Leonardo Da Vinci & His Wonderful Toys

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Brisbane Confidential 07 – The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition

I don’t I’ve plugged the Brisbane Confidential show much in this blog, but I thought this episode might interest y’all, because it’s about Da Vinci – and who doesn’t love Da Vinci?

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Scott Adams on Solving Healthcare

Dilbert author Scott Adams has a GREAT idea for reducing health insurance premiums:

First, 80% of healthcare costs go toward chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Second, a huge study on diet and its correlation to disease, called The China Study, found that chronic diseases, particularly the ones I just mentioned, only get triggered if you eat a plant based diet, for the most part, regardless of your genetic propensity. (CR Note: I think he meant to write "DONT get triggered if you eat a planet based diet".)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Study

The author’s thesis, backed by a mountain of data, is that the only safe level of animal based food is zero. No milk or cheese either. Moderation simply doesn’t work when it comes to eating meat. That’s the data talking, not me, according to this expert. I haven’t seen any data that contradicts that notion. Provide a link if you have.

As a practical matter, it would be impossible to ban meat from the diets of average Americans. But when you are talking about insurance of any sort, whether it is health or auto or hurricane, we accept the principle that risk factors can be considered in pricing. So all we need to do is charge meat eaters four times as much as vegetarians for health insurance. Over time it will create more vegetarians, for economic reasons alone, and healthcare costs will plummet.

You might say it is unfair for the insurance company to charge a higher premium for earthquake insurance to people who actually live on a fault line. But I say that’s just good business.

What do you think? Should health insurance companies have better plans for vegetarians? And would YOU become a vegetarian if you knew your health insurance would be cut by 75%?

Nine US Banks Paid Out $33 BILLION in Bonuses

Following on from yesterday’s story about Goldman Sachs as the root of all evil, today we get the information that:

Nine banks that received government aid money paid out bonuses of nearly $33 billion last year — including more than $1 million apiece to nearly 5,000 employees — despite huge losses that plunged the U.S. into economic turmoil. … The nine firms in the report had combined 2008 losses of nearly $100 billion.

(Source: WSJ)

And if you think things are going to change, don’t be deluded. Here’s what the Obama White House had to say:

"The president continues to believe that the American people don’t begrudge people making money for what they do as long as…we’re not basically incentivizing wild risk-taking that somebody else picks up the tab for," said White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs.

What happened to Obama’s feigned outrage last year before the election? It’s all gone, baby. It disappeared to the same place as his promises about Gitmo, prison camps, climate change and health care.

If the NBA has a salary cap, why can’t American corporations? One of the key problems with capitalism is the open-ended nature of the upside. It breeds unlimited greed. Surely we can combine the good aspects of capitalism – eg incentives for creativity and effort – but restrict the upsides? I know we have tiered taxation, which effectively acts as a way of channeling some of that upside back into the system, but it doesn’t stop companies and individuals trying to bleed the economy for as much money as they can get their hands on, despite the negative consequences.

It still seems to me that we need another system, one that limits the greed but retains the incentives. 

Newsgator / NetNewsWire

I’ve been using Google Reader as my default RSS reader for a few years and, like all Google server products, I love it. However I also like to use a clients for some of my services, such as mail and calendar, because they allow me a deeper level of customization of the user experience.

A few months ago I went looking for a Mac RSS client that would act as a front-end to Google Reader but I couldn’t find one. I ended up moving to NetNewsWire instead as an interim measure, exporting my Google Reader OPML. Unfortunately, though, the NNW iPhone client keeps crashing on me, so I had to use Google Reader on the iPhone – not a great experience either, because everytime I leave Reader to view a full post, then return to Reader, Safari refreshes all the feeds takes me back to page one, even if I’m on page ten!

Anyway, Newsgator CTO & Founder Greg Reinacker announced via email today that they are releasing new versions of all of their products (some today, some, like the iPhone client, soon), that will use Google Reader as the back-end. Great news! I’ve already upgraded my NetNewsWire Mac client. Thanks Greg!

