Saturday, March 31, 2007

Wallow in the Festering Swamp!

Festering Swamp is a new blog, in honor of Cathy Seipp, run by some of her fans: David N. Scott, his wife Julie Scott, Mike (in S.A.) LaRoche, and moi.

Here is my first post, about liberal media bias. Yes, it does exist, even if some of the conservative complaints are overblown. I think Cathy's obituary provided an example of this liberal bias in action. Read the entry to see why.

As to what happened since Cathy died . . . well, I attended her funeral on March 23 in Los Angeles, driving up with the estimable Mike K. It was quite a moving service, especially the tribute by best friend Sandra Tsing Loh. I'm going to link later to some of the tributes to Cathy, which are far better than anything I could write.

Have a good weekend.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Hard, Honest Look at Linux

The various versions of the Linux OS have made great strides in useability in recent years. I'm typing this entry on a PC running Debian Linux. Here, I'm free of the onerous copy restriction and other DRM embedded into Windows, especially the clunky, hardware-hogging Windows Vista. But Linux doesn't have enough software to totally substitute for Windows. Here's a good look at the issues that can arise when using Linux.

I'm not knocking Linux by any means. But we're still not totally free of the need for Windows in some instances. The Linux community is hard at work reducing that need.


A Petition Worth Signing

Sign this cyber-petition if you liked Cathy Seipp.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

After a valiant struggle, Cathy Seipp succumbs

Cathy Seipp, who was hovering on the brink of death for the past two days, has finally succumbed.. She died shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 21.

For those who wish to do something in her memory, donations to the Lung Cancer Alliance and the Humane Society of the United States are encouraged.

UPDATE: I hesitate to contradict Cathy on her own memorial wishes, but I cannot recommend the Humane Society of the United States, due to its opposition to animal research. The medicines that kept Cathy alive were first tested in animals. Instead, I suggest contributing to a local animal shelter. The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA is one such worthy group.


Fans of Cathy to Visit

Cathy Seipp accumulated a diverse and eclectic set of friends and fans. To know them is to know a little something about her. Here's some must-visit Web sites and blogs along that journey:

Amy Alkon
Andrew Breitbart
Emmanuelle Richard
Jackie Danicki
David Ehrenstein
Ray Richmond
Rip Rense
Luke Ford
Maia Lazar
Mike in S.A.
Nancy Catmull Matocha
Nancy Rommelman
Luke Y. Thompson
Matt Welch

More TK


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cathy Seipp -- A Wonderful Life, Too Short

After years of struggling with lung cancer, Cathy Seipp, writer, blogger and one of the most extraordinary personalities in Los Angeles, is reaching the end of her life this week. I was an avid reader and regular commenter on her blog, Cathy's World.

UPDATE: I have changed this post so as to say Cathy has not actually died as of this writing, but is in the process of dying. As of Tuesday evening, she was still alive at Cedars-Sinai, but not expected to live much longer.

Several things made Cathy stand out from other writers. One, her almost unfailing sense of humor and ability to write about depressing subjects (such as battling the HMO bureaucracy), with a deft, light touch. Two, her sense of fairness for the underdog, and willingness to stick it to the powerful types -- deftly. Three, her ability to blaze her own political and philosophical trail, not being captured by political correctness of the left or right. And four, her curiosity and willingness to explore the thoughts and lifestyles of people quite different from her.

Cathy was not only a delight to read, and, on the two times I met her, a delightful person, she set an example as a journalist that challenged me to be better.
There is so much more to say, and words are inadequate. If you want to get a sense of her life, read her blog, and look at a few of the clips from her roast/tribute in Los Angeles on Sept. 10 of last year. Here are mine, and over here are the DVD files, converted for Web viewing. Thanks to doug for hosting these files.

Peace to Cathy. Healing from your family and friends to her beloved daughter, Maia.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Microsoft Way: Having To Pay For Love

Microsoft is offering free services and other credits to companies that agree to use its Live Web search, reportes John Batelle's Searchblog.

Apparently, Microsoft is unhappy about the low adoption of Live search; more employees prefer to use Google. So in the classic Microsoft tradition, it tries to boost an inferior product, not by making it better, but by pulling out its checkbook.

Microsoft's plan is to get executives to agree to these perks, then cajole or force their employees to use Live search. From Searchblog:

The presentation goes into detail about how a large company might promote this program to its employees, suggesting three levels of communication - "low, moderate, and high." Moderate and high promotions include "In-house training session on ‘how to get the most from web search’ using Windows Live Search," "Remove all existing toolbars," "Set Homepage to Live Search," and "Email message of encouragement from CEO." IE 7 is mandatory for the program, as one might expect.

