US in Public Health Emergency for Swine Flu

. Sunday, April 26

Dr Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC said this afternoon that he expects to see a broader spectrum of the swine flu and more severe cases here in the US. There are now 20 cases in five states: New York, Ohio, Kansas, California and Texas. This declared public health emergency means that the government views this as 'standard operating procedure' according to Janet Napolitano, and that all appropriate steps will be taken to minimize the impact of the outbreak. The first minimizing step planned is to send 12 million doses of Tamiflu, taken out of the federal stockpile, to the states with cases already reported.

The swine flu outbreak of pandemic proportions is called "emerging" as one way of detracting from the fact that little is yet known about it. There is no explanation of why the flu in Mexico, thought to be ground zero with 1,400 reported cases and 86 deaths, is lethal to the strong of the population instead of just the very young and very old that is usually at the highest risk. There is also no explanation of why people in Mexico are dying, but those who contracted it in the US are not.

What is known so far:
  • The flu shot offers no protection for the swine flu.
  • Only two drugs have been effective in treating it: Tamiflu and Relenza.
To protect yourself, use routine precautions:
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick, stay at home.

The Hobbit

. Thursday, April 23

This is a photo of the skull cast made by using three dimensional computed tomography (3D CT). The skeleton was found in Indonesia in 2003 and scientists believe it is another hominid species that lived around 17,000 years ago. Nicknamed the 'Hobbit', it stood 3 feet 5 inches tall and weighed around 70 pounds. It walked upright, made tools from stone, lived in caves, hunted and used fire.

He Said She Said

. Monday, April 20

Not that it matters much in the grand scheme of things, but it seems like someone is fibbing in this story.

She said, "The accident occurred when the horse Madonna was riding was startled by paparazzi who jumped out of the bushes to photograph the singer, who was visiting friends."

He said, "the only photographer present when the accident occurred was Steven Klein, her host for the day."

Photographer/paparazzi Thomas Hinton said he photographed Madonna from a public road, before and after she fell, but didn't see the accident himself.

No, it doesn't matter. But, it seems no one involved is capable of telling the truth. I wonder if fame and fortune does that to the brain. Hm.

It All Adds Up

. Friday, April 17

There's been a few reports lately on the energy tally of computers. The first is that computers left on after business hours and overnight wastes an estimated $2.8 billion a year. While it may only cost you $.25 a night to leave your one computer on, it would save a company with 1,000 computers $28,000 a year.

What appears to be even more costly is spam. Sending, routing and dealing with spam costs $3 billion a year in wasted energy alone. That's enough to power 2.4 million homes.

Kinda brings the whole thing about our power grid into a new light.

Natural Gas Production Cut in Arkansas

. Thursday, April 16

A local TV station announced today that Chesapeake Energy will cut natural gas production by 400 million cubic feet a day. Chesapeake is one of the major companies that have come into Arkansas to take advantage of the huge Fayetteville Shale Play that runs through a significant amount of the central part of the state.

The activity related to the shale play has buffered the effects of the economic downturn that has plagued the rest of the country, with Arkansas one of the four states barely effected by the depression. Chesapeake is involved in natural gas extraction in Louisiana and Texas as well as Arkansas. The company contracts out all drill and pipeline work and owns no fracture equipment themselves.

Watching the gas boom play out has been interesting. Chesapeake hired subcontracting companies to get the job done, all the while enjoying the distance from those companies when complaints about fast and crazy tank trucks dominated the roadways in the area. (One fast and crazy driver walked away from his truck that had rolled out of control onto a car, killing two children and seriously injuring the parents.) The political leaders of the area took to shining up to Chesapeake, who hired a PR crew to maintain a constant presence in town. Several lavish, catered events were arranged to pass on information to landowners that had leased mineral rights to Chesapeake. The company sponsored contests, funded several grants, and even bought fireworks for several of the small towns in the area to use for 4th of July celebrations.

