Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I never knew Google was THIS massive!

By: Managed Networks

The blogosphere was amazed earlier this year when it realised the true size of Google. Think Google is the King Kong of search? Think a million King Kongs and you're getting close. Google processes 20 Petabytes of a data a day. Don't know what a Petabyte is? Check this out:

An MP3 is about 3MB. The Beatles recorded 214 singles- that's close to just one gigabyte. 1024 gigabytes makes a Terabyte and 1024 terabytes makes a petabyte. Lost and confused? We were too.

Our poor mortal minds haven't been so boggled by the 'big numbers' since a legendary wag fooled his elders out of 'quite a lot' of rice by using a chess board a few hundred years ago. We've used the same unit of measurement – grains of rice – to try to put Google's electronic brain power into perspective.

Let's relate a grain of rice to a byte. A byte is normally eight binary bits, eg '10011000'. It can also be written as a two digit hexadecimal number. In terms of data, a byte is generally used to store a letter. One byte = one letter = one grain of rice.

Bearing this new representation in mind, we can now look at a kilobyte (1024 bytes) as a small bowl of rice. It's about half a portion, not enough to fill you up – and in data terms a kilobyte would only be a few paragraphs of text – not much to mentally stimulate you there either.

Next up is the megabyte – which is around the size of all the text on an average website, or a short novel. On the rice scale, a megabyte would be a 25kilo bag of rice; enough to feed over 420 people in one sitting, if you have enough chairs.

1024 times larger still is the gigabyte. Back in 1995, I bought a PC with a gigabyte of hard drive space, and managed to store everything I needed on there for the next few years.


Florida’s 2008 Election Landscape Looking More Like 2000

By Steven Rosenfeld

A court ruling means processing errors by local election officials can be cause to reject new voters.

A little-noticed federal appeals court ruling this week could lead to thousands of Floridians showing up to vote in November only to be told their names are not on voter lists.

"It really penalizes voters through no fault of their own," said Ion Sancho, election supervisor for Leon County, Florida, where Tallahassee the state capital is located. "It strikes me as absolutely Kafkaesque."

At issue is Florida's so-called "no-match, no-vote" law, which allows county officials to reject new voter registration applications if the names on the forms do not match other state databases. Voter advocacy groups sued the state, claiming that database errors can cause applications to be rejected -- through no fault of would-be voters.

This week, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida sided with the state, saying it has the right to reject voter applications if they didn't match an applicant's Florida driver's license or the last four digits of their social security number. The state had been sued by a coalition of voting rights groups after election officials rejected applications from 14,000 African-American Floridians dating back to 2006.

"This ruling puts thousands of real Florida citizens at risk this November based on bureaucratic typos," stated Justin Levitt, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, who argued on behalf of the would-be voters.

Thousands of new voters could be affected because Florida, like most states, has seen a spike in voter registrations in 2008.

"Voters who do everything right, who submit forms that are complete, timely, and accurate, will suddenly find themselves unregistered when they go to vote, because someone somewhere slipped on a keyboard," Levitt said. "It's unjust and it's unnecessary."


Barack Care Versus John Care: Health Care Under the Next President

by: Dean Baker, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

There is a sharp difference between Barack Obama and John McCain on health care.

    By far the most important domestic policy issue facing the next president will be fixing the health care system. The United States stands out among wealthy countries in not guaranteeing health insurance to its citizens


    Yet, even though many people cannot get access to care, we still pay more than twice as much per person as the average in other wealthy countries. And we have the worst outcomes. Only a severely over-medicated politician would claim we have the best health care system in the world.

    As bad as the current system is, it keeps getting worse. The number of people who are uninsured year round is at 47 million and rising. The costs also keep rising. Companies are increasingly dropping insurance for their workers, or forcing workers to pick up a larger share of the bill. The explosion of health care costs is the basis for all the scare stories that budget hawks use to cut "entitlements." Since half of the country's health care costs are paid by the government, if we don't fix the health care system, it will eventually destroy the economy - and also lead to very scary budget deficits


    So, what do the candidates offer? Following in the Republican tradition of referring to health care plans by the first name of their principle backer, let's see what the candidates propose.


City Vehicles Painted with Anti-Obama Sayings

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35, Orlando) -- The Orlando Police Department found dozens of city owned vehicles vandalized Saturday.
The vandal or vandals appear to have political intentions; most of the vehicles were spray painted with anti Obama sayings, with 'Obama' misspelled several times. Some of their vehicles had their gas caps removed.

