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User Journal

Journal: The flu vaccine shortage... again

Journal by Gunzour

Last year I wrote about the shortage of flu vaccines in the US. The flu needs to be taken seriously, because it kills tens of thousands of people in the USA every year. But if you are an otherwise healthy person, you do not need a flu shot. This year's shortage is due to a manufacturing problem, and it highlights the need to make fundamental changes to our health care system. In the meantime, you can probably avoid getting the flu by washing your hands and taking your vitamins. If you come down with the flu, take lots of vitamin C and read up on the information here, which provides lots of good alternative treatments besides loading up on over-the-counter medicines (which only treat symptoms but don't help you recover).

Politics

Journal: The Rumsfeld quote on Saddam and al Qaeda 1

Journal by Gunzour

I was surprised this statement from Donald Rumsfeld didn't get more press, so here it is (the source is here):

QUESTIONER: My name is Glenn Hutchins. Mr. Secretary, what exactly was the connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?

RUMSFELD: I tell you, I'm not going to answer the question. I have seen the answer to that question migrate in the intelligence community over the period of a year in the most amazing way. Second, there are differences in the intelligence community as to what the relationship was. To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two. There are--I just read an intelligence report recently about one person who's connected to al Qaeda, who was in and out of Iraq, and there's the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship, and why he might not have had a relationship. There are reports about people in Saddam Hussein's intelligence service meeting in one country or another with al Qaeda people from one person to another, which may have been indicative of something, or may not have been. It may have been something that was not representative of a hard

Google

Journal: Donate gmail invites - gmail for everyone

Journal by Gunzour

Finally, I found a site where someone was smart enough to set up a simple, free, automated way to give/request gmail invites. I had several laying around for the past few week, but I donated them to this site this morning and they were snapped up right away, so I guess there is still demand for them.

If you haven't managed to get gmail yet, and want it, go here. I'd be curious to hear from people how long you have to wait to get your invite.

If you have extra gmail invites to hand out, also go here.

Politics

Journal: Paper-trail electronic voting works in Nevada 2

Journal by Gunzour

Nevada just held their primary (side topic: why are we still having primaries after the conventions are over?) using Sequoia voting machines with printed paper trails. Nevada automatically recounts -- using the paper printout -- a small portion of precincts to check for abnormalities, and any full recount would be done using the paper printout.

There is a good demo of the machines here (Flash):

http://sos.state.nv.us/sequoiaverivotedemo.swf

User Journal

Journal: book, page 23, sentence 5

Journal by Gunzour

Heck, why not..

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Turn to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

The book I grabbed is numbered by chapter, i.e. "1-1", "2-1", etc. Page 1-23 has no complete sentences, so here is the fifth sentence from page 2-23:

It's not the fault of engine designers; it's simply that the intermittent action of the reciprocating engine makes it impractical to produce the huge amounts of power needed by some of today's aircraft.

The book is Private Pilot Manual from Jeppesen Sanderson Training Products.

It's obvious that this whole "post sentence 5 of page 23 of the nearest book" thing is a carefully coordinated effort by a bunch of people who have never even heard of me to tell me to get back to taking flying lessons. Right?

(idea from: http://slashdot.org/~Cy%20Guy/journal/68602 and many other places)

United States

Journal: Electoral college math

Journal by Gunzour

I created a chart which shows the results of the 2000 election in terms of popular vote and electoral vote. If you've heard of recent campaigning being done in "17 battleground states", this charts shows which states they are and why. It also shows that if the electoral college had been adjusted for the census prior to the 2000 election, Bush's victory would have widened by 7 electoral votes. It also shows which states had a large enough Nader vote to potentially affect the outcome.

User Journal

Journal: Everything you ever wanted to know about hemp 2

Journal by Gunzour

Most people know hemp because they associate it with marijuana. Although they are related, hemp and marijuana plants are two different things. Hemp has so many practical uses I'm almost surprised that it doesn't offer to drive me to work. It can be used to make paper (instead of using trees). It can be used to make gasoline (instead of oil) that produces less pollution when burned. It can be used to make clothing. It contains all of the healthy essential fatty acids that we used to eat salmon for (until the recent salmon scare). Unfortunately, due to its relationship with marijuana, it is illegal to grow it in the USA.

A long but easy-to-read article about the political history of hemp and its uses can be found here.

Science

Journal: Flu vaccines run out in USA

Journal by Gunzour

It was announced today that manufacturers have run out of flu vaccines. If you trace back the storyline, a few days ago we heard that over 50,000 are expected to die from the flu this year in the worst flu season in 30 years. The second article also mentions that the flu vaccine produced this year doesn't protect against one of the flu strains now showing up anyway. People sometimes confuse the flu with other types of illness. For a detailed description of what the flu is, as well as alternative methods of treatment, look here.

Businesses

Journal: A utility company helping the environment!

Journal by Gunzour

I almost couldn't believe it when I heard in on NPR this afternoon. Pennsylvania Power and Light has entered into an agreement to sell three dams to environmental groups which will dismantle them. The action will give salmon new access to over 500 miles of river to inhabit.

In this day of corporate greed and scandals, its mighty nice to hear a story like this one.

Television

Journal: Will Netflix kill Cable TV?

