Monday, May 31, 2004

James Cook and the Transit of Venus: "Every 120 years or so a dark spot glides across the Sun. Small, inky-black, almost perfectly circular, it's no ordinary sunspot."

"On June 8, 2004, Venus is due to cross the face of the Sun again."
Truckers taking to Wi-Fi: "All across the concrete byways of this interstate nation, long-haul truckers are going the extra miles—but it isn't necessarily for heaping plates of hearty fare or hot showers.

"It's Wi-Fi they're wanting."

Friday, May 28, 2004

The Darkest Days: "In the spring of 1944, a group of 38 Ukrainian Jews emerged weak and jaundiced from a cave they'd used for nearly a year to escape the horrors of the Holocaust. Nearly fifty years later, one caver began his quest to bring their story of survival to life."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

New Virginia law protects marriage: "The new law is an amendment to the state's 1997 Affirmation of Marriage Act, which prohibits gay marriages. The amendment extends that ban to civil unions, partnership contracts and other 'arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage.'

"Virginia's attorney general and other supporters say the law provides a needed safeguard for the institution of marriage."

"The bill's sponsor, Delegate Robert Marshall, a Republican, said the law is aimed at preventing same-sex couples from acquiring the benefits of marriage through other means."

"Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the likely GOP nominee for governor next year, has said he believes the law will pass constitutional muster.

"Conservative groups such as the Family Foundation have praised the law, which passed the GOP-controlled legislature by a veto-proof margin after Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner tried to make it less restrictive."

"Virginia is the only state where companies not large enough to underwrite their own insurance policies are prohibited from offering domestic partner benefits. The state also bans joint adoptions by same-sex couples and refuses to list the names of same-sex couples from other states on the birth certificates of children adopted here.

"Lawmakers also shot down attempts this year to rewrite the state's anti-sodomy law to conform with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas law against gay sex."

"Victoria Cobb, lobbyist for the Family Foundation, … said, 'Virginia has always elevated marriage over all other relationships. Traditional marriage is undeniably beneficial to the economy.'"
The Daily News Online: "'The pace of life feels morally dangerous to me,' Richard Ford, the novelist, wrote six years ago.

"It has only gotten worse since then, complains David M. Levy, a victim of information overload who is also a computer scientist at the University of Washington's Information School.

"Levy is all but helpless, he says, when new e-mail arrives. He feels obliged to open it. He is similarly hooked on the news, images and nonsense that spill out of the Internet. He is also a receiver and sometimes a transmitter of 'surfer's voice,' the blanched prattling of someone on the phone while diddling around on the Web."

Monday, May 24, 2004

FRC Endorses 'Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act': "Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement in support of Sen. Sam Brownback's (R-KS) 'Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act' legislation:

"'We cannot deny the medical evidence now before us. From testimony [by pediatrician Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand] taken during the recent partial-birth abortion hearings and advancements in the field of in utero technology, science is telling us unborn children as young as 20 weeks old can feel ["severe and excruciating"] pain. The evidence we have is clear, and we should not keep that evidence from women.'"

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Cicadas Return for Mating Season After 17 Years in Hiding: "There is a natural phenomenon of biblical proportions hiding beneath D.C.'s soil, and it has the potential to make this summer the most memorable of the past 17 years.

"After 17 years in hibernation, cicadas, locust-like insects, will surface in large swarms in several parts of the country, mostly in areas between New Jersey and Georgia. The district is expected to start seeing the flying insects beginning in mid-May and ending around mid-June. They are similar to, but are definitely not, the insects that caused one of the plagues in the Bible."

"Surprisingly, cicadas have a historical significance in the district's black community. Benjamin Banneker is believed to be the first person to document the life cycle of cicadas. In his book, The Life of Benjamin Banneker, he wrote about first seeing the cicadas in large numbers in 1749 when he was 17. He then recorded their return in 1766 and again in 1783. He accurately predicted their return in 1800."

Following the 17-year cycle, that means they came when he was in utero—interesting destiny. So, in following the 17-year cycles, that means they came in 1834, 1851, 1868, 1885, 1902, 1919, 1936, 1953, 1970 and 1987. Seventeen years after that comes … 2004! Oh joy.

