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Comment Re:Don't trust proprietary software (Score 1) 172

Boxee works fine for me, though only on my x86 Ubuntu partition. There is no 64-bit package for Boxee, though the forums are filled with inquiries about it. I asked Dave Matthews of Boxee about this issue, and he said their limited resources are all focused on developing for the widest range of systems, and while he welcomes and encourages people to work on a 64-bit version, most of the efforts I've seen have been chroot hacks to get the 32-bit version to play well (or even at all) on 64-bit installations. I'm a sysadmin, not a coder, but if I had the necessary skyllz, I'd love to be able to do this.

Comment Re:Moving straight off-topic (Score 1) 172

In the open source world, you are encouraged to get up off your butt and do something when you see a problem that is not being properly addressed. Blogging tools are easily available all over the place. If you don't like the Linux bloggers you have been reading, start your own blog and promote it.

You might also want to subscribe to any one of the hundreds of open source podcasts out there. I listen to FLOSS Weekly (Randal Schwarz + Leo LaPorte and sometimes Jono Bacon), Fresh Ubuntu (Peter Nicholitis and Harlem Kianu), the Ubuntu UK Podcast and some others. I'm less impressed by the Linux Action Show, but I still check it out every now and then.
You can find these and many others at http://www.thelinuxlink.net/

Comment Re:The Sun (Score 1) 377

The first reflecting telescope I had as a young high school student included a sun filter that screwed into the either of the two lenses that came with it, so I could look directly at the sun and observe all kinds of things like giant flares and sunspots. The green glass of the sun filter was probably similar to the material used in welding masks, as you could not see anything at all through it except the sun.

I saved my lawn mowing money for months to be able to afford that $58 K-mart blue light special, but it was definitely a worthwhile investment.

Comment Re:Politics, not science (Score 1) 590

Not at all. The twelve years of follow up studies of tens of thousands of subjects in different countries have never replicated any of Wakefield's data (based on an apallingly small sample of only 12 children in the U.K.) and have done a pretty convincing job of repudiating everything he claimed in his original paper. That is science, not politics.

Comment Re:For our sake (Score 1) 590

First off, the lead author of the study, Andrew Wakefield, was not a pediatrician who specialized in the treatment of children, nor was he an immunologist, who specializes in studying and treating the immune system. He was a gastroenterologist, who was consulted over some digestive disorders.

Second, he based his research on a study of only 12 children whom he treated. Yes, you read that correctly. Twelve kids. Not 200, or 6,000, or 15,000. Twelve. And that was his sole study group. There was no control group with which to compare results.

Third, he collected blood specimens from random children whom he invited to his son's birthday party, and paid them 5 pounds each for their blood. He did not obtain informed consent from the kids or their parents, a major violation of medical ethics and research protocols.

Fourth, he accepted over 400,000 pounds in payment from a group of attorneys retained by parents groups to sue the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines.

Fifth, he now blames thimerosol and the minute levels of ethyl mercury it contained as causes of autism, but in his original paper, he never mentioned thimerosol or mercury, mainly because the MMR vaccine he was blaming for autism did not even contain thimerosol.

Is this enough? Or do you need more data? If so, check out http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/65/1/19.

Comment Re:The debate is long from over. (Score 1) 590

Use PubMed to find scientific research in peer-reviewed journals. Here's the one I would immediately reference, as it was not funded by any pharmaceutical company, but by the State of California's Department of Public Health (your tax dollars at work): http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/65/1/19. You can even contact the authors directly, if you have follow-up questions.

There are, however, many, many, many others. Again, use PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/) instead of Google, as google ranks hits by popularity, not by scientific sources.

Comment Re:The debate is long from over. (Score 1) 590

When an adult gets varicella, it's called "shingles" and it is absolutely miserable, painful and takes weeks or even months to heal. The additional risk of secondary infection with other pathogens can be deadly. Any vaccine available to prevent varicella, whether as a child or an adult, is worth the effort to acquire.

Comment Re:The debate is long from over. (Score 1) 590

Yes, it is. There have been dozens of other research programs launched in response trying to replicate Wakefield's findings and not a single one has been able to do so. The scientific method requires independent verification of results and recommends that your study group and control group be a little bit larger than twelve, yes, 12 children to have any validity at all. On top of that, Wakefield is not a pediatrician nor an immunologist, but a gastroenterologist (or at least he was until last week, when his license to practice was revoked).

Comment Re:The debate is long from over. (Score 1) 590

If you're that concerned about this, you should do a little more research on the topic. There are two different kinds of mercury: ethyl mercury and methyl mercury. Thimerosol includes ethyl mercury which is in fact perfectly safe to inject into the muscle tissue. The kidneys are constantly filtering out bad things from the bloodstream, so the miniscule amount of ethyl mercury in an intramuscular innoculation of MMR vaccine containing thimerosol is flushed out of the body (even a tiny child's body) within a matter of hours.

