Thursday, January 12, 2006

will they sign Kyoto in sap?

New source of global warming gas found: plants
Wed Jan 11, 2006 6:07 PM GMT

LONDON (Reuters) - German scientists have discovered a new source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in its impact on climate change.

The culprits are plants.

They produce about 10 to 30 percent of the annual methane found in the atmosphere, according to researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany.

The scientists measured the amount of methane released by plants in controlled experiments. They found it increases with rising temperatures and exposure to sunlight.

"Significant methane emissions from both intact plants and detached leaves were observed ... in the laboratory and in the field," Dr Frank Keppler and his team said in a report in the journal Nature.

Methane, which is produced by city rubbish dumps, coal mining, flatulent animals, rice cultivation and peat bogs, is one of the most potent greenhouse gases in terms of its ability to trap heat.

Concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere have almost tripled in the last 150 years. About 600 million tonnes worldwide are produced annually.

The scientists said their finding is important for understanding the link between global warming and a rise in greenhouse gases.

It could also have implications for the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for developed countries to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Keppler and his colleagues discovered that living plants emit 10 to 100 times more methane than dead plants.

Scientists had previously thought that plants could only emit methane in the absence of oxygen.

David Lowe, of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand, said the findings are startling and controversial.

"Keppler and colleagues' finding helps to account for observations from space of incredibly large plumes of methane above tropical forests," he said in a commentary on the research.

But the study also poses questions, such as how such a potentially large source of methane could have been overlooked and how plants produced it.

"There will be a lively scramble among researchers for the answers to these and other questions," Lowe added.

Monday, January 02, 2006

"Wil rite for beer"

Wil rite for beer
Dec. 31, 2005. 01:00 AM

Moon God Drinking Products Co., a skin care company in China, has offered a bounty of 1,000 yuan ($144) for every typographical or literary error found in a day's editions of four Chinese publications in an attempt to embarrass journalists into better writing. Hao Mingjian, who came up with the idea for the bounty, said that "China's press has lost its polish in the past decade or two," which "reflects a chaotic cultural environment and shows people lack a sense of responsibility." We applaud Hao's initiative, but we have learned over our years at the Star that it is impossible to embarrass journalists. Public humiliation is our stock in trade. If the face cream mogul truly wants to improve the quality of the Chinese papers, he should try a carrot, not a stick. Our colleagues are never so dedicated to their craft as when there's free food on offer. And if Hao were to promise generous beer rations for a job well done, the papers would be error-free within the month. And we're almost certain that our counterparts at the Globe, the Sun and the Post would agree to a similar proposal here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"The Next London bombing," by Daniel Pipes, is interesting.

So's "Is it Islamic 'extremism' or is it Islam itself?"

And this.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

hmm. last new post before this one was a month ago. At least at this rate, I can't be accused of being spammy.

Still trying to decide about grad school. Getting more and more interested in the MARCO program at zee University of Tennessee, and in the University of Florida's medieval/early modern Europe program (which still seems to have some associate profs interested in subjects that'd be helpful, and it's closer, which may not be bad for family reasons), and in Western Michigan's medieval institute (active and conference-hosting and respected, etc., from all I can find, but.. Michigan. brrrr.), and in UIUC (same, and rather more interesting than W. Mich., but still eek), and in Emory for the history and public health grad programs... (not that I'm interested in the public health part, so much, since they're more focused on modern times, but it might be a definite boost if I decide to keep doing something generally connected to the thesis of plaguey doom. And because I've been interested in Emory for a long time). I'm not sure how the range of where those schools are located worked out, since I was toying with the idea of just focusing on schools that would be, well, warmer. still might.

Either way, I want to start trying to learn Latin, since it looks like I'll need it, at this rate. Maybe German, too. Can't get excited at the idea of learning French, anyway... and I don't know that I'd have much more luck trying to learn a little more Spanish on my own than I ever learned in classes. Must find some helpful books.

But it's not as though I'm sure I'd get accepted/offered support at any of those schools. Can't tell how much gpa matters/doesn't matter... and I'd like to think that general grad-school readiness as assessed in recommendations and personality-matching and general goals and research interests and such would mean it's not a problem to apply without having a 4.0 (not that I'm terribly far from that, I guess), but... well, when it's $100 easily for most applications, and I don't really know what I want to study yet, or even a list of a few closely or loosely related topics, so I'm worried about the idea of even asking zee thesis advisors for their suggestions... rather hard to swagger around saying I'm sure that any program that wouldn't accept me is just full of lunatics.