"In recognition of the cicada's return and Benjamin Banneker, a plan is in effect to have a statue of Banneker erected in Banneker Overlook Park, near L'Enfant Plaza."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Google Confirms Automated Page Removal Bug: "A great thread emerged yesterday at WebmasterWorld.com about how someone managed to apparently remove the home pages of Microsoft and Adobe from Google."
Google's employee No. 1—search and create: "If there ever was an employee who carried the water for Google, it's Craig Silverstein, employee No. 1, technology director and loyal chanter of the search company's 'don't be evil' mantra."

"Silverstein has long been a champion of working hard and whistling while you do it. As Google's director of technology, he balances pie-in-the-sky visions for search—in other words, artificially intelligent search pets—and churning out products that improve people's access to information."
Waste Not: "Right now, astronaut waste gets shipped back to Earth. But for long-term exploration, you'd want to recycle it, because it holds resources that astronauts will need. It will provide pure drinking water. It will provide fertilizer. And, with the help of a recently discovered microbe, it will also provide electricity.

"Like many bacteria, this one, a member of the Geobacteraceae family, feeds on, and can decompose, organic material. Geobacter microbes were first discovered in the muck of the Potomac River in 1987; they like to live in places where there's no oxygen and plenty of iron."
Electric Border Collies: "For thousands of years, humans have been herding. Goats. Sheep. Cattle. It's not always easy, and modern ranchers usually have help. They use a Border Collie to keep their beasts together. These dogs are amazing; if they can see it, they can herd it. But what do you do if you want to herd, say, microbes?

"It's not as silly as it sounds. Onboard a spaceship, for instance, a few microbes floating in the ship's drinking supply could be a harbinger of trouble to come. The same is true of urban water supplies. What if terrorists dump pathogens into a city reservoir? Herding microbes together for testing and eradication could save the day."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I bought the coolest little keyboard today! Micro Innovations makes some really cool stuff.

It will make entering numbers into my massive spreadsheets a lot easier. I recently took over the L'Enfant Plaza store—May 8th, to be exact. It's been a phenomenal number of hours to start, but things are syncing into place.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Hadley Arkes on Gay Marriage & Massachusetts: "If it is countdown for marriage in Massachusetts, it is countdown also for Mitt Romney, whose political demise may be measured along the scale of moves he could have taken and the record of his receding, step by step, until he finally talked himself into doing nothing, or nothing much."

"Romney could have invoked the Massachusetts constitution (Part 2, ch. III, art. V): 'All causes of marriage, divorce, and alimony, and all appeals from the Judges of probate shall be heard and determined by the Governor and Council, until the Legislature shall, by law, make other provision.'"

"Massachusetts had long ago followed the lead of Congress in restricting the power of judges."

"As the dispute over gay marriage wore on, it became clear that the legislature was having trouble enough forming a majority to affirm marriage between a man and a woman. It was too much to imagine that the politicians would be seized with the convictions of old that moved them to confront the judges, even when the court was usurping the powers of the legislature."

"Clerks in several places have made it known that they will not ask couples from other states whether they intend to move to Massachusetts [or if they're just coming to get married], and two district attorneys have already indicated that they will not prosecute clerks who violate the order of the governor."

"It hardly makes sense to speak of leaving this matter of marriage to people in the separate states if the judges, state or federal, are free to take matters out of the hands of the voters and the legislators they elect."

[We are witnessing the uncontested hijacking and subsequent unraveling of our government.]

"On the other hand, if the constitutional authority was really with the governor, to act for himself and the legislature, then it made the most profound difference that the governor flex that authority now himself: He could invoke his powers under the constitution; cite the error of the court in seizing jurisdiction wrongfully for itself; and order all licenses of marriage to be sent on to Boston, to his office, until the legislature, in the fullness of time, settled its policy on marriage."

"By an act of that kind he would have forced a change in the focus of the litigation: The task would fall then to the court to entertain challenges to the actions of the governor. If the judges summoned the governor to appear before them, there would no longer be any quibble over the question of whether the governor has standing before the court, or whether he would appear. And the court could be compelled now to face precisely the issue that the judges had skirted: whether the majority of four had themselves violated the constitution of Massachusetts."

Sunday, May 16, 2004

semacode | real-world hyperlinks This is interesting. The difference between this and the :CueCat is the portability of wireless phones. How significant a difference that will make in the long term is anyone's guess.
Va. Republicans Choose Defense Specialist to Challenge Moran: "Northern Virginia Republicans have picked the owner of a government relations firm as their candidate to challenge Democratic Congressman Jim Moran.

