Archive for February, 2009

I don’t speak with an accent, you do

February 22, 2009

speech accent archive: about

The speech accent archive is established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded.1 The archive is constructed as a teaching tool and as a research tool. It is meant to be used by linguists as well as other people who simply wish to listen to and compare the accents of different English speakers.


Something tells me facebook is missing some controls

February 21, 2009

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

More often then not, nothing will be posted but there are many applications on the platform unfortunately that publish stories without you knowing it. There are two ways to avoid having this happen: don’t visit applications or scan your profile every time that you do. Ultimately you shouldn’t be concerned about applications that you’ve built a trusted relationship with but any new applications could potentially post embarrassing notifications.

This article is actually pretty useful (and I’m going to implement its suggestions any month now), but passages like this really implicitly point how little control users have. Somewhere between avoiding new applications entirely and checking obsessively to see whether they’ve shot your foot off (and whether there’s still time to sew it back on) there should be a middle ground. For example, you could imagine a moderated status for apps where anything they do has to be approved.

But then app makers wouldn’t just get free access to all of a gullible user’s friends, and the pace of, um, innovation would slow down. Can’t have that.

Which is when some friend sends me something new and shiny that probably doesn’t have a ticking bomb inside it, I just say no…

I coulda had a cast!

February 20, 2009

BBC NEWS | Health | Plaster cast better for sprains

The findings, published in The Lancet, are at odds with general medical opinion that the best thing for a sprained ankle is to keep it moving.

Up to 1.5m people a year in the UK go to A&E with a sprained ankle.

The injury accounts for 3-5% of all UK emergency department attendances and varies from minor stretching of the ligament to a complete tear.

It is commonly treated with ice, elevation, tubular compression bandage and advice to exercise.

But the researchers found that a tubular bandage was consistently the worst treatment.

In patients with severe ankle sprain attending eight emergency departments in the UK, a 10-day below-knee cast was associated with a speedier recovery in terms of ankle function, pain, symptoms and activity three months later.

The second best treatment was an Aircast brace which limits movement of the ankle.

A plaster cast costs £16.46, the researchers said, compared with £39.23 for an Aircast brace, £215 for the Bledsoe and £1.44 for a tubular compression bandage, the researchers said.

This is the kind of effectiveness research that should be done more often, and that the usual suspects tried to get killed in the US.

The election wheels grind slow…

February 20, 2009

EAC Certifies MicroVote EMS 4.0 Voting System — U.S. Election Assistance Commission

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today certified the Election Management System (EMS) 4.0 by MicroVote General Corporation. It is the first voting system to achieve federal certification under the EAC Voting System Testing and Certification Program.

An EAC certification indicates that a voting system has met the requirements of the federal voluntary voting system guidelines by successfully passing a series of comprehensive tests conducted by a federally accredited test laboratory. Certified systems must also meet technical and ethical standards that ensure the integrity of the system as it goes from the test lab to production and into the marketplace.

The EAC admitted the EMS 4.0 into its program on Aug. 15, 2007.

EAC Announces Intention to Suspend SysTest Labs — U.S. Election Assistance Commission

SysTest is one of five laboratories that were accredited by the EAC to test voting systems under the EAC’s voluntary program. The EAC accredited SysTest on February 21, 2007 based on a recommendation from NIST.

NIST suspended SysTest due to numerous non-conformities with the NIST Handbook 150-22 Voting System Testing, which sets forth the procedures, requirements and guidance for the accreditation of testing and calibration laboratories by the National Voting Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). Non-conformities included failure to create and validate test methods, improper documentation of testing and unqualified personnel.

Does anyone else get a sense that nothing is happening to get working, secure voting machines in front of voters, and that it’s not happening very quickly?

Live in a city with lousy IT, go to jail

February 20, 2009

Well, stay in jail, anyway.

Computer virus shuts down Houston municipal courts | Houston & Texas News | – Houston Chronicle

Mayoral spokesman Patrick Trahan said people in jail would be able to make bail, but several bondsmen contacted by the Houston Chronicle were under the impression that no one could be released until Tuesday.

Christian Navarrette, an art teacher, left his job early to get down to the courthouse to pay a speeding ticket. He said he was turned away when he tried to pay the ticket, which is due by Monday.

“They told me if I pay it now, it may not post by Monday because of the computer problem,” he said. “They told that I could face more fines if I pay it today, or I can just come back to pay it Monday. I guess I’ll have to leave work early Monday, too.”

Pretty much every other jurisdiction I know of has a rule that says they bear the cost of major negligence. I guess Texas is different.

