Monday, January 31

Exotic diseases are the curse of foreign travel. The Associated Press has an article spelling out all of the glorious ways one can become ill overseas.
A Minnesota town is the namesake of Brainerd diarrhea, first identified there in 1984. Dr. Robert Tauxe, head of foodborne illness at the CDC, calls it “diarrhea for life.” It sickened 200 people on successive voyages on a small boat around the Galapagos Islands in 1992. A 1998 report on the outbreak found many still suffering from it.

“We’ve studied it extensively, but to this day we don’t know the cause of this yet. We don’t know if it’s a virus or bacteria or what,” Tauxe said.

Bill Gates goes by, in sort of a little-boy sweater, surrounded by a minor entourage. Gates has kind of a goofy, but pleasant, look on his face. I notice someone watching this, sort of amused — wry little smile on his face. He's by himself. He's Michael Dell. (I think of telling him about my laptop problems, but I refrain.)

Area codes blur boundaries
After operating a voice-over-IP, or VOIP, phone with a Boston number for two years, Copeland, who runs a blog advertising firm, bowed to pressure and ordered an additional number -- with a local Chapel Hill area code -- for his internet phone. He got tired of turning down business lunches in Boston and receiving e-mail messages from clients who assumed he lived there.

Thursday, January 27

More images from space. Photos from the European Space Agency's Smart-1 lunar orbiter show close ups of the moon's surface.

Turin shroud 'older than thought'
A research paper published in Thermochimica Acta suggests the shroud is between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.

The author dismisses 1988 carbon-14 dating tests which concluded that the linen sheet was a medieval fake.

The shroud, which bears the faint image of a blood-covered man, is believed by some to be Christ's burial cloth.

The radiocarbon sample has completely different chemical properties than the main part of the shroud relic
Raymond Rogers

Raymond Rogers says his research and chemical tests show the material used in the 1988 radiocarbon analysis was cut from a medieval patch woven into the shroud to repair fire damage.

Tuesday, January 25

Google is beta testing AdSense ads that let readers select a new set of ads to be displayed on the page. You can see them in action here. (via InsideGoogle)

Monday, January 24

Quicken 2005 is getting hammered in the Amazon reviews. I can't remember the last product I've seen that was so soundly thrashed. Quicken has restricted the types of financial files that can be imported into the application and in some versions the upgrade appears to be buggy, even causing Intuit's TurboTax to crash. We've been a happy Quicken household for years, but I'm delaying my purchase plans this year.
I have been a Quicken user since Quicken 3 for DOS, i.e. since about 1992. I was even a beta tester for Intuit, a great fan of their products. Well, my opinion has changed. Citing some sort of security and consistency concerns, Intuit has decided to remove support for QIF files. If you know what these are, don't even think about buying QN05. If you don't know what QIF files are and if you don't have an earlier copy of QN, you can probably go ahead and buy Quicken 2005.

QIF files are external files that can be imported into QN. Banks and brokers send them to summarize transactions. In my case, I have about 20 401k investment transactions monthly that I used to import using QN01. Now I have to tediously type in all the data: security, price, shares, ad nauseum.

Update: My father says he's using Quicken Premium 2005 without any of the problems noted in the Amazon reviews.

Friday, January 21

Jonah Goldberg is feeling old.
Kids going to college this fall were born the year I graduated from high school. Which means that I was going to bars three years before they were born. It also means that they have no real memory of the Soviet Union's existence. It means the scar on my left thumb from the old 'Defender' video game is older than they are. It means the first president they were conscious of was Bill Clinton. They don't remember apartheid. They don't remember when Jesse Jackson wasn't a joke. Or when China took Marxism even remotely seriously. Star Wars was an old movie by the time they saw it and they can't remember when Pat Buchanan was a loyal Republican. Big Brother refers to a TV show first and a book by some dead guy second. Most of them have never used a typewriter, never been in a world where the broadcast-news anchors weren't hemorrhaging viewers to cable, never really did school work without the aid of the Internet, and never knew a time when people didn't have cell phones.

Signs of progress in Uganda
... Uganda, like many African countries, has drastically lowered school fees recently. This allows many poor kids to go to public schools – and has made many middle-class parents want to get their kids into private schools, away from the masses of under-educated poor kids.

Thursday, January 20

Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge has an excerpt from the book Category Killers by Robert Spector, which explores what's next for big-box, category killers like Staples and Home Depot.
Because many shoppers are reacting negatively to dealing with big superstores full of jammed aisles and backed-up checkout lines, they are turning to smaller specialty stores, where they can get in, buy what they're looking for, and get out. In response, category killers are opening small, easier-to-shop, neighborhood stores to attract these time-pressed consumers. Although smaller stores translate to lower costs, the challenge for category killers is to find ways to extract the highest possible number of sales in a limited space.

Waterspout off the Florida Keys

Wednesday, January 12

Blogging is light this week as I grab some business knowledge. In a little free time I've been reading In the Land of Magic Soldiers, a jarring story of Sierra Leone's decade of civil war. It's hard to describe the indignities and injustices suffered by the country's people that included, rather than a firing squad, the chopping off of hands and limbs. The books is certainly worth a read for a look at the brutality that still exists in some parts of the world.

