Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Incense Linked to Cancer

I can’t say that it’s very surprising, but incenese has been linked to nasal, oral, throat and lung cancers. I suppose soon only those over 18 will be allowed to buy it; some time after that it will be illegal to burn it in a public place. Then it will be illegal to burn around minors.

Or, just possibly, Western civilisation will get its collective head together and learn that it really doesn’t matter.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Many Features of Lisp

Abhishek Reddy has written an excellent precis of the features of Common Lisp. If you’re at all interested in programming languages, here it all is: everything Lisp has which your favourite language very probably doesn’t.

For my money, conditions are just about the coolest things ever.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Nine Year Old Enlists in Army

Ethan Moyer (9) and his best friend Jake Smith (10) enlisted in the army down at the Denver MEPS. It was something the Make-a-Wish Foundation arranged for him with the co-operation of a bunch of folks from the Army who gave up their day off to run him through faux entrance processing, some simulations and even a pair of boy-size cammies.

Pretty amusing.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Thoughts on Up-or-Out

Bruce Webster has some interesting thoughts on modifying the Cravath model for the technical field. The Cravath model is the standard big-company practise of having partners, directors, senior managers, managers, senior associates & associates who are rated annually, with the lowest performers being asked to leave and the highest performers being promoted. In many ways the model is good, but one problem is that it doesn’t really work for technology because technologists generally don’t wish to manage and generally don’t do well in management; Webster proposes a parallel track of associate engineer, engineer, senior engineer, technical officer, senior technical officer, executive technical officer and chief technical officer.

It’s a pretty good idea, I think. I’m not certain how a technical officer would keep his skills current, but it’s probably very doable. And it certainly makes more sense than putting engineers into management.

The Tyranny of Stuff

Have you ever considered how much you pay to store all the stuff you have? I’m ashamed to say that I still have stuff in my loft that hasn’t moved since I moved in. I have videocassettes that I’ll never watch because I’ve not hooked up my VCR. I still have the VCR too. I have a giant brewpot which I never use because it’s 15 gallons and I do 6½ gallon boils. I have books that I was going to get rid of by selling on eBay or Craigslist—but there were no takers. Yes, that’s right: no-one else on the face of the planet wants them, and yet I keep them still.

Methinks this weekend is time to clean house.

Surgeons Rip Hearts Out of Living Children for Transplantation

Surgeons at Denver Children’s Hospital are cutting out the hearts of infants disconnected from life support after their hearts stop beating but before their brains stop functioning. They are then transplanting them into other children.

A more grotesque and evil procedure is hard to imagine. It’s disgusting. It’s indefensible.

The excuse, of course, is the transplantation: they really just want to save lives. So instead of waiting for actual death to occur, they wait until the heart stops. The same criterion is being pushed for with adult donors as well.

This is pure evil. Those responsible should be tried, convicted and executed for murder.

It’s also illustrative of how widespread organ transplantation coarsens a society. It’s one thing for someone living to give an organ (e.g. a kidney or part of a liver) to another; it’s another thing entirely to desecrate a body, rendering a man down for parts like some animal. But men are not animals, and we are more than the sum of our parts.

I hope that if my own organs failed I would have the moral strength to resist the appeal of buying my own life with another’s death.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Somali Mohammedan's Body Discovered with Cyanide

A Somali Mohammedan has been found dead in his hotel room with a pound of cyanide days before the Democratic National Convention starts. No, there’s nothing suspicious about this at all.

Monday, 04 August 2008

National Geographic vs. the BBC

The Virtual Ranger has a great comparison of National Geographic and BBC nature specials. The National Geographic version is staged, hyper-active, short-attention-span-oriented, not terribly interesting and only marginally educational. The BBC version is thought-provoking and designed to encourage the viewer to think in a methodical fashion.

We need less of the former and more of the latter.

Captains' Logs Treasure Trove of Climate Data

It turns out that Royal Navy’s four-century collection of captains’ logs is yielding historical climate data. Apparently they made meticulous observations of air pressure, wind strength, air & sea temperature and other weather conditions, all of which is helping climate scientists study how the global climate has changed over time.

Rather unsurprisingly, the observations demonstrate that there’s nothing new under the sun: phenomena which have been attributed to global warming actually did occur well before there was any such thing—indeed, during the Little Ice Age.

Sunday, 03 August 2008

AMA Supports Outlawing Home Births

The American Medical Association—known previously for such absurd positions as opposing gun rights—now wishes to outlaw home births because they are riskier than hospital births. That may or may not be true; I’ll accept that it probably is. But that’s immaterial: free citizens in a free society have the fundamental right to weigh the evidence and make their own choices.

I’m perhaps a bit biased: my youngest brother was delivered by midwives at home and my mother looks back on the experience fondly. Later those same midwives were driven out of business by the local physicians.

If parents wish to have their children at home, that is their business, not mine, not the medical profession’s and definitely not the State’s.

Police Kill Two Dogs in Raid on Mayor's Home

It appears that there is a novel drug-shipping method: ship the drugs to an innocent party, then have them retrieved by the deliveryman. Knowing this was going on, when a package containing 30 pounds of marijuana was addressed to the wife of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, the county police did the only logical thing: he got a no-knock warrant, invaded the mayor’s home with a SWAT team, killed the mayor’s two black labs then bound & interrogated the mayor and his mother-in-law for hours. Because just executing a normal warrant would have been crazy: someone like a mayor has nothing to lose and might stage a shoot-out. Or he might flush thirty pounds of dope down the toilet in as many seconds. And of course if they’d executed a normal warrant then the mayor might have tied up his dogs, and what’s point of executing a drug raid if you can’t shoot someone’s pets?

Seriously though—while SWAT teams have a very valuable purpose to serve, this is not one of them. And while it is appropriate in some circumstances to shoot pets (say, if a suspect sets his dogs on one), shooting them as a precautionary measure is hardly called for. And while there are legitimate reasons for no-knock raids, this was not one of them. Besides, if they already know that there’s a false-shipping operation in town, mightn’t they have suspected that might be involved here?

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