Officials said that gas caps were removed from several of the vehicles and they aren't sure if gas was stolen or if something could have been added to the tanks that will damage the engines.

The person or persons left a business card with political and other phrases such as 'How 'Bout them Gators' and 'Legalize Marijuana/ Stop Building Prisons'.

Police are investigating but have no leads and no estimate on the damages.


Oil marches towards $150 a barrel

by Graeme Wearden

The price of oil continued its seemingly relentless march towards $150 a barrel today, driven by the simmering tensions between Iran and Israel.

The cost of a barrel of US crude hit $143.67 this morning, its highest-ever level. London Brent crude also reached a new peak of $143.81 a barrel. Both have more than doubled in the last twelve months, helping to fuel inflation and spark protests worldwide.

Traders said there are worries that Middle East oil supplies could be disrupted by the growing row between Iran and Israel, and speculation that military action could break out.

On Saturday the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards ratcheted up the tension by threatening to impose controls on shipping in the Gulf – through which 40% of the world's oil travels – if Israel launched an attack.


domestic wiretapping


Neil Young's anti-war documentary

The singer has fire in his belly — with a film about his antiwar tour — but his passion is a hybrid car he thinks will save the planet

Neil Young on stage

The scruffy-looking fellow hunched over a table in a roadside restaurant deep among the redwood forests south of San Francisco does not look like a rock superstar. He has a craggy face, like a weather-beaten farmer, unkempt hair swept back behind his ears, and grey mutton chops; he is wearing combat trousers, trainers and a baggy T-shirt over a modest paunch. Only the big wraparound shades and the legend on his T-shirt — a US patent-office application for the Gibson Flying V guitar — hint that this is one of the most influential musicians of the past 40 years, a figure with a body of work matched only by Bob Dylan.

Neil Young has never much cared for appearances; never needed to, and definitely doesn't now, at the age of 62. He probably looked a lot like this when he met his second wife, Pegi, here, in this same restaurant, more than 30 years ago. She was a waitress, he was a rock star, but she might be forgiven if she had taken him for a passing lumberjack. When he pulls on a huge plaid work shirt at the end of the interview, he looks as if he is about to go and fell some of the giant sequoias outside. Instead, he drives the short distance home in a cream-coloured vintage Mercedes running on biodiesel.

If Young had his way, we would all be driving on green fuel; indeed, he is developing a revolutionary motor vehicle that he hopes, one day soon, will "eliminate roadside refuelling". First, though, he must talk about another project. CSNY: Déjà Vu is the latest film from the director Bernard Shakey. Not to be confused with any of Young's other aliases: Joe Yankee, Joe Canuck, Phil Perspective, Clyde Coil, Dirigible Dan, Dr Shakes, Shakey Deal or plain old Shakey.


What George Carlin Told Me About the Afterlife and What He'd Like on His Tombstone

David Hochman

by David Hochman

Somewhere in heaven, George Carlin is probably watching Lou Dobbs right about now. At the end of the Playboy Interview I did with him a few years ago, he was full of thoughts about the meaning of life, his legacy and what was next -- if anything -- after this life was done, and that's when he started musing about cable news.

Carlin was a big thinker. While conducting the interview, I spent three days with him in Las Vegas, a city he loved and hated and where he was still doing stand-up a week before his death yesterday at age 71. At each session, some of which lasted five hours, Carlin held forth on every imaginable topic -- from the color of farts to the solutions to global warming (unrelated topics, incidentally). His mind was so expansive, he kept stacks of Post-it notes around his Vegas condo so he could write down random musings that might find their way into a routine or book or letter to his daughter. Then he would record those thoughts onto various iPods and later transfer the files to his computer. Even as he approached 70, his mind was so loaded with data it needed its own zip drive.

Although he was one of the most successful comedians of his generation and a bestselling author, Carlin didn't have an easy life. He struggled for years with drugs and then heart problems and his fortunes came and went. At one point he owed four million in back taxes. Another time, on a trip to Hawaii, his daughter, Brenda, then 11, made him sign a contract so he wouldn't snort cocaine for the rest of the vacation. But by the end, Carlin had found something that looked like peace -- sobriety, financial stability and love with Sally Wade, a woman he called "the sweetheart of my life." Even growing old was interesting for him. It gave him more material.


