Thursday, May 31, 2007

Leaving pages blank

In general, I try not to rant. It's usually unseemly. But I will indulge in a small rant here, and I will try not to seem indecorous.

Many times, while going through a manual, report, or similar document, I have been annoyed by the silly phrase "This page intentionally left blank". I know, some people freak out when they see an empty page, and they think that somehow there might have been a printer's error and that there is some possibility they are missing some information that could be valuable, but there's no way for them to know for sure unless the publisher anticipates their worry and helps them by printing "This page intentionally left blank". But, I think they should get over it.

By printing "This page intentionally left blank", it obviously no longer is. And it is intentionally rendered unblank with a message claiming it is blank. I'm not the first to make this observation.

So, I suggest that publishers and printers of reports and manuals make the effort to denote the ends of sections with symbols or dingbats of their choosing. These closing symbols should clearly signal that no more information will follow until the next section heading, even if there is a blank page in between. That shouldn't be too much to ask of the average reader.

There. I'm done. I hope that wasn't too bad.

Fighting panda extinction


BEIJING - A 5-year-old panda who last year became the first to be released into the wild after being bred in captivity has died, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said Thursday.

The body of Xiang Xiang was found Feb. 19 in the forests of Sichuan province in China's southwest, Xinhua said. He survived less than a year in the wild after nearly three years of training in survival techniques and defense tactics.

Perhaps some more research needs to be done.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Yucca morning

Nothing but a picture of a bunch of yucca plants on a bright morning.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fighting panda extinction

This is good news for lovers of the evolutionary dead-enders known as pandas:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A panda at the Memphis Zoo is definitely pregnant, officials there said Wednesday. Ya Ya, a giant panda, was artificially inseminated in January after she and a male companion failed at mating the old-fashioned way.

It's a wonder they haven't disappeared completely already.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gaining my interest

This is interesting (Mark Liberman at Language Log):
An imputation of hypocrisy and/or dishonesty does seem to come up in some of the results of a search for {"I find it interesting that"}. In general, though, there's an added element in such cases, namely some sort of meta-comment on someone else's discourse. The structure is something like "I find it interesting that X asserts Y", or "I find it interesting that X doesn't mention Z", or "I find it interesting that the one who says Y is X". The effect is to evoke questions about X's motivations, and thus to cast doubt on X's arguments.

I find Liberman's post ---- intriguing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What happens when Russian soldiers fight?

Click here to find out.

Glowing Io

When the Jovian moon called Io goes into the shadow of Jupiter, it glows in the dark.

Io's surface is invisible in the darkness, but the image reveals glowing hot lava, auroral displays in Io's tenuous atmosphere and volcanic plumes across the moon. The three bright points of light on the right side of Io are incandescent lava at active volcanoes - Pele and Reiden (south of the equator), and a previously unknown volcano near 22 degrees north, 233 degrees west near the edge of the disk at the 2 o'clock position.

This spectacular image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute. Read more about it here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Beautiful Saturn

It never ceases to amaze.

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Read more about it here.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"Nicolas Sarkozy wins French Presidency"

The new president of France is pro-American?

PARIS - Nicolas Sarkozy, a blunt and uncompromising pro-American conservative, was elected president of France Sunday with a mandate to chart a new course for an economically sluggish nation struggling to incorporate immigrants and their children.


"The people of France have chosen change," Sarkozy told cheering supporters in a victory speech that sketched out a stronger global role for France and renewed partnership with the United States.

Hmm. It would be pretty weird if France was suddenly our friend again. Let's see how this new president does.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Anthropomorphizing a chimp

The challenge has been thrown down: some animal rights advocates want a chimpanzee to become an actual person on the level of humans.

"Our main argument is that Hiasl is a person and has basic legal rights," said Eberhart Theuer, a lawyer leading the challenge on behalf of the Association Against Animal Factories, a Vienna animal rights group.

"We mean the right to life, the right to not be tortured, the right to freedom under certain conditions," Theuer said.

"We're not talking about the right to vote here."


But not all animal rights people are eager to blur the distinction between animal and human so much.

Not all Austrian animal rights activists back the legal challenge. Michael Antolini, president of the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he thinks it's absurd.

"I'm not about to make myself look like a fool" by getting involved, said Antolini, who worries that chimpanzees could gain broader rights, such as copyright protections on their photographs.

Hey, with more rights come more responsibilities. Animal rights people should be careful what they wish for, or we just might start seeing chimps in our jury pools.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pondering what to do with the dead in space

This is certainly something they should be thinking about now before the situation arises out there.

But on other topics — such as steps for disposing of the dead and cutting off an astronaut's medical care if he or she cannot survive — the document merely says these are issues for which NASA needs a policy.

"There may come a time in which a significant risk of death has to be weighed against mission success," [bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania Paul Root] Wolpe said. "The idea that we will always choose a person's well-being over mission success, it sounds good, but it doesn't really turn out to be necessarily the way decisions always will be made."

Especially when there's no ambulance for millions of miles. Just remember, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.