Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some Best Yet chili in botulism recall

Some Best Yet (SPD's house brand) chili and corned beef are among the cans being recalled for possible botulism contamination.
Please check any cans you may have against the UPC codes in Environmental Health's press release.

Website problems at The Union

Update, 3+ weeks later: never did get a reply from The Union editor Jeff Pelline or IT Director Tom Harbert, to my email about these 3 problems - RSS feeds, commenting, and a 3rd issue that I tried to resolve via email (potential security issue; still present as of Aug 5).

First, The Union's RSS feeds are incomplete; contrary to their statement (here) that "You will receive new stories [on our RSS feed] when our web site is updated", web updates - e.g. these right now:
11:39 a.m. PT - Tree branch caused Monday power outage
10:44 a.m. PT - Families still in need of school supplies
9:35 a.m. PT - Two taken to hospital after bridge collapses on truck near Oroville
8:50 a.m. PT - Air Force reservist announces GOP challenge to Rep. Doolittle
8:15 a.m. PT - Republicans seek to revive tax relief as part of budget talks

do not appear on their News feed* - items in their RSS feeds appear all to have been updated this morning at 1am.

Second, I've been told (by a reader) that commenting was silently and sporadically broken on at least some stories recently, and that rather than post a warning on the paper's website, a newspaper representative encouraged one reader to inform others of this failure behind the scenes via email(see below). (Maybe it still is broken; unfortunately since I can't remember my password or the name of my favorite teacher I can't comment. At The Union password resetting is taken very, very seriously.)

(and, though it's unlikely, maybe they did post a "your comments may silently go into a black hole" warning at some pt; if so I'm unaware of it)

I'll email the paper's webmaster and editor and update this with their responses.
Aug 5 update: re my "a newspaper representative encouraged one reader to inform others of this failure behind the scenes via email" above, I don't think I paraphrased the 'encouragement' very well; here's the relevant part from the rep's email:
"The best workaround I can see for now is for you to forward your comments via email and I will post them on your behalf. Your help in communicating this to any others is much appreciated. Kindly ask they be sent to webmaster@theunion.com

I expect to also be able to add a note to this effect under the "Post Your Comment" tab on the website."
I'm still curious as to whether such a note was provided, since historically this newspaper's pattern has been not to alert readers to deficiencies like this (search ncfocus for 'archive search', for 1 example).

Second bird with West Nile virus found in Nevada County

A Western Tanager from Murchie Mine Rd was reported last week to be Nevada County's second known avian West Nile case for 2007; the first bird, a Black-headed Grosbeak, was reported earlier this month from the same area (Red Dog Rd, above Nevada City).

The virus may be much more prevalent by now, since the West Nile test results typically don't come back until about 3 weeks after the animal is collected.
(The Tanager was collected July 12, and the Grosbeak June 25.)

(Sources: Peggy Zariello of Nevada County Environmental Health, this page on West Nile virus activity by county in CA, this county webpage)


(A melting-ice-sheets comment I'd posted at Brad DeLong's blog last year; I keep going back to it.)

How do you set them?
Which issues do you let slide, in order to work on the really important stuff?
And what if the really important stuff isn't workable?
  • Global warming
  • Peak oil
  • Vote fraud software
  • Slouching toward theocracy
  • Consistent corruption at top levels of govt
  • Corruption at newspapers; the payola punditocracy
  • Conserving nature
  • Equal rights
  • Bird flu/personal preparedness/public health
  • Improving the lot of those less fortunate
  • Social security
  • Terrorism (incl. nukes and bioterrorism)
  • Reaching talk-radio listeners who're plugging their ears eyes closed saying la-la-la-la-la
  • Acquiring leaders who demonstrate genuine leadership
  • Exposing "leaders" who don't

no answers here; just curious about what one should do, when the whole edifice is breaking apart.

for a noncontroversial example - if the carrying capacity, post-peak, is 1.5 billion less than now, where should "research to extend lifespan" fit into the priority scheme?

A good discussion; this reply in particular made sense to me:
Paul Ehrlich, who['s] been thinking about this stuff longer than many of us have been alive, has very much switched to the answer that the problems that have to be solved are changing the US political leadership and culture...
His conclusion, after trying to solve these problems for at least 40 yrs is that without putting the political/cultural management in place, nothing will happen, and that with proper political/cultural management in place the science and engineering can happen pretty fast.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Study finds flaws in Nevada County's electronic voting system

"Review Finds Potential Flaws in Voting Systems", a UC Davis press release reports:
Flaws that leave electronic voting machines vulnerable to security attacks were discovered by University of California researchers as part of an unprecedented "Top-to-Bottom Review" of the systems commissioned by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
...teams were able to compromise the physical and software security of all three systems tested...made by Diebold Elections Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic, respectively.
"The problem with the systems should have been detected early in their development," said Bishop. "There are ways to develop and implement systems that resist compromise much better than the systems we examined. Many of these safeguards are taught in undergraduate and graduate computer security courses, but it was clear they were not used effectively in the electronic voting systems we evaluated."

