Society & Culture

20060731-calm.jpgSlower breathing may lower blood pressure (Yahoo! News)

So maybe this is why we have so many heart attacks in America: we need a scientific study to realize that calming down lowers our blood pressure.

Slow, deep breathing does relax and dilate blood vessels temporarily, but that’s not enough to explain a lasting drop in blood pressure, says NIH’s Anderson.

Here’s a thought, maybe everything isn’t a medical problem, needing a medical solution. Maybe what people with high blood pressure need isn’t a new medicine. Maybe all it takes to calm your heart is to calm your mind.

The concept that high blood pressure is a disease, that being wound too tight is a disease, strikes a sour note with me. It’s just too close to treating obesity as a disease, and the subsequent alleviation of personal responsibility.

When physicians tell people “you have high blood pressure, but we have a pill for that,” they remove the patient’s own attitude as a potential cause of the problem.  What if they tried saying “hey, you’re wound too tight, try calming down a little bit?” I’ll tell you what would happen then, people would get cured and drug companies wouldn’t sell quite so many pills.

So that’s another thing that should happen but never will.

At least until people stop looking for a pill to cure anything.

Is a pothead smoking a joint to take the edge off life really any different from a stressed out businessman popping blood pressure pills on his commute through rush hour?

Both are people without enough control over their own minds to slow them down without drugs.  The only real difference is that the pothead at least realizes that the drugs are there to calm his mind, but the businessman doesn’t even see that his mind and body are connected.


060627-tangled-wires.jpgIn a word, headaches. Google has all the money in the world, and MySpace is just too big of a mess for them to want to deal with it. The constant public frown on MySpace is only the beginning of the headaches, too. I wouldn’t want to deal with the publicity or coding of MySpace, myself. Especially if I’m already an established powerhouse like Google.

Of course, in reality I would gladly personally take command of MySpace, because then I wouldn’t be so poor. I’m not exactly Google though, am I?

Have you ever looked at the address bar when you’re on MySpace? We’ve all noticed that it’s slower than a 15 year old tramp saying “no,” but there are genuine clues to what’s going on to cause all that stuttering and stalling, and they’re as close as your address bar. It would be best not to go into them here, they only stand out after years of watching what’s happening very closely while browsing. Just take it from me, I know a little bit about it, and things are not running on all four cylinders in MySpace’s programming department.
Google is notorious for their outstanding public face, and they should want nothing to do with anything that might harm that image. MySpace, on the other hand, is torn by controversy, the target of dozens (if not hundreds) of special interest groups, and as one Digg reader put it: a veritable “cesspool of pedophiles and cam whores.”

Pay attention to that bit about pedophiles, they might seem like nothing more than a creepy, trench-coat wearing nuisance to us, but they’ll be the death of MySpace yet. One of these days some underage tramp’s parents are going to actually succeed in suing MySpace when she bumps uglies with half the 35 year old men in the country (because of MySpace, mind you, not because she’s a slut). That’s the day MySpace is doomed. The lawyers will suck them dry, and being banned left and right by schools, parents and all manner of authority figures will stop the bounce-back that would otherwise occur.

Not only does Google not want to get sued, or tarnish their so far stellar image, but they just don’t want to deal with that shit. I can’t say I blame them.

It turns out the biggest argument for–and against–wanting to own MySpace turns out to be the people. No one can argue that owning MySpace would give Google access to a massive, reasonably loyal user base. Are these people really what Google wants though? When a company is trying to step up and fight the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo, do they really want to stoop to making the majority of their user base teeny-boppers and their emotionally crippled adult counterparts?

060626-comm-tower.jpgSo, between the recent appearance of telemarketers on Skype (and subsequent network load), and the brand new FCC tax on VoIP services that connect to traditional phone lines, I have to wonder if greed is going to ruin the promise of broadband phone service.

There was a day when I hoped VoIP would usher in a golden age of communication.  The gradual phasing out of analog phone systems would leave more cable bandwidth for the Internet, as digital data is a more efficient use of the line than analog voice.  Eventually a fully digital system would leave us with lower phone bills, more reliable phone service, and an all around slightly faster Internet.

The FCC, though, has decided to take a big old shit all over that dream, by trying to tax VoIP to fund the construction of archaic analog phone systems in rural areas.

Really, it could be argued that the FCC is doing nothing more than protecting the assets of the established telecoms.  If I owned a phone company I’d be terrified of VoIP, and be lobbying the FCC to the max.

So in the future, thanks to the FCC, we’ll have a slower internet, more unreliable phone system, and phone bills just as big as they are now.  That, and poor people in rural areas will get the shaft once again with their outdated phone systems, all so that a few rich guys can get a little richer.

