They get good mileage though…

It’s a good thing I saw The Lion King when I did. Because just one day later, President Bush, in his State of the Union address, called for the elimination of the Lion King. More than that, he called for the elimination of “human-animal hybrids”. And no, I have no idea what he’s talking about either. But if anyone is producing Dr. Moreau style crimes against nature, it’s those crazed imagineers at Disney. They must be stopped at all costs!

During the brief passage on bioethics, when George Bush called for legislation banning the creation of “human-animal hybrids.” In Washington, there is a lobby for everything except apparently mermaids and centaurs.

Lions and hyenas and warthogs

Last Wednesday, I went to see The Lion King, as presented by the American Musical Theatre of San Jose. Since I’m one of the 3 people in North America that has never seen the original Disney animated feature, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that Elton John had written a song about a farting warthog.

Turns out, it was pretty entertaining. But I kept feeling that I had missed out by not seeing the film. It seemed that many of the scenes sketched or summarized an action sequence from the movie. “What are they doing here? Oh, maybe reminding us of a scene from the film.”

But the songs were good, and well sung by the cast. And the costumes were great. I had expected a bunch of actors dancing around in cat suits, like … well, in “Cats”. Instead, they were all well and truly human actors, who carried carved lion masks like aboriginal dancers. Occasionally, an actor would take his mask, to assume a more “human” role, or lower the mask to hide his face to act more feline.

Other character costumes even more imaginative – a combination of puppetry and disguise. I was amazed that the actors could sing, dance, and work their puppets simultaneously without skipping a beat. And an actor and his puppet might have very different postures and expressions. You could look from one to the other to see both reactions to a scene.

The costumes seemed appropriate. After all, the animals in Disney movies really talk and act like humans most of the time. They only wear their animal form. But they occasionally revert back to their animal nature, as if a puppet momentarily escapes from the grasp of its puppeteer.

That was brief

President Bush’s statement during his State of the Union address that “America is addicted to foreign oil” has generated some predictable skepticism around the country.

As Mark Sandalow of the SF Chronicle puts it:

President Bush’s call for Republicans and Democrats to work together, for America to engage the world and for the nation to quit its addiction to oil will sound to many skeptics like Barry Bonds calling for an end to steroid use in baseball.

Bush’s call to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil follows five years of promoting U.S. oil production and rejecting calls for conservation. In the first year of Bush’s presidency, Cheney dismissively observed, “you cannot conserve your way to energy independence.”

Well, not to worry. Turns out – that bit about cutting back on oil imports? He was just kidding.

Administration backs off Bush’s vow to reduce Mideast oil imports

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America’s dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn’t mean it literally.

How’s this for a science fair project?

My family alerted me to this gem of scientific research, which made the rounds back in 2001.

Hot air?

“It all started with an enquiry from a nurse,” Dr Karl Kruszelnicki told listeners to his science phone-in show on the Triple J radio station in Brisbane. “She wanted to know whether she was contaminating the operating theatre she worked in by quietly farting in the sterile environment during operations, and I realised that I didn’t know. But I was determined to find out.”

Dr Kruszelnicki then described the method by which he had established whether human flatus was germ-laden, or merely malodorous. “I contacted Luke Tennent, a microbiologist in Canberra, and together we devised an experiment. He asked a colleague to break wind directly onto two Petri dishes from a distance of 5 centimetres, first fully clothed, then with his trousers down. Then he observed what happened. Overnight, the second Petri dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin. But the flatus which had passed through clothing caused no bacteria to sprout, which suggests that clothing acts as a filter.

“Our deduction is that the enteric zone in the second Petri dish was caused by the flatus itself, and the splatter ring around that was caused by the sheer velocity of the fart, which blew skin bacteria from the cheeks and blasted it onto the dish. It seems, therefore, that flatus can cause infection if the emitter is naked, but not if he or she is clothed. But the results of the experiment should not be considered alarming, because neither type of bacterium is harmful. In fact, they’re similar to the `friendly’ bacteria found in yoghurt.

“Our final conclusion? Don’t fart naked near food. All right, it’s not rocket science. But then again, maybe it is?”

Reprinted from the Canberra Times, 17 July 2001; spotter, Michael Doyle.

The iPod Ecosystem

The iPod Ecosystem

Making add-ons for the iPod is a $1 billion business. Does that sound like hyperbole? Consider this. Last year, Apple sold 32 million iPods, or one every second. But for every $3 spent on an iPod, at least $1 is spent on an accessory, estimates Steve Baker, an analyst for the NPD Group, a research firm. That works out to three or four additional purchases per iPod.

Spinning in the Bully Pulpit

In his State of the Union address, President Bush talked about U.S. dependency on foreign oil, and urged research in alternative energy. He also talked about the importance of scientific education, and the need to train more teachers and scientists.

This from an administration that has always emphasized drilling over alternative energy, and has taken a consistently hostile attitude towards science policy. But it will take more than one speech to convince skeptical scientists that the administration is sincere.

In February 2004, a panel of scientists released a report entitled Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making. The report charged the Bush administration with widespread and unprecedented “manipulation of the process through which science enters into its decisions.”

In July 2004 by the Union of Concerned Scientists elaborated on the concerns in the report Scientific Integrity in Policy Making. The report concludes:

  • There is a well established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political appointees across numerous federal agencies. These actions have consequences for human health, public safety, and community well-being.
  • There is strong documentation of a wide-ranging effort to manipulate the government’s scientific advisory system to prevent the appearance of advice that might run counter to the administration’s political agenda.
  • There is evidence that the administration often imposes restrictions on what government scientists can say or write about “sensitive” topics.
  • There is significant evidence that the scope and scale of the abuse of science by the Bush administration are unprecedented.

Then again, we should not take the President’s speeches too seriously. Remember back in January 2004, Mr. Bush talked about establishing moon bases and a manned mission to Mars.

Mine is so big, it needs special equipment

I’m hoping that this is a mis-translation, or a bad joke. In a recent news conference, Bill Gates was quoted as saying that IRS computers cannot handle his tax return.

“My tax return in the United States has to be kept on a special computer because their normal computers can’t deal with the numbers”

Riiight. After all, 32 bit arithmetic only gets you to 4 billion. So maybe the IRS ported their software to a 64 bit machine just for Bill, Larry Ellison, and Warren Buffett.