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Tom Friedman’s snappy slogans

Thomas Friedman proves once again why he isn't looked to for advice by political movements around the world:

May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announe that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.”

Maybe they can write it in really, really small letters.

It's better than "suck on this, Iraq" but I'm afraid it doesn't have quite the same ring to it...



Tristero- Man bites dog

While Digby already noted the potential importance of the special election in New York-26, this article about the contest is still worth reading. Not because it's a well written report - it isn't, it just describes the horserace and gallops over the ideas - but because of the way in which the Democratic challenger, and the race, was described. We have rarely seen either this kind of activity from a Democratic challenger in a difficult race, and even less frequently read this kind of positive coverage. It's almost as if running an exciting campaign that appeals to voters encourages a more positive attitude from the press.

I know: it's more complicated than that. Even so, Kathy Hochul is clearly doing something very right:

Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up...

The district, which stretches from Buffalo to Rochester, has been in Republican hands for four decades, producing influential figures like Representative Jack Kemp and siding with Carl P. Paladino, a Republican, over Andrew M. Cuomo in the governor’s race last year…

Ms. Hochul… campaigned energetically and with great focus…

Ms. Hochul maintained a positive image conveying a homespun quality, speaking with a Buffalo accent, connecting naturally with voters…

In her victory speech Tuesday night, she noted that her mother and father, who have retired to Florida, were making phone calls to voters on her behalf for months.

..given the makeup of the district, one of four in the state that John McCain carried in 2008, Republicans said they needed to understand if they had misread the public.

“It’s a Republican district with a solid Republican candidate,” said Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from Long Island.

“What went wrong? We definitely have to determine the extent to which the Medicare issue hurt us…”

The seat became vacant in February when Representative Christopher Lee, a Republican, abruptly resigned after he e-mailed a shirtless photo of himself to a woman and it was published on the Internet…

The race also marked the debut of House Majority PAC, a group recently established by Democratic strategists as a counterbalance to the slew of conservative organizations that helped Republicans make significant gains in the 2010 elections. House Majority PAC spent nearly $400,000 on advertising in the race.


NSLS-II Digs Up History [Brookhaven Bits & Bytes]

Five years before becoming fully operational, Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) already is leading to discoveries -- of the historical kind.


Pieces of newspaper dug up at the NSLS-II construction site, which include a story about a boxing match scheduled for October 2, 1917 - Tommy Tuohey versus Ed Wallace

As earthwork takes place on the NSLS-II construction site, which housed part of the U.S. Army's Camp Upton in the World War I and II era, artifacts ranging from rusted horseshoes to nearly 100-year-old pieces of newspaper are being dug up.

One of the most recent finds is a large piece of painted concrete rock thought to have been part of a floor in a warehouse used in the army base in the 1940s. The rock, which has a hand-drawn emblem of a bugle, the notation "Company G," and the words "Baptized by Fire," was linked with the 14th regiment, known as the "Fighting Fourteenth" and the "Red-legged Devils" from Brooklyn. The second wave of American troops sent to France in WWI, including soldiers from Camp Upton, received their last bit of training just behind allied lines and were subject to enemy fire. This may be why the regiment adopted "Baptized by Fire" as their motto.


A slab of concrete found in the NSLS-II excavation site

Construction workers also recently discovered a WWII dog tag that belonged to a soldier who likely passed through Camp Upton on his way to England after his basic training concluded at Fort Oglethorpe, GA, in 1943. By 1945, WWII had ended and Camp Upton was officially declared surplus. Two years later, Brookhaven National Laboratory was born.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


You Will Never Die [Uncertain Principles]

If I ever decided to abandon any pretense of integrity or credibility, and just shoot for making a bazillion dollars peddling quantum hokum, the particular brand of quantum philosophy I would peddle has already been laid out, in Robert Charles Wilson's Divided by Infinity. In the story, the narrator is given a copy of a "crank book" by Carl G. Soziere, titled You will Never Die, which makes an argument that is essentially a variant of the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics:

And the argument was seductive. Shorn of the babble about Planck radii and Prigogine complexity and the Dancing Wu-Li Masters, it came down to this:

Consciousness, like matter, like energy, is preserved.

