Friday, August 25, 2006
Longevity in France
Jeanne Calment died at age 122 in 1997; she was the French woman who lived the longest to date, as far as we know.
On August 12, 2006, Camille Loiseau, "oldest living French person since March 2005", died at the age of 114 years and six months.
In 1950, France had only about 200 people aged 100 or more; today there are over 20,000! A hundred-fold increase in less than a lifetime! And a dozen people over age 110 (all women? the article does not say).
It seems that, in rich countries such as ours, those who survive infancy hit their peak of robustness (vitality?) at age seven, then start to "age". Apparently, mortality rate increases regularly from age 7 to 95. The rate of ageing, by which "increasing rate of mortality" is meant, slows from age 95 to 107, at which point rate of mortality reaches a plateau. [source: Jean-Marie Robine, director of research at the Inserm, in Le Figaro]
Marie-Simone Capony, age 112 years, is the new "oldest living French person", designated by the Inserm on Tuesday, August 22. Will she outlive Jeanne Calment? Not before 2016.
Tags: longevity : France
Who Let the Genes Out?
It may not be front page news in all the press, but the Arkansas Democrat Gazette--Northwest Arkansas Edition, is reporting that
Arkansans affiliated with the rice industry are looking for answers in the wake of the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement Friday that trace amounts of unapproved genetically engineered rice had been discovered in U. S. long-grain rice samples.
In their article "Industry pursuing how rice strayed", by Nancy Cole in their Wednesday (23 Aug 2006) edition, they cover the facts, background and outstanding questions, foremost of which is: what happened?
- It remains unclear how this rice, which was grown in test fields from 1998 to 2001, got into the 2005 U. S. rice crop.
- Arkansas’ largest rice cooperative, Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods Inc., said late Monday that it had been investigating the matter since January, when an export customer discovered genetically engineered material in a shipment.
- The current contamination of U. S. rice supplies is “widespread” and likely to show up again in the 2006 crop
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported on August 16th that " Grass Created in Lab Is Found in the Wild". This was a bentgrass, also developed to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup, known generically as glyphosate.
Other press includes
- New York Times : Unapproved Rice Strain Found in Wide Area
- Financial Times : EU Moves to Ban Modified Rice
Tags: Bayer : Monsanto : rice : biotech : public safety : USDA : Roundup : glyphosate
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Nearly a month ago, I happened on to a generator of avatars-- an avatar-assistant. It presented one with a sequence of choices: gender, hair style, color, eyebrows, eye color, glasses, facial hair (I did the one for males), mouth, and so on, down to shoes and accessories (like tennis racket, dog, cat). I really liked it. I even tried to improve my German vocabulary by making my choices with the German labels (I didn't figure out how to switch to English until I was almost done, and had my German-English dictionary at hand). The result was the image herewith. I think it is quite "me".
- My beard is more "grau" than "braun", but that was not an option. The shape is correct.
- Why are the "katze" only offered in "braun", "grau", and "schwartz"? I guess "grau" is closer to "weiss" (the color of my cat) than none at all, but I would have preferred a pink nose (for the cat).
- Where was this avatar-assistant? I can't find my way back to it, to play again (or recommend it to you, the world). As I recall, I began by comparing image gallery software at opensourcecms.com, but it might have been from clicking on a link in a gallery someone had built with Coppermine. That in turn led me to consider (and compare) the two alternatives for image manipulation, GD and ImageMagick and wonder why PIL, the Python Image Library, was not an option. Anyway, somewhere in that wandering I saw a comment posted by that author of the avatar-assistant describing it and giving a link...I suppose that since he/it uses GD2, it would have been on the boutell.com site...or was there a forum I haven't refound?
If anyone who reads this knows where to find the avatar assistant that would have produced this image and given it a name like "1153987301_ddf0e114d7e102ab5b18df5517a04602.png" PLEASE tell me.
Tags: gdlib : avatar assistant
Pipol, Female Pipol
I was trying to make conversation with one of my daughters (an increasingly difficult task, as our interests diverge) a week or two ago. I brought up a "news" event involving a "magazine" she "reads"
- Did you happen to see the photos of Ségolène in a bikini? Pretty good shape for a woman her age, I'd say. Very well conserved.