The really bad stuff is methyl mercury, which can seriously damage the central nervous system, particularly when ingested into the digestive tract by, say, eating contaminated seafood. This is slowly aborbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines, where it lingers for a long time. And the more bad fish you eat, the higher the levels of methyl mercury accumulate in the body, and the longer it takes to get rid of, increasing the potential damage to the nervous system.

But neither of these has anything at all to do with autism, which is an ill-defined syndrome, a medical mystery commonly referred to as a "diagnosis of exlusion." This means that when a physician observes certain behaviors and symptoms in a patient that cannot be explained by any other diagnosis, they use the umbrella term "Autism spectrum disorder" which means they don't know what the hell causes it. Over the past few decades, the number of symptoms categorized as characteristic of "autism" has grown enormously, which is why the number of autistic patients appears to have risen. The medical establishment keeps moving the goalposts so that many conditions previously called something else (e.g. "restless leg syndrome") are now lumped under the many hundreds of symptoms called "Autism spectrum disorder."

This doesn't necessarily mean that there are more autistic people in the population now than there have ever been in the past, it just means that doctors are now classifying the sypmtoms differently, which makes the numbers appear to be going up.

Full disclosure: I am not a doctor, but I am married to a nurse, who knows a helluva lot about this kind of stuff because it is her job and she is damned good at it. Ask her about the health care system, ask me to fix your goddamned computer or network.

Comment Re:Really? (Score 1) 1324

I totally agree. My father was a skilled auto mechanic, and was always able to support his family because he was very good at the job. My brother followed in his footsteps and is a partner on a NASCAR team. He does pretty well for himself. The father of one of my best friends growing up was a plumber, and he made a lot more money than my dad. Electricians are always in demand and can charge a great deal for their skill.

Trade skills are just as important as professional skills because not everyone is capable of doing those kinds of jobs. A healthy free market economy needs all kinds of workers to prosper. Oh, that's right. Our economy is not particularly healthy right now.

You'll have to forgive me. I'm re-reading Atlas Shrugged right now, and it is seriously affecting my worldview in relation to what's going on in the U.S. today. Odd how a book published in 1957 is more relevant today than when it was first on the NYT best seller list.

Comment Re:Bigotry toward homeschooling (Score 1) 1324

How do you fix a public school system that you cannot control? Join the PTA? Run for election to the school board? Those really are the only two options (besides homeschooling your children). One is a frustrating exercise in mostly just fundraising, and the other is an expensive launchpad for resume padders and political hacks who just aspire to higher political office, and "fixing" public schools isn't really on their agenda.

My children went to public schools and my wife and I were officers in the Dad's Club and High School United Parent's Group. Both of them are smart and did okay academically, but the public school bureaucracy was a nightmare. My oldest son graduated from college in 2009 and is now working toward earning his teaching credential, but he is even more cynical about the system than I am because he is seeing it from the inside, and he says it does not work.

We did our best to augment the failures of the public school system by working hard with both boys to make sure they had more resources than the school provided, and encouraged them to read everything they could and expand their education beyond the classroom.

Contrary to your other assertion, I disagree that "many homeschooled children have virtually no exposure to the outside world..." I have some friends in another city who pulled their 15 year old daughter out of a horrible public school about eight years ago and home schooled her themselves. They purchased homeschool curriculum materials targeted to her age group from a private company (non-religious, since the parents were atheists) that guaranteed compliance with California's mandatory educational testing laws. It turned out she was far ahead of grade level in most categories. Their daughter was a bright, sociable young lady who passed all the state's tests with ease. In California, homeschooled students must pass all the same proficiency tests required of public school students. In most cases, they score far better than their public school counterparts. Linnea scored well on her SAT tests and recently graduated from Ohio State University and hopes to compete in the Olympics (she is also a skilled sharpshooter).

Is she exceptional? Certainly, but I think my children are also exceptional, and so are the many spelling bee champions who are homeschooled. Ultimately, we cannot fix a system that is broken beyond repair, so it is up to the parents to take responsibility for their own children's education, either taking over completely (homeschooling), or supplementing/correcting the public school's failures by providing an academically challenging home environment and encouraging intellectual growth and achievement.

Comment Re:Johnny Mnemonic (not the film) and Sandkings (Score 1) 131

If you never got a chance to read Gibson's writing in Canadian sf fanzines in the late 1970s and 1980s, "Johnny Mnemonic" would have been everyone's first exposure to him, since that was his first professionally published short story. Omni's fiction editor, Ellen Datlow, launched the careers of several sf writers back in those days. George R.R. Martin had stories published much earlier in magazines like F&SF, Analog and Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine, but Omni paid higher rates for fiction than the other magazines, so attracted submissions from some of the top names in the field (Silverberg, Sturgeon, Pohl, etc.).

Comment Re:Dons mirrored shades 'n' jacks into Wintermute (Score 1) 131

Yes, you can thank OMNI's fiction editor Ellen Datlow for publishing William Gibson's first short story, "Johnny Mnemonic" way back when and launching his stellar career. And I thank OMNI's features editor Pamela Weintraub for buying my first article in the last days of the magazine's life as a dead tree publication.

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