iPhone is today’s Brownie camera

Another solid, thoroughly enjoyable article by Om Malik

…what both the Brownie and the iPhone accomplished went beyond technology. Separated by almost 100 years, they were decidedly utilitarian. The Brownie put photography in the hands of amateurs, and so has the iPhone.

They each contributed to the rise of the informal photograph in their respective eras. With the Brownie, people were taking the camera out to the beach, on cruise ships, and to other vacation destinations. Of course, the smartphone is even more portable. We are all carrying one now, and we have the ability to make pictures immediately wherever we are and share them almost simultaneously…

I own two lovely digital cameras. Slightly different eras, different form factors. I used them constantly to illustrate work on-and-offline for more than a few decades. I can’t recall the last time I took either of them with me for a walk of discovery, urban or otherwise. I take photos with my iPhone, just about every day. To what end, what purpose? Just read Om’s article.

Choose chicken over beef – cut your dietary carbon footprint in half!

❝ Replacing the carbon-heavy beef on your plate with carbon-light chicken will cut your dietary carbon footprint a shocking amount: in half. That’s according to a first-ever national study of U.S. eating habits and their carbon footprints.

❝ To find out what Americans are actually eating, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey asked more than 16,000 participants to recall all the foods they had consumed in the previous 24 hours…The study then calculated the carbon emissions of what people said they ate. If a meal involved beef, such as broiled beef steak, researchers estimated what the carbon footprint would be had they chosen to eat broiled chicken instead.

❝ The study shows that one simple substitution can result in a big reduction in a person’s dietary carbon footprint—the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that result from energy, fertilizer, and land use involved in growing food, Rose said. It also shows you don’t have to give up animal products to improve your carbon footprint. Food production accounts for about a quarter of total carbon emissions globally.

At a minimum – in our household – chicken provides well over half the animal protein in our diet. And, um, the rest is pork and fish. Which probably would come in with a lower carbon footprint than beef, as well.

On the Road: The Original Scroll by Jack Kerouac

First Edition Cover

❝ …The scroll is in fact only slightly different and longer than the published novel. There are, however, a few key differences which impact the novel’s overall effects. First and foremost, the scroll is unparagraphed, an unusual but not unprecedented novelistic technique (see the Molly Bloom soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses or Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, first published in French in 1951). While this makes for challenging reading, the unparagraphed scroll better mimics the ceaseless movement of its characters. Movement is an oft repeated theme in both the scroll and novel; Kerouac says at one point, “[we were] performing our one noble function of the time, move.” In addition, the scroll makes much more use of dashes and ellipses. Peggy Vlagopoulos, in her essay that accompanies the scroll, observes that the published novel often replaces these marks with commas, thereby interrupting the flow of the narrative. These typographical differences create a faster moving work but also a highlight Kerouac’s use of parataxis, a style in which one syntactic element is followed by another without an apparent hierarchy of importance.

RTFA. Better yet, read the novel – scroll or typeset. A picture of a certain time and life I enjoyed, my friends and I enjoyed and practiced, which led many of us to extend our rejection of the rules and economic justification for the bigotry and hypocrisy prominent in American culture.

Twitter wants to know what other apps you have on your phone

Twitter, hungry for new data to fuel its targeted advertising, will start looking at what other apps its users have downloaded.

Starting Wednesday, the company will begin collecting data on which other apps its users have on their iOS and Android smartphones. The data, Twitter says, will help it deliver better “tailored content” to its users. That’s sure to include ads, but maybe also better recommendations about whom to follow when users sign up, or more relevant first tweets in the feed, which could help Twitter hook people early.

It’s strictly a list of the apps users have installed, Twitter says, not data pertaining to what people do inside those apps. So Twitter would know if you have a ride-hailing app, but it wouldn’t see your rides taken with the app.

Well, this week, anyway.

…Twitter’s move stands to raise privacy concerns at least among some people, perhaps depending on which other apps are on their phones.

Twitter’s data collection will start automatically, unless users have already turned on the built in “limit ad tracking” or “opt out of interest-based ads” option on iOS or Android phones, respectively. Twitter users will be notified of the data collection, but they can turn it off at any time from within their app’s settings, Twitter says. If users turn it off, the data is removed from Twitter’s servers…the company says.

Is the NSA buying stock in Twitter, yet?

Thanks, Mike

New Mexico judge rules for physician aid in death with dignity

Click to enlargeI’d prefer to die in our back meadow

A District Court judge ruled today that it’s legal for doctors in New Mexico to prescribe medication so patients with terminal illnesses can end their own lives.

Judge Nan Nash wrote: “If decisions made in the shadow of one’s imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are?”

It’s called “aid in dying”—not “assisted suicide.” One distinction being that patients would administer the life-ending medicine themselves.

Though New Mexico had an Assisted Suicide Statute on the books, advocates argued the law does not encompass aid in dying. “If it does does indeed cover this practice, we believe the statute is unconstitutional,” said Laura Schauer-Ives, legal director with the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the case.