Hacker penetrates T-Mobile and grabs Secret Service and celebrity files.

Sunday, January 9

The New York Times Magazine takes a look at Chinese counterfeiting. Chinese companies, including government-owned firms, are reverse engineering U.S. pharmaceuticals and producing near perfect replicas. The ease Chinese firms have in recreating products will likely impact the future of a large number of industries that rely on intellectual property rights to generate revenue.
Some of our most valuable things -- software codes, pharmaceutical processes, car designs, digital movie files -- weigh nothing and, as e-mail attachments, can move at the speed of light. To learn American ideas and procedures is all but the same as owning them. (Unless, of course, laws successfully prohibit their co-option.) In contrast, most of what China makes that finds its way into the world market is physical. The Chinese can borrow and steal the designs to our best products all they want. For instance, 90 percent of all software running on Chinese computers has been pirated and bought openly in stores for around $3 a copy. But if Americans wanted to borrow and steal what China makes, we would have to march in with an army and commandeer Chinese factories and workers. Western powers and the Japanese tried that in the mid-19th and -20th centuries, respectively, and will not repeat the experiment. China, however, can in a sense colonize the developed world simply through careful study and a willingness to go its own way on intellectual-property protection.

Saturday, January 8

Open, crop, clean, sharpen, save. Repeat. This afternoon I uploaded the last of the images for my gallery of early aviation design. Enjoy.

I don't use Flight Simulator, but I was impressed by the comparison at RobiNZ Blog between Flight Simulator's version of Las Vegas and photographs he took on a trip there. Be sure to click on the link to his album for more side-by-side images.

Friday, January 7

Dead links. Strange things can happen with Google Ads.

Wednesday, January 5

Andrea Peyser has a vicious takedown of Amber Frey's book "Witness For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson."
I'll skip over Amber's tedious whining about her life as a single mom and cut to the naughty bits, because this is an important book.

It's a how-to book for losers.

It's an advice rag for re-covering sluts.

And it's chock-full of sage advice and dating tips.

Tuesday, January 4

Now at EphemeraNow you can subscribe to a RSS feed and find out when new scans have been added to the collection. You don't want to miss images like this.

Joe Carter has posted a series of helpful tips for starting and marketing a blog.

Airline travel brochures from the 1920s and '30s. It's time to fly.

In 1934 and 1935 Japanese businessman Shotaro Shimomura travelled around the world taking photographs. The American Museum of Photography has a selection of his images online, along with a number of other interesting galleries of early photography. (Via Instapundit)

Monday, January 3

Google Gum

The U.S. Navy has high-resolution images of relief efforts in the Indian Ocean. Keep clicking for some dramatic photos. (Via Power Line)

The New York Times Review of Books takes a look at Richard A. Posner's book "Catastrophe". Posner makes an economic argument that we should do more to prepare for improbable catastrophes, such as asteroids colliding with earth, global warming and even particle accelerators that run amok.
The expected costs of a future event are the costs of that event, if it should happen, divided by the probability that it will happen. Thus, if I offer you $1,000 if a tossed coin turns up heads, the expected cost of my offer is $500. (Suppose I offer you $100,000 if a card drawn at random from a full pack is the ace of spades. Would you prefer that offer to $1,000 tied to the toss of the coin? Anyone interested in maximizing his assets would: the expected cost of that offer to me -- and hence the expected value to you -- is $1,923.)

When a catastrophe is really catastrophic -- and Posner, it should be emphasized, isn't writing about ''minor'' disasters like the terrorist attacks of 9/11 -- it can have a significant expected cost, even if the event is extremely improbable. Consider, for example, the risk that a high-energy particle accelerator will produce a ''strange matter'' disaster. The official risk-assessment team for one of these accelerators, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, offered a series of estimates, one of which puts the annual risk of a disaster at one in five million. That seems a very small risk. But since the disaster would kill six billion people, that estimate gives it an expected cost of 1,200 lives per year. Even if the risk is estimated more conservatively at one in a billion, it has an expected annual cost of six lives. Would we build such an accelerator if we knew that six people would die every year in which it operates?

Joe Ohio

Saturday, January 1

What were you doing on New Year's Eve? I'm sure nothing this exciting. The Cassini spacecraft spent Dec. 31 flying by the icy Saturn moon Iapetus. There are hundreds of photos now available on the raw images pages. There are some remarkable features on the moon.

Update. Here is an article from the 31st on the fly by:
With a diameter of about 1,400 kilometers (890 miles), Iapetus is Saturn's third largest moon. It was discovered by Jean-Dominique Cassini in 1672. It was Cassini, for whom the Cassini-Huygens mission is named, who correctly deduced that one side of Iapetus was dark, while the other was white.

Scientists still do not agree on whether the dark material originated from an outside source or was created from Iapetus' own interior. One scenario for the outside deposit of material would involve dark particles being ejected from Saturn’s little moon Phoebe and drifting inward to coat Iapetus. The major problem with this model is that the dark material on Iapetus is redder than Phoebe, although the material could have undergone chemical changes that made it redder after its expulsion from Phoebe. One observation lending credence to the theory of an internal origin is the concentration of material on crater floors, which implies that something is filling in the craters. In one model proposed by scientists, methane could erupt from the interior and then become darkened by ultraviolet radiation.