Friday, February 25, 2005

We Have to Operate, but Let's Play First

I always knew playing video games was actually good for me.

The complex manual dexterity required to be a stellar video gamer and minimally invasive surgeon are strikingly similar, said Dr. Rosser, chief of minimally invasive surgery and director of the hospital's Advanced Medical Technology Institute. More important, he is using video games to help develop and train a new generation of surgeons who may have unwittingly acquired an aptitude for laparoscopic surgery while wiling away thousands of hours playing Mortal Kombat, BloodRayne and the like.

Last year Dr. Rosser was a co-author of a study that concluded that surgeons who played video games for at least three hours a week were 27 percent faster and made 37 percent fewer mistakes than surgeons who did not play video games.
via New York Times


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Great White (non-American) Hope

I was watching the NBA All-Star game this weekend (not in HD which was really pissing me off, why the hell is TNT broadcasting the All-Star game? Has basketball fallen that far that it can't even get on the regular channels?) and noticed something strange: every white player was born out side of the US and every black player was born in the US (half credit for Tim Duncan was born in the US Virgin Islands).

Check out the team lineup:
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: Lithuania
Manu Ginobili: Argentina
Steve Nash: Canada
Dirk Nowitzki: Germany.
And probably the most paled (paleist, palist, palest? Damn it, the whitest skinned player) player in the game was another foreign born: 7-6" Yao Ming of China.

I am not even going to conjecture as to why this is. In baseball you have lots of lots of foreign born blacks and whites (mainly from Latin America) along with the Asian born players that play in the All Star game. In Football there are almost no foreign players. In Hockey, well who cares its hockey. :)


Global Poll: India Sees Bush As Good For Peace

In a recent 21-nation poll, the land of Mohandas Gandhi and the Taj Mahal was one of two countries in which a clear majority thought Bush's re-election made the world safer.

In the poll, 62 percent of 1,005 Indians described Bush's re-election as positive for peace and security. Only 27 percent said it was negative.
What the hell is wrong with India? Didn't think they would buy into Bush's "Peace through War" philosophy.
Chief among the reasons Indians cited for liking Bush is his stance against terrorism. Indians, who have long faced terrorist attacks from separatists in Kashmir and other regions, welcome Bush's pressure on India's longtime nemesis, Pakistan, to crack down on Islamic militants trying to cross to the Indian side of Kashmir.
And that crack down is working so well. Its not like Bin Laden and Al Qaeda is just hanging out in Pakastan and can't be touched. And Musharraf is so popular that he could hold an election any time he wants.

"We are sufferers of terrorism," said Dr. Pankaj Dhawan, a dental surgeon and enthusiastic Bush backer. "What has France experienced? Nothing. What has Germany experienced? Nothing. Let them come to the ground level and experience it."
Thanks for that analysis, dumbass. First, France has had experienced terrorism. In the mid 80s the country grappled with Palestinian and European extremist groups. As this article in the Washington Post points out:
"You do see France making an effort to cast itself as the friendly Western power," as distinct from the United States, he said. "When it comes to counterterrorism operations, France is hard-core. . . . But they are also very cognizant of what public diplomacy is all about."

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network. French anti-terrorism prosecutors and investigators are among the most powerful in Europe, backed by laws that allow them to interrogate suspects for days without interference from defense attorneys.
And what about Germany? Lets not forget that the brains of the 9/11 operation were from an Al Qaeda cell in Germany. Germany knows that those terrorists could have just as easily attacked them. And if you think experiencing terrorism first hand makes you more pro-Bush, why did Spain go the other direction after 3/11?

So India, if you like Bush please take him. We will trade him for Manmohan Singh any day of the week.

via Seattle Times


Spam Filters May Lead Scientists To AIDS Vaccine

Software scientists at Microsoft Research have teamed up with biomedical researchers in Seattle, Boston and Perth, Australia, to see if computer techniques used to defeat e-mail spam can also be used to help design a vaccine that can defeat AIDS.

Today, members of this unique collaboration will announce a plan to use "machine learning" or "data mining" computational techniques to decipher HIV's wildly creative genetic ability to constantly change and disguise itself from immune system detection and deletion.

Just as a computer's spam filter "learns" to recognize new variations from the same spammer, it is hoped a computer can learn to decipher some fundamental repeat patterns about HIV's genetic variability and narrow the search for vaccine targets.
Interesting how the computer world took the idea of viruses and how to fight them from the biological world and now we are going the opposite direction and the technology designed to fighting computer viruses and spam is being used to fight biological viruses.

via Seattle PI


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

U.S. Forests are on a Rebound, But Can it Last?

Interesting article with lots of good figures on forest land.

The United States has gained 10 million acres of forests since 1990.
That is encouraging.
When European settlers began to colonize America in the early 1600s, forests covered more than a billion acres — about half the territory that eventually would become the United States.

Colonists cut down trees for fuel and farmland, and a long, slow decline of forests began. It hit bottom in 1920, when only 735 million acres of woodlands were left. By that time, 370 million acres of trees — one-sixth of the nation's land — had been taken over by farms, cities, homes and industry.