I want to go on for grad school; I've known that for years. It was rather disturbing to always get a response such as "oh, are you really sure? and are you sure about still studying history? you could always do other things..." from zee main advisor. couldn't quite decide if he meant it positively, i.e., if he thought I shouldn't limit myself too much because I could surely develop some odd combination-field that made perfect sense (or something similar), or if he meant it not-so-positively. :p I just don't quite know where or in what field... and I don't know that I should even bother, since I'll probably have to quit and manage to take care of my parents before I'm halfway through anyway, since I'm closer... and hell, it doesn't seem likely that I'd get to study where I'd like to, anyway. echoes of picking a college back in high school all over again, with how that worked out. though it'll matter more, ultimately, with grad school, if I end up at a state school with a not-good program and can't move on, after.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Japan history texts anger E Asia

Japan has approved a set of new school history text books whose version of past events has already sparked complaints from South Korea and China.

One of the eight texts is an updated version of a book which triggered diplomatic protests in 2001.

Seoul said the new books sought to glorify Japan's war-time past, a continuing source of regional tension.

The move follows a row between Japan and South Korea over disputed islands, and anti-Japanese protests in China.

The South Korean Embassy in Japan said in a statement: "The Republic of Korea expresses regret over the fact that some of the 2006 Japanese middle school text books... still contain content that justifies and glorifies wrongs committed in the past".

In Beijing, China called in the Japanese ambassador and said the new texts would be "vehemently condemned by people from all Asian countries being victimized by Japan".

The Japanese government, which says it can only press textbooks to be amended if they contain factual errors, said it was up to individual school districts to decide which books they use.

Schools have until August to make the choice. The books will be in junior high schools from April 2006.

The most controversial of the new books was written by a group of nationalist historians called the Society for History Textbook Reform, and its first version, published in 2001, caused Seoul to recall its ambassador for nine days in protest.

The Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday singled out this book for criticism.

"A textbook by Fushosha Publishing Co has distorted history and hurt the feelings of people in Asia, including China," Wang Yi was quoted by Japanese officials as saying in a meeting with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi.

The Japanese government had demanded 124 changes to the book following the complaints in 2001. These have been made, but the new text still has controversial elements.

It refers to the Japanese slaughter of some 300,000 civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing as an "incident", rather than the "massacre" it is known as elsewhere.

This book is currently in use in fewer than 0.1% of Japan's schools, but this time the authors are hoping for a better response.

'Lack of detail'

The seven other texts approved on Tuesday are also accused of dispensing with the kind of detail Japan's neighbours say is necessary for a balanced account.

Only one of the books gives figures for the number of civilians killed in the Nanjing Massacre, while the others say "many people" died.

A civic studies text book, approved on Tuesday, is also set to stoke a row between Japan and South Korea over disputed islands.

The book says that "South Korea is illegally occupying" the islands, known as Dokdo in South Korea, and Takeshima in Japan.

Tensions between Japan and China over territory and history are also on the rise.

Japanese businesses in two Chinese cities were targeted on Monday by mobs protesting against Tokyo's attempts to gain a permanent UN Security Council seat.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

"Randy was forever telling people, without rancor, that they were full of shit. That was the only way to get anything done in hacking. No one took it personally.
Charlene's crowd most definitely did take it personally. It wasn't being told that they were wrong that offended them, though - it was the underlying assumption that a person could be right or wrong about anything. So on the Night in Question - the night of Avi's fateful call - Randy had done what he usually did, which was to withdraw from the conversation. In the Tolkien, not the endocrinological or Snow White sense, Randy is a Dwarf. Tolkien's Dwarves were stout, taciturn, vaguely magical characters who spent a lot of time in the dark hammering out beautiful things, e.g. Rings of Power. Thinking of himself as a Dwarf who had hung up his war-ax for a while to go sojourning in the Shire, where he was surrounded by squabbling Hobbits (i.e., Charlene's friends), had actually done a lot for Randy's peace of mind over the years. He knew perfectly well that if he were stuck in academia these people, and the things they said, would seem momentous to him. But where he came from, nobody had been taking these people seriously for years. So he just withdrew from the conversation and drank his wine and looked out over the Pacific surf and tried not to do anything really obvious like shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
A Dwarf on sojourn in the Shire would probably go to a lot of dinner parties where pompous boring Hobbits would hold forth like this. This Dwarf would view the whole thing as entertainment. He would know that he could always go back out into the real world, so much vaster and more complex than these Hobbits imagined, and slay a few Trolls and remind himself of what really mattered."

-Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

frustration and tiredness and a little envy.

is it a waste of time to look at a program mostly because I'd sorta longed to go to that school for undergrad time but it was always far too expensive so it seemed impossible then?

at least I can't do the same thing for the school I'd really wanted to go to for most of senior year, before realizing it wouldn't happen unless I was willing to start going into debt pretty badly... they don't offer an advanced degree other than an MBA.

I'm still interested in programs that'd focus on early modern Europe and ties to other nations, or just early modern/late medieval Europe, and the few that focus on science/tech/medicine in history are usually the most interesting, but I can't decide if that'd end up being considered too limited or something for teaching later.. and museum/public history programs are also interesting. and I don't know that there's anyone who could seriously predict that, since I'm sure that passing the general exam requirements for most programs would require enough range to be okay for most surveys, and TAdom or related things would help, too (at least for being a little more relaxed for official-speaking-purposes)...

most of the programs I'm thinking of are still physically in the south. would also sorta help if I had some more direct experience in dealing with steady cold and snow, already, to know if that'd just be extremely hard for me to get used to or not... if only I could visit a few people very soon to check that, as just an extra little bonus for the visit :p


for a long time, the new year mostly sank in for me when classes started, again. feels so strange to not have that as a marker, this time. I miss it sharply.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

In the year 2005 I resolve to:

Become one with my inner sociopath.

Get your resolution here

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Erin couldn't remember the last time she'd stood in a voting booth. Campaigns bored her. Every politician wore the same horseshit smile and gave the same horseshit speech. Erin was amazed that anyone would believe a word.
Orly could not decipher the problem, and delivered the distraught dancer to Shad, who was on break, reading a large-type edition of The Plague by Albert Camus. The book made Shad feel slightly better about living in South Florida.
GarcĂ­a said, "Are either of you history buffs? Me, I love American history." He leaned forward, dropping his voice. "I'm trying to imagine what Thomas Paine would think of a congressman who has sex with old shoes and laundry lint."
Erin agreed that the republic was doomed. She said Tasmania was looking pretty good as an alternate homeland.

- Carl Hiaasen, Strip Tease

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

don't forget.

Support World AIDS Day

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

perhaps I need a department that specializes in chaos theory.

The main problem I've had with sorting out what I'd like to find in the Ideal For Me or at Least Fairly Good (IFMLFG, from now on) grad school, still, is trying to decide how much the main ideological approach matters for the professors at each school that I'd actually be working with. I used to figure that a department that had an overall emphasis on looking at everything from a marxist perspective would automatically be different for the actual experience of studying there than a department that tended to consider something else more important; I don't think that's true, really, now. The slant of the department in general would matter, somewhat, but rather less than the potential advisors' - which should be at least partly noticeable from the short keyword-summaries of their research interests that tend to appear in faculty lists, or from their own site if they've bothered to develop one. Yet some who supposedly focus on women's history or women in politics or any variation on that theme, then always have courses that seem to dwell entirely on economic or other explanations for events and motives, rather than their self-declared main research interests. Obviously departments sometimes have to demand that taught courses won't be perfect matches for a prof's true interests, simply for the sake of the students' needs/interests/future benefit (and thus for the department's reputation), but it seems a shame when someone's so unable to try to focus on the actual subject of the course that they can do nothing other than offer their own perspective on the era/nation/etc... and that's hardly rare, in most departments.