You are born, not an individual, but an infinity of individuals, in an infinity of identical worlds. "Consciousness," your individual awareness, is shared by this infinity of beings.

At birth (or at conception; Soziere wasn't explicit), this span of selves begins to divide, as alternate possibilities are indulged or rejected. The infant turns his head not to the left or to the right, but both. One infinity of worlds becomes two; then four; then eight, and so on, exponentially.

But the underlying essence of consciousness continues to connect all these disparate possibilities.

The upshot? Soziere says it all in his title.

You cannot die.

The "shared consciousness" stuff is twaddle, of course, but at its core, there's actually a fairly coherent idea, which is no sillier than things that get published in reputable journals. For that reason, this is my favorite fictional treatment of Many-Worlds.

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Redistricting Commission Update: If Reps don’t want to answer the question?

Earlier this week, the Citizens Redistricting Commission held a hearing in Oakland for organized groups to submit their maps for consideration.  One of the last groups to present was the California Institute on Jobs, Economy and Education.  Commissioners were rightfully curious who that really meant.  They repeatedly asked for more information about the organization, who were their members and what was their policy interest was in redistricting.  The presenters did everything they could to skirt, dodge and avoid answering the questions.  

Well, since the Institute did not want to help, I can.  The gentleman who began the group's presentation was Thomas Hiltacht.  Hiltacht is a well-known Republican attorney.  He's worked for everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to the nefarious initiative to divide the state's electoral college votes by Congressional District.  

The man who drew the lines was Matt Rexroad.  Rexroad admitted he is a County Supervisor in Yolo County.  He left out the fact he is also a highly-partisan Republican political consultant who frequently posts on redistricting for the FlashReport describing lines that may advantage or disadvantage his party.  Guess which ones made it into the Institute's plan?

The good news is that Commissioners quickly realized their plan was a hot mess.  The Senate plan includes a district that runs from El Dorado to Tulare.  That's more than 250 miles and a 4 and a half hour drive.  The Assembly plan splits 85 cities.  That's about 30 more than the Legislature did 10 years ago.  The Congressional plan drops African-Americans from three districts to one in Los Angeles County.  That understandably irritated the African-American Commissioner from Los Angeles.  

The bad news is that we have to continue to be vigilant.  Tomorrow the Commission is scheduled to hear more group presentations.  The last group to present is Citizens for California Reform.  Another independent organization that just wants fair redistricting right?  Wrong.  Citizens for California Reform is a front group for Gabriella Holt, failed Republican candidate for Assembly District 54 in 2008 and the main force behind the 2010 failed effort to use a part-time Legislature initiative to threaten Democrats into giving into Republican budget demands.  

Hopefully we can count on Commissioners to see through their act just like they saw through the Institute's today.  


Are all these tornadoes being caused by global warming?  [Greg Laden’s Blog]

People are asking me: Is the recent spate of tornadoes caused by global warming? The usual answer to that question is that you can't answer the question because a tornado is not caused by climate ... it is cause by weather ... and global warming (which is real, and which is cause by humans) is climate change.

However, that is not really the best answer to the question. Ultimately, I want to propose an analogy for how to think about this question, but first, a stab at a good answer, which if modified could probably be improved:

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Biopunks, biohackers, and the movement to own your own DNA [Thoughts from Kansas]

On DNA Day, 23 and Me had a sale on their personal genomics service. They'd do their standard scan of your genome for free, as long as you paid for a year's worth of their online subscription service.

A much smaller version of that same genome survey would have cost you a thousand dollars or more only a couple of years ago. For your money, you get data on single nucleotide polymorphisms at about a million spots in your chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA: mutations that can tell you about your ancestors' migrations across the globe, about your propensity for certain diseases, and about various behaviors and traits, from eye color or hair color and on to the ability to detect the odd odor some people's urine emits after they eat asparagus.

For the price (nearly free up front, and a modest cost for the online community provided), my wife and I jumped on the deal. Since I got the results back two weeks ago, I've been exploring not only the services and information provided by 23 and Me, but the various other tools that individuals have started producing to help analyze and investigate this insight into my ubiquitous but invisible DNA.