But, rumors started punching pins into the cheery balloon image Chesapeake invested heavily in getting out there. Chesapeake may have signed the mineral rights leases, but it was the subcontractors that paid the royalties to land owners. Then, a few of those subcontractors suddenly go bankrupt and head out of town faster than they came in. More than a few cases involving the leases have landed on the civil court docket. Out of nowhere, and as detailed as the above mentioned story, subcontracting companies sued Chesapeake over non payment of millions of dollars. And, Chesapeake sent letters to those small towns saying they will not be buying fireworks, no more fancy catered events, concerts or contests, and very few Chesapeake pickup trucks seen in the area when they used to be on every corner.

Though the boom wasn't welcome in all circumstances, the welcome mat Arkansas rolled out to the gas companies was a wise decision in terms of protecting the state from the national economy. But the boom hasn't been around long enough to produce the residual industry and income projected yet. With one of the major players floundering, Arkansas may end up on the wrong end of the stick when it's all said and done.

This is an issue that needs to be carefully monitored, and when answers aren't forthcoming, they need to be demanded.

Beware: Conficker Saga Continues

. Saturday, April 11

April Fools Day came and went without the predicted catastrophe, which, of course, made all the doomsayers look like the boy who cried wolf one too many times. Perhaps, that's exactly what the Conficker worm was designed to do. When nothing happens as predicted, we drop our vigilant defenses, and that could be exactly what this crafty worm is counting on.

Launched on April 1, the Conficker worm waited silently until April 8 when it kicked into gear and began updating itself via Internet download. Still, nothing of note since the tech-heads aren't able to crack the heavily encrypted instruction set contained in the download. What they have been able to see is that Conficker has infected computers check with benign sites such as MSN and My Space to verify Internet access, then it checks the date and time.

Then, this downloaded update just deletes itself completely. In fact, the update includes instructions for Conficker to delete itself entirely on May 8.

And the research continues...

Here's Our Weakness, Right Here. Got It? Good.

. Wednesday, April 8

The latest jewel in the rough that will probably slip under the surface in no time flat is called "Has power grid been hacked? US won't say." And that's what the article takes a page and a half to say: The US won't say.

Instead, what the article says over and over is that the computer systems that control our power grid are not and never have been protected. Well, at least in the first sentence. The second sentence says the power grid has always been secure. Then it says that the power grid is the easiest way to cause a non catastrophic attack on the US. Let's see, we'll blame the Chinese and the Russians right away since they always have hackers on hand.

So, Obama ordered a top to bottom review of the power grid as soon as he got into office. No sign of an admitted breach in the power grid, but the Wall St. Journal said there was.

At this point, who knows what to believe? But you sure can't miss the fact that the power grid is our weakest weakness. Got that? Should I say it again? Ah, no need to. The Reuters article blasted that news all over the world already, if anybody noticed...

Yet Another Reprieve for Windows XP

. Sunday, April 5

"The Little OS That Could" is what Windows XP is called now, alive and well with Microsoft's latest extension on its sales. Well, it's a limited extension. Hewlett-Packard, the largest manufacturer of Windows-based PCs in the country, can continue to sell new PCs with XP bundled until April 30, 2010. Other manufacturers won't be allowed to offer downgrades after July 31, 2009 unless they reach the same sort of deal with Microsoft that HP has.

This will be strange indeed. Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP after April 14, 2009 - next week. There will be security patches and critical fixes up to April 2014, but no feature updates.

Inbox: I'm Broke!

. Wednesday, April 1

A little old lady answered a knock on the door one day, only to be confronted by a well-dressed young man carrying a vacuum cleaner.

'Good morning,' said the young man. 'If I could take a couple of minutes of your time, I would like to demonstrate the very latest in high-powered vacuum cleaners.'

'Go away!' said the old lady. 'I'm broke and haven't got any money!' and she proceeded to close the door.

Quick as a flash, the young man wedged his foot in the door and pushed it wide open.

'Don't be too hasty!' he said. 'Not until you have at least seen my demonstration.' And with that, he emptied a bucket of horse manure onto her hallway carpet.

'Now, if this vacuum cleaner does not remove all traces of this horse manure from your carpet, Madam, I will personally eat the remainder.'

The old lady stepped back and said, 'Well let me get you a fork, 'cause they cut off my electricity this morning!'