Monday, December 29, 2003

Here is an interesting article on BSE (Mad Cow) and related diseases. Apparently, this class of infectious diseases is caused by an entirely new type of transmission - by an infectious protein called a "prion". The article is a little technical at times but still informative to the general reader...

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Haven't been posting for awhile, as I was away on vacation visiting family. Upon returning to NYC, I found my inbox overflowing with spam. I finally decided to have a look and see exactly what type of spam I'm getting...

Type / Percent

Prescriptions (Viagra / Vicodan / Penis Enlargment / Weight Loss) :39%
Sex (Porn Sites / Paris Hilton / Jessica Simpson) :20%
Merchandise (Free Cable, Life Insurance) :19%
Money Services (Credit / Loan / Mortgage/ Debt) :13%
Dating Services :4%
Business Opportunities (Make Money On Ebay, etc) :4%

Average Spam Emails Per Day: 80.25

Will the new anti-spam legislation that takes effect on 1/1/4 have any impact??

Monday, December 15, 2003

So Saddam has been captured. Something tells me this recent development won't do much in the way of calming the insurgency in Iraq, but I certainly hope I'm wrong. I hope it was enlightening for the Iraqi people to see the man they feared so much cowering in his rabbit hole.

Here's a great gift idea for the kids. Discovery's home DNA Sequencer is sure to be a hit with the little ones. Does that scare anyone else??

If you aren't familiar with Conway's Life simulation, check out this website. With a few simple rules, this simulation actual churns out some interesting patterns. Try a few of the patterns given to you in the drop-down menu, like "Glider" or "Exploder". Dennett attempts to use this simple world to show that "evitability" or avoidance can evolve in even very simple deterministic universes. Something about his argument strikes me as pretty fishy though...

Saturday, December 13, 2003

A lazy Saturday, watched "Cowboy Bebop" this afternoon. I recommend checking it out it you haven't yet. Good animation, music and plot. I finished Wegner's book, but it left me a bit unsatisfied as it focuses on the sensation of will and doesn't really delve into the issue of personal causality vs. determinism. I just started Dennett's "Freedom Evolves", which seems more promising in that I believe it will touch many of the topics I felt were missing from Wegner's book. I must admit I have reservations about a theory of free will based on evolutionary principles. Both of these books are great because they are written by non-philosophers, for some reason philosophy texts usually bore me to death.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I find out how much my yearly bonus is going to be today, whoo-hoo! At my review yesterday, my supervisor told me I was the strongest person on the team - hopefully this translates into a good bonus and a raise. :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Today's scary thought, from the 1999 article "The Militarization of Policing in the Information Age", Journal of Political and Military Sociology:

"It (police video surveillance) has reached the point that a city dweller in Britain can now expect to be caught on film every five minutes. The British government has recently granted a research team at the university of Bristol's experimental psychology department fifty thousand pounds to develop a system to predict in real time when a crime is about to occur. This will be accomplished by scrutinizing existing CCTV tapes and determining which recorded behaviors and gestures tend to precede crimes. This knowledge will then be embedded in a program that will alert the police when CCTV cameras record such behavior on the street, prompting police targeting and intervention before a crime has actually taken place."

Enter the "Minority Report".

Monday, December 08, 2003

Caught "Akira" again last night, great movie. There was another aspect of the movie I had never noticed before; that is, that the power of Akira had already begun to manifest in the general population. It is an interesting idea, that our genes hold the memories of eternity, and that we could unlock those memories/powers. This was also explored in the movie "Altered States", although clumsily. At the core of "Akira" is this: within all of us lies dormant an unimaginable power, but if it is not awakened in the right manner, at the right time, for the right reason, then it may harm others and ourselves. I'd say that is true.

Oh, and my haitus from smoking has proved to be very easy, perhaps I won't go back to smoking regularly at all.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

A friend died Thursday night, touching off what some are calling the "Blizard of 2003". I just got back from his funeral service. It is strange that death always comes as such as shock, as we are all at each moment closer to death than we have ever been.

Jonathan was his name, it means "gift from God". And that he was, his warmth and kindness touched everyone around him. He was 38 years old. He will be missed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Went to a reading tonight of selected ghazals from Jalal Ad-din Rumi and Hafiz-i Shirazi, in English and Farsi, accompanied with traditional Persian instruments. I have always hesitated to read translations of these poets, as I know that the translation process robs the original work of much of it's subtleties. But I found Iraj Anvar and Elizabeth Gray's translation to be wonderful, and it was a treat to hear Iraj's renditions both spoken and sung in the original tongue. Something about Sufi poetry sets it apart, I suggest you seek some out. Here is a taste from Anvar's book of Rumi translations:

If you bake bread from the wheat
that grows on my grave, it will intoxicate.

The baker and the dough, both will go crazy.
The oven will compose euphoric verse.

If you come to visit my grave,
you'll see my tombstone dancing.

But don't come to my grave without a drum, brother
for at the feast of God there is no sorrow.

Deep in the grave, with my chin tied closed,
my mouth is full of sweets and opium.

If you tear a piece of my shroud and wear it on your chest
an entire tavern opens from within you.

Drunks all around, shouting, fighting and playing the harp:
everything must give birth to something else.

God has made me of love's wine.
Even as death consumes me I am that love.

I am drunkenness originating from the wine of love.
Tell me, what can wine bring but euphoria?

My soul cannot wait to fly
to the high tower, that is the spirit of Shams-i Tabriz.

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