There are several key differences, she said. First, motivation—in aid-in-dying cases, the person wants to live but is facing imminent death and looks to avoid a loss of autonomy and increased pain. Second, the nature of the act—patients aren’t typically alone, and go through a collaborative process with their families and physicians. Finally, she said, the effect on survivors is different, and these situations don’t typically bring on immense regret and guilt.

The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops has led the charge opposing aid in dying. I’m not wasting time and space here to repeat their objections. They have sufficient power over press and politicians to be heard everywhere.

Executive Director Allen Sanchez [has what he calls] logical and ethical issues at play as well. None of them offer sufficient concern for dignity or individual choice. The accurate description is sophistry but most folks don’t pay much attention to what that describes philosophically.

It will be interesting to see what happens to official Catholic opposition to an individual’s right to die with dignity in the era of Francis. I live in a more-or-less Catholic state. That means the same in New Mexico as it did in southern New England. Bishops and priests have beaucoup political power – and a flock that turns their back on outdated crap ideology sufficiently to be called “American Catholics” in my catechism.

I’d presumed the Bishops of New Mexico would cause their usual uproar when the state Supreme Court agreed that same-sex marriage must be the law of the state on the basis of our national Constitution. They didn’t. They even made noises like my old acquaintance Willard Uphaus during his years as a defrocked Methodist – “Ain’t nothing wrong with old-time religion if it’s old-time enough!” He forgave his church’s cowardice, blindness. Who knows – maybe the Catholic church will someday earn the same forgiveness.

Perhaps the Bishops will reconsider individual freedom and choice on this question, too?

There are a couple of asides from religious opposition. The local DA’s office can appeal and, of course, the state’s attorney general has the same authority. Action from either of these is more likely to concern nothing more than whenever and whatever is the next election they confront. I don’t know squat about what the DA may do. Our attorney general is the scion of one of New Mexico’s ranching/politics families associated with the core Democrat Party machine. Gary King is a creepy sort of politician, seemingly governed most of all by his feelings of inherited power. Not that he has any sense of what to do with that power, how to lead or guide change in the state.

Opportunism rules his political life especially when prompted by pressures that range from dynamic changes in the electorate – to the money boys that float his electoral boat. The latter providing the motivation typical of most American politics.

Stephen Hawking supports assisted suicide

British cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking has publicly expressed support for allowing people with terminal illnesses the option of assisted suicide.

“We don’t let animals suffer, so why humans?”

Hawking, one of the world’s most famous scientists, is also one of the world’s most famous cases of a rare progressive motor neuron disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Just 5 percent of those with ALS live more than a decade after diagnosis.

When he was diagnosed in 1964, Hawking was given just two years to live. Known for saying “while there’s life, there’s hope,” the 71-year-old learned to adapt to living with his condition.

“Theoretical physics is one field where being disabled is not a handicap. It is all in the mind,” the Cambridge scientist said.

But he still believes other terminally ill people should have choices.

“I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives, and those who help them should be free from prosecution,” Hawking said in an interview with the BBC.

“There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and are not being pressurised into it or have it done without their knowledge and consent as would have been the case with me.”

Hawking was once put on life support after a bout of pneumonia, and his wife was given the option of turning it off, but that was not something Hawking wanted for himself.

The right-to-die with dignity, the right to make the choice about ending your own life – preferably with the assistance of a concerned and capable physician – is the sort of option all civilized societies will eventually come to. Until then, it’s only playacting at being civilized. Like a lot of “immutable” rights, actually.

Alcohol more harmful to society than heroin or crack

I categorized this post under crime, health and politics. The first two are obvious: illegal addiction produces crime; addiction of most kinds produces ill health. Politics – because political hacks both sides of the pond consider the first two questions only for what they mean when it comes to reelection.

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, beating heroin and crack cocaine into second and third place, according to an authoritative study published today which will reopen calls for the drugs classification system to be scrapped and a concerted campaign launched against drink.

Led by the sacked government drugs adviser David Nutt with colleagues from the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, the study says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.

Today’s paper, published by the respected Lancet medical journal, will be seen as a challenge to the government to take on the fraught issue of the relative harms of legal and illegal drugs, which proved politically damaging to Labour…

Today’s study offers a more complex analysis that seeks to address the 2007 criticisms. It examines nine categories of harm that drugs can do to the individual “from death to damage to mental functioning and loss of relationships” and seven types of harm to others. The maximum possible harm score was 100 and the minimum zero.

Overall, alcohol scored 72 – against 55 for heroin and 54 for crack. The most dangerous drugs to their individual users were ranked as heroin, crack and then crystal meth. The most harmful to others were alcohol, heroin and crack in that order…

The authors write: “Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm. They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harm is a valid and necessary public health strategy.”

Our governments – and the parliamentary hacks fiddling with the same questions – only seem to care about religious morality. Not the value of that morality. Though a far cry from systematic examinations of ethics, there is an odd bit of value in some of the outdated maundering. But, what counts about morality to our politicians is how many votes will it get at election time.

