, wasps and ants are often considered neuter. But in many species they are females with ovaries, who although unable to mate, can lay unfertilized eggs which turn into males if reared. For some species, such as bumble bees, this is the source of many of the males in the species. But in others, like the honeybee, workers "police" each other -- killing eggs laid by workers or confronting egg-laying workers.

Public Release: 4-Dec-2006
Vanishing beetle horns have surprise function
In this month's American Naturalist (December 2006) and the November 2006 issue of Evolution, Indiana University Bloomington scientists present an entirely new function for the horns: during their development, Onthophagus horned beetles use their young horns as a sort of can opener, helping them bust out of thick larval shells.
National Science Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Public Release: 4-Dec-2006
The message in advertising is irrelevant, new research shows
Creativity and emotion are what makes advertising successful, not the message it is trying to get over, new research shows. Dr Robert Heath, from the University of Bath's School of Management, found that advertisements with high levels of emotional content enhanced how people felt about brands, even when there was no real message.

Public Release: 4-Dec-2006
Archives of General Psychiatry
Antidepressants associated with increased risk for suicide attempts, decreased risk for death
Suicidal individuals taking antidepressant medications appear to have an increased risk of additional suicide attempts, but a reduced risk of dying from suicide or any other cause, according to a large Finnish study reported in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

(no subject)

Sunday December 3, 2006. It occurred to me that zombies would be useful for fighting against vampires.

Later, I began thinking about zombie angels and vampire angels.

***Twin Cities Speculative Fiction Writers Network meetup in the community room at the Uptown Lunds. (Lunds is an upscale supermarket chain.)

Lunds has food samples on weekends. I snacked on various of these, bought something to eat during the meeting and some groceries. (Lunds brand bread of the kinds I like is cheaper than I've found anywhere else.)

Introductions, for the benefit of newcomers. For a while, it sounded like a meeting of Assistant Organizers Anonymous. Organizer Hilary Moon Murphy has appointed a number of Assistant Organizers; and one person after another said "My name's ___, and I'm an Assistant Organizer."

Question and answer session with Eric Heideman, editor of Tales of the Unanticipated (local semi-prozine which has had stories given honorable mentions in best-of-year anthologies.)

Readings from members' works.
Writing: "A Killing in Futures" -- read at Meetup. Got useful comments.

Self-help information:

(no subject)

Monday December 4, 2006. From a discussion elsewhere:

My rule of thumb: the answer to "Has this idea been used?" is almost always "Yes, at least twenty years before you think it possibly could have been used." If you're building a story around the idea, that's usually no problem. If you're not revealing the idea till the surprise ending, it's likely to be a problem -- because to at least some readers, it won't be a surprise.

For that matter -- in F. M. Busby's novel _The Breeds of Man_, the Big Idea is saved till the end. Before that, the reader knows that 1) the next generation of humans has undergone extensive genetic engineering because without it they wouldn't survive the balonium pollution; and 2) there's something about them which shocks and horrifies the old folks. At the end it's revealed: they change sex: male one year (or whatever) [correction: two months],female the next, etc. [Must make pregnancy interesting...] An interesting idea, not quite one which had been used before -- and Busby could have written a much more interesting story if he'd used it as a story device rather than saving it for the surprise ending.
The newsgroup soc.history.what-if is dedicated to alternate history (what if Robert E. Lee had lost the Battle of Pittsburgh? What if Nazi Germany had invaded England with flying pigs?) Sometimes there are posts purporting to be from an alternate world, reviewing West Wing episodes. These episodes 1) are taken from real events in our timeline and 2) are said to be exceedingly unconvincing.

Whoever scripted this past election season has done a really, really bad job. The action and dialog for some of the politician characters were idiotic beyond the bounds of reality (even for values of reality which include the way characters in horror movies get themselves killed off.)

Almost as bad as the scriptwriters for Canadian politics.
Self-help information:

Decluttering: Trash out.