Home-grown veg ruined by toxic fertiliser

Gardeners across Britain are reaping a bitter harvest of rotten potatoes, withered salads and deformed tomatoes after an industrial herbicide tainted their soil. Caroline Davies reports on how the food chain became contaminated and talks to the angry allotment owners whose plots have been destroyed

by Caroline Davies

Pesticide spraying

Mass spraying of pesticides on farms, pictured here in Florida, is putting gardens at risk. Photograph: David R. Frazier/Alamy

Gardeners have been warned not to eat home-grown vegetables contaminated by a powerful new herbicide that is destroying gardens and allotments across the UK.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been inundated with calls from concerned gardeners who have seen potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and salad vegetables wither or become grossly deformed. The society admitted that it had no idea of the extent of the problem, but said it appeared 'significant'. The affected gardens and allotments have been contaminated by manure originating from farms where the hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid has been sprayed on fields.

Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures aminopyralid, has posted advice to allotment holders and gardeners on its website. Colin Bowers, Dow's UK grassland marketing manager, told The Observer that links to their products had been proved in some of the cases, but it was not clear whether aminopyralid was responsible for all of them and tests were continuing. 'It is undoubtedly a problem,' he said, 'and I have got full sympathy for everyone who is involved with this.'

He said the company was unable to advise gardeners that it was 'safe' to consume vegetables that had come into contact with the manure because of pesticide regulations. 'All we can say is that the trace levels of aminopyralid that are likely to be in these crops are of such low levels that they are unlikely to cause a problem to human health.'

The Dow website says: 'As a general rule, we suggest damaged produce (however this is caused) should not be consumed.' Those who have already used contaminated manure are advised not to replant on the affected soil for at least a year.


Lack of money hobbling 'Republican attack machine'

By Steven Thomma

WASHINGTON — Democrats and the media have used the term so much that it's almost an article of faith. But the so-called "Republican attack machine" waiting with piles of unregulated cash to chew up Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is anything but.

Obama cited the threat of unregulated attack groups — called "527s" because they're authorized to raise unlimited cash under that section of the Internal Revenue Service code — to justify dropping his pledge to take public financing — along with its spending limits — for the general election campaign.

Yet there's no 2008 equivalent to the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which spent $22 million attacking Democrat John Kerry. Prominent groups and donors that played key roles in independent conservative 527 groups four years ago say they're sitting out this election. And while they've raised more than they did at this point four years ago, the independent pro-Republican groups still lag more than $50 million behind pro-Democratic groups.

Why? Analysts and Republican insiders point to several reasons:

_ Contributors are nervous about increased federal regulation.

_ Those who operate such groups fear a backlash, including from their better-paying corporate clients, who may not want to be associated with such attacks.

_ Few are eager to take such risks to help John McCain, who's bashed such efforts in the past and could again.

Of course, they still could jump in at any time, thanks to their ability to raise cash fast with a few huge checks.


Lasagna Gardening


The basics of a nontraditional method of gardening that is not only organic, earth friendly, and incredibly easy, but will enable you to accomplish more, in less time, with less work...

by Patricia Lanza

If someone told me years ago that he or she had found a way to do an end run around the sweat equity of traditional gardening, a way around digging, weeding, and rototilling, a way to produce more regardless of time constraints, physical limitations, or power-tool ineptness... well, I would have checked that person for a head injury. Yet such a system is actually possible, though I never would have believed it if I hadn't stumbled upon the basics myself.

Lasagna gardening was borne of my own frustrations. After my husband retired from the U.S. Navy, we began our next period of work as innkeepers. When the demands on my time became so great that I could no longer do all that was required to keep both the business and the garden going, the garden suffered. I'd plant in the spring, then see the garden go unattended. I needed a way to do it all.

Just when I was about to give up, it happened: a bountiful harvest with no work. I'd planted, late again because of a late spring. And again, when the seasonal demands of the business began claiming all of my time, my plantings were forgotten. In midsummer, I made a much belated foray into the garden. I had to hack through a jungle of weeds to find the vegetable plants—but what a payoff! I discovered basketfuls of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, and egg plant. True, there were also basketfuls of rotted, overgrown, and unusable vegetables (the product of neglect), but the abundance was truly amazing.


US halts solar energy projects over environment fears

By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles

The US government is putting a hold on new solar energy projects on public land for two years so it can study the environmental impact of sun-driven plants.