Journal by Gunzour

I've been thinking recently -- is there any way for me to cut down my television bill? I pay about $70 month for satellite including HBO, Tivo, and High Definition channels. Tivo lets me be choosy about what I watch, and I've gotten very efficient at it. There are selected shows that I like, and those are the only ones I watch. I get HBO because several of those shows are on HBO (Six Feet Under, Sopranos, and now Carnivale).

Then it hit me -- most decent TV shows these days are put out on DVD. Why not just rent the DVDs? Sure, I may not get to watch them as soon as everyone else, but that's ok by me. Why not just rent the DVDs of the shows from Netflix? For $20/month, I can watch pretty much all I want to watch, including both TV series and movies. Plus I get the following benefits:

    - Movies come out sooner on DVD than on HBO
    - I can get any movie I want from Netflix, HBO only carries some movies
    - TV Shows on DVD already have the commercials removed
    - since I can rent the DVDs in order from Netflix, I never have to worry about missing an episode
    - DVD is better quality than satellite (or cable) TV
    - I save electricity by not having my Tivo running 24/7

And the cost -- just $20/month for a standard Netflix membership instead of $70/month for satellite. Heck, even the high-end Netflix membership (8 DVDs at a time) is only $40/month, still a hefty discount from satellite.

Of course, lots of people do both Netflix and cable/satellite. But you have to wonder what happens when more and more people start doing this value comparison. Cable/satellite rates have been going up significantly in the past few years, and for someone like me who doesn't have the TV on all the time, it's hard to justify the high monthly cost (that's $840/year!) for something that seems to have significantly less value. Cancelling cable only increases the value of Netflix, because I would no longer be splitting my TV time between DVDs and satellite.

Has anyone else thought the same thing? What have you decided?

United States

Journal: Leave No Millionaire Behind

Journal by Gunzour

An article on motherjones.com comments on the problem with the Bush administration's attempt to separate economic policy from social policy.

Select quotes:

"Driven by hollow political priorities, the Bush administration's disastrous economic policies are undermining our national ideals. "

"Just like in the "The Wizard of Oz," when we finally get to see who is operating the smoke-puffing machine, we find a consummate pitchman."

"At present, there exists an air of suspended belief over the radical changes of the past two years."

"This administration, despite its early pledges to provide a policy of "compassionate conservatism" has in fact adopted policies that amount to a war against the poor and the middle class."

Feel free to reply and share your thoughts.

Science

Journal: Doctors withhold info from patients

Journal by Gunzour

According to an AP news report making the rounds this morning: "Nearly one in three doctors reports withholding information from patients about useful medical services that aren't covered by their health insurance companies, and the number may be on the rise, a study reports."

The article suggests that the blame lies squarely on the shoulder of health insurance/managed care companies.

A free marketplace and fair competition thrives on availability of information. If doctors are intentionally withholding information from their patients, particularly about possible treatments that their insurance does not cover, how is the patient to make an informed choice about their health coverage?

As a person, you must take responsibility for your own health. Don't ever assume the 10 minute conversation you have during a doctor's visit is all you need to know about your body. Personally, I've found the Life Extension Foundation to be an excellent source of information about mainstream and alternative treatments for many health issues that people face today. Their book provides down-to-earth, well-researched information about a variety of ailments and treatments. It's a lot of information for the average person to comprehend, but Slashdotters are hardly "average". If you want to be healthy and live a longer life, why not get geeky about your health?

Science

Journal: Trans fats and Oreo cookies

Journal by Gunzour

You may have heard of the recent lawsuit filed in California to ban Oreo cookies. While the tactics of bantransfat.com, the organization which filed the suit, may be extreme, their point is valid: Trans fats are bad.

By the way, they have dropped the lawsuit and acknowledged that it was done only for publicity, a move which I applaud.

But the point was to raise awareness of the dangers of trans fats, the lack of information about them on food labelling, and the abundance of them in the processed foods we eat.

Trans fats come from "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" oils. Partially hydrogenated oil is a common substitute for butter in processed foods. Essentially, partially hydrogenated oil is margarine. Hydrogenation is a process where hydrogen is pumped into the oil, which makes it a solid at room temperature.

Last September, Frito-Lay announced they are replacing partially hydrogenated oils with corn oil in their snack products including Doritos and Tostitos, although the Tostitos I bought last week still had partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredients.

I'm personally starting to discover the importantance of truly healthy eating (which, by the way, has little to do with avoiding fat or carbohydrates). (If you're interested, I'm currently reading Traditional Food Are Your Best Medicine by Ronald F. Schmid.) The bantransfat.com website recommends boycotting all foods with trans fats in them to send a message to manufacturers. Personally, I would suggest avoiding these foods for the benefit of your own health, and not for some politically motivated reason.

United States

Journal: Drugs Fund Terrorism campaign pulled

Journal by Gunzour

You know those TV ads with two guys in nice business suits eating a fancy dinner and debating the morality of buying drugs because drugs fund terrorism? Well, in case you didn't know, they were paid for by your tax dollars, and yes, they are lies. The good news is that the ads have been pulled. They were sponsored by The Office of National Drug Control Policy, a executive branch government organization which also funds the series of "The Anti-Drug" ads. According to an article on lindesmith.org, opium production in Afghanistan has skyrocketed since the Northern Alliance (supported by the Bush administration) took over.

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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