30 April 2010

Gattaca or Road Warrior? Or bit of both!

The world of Gattaca approaches. It's predicted that an entire personal genome will soon be sequenced for around one grand. If it hasn't happened already, I can foresee the day when match-makers through Asia, India, and the Middle East will have this in their portfolios right along with how much a person makes and whether they like pets. Other news on the medical front--the FDA just approved a vaccine to boost the immune system of prostrate cancer patients. My guess is that we'll start to see a whole series of remarkable breakthroughs in medicine, computing, nano-technology, and other areas focused on the microscopic. Changes in the larger world (major green infrastructure development and so on) seem to be lagging and I can't imagine much happening in the U.S. (or even Europe) due to debt and America's seeming inability to think big and get ahead of the curve on upcoming technology and innovations (especially those that aren't poised to bring a rapid windfall of profits to some small clique). The recent approval of a tiny windfarm in Cape Cod (after much brouhaha) is a case in point.

20 April 2010

Only in Texas

After the joy of a wedding and the adoption of a baby came arguments that couldn't be resolved, leading Angelique Naylor to file for divorce. That left her fighting both the woman she married in Massachusetts and the state of Texas, which says a union granted in a state where same-sex marriage is legal can't be dissolved with a divorce in a state where it's not. A judge in Austin granted the divorce, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is appealing the decision. He also is appealing a divorce granted to a gay couple in Dallas, saying protecting the "traditional definition of marriage" means doing the same for divorce.

The problem with the conservative mind

From the discussion section from "System Justification, the Denial of GlobalWarming, and the Possibility of “System-Sanctioned Change." The article analyzes conservative denial of environmental problems and shows how conservatism costs society dearly:

The results of our first two studies also suggest that commonly observed differences between demographic and ideological groups with respect to environmental attitudes can be explained in part by system justification tendencies. Specifically, political conservatives scored higher than liberals on measures of system justification (see also Jost, Nosek, et al., 2008), and this partially accounted for their propensity to minimize or deny environmental problems and their reluctance to bear personal responsibility for alleviating the causes of environmental problems. These findings shed light on the oft-noted tendency of political conservatives to express less concern about environmental problems compared to liberals (e.g., Begley, 2007; Carroll, 2007; Dunlap, 2008). However, system justification did not fully account for the effect of political orientation on environmental attitudes. It seems likely that “top-down” institutional factors are also at work, including differences in the official platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties (Begley, 2007; McCright & Dunlap, 2003). The current research also provides one of the first investigations into the nature of the relationship between national identification and system justification, as well as the relationship between national identification and attitudes concerning the natural environment. Not too surprisingly, people who are more highly identified with their country and are more invested in its success are especially motivated to perceive the socioeconomic system of that country as fair and legitimate (cf. Shayo, 2009; Laurin et al., 2009). However, system justification motivation, as we have seen, also carries with it potentially negative consequences, such as resisting efforts to improve the status quo, which ultimately hurts the very system in which one is psychologically invested (see also Jost, Blount, et al., 2003; Wakslak et al., 2007). More optimistically, our third study suggests that by emphasizing the fact that the “American way of life” depends on a healthy natural environment, it is possible to motivate those who are otherwise personally or ideologically inclined to dismiss environmental problems to confront those problems openly and to take constructive action.

I love Glox News

Tom Tomorrow's a genius.

18 April 2010

Barbara O'Brien on the healthcare bill

Health Care Reform: The Morning After

Many politicians and pundits warned us that the health care reform (HCR) legislation that just became law will destroy America. Government bureaucrats will take over health care decisions, we were told. The old and infirm would be hauled away by death panels. Everything about the way we receive our medical care will change, and change drastically, they said.

Medicare recipients have been frightened by stories that their benefits will be cut. Middle-age people are worried they will lose their jobs when the law’s dreaded regulations, or taxes, or maybe regulations with taxes, would destroy their employers’ businesses.

The truth is, very little will change for most people. If you were insured by employee benefits before HCR, you will be insured by exactly the same policy in exactly the same way after HCR. You will have access to the same doctors on the same terms. “Government bureaucrats” will no more be involved in your health care than they were before.

And the same is true of Medicare, which of course is a government program, although many of the people who opposed the HCR bill don’t seem to know that.

Here are the “cataclysmic” changes to health care that are now in effect, or which will go into effect within the next six months for people who are already in group insurance plans:

• The law says you can’t lose your insurance coverage because you get sick. Before, in many states, if you were stricken with a severe illness such as mesothelioma cancer that would be expensive to treat, your insurer could use just about any excuse to cancel your coverage. That is over.

• HCR has ended lifetime limits on coverage. As long as you are receiving medical care, your insurer pays the bills.

• Your children can be covered on your existing policy until they are 26 years old.

• In six months, insurers cannot refuse to insure people under the age of 19 because of “pre-existing conditions.” This provision will go into effect for everyone in 2014.

And if you are on Medicare, you will be asked to struggle with the following:

• You get a free annual checkup.

• The co-pays and deductibles on many preventive care services are eliminated.

• If you are in the Medicare D “doughnut hole,” you will get a $250 rebate check in a few weeks. The hole itself will be closed gradually and will be gone by 2020.

But what about all those terrible regulations and taxes that are about to drive businesses out of business? Um, there really isn’t much to report. Oh, wait, here’s one — a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps will go into effect July 1. That’s about it.

However, beginning this year a tax credit will be available for some small businesses to help provide insurance coverage for employees.

Soon the politicians and pundits will start trying to frighten you about the provisions that will go into effect after this year. I assure you they are about as scary as the provisions that go into effect this year, but I will discuss them in a follow-up post.

— Barbara O’Brien

14 April 2010


I've been reading Wenger's 1998 book--Communities of Practice. The following two passages at the end of book's treatment of practice struck me as profound:

From p. 141: “What can be called knowledge, therefore, is not just a matter of local regimes of competence; it depends also on the orientation of these practices within broader constellations. Yet, whatever discourses we use to define what knowledge is, our communities of practice are a context of mutual engagement where these discourses can touch our experience and thus be given new life. In this regard, knowing in practice involves an interaction between the local and the global.”

From pp. 141, 142: “Our knowing, even of the most unexceptional kind, is always too big, too rich, too ancient, and too connected for us to the source of it individually. At the same time, our knowing—even of the most elevated kind—is too engaged, too precise, too tailored, too active, and too experiential for it to be just of a generic size. The experience of knowing is no less unique, no less creative, and no less extraordinary for being one of participation. As a matter of fact, on the face of it, it would probably not amount to much otherwise.”

6 April 2010


I like this Wikileaks idea of bouncing information around services to prevent the silencing of whistle-blowers.

2 April 2010

Wat Rong Khun

This is an amazing construction--a Thai Buddhist temple constructed using white glass.