Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Old Fashions with a New Twist

In Namibia:

The Show-Stopping Fashion of Namibia’s Herero Tribe
Even in a continent rich with fantastic traditional garments, the Herero tribe of Namibia stands out. Photographer Jim Naughten first came across and photographed members of the tribe while traveling across Southern Africa 15 years ago. Naughten returned in 2011 with better camera equipment and produced this eye-catching series. Merrell has just published a book of the work, and two shows open in March: at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, and Margaret Street Gallery in London.

The origin of the Herero dress is early-20th-century German colonization. The outfits, which at first were forced on the Herero, later became a tradition, a choice, and a source of pride and status as they made the fashion their own. Tribe members wear the German uniforms at various ceremonies, funerals, and festivals as a way of honoring their warrior ancestors. [...]
Follow the link and have a look at all the pictures. I enjoyed looking at the people's faces, as much as the clothes.


     

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The inevitability of Gay Marriage

Here is the "why":

A gay marriage backlash? Not likely
[...] Four factors often predict whether judicial decisions will generate backlash: public opinion, relative intensity of preference, geographical segmentation of opinion, and ease of circumvention/defiance.

Unsurprisingly, only rulings that contravene public opinion tend to generate backlash. In 2003, Americans opposed gay marriage by roughly 2 to 1. Today, supporters outnumber opponents by 5 or 10 percentage points. A ruling in favor of marriage equality would generate far less backlash today than previously. Still, the nation was divided nearly down the middle when the Brown and Roe cases were decided, yet both rulings generated massive political resistance.

Backlash is more likely when opponents of a ruling care more than supporters do. In 1954, Southern whites overwhelmingly disagreed with Brown, and 40% of them regarded civil rights as the nation's most pressing issue. Most Northern whites agreed with Brown, but only 5% of them deemed civil rights equally important. Similarly, by 2004, among the one-third of Americans who supported gay marriage, only 6% said the issue would influence their choice of political candidates. Among the two-thirds who opposed gay marriage, 34% deemed it a voting issue.

That large disparity in intensity of preference between the two sides of the issue no longer exists. Perhaps more important, even strong opponents are unlikely to find that a marriage equality ruling will directly affect their lives in the way that Brown and Roe affected opponents. In the 1950s, white Southerners committed to white supremacy thought that sending their children to school with African Americans was the end of the world. Opponents of abortion regard the procedure as murder.

Constitutionalizing gay marriage would have no analogous impact on the lives of opponents. Expanding marriage to include same-sex couples may alter the institution's meaning for religious conservatives who believe that God created marriage to propagate the species. But that effect is abstract and long-term. The immediate effect of a marriage equality ruling would be that the gay couple already living down the street would become eligible for a marriage license — and nothing would change in the daily lives of gay-marriage opponents. That is why strong initial support for a state constitutional amendment to overturn the Massachusetts court ruling rapidly dissipated once same-sex couples began to marry. [...]
That explains a lot. Succinctly. And in IMO, makes it inevitable.
     

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rand Paul on Pot; a Democrat Opportunity?

Rand Paul: People Shouldn’t Smoke Pot, But They Shouldn’t Go To Jail for Non-Violent Drug Crimes
[...] While arguing against mandatory minimum sentences for smoking pot, Paul pointed out that both President Bush and President Obama could have seen their lives destroyed by marijuana-related arrests, reports the Hill. “Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use,” Paul said. “Look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky. But a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys. They go to jail for these things. And I think it’s a big mistake.” Host Chris Wallace replied with a laugh: "Actually, I think it would be the last three presidents, but who's counting?"

[...]

Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress writes that Democrats need to take “very, very seriously” the fact that “one of America’s most radical ideologues” is moving ahead with an “effort to outflank them on drug policy.” Paul clearly believes that taking a more liberal stance on drug issues could help him appeal to young people, independents, and moderates. And he’s right. Polls have shown that two-thirds of Americans under 30 favor legalization of marijuana. Paul is right on policy too, adds Millhiser, but “if Democrats cannot be moved to think sensibly on drugs because it is the right thing to do, the least they could do is think sensibly on drugs because it is in their selfish political interests to do so.”
“one of America’s most radical ideologues”? You mean, actually following what the United States Constitution says is "radical"? Not in my world. I guess he must mean the Brave New World this one is turning into.
     

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Death by Alzheimer's is increasing

U.S. deaths from Alzheimer's growing, data shows
(Reuters) - Deaths and the risk of dying from Alzheimer's disease have risen significantly in the United States during the last decade, according to two reports released on Tuesday.
[...] Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the risk of death from the degenerative brain disease rose 39 percent between 2000 and 2010 even as mortality rates for other conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke fell significantly.

Separate findings from the Alzheimer's Association based on CDC data, but looking at actual deaths, found mortality up 68 percent over the same decade.

While the risk of death depends on a patient's age, gender, race and even where they live, it is clear that it has been increasing steadily for a long period of time, the CDC said in its report.

Those 85 and older are far more at risk of dying from Alzheimer's than those age 65 to 84, CDC said. Whites and women are also at higher risk, it added. [...]

     

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Android VS iPad. Is Android Winning?

Looks like that may be the case:

Android Tablets Pushing Aside iPad: IDC
Influx of low-cost Android-based devices will tip the tablet market in Google's favor this year, says IDC.
[...] Android tablets may have a leg up on the Apple iPad and iPad Mini thanks to their lower price point. Devices such as the Asus Nexus 7, with its $199 price tag, are appealing when compared to more expensive Apple hardware. The iPad Mini, for example, starts at $329 and jumps up quickly if you add features such as LTE 4G or more storage. Consider, also, the recently announced Galaxy Note 8 from Samsung. This appealing 8-inch tablet brings many of the Note II smartphone's features up to tablet size at a price that still beats the iPad.

The Nexus 7, Galaxy Note 8 and other Android tablets will account for 48.8% of the 190.9 million tablets shipped during 2013 (about 93.6 million tablets). That's up from IDC's previous forecasts for the year, which were much lower at 41.5%.

At the same time, IDC said, Apple's share of the tablet market will slip from the 51% of shipments it held at the end of 2012 to about 46% of shipments (about 87.9 million) by the end of 2013.

That means Android-based tablets will outmatch the iPad for the first time, with 48.8% of the tablet market this year, compared to 46%. That will certainly sting Apple, as it defined the current tablet market with the iPad.

Android and Apple aren't the only players in the game, however. Believe it or not, Microsoft is going to make some noise in the tablet market this year, said IDC, thanks to Windows 8 (think Surface Pro) and Windows RT. Both of Microsoft's tablet platforms will steal share that would otherwise have gone to Apple or Google, but not everything is necessarily going well with Microsoft's tablet plans. [...]

But then there is also Samsung's own operating system, "Tizen":

Samsung's future is Tizen, not Android
[...] Up until now, everybody had assumed that Tizen would focus on the lower and middle end, with Android focussing on higher-end phones (and also low-end). This new statement by Samsung seems to contradict just that; Tizen will be on high-end devices.

Add all of this together and it becomes clear what Samsung is going for. The company wants to decrease its dependence on Google, and Tizen is the way they're going to do that. For most Samsung smartphone owners, TouchWiz is Android, and since Tizen could easily get a TouchWiz-like user interface, the average consumer wouldn't notice a thing. OpenMobile's Application Compatibility Layer takes care of the application situation, and will allow Android applications to run on Tizen unmodified.

In other words, since most Samsung users are familiar with TouchWiz and Android applications, Tizen should not provide them with any difficulties - yet, at the same time, it will give Samsung control over its own platform, independent from Google. It won't have to conform to Google's wishes, it won't have to deal with sudden code drops from the Android team - it can do what it wants.