- Yeah, I think I saw them at Marion's. But Claire Chazal's
(3)not bad, either.
- Sure, but they're not the same age. Claire Chazal is much younger, Ségolène is almost as old as I am.
- Wrong, Dad. She's not that young anymore.
- Well, she has been around for a while, maybe I just didn't realize how long.
(4)But I'm not sure, I'll look it up on the Internet at home.
- [Silence, for most of the rest of the drive.]
- Wikipedia :
- Ségolène Royal was born September 22, 1953.
- Me :
- Thanks. So everyone says she's 53, but she's not quite; she has another month to go. For sure, she takes better care of herself than I do; I didn't look that fine fifteen months ago, and I haven't given birth to four children (I've never even been pregnant). Next?
- IMDB :
- Claire Chazal was born December 1, 1956.
- Me :
- Aha! Over three years younger than Ségolène! Not that the difference between 49 and 52 (rounding down, or 50 and 53, rounding up) need be major. But still. I think I can claim I was sorta not totally wrong when I said she was "incomparably younger". Out of curiosity, how old is Condoleeza Rice?
- Wikipedia :
- She was born November 14, 1954.
- Me :
- Cool! .  . .  . .  . .  . Burma Shave!
0. "Pipol" is the phonetic French word for "People".
1. Why all the quotes around "magazine" and "reads"? The product in question, Closer, is mostly rumours and paparazzi pics with TV schedules. And the website has one of the most dysfunctional features I've encountered: its video player "pause", "stop", and "mute" buttons don't work! It autoplays an obnoxious clip and the only way to make it go away is to mute the computer and wait for the clip to end! Or leave the site...
2. I did not pick up one of those magazines, I just had a glimpse of a photo when the TV news reported on the incident.
3. An attractive anchorwoman who has presented the evening news on the leading channel for years. She became a "pipol" fairly quickly, possibly when she was pregnant, unmarried, and the name of the father was the object of speculation in "pipol" press (tabloids). 4. She's been presenting the evening news since 1991, her son was born in 1995, when she was closing in on 40. I guess I judged her to be younger at the time, for no particular reason. Good make-up. And parlerpourneriendire agrees with my daughter:
j'ai pesté contre Claire Chazal qui a un corps de rêve alors que moi je suis toute boudinée dans mon 2 pièces Decathlon,I'll have to look for her photos, too; time for a visit to the doctor's waiting room (my coiffeur doesn't have magazines, at least not that I've ever notice.)
Tags: pipol : Ségolène :Claire :Condi Rice :
Saturday, August 19, 2006
|Excerpt of their principle||My interpretation|
|Reuse the schema (names, objects, properties, values, types, hierarchies, constraints) as much as possible from pre-existing, established, well-supported standards by reference.||Start from a schema/dtd|
|Use the most accurately precise semantic XHTML building block for each object etc. . . Otherwise use a generic structural element.||Map its structural nature to an html element (what would the xslt produce?).|
|Use class names based on names from the original schema, unless the semantic XHTML building block precisely represents that part of the original schema.||Copy the name of the element (xml) to the class attribute of the html tag.|
|Finally, if the format of the data according to the original schema is too long and/or not human-friendly, . . . use a special technique.||Use a work-around for ugly data.|
- Is there validation the profile is respected? How? How much is pardonable?
- What about i18n? I'm in favor of human readability, and fluent in American, but I'm opposed to schemas that are supposed to develop the semantic aspects of publication yet are in only one "universal" language.
- Doesn't the nested list for specification add constraints to the ordering of the parts of complex types, constraints which were not necessarily in the original schema? Or maybe there is some way of saying "in no particular order"? Number of occurrences (reqd., optional, 1, at least 1, at most 1...)
Tags: microformats | html | xml | web_standards
Monday, August 14, 2006
Another resource is at Frames without Frames, including an impressive interlocking tiling of panels--impossible with frames (or tables?).
The original post follows.
As talk and development of Web 2.0 (copyright O'Reilly) continues, I set myself the more modest goal of getting my layout to do what I want: frames without frames. If Web 2.0 is about pages that automatically adapt and update themselves as you use them, Web 1.0 was about fetching requested content, possibly from multiple sources, and presenting it according to instructions provided in a standard language: html with CSS. It seems we can't even count on up-todate browsers to execute standard presentation instructions.