Of course there's a certain dose of self-protection and usually a nice dash of ego involved, so that emphasizing that your particular bias is the only reasonable one seems to be inseparable from many lectures, at least in the social sciences or humanities, but I really can't (or at least I don't want to) drop the idea that good teaching in general should somehow balance the checked details of names/dates/places for examples and events with the presentation of as many reasonably well-supported explanations as possible for causes or motives or the random Deeper Issues that led to the just-mentioned facts. Suggesting that every political/military/social event in Europe for centuries has really been motivated entirely by economic forces, or by the push of all of history in a single upward direction that can only lead to improvement and the rule of the working class, or by struggles based on gender and relationships, all seem about as valid, to me, as claiming quite stridently that aliens have been merrily watching the earth and prodding things along to satisfy their own curiosity or amusement - if those suggestions are never presented in combinations of possible explanations or if other possibilities are barely ever considered. And it seems some individuals or departments tend to be so focused on presenting only one root-explanation above all others that they forget or simply don't comment on other explanations, except to deny that they may actually be related.

I've been told repeatedly that the name and reputation of the advisor's what matters more, really, than the general reputation of the department; it makes sense. S'pose I need to somehow find the people who are more interested in trying to find all the possible explanations that make sense, even if they personally favor just one or two, and then trying to blend them or at least considering them all, instead of the people who have too much invested in understanding the world from a particular Accepted Perspective to ever really consider anything in different ways. I just hope that this sort of focus is possible, with at least some of the departments; there aren't so many that offer anything past an MA.

On a not-really-different note, I'm realizing more and more, in thinking about grad school, that I'm really grateful for most of the professors I dealt with in Jupiter, and especially for the two for history. Most always kept the need to consider different supportable explanations pretty high on their priorities lists, which was more helpful overall than the frustration it sometimes led to at the time. :p And if I do end up trying to stay in academia, after grad school's finished, I'd rather try to find a school that's rather similar, for there were more things that were done well, there, than not.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

from Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy":

There was even a pavement stall with books about birds. Ishaq picked up a flimsy, blunt-typed paperback about owls and spells, and looked idly through it to see what uses this unlucky bird could be put to. It appeared to be a book of Hindu black magic, The Tantra of Owls, though it was printed in Urdu. He read:

"Sovereign Remedy to Obtain Employment.
Take the tail-feathers of an owl and a crow, and burn them together in a fire made from mango wood until they form ash. Place this ash on your forehead like a caste-mark when you go to seek employment, and you will most certainly obtain it."

He frowned and read on:

"Method of Keeping a Woman in Your Power.
If you want to keep a woman in your control, and wish to prevent her from coming under the influence of anyone else, then use the technique described below:
Take the blood of an owl, the blood of a jungle fowl and the blood of a bat in equal proportions, and after smearing the mixture on your penis have intercourse with the woman. Then she will never desire another man."

Ishaq felt almost sick.

Specialized confusion.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper,
plan an invasion,
butcher a hog,
design a building,
write a sonnet,
set a bone,
comfort the dying,
take orders,
give orders,
solve equations,
pitch manure,
program a computer,
cook a tasty meal,
fight efficiently,
die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects."
-- Robert Heinlein

Academia forces specialization. I knew this before college, even though I knew I wasn't ready for that at the start. Then I couldn't select a general thesis topic for at least 4 weeks into last fall semester, and it was close to another two after that before I'd settled on something I found interesting enough to work on for (the rest of) two semesters - even after thinking of ideas and reading for most of the summer, and even though I knew that it'd be much harder to finish if I didn't have a pretty solid idea at the start of the fall.

But academia is undeniably all about specialization. You want to do your thesis on the traditional garb preferred by late medieval goatherders in Switzerland and Lithuania? Wonderful! How about Shakespeare's use of the word 'man' in the opening lines of his last three comedies, or the migration patterns of the bacteria on the back of the Mexican donkey frog? Excellent! The more interdisciplinary and specialized, the better! All of this graduate school information and literature is pouring down on me, whether I'm sitting at my computer or on the floor or reading something unrelated for a too-short and incomplete distraction, and it all wants me to just decide decide decide absolutely everything right now.