Download the new versions here.

The Great American Bubble Machine

Rolling Stone magazine has a Hunteresque story about Goldman Sachs:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.

neo.org – a social network with a purpose

I want to give a huge shout-out to TPN’s new network sponsor – neo.org.

Neo is a team of global volunteers and partners who have powerful Declarations and a wish to have a world that works for everyone. It is a social network with a purpose – to transform the world by enabling people to transform themselves.

One of the people behind neo is Australian entrepreneur Bill Liao. I interviewed Bill early last year and you can hear him talk about neo (which was then called Declare!) and the vision for bringing together people around the world who want to make a positive difference.

Neo proves that social networking can be about more than just talking about the weather. As I’m fond of saying – the Internet is just a tool, like a hammer. And we can use a hammer to hit someone on the head – or to discover the statue of David inside a discarded block of Carrara marble. It’s just a tool. Neo is one way we can use this particular tool for good.

And so – I would like each of you to support TPN’s new sponsor – and figure out how YOU are going to make the world a better place – by visiting neo’s site and signing The Declaration.

Obama’s Science Czar: Forced abortions. Mass sterilization.

Zombie Time has this great report on a book co-authored by Obama’s new science ‘czar’ John Holdren (with Paul and Anne Erlich) back in 1977 called "Ecoscience" which predicted that the world is going to become overpopulated which will in turn  lead to massive famines.

A snippet from the post:

In a book Holdren co-authored in 1977, the man now firmly in control of science policy in this country wrote that:

• Women could be forced to abort their pregnancies, whether they wanted to or not;
• The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation’s drinking water or in food;
• Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise;
• People who "contribute to social deterioration" (i.e. undesirables) "can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility" — in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
• A transnational "Planetary Regime" should assume control of the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of Americans’ lives — using an armed international police force.

This reminds me of a talk I heard on the ABC a couple of years ago by Melbourne neuroscientist Dr John Reid where he talked about overpopulation and what we are going to have to do about it. ABC host Robyn Williams actually quoted Paul Erlich’s most famous book, The Population Bomb, in the introduction to the show.

Reid quoted Elliot Morley, Britain’s Special Representative on climate change, by saying the human race is on a ‘sleepwalk to oblivion.’ I like that phrase.

He goes on to say:

If we do not delude ourselves, and if we accept the calculations made by the Global Footprint Network and WWF (and I know of no scientific analysis that refutes the basic validity of the model) there is only one ineluctable conclusion. The population of the world must be very quickly reduced to 5 billion (that is, if 6 billions equals 120% of capacity, then 5 billions equals 100%). And then, as the average level of affluence rises, fairly quickly reduced further to, say, 2 to 3 billion.

The urgent discussion then becomes, how do we achieve these targets? Leaving aside uncontrollable natural events, such as a collision with a large asteroid or comet, or the eruption of a super-volcano, there is only a limited number of ways population decrease can be achieved. These ways are all painful, and most are brutally painful in their effect.

He has some pretty scary recommendations. I remember bring horrified when I listened to the talk but then again, he’s right – unless we significantly change the size of our global footprint, it’s hard to see how the human race is going to survive the 21st century. Perhaps Kurzweil is right and nanotech will save us. I hope so.

CSI Brisbane

Brisbane bus drivers are given DNA kits to track down expectorators?

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Seriously, what is the point of this? Okay so let’s assume your typical bus driver knows how to use a DNA kit. I assume they are just collecting a sample of spit to send off to a lab for PCR-based testing and not doing it at home in their own labs. But then what? To the best of my knowledge (?!) my DNA isn’t on file with any of the authorities. So what good will it do them? If I *do* get caught in the future for a crime, and I’m DNA tested at the time, they will be able to say "hah! you also owe us $50 for spitting on a bus!"???

Or is this a pre-cursor of a day in the near future when we’ll be subjected to a swab every time we want to ride on public transport in Brisbane?

What’s next? Taxi drivers scraping semen stains off of the back seat and turning up on my doorstep? Imagine if Travis Bickle had one of those?