In other words, I want it to have a layout with a lefthand sidebar to contain interactive elements (buttons, search box, links, etc.) and constant elements (logo, icons that are the same for every page) while a broader right-hand panel would contain the page-specific content (title, table of contents, text).
Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.
Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.
The lefthand panel should be immobile (i.e. not scroll with content) whereas the page content could overflow beyond the bottom of the viewport and be navigible with a scrollbar. This could be achieved quite simply with frames. But, I've "understood" that frames are 3v!l. I set out to do it with css (and not with tables, either!).
The basic idea is that there are two boxes, one -- always!-- the full height of the viewport and about one sixth the width, the other of variable height (possibly greater than the viewport) and occupying the rest of the available width. So, I defined two "div" elements, just as I would have frames. The main difference is that frames would be retrieved separately but my page is delivered in one load.
- Positioning the two boxes with "float: left" on the first and "float: right" on the second worked fine with Firefox, but not with IE6. After much playing with widths and margins, I finally managed to get the two divs next to each other in both browsers, but IE6 insisted on placing multiple scrollbars even when only one div had the "overflow: auto" property and always scrolled the "fixed" panel with the mobile content.
- IE6 also would not extend the height of the lefthand panel to the full height of the viewport just because I said "height: 100%;". But it did so when I set "height: 582px; max-height: 582px; min-height: 582px;".
- I consulted various sources (many of which I had read before), particularly the Autistic Cuckoo article Relatively Absolute. My fears were confirmed; it is not just my imperfect mastery of CSS but
Unfortunately Internet Explorer doesn't support fixed positioning. There are a number of more or less complicated ways to circumvent that, but fixed positioning isn't actually as useful as one may think. Sure, it's conceivable to have a menu in the left or right column that is always visible, but most users today expect everything on the page to move upwards when they scroll.Emphasis mine.
So much for relying on standards to achieve simple, browser-independent layout. No wonder we see that
- Lots and lots of sites let everything on the page move when they scroll.
- Flash is so poplular for providing consistent, cross-platform and browser-indepent content.
Conclusion. My options seem to be:
- Frames-- probably a bigger departure from the DokuWiki templates than I wish to undertake (and maintain).
- Stick with the "position:fixed; height: 100%;" and forget about IE. Optionally, add a notice below the fixed-100%-high panel advising "If you can see this, you need a new browser because yours doesn't understand layout styles!"
- Not table(s).
- Give up, and accept standard, scrolling pages.
Tags: css | DokuWiki
Saturday, August 05, 2006
The good news: The local amateur weather station is back on line (its comm was knocked out by a thunderstorm last week) so I can get confirmation that the weather has really cooled off a lot! Todays high has not yet (at 11 a.m.) reached the lows of last week's nights! And we finally have had some rain, although I suspect it hasn't soaked in very deep yet.
No rain from July 12th to 27th, then only less than a cm spread over a couple of days: immediate evaporation, especially given that the daytime temperatures were over 30°C.
The cooler nights are nice, much more restful. I suppose people in the tropics "learn" to sleep well without coolness (do they?), but it is a problem for us Northerners. Really: I read it in a newspaper! A few weeks ago, reporting on the heat wave across much of Europe, a journalist noted that in Austria they were particularly troubled by the "tropical nights"--those when the temperature doesn't go below 20°C. Personally, I'd make that "doesn't go below 20°C and stay there for, say, four hours or more so I can get some rest!" We had nights recently when the low was below 20°C, but only for a few minutes around 5:00 a.m. after it trended down from 30°C at midnight and before it started rising again. For four straight days, July 25-28, it never dropped below 20°C, and I was going crazy. It is now the middle of the canicular period (22 July to 22 August) and I consider wearing a sweater or jacket when I go out at mid-day! Probably should take advantage to do some yardwork.
|Some summary stats:||Criterion||May||June||July|
|Summer days||(Tmax >= 25°C)||8||21||31|
|Canicular days||(Tmax >= 30°C)||0||7||23|
|Tropical nights||(Tmin >= 20°C)||0||0||7|
Friday, August 04, 2006
As I tried to figure out why this piece was written and published, I continued to think about what constitutes a "political vanity project", the opinion author's chosen qualifier for a European technical institute, or another Internet search tool. Is the author really hoping that she has constructed an argument for this (the conclusion)?