"About 600 Republican delegates in the 8th congressional district chose Lisa Marie Cheney Saturday afternoon during a nominating convention in Franconia. Four party members were vying for the candidacy."

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Google Blog Edited By PR: "May 11, 2004, WebProNews reported on Google launching their official blog. This came on the heels of the search engine re-launching the updated Blogger.com."
Today's fresh helping of Googlemania
New Google service challenges Yahoo Groups: "Taking on Yahoo in yet another field, Google is testing a service that lets people create e-mail discussion groups."

"Google's service will compete directly with Yahoo Groups, a cornerstone of Yahoo's Web community services. That front is only the latest in an ongoing competition between the two Internet companies.

"In the past five and a half years, Google has morphed from a straightforward Web search engine into a network of Internet services, many of which rival Yahoo's. Overlapping services from the two companies include a comparison-shopping engine [Froogle vs. Yahoo Shopping], tools for Web publishing [Blogger vs. GeoCities] and, most recently, free Web-based e-mail [Gmail vs. Yahoo Mail]."

Saturday, May 8, 2004

Behind Google's Success Lurks a Cult Advertising Phenomenon: "Google's enormous commercial success is fueled by an addictive cult advertising phenomenon that serious web marketers have grown to love. Google's unusual IPO and share voting structure will be necessary to keep Wall Street from destroying the ingenious AdWords Advertising system."
Google's move reminiscent of Apple: "Like Apple of the 1980s, Google proposes to be a hip, iconoclastic, enlightened, good multinational corporation. It will challenge stale wisdom, fight evil and usher an envious corporate America into sunlit pastures. Good luck, Google, but the odds are against you. Apple had the same dream. These days Apple is just another Standard & Poor's 500 member trying to hit quarterly earnings targets."
Spirited Scalia not one to shy away: "Eighteen years after President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the nation's highest court, Scalia has earned a reputation as the most conservative—and most colorful—justice."
Wanted: Google chairman: "Job ads get interesting as Schmidt steps down…"

Friday, May 7, 2004

Was Galileo Wrong?: "Could one of the fundamental assumptions of modern physics, the Equivalence Principle, be wrong? A group of NASA-supported researchers are going to find out by bouncing laser beams off the Moon. They'll use a new Moon-laser facility opening in New Mexico this fall, and some mirrors left behind on the Moon by Apollo astronauts 30 years ago."

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Google leaves curious fans wanting more: "For years, closely held Google Inc. had been so secretive that when it registered last week for an initial public offering, the crush of people trying to read it nearly crashed the Securities and Exchange Commission's Web site.

"Googlephiles found plenty of tantalizing nuggets in the hefty document—the company's financial results, the salaries of its top executives, and the fact that it will lose the exclusive license to its search technology in 2011."
NASA Satellites And Balloons Spot Airborne Pollution 'Train': "Scientists believe during certain seasons, as much as half of the ozone pollution above the Atlantic Ocean may be speeding down a 'train' track of air from the Indian Ocean."
Crescent Brilliance: "Venus is the brightest of all planets. It makes Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, look feeble. At sundown Venus materializes close to the western horizon."

"This week Venus (magnitude -4.5) is at maximum brightness. It is 8 times brighter than the planet Jupiter (magnitude -2.3), 23 times brighter than Sirius (magnitude -1.1), and 275 times brighter than the planet Mars (magnitude +1.6). Venus can actually cast faint shadows; only the Sun and Moon outshine it."

"Just like the Moon, Venus has phases. It can be full, gibbous, half or a crescent. These phases occur for the same reason that Moon phases do: geometry. One side of Venus is sunlit (the 'dayside'). The other side is dark (the 'nightside'). As Venus orbits the Sun it turns one side, then the other, toward Earth. At the moment, Venus is turning its nightside toward us. We can see only a sliver of the dayside—hence the crescent.

"In one way Moon-phases and Venus-phases differ: The Moon is bright when it's full, and dim when it's a crescent. Venus is just the opposite. It reaches greatest brilliancy at crescent phase. A full Venus, on the other hand, is dim. Strange but true."

"Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians).

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Google wants to save the world: "Google Inc, not content with successfully making the internet a more useful information hub, has set an even loftier goal for itself: to create a foundation to tackle 'the largest problems of the world.'