060625-alone.jpg"The idea that there are really no substantive differences between religions needs to be held up to careful scrutiny and declared fraudulent. For example, Islam says that Jesus was not crucified. Christianity says He was. Only one of us can be right. Judaism says Jesus was not the Messiah. Christianity says He was. Only one of us can be right. Hinduism says God has often been incarnate. Christianity says God was incarnate only in Jesus. We cannot both be right. Buddhism says that the world's miseries will end when we do what is right. Christianity says we cannot do what is right. The world's miseries will end when we believe what is right"

– Alistar Begg, Made For His Pleasure , 126

I just came across this quote, while doing my browsing through Jesus-freak websites, and it got me thinking. I realized what it is that everyone seems to be doing wrong when they think about religion and spirituality. It all seemed to be bickering over technicalities, and most of it I think I'd have to know more about the religions concerned to really argue them, but at least with that last little bit I can explain how Christianity and Buddhism are really saying the same thing.

"Buddhism says that the world's miseries will end when we do what is right. Christianity says we cannot do what is right. The world's miseries will end when we believe what is right"

Believing vs. doing, that's a fine line. Would any christian argue that believing what is right will not lead to doing what is right? What could possibly influence our actions more than our beliefs? If our beliefs are the cause of our actions and our actions are a reflection of our beliefs, doing and believing are essentially the same thing.

Making a distinction between doing and believing is, in some cases, nothing more than a route to a cop-out. Some, especially spiritually lazy, Christians have separated the two so that they can do wrong, but still believe they will go to heaven simply for believing right. In reality, if they truly believed right they would do right too.

So really all that both of these religions are asking from their followers is rightness in every form they can muster.  It shouldn't be so hard, but for some reason they just can't do it.

Computer SecurityLaptop Theft Puts Customer Data At Risk

GMAC Financial Services recently began informing customers that their personal data has been severely compromised. Two laptops containing customers' personal data were stolen from a GMAC vehicle in Atlanta recently, exposing the names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, credit scores, marital status, and genders of 200,000 people.

As one particularly on-point customer said after receiving notice that his information had been stolen: "I'm not sure how or who determines what constitutes 'secure' when it comes to customers' personal information. However, if company guidelines deem it acceptable to house that data on laptops, in parked cars, then I would question their competence to establish any process and procedure to ensure the security of any data anywhere."

The first article I read about this little fiasco made a big fuss about how great it was that the data on these stolen laptops was "password protected." I thought that this was definitely either misunderstanding coupled with excessive faith in The Man, or it was intentional misunderstanding to avoid a public loss of faith in him. When I read that I thought "yeah, but these are old people, they probably think that putting stuff in 'My Documents' and putting a password on their windows account is security."

So I did a little Google search, read a little more, and uncovered the truth. Yeah, they had "password protection," but no actual encryption. What this means is that if I had these laptops I could get access to that data in 30 seconds, and I honestly don't know shit about security.

This is nothing less than what I expect from a generation that has to be told that the Internet is a good place to look for prior art when investigating patents.

I don't pretend to have answers. I don't know how we can force people to just learn a little about the technology they use every day. I just call them as I see them.

Fat cop, would you want this guy storming your home?In another move to further squash our freedom, the supreme court today effectively ruled that police may now enter a home to serve a search warrant without even knocking.

"The knock-and-announce rule is dead in the United States. There are going to be a lot more doors knocked down. There are going to be a lot more people terrified and humiliated."
-David Moran, law professor

Now in the old days, if police with a search warrant–read that again, not probable cause, not an arrest warrant, a search warrant–just busted down your door and started searching your house you could sue the pants off them.

Earlier Thursday, though, the court ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that the failure of police to knock on a man's door does not nullify the evidence they collected.

Now to really understand just how terrifying this ruling is, first think of what exactly a search warrant is. A search warrant is given to police when they can give a judge decent evidence that a person might be doing something wrong. So the judge says, "yeah, that's a little fishy, go check it out." They're allowed to come in, be courteous, and search your house for exactly what is named in the warrant. If the warrant says you might be an arms dealer and they find a little bit of weed, that's not permissible as evidence in a court of law, because they're there to look for guns.

Police with a search warrant are not there to necessarily arrest anyone, they are not there because a suspect is thought to be violent, they are not there to put a stop to any ruckus. They are there to confirm or deny a suspicion. Suspicions, nothing more, are not the stuff to authorize the unannounced entry of police into a private residence.

What worries me, maybe more than the implications of the ruling, is that this was not high on the list of AP stories. This event is yet another degradation of our rights, expansion of government power and authority, another step towards a police state that no one seemed to even notice.

Maybe there's hope for this country yet. When bigtime rappers are making songs for the World Cup, the rest of the country can't be too far behind.

By the way, the US team's first match is tomorrow, against the Czech Republic. Best of luck to them, although if they fall through I still have Germany to root for.

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