If European leaders really want to foster the next Google, they might consider cutting the high taxes and red tape that send students and entrepreneurs the world over running for the United States. Then again, that would make sense -- and wouldn't cost taxpayers a centime.
The author has offered no evidence that:
- students and entrepreneurs the world over [are] running for the United States
- that they are doing so because of high taxes and red tape
- that following this advice would foster the next [European] Google
- that following this advice--retaining or attracting information technology entrepreneurs--wouldn't cost taxpayers a centime.
- The French government's appetite for venturing into business knows no bounds.
- Championed by President Jacques Chirac, Quaero has received some €90 million in public funds. The idea? To rival -- peut-être topple -- Google. This is one battle in Mr. Chirac's war against what he calls the "omnipresence" of "Anglo-Saxon" culture on the Web.
- Quaero (Latin for "I search") is the latest in a string of French and European political vanity projects.
- Later this year, French citizens will get to see more of their hard-earned euros put to work when "France 24" goes live, broadcasting international news. You know, like Fox.
- This is just plain silly. No comment.
- While noting that Quaero is a "controversial Franco-German plan to build a state-funded European search engine", the Financial Times does not omit that Quaero was launched this year with initial funding of €1.7bn ($2.2bn) to develop voice-based and picture-based search technologies. “[Quaero] is not just about ‘let’s beat Google’,” Mr Mohn [Christoph Mohn, the heir to the Bertelsmann media empire] said. “It’s ‘let’s build up a competitive internet industry’.” ... “It’s a little bit like Airbus Industries. I don’t think it requires consolidation [of Europe’s internet industry] but it needs co-ordination.”
- Sorry, what are the criteria for a "political vanity project" again? Was the euro currency with its European Central Bank one? Was invading Iraq?
- "like Fox"? Why Fox? A private channel dear to WSJ readers no doubt; not "like BBC World" , "like CNN" , "like Euronews", or -- why not-- "like Al Jazeera" while we're at it!
19 July: Yahoo! 2nd quarter profits divided by four.
20 July: Yahoo! collapses on Wall Street. New advertising platform delayed three months.
20 July: Yahoo! loses $9 billion of its value.
30 July: Mr Mohn, chief executive of Lycos Europe, said his online community and search company would introduce some products to the US market in the next 12 months but European internet companies were operating at a disadvantage to their US rivals.
Bertelsmann and Lycos Europe are members of the Quaero consortium, which includes Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Thomson and France Telecom.
4 August: AOL reveals plans to cut 5,000 jobs. A day after unveiling a strategy aimed at boosting its online audience, internet group AOL told its 19,000 staff around the world that within six months 5,000 of them would no longer be on its payroll.
4 August: Wall Street Journal advises Quaero consortium financers to save their money, cut taxes instead.
Tags: vanity WSJ honesty business Lycos arrogance
Dear Anonymous at WSJ
What is the problem? Is it the name of the project? As if the American government doesn't fund research which leads to business!
The Bayh-Dole Act includes four basic tenets, according to Allen: Government-funded research is owned by the university where it is performed; any royalties from patents are shared with inventors; use of the research is focused in the United States; and the government can use the research without having to pay royalties.
Since the act came into effect, Allen said, between 1980 and 2001 university patents have increased tenfold; 2,200 new companies have been started to develop new technologies based on patented research; 260,000 jobs have been created and about $40 billion of the United States economy have come from university research results.(source ohiou.edu)
Or consider the MIT Technology Licensing Office analysis:
"The Bayh-Dole Act is working precisely as intended, developing the fruits of government-funded research for the benefit of society," she said. "Economic development through exploitation of intellectual property is now widely considered one of the major benefits of federally sponsored research.
