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22 Apr 13
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Richard dawkins on homeopathy

During a recent bout of influenza, a professional pharmacist suggested that I should take Echinacea to improve my immune system.

I was rather shocked because I have always assumed that folk medicine, including homeopathy, health foods, etc, is a departure from medical science that should not be endorsed by a health professional. I did some research, both on Google and asking friends, and could find no credible support for the entire health food industry.

I am not ruling out the possibility that vitamins, and perhaps some naturally occurring substances, could be good for you at times when your body is out of balance, but it appears that it has not been possible for the proponents to prove that there is any therapeutic effect for most of the (very expensive) products of the health food industry that are on the shelf at the pharmacy or supermarket. I know that these tests are time consuming and expensive, but if you are asking $45 for a bottle of pills then they bloody well should do something beneficial.

21 Apr 13
Question

Due Process and Boston Bombers

Curious – was catching the bomber done appropriately?

First, it involved a voluntary lockdown of Boston which legal experts are saying was really a “shelter in place” typically used for keeping order in a disease outbreak. The governor requested everyone stay indoors during the manhunt due to the increased police activity, questioning, vehicle movements and the violence that ensued in their pursuit. What if it had been a true lock down? Should the governor have the authority to force everyone to stay indoors and possibly throw a blanket probable cause on across the board for search purposes?

15 Apr 13
Newspaper

Boston Marathon Bomb

So apparently a pair of bombs went off near the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon. At about 2:45pm EST, the bombs exploded along Boylston Street near Copley Square and allegedly within roughly 100 yards of each other. Reporting continues to vary with current deaths at two and nearly a hundred casualties evacuated to various medical facilities sporting injuries from burns and scratches to amputations. The explosions’ timing for an hour after the first finishers seemed timed to wait on a greater number of marathon runners to be within the vicinity.

15 Apr 13
Newspaper

Navy to Deploy Laser

“Pew Pew Pew”, said the USS Ponce. No seriously, by 2014, the United States Navy will be deploying a solid state laser to sea aboard the USS Ponce. Current testing has validated the weapon at destroying drones and small ships. Navy officials believe utilizing energy weapons will save the military money in the long run due to each shots estimated cost being less than $1 (after recouping the cost of installation of course).

15 Apr 13
Newspaper

Beretta Leaves Maryland

What happens when your host state passes a number of laws unfriendly to your business? You pack up and move elsewhere. As Maryland has passed a number of recent laws banning or severely regulating the products of Beretta, the nearly 500 year old company has opted to leave the state. With it, the company will take over 300 jobs, production for thousands of weapons for the US military and law enforcement and millions of dollars in annual tax revenue for the state. “Why expand in a place where the people who built the gun couldn’t buy it?” said Jeffrey Reh, general counsel for Beretta.

06 Apr 13
Newspaper

Manipulating Traffic Data

The first GPS navigation devices for cars were strictly “dumb” in the sense of picking optimal routes on speed or distance. The past few years have seen models incorporate traffic information to perform on-the-fly route optimization. That information used to come through inaudible frequencies through FM radio but the prevalence of smartphone GPS navigation applications is shifting that to a direct pull via the Internet. But how has that data been derived? Many of those smartphones in cars are transmitting speed and location information back to central servers that aggregate the data to determine flow rates on traffic routes. However, due to users demanding privacy, the traffic aggregators cannot guarantee authenticity of the originating source. What does this mean? Well, a BlackHat presentation shows a proof-of-concept for falsifying traffic data in order to “control” the information passed back to drivers. (pdf)

06 Apr 13
Newspaper

Distributed Internet Mapping

What would the most effective way to map the entire Internet in a short amount of time? Distribute the scan out as far as you can and then aggregate the results in order to farm the processing, bandwidth and network reach of others. One researcher took the time to craft a script designed to access insecure embedded device across the Internet using default credentials. Then, leveraging all of those devices he launched nmap scans of the entire IPv4 address space to paint a picture of the 2012 Internet. Who knows, there’s a good chance your Internet modem or Internet enabled device (TV, DVR, etc.) participated in the scan.

31 Mar 13
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Cummins 4BT Jeep Wrangler TJ Diesel Conversion

It took me awhile, but I finally finished writing up my build article – Cummins 4BT Jeep Wrangler TJ Diesel Conversion – on converting my 2006 Jeep Wrangler over to diesel. My 4.0L died back in 2011 so I was faced with the cost of replacing the engine anyway otherwise I wouldn’t have ever considered doing it.

