Daily Archives: February 27, 2008

The Coming Plague

You have probably heard that the current flu vaccine matches the current flue strains in the US very poorly, perhaps at about a 40 percent rate. Flu and the vaccine mismatch is a post at Effect Measure that will update you on this important issue. This is especially important because you need to understand what vaccines do, how they work and how they don’t work.

The simultaneous news of widespread flu and the mismatch of two components of this year’s seasonal vaccine (see here and here) seem to have synergized. That’s not so good in the view of many flu experts, who believe (correctly) that it leads to a misunderstanding of how the vaccine works (or doesn’t)

Then there’s the bird flu: Continue reading The Coming Plague

Linux and Instant Messaging

I don’t do much instant messaging, although I have found it useful for communicating with colleagues overseas for free. But, in the ongoing quest for the answer to the question “Right, but can I do that in Linux?” I offer the following link on Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications.Do I need to point out that “instant messaging” (communication across a network between different computers was invented on, by, and for Unix type machines. So of course, IM would be a natural with Linux. Not only that, but if you are sitting at your Mac communicating with someone half way around the world sitting at their PC, there are numerous Unix/Linux machines linking you up and doing the real work.

Another Absurd Patent

OH, and this…

“If all goes IBM’s way, it’ll soon constitute patent infringement if Bennigan’s gives you a free lunch for being inconvenienced by a long wait for your meal. Big Blue is seeking a patent for its Method and Structure for Automated Crediting to Customers for Waiting, the purported ‘invention’ of three IBM researchers, which IBM notes, ‘could be implemented completely devoid of computerization or automation of any kind.’ Can we count on IBM to withdraw this patent claim, or will Big Blue weasel out of its patent reform pledge again?”[source]

Nature News

Polluted prey causes wild birds to change their tune from PhysOrg.com
Considerable attention has been paid to the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic environments, but rather less attention has been given to routes of contamination on land. A new study, published in PLoS ONE on February 27 by researchers at Cardiff University, reveals that wild birds foraging on invertebrates contaminated with environmental pollutants, show marked changes in both brain and behaviour: male birds exposed to this pollution develop more complex songs, which are actually preferred by the females, even though these same males usually show reduced immune function compared to controls.[]

Also, see:Encyclopedia of Life: Up and Running and Generating Debate at The Loom (Zimmer) Continue reading Nature News

Most Annoying Man Evah, W.F. Buckley, Dead at 82

William F. Buckley has died.i-55e6dac4c1f9e96fd70cf08bd9b9c9cb-buckley.2.jpg

William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right’s post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.

Read it here

Why is there a big huge pile of trucks in Secaucus, New Jersey?

Because the Garmin GPS system …

… is leading some drivers … straight into a dead end. …The electronic maps don’t show a gate that separates residential and industrial areas. It’s only opened for a couple hours on weekdays in the northern New Jersey city.Mayor Dennis Elwell says residents on Fifth Street started complaining about trucks clogging their street about a year ago … Some drivers have to call police to open the gate because their trucks are too big to turn around.[source]

This has led to a call for Open Source GPS databases.

New-generation antidepressants do not produce clinically significant improvements in depression

In this open access publication in PLoS it is

…suggest that, compared with placebo, the new-generation antidepressants do not produce clinically significant improvements in depression in patients who initially have moderate or even very severe depression, but show significant effects only in the most severely depressed patients. The findings also show that the effect for these patients seems to be due to decreased responsiveness to placebo, rather than increased responsiveness to medication. Given these results, the researchers conclude that there is little reason to prescribe new-generation antidepressant medications to any but the most severely depressed patients unless alternative treatments have been ineffective. In addition, the finding that extremely depressed patients are less responsive to placebo than less severely depressed patients but have similar responses to antidepressants is a potentially important insight into how patients with depression respond to antidepressants and placebos that should be investigated further.

Here is the original article. You don’t need to be special to read it, since it is published in an Open Access journal.

Patents Patently Absurd: The End of Innovation in Education Will Come at the Hands of The Corporate Business Model

I’ve been avoiding discussion of the patent issue. This is partly because I don’t know enough about it, and partly because I am terribly annoyed by it. Yes, yes, I blog about stuff that annoys me all the time, but these are topics that I’m professionally engaged in, so the annoyance is not personally as troubling.The basic idea is this: The US patent office has apparently gone nuts, or is being well paid off, and is accepting or approving patents on things that really should not be patented. The result is that a corporation with lots of money can patent something, and the next day sue their competitors into oblivian.Yesterday morning I started the process of developing an on line course. But, the very first thing I did was to check to see if I would have the option of using Open Source software. Were that not the case, I would, frankly, simply not do it. Let other people develop the on line courses. Fortunately, here at The U, we have the option of using Moodle. Good.But then, this morning, I encountered a rash of information about Blackboard (which, I believe, now owns Vista) … these are all Content/Content Management System programs to use in classes, both regular and on line.Blackboard has patented one or more things, such as the idea of having a single human play more than one roll in a CMS system. So Blackboard is the only company that can have the option of a teacher also being a student. This means that teachers can’t see the view that students see when signing on to the class (by changing their “role”) unless Blackboard gets paid something. Continue reading Patents Patently Absurd: The End of Innovation in Education Will Come at the Hands of The Corporate Business Model

The Google Summer of Code is Up and Running

Google Summer of Code 2008 is on! Over the past three years, the program has brought together over 1500 students and 2000 mentors from 90 countries worldwide, all for the love of code. We look forward to welcoming more new contributors and projects this year. We’ll begin accepting applications from mentoring organizations on Monday, March 3, 2008, and student applications on Monday, March 24th.

More info here.