Of course, this won't happen overnight; it'll be a gradual process that may take several years. I also highly doubt Samsung will drop Android altogether - most likely, Samsung's big sellers, top-of-the-line devices will run Tizen, while others will run Android. [...]
More choice. Good! Read more about the open-source Tizen OS here.
     

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Sci-Fi Rockets of the '50s become a reality

SXSW: Elon Musk discusses hovering rocket, Mars and that NYT review
AUSTIN -- Elon Musk says if mankind doesn't make it to Mars by the time he dies, it'll be the biggest disappointment of his life.

Speaking to a packed crowd of several thousand attendees at South by Southwest on Saturday, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX said he might even consider making the journey himself.

"I'd like to die on Mars, just not on impact," he said.

For now, he's been focusing his attention on something a bit closer to home. Musk revealed to the crowd that SpaceX is one step closer to developing a reusable rocket, saying the company recently launched a 10-story rocket that burst into the sky, rose 262.8 feet, hovered and landed safely on the pad 34 seconds later using thrust vector and throttle control. To cushion its fall back to the launch pad, the Grasshopper has steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, plus a steel support structure.

Video of the test, which took place at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas, was shown to an enraptured South by Southwest crowd. Musk said it was the first time anyone aside from the video editor and himself had seen the footage, which you can check out below.

"It can land on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter," he said. [...]
I saw the video in the article, it was pretty cool. I used to laugh at those old sci-fi movies of the '50's, showing people landing and taking off in rockets. In my time, rockets have always been disposable. The idea of landing and taking off again in the same rocket seemed unrealistic. But now it seems, it might really have been a vision of the future after all.

Once more, everything old is new again.

Hopefully we will be seeing many more wonderful things from SpaceX.
     

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Moss on the roof problems

We've had problems with ours, causing leaks by lifting the tiles up. So I've been researching solutions.

How to best remove the moss: "Dominic" on Youtube

How to keep it from growing back: This Old House Video

     

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South Africa, black on black crime

South Africa police charged with dragging murder
[...] The video shows Mr Macia struggling with police after apparently parking his vehicle illegally.

Police officers then overcome the taxi driver and tie him to the back of a van by his arms before driving off.

Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega: "The behaviour displayed in the video... is to be abhorred"

Former South African President Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, joined hundreds of mourners at a Daveyton sports stadium on Wednesday.

Wednesday's emotional ceremony saw mourners, many wearing t-shirts and holding posters printed with Mido Macia's photograph, joining together to sing, clap and dance.

Graca Machel, who is herself Mozambican, told reporters: "As a society we are bleeding. We are grieving. We are in pain. We just don't know how to deal with the pain."

Sonnyboy Ndlovu, a witness to the dragging who was at the ceremony, told Reuters news agency: "The police are used to terrorising people here in the township, especially the Ethiopians and Mozambicans." [...]
During the Aparteid years, any crime by the white-controlled police against blacks made international headlines. When Apartheid was abolished, and blacks assumed majority rule and control of the police, crimes by police continued, I would read about them in SA newspapers on the internet. They were reported in South Africa, but no longer made international headlines. The international press was not interested in reporting black on black crimes by police.

So what made this case different? Someone recorded it on video with their cell phone, and it got shown on South African TV (the article has a link to that video). And Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel got involved.

There has been an ongoing problem in South Africa with crimes against black foreigners. When Apartheid was abolished, so were much of the border controls with neighboring countries, which allowed millions of foreign nationals to come streaming into South Africa, competing with South Africans for jobs in an already tight job market. Unfortunately, it continues to be a problem.

   

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Have Smart Phones to do Medical Work

And save us lots of time and money, too:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The doctor being interviewed talks about waste in the medical industry, and suggests that a third of all drugs prescribed are unnecessary or even harmful.