Today, the land area covered by forests has risen slightly, from 735 million to 749 million acres. Trees now occupy one-third of the nation's territory.
So we went from 1/2 of the US being forests to 1/3. The 10 million acres we have gained back is just .5% of the total land of the US. I had not realized that 1920 was the low point for forests in the US. Hopefully this means we are on the rebound and will continue to add forest land.
Farm machinery and tractors took over from horses and mules, which needed a quarter of the cropland for their own food. Heat and power came from coal, oil and gas instead of wood.
This is interesting. It makes me think that the use of fossil fuels has allowed the US to have more forest land. If we didn't use fossil fuels, we would need more farm land to raise crops for the horses and mules to work the land. If we didn't use fertilizer from fossil fuels we would also need more crop land which would leave less for forests. If we used wood to heat our houses instead of natural gas, we would need to cut down more forests to provide this. An interesting thought for environmentalists.
Worldwide, 235 million acres of trees vanished in the past decade, as much as all the land in California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and North Carolina combined.
That doesn't seem good. Makes you wonder if the US is exporting/globalizing some of its forest cutting. I have heard stories of South American's who cut down forests in order to create grazing land for cattle which will be exported to the US. I wonder if you add back in the amount of "exported" cut forest land if the US still added forest in the last 10 years.

via Seattle Times


Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Geo-Green Alternative

I gotta say I stand with Tom Friedman and his idea of "geo-greens":

Yes, there is an alternative to the Euro-wimps and the neocons, and it is the "geo-greens." I am a geo-green. The geo-greens believe that, going forward, if we put all our focus on reducing the price of oil - by conservation, by developing renewable and alternative energies and by expanding nuclear power - we will force more reform than by any other strategy. You give me $18-a-barrel oil and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran. All these regimes have huge population bubbles and too few jobs. They make up the gap with oil revenues. Shrink the oil revenue and they will have to open up their economies and their schools and liberate their women so that their people can compete. It is that simple.
But I am not sure how you get to $18/barrel oil. And can you be a geo-green if you are a frequent flyer who use oil to travel around the globe, Mr Friedman? (See my previous post on Frequent Flyer Environmentalists)

Also I don't understand how Friedman can so clearly see how oil money leads to backwards countries and yet believe that Iraq, with the second largest oil reserves in the world, can become a pluralistic democracy.

As Jack Handy so eloquently put it: "I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

After the elections in Iraq this weekend this weekend everyone was talking about how this was the first free election in 40(?) years. Which made me think, hmm these guys have had free elections before? How did they get from there to Saddam Husein? And why won't we see it again?

The way I see it is that the people of Iraq will elect a bunch of leaders. Sooner or later the leaders will figure out it is a lot easier to get your power from the oil money than it is from the people. So you slowly become less democratic, you remove the independence of the press, you take the oil industries back from the private owners, well basically you do everything Putin is doing in Russia. And then bam you are back to a dictatorship.

Everyone talks about the insurgents being Jihadists and ex-Baathists. What about the thugs that just want control of the oil money? I don't understand how many Americans believe that the US went into Iraq for the oil, but will not attribute oil lust as the motivation of any of the insurgents.

My prediction: Afghanistan will have a more democratic country 20 years from now than Iraq.

Mr Bush a little free advice, the next time we go about spreading freedom can we do it somewhere without oil? Afghanistan fine. North Korea fine. But lets not go for Iran.

via New York Times


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

TiVo Announces New Developer Tools

This announcement by Tivo has some pretty interesting stuff.

TiVo Video Publisher will allow video creators to provide downloadable content for TiVo. They talk about how content providers will be able to package and protect their video, but I hope that the amateurs won't be left out of the party. It would be great to be able to pull up my mom's vacation video as easily as a movie from the big studios. If they play their cards right they could make a killing off of long tail videos.
I totally agree. To have access to tons of content would be great. Both movies (hopefully this goes hand and hand with their Netflix partnership) and other content. What if I could download the latest JibJab bit to my TV or educational lessons or a friend's travel video? All sorts of options for this. It also completely bypasses the cable/satellite industry and moves on to TV over IP. It should also allow for micro-casting: creating content that has a very small audience that doesn't support the kind of numbers that would allow it to be broadcast on cable.
TiVo Multimedia Web Services API is a way for web publishers to put their content on the TiVo, the most exciting for me being support for RSS. Podcasting and videoblogging are starting to get some attention, the TiVo could become the platform of choice for personal media publishing.
I don't really understand this. RSS feeds are one thing, being able to interpret the data the RSS feed points at: HTML, JPEG, MPEG is quite another. Not clear if you will be able to browse HTML or download podcasts through this.
TiVo Service Integration is a way for 3rd parties to provide and charge for content on the TiVo. TiVo users would be able to "purchase/subscribe to" content using their remotes, TiVo would handle billing and customer support. This opens up a huge market for 3rd party developers to use the TiVo as a platform.
This reminds me in a way of how Docomo set themselves up. Allow 3rd parties to create content for your system and create a billing system that allows you both to profit.

This also makes the Tivo similar to Akimbo which downloads TV over IP but has limited content. The Tivo idea of hosting content and making it available to loads of people is even better.

Nice work Tivo. Depending on how you play this, it puts you right back in the game.

via PVRblog