Tuesday, December 2, 2008

News roundup

I'm not sure I've ever done a news roundup blog. I read the news on Google News almost every day, and I say various things to myself as I read, but I'm not sure I've ever published those thoughts. So here goes:

Ex-AOL boss looking to raise cash for Yahoo! bid

Long story short, former AOL executive Jonathan Miller is trying to raise $30 billion from investors to buy Yahoo. Yahoo is only valued at $15.7 billion, and Yahoo rejected a $47.5 billion offer from Microsoft.

Wait, what? If you add Yahoo's projected worth to what Miller wants to raise, it falls short of Microsoft's offer, which was rejected. Better yet, Google's been owning Yahoo in every sense but literally and legally for years now. Their search engine was never anything special, and they've been playing catch-up on the email front ever since Google unveiled Gmail a few years back. (My wife is a Yahoo! Mail loyalist, and it's not a bad product, but it's no Gmail. Before I used Gmail, I used MS Outlook Express to access email at my ISP. I didn't like any webmail programs until Gmail came out and converted me to webmail.) The only things Yahoo has going for it, if you ask me, are its hierarchial organization of the web, and its Games subsection. I don't use Yahoo Games, but from what I've seen, it's good for what it is (something I'm not into). So basically, I don't use or even care for Yahoo at all, though I do have Yahoo News bookmarked and occasionally glance at it. Next!

Apple removes anti-virus support page

Apple's KnowledgeBase, on the topic of antivirus, previously suggested that you use multiple antivirus solutions to keep your Mac safe. Now they say you don't need antivirus at all because a Mac is perfectly safe out of the box.

They've got a point. I think there were a couple odd viruses (*ahem* "Virii" is the proper term, but since nobody knows what it means, geeks often compromise and just say "viruses") when a Mac was a Mac, but now that a Mac is a Linux box running on Intel, I hear there really aren't any. Viruses just aren't made for Unix or Linux because the systems are so well designed. Without getting into the technical side, it's almost impossible for a virus to be effective under Linux, and by extension, Mac OS X. Additionally, since such a vast majority of people use Windows, and Windows isn't nearly as secure, the people who are making the viruses make them to exploit the many more weaknesses of a Windows system. That, or they attack web browsers through maliciously coded web pages, which can affect any platform, and rather than crash your computer, they steal information.

On the other hand, telling people to lower their guard because their computers are safe now not only instigates troublemakers to make trouble for Mac users, and ultimately teaches computer newbies (whom Apple has always marketed to) bad habits which can carry over when (if) they ever move on to a real computer. Nothing against Apple, they make fine machines, but there's a few good reasons why most people use Windows computers. Moving on...

Scientists report mental "Body Swapping"

Hey, look, we can put cameras on a mannequin and little screens over someone's eyes and make them think they're a mannequin! Then we can touch their stomach and the mannequin's stomach at the same time and add to the illusion.

Lame. What I want to know - what I've always wondered - what makes us who we are? Christians say it's the soul, and science really doesn't have an answer, though they strongly imply it's the brain, or a certain part of the brain. Imagine, if you will, two brothers. One is condemned to die for murder, and the other is terminally ill. Swap their brains, and you can save the terminally ill man, he's just got to live the rest of his life in his brother's body. The condemned man gets the terminally ill man, who is put to death by lethal injection to satisfy the State's need for vengeance. But something like that hasn't been done and is probably years away.

Sounds cool though, doesn't it? You're about to die, would you trade your body for a chance at a renewed life? What if you were an old man, and your son was about to die, and he changed bodies with a condemned man. His memories and mannerisms are in this man you've never seen before, how would that be? Or going back to the earlier example of two brothers, what if it were a brother and sister? How would a male mind work in a female body? Would the person become lesbian, or what? And in a society with incest as the highest taboo, how is any guy going to approach sexuality, in his sister's body? Of course, that would be personal choice, the bigger question is how the brain would react to going from one body with one set of physical characteristics to another body with another set, whether you go from an overweight and/or bed-ridden body to a thin and healthy one (say the brain wants to eat pizza but the body is used to salad and soy) or from having male parts to having breasts and female parts? I believe the brain itself is genderless and has "support" for male and female organs (that is, going from one to the other, the brain wouldn't have to be trained to accept stimulus from the other organs) but I'm sure there'd be a period of adjustment. All guys joke about being female for a day (as long as it wasn't during a certain time of the month) and experiencing some of the advantages women/girls enjoy, but I'm sure very few would actually swap brains with one. Or would ya?

Another social issue is that of past relationships. Say you swap bodies with your brother, to use the example, and he's married. Do you inherit his wife as well as his body? If there was a secret desire there all along, you can probably work it out, but what if you despised one another? Would your/his leaving count as a divorce? For this problem I look to the Trills, a Star Trek race which have that problem. A small percentage of them are chosen to receive symbionts, these slug-like creatures which enter the body through the stomach and merge with the host's mind. The host lives about as long as a human, but the symbionts are nearly immortal, many living for nearly a thousand years. Their rule is pretty simple. Posessions, rank (military), and associations are tied only to the host, the symbiont has and owns nothing, so when they go to a new host, they get a whole new life. This may not apply to everything in real life, but some rules would need to be enforced, and fiction's as good a place to start as any, as long as it's logical. But anyway...

Roman Polanski requests dismissal of child molestation charges

In 1978, film director Roman Polanski (Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, et al) was convicted of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, but ran to France before sentencing, so he can't be sent back. The victim is now 43 and maintains she never had a problem with it, doesn't hold it against him, and swears he's not a threat to society. The courts say he was convicted and ran, and that's that.

