May 19, 2005

Prof. Hwang Woo-suk

From Digital Chosun Ilbo in Korea, something to give you pause for today.

Korea’s “king of cloning”, Prof. Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University, has once again shaken the scientific world after being the first to succeed in cloning a human embryo for stem cell extraction last year.

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May 12, 2005

Viewpoint Media Player - Don't click Update!

Have you ever opened up an exam to find that you didn't study the right section of the book? That horrible gut wrenching feeling is what I felt when I read "You have been Updated". After updating your Viewpoint Media Player, which you probably didn't even know you had, it asks you to click "Update" to install a "new browser update" with "advanced pop-up blocking and graphically enhanced search". No X to close the window, no "No thanks", not even a right-click is allowed, just "More info" and "Update". This is so wrong. I don't care what it does, I want "the eye" out of my computer. I'm not the only one.

Kill it. First go to Add and Remove Programs in the control panel and Remove "Viewpoint Manager". That will clear out the popup. Then, uninstall Viewpoint Media Player. I bet you are feeling better already. I sure am.

Posted by torque at 1:07 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 11, 2005

National ID awaits President signature

The Senate today passed an $82 billion spending package 100-0 to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with a few "extras". Cobbled together with border control and tsunami relief is a provision which has been dubbed Real ID, or, as some opponents have renamed, UnRealID. Proposed by Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. from Wisconsin, the bill essentially calls for nationalization of the drivers license. The Preseident is expected to sign the bill tomorrow.

Not surprisingly, the national ID card is not a new concept and has been proposed a number of times as a means of curbing illegal immigration. Steve Moore had an interesting quote from Reagan in the 80s when this was proposed:

The concept once surfaced in a Reagan cabinet meeting in 1981. Then-Attorney General William French Smith argued that a perfectly harmless ID card system would be necessary to reduce illegal immigration. A second cabinet member asked: why not tattoo a number on each American's forearm? According to Martin Anderson, the White House domestic policy adviser at the time, Reagan blurted out "My god, that's the mark of the beast." As Anderson wrote, "that was the end of the national identification card" during the Reagan years. H.R. 231 is proof that bad ideas never die in Washington; they just wait for another day.

Here's what the bill says:

Improved Security for Driver's Licenses and Personal Identification Cards - (Sec. 202) Prohibits Federal agencies from accepting State issued driver's licenses or identification cards unless such documents are determined by the Secretary to meet minimum security requirements, including the incorporation of specified data, a common machine-readable technology, and certain anti-fraud security features.

Sets forth minimum issuance standards for such documents that require: (1) verification of presented information; (2) evidence that the applicant is lawfully present in the United States; and (3) issuance of temporary driver's licenses or identification cards to persons temporarily present that are valid only for their period of authorized stay (or for one year where the period of stay is indefinite).

(Sec. 203) Requires States, as a condition of receiving grant funds or other financial assistance under this title, to participate in the interstate compact regarding the sharing of driver's license data (the Driver License Agreement).

(Sec. 204) Amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit trafficking in actual as well as false authentication features for use in false identification documents, document-making implements, or means of identification.

Requires the Secretary to enter into the appropriate aviation security screening database information regarding persons convicted of using false driver's licenses at airports.

(Sec. 205) Authorizes the Secretary to make grants to assist States in conforming to the minimum standards set forth in this title.

(Sec. 206) Gives the Secretary all authority to issue regulations, set standards, and issue grants under this title. Gives the Secretary of Transportation all authority to certify compliance with such standards.

Authorizes the Secretary to grant States an extension of time to meet the minimum document requirements and issuance standards of this title, with adequate justification.

(Sec. 207) Repeals overlapping document provisions of the IRTPA.

(Sec. 208) States that nothing in this title shall be construed to affect the authorities and responsibilities of the Secretary of Transportation or the States under existing laws governing the establishment of a National Driver Register.

