Tuesday, June 28, 2005

gas guzzler

I got rid of my VW Golf. I love the car, but it was perpetually in the shop. I was in the market for a wagon, and decided to get something that would last until the next millenium: a honda or toyota. Unfortunately, neither makes a wagon, so I got a Honda CRV, a cute ute. It gets ok mileage: not great, not terrible: 22/27. All my friends say the same thing:

Friend: I can't believe you got an SUV!!

Me: It gets better mileage than most midsize cars and the same as a wagon..22/27..it does better than your subaru!

Friend: i'm really disappointed in you

Me: I can throw my bike in the back...

Friend: Are you voting Republican now?

Me: Yes.

At any rate, To atone for my sins, I'm reporting on the latest eco-vehicle: a hacked prius that you plug in. It gets more than a 100 miles per gallon. This story was reported on mixedpower.com :

By replacing the Prius' batteries with a more powerful array and recharging it using a standard electric outlet at home, engineers have enabled the hybrid to get more than 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

"We want to get people thinking of [plug-ins] as a real alternative" in the country's long-term energy plan, said Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars.org, an advocacy group in Palo Alto.

The idea of plug-in hybrids is generating a lot of buzz in energy circles because of the work of a start-up Monrovia firm, Energy Control Systems Engineering. The firm bought a Prius and converted it with its own system.

Co-owner Greg Hanssen now tools around Southern California in the bright blue plug-in Prius prototype. The car can deliver 150 to 180 mpg for up to 35 miles of low-speed, around-town driving and can average 70 to 100 mpg on longer trips at higher speeds.


Here's the cool part:

In May, Energy Control Systems entered its Prius in the Tour del Sol fuel economy rally in New York. The car won its class by averaging 102 mpg over the 150-mile course. Hanssen said it cost $1 to charge the batteries the night before the race and about $4 for the gas it consumed.

iPod-casting

The new version of iTunes is out today and it supports podcasting. This is off the AP wire:

According to Apple's Web site, version 4.9 of iTunes, the companion service to the popular iPod music player, will allow users to "select subscription options and download you favorite podcasts automatically."

Podcasts, or sound files and audio content such as radio shows, have surged in popularity since late in 2004, and will work on any digital MP3 player. The phenomenon allows users to create and upload their own audio programs on the Web which can be downloaded to multimedia players at a later date.

Monday, June 20, 2005

guns save lives

i'm back. i spent the past few days out in a remote part of the Midwest, a place where i'll be soon moving. About 15 miles outside of town, there are some amateurish handmade signs that are posted every 10 feet or so, so that one can read them in quick succession while one drives. Each set of signs states that guns have helped stop criminals and terrorists and that you can read more at gunssavelives.com .

A bit frightening.

In related news, right now a couple next door is fighting, and man, are they loud. They fight fiercely and often. Pretty much everyday. I've considered calling the cops, but they're in a big apartment building next door and i haven't a clue as to where they live or whether either of their lives are in danger, and as it turns out, i'm one of those people who "doesn't want to get involved". About ten minutes ago, I heard the following:

Girl: what are you talking about?!?!
Guy:
Girl: I don't like Marvin! What are you talking about! I didn't do anything! I'm so sick of this shit!
Guy: (unintelligible)
Girl: I didn't do anything!
Guy: (unintelligible)
Girl: I didn't do anything!
Guy: (unintelligible)
Girl: (crying and moaning...i've always wondered what 'gnashing of teeth' sounded like. now i know)
Blaaammm!!

Holy shit! - I thought. Did he just shoot her? I suddenly felt guilty for wishing both of them dead. I got up and checked out the window to see if i could figure out which window it came from. I pondered calling the cops, and was feeling annoyed for being put in this position. Was it really a gunshot? The noise drove my dog to hide in the closet so it wasn't my imagination. There were no more sounds of a fight. I felt compelled to call the police, not out of concern for either of them (who i've grown to hate), but mainly out of embarrasement. If the cops show up later tonight, and wheel a corpse out of the building, and ask if anyone heard/saw anything ), and I say 'yeah, i heard them fighting,' and they say, 'Christ, why didn't you call the police,' and I say 'I don't know', and then they shake their heads as they write in their notebook, and think to themselves what a socially irreponsible jerk, and I'd think, man, they're right, i am a jerk....then I'd feel pretty terrible about it.