...testers were [also] able to bypass the machines' tamper-resistant seals and locks, physically gaining access to the memory cards that store the votes. Such a vulnerability could potentially be exploited on Election Day, the researchers said.

"In many cases, this could be done in less than a minute, and in a way that would not necessarily be noticed by poll workers, particularly if there are privacy shields and curtains blocking their view of the voter," said Bishop.
knowledge of a voting system's source code, while helpful, is not critical to breaking down its security barriers...

From the LA Times article on same study:
Testers "were able to bypass both physical and software security in every system they tested," Bowen said.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Environmental awareness

*Very scary.

* Text - Monbiot's A Sudden Change of State and climatologist James Hansen's Huge sea level rises are coming - unless we act now in New Scientist. The sea level rise if we continue to conduct business as usual may be closer to 75 feet than 2 feet.
Monbiot in general.
His book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning; it's on its way.

Want to see what the coastline will look like, when it's 25m higher? So do I, but flood.firetree.net's max "sea level rise" setting is only 14 meters. Which puts Sacramento largely under water already.

* Video - The final third of this BBC program on global dimming, laying out the implications for global warming

And some personally disturbing information on meat:
Producing 1kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home.*
[I]t’s actually better [for a typical American] to be a vegetarian that drives a Chevy Tahoe, than to be a meat eater that bikes or walks everywhere. *

I suspect this will be a golden opportunity for purveyors of grass-fed beef that's locally raised, slaughtered and sold.

and finally, not news but a good resource:
New Scientist's Climate change: A guide for the perplexed ("our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions."). For those short on time (or who've been watching Fox Entertainment), the take-home message is this:
...a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Travel tip - Get airline flight status

"Simply send a text message or e-mail to info@ezflt.com with the airline code and flight number and you receive back the status of the flight. It’s a great help when you are picking someone up at the airport . . ."
- Bob Fyfe

"(They say it works with all U.S. carriers except Jet Blue and Southwest ('coming soon') and major overseas carriers.)
I just sent ezflt an email with AA 1197 in the subject line - nothing more - and moments later got back:

From: ATL
Sch: Jul 24 8:10am
Act: Jul 24 8:07am
Gt: T9

Sch: Jul 24 9:20am
Act: Jul 24 9:16am
Gt: C27/C
Bag Clm: C26

As you know, American = AA, Delta = DL, Continental = CO, United = UA, Northwest = NW, and so on."
- Andrew Tobias

Of course, pretty soon this may be moot.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Crowdsourced journalism at NCFocus

An account of the local crowdsourced/collaborative journalism projects I've tried to get started. Wanted to publish it now, since our Assignment Zero "crowdsourcing" interviews are slated to appear - or start to appear - at Wired this week, and since my A.Z. profile says I've been a "(rarely successful) instigator" of crowdsourced journalism projects but goes into no detail whatsoever.

Here are the crowdsourced journalism projects I've tried to instigate:

1. Last summer's project encouraging county leaders to see An Inconvenient Truth - a project perhaps best described in this post -
went strong on the "offering tickets and encouragement" phase (we offered a lot of tickets, and a lot of encouragement, and got a lot of people to take tickets and at least some to see it) but then fell short in the "collecting followup evaluations" phase; after my most active co-instigator moved away, I was pretty much on my own, and IMO you really do need a partner for a project like this - or for any project.

2. Its subsequent retrenchment and reformulation as an "ask your county supervisor if he/she has seen the film" project; I count this as a success in that we all did ask our respective Supes, and did report the outcome, and the project writeup did shed light on the views of our Supervisors.

3. Not crowdsourcing per se, but an attempt to do local collaborative journalism, by enlisting other news media outlets in a joint effort to look into Nevada City's then-poor drinking water (described in last January's post Citizen Journalism on NCFocus) was unsuccessful (two didn't respond; the third did respond, and did meet with city officials, but I wasn't invited and nothing was published about the result)

4. A more recent attempt from a few months ago, to mobilize a group to look into a local issue and to get editorial support from a newspaper to work with us, didn't get off the ground. We never got an answer from the paper, and the "mobilization moment" passed.
(This was mostly my fault; I didn't give this the sustained push it would have needed, to make it happen.)

So - by a "got the data, and the result got published" metric, there's been one success out of 4 attempts.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Another bike update: basket report

The bike now has rear baskets, on loan from a friend who'd bought them at Tour of Nevada City for around $30-40. They were easy to put on, they fold up when not in use, and each basket holds a full sized grocery bag; it makes the return from shopping much more convenient.

But if you're contemplating getting a bike, and contemplating putting rear baskets on it, you'd likely be better off getting a bike with a step-through frame. Otherwise you - and anyone you loan the bike to - must remember not to dismount by swinging a leg over the baskets, when they're loaded with stuff.

Sunday, July 01, 2007