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May 6, 2005

Bad pricing or bad taste? 2001 Charles Shaw Cab

I admit, I liked Charles Shaw Winery's 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Imagine my shock upon discovering its $2.99 price tag (Trader Joe's) - here, the Three Buck Chuck (Two Buck Chuck in 2002). So, is it bad pricing or bad taste on my part? Enoch, where are you? Fortunately, I'm not the only one in this predicament, there's an active forum dedicated to this wine on winebork.com. Tom Carr has a a not-so-positive epinions review along with 30 additional comments. I like this one by "snoopsafe":

Once in a while mankind gets something very right. In my lifetime some notables have been: The 1964 Ford Mustang, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Doritos Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips, Pace Picante Sauce, and, well, yes Charles Shaw Wine. Warm and fuzzies that tend to fit right at home across America. To some of us; caviar is still just stinky fish eggs and we know that the neighbors decision to buy a Mercedes has nothing to do with calculated reason. Those designer dresses worn at the Oscars look pretty silly and we like our Charles Shaw wine because our senses suppress our ego.
Interestingly, according to Ben Giliberti, "There is no Charles Shaw winery. Two Buck Chuck is bottled by the Bronco Wine Co., which is owned by Franzia, the box-wine juggernaut. It is sold exclusively at Trader Joe's stores. The company is selling so much (an estimated 1 million cases a month) that it can barely keep the wine on the shelf." Finally, here's the skinny direct from Trader Joe.

Posted by torque at 12:27 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Getting certified to install Forbo Marmoleum

Two certifications are available from Forbo: Associate Mechanic and Master Mechanic. Apparently certification is now available through the 4-year International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL) program. I found an instructive article from last year at carpenters.org.

INSTALL instructors, spread among 25 training centers across North America, will begin linking Forbo’s Associate Mechanic curriculum with INSTALL skill blocks. With this new partnership, apprentices who successfully complete the INSTALL four-year training will also earn certification as Forbo Associate Mechanics. And, existing floorlayers will be able to earn the designation through journeyman upgrade courses.

INSTALL is the most comprehensive, multi-year floorcovering installation training program in North America. Before an INSTALL instructor can teach the Forbo Associate Mechanic program, he or she must earn a Master Mechanic certification. Wiggins and other Forbo officials recently trained, tested and certified the first group of INSTALL instructors at the UBC’s International Training Center. INSTALL instructors in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tulsa will now begin to teach the Forbo Associate Mechanic program, and Forbo plans to continue training and certifying INSTALL instructors throughout 2004.

"This is, by no means, a rubber stamp. The training is tough," said Jim Schmid, international director of INSTALL. "Because of the level of skill needed and the quality of materials being used, it’s necessary to really prove your skills and gain an in-depth knowledge of Forbo materials."

Posted by torque at 12:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 5, 2005

Marmoleum

If you are in the market for flooring, you might consider natural linoleum. Made from linseed oil (hence the "lin"), natural linoleum, unlike vinyl "linoleum" is good for both you and the environment. These days, it is also rather artsy. Unfortunately, all this comes at a cost. There are two sources that I know of. Armstrong's Marmorette and Forbo's Marmoleum.

Marmorette is made from "linseed oil, powdered cork and other organic materials". Marmoleum is made of "linseed oil from specially cultivated Canadian flax, wood flour from European trees, rosin tapped from Portuguese pine trees, jute from India and Bangladesh and very finely ground limestone". Natural linoleum is non-allergenic, comes in a lot of fun colors (150+ for Marmoleum!), and lasts 25 to 40 years after which it is completely biodegradable. I found Marmoleum online from Green Building Supply for $31.49 per sq yd. You'll need to buy the special adhesive as well, which runs $123.60 in 600 sq ft/4 gallon increments. I wonder if you can do stairs. I expect installation to come at a premium, though with Marmoleum click, you can do it yourself.

Marmoleum click is a Marmoleum laminate on HDF panels and cork. It incorporates Marmoleum and the subfloor system in a single product, and can be installed on almost every type of floor.

More

  • GreenHomeGuide Reviews of Marmoleum
    "Although considered 'natural,' linoleum poses a significant environmental burden." That said, it is not as bad as "evil vinyl flooring". Hmmm.
  • Marmoleum installed in Virginia Commonwealth University ballroom
    "Since its a natural product with a high wood pulp and linseed content, its not as sound reflective as hardwood flooring. The product is available as sheetgoods or tiles. Seams can be heat welded to create a liquid-impervious floorcover. Colors and shapes can be mixed/cut in togther to create some amazing looks...see the photo attached below for the "area rug" look we created in the VCU Commons ballroom. If you are a regular "This Old House" viewer, then you saw it used as kitchen/ mudroom flooring in the fire-damaged renovation last year. Maintenance can be as easy as autoscrubbing and burnishing or you can apply a sealer/finish for a harder, glossy look."

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