"Only government can make, for dozens of years, the patient investment in basic science needed for scientific discoveries. Only then can private business afford to take the considerable risk of licensing the patented discoveries and investing millions of dollars more to develop the technology into a device or medicine that will bring great benefits to society. This process generates new jobs, new companies, sometimes new industries and new wealth. Government then gets back its share through taxing that wealth," while the public benefits not only from the returned taxes, but from the new products, new companies and new jobs that result, Ms. Nelsen said in an interview Monday.
WSJ: Online, there's already Geoportail.fr, designed to compete with Google Earth, and Gallica, inspired by Google's library-indexing project. Both are financed by the French state.
Gallica is a service of the French National Library (which has been financed by the French state for a long time). It is inspired at least as much by Project Gutemberg, to which it furnishes scans of its public property texts. Who finances the Library of Congress? Is it inspired by Google's library-indexing project? Are we really to believe that only the silly French "waste" taxpayers' money to provide Internet access to public information resources?
WSJ: Google doesn't get a penny from any government, nor is it -- as far as we can tell -- part of a nefarious plot to rid the world of French culture.
The founders of Google didn't have government research grants while they were at Stanford? Are you sure? Not a penny of support went in to the creation of their ranking algorithm?
WSJ: If you don't like those pesky English-language results, you can eliminate them with a click of the mouse.
I know; and I particularly like setting the Google interface language to "Elmer Fudd" (BTW, do they have to pay Warner for the rights?)
WSJ: If European leaders really want to foster the next Google, they might consider cutting the high taxes and red tape that send students and entrepreneurs the world over running for the United States. Then again, that would make sense -- and wouldn't cost taxpayers a centime.
Seriously? First you classify "the planned 'European Institute of Technology,' funded by Brussels and intended to rival the Massachusetts Institute of Technology" a "French and European political vanity project"; mightn't it slow the braindrain? Now you claim that more students staying in Europe (or coming from elsewhere) wouldn't cost taxpayers a centime? Cut taxes on student income so they can pay more for their education and still come out ahead, maybe? But before we consider the economics and whatever else "send students and entrepreneurs the world over running for the United States", let's check the claim that they do. The OECD uses "share of foreign-born with tertiary attainment" to measure migration of the highly educated. I've ranked the U.S.A. and selected core European countries in the following table. The main observations:
- The U.S.A. is indeed the leading attractor, although its 4.25 % immigrants from within the OECD is not much higher than France's 4.2%, and is well below Belgium's 5.9 % and the U.K.'s 6.5 %. The main factor seems to be that very, very few ever leave.
- France is second to the U.S.A. as attractor, nearly in balance with the rest of the OECD and has a good draw from outside the OECD--much better than Belgium, Spain, Denmark or Ireland. Is it the taxes, red tape, or both that make it's retention rates so much better than those of the U.K. and Ireland? Surely it isn't the language! (Although that may explain Denmark's difficulty recruiting
- Germany is a net exporter to the OECD, but draws enough non-OECD talent to be net positive about 4%, like Spain and Belgium.
- The U.K. can't get the educated to stay -- over 90% turnover-- barely 1% net net!
- Ireland, the oft-cited role model of the successful liberal economic miracle, is losing talent at a phenomenal rate. Why?
- For perspective, the only countries other than the U.S.A. with a positive balance on within-OECD migration are Luxembourg (28%!), Australia (14%), Switzerland (9%), Canada (5%), and Spain and Norway (less than 1%).
|Foreign-born persons with tertiary attainment|
as a percentage of the total number of residents with tertiary education
|Country||immigrants from other OECD countries||emigrants to other OECD countries||immigrants less emigrants within OECD zone||immigrants from the rest of the world||net total||Expenditure per student in tertiary education: 2002|
|United Kingdom||6.491||14.856||-8.365||9.372||1.008||11 822|
|Netherlands||3.326||8.933||-5.607||4.369|| -1.238 ||13 101|
WSJ [Implied] I'm not saying who wrote this. I'll let you believe it is the concensus opinion of the Wall Street Journal.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Tags: WSJ | France | Google | OECD| Quaero | braindrain
Tertiary attainment for age group 25-64
Year: 2000 2001 2002 2003
U.S.A. 36.495 37.313 38.133 38.422
France 22.048 23.021 23.98 23.439
Spain 22.619 23.624 24.378 25.19
Germany 23.499 23.222 23.427 23.982
U. K. 25.671 26.097 26.861 27.989
Denmark 25.778 26.484 27.417 31.887
Ireland 21.838 23.661 25.398 26.308
Thursday, August 03, 2006
As it turns out, "canicule" did not originally mean "heat wave" per se. It names the canicular period, when Sirius (the dog star) rises and sets with the sun (or, according to Wikipedia, Sirius "rises after and sets before the sun, and hence is lost in the latter's glare"); this is the time of year which is typically hottest, from 22 July to 22 August.