Witness the horde of Democrats falling over themselves in the United States to capitulate before Tea Party mobs. Unwilling, lacking sufficient bravery to explain last century’s basic solutions to the free market criminals who took their dishonesty into the biggest economic crash this side of 1929. Too cowardly to explain essential solutions to moralists who demand blood – instead of reconstruction.

The Labour Party ain’t much better. Lib Dems? Probably worse – since their parliamentary party is ready to compromise with anyone this side of the Attila the Hun or Dick Cheney in order to get a chance to prove themselves ready to lead minor ministries.

Scientists have offered yet another reasoned analysis to politicians. What’s the likelihood of anyone listening?

Fanatic gamer hunts down and stabs rival who killed his avatar

Julien Barreaux, 20, told police he wanted to see his rival player “wiped out” after his character in the game Counter-Strike died in a virtual knife fight.

A court in Cambrai, northern France, heard how Barreaux plotted revenge for seven months after the online “killing” last November.

He then located the victim, named only as Mikhael, several miles from his home.

When the man answered the door, he plunged a kitchen knife into his chest, missing his heart by less than an inch, a police officer told the court…

Barreaux was jailed for two years for causing grievous bodily harm, and ordered to undergo psychiatric tests and anger management therapy. Judge Alexiane Potel told him: “You are a menace to society. I am frankly terrified of the disproportionate reaction you could have if someone looked at you the wrong way in the street.”

Put him in the army. Shove him out onto a real battlefield.

Forget about him.

Martin Amis takes assisted suicide a step further – euthanasia booths

Martin Amis told the Guardian: “What we need to recognise is that certain lives fall into the negative, where pain hugely dwarfs those remaining pleasures that you may be left with. Geriatric science has been allowed to take over and, really, decency roars for some sort of correction.” He said his comments were meant to be “satirical”, rather than “glib”.

His stance on euthanasia had hardened since the deaths of his stepfather, Lord Kilmarnock, the former SDP peer and writer, in March aged 81, and his friend Dame Iris Murdoch, the novelist, in 1999, aged 79, two years after her husband revealed that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“I increasingly feel that religion is so deep in our constitution and in our minds and that is something we should just peel off,” he said. “Of course euthanasia is open to abuse, in that the typical grey death will be that of an old relative whose family gets rid of for one reason or another, and they’ll say ‘he asked me to do it’, or ‘he wanted to die’, Amis said. “That’s what we will have to look out for. Nonetheless, it is something we have to make some progress on…”

In his interview, Amis said his step father had died “very horribly”. “He always thought he was going to get better. But he didn’t get better and I think the denial of death is a great curse.”

He said Iris Murdoch, whom he had known for a very long time , was “a friend, I loved her. She was wonderful. I remember talking to her just as it started happening, and she said, ‘I’ve entered a dark place’. That famous quote. Awareness of loss is gone, the track is gone. You don’t know the day you’ve spent watching Teletubbies; it just vanished.”

The pro-euthanasia pressure group Dignity in Dying said: “Like all too many people in the UK, Martin Amis has witnessed the bad death of a loved one.” But, it added: “Dignity in Dying’s campaign for a change in the law is not about the introduction of ‘euthanasia booths’, nor is it in anticipation of a ‘silver tsunami’. Our campaign is about allowing dying adults who have mental capacity a compassionate choice to end their suffering, subject to strict legal safeguards.”

Hear, hear.

I think I’ll leave out my personal experiences with friends and family who wished for an opportunity if needed. Not much different from those contained in the article – which you should read.

I also suggest checking out the website of the Dignity in Dying campaign if you’re in the UK. In the U.S., there is Death with Dignity. Pretty much spot on.

Supremes revisit ruling requiring testimony from police lab techs

Virginia Hernandez Lopez admitted to knocking back two shots of tequila with Sprite chasers on an August night in Julian, Calif., a couple of years ago. But she said she was not drunk when her Ford Explorer collided with an oncoming Toyota pickup truck later that night, killing its driver.

In May, a California state appeals court affirmed Ms. Lopez’s conviction for vehicular manslaughter. Her blood-alcohol level two hours after the accident was, according to a report presented to the jury, just over the legal limit of .08 percent.

But the appeals court reconsidered the case after a decision in June from the United States Supreme Court that prohibited prosecutors from introducing crime lab reports without testimony from the analysts who prepared them.

The appeals court reversed Ms. Lopez’s conviction, saying prosecutors had violated her constitutional right to confront witnesses against her by failing to put the analyst who prepared the blood-alcohol report on the stand.

But now, in an unusual move, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Jan. 11 in a new case that raises questions about how lower courts may carry out its six-month-old precedent. Many state attorneys general and prosecutors are hoping the court will overrule its decision in the earlier case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, before it can take root, saying it is a costly, disruptive and dangerous misstep.

“Already data and anecdotal evidence are demonstrating an overwhelming negative impact,” a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by 26 attorneys general last month said. The decision, they said, “is already proving unworkable.”

RTFA. Prosecutors and defense lawyers have the world of differences on the question – as you might presume.

The article doesn’t mention what Ms. Lopez had to say about the constitutional rights of Allan Wolowsky, the driver she killed.