Since the conversion completed, I’ve put 13,000 miles on her in the past six months. As long as I keep her in the right RPM band, she gets 28mpg at 55mph (4th gear). That quickly drops to 22mpg at 70mph (5th gear). I would imagine a 2nd generation Cummins 4BT with electronic management could do even better. Another way to look at these efficiency gains is 7.27 miles per dollar for diesel compared with 4.16 miles per dollar for regular unleaded at today’s prices. I should be able to improve those numbers once I get the Bosch VE fuel pump leak fixed (it drips out a lot of diesel right now). Leak or not, with my 31.5 gallon Safari tank, it’s pretty nice to go 700 miles before the fuel light comes on and know that I still have 182 miles left before empty!

15 Mar 13
Newspaper

Venezuelans ... They Be Crazy

Hugo Chavez continues to influence the world, his final act being to make a personal, elbow to elbow recommendation to Jesus on a new pope. As spoken by Nicolas Maduro, the acting Venezuelan President, “We know that our commander ascended to those heights and is face to face with Christ. Something must have influenced [Jesus] to call for a South American pope.” Of course, Maduro is also opening an investigation into his death because, “we have the intuition that our commander Chávez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way.” The Venezuelans believe foreign agencies, particularly the United States, are responsible for giving him cancer. Such a belief probably propagated because Chavez himself alluded to exactly that in a speech to his soldiers, “would it be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it?”

05 Mar 13
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Bottom-Up Tax Model

I’m in the middle of The Benefit and The Burden (which is very interesting, albeit un-engaging and somewhat repetitive) and it has me thinking taxes. There’s so much standing in the way of fairness when the federal government raises revenue, and no matter where you try to fix things, someone gets burned.

While there are no doubt more impactful angles, as I put down my Kindle-via-iPhone in response to the fresh green light last week, I wondered if one of the problems isn’t the vast chasm between the individual and the Federal Government. The former pays the latter and expects the latter to serve … but the latter isn’t really configured to serve the former; it’s made to serve something in between (the States). The States, too, aren’t made to serve the individual, but the municipality – and there we finally reach the level positioned for the originally sought service.

05 Mar 13
Newspaper

Surrogate Mother and Abortions

A new quandary has arisen with surrogate parenthood. A family opted to pay for a surrogate mother due to fears for the biological mother’s survivability. During routine natal examinations, it was discovered the fetus had developmental abnormalities whereupon physicians declared it only had 25% of living a normal, healthy life. At this point, the family requested the surrogate mother have an abortion as they were not prepared or able to handle a medically needy child and offered financial compensation. The surrogate, however, refused.

How should a situation like this best be handled?

22 Feb 13
Newspaper

xBox Combat Medal

The Secretary of Defense recently authorized a new medal for military service members, the Distinguished Warfare Medal (pdf). It can be awarded for members of the armed forces “who distinguish themselves, on or after September 11, 2001, by extraordinary achievement, not involving acts of valor, directly impacting, through any domain, combat operations or other military operations” which basically gives drone operators or cyber operators an opportunity to be recognized. This is not necessarily a bad idea, until one looks at the line reading that it “provides an avenue to recognize appropriately extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations warranting recognition above the Bronze Star Medal.” The order of precedence has stirred up a number of veterans calling the award an insult to those performing valorous or heroic acts. The term “xBox Medal” is definitely being thrown around within the ranks already. A petition is already on the White House website requesting the precedence be re-evaluated.

09 Feb 13
Question

Iran's Science - Real or Fake?

Let’s just say the Iranians have been caught fudging their weapons tests to the public before. Their recent announcement of a stealth fighter has been met with extraordinary criticism that the vehicle is a mere mockup and completely incapable of actual flight. One comment indicated it looked like, “Iranian designers went back through the catalog of cool combat aircraft, picked out some of the coolest bits, and just stuck them all together to make a new airplane with a badass look about it.” Even before that, the Iranians were hyping up their space launch with a monkey aboard that is increasingly in doubt as well. Upon it’s “return”, the Iranians apparently displayed a different monkey than the one photographed for the launch, which they now claim was a photo mixup. Uh huh.

05 Feb 13
Newspaper

Assassination Rules

The US government doesn’t assassinate American citizens, right? Apparently NBC has obtained a leaked 16 page memo (pdf) defining the Justice Department’s rules for assassinating Americans. At the heart of the discussion on the NBC story are Americans Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan who were killed in an airstrike in Yemen. Does the government actually have this power to kill at their discre …

03 Feb 13
Question

Ban Nerf Guns!

I submit, the Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS-50 Blaster. It features:

  • pistol grip
  • semi-automatic functionality
  • extended 18 round magazine
  • military-like front bipod
  • military-like carrying handle
  • military-like adjustable stock

And for a Nerf gun, it’s one of the most intimidating models out there. This single weapon meets EVERY SINGLE piece of criteria for the assault weapons ban! I also submit the commonly used logic that it serves absolutely no practical purpose other than to simulate killing. These should be banned immediately.

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