Declining cost of sequencing DNAIn years to come, the ability to learn about our personal genetic information, and other personal molecular biology, will only increase. The cost of sequencing DNA keeps dropping, and the level of detail possible through microarrays like those used by services like 23andMe keeps growing. At the same time, the amount of information available about the effects of individual genes and individual gene mutations is rising rapidly. The possibilities are tremendous, but this is not without its risks.
My genome, for instance, revealed a genetic predisposition towards late-onset Alzheimers. The odds of getting Alzheimers are still quite small, but elevated because of this particular mutation to the APOE4 gene. This wasn't a total surprise, given my family history, and as a healthy, young guy with a background in biology and biostatistics, it wasn't hard for me to put that information into a context and move on. Down the road, I'll probably keep an eye out for new research on Alzheimers medicines and look into tools for early detection, but I'm not going to kill myself if I forget my keys. (Thanks to the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Affordable Care Act's prohibition on "pre-existing conditions" - not to mention the inherent uncertainties in translating this genetic result to a specific outcome - I'm not especially worried about discussing that result in public).

But I can see how someone with a different background, different family history, different training, or different genetic risks, might find these results scary. A 30 year-old woman with certain mutations related to breast cancer could be advised to undergo prophylactic double mastectomies, a decidedly fraught decision. Because of that tension, the FDA and Congress (as well as state regulators in New York and California) have held hearings into the practices of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing services like 23andMe, questioning whether the tests should be treated as medical devices, whether results should have to be passed to consumers through a doctor or a trained genetic counselor, thus increasing the cost and making the services inaccessible to folks with low income or without health insurance. Critics note that most doctors haven't got the background to say anything informative about the results.

They also raise a more fundamental objection, one at the heart of Marcus Wohlsen's fascinating new book Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life. They argue that our DNA is as much a part of ourselves as our hair color or height, and that we have as much a right to access and explore that genetic information as we have to find out about our hair and skin and eyes and teeth. DNA is not destiny, but it is certainly a key part of who we are, and we shouldn't have to rely on intermediaries to be able to interpret the results.

Wohlsen chronicles the nascent movement of folks taking this a step further, not just using the increasing ubiquity of genetic information to learn about themselves, but using the increasing ubiquity of molecular biology equipment and information to turn biotechnology and molecular biology research into a sort of hobby. Some - like the folks at OpenPCR who I met at Maker Faire last weekend - are working to make the equipment needed cheaper and easier to build on your own and to reconfigure and tweak for your own needs. Others are using results from genetic tests as a basis for research into their own biology, with one person conducting a small clinical trial among people with a shared mutation, to help him find out which vitamin supplements would be most readily absorbed into his body (give his particular genetics), to help him avert a disease his genetic screening revealed he was likely to experience. Another biopunk converted her apartment closet into a biotech lab so that she could create a simple, cheap genetic test for hemochromatosis, a difficult-to-diagnose genetic disease which affected her father, but which her insurance company wouldn't pay to test her for.

Most of the biopunks Wohlsen introduces us to aren't trying to cure diseases or create genetic tests. They surely wouldn't mind if they changed the world somehow, but their interest in DIY biology is driven more by a sense of personal exploration and a pure fascination with how things work. The goal, one of these biopunks explains, is to "increase the tinkerability" of biology, "simplifying and domesticating" it to make it accessible to anyone who wants to play with it. Groups like the Bay area's Biocurious aim to create communal molecular biology labs which anyone can join and tinker in; Biocurious will open its lab this summer in Mountain View, not far from Google and the researchers at NASA's Ames facility.

Wohlsen, an AP reporter who covers the Bay Area biotech industry, does a brilliant job bringing us inside this movement, and exploring the hopes and enthusiasm of its advocates. He acknowledges the concerns that exist, but nicely defuses concerns that DIYbio could simplify bioterrorism. A terrorist could accomplish all they might wish without any of the new technology coming out, and the supply companies which will sell you custom stretches of DNA and other essential tools of molecular biology are, by Wohlsen's account, smart and ethical enough to screen out dangerous gene sequences.

I'm fascinated by this movement for various reasons. Partly because I know that this is the future, and it's awe-inspiring to see this unfold, to see molecular biology join insect collecting, bird-watching, and astronomy among the sciences people bring home as hobbies. There's tremendous power there, and tremendous opportunity, and I wish I'd paid more attention to molecular biology in school so I could take part.