How can this girl... I mean woman... say that he's not a threat to society? He's a pedophile or close enough to it. (If the girl was developed, at all, pedophile isn't the right word, there's another word that's more appropriate, and the difference is being attracted to undeveloped kids and being attracted to developed but minor teenagers for the thrill of doing something illegal.) But regardless of what he is, he's attracted to little underage girls, and I somehow doubt he's gotten any kind of professional help for it over in France. For all we know he's probably molested kids and young teens over there. America doesn't need more sexual predators. France has helped him escape justice for 30 years, France can keep him. He may have made good movies (I don't know, not sure I've seen any) but he can make good movies in France and the studio can distribute them here. Additionally, he's shown disregard and contempt for our legal system all these years. He doesn't agree with our laws protecting children from sexual deviants, he should go to Pakistan or Thailand, where, as I understand it, the "inconvenience" of such laws is notoriously absent. I hear most kidnapped children (who aren't found) wind up in one or the other, that child prostitution is legal and common in those countries, and that's where most of the illegal porn comes from. Seems like that's where Roman Polanski needs to go, not here in the US where we (try to) protect our young.

Generic drugs as good as brand-name counterparts

No shit, Sherlock. Skipping the summary as the headline says it all. However to quote the silly article directly, "The developers of drugs are permitted to exclusively market the drug for a finite period of time after its approval, at least partly to recoup the costs of developing the medication. After that time, however, other manufacturers may produce the same drug as a generic." Aspirin is aspirin. Advil is just the trade name for Ibuprofen. Many people believe that the brand name drug is better, and this is simply not the case.

The only possible difference is the dosage. I rarely see this, but if Advil has 200mg Ibuprofen (which it does) there's nothing stopping a generic from saving money and marketing 125mg Ibuprofen. But if you look on the active ingredients, you'd see one is less than the other.

Part of the perception from this comes from generic food. Generic soda is real hit-and-miss. On the west coast, Safeway soda is very good, while Albertsons' soda is nasty. Down in the South, Food Lion soda is decent (though not great) and Harris-Teeter soda is pretty bad (though, not as bad as Albertsons' out west). If you like Sprite, for instance, you might be satisfied with Safeway Select Lemon-Lime, maybe Food Lion lemon-lime, but most likely not the other two.

And there is no such thing as generic Macaroni & Cheese that comes anywhere near close to the quality of Kraft. I've tried most of them. The noodles are lower quality and the cheese is much lower. The reason for that is real simple. Kraft is a big producer of cheese anyway. So they can make decent dehydrated cheese formula at next to nothing, and this is why you can get Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (The Cheesiest, the basic variety) for only pennies more than generic (50¢ a box at Walmart). Note that Annie's is not a generic and is in fact premium (upwards of $3.00 a box) and in my opinion still inferior to Kraft's offering, but that's just my opinion.

Hockey team Stars' Avery suspended for off-color remark

So this Canadian hockey player, eh, he's suspended indefinitely for making a remark that was so brutal about his former girlfriends that the NY Times wouldn't post it, eh. Did he call them "nappy-headed ho's"? Not sure about the NY Times, but other news agencies and radio stations have no problems repeating that off-color remark, eh.

(OK, enough pretending I'm Canadian, eh... OK, no, really, I mean it this time.)

So I found a news agency with enough cojones to publish the remark. I mean, the dude's been suspended for it. At least repeat what he said. If it's not a big deal, he shouldn't have been suspended. You can't have it two ways.


And here's what he said: "I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight." Sloppy seconds? That's it? It wasn't even racist or sexist (the term can go either way).

What does he mean? From the NY Times article, "Avery’s former girlfriend, the actress Elisha Cuthbert, is dating Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf and had been linked to Mike Komisarek of Montreal. Avery also dated the model and actress Rachel Hunter, the fiancĂ©e of Los Angeles center Jarrett Stoll." So two of his exes went on to date other hockey players, and he's implying that the other hockey players want what he's got, as opposed to the more logical conclusion that he dates girls who are just into hockey.

Whatever. You put a mic in someone's face enough, he's bound to say something stupid at some point. Get over it, people. The comment wasn't racist, it wasn't sexist, it wasn't even very offensive, and it was characteristic of a young, single guy to say. Get the hell over it.

Wal-Mart Black Friday Death May Not Justify Crowd Control Law

Basically, Walmart is sort of opposed to a new crowd control law New York is considering, following the trampling death of a temporary employee at a Walmart on Black Friday.

First of all, Walmart needs to be held liable. This year they had 46-52" HDTVs for something like $700 and they only had a couple per store. Come on. What do you think is going to happen? Yeah, Walmart knew what they were doing. They aren't kidding anybody.

I don't know about crowd control laws, but they need to pass a law about Black Friday. Simply stated, sales must be at least 24 hours long, and they must give out rain checks for customers who arrive after the products have sold out. This way, nobody's going to rush to get in at 5AM. Just arrive any time to get your TV, and if they're out, they either have to give you another brand of the same size at the same price or give you a rain check. If a rain check holder can't get his or her TV in the next 30 days, the store then must substitute another brand of equal or greater value at the sale price.

Yes, conservatives, I know that this will result in less dramatic sales as the sales will have to be guaranteed. But it'll guarantee to reduce or even eliminate Black Friday stupidity which runs wild across the country, which this year resulted in a fatality. Seems pretty simple to me.

And on that note, we cue the music...

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