Blog of Mass Distraction

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Dark Energy

I went to a lecture about dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter and dark energy are unknown theorized substancse that can balance out the discrepancies observed by astrophysicists. Dark matter is some type of physical matter with apparently very low density, but makes up a vast amount of mass in each galaxy. However it is unseen and does not directly interact with light except through the gravitational effects it has as a massive body. Dark energy is another theoretical tool to explain why the universe seems to be constantly expanding at a faster and faster rate (as opposed to slowing expansion due to the gravitational effects of the massive galaxies pulling on each other to slow the outward force of the big bang). There are a few more lectures in the series, including one about search for life in the universe.

Hurricane Rita caused a big panic for Ontarians. Apparently causing everyone to run to the gas pumps and fill up to avoid a spike in the gas prices. There were some really long line ups at the pump a day or so ago. After Katrina gas prices shot up substantially and people wanted to avoid getting hit in the wallet. Of course there was no spike in prices, they went down a cent or two in fact, and everyone looked rather foolish. But once rumours start spreading, it's hard to counteract them with sense and reason.

The German elections have caused a big mess for the two leading candidates and all of Germany. Schroeder refuses to relent hold on being Chancellor to conservative rival Angela Merkel. Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic party won a very slight lead against Schroeder's party, but neither of the two leaders has been able to create a strong coalition to take up the Chancellorship. It looks like the debate may drag on for days and even weeks before resolving. And even then it may only be resolved by calling another election.

I'm loving my iPod and I'm thinking about getting some audio books. I've never listened to an audio book before. Just seems kind of odd to me to listen to a book. Listening to music is something I can do while I'm otherwise occupied. Reading, or even listening to speeches, on the other hand is something I usually do with full attention. So I'm wondering what it will be like to listen to a book. Some people don't like ebooks because they don't like to read at a screen. But reading on my laptop is great for me and I've read lots of ebooks. I'll try out a couple of audio books and see what they're like. iTunes has lots of audiobooks available, so I'll see what looks interesting. Definitely *not* the Harry Potter books though, which are a wee bit overpriced ($50!).

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Poles and Pickets

I've been really inspired lately and have met some very interesting people. I've attended some really interesting speeches and am set to attend some more. It's been refreshing to see some political viewpoints that differ from the vast dogmatic malaise that's too common nowadays. It's sad to see the degrading state of economic and political well being.

The strike at HydroOne is over after some 3 months. One of the union's at the company went on strike to fight the offer of multi-tiered pay and benefits. The CEO Tom Parkinson said the change was necessary to cut costs. His high salary, over 1 million a year, is some 5 times what the salary of the previous CEO Clitheroe's salary (who incidentally was fired for gross mismanagement and misappropriation). Parkinson was also appointed by the previous Tory government for his supposed reputation as a union buster. The strike has ended with both sides agreeing to arbitration which will take place over the next few months.
Speaking of unions, Michael Moore had some choice words for CBC which aired his film Bowling For Columbine tonight. Moore was upset with CBC for the continued lockout of their employees which are represented by the Canadian Media Guild. Moore was upset to the point of wishing they not air his movie. CBC has been working hard to try and maintain a broadcast schedule, but there has been an obvious disruption in their regular shows both on television and radio. Since CBC radio is pretty much the only thing I listen to in the car, I've started listening to more music while driving. My iPod helps there. :)

Elections in Afghanistan and Germany happened this weekend. The German elections have come out with mixed results and no clear majority. Conservative leader Angela Merkel has suffered a crushing defeat with only slight lead over Schroeder. Some blunders on her part cost her a major lead earlier in the campaigning. The US administration was apparently looking forward to dealing with Merkel as opposed to Schroeder who has always been distant to current President Bush and his international policy.
The results for the Afghan elections won't be in for a while yet.

Finally, Iranian President Ahmedinejad spoke at the UN stating that Iran's nuclear program was for civilian use only. But he restated the insistence of the Iranian government to develop nuclear technology, despite the US and EU efforts to prevent this.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Cool, Stylish, Sad

Just read about the Debian Common Core Alliance (DCC Alliance). It's a group of Debian distros that are banding together to help get a core of Debian packages that will meet with the LSB 3.0 requirements. I'm a Debian fan (even though I've been using Windows and my iBook more often lately). From the day I got Debian up and running, it's been my favourite OS. While the text based installer is just scary enough to keep away the neophytes, there's a plethora of specialty flavours of Debian that are super easy to install: Knoppix, Gnoppix, Mepis, and Xandros being a few. Ubuntu is the latest popular Debian based distro and it's becoming a big one (most popular over at distrowatch and it apparently got a few Google kids over the summer). I switched to Debian because of the package manager, and I know apt is available for RPMs now, but I'll always like ol' vanilla Debian.

The iPod Nano was released to much fanfare. The solid state storage runs up to 4GB so the player is extremely thin. Otherwise it's just like the regular 20/60GB versions in that it can show CD covers for songs and pictures on the colour LCD screen. I have friends drooling over them already. They are nice, but I'm loving my iPod... and besides, I've already got well over 4GH on there.

Also looking at the UNAIDS report for 2004. Some 2 million children are living with HIV and about half a million children died just last year from AIDS. That's about 15% of the total AIDS deaths for 2004 (which was around 3 million). HIV/AIDS is increasingly affecting the most vulnerable people in society. The chart below (taken from page 8 of the UNAIDS report) shows how AIDS infection has increased significantly more among women than men.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Yes my favorite place to be
Is not a land called Honah Lee
Mentally or physically
I wanna be in New Orleans
-- RHCP, 1991

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Not worth it

The wake of hurricane Katrina is still being felt in New Orleans. With the city some 80% underwater the convention centre and Superdome have finally been emptied of refugees, since they've been sent to Texas. The number of dead, expected to be in the thousands, is still increasing however, since the rest of the city had become like a war zone with snipers and gunfire everywhere along with other violence and looting. The dubious media coverage has been iteresting to watch, what little of it there's been. There were a few now notorious images that showed some black citizens wading through water with some food, and another with some white people in a similar position, having captions that read looters stealing and victims finding food respectively.

Bush and company have had to start acting to defend their image in response to all the bad press for their slow reaction to the disaster. Bush has had to respond to attacks by saying the government response has been unacceptably slow, and this had nothing to do with the race of the people affected. But without Mardi Gras the typical population of New Orleans is poor and black, not your typical Republican voter and not of great interest to the American news media. So like the millions of Africans dying of AIDS, TB, malaria and starvation, the people of New Orleans have learned that being poor and black means you're not worth the time or effort.