..and as I was thinking about this I hear muffled crying. Ahh good...no one's dead (well, he might be..i still feel off the hook). I'm guessing a car backfired....or maybe one of them fired a warning shot. At any rate, I'm thinking guns probably don't save many lives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Embryos

Man, this is disturbing, check it out:

"Imagine lying on a table at a fertility clinic. Across the room are three Petri dishes containing embryos made from your eggs. Given your genetic history, at least one of the embryos probably has a fatal blood disease. You don't want to implant the sick embryo or embryos, but the law says you have to. On a judge's orders, every one of those embryos will be inserted through a catheter into your womb, whether you like it or not.

Is this Rosemary's Baby? The Handmaid's Tale? Nope. It happened last year to an Italian woman under that country's IVF law. Today, Italians held a referendum on whether to change the law. Thanks in part to vigorous opposition from the Catholic Church, the referendum failed."


Read more here in Slate.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

MJ behind bars

I was looking at the AP wire today and saw an article entitled: 'Prison would prove tough if Jackson convicted'. You can read the article here .

It made me think about my own mortal fear of prison. For a while, I went through a phase where I wondered how I would survive if I got sent to the big house. How would I keep from being beaten? Could I use the bathroom in front of a convicted murdered? Can clenching prevent rape? Part of this was brought on by hearing an episode of NPR's This American Life that focused on life behind bars. This particular episode was particularly dramatic because it featured a pamphlet written by Stepehen Donaldson, an anti-prison rape advocate who eventually died of aids. The pamphlet, which you can read here describes how to survive in prison as someone's bitch. Here's a taste:

"The punk has to give up his independence and his control over his own body to his "man" as the price for this protection. He has to put out sexually in a passive role, giving up head or ass or both. This deal is never totally voluntary for the punk: it is often coercive, the alternatives are frightful, and it is motivated above all by the need to survive in a place where the punk has been marked as a perpetual target for gang-rape and other forms of abuse. But it is still very different from a series of violent gang- rapes, and, in the age of AIDS, far safer. We call these relationships "survival-driven" from the punk's perspective.

A punk often is able to choose his protector from among various candidates, especially if he is willing to put up a fight (even knowing he'll lose) or is not in a particularly rough joint, and he may be able to establish a relationship of mutual concern, which is a far cry from the pure exploitation of the sexual assaulter. It must be understood, however, that the "pitcher" makes the rules and the "catcher" follows them. In a particularly tough joint, a punk may be no more than a slave, but usually the relationship allows you some leverage or room to maneuver and have your wishes considered, as long as you respect the basic rules of the relationship.

While a jocker will never tolerate open rebellion, he usually seeks to get along with his punk and avoid an atmosphere of constant tension. He would rather relax around his punk, and over time he can and often does develop genuine affection for him and allow a considerable degree of give-and-take in the non-sexual aspects of the partnership. But the sexual part is pretty fixed and you can't really hope to get out of it.

It may be very hard for you to deal with belonging to somebody else and having to substitute for a girl and satisfy a guy sexually, but at least you only have to do it with one guy or a small number, rather than anybody who can catch you. Your risk of infection with the AIDS virus is greatly reduced, often to zero (see SPR's AIDS and the Rape Survivor). You don't have to fight at all and can avoid physical injury, and it is some comfort knowing that a dead punk is of no value to anybody. Often hooking up will improve your financial situation as well, since a jocker is expected to see that his punk gets the canteen necessities of life."


What's disturbing is that this pamphlet is meant to advise you on how to be someone's punk. It presupposes that you've weighed all the options (e.g repeated gang rapes, paying for protection, solitary, etc..), and you've come to the decision that this is the best solution: having sex in exchange for safety. Needless to say, this disturbed me in a very deep way. Watching Shawshank repeatedly didn't help either.

So is MJ going to have a difficult time behind prison? If he's in general population (which is doubtful), yeah, he probably will have a difficult time.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Global Warming

The Times reports that a stooge from the energy industry that the administration put on an environmental council basically did the copyediting on government climate reports:

"Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues.

Before going to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training."


Read more here .

Here's the National Academies statement on global warming.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The dude will have to abide

The Supreme Court told the 85 yr old grandmothers suffering from glaucoma to go F themselves: no medicinal marijuana for you. Who would have thought that a conversvative court would argue against state rights. Seriously, WTF? Is someone growing weed in their basement for their own personal use really fall under the jurisdiction of interstate commerce? Someone out there needs to explain this one to me.

Even Forbes has an article about legalization:
"Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist's report on the costs of marijuana prohibition and the potential revenue gains from the U.S. government instead legalizing it and taxing its sale. Ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says, while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year."

Read more here .