Furthermore, some English dictionaries include "canicule", so it is not really missing (I was just ignorant). In common parlance, we refer to "dog days", the vulgarisation of caniculares dies.
However, if the time of year which is typically hottest falls earlier each year (we had a major heat wave in Europe in early July this year, but who knows what August will bring) it will have nothing to do with the dog star or constellation and perhaps should be given a new name.
Tags: words | heat | weather
Summer in the Municipality
- An area that is more densely populated or developed than the surrounding area
- an administrative division of a county
- A population center that is larger than a village and smaller than a city.
- an urban area with a fixed boundary that is smaller than a city
- urban (adj.)
- Of, relating to, or located in a city.
- Characteristic of the city or city life.
So a town is a city that is too small to be a city. What does it take to qualify as a city?
A center of population, commerce, and culture; a town of significant size and importance.
We have population (more than I'd be able to feed), commerce (a couple hundred shops, and a public market twice a week), but is this a center of culture? Of course! We have schools (public and private, pre-school through high school, and a technical school), a mediathèque (a library with digital recordings, too, and Internet terminals), a nicely renovated theater, and annual musical festivals ("music and humor" in the spring, and folk music and dance from around the world in August). I should add mention of museums and occasional art exhibits. Places of worship, too!
Some recent sightings:
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Look-alike White Pussies
I took a "photo" with my phone. We see the back of "resident's" head in the foreground (bottom left) and a bit of "imposter's" face about four metres away around the corner of the house. After a moment, I gave him (resident) a light rub and he arose and came back into the kitchen.
A few minutes later, I saw the "imposter" scamper off the skeletal remains of a balcony, roll on the ground on the "lawn" (in damper times), playing in the yard with one of the plastic Bocci balls I keep to play with cats. Then he arose, clawed a plank, rubbed a shrub, and finally climbed up the fence and onto the neighbors' wall.
I am perplexed. I don't know how much to worry about this situation. My cat (the resident) is not a fighter (although he does come home with scratches and with holes in the fur under his chin) because he has as little testosterone as a steer (much, much less than Floyd Landis should have had because he has several fewer testicles than Landis), but I don't know about the "imposter". Hence I do not know the nature of the conflict (macho versus eunuch, or hungry eunuch versus younger affluent eunuch, or just older eunuch versus younger eunuch, or even if "imposter" is significantly older).
Resident went out, to hunt but also I suppose to defend his home (promenade) and range. After a while, the other cat and he exchanged noises; I went out and the other fled, resident came out of a tree to rub against me and to be reassured. But quickly returned to the "frey".
I've closed the basement window, but the cat door (also in the laundry room) remains functional.
A few minutes ago (10-ish), I heard a cat "land" in the kitchen: it looked white at first glance, reflected in the shiny black cupboard doors. When I called to it (with the noises one makes to a cat) it hopped up and out; before it disappeared, I saw it had colored spots on its back, which I really don't think the earlier "fake" resident cat had. I suspect it to be a cat that has come here before (I don't know how often), one I remember seeing late in the evening in April just before Mandou vanished.
What to do. "Resident" is out of the house; I must leave him at least one entry (the cat door in the laundry room) and leave my bedroom door open--both so that he can come to me if he comes in pursued, and so that I can hear if other intruders make an unusual ruckus in the house.
I hope I still have a healthy white pussy tomorrow; I'll reflect on how to deal with a second one should it seek domicile. Fortunately for me, "resident" has a handicapped tail following an accident a few months ago, so I can tell that a white cat with pink nose and yellow eyes is not him if it lifts or otherwise moves its tail.
P.S. Monday's mouse corpse.
Tags: cats, imposter, testosterone, pussy, intruders, territory