09 Jan 2010
Fire Safe Cigarettes

two cigarettes I first noticed “fire safe” cigarettes (FSC) a couple months ago. At first I thought I’d bought a contaminated pack. In a sense, that’s true — FSCs have bands of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) spaced along the cigarette to make them go out if not continually inhaled. Although FSCs aren’t required in Mississippi until July 1 this year, they are all you can get now because the manufacturers essentially had quit selling FSCs by January 1.

Safer (in a fire-prevention sense) cigarettes have been the goal of activists and researchers since the late 1920s. The Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes has been demanding state-by-state legislation (since Congress has yet to make any laws in that regard). Within the last five years, all but one state has already passed laws requiring that only FSCs be sold in-state.

Alex Johnson of MSNBC reported last January that

There are no reliable statistical data demonstrating that fire-safe cigarette laws actually reduce fires. […] And injuries and deaths due to fires began declining for several years before such laws came on the scene, making researchers reluctant to declare any cause-and-effect relationship.

Research saying they are effective merely notes that the FSCs go out rather than burning down to the filter — which is fine, but apparently they never tried just dropping a burning cigarette of any kind on flammable material. Which may be one reason that FSC is more accurately said to stand for “Fire Standards Compliant”.

Johnson and others report numerous complaints of smokers, such as: smoking more due to having to drag on the cigarettes to keep them lit; various effects such as more coughing, irritated eyes, coppery taste; “flare-ups” and dropping embers when they have to be relit. I’ve only heard complaints about them from smokers I know, but a few smokers are reported to have said they like them because they can be relit later if they go out in the ashtray. Store owners may be another group that approves of them: one is quoted as saying “We’ll sell more lighters.”

Saulius Mikalonis, an environmental attorney posting at Green Blawg, has this to say in “Fire-Safe Cigarettes – Poisoning Smokers to Save Them?“:

However, the material used to retard cigarette burning contain hazardous chemicals, which in turn result in greater amounts of hazardous materials being ingested by smokers through their lungs.

Note that he snarkily heads his post with a quote from Peter Arnett — “So you had to destroy the village in order to save it?” — that “was a response to an army officer after he explained why the army had destroyed a Vietnamese village during the Vietnam War.”

David Jaromnak has opened a petition (“Repeal Fire Safe Cigarette Laws“) sponsored by Citizens Against Fire Safe Cigarettes (CAFSC):

The Citizens Against Fire Safe Cigarettes appeal to State/Commonwealth governments to review the facts and repeal the FSC laws. Failure to do so will result in increased health costs and deaths. If not repealed, the CAFSC will seek legal recourse through the judicial system and State Superior Courts. If necessary, the appeal will be made to the Supreme Court of the United States.

image: Zwei zigaretten.jpg, Wikipedia

Category: Life-Society
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08 Jan 2010
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

One weekend home from college, I told my mother I had become a Satanist. That was so outside the scope of what she could accept that it really didn’t faze her. “Just kidding”, I said, “actually, I’ve converted to Catholicism.” That’s when she got upset.

I’m sure you’d appreciate that a lot more if you grew up in a small Southern Baptist country church.

In any case, now that I have your attention, what do you think of this question asked at The Washington Post: “Is blasphemy a crime?” It has become so in Ireland, where it can cost you about $35,000 and give you a criminal record.

The UN, since 1999, has each year passed a non-binding resolution condemning “defamation of religions”, but the latest attempt was for a binding resolution — that is, all member countries would have to criminalize blasphemy.

Jason Kuznicki of the Cato Institute thinks that “Blasphemy Laws Are an Admission of Failure“.

It’s not just the humanists or libertarians who think this is a bad idea.

WorldNewsDaily has their their own perspective.

Tom Strode at the Baptist Press says “ERLC, 100-plus groups oppose United Nations ‘defamation of religions’ resolution“. [ERLC is the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission]

Whether you’re Wiccan, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Scientologist, FSM Pastafarian, agnostic, or atheist — I don’t care. What I do care about is being free to think and say whatever I want about your or my religion without fear of it being a criminal act.

Anti-blasphemy laws are just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Category: Life-Society
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07 Jan 2010
Top N Effect

Halo Effect - good and bad egg “Unfortunately, our cognition is not perfect, and there are certain judgment errors that we are prone to making, known in the field of psychology as cognitive biases.”Nikki, Top 10 Common Faults In Human Thought, Listverse

Nikki left off #11: Top N Effect – the tendency to believe that items are more important, profound, or comprehensible when grouped into short, ranked lists.

full image: halo_effect_good_and_bad_egg.jpg, Listverse

Category: humor
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06 Jan 2010
Shed free

DAT tape Today, as Brian and I were discussing a problem with a DAT-72 tape drive, I happened to glance at a cleaning tape lying on the table. Whenever a tape drive turns on its “I’m feelin’ dirty!” light, you pop in a cleaning tape to take care of it, but otherwise you don’t really pay much attention to the tapes themselves.

What I’ve never noticed before is the slogan “Shed Free” printed on the tape. A cleaning tape. Now, to me, this is as if Tide emblazoned “Dirt Free!” on their boxes of detergent, or Frito Lay boldly declared “Potato Chips Inside!” on a package of potato chips. Or PCs declared “Intel Inside!” … oh, sorry; got carried away.

This is a cleaning tape. Used to clean your tape heads of shed and other debris.