The Bureau of Land Management says the moratorium on solar proposals is needed to determine how a new generation of large-scale projects could affect plants and wildlife on the land it manages.

The move has angered some solar energy proponents who argue it could hold up the industry at a vital juncture, given the pressing need to secure alternative energy sources at a time of soaring oil prices. "This technology has been around for nearly three decades.

If there is an environmental concern, that can be addressed without putting a halt to this technology and helping to impact our greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental degradation from coal-fired and natural gas plants," said Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar Energy Society.

He said the review appeared to be an arbitrary "road block" that contradicted "the stated goals of both presidential candidates, the stated goals of Congress and the American public." The Bureau of Land Management, which looks after 258 million acres of federal land, much of it flat, sun-baked terrain in the western US considered ideal for solar energy development, says the study is required by law and backed by environmental groups.


Pollan Perfect

Food expert Michael Pollan says Vermont agriculture is in flower

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

Last week, bestselling author and University of California-Berkeley environmental journalism professor Michael Pollan attracted more than 1600 hot and sticky omnivores and vegetarians to the Ira Allen Chapel, despite the threat of some seriously bad weather. Pollan told his audience, packed into the pews like so many sardines, that Americans spend more time thinking about nutrition and diet than do citizens of any other industrialized country, but still manage to be "among the most unhealthy people in the world." His solution? "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Pollan expounds on this recommendation in his most recent book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. His previous book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, which teases out where the various foods in our supermarket come from, made him a household name and a popular champion of sustainable agriculture and sensible food choices that don't sacrifice flavor.


Embedded in Iraq

By Michael Massing

1."0900: Link up with 2-4 IN patrol at Cross Sabers in IZ," read the message from the press center of the Multi-National Force–Iraq. That meant that at nine the next morning I should show up at the crossed-sabers monument— the giant pair of arched swords erected by Saddam Hussein on his military parade ground—in the International Zone (aka the Green Zone) to meet a convoy from the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division. The convoy was to take me to a neighborhood in southern Baghdad, where I was to spend the day embedded with the US military.

The embed had proved surprisingly easy to arrange. No one had objected to the three New York Review articles I had sent in as samples of my work. On the application form, I had written that I wanted to visit a typical Baghdad neighborhood to see how the surge was working and to get a sense of what more had to be done before the US could begin to draw down its forces in any significant number.

Though I didn't say it, I also wanted to see what the embedding process itself was like. This was introduced by the Pentagon at the start of the war to allow journalists to attach themselves to invading military units and see the fighting up close. As Iraq grew steadily more violent, embedding became one of the main ways journalists could get out into the field. Baghdad continues to be a very dangerous place for journalists, with kidnapping an ever-present concern. (Whenever I traveled outside the CBS News compound where I stayed, I had to go in three cars, two of them armored, accompanied by eight armed guards.) Embedding thus remains an important means of seeing the country.


Famous Last Words

Scientists: Nothing to fear from atom-smasher

In this Feb. 29, 2008 file photo, the last element, weighing 100 tons, of the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) experiment is lowered into the cave at the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) in Meyrin, near Geneva, Switzerland. ATLAS is part of five experiments which, from mid 2008 on, will study what happens when beams of particles collide in the 27 km (16.8 miles) long underground ring LHC (Large Hadron Collider). ATLAS is one of the largest collaborative efforts ever attempted in the physical sciences. There are 2100 physicists (including 450 students) participating from more than 167 universities and laboratories in 37 countries. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, FILE)

By DOUGLAS BIRCH, Associated Press Writer Sat Jun 28, 3:08 PM ET

MEYRIN, Switzerland - The most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August.

But some critics fear the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists' wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?

Ridiculous, say scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN — some of whom have been working for a generation on the $5.8 billion collider, or LHC.

"Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on," said project leader Lyn Evans.


McCain: It doesn't matter that I don't know cost of gas

Senator John McCain said he can't remember the last time he pumped gasoline or the cost of a gallon of a gas in an interview with the Orange County Register earlier this week.

The OC Register's Martin Wisckol asked McCain when he had last pumped his own gas, to which McCain replied:

"Oh, I don't remember. Now there's Secret Service protection. But I've done it for many, many years. I don't recall and frankly, I don't see how it matters," McCain said.