But I'm also fascinated because this is the future even for people whose aversion to biochemistry is even greater than my own. Just as everyone in the mid- to late 20th century needed some grasp of physics to be able to think sensibly about nuclear energy, nuclear war, and a host of related issues, the 21st century is sure to be dominated by biology. And DIYbio can play a key role in democratizing science, precisely because it's more focused on what's neat than on what's likely to turn up a new Nobel Prize or a new patent and venture funding for a biotech startup. Its openness will be a great strength as a tool for improving science literacy, and biopunks know it.

Wohlsen quotes from Meredith Patterson's Biopunk Manifesto:

Scientific literacy is necessary for a functioning society in the modern age. Scientific literacy is not science education. A person educated in science can understand science; a scientifically literate person can do science....

Scientific literacy empowers everyone who possesses it to active contributors to their own health care, the quality of their food, water, and air, their very interactions with their own bodies and the complex world around them.

This is a point I constantly return to in my own work on evolution education. Within the lifetime of a student in high school today, the cost of genome sequencing will surely drop low enough that a genome sequence will be a standard part of everyone's medical chart. To understand that wealth of information, doctors and patients will need to be able to understand the common ancestry of life, and the evolutionary forces driving the differences in genes and their effects between humans and model organisms like mice and flies and roundworms. Increasingly, doctors without that context will be worse doctors, and patients without that context will be worse patients: less involved in their own care, and less able to understand the advice their doctors will be giving them. They'll be less able to understand new discoveries when they are reported in mass media. They'll be cut off from an essential part of themselves.

It's clear that Wohlsen, like me and the opponents of FDA regulation of DTC genetic testing, agrees with the idea that this information is and must be our own, to play with and interpret as we see fit. Biopunks, with their commitment to the idea that "knowledge set free will empower everyone," are trying to change society and prepare it for the potential of the revolutions happening in biology today.

Wohlsen summarizes:

Do-it-yourself biotech strives to bring biotech out of these closed-off [academic and industrial lab] spaces and give it to the public. Whether the public actually wants to have it is another question. Do-it-yourself biologists believe they should want it, if only because they have a right to it. Here, DIYers say. This is yours. Because DNA is us.


Biopunks have not achieved any major scientific breakthroughs. Maybe they never will. But they all exhibit a goofy joy in what they do, like they're getting away with something. Because rather than wait for science to be done to them, they have decided to do science.

That's a vision I agree with, and a movement I want to be part of. Most of my reason for getting my own genetic analysis was precisely so I could explore these same ideas, and so I could have first-hand experience that could inform my opinion on policy decisions being made today which will affect the future of this fascinating movement. Whether or not you decide to look under the hood at your own DNA, I'd encourage you to read Wohlsen's book and think about the issues it raises.

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Make Yourself Irreplaceable with a Limited Skillset

Not all of us designers are a Jack-(or Jill)-of-all-trades. Some of us have that one thing we are really good at and we are okay at other things. We might be great web designers, but our coding skills are just sub par. In the design business, we can get discouraged easily, because clients and companies look for people who are well versed in their skill set. Also, job titles are becoming more and more comprehensive, but don’t fear. If you don’t have it all, there are some steps you can take to make yourself irreplaceable.

Look for Help

Let’s get personal for a moment: I am a print and web designer and that’s honestly about it, and to be honest, I prefer print over web design. It takes me hours to code, I get frustrated and if it doesn’t go right the first time, my troubleshooting skills are non existent. Fortunately for me, when I got a client who was interested in web design, I almost always had to turn them down because my coding skills just weren’t up to par. I’m sure I ended up losing out on decent money and clients because once you can’t help someone out as best as they need, they end up dropping you.

Eventually, I got tired of passing up on opportunities. I needed a partner and I needed one quick. So I wandered over to Craigslist and put up an ad about who and what I was looking for. I got about 20 interested people from just posting in two different cities (not the big ones, either), checked everyone out and made a decision. I actually ended up finding someone I liked, met with him and the rest is history.

My point is, if you don’t have a certain skill and you find your clients are looking for that skill often, just find a partner or outsource. Not only did I hook up with a web developer, I found a videographer as well and now I don’t have to turn down a lot of work. You’d be surprised how many people are looking for partners and are as like-minded as you may be.  Having a partner doesn’t just mean more opportunities, but it means less work on your plate. I don’t have to go crazy about troubleshooting coding any more, I can actually get started with the next client. So hit up Craigslist or some other ad websites, or just get into some good networking and get yourself a partner or two.