I don’t know about you, but I would think that being shed free would be a basic, minimal requirement of a cleaning tape. In fact, I would consider it defective if it were to shed all over my equipment. Certainly not something I’d mention as if it were a feature that put me a leg up on my sheddy competitors.

image: TheJosh, DDS2 tape with scale.jpg, Wikipedia

Category: Sci-Tech
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05 Jan 2010
GPG / PGP keys for 2010

These are my GPG / PGP keys for 2010, valid for one year; keys for previous years have expired. Replace the “:FOO:” with “@” for proper addresses.

Personal correspondence.
ID 90F42C39: Larry Olin Horn (lohnet mail 2010) <hornlo:FOO:lohnet.org>

Business correspondence.
ID C2B1AE2A: Larry Olin Horn (ptk mail 2010) <hornlo:FOO:ptk.org>

Business, when I have to use Outlook / Exchange.
ID F2039886: Larry Olin Horn (outlook mail 2010) <hornlo:FOO:ptk.org> (or <Larry.Horn:FOO:ptk.org>)
Category: Daily-Grind
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04 Jan 2010

I didn’t make any New Year resolutions; I have enough trouble keeping up with the day-by-day ad hoc stuff. Over break I got done a number of minor things I wanted to do, and dealt with some fix-me-now problems, but I let most of my bigger plans slide.

At least for me, getting to the bigger or more time-consuming stuff takes some buildup, like preparing to take off in a large plane — gotta get on the runway, build up some speed, then rotate. Except that all these minor things keep dashing onto the runway in front of me, so that I have to abort the takeoff.

Gotta get myself more organized (cynical laughter in background).

Category: Daily-Grind
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03 Jan 2010
Salt with a kick

“[S]odium-free salt (potassium chloride) is sufficiently radioactive (from the isotope potassium-40) that after several months, a saltshaker-ful will form an image on film.” —Theodore Gray, Gray Matter: DIY X-Ray Photos, Popular Science

Unrelated to the content, a brief rant….

Apparently PopSci (yeah, I know) is de-optimized for my flavor of Firefox. I ran across the article as I was catching up on my lifrea RSS feeds. I clicked it to open in Firefox … and waited … and waited … many minutes later, still a blank tab. Only after I left and came back from dinner was the page loaded … except NO article (content) images. Yes, I did try reloading. Arrrgh.

Usually I abort pages that behave this badly, but after seeing how (non)-loading it was behaving — not even set up to at least display something in the tab while-u-wait — I decided leave it alone to see how long it would take to load.

Curious about what made the page so awful, I handed the URL over to the Web Page Analyzer, which gave a total of 2,324,785 bytes requiring about 205 http accesses for the page, broken down like this:

HTML: 15072
HTML Images: 506066
CSS Images: 1511636
Total Images: 2017702
Javascript: 165275
CSS: 126736

So only 22% of this is content (well I’m being generous, calling all of the “HTML” and “HTML Images” content).

Category: Sci-Tech
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02 Jan 2010
Coffee is good for you

I drink coffee. A lot. Neither the cup on my desk at work nor the one on my desk at home stays empty for very long. I’m pretty sure that my cups per day stat is in the double digits. I probably should measure my consumption in pots rather than cups.

Fortunately for my wallet, my sensibilities are unrefined. Just about any old coffee will do as long as it is black, strong, unadulterated. I don’t have any interest in all the fancy coffee-based beverages that are more Other than Coffee, served by artistically frustrated barristers drawing whimsical doodles in foam, and that require a second mortgage to maintain as a habit.

Yet I do keep a bottle of original Baileys around for an occasional treat.

Some may cringe at the thought of drinking so much coffee, remembering all the dire warnings of shattered chromosomes, heart attacks, and organ failure. And that God kills a kitten every time you drink a cup. Well, there’s some good news:

Last year, researchers at Harvard University and the University of Madrid assessed data on more than 100,000 people over 20 years and concluded that the more coffee they drank, the less likely they were to die during that period from any cause. Melinda Beck, Seeking Coffee’s Benefits to Health, Wall Street Journal

The article didn’t say how the kittens fared, but it did mention that coffee had positive effects in diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and mood.

Category: Daily-Grind
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01 Jan 2010
January Holidays

Some of the holidays coming up in January: Festival of Sleep Day, Play God Day, Peculiar People Day, Blame Someone Else Day, and Escape Day. I’m torn.

A lot seem to be concerned with food. Specific days are for Bean, Hot and Spicy Food, Popcorn, Buttercrunch, Eskimo Pie, and Cornchip. The whole month is devoted to Fiber Focus, Soup, Hot Tea, Oatmeal, and Prune Breakfast — wonder what demographic was in mind?

More at “Bizarre January Holidays“.

Category: humor
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31 Dec 2009
Pixelated Dreams

Lately my dreams, or at least the rapidly evaporating-on-waking memories of them, seem more realistic. Most are brief snippets, but some are lengthy detailed stories.

Earlier times, if I remembered dreams at all, they were generally incoherent, often nightmarish. Occasionally there was no memory of content at all, just waking up with a pervasive sense of menacing evil. I didn’t look forward to them at all.

Or it may just be that They have upgraded our substrate, so that dreams within dreams are more performant.

Perhaps my next dream will be a pixelated Raven saying “Nevermore“.

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