He demonstrates how a Smart Phone can be used to replace many costly and time consuming tests that waste time and money. Yet I wonder how far he will succeed with this medical phone apps technology? It would cut into the profit margins of those who are heavily invested in the old way of doing things.

 http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21134540/vp/50582822#50582822  

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Genetics and Mental Illness: common roots?

Same Genetic Basis Is Found in 5 Types of Mental Illness
The psychiatric illnesses seem very different -- schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Yet they share several genetic glitches that can nudge the brain along a path to mental illness, researchers report. Which disease, if any, develops is thought to depend on other genetic or environmental factors.

Their study, published online Wednesday in the Lancet, was based on an examination of genetic data from more than 60,000 people world-wide. Its authors say it is the largest genetic study yet of psychiatric disorders. The findings strengthen an emerging view of mental illness that aims to make diagnoses based on the genetic aberrations underlying diseases instead of on the disease symptoms.

Two of the aberrations discovered in the new study were in genes used in a major signaling system in the brain, giving clues to processes that might go awry and suggestions of how to treat the diseases.

“What we identified here is probably just the tip of an iceberg,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller, lead author of the paper and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “As these studies grow we expect to find additional genes that might overlap.”

The new study does not mean that the genetics of psychiatric disorders are simple. Researchers say there seem to be hundreds of genes involved and the gene variations discovered in the new study only confer a small risk of psychiatric disease. [...]
     

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Guns Studies and Politics

The two seem to be inseparable:

What Researchers Learned About Gun Violence Before Congress Killed Funding

I found the article... irritating, in many ways. Too much speculation and "What Ifs". Yet, I would be just about ready to give up reading it, when it would say something very reasonable or thoughtful.

Any such future study would be incomplete without also looking at countries that have strict gun control laws, and the impact of such laws on crime. The worst assertion in the article was that homes with guns were not safer than homes without. Gun protected homes that don't experience crime because they are protected, don't show up in statistics. Anyway, there is plenty of food for thought. As some of the comments following the article show. It will always be a contentious topic.
     

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Chinese Astrology: The Year of the Snake

It began last month. And apparently, Snake years are often marked by turbulence:

Asian astrologers warn of stormy Year of Snake
[...] Previous Snake years have been marked by the September 11, 2001 terror strikes that killed nearly 3,000 people, the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The 1929 stock market plunge that heralded the Great Depression also occurred in a snake year.

Hong Kong's celebrity feng shui master Mak Ling-ling predicts the stock markets will enjoy a smooth first-half before becoming turbulent in the second half of the year, which she links to the characteristics of the reptile.

"It's just like the movement of snakes -- fast, aggressive and sharp, but cunning and tricky at the same time," she tells AFP.

Mak warned that despite early market optimism there would be no full recovery in the crisis-hit eurozone, while the economy of the United States would not gather a strong pace until 2014.

She added that President Barack Obama needed to "be less conservative" in his attempts to revive the economy.

Astrologers say this year's snake is identified with the element of water -- symbolising fear -- that sits on top of the fire element, representing joy and optimism. They say conflict between the two will bring turbulence in May.

"This is a disaster year... a lot of things will not go smoothly," said Singapore's "Grand Master" Tan Khoon Yong of geomancy consultancy Way OnNet Group.

"The European Union may split, the euro may be in trouble," the 59-year-old said, adding that the bloc would be threatened by division in May.

Hong Kong astrologer Chow Hon-ming said a disharmonious May would see an ongoing dispute between Japan and China possibly escalate into a "brief" war, as two "snakes" are going to clash according to his reading of the Chinese almanac.

"May is known as the 'snake month' and it's the Year of the Snake so between May 5 and June 6, these two snakes will meet.

"This is why things will be very intense between Japan and China. Tensions will rise to a peak and they will possibly go to war." [...]
Blah Blah Blah. As with all fortune telling, we shall see. But if it does happen, ya heard it here first! ;-)

   

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