Best Online Language Tools for Word Nerds

When you need a word's definition, translation, pronunciation, synonym, or antonym, you don't have to haul an enormous tome from the bookshelf, dust it off, and ruffle through its delicate pages like your grandparents used to do—you can just hop on the internet. Beside the standard-issue dictionary and spellchecker offered by most word processors and operating systems, there are several web-based language tools at your disposal that can get you just the information you need. Let's take a look at some of the best online language tools for word nerds and regular people who just want to say that word correctly in conversation.

Online Dictionary and Thesaurus Webapps

You already know that Google can give you definitions in search results—try it, search for define thesaurus—but there are a few other dictionary webapps besides the obvious Dictionary.com that can also get you your definition fix (often with pretty pictures!).

Definr is a super-fast, suggest-as-you-type dictionary which you can add to your Firefox search box or use in bookmarklet form (original post). My favorite Definer Firefox trick?



Midwest flooding may worsen dead zone

HOUMA -- Flooding in the Midwest is swelling the Mississippi River, sending increased water through Louisiana and into the Gulf of Mexico -- a phenomenon that has left researchers confident that their dire dead-zone predictions are right on track.

Scientists have predicted that this year's dead zone -- an area of the Gulf of Mexico that lacks enough oxygen to support marine life -- will be the largest ever.

The river's flooding will help ensure that by adding more agricultural runoff and fresh water to the Gulf, said Nancy Rabalais, director of the Cocodrie-based Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and a leading dead-zone researcher.

Especially disconcerting is news that researchers have detected low-oxygen levels in the Chandeleur Sound, a miles-wide swath of water between St. Bernard Parish and the Candeleur Islands off the state's eastern coast.

"I don't think I've ever seen that happen before," said Rabalais, a pioneer in the field of dead-zone research since 1985.


If Terrorists Rock the Vote in 2008


DON'T fault Charles Black, the John McCain adviser, for publicly stating his honest belief that a domestic terrorist attack would be "a big advantage" for their campaign and that Benazir Bhutto's assassination had "helped" Mr. McCain win the New Hampshire primary. His real sin is that he didn't come completely clean on his strategic thinking.

Barry Blitt

In private, he is surely gaming this out further, George Carlin-style. What would be the optimum timing, from the campaign's perspective, for this terrorist attack — before or after the convention? Would the attack be most useful if it took place in a red state, blue state or swing state? How much would it "help" if the next assassinated foreign leader had a higher name recognition in American households than Benazir Bhutto?

Unlike Hillary Clinton's rumination about the Bobby Kennedy assassination or Barack Obama's soliloquy about voters clinging to guns and faith, Mr. Black's remarks were not an improvisational mishap. He gave his quotes on the record to Fortune magazine. He did so without thinking twice because he was merely saying what much of Washington believes. Terrorism is the one major issue where Mr. McCain soundly vanquishes his Democratic opponent in the polls. Since 2002, it's been a Beltway axiom akin to E=mc2 that Bomb in American City=G.O.P. Landslide.


A Tribute to George Carlin

by Jeffrey Jena | Bio

I am taking a break from my usual ranting to pay tribute to one of my comedy heroes and influences, George Carlin who passed away on Sunday.

When I was in college I could recite two comedy albums word for word, Firesign Theater's How Can You Be in Two Places At Once When You're not Anywhere at All and George Carlin's AM and FM. Besides my father, these two LP's which were my early influences in comedy. Sure, I had heard Lenny and Cosby but I could do Carlin by heart. I could do the voice and the inflections. When I first started doing stand up in the late seventies I was doing my own stuff but still doing George's voice and mannerisms on stage.

In the mid eighties I was living in Chicago and was friends with Jimmy Wiggins. You may know the Wig if you are a fan of Last Comic Standing, he was the older guy who got screwed out of a place in the house in Vegas and caused several of the celebrity judges to walk out. Back in the eighties he opened a comedy room in Palatine, Illinois called Dirty Nellie's. Since Jimmy was a old friend of Carlin's, George had agreed to come in open the club. At the Saturday night late show Wig invited all the local guys to come to the show and we got to hang a little with the man after. I had met and worked with a number of guys who later became huge stars but no one who was already a legend like Carlin. I was truly star struck. He talked comedy for some time and was a gentleman to all.

Several years later I was breaking into the LA scene and doing a little room in West LA called Igby's. George came in with Pat McCormick and their wives. After my set I was in the back of the room when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Carlin. He said, "Nice set, very funny and a little angry, just like I like my comedy." He turned and went back to his seat. For weeks I annoyed my friends letting them know that I was one of Carlin's favorites!