If you can't compete, cheat. That's what Microsoft did to Netscape, according to the antitrust case that declared Microsoft a monopolist that unlawfully used it clout. And that's what Microsoft did with its absurd response to the Mac switcher ads, featuring a PR flack hired to play someone who switched to Windows.

This sleazy approach makes it all the more outrageous that Microsoft keeps on raising its price for Windows. It should instead be paying its users to suffer through the innumerable annoyances and deliberate crippling of its OS, such as ever more restrictive DRM.

I'm avoiding these hassles at home by using Linux as much as feasible. This update is being typed on a computer that originally ran Windows 2000, since upgraded to Debian Linux, which is free. Truth be told, I paid $40 bucks for a Linux guide that contained the Debian CD; still far cheaper than Windows. (There are easier forms of Linux, such as the Debian-based Xandros or Ubuntu, but I wanted to really learn some fundamentals). So this 7-year-old computer (Dell Optiplex GX110 with 500MHz CPU and 512MB RAM) is running quite nicely. Windows Vista would choke it. And I can install Debian from the CD onto as many computers as I like. Microsoft locks down Windows onto one computer.
Microsoft is quite correct in complaining that people are infringing on its intellectual property by copying its software without permission. I urge everyone not to do this. And the surest way to avoid such infringement is to avoid using Microsoft products. Debian or some other open source operating system lets you copy to your heart's content -- legally.

Debian can be tricky for the Linux newcomer. I installed it in command-line form from the CD-ROM, then installed the KDE GUI from a remote server. I had a problem with the fonts looking ugly, but just now fixed it. There's an option for fonts for anti-aliasing. This option, in the Control Center under Appearances and Themes/Fonts, must be checked to activate anti-aliasing. Now everything looks much better.

Thank you, Debian. And thanks to this book, which is proving a great help in learning Debian.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Advance in stem cell therapy

Human therapy with embryonic stem cells is now possible, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine by researchers from the Burnham Institute and an international team. Here is my story on the study.

Human embryonic stem cells, turned into neural stem cells, reduced symptoms and increased life expectancy of mice bred to have the fatal genetic disorder Sandhoff's disease, related to Tay-Sachs.

Evan Y. Snyder, a top stem cell researcher at the Burnham, told me he is prepared to go into the clinic and test the therapy on humans.

The study has three exciting implications:

1: The embryonic stem cells did not cause tumors or other adverse reactions. That has been a big problem with embryonic stem cells, and a reason why there is no human therapy yet with these cells.

2: "Adult" human neural stem cells, also tested, were just as effective as the neural stem cells created from the embryonic stem cells. (However, it was easier to "scale up" production of the neural cells from embryonic stem cells).

3: The human embryonic stem cells were from a line approved by President Bush in August, 2001. These cell lines were thought to be of little use in therapy, partially because they had been grown on "feeder cells" from animals, exposing them to animal viruses and proteins, which could cause diseases and rejection by the immune sytem. But the cells used were grown without the animal cells for three years, Snyder said. And in the mice tests, no immunnosuppresive drugs were needed. That's important for human therapy, because such drugs make people more vulnerable to infection.

4: The stem cells repair brain damage (partially, this is not a cure) by multiple mechanisms, Snyder said. They work on several levels to restore normal brain activity.

Newswise has a 7-point recap of the paper's significant findings:

1. First successful use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in a degenerative disease, significantly preserving function and prolonging life in this animal model, and laying the groundwork for a potential clinical trial.
2. First demonstration that stem cells employ multiple mechanisms – not just cell replacement -- to benefit disease
3. First use of hESCs grown in a manner suitable for clinical use (i.e., without contaminating mouse cells).
4. First head-to-head comparison of human embryonic and “adult” stem cells in the same disease model using the same metrics in the hands of the same investigators.
5. First evidence that stem cells, including hESCs may also have anti-inflammatory actions.
6. First demonstration that immunosuppression may not be necessary for successful transplantation in some diseases, making applications to a broad range of patients easier
7. First evidence that stem cell-derived nerve cells may integrate electrically and functionally into a diseased brain.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Left-right civility

A few weeks ago, I wrote of my unpleasant experience with the unhinged moonbat Bush-haters who seem to dominate the liberal blog site Sadly, No! (There was at least one voice of reason, but he was outshouted by the lynch mob).

More recently, unhinged moonbat ultra-righty Ann Coulter spewed her vile "faggot" remark at a meeting of Republican conservatives looking over presidential contenders. Props to Patterico, a reasonable conservative, who has repeatedly denounced Coulter's hate speech.

Let's hear it for reasonable conservatives and liberals who don't demonize the other side or use such bigoted language.


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