Go Above and Beyond

This is a very cliché statement, but it’s a very true statement. We can assume that most of the people looking for your work are not people who can do your work and are oftentimes people who don’t understand the work that you do. You can capitalize off this by making sure your client understands your work process and what you are doing. Going into consultations and meetings with nothing they can see is never good. Really make a huge presentation about their work so they understand you mean business. Don’t reveal too much information but try to get them to understand the amount of work you’ve done so they can understand the quality as well.

Going above and beyond doesn’t just have to be design related either. If you can get more information from the client about the company and what the designs may be used for, perhaps you can share some knowledge with the client. I try to get information on marketing techniques, audiences and upcoming events so I can lend a hand. Make sure it’s cool first, but perhaps come up with some marketing and promotional ideas and submit them to the client. If the client likes them that could mean more work for you via the submitted ideas or because the client sees you have taken an active interest in helping them. For you it may not be marketing and promotional ideas, but it may be a potential brochure or site redesign or just letting them know the benefits of different technologies. Don’t just treat the client as a means to work, but take an interest and work with them like you work there. Everyone always wants more bang for their buck, just think of different ways you can do so.

Relationships are Key

Networking is one thing but having a professional relationship with a client can be so much more rewarding than just exchanging business cards. Treat your client like you would treat a good friend and they will at least consider you first. Everyone has to understand that designers and clients are humans and respond to human emotions. How flattered do you get when a friend sends you a Christmas card? How neat do you think it would be to get one from a client?

Doing things like sending cards and updates creates more of a personal connection with a client. It also keeps you fresh on their mind. Make it known to them that they matter to you. Remember things about them to talk about during meetings. Some clients feel more of a connection by talking on the phone rather than through e-mail or Skype. The little things really matter with people. Be genuine and don’t go overboard (and creepy) with it. After all being successful isn’t necessarily about how many people you know but how many people you have relationships with.

Exploit Your Niche

Your limited skill set can be the very thing that makes you extremely different from others. The truth is, when you can typically focus in on a niche to the point of being an expert, you can really bring a lot of attention to yourself. For example, if you are a print designer and you want to exploit your niche, you can create solutions and new trends in print design that really put you at the forefront of that niche. By branding and having a good marketing strategy, you can end up being a print design guru.

Setting yourself up as an expert of a particular niche can really get you a loyal client base because they believe in you and your expertise. Write articles and e-books about your niche to really push the point that you are an expert and know exactly what you’re talking about. On your business card, instead of it saying ‘print designer’ think of something really clever to call yourself to drive the point home. This not only makes you neat, but can really help filter out the type of jobs that you get–if you set yourself up as a print designer, clients will typically only come to you for print design.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we as designers have to be well versed in everything. If you understand other skills, but are really strong in one particular area, you can be as lethal if not more lethal than someone who claims to be a Jack of all trades. Build teams and really build your brand and you can become someone who would be considered irreplaceable.


Visualize Images Using HTML Text with Textify

Textify lets you drag an image onto the page and watch it be reconstructed purely out of text. The markup for the resulting textual image can be copied and used elsewhere.

There are a lot of settings which allow you to control the characteristics of the text. Even the smallest tweak to the settings can result in a very different output. Beware that using very large amounts of text will cause heavy browser lag. Textify has only been tested and confirmed to work in Chrome and Firefox 4.


Requirements: Chrome or Firefox 4
License: License Free


Using What Font is you can identify the font you are looking for!

Aactis Shopping Cart: easy, fast and reliable. Check for special offers.


Bellwether Report

So the Democrats won the special election in Jack Kemp's old district, NY-26, a GOP stronghold for 40 years. The pendulum is swinging so wildly it hit the Republicans in the head and left them so confused they attacked the most popular program in America in a time of terrible economic anxiety just after they lost a huge amount of wealth in the most frightening economic crisis since the great depression.

But I think they should stay the course. It's the kind of message that will surely resonate with time if they just keep repeating it. They should listen to this fellow. He really knows how to sell it:


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