"With a thriving enterprise driving such altruism, Google could become one of the big-time do-gooders in the world of corporate philanthropy. But, unlike the Rockefellers, Fords, Carnegies and others who first exploited industrial upheaval with new products and services, then turned to giving, Google is starting out with a different corporate ethos—captured in its 'don't be evil' mantra."A

Saturday, May 1, 2004

A Pocket of Near-Perfection: "Engineers don't often indulge in poetic flourish when discussing the things they build. So when words like 'beautiful' and 'elegant' and 'artful' frequently cross the lips of scientists and engineers as they talk about the design of Gravity Probe B (GP-B), one might suspect that this spacecraft is truly something special."
Google Plans Auction-Style IPO: "Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston will lead the deal, according to the SEC filing. As expected, Google will take the unusual step of auctioning its shares.

"'An auction is an unusual process for an IPO in the United States,' the company said in its S1 filed with the SEC. 'Our experience with auction-based advertising systems has been surprisingly helpful in the auction design process for the IPO. As in the stock market, if people try to buy more stock than is available, the price will go up. And of course, the price will go down if there aren't enough buyers.'

"With Google, 'unusual' is the operative word. In its Thursday filing, the Mountain View, Calif., company took pains to caution potential investors that 'Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.'"
Google Files Long-Awaited Initial Public Offering: "In the filing today, Google disclosed its earnings and revenues for the first time. For all of last year, the company said it had net income of $105.6 million on revenues of $961.8 million. So far this year, the company has earned $63.9 million, up sharply from the $25 million in net income it earned in the first three months of 2003."
Google co-founder leads modest life, says father: "One co-founder of Google may be on the verge of pulling in billions of dollars with the most anticipated public offering in years, but he continues to live modestly, his Russian emigre father said on Monday."

"The elder Brin set the stage for his son's classic American success story by emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1979. The mathematician father had worked as an economist with an institute of the Communist planning agency Gosplan."

"Because of discrimination against Jews, Michael Brin and his wife, a mathematician working as a civil engineer, left in 1979 with their young son Sergey. Michael Brin got a job at the University of Maryland mathematics department where he still teaches, and thought his son might follow in his footsteps."
Virginia Military Institute Loses High Court Appeal Over Prayer: "Virginia Military Institute lost a U.S. Supreme Court appeal of a lower court ruling that the state-supported college violated the Constitution by including a prayer in its evening mess hall ceremony."

Stevens, opinion (PDF)
Scalia, dissenting (PDF)
Links to Terrorism: "During their opening statement in Sami Al-Hussayen's trial at the federal courthouse in Boise, Idaho, prosecutors put a new spin on the slippery concept of 'links to terrorism.' The Idaho Statesman reports that they 'displayed a chart' showing how a Web site that Al-Hussayen had helped maintain 'could eventually access 20 other sites with ties to radical organizations.'

"Talk about guilt by association. Given the interconnected nature of the World Wide Web (they don't call it a 'web' for nothing), just about any site with hyperlinks 'could eventually access' something sinister."
EFF Launches Patent-Busting Campaign > April 26, 2004: "The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched its 'patent busting' campaign this week to draw attention to what it sees as serious flaws in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's current patent approval procedures. According to EFF representatives, the current system has a growing negative impact on consumers, businesses and software developers."
National Mall finally opens World War II Memorial to public: "Gray-haired war veterans sat in quiet reflection. Tourists came by to quietly say thanks. Schoolchildren on field trips crowded around asking for autographs. Decades in the planning, the National World War II Memorial opened to the public Thursday."
National Mall Now Has Hot Spots: "Free, publicly available outdoor Wi-Fi access debuted here Wednesday morning with the launch of a wireless hotspot in front of the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the Capitol Visitors' Center.

"Sponsored by the non-profit Open Park Project, the Capitol Hill hotspot is the initial step in the organization's plan to provide free public wireless Internet service across the entire two-mile long National Mall."
Robot may save day for Hubble: "With astronauts banned from Hubble because of space shuttle safety concerns, the University of Maryland's Ranger robot could conceivably save the day by installing fresh batteries and other life-sustaining parts on the observatory.

"Or if not Ranger, then Robonaut, NASA's very own humanoid robot, or the Canadian Space Agency's Dextre, a two-armed robot intended for the international space station, or any number of other robots under development that could blast off aboard an unmanned rocket in three or four years.

"While astronomers and astronauts may wince and scoff at the prospect of a machine working on their beloved Hubble, the robot crowd can barely hide its glee over NASA's search for a mechanical deliverer.

"First stop: Hubble. Next stop: moon, Mars and beyond."