For I must somehow make a choice soon so that I can even make plans for fall 2006. I think it's too late already, for fall 2005, which is horribly depressing, for I miss classes and college and papers and studying and having a direct way to discuss new ideas, even if (or when, really) those ideas are only also interesting to a few other people. And I know how much everything seemed to change after a year away, and most of the people I knew also already graduated or they're being pushed into attempting to focus enough to manage it soon, so I worry about whether they'd even have time to do fun things, if I suggested them. Hell, there've been times I'd even go sit around and read thesis-drafts, for a few people, simply to feel useful and to stop feeling like whatever skills I had may wither too much before I can go on. (Perhaps this is progress, a bit, from feeling last year like I simply couldn't have any skills in writing, really? :P)

Programs are endlessly divided up based on whether they're offered in American, european, world, atlantic world, asian, medieval, modern, celtic, slavic, comparative, gender, comparative social, women's, political, economic, or medical history, with countless variations. And even more related fields that would also matter, whether strongly or slightly. And if you truly don't know yet which of those you want? Or if, heaven forbid, you think that someday you just might want to study something else without focusing on it? In that terrible situation you'll need comparative history or a program with all the appropriate specialties or some very good cooperation within the department and access to other departments, or you're looking at not just the wrong programs but entirely the wrong schools. And it's more complicated if you'd like to have some practice teaching (even if the idea scares you horribly at the moment but you think some practice could help), but the most highly respected and adored programs are offered at research-focused schools that tend to use adjuncts rather than TAs, since no one in their program should ever have to teach undergrads or think about doing so in the future. Oh, and you'll have to read several languages, whether you'll typically use them or not. Now, what is your exact field of interest? What are you going to research? Give us a statement of intent immediately! Submit a letter expressing your goals and interests! And all the websites and applications keep chanting "Be specific. Be forceful. Make an impression, make them be pretty sure that you'll succeed, or you'll get nowhere."

And I? I still just. don't. know. Even after almost 7 months since graduation, filled with trying to think of this and not much else beyond job-searching. And it's interfering with everything else, since I've known for too long that grad school should be something I do, for it's something I've wanted to do for a while... and there's all the studies that suggest that it's getting more and more ridiculously unlikely that a female who would perhaps like to be open to the chance of having kids someday should also have any hope of finding a steady, non-adjunct teaching position for anything past high school, unless they're in a non-humanities, non-social sciences field.

How -- though nobody can seem to tell me -- am I really ever supposed to choose among all the different topics that interest me right now? There are a hundred thousand things and more that I want to learn, and for most of them I've barely scratched the surface; then of course there are things I have studied and fallen in love with, and I can't easily just walk away from most of them. I want to know all of it, or at least enough so that I could go into grad school having some sort of confidence that I've found at least one thing I can focus all of my energies and several years of my life into.

And this push to decide came even earlier than for some; "you really should start listing ideas and choosing the best of them to get an idea of what you want to do your thesis on," was always mentioned at every meeting with my advisor, from the second semester through the sixth. (After he stopped asking, at least twice, whether I was sure that I wanted to sign up for any of the classes he taught, in my first year. Still slightly puzzling.) When I went back, after the year away, it was worse, while I had even less confidence than before that I'd find something that I specifically wanted to focus on out of the vast oceans of things that were Interesting and things I knew far too little about, and then be able to complete it.

And it seemed, then, as though everybody else knew what they wanted to study, from their thesis to whatever graduate program they'd love to find. Everyone seemed to be so cheerfully choosing the perfect graduate program for them and writing confident statements of intent, certain that they had found something that they wanted to spend at least a few years or perhaps the rest of their life studying, while constantly getting closer to the Perfect Area for their interests.

I didn't find out until graduation that there were at least 8 others last spring who also either requested that nothing be listed for their future plans, in the graduation-program, or declared that they were also opting for a year off to figure out what to do next. I wish I'd known that in advance. Maybe then I would've felt brave enough to even list that I was taking a year off to figure out what to do, rather than deciding to not send in an email with anything for the list 'cause I felt like it'd seem too much like failure somehow... and I knew that the program had already been censored twice for things that "might make the school look less positive to potential donors", so I didn't know in advance what else might get cut, even though it was just a graduation program that should've been left as a memory-refresher for us.

Am I even cut out for all of this? There is so much left to learn that I just don't really know where to start, and all the thinking I do and searching I do seems like perpetually starting over, from finding something new about schools I'd previously thought of as real possibilities or not worth time. And I know there's probably no way to really lose this feeling, just as I know that, technically, studying one thing in grad school has not, so far, seemed to always lead only to permanently staying within that particular subfield.

All this, and this new writing-place, was sparked by something simple: I got my bound copy of my thesis in the mail, finally, today. And apparently it's been in the library since mid-September, now, and a torrent of thinking and missing was started. Again.