Because it’s right.

February 20, 2009

PunditMom: Goodyear, You Can Spare $360K for Lilly Ledbetter

Here’s a short letter you can feel free to use:

Dear Goodyear:

Now that President Obama has reversed the Supreme Court decision that denied Lilly Ledbetter her $360,000 in back pay, we call on you to do the right thing and pay Lilly what she should have been paid over the course of 20 years. While the new Ledbetter Law is not retroactive, think about all the public goodwill Goodyear would receive in these tough economic times if it stepped up and did the right thing by Lilly.

Sincerely yours,

penicillin redux?

February 19, 2009

Science News / Sponge’s Secret Weapon Restores Antibiotics’ Power

Researchers led by Moeller, of Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, found a sponge thriving in the midst of dead organisms. This anomalous life amidst death raised an obvious question, says Moeller: “How is this thing surviving when everything else is dead?”

Chemical analyses of the sponge’s chemical defense factory pointed to a compound called algeferin. Biofilms, communities of bacteria notoriously resistant to antibiotics, dissolved when treated with fragments of the algeferin molecule. And new biofilms did not form.

So far, the algeferin offshoot has, in the lab, successfully treated bacteria that cause whooping cough, ear infections, septicemia and food poisoning. The compound also works on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes horrible infections in wounded soldiers, and MSRA infections, which wreak havoc in hospitals. “We have yet to find one that doesn’t work,” says Moeller.

And the results may not just apply to bacteria in communities. The compound is able to reprogram antibiotic-resistant bacteria that don’t form biofilms. When bacteria are treated with the compound, antibiotics that usually have no effect are once again lethal. This substance may be the first one that can restore bacterial resistance, Moeller says. “This resensitization is brand new.”

Of course, as soon as we start using this stuff in tanker-load quantities, we’re bound to turn up the one organism in the world that has a defesne against it, and then, under selection pressure, every other virulent organism will acquire the requisite coding sequence. We should be glad antibiotics still work at all…

Beautiful spider

February 19, 2009

La Princesse in Liverpool – The Big Picture –

Today’s entry is a collection shared by photographer Peter Carr, from an event in Liverpool, England last year. Said Peter: “As part of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year, the French group La Machine were commissioned to create a large piece of street theatre, on the scale of their earlier work, the Sultan’s Elephant. Many were expecting to see something using the iconic Liverbirds, the symbol of the city but instead we got a spider.

It’s really a little sad to learn that the legs aren’t fully practical. But still so very way cool.

I’m sure there’s a hitch

February 19, 2009

TECNARO GmbH – Arboform principles

By mixing specific types of lignin with natural fibres from wood, flax, hemp, sisal or other fibrous plants and natural additives a composition is produced which can be processed at raised temperatures. This material is made into mouldings, sections or panels on conventional plastics processing machines in just the same way as a petrochemical thermoplastic material.

Various news stories quote competing researchers saying they didn’t think it could be done, but that’s pretty much Rice-Davies’s Law in action. Nothing a priori against it. (Also a reminder not to let your wooden structures get too hot, because lignin loses strength at high temperature.)

tab dump misc

February 17, 2009

Horror: Japanese Robot Cat Provides Companionship, Nightmares

a horrifying Japanese robotic kitty called Yume Neko Smile. It’s just like a real cat, except it won’t leave dead birds on your doorstep, won’t scratch up your furniture and doesn’t have a soul.

Education: Old Circuit City Stores to Be Used as Schools?

with hundreds of Circuit City stores all across the country set to be left vacant in the very near future, the question has arose about what to do with them. One idea is to sell them to schools.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | US ‘lost track of Afghan weapons’

# US military officials failed to keep proper records on about 87,000 rifles, pistols, mortars and other weapons sent to Afghanistan between December 2004 and June 2008 – about a third of all the weapons sent
# There was a similar lack of management of a further 135,000 light weapons donated to Afghan forces via the US military by 21 countries
# The military failed even to record the serial numbers of some 46,000 weapons, making it impossible to confirm receipt of weapons or identify any which had fallen into the hands of militants
# The serial numbers of 41,000 weapons were recorded, but US military officials still had no idea where they were

BBC NEWS | Europe | Russians warn of Afghan parallels

The view from Moscow is that the Western forces have learned nothing from the bitter experience of the Soviet Union.

Instead, they are falling into exactly the same trap.

One prime example is the current plan by the US to send tens of thousands of extra troops.

“Doubling their forces won’t lead to a solution on the ground,” says Col Oleg Kulakov, who served twice in Afghanistan and is now a lecturer and historian in Moscow.