Zombie disease is (almost) real

It just occurred to me that classic film zombie behavior is actually what humans would do if rabies affected us the way it affects other animals.

In humans, untreated rabies just causes a nasty and painful death.  In susceptible animals, it lowers fear and raises aggression, causing the animal to see any other animal as a mortal enemy to be killed at all cost – thus spreading the disease further.

Why didn’t I realize this sooner?  The modern virus-like version of zombism is not that far-fetched at all, and could easily be imagined as a mutated rabies virus.  I wonder if part of the popularity of zombie stories comes from the unconscious realization that this is a real-world behavior.

Of course, wild outbreaks of super-rabies are still a stretch of the imagination, as we’re pretty good at controlling the spread of even incurable diseases these days.


They’re worth more than that!

Obligatory Post Too

It has come to my attention that today is the tenth anniversary of when those unpleasant terra-ist people flew those planes into those buildings and killed a bunch of Americans.

Like every other blogger in the world, for some reason I think this calls for a comment.

My comment is: Get over it already.

I don’t disrespect the people who died in that unfortunate incident, nor to I belittle the heroic work done by rescue workers, cleanup crews and hosts around the world in the days immediately following.

But to focus on those 3,000 deaths is to disrespect and belittle some much more serious problems.  A casual survey shows that motor vehicle accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, influenza and diabetes each kill more than ten times as many Americans every year, and cardiovascular diseases kill more than three hundred times as many Americans every year.  And that’s just American figures, not worldwide.  These are real tragedies, going on around us all the time.  Somebody do something, please!

Don’t pretend that 9/11 was such a big deal because it was shocking.  It’s no surprise that a lot of people hate America, and many of them have good reasons for doing so.  It is a little surprising that they actually succeeded in crashing not one but two of those planes.  It doesn’t seem like a hard problem to prevent that, and it doesn’t require any of the ineffectual and invasive crap that has been going on in airports over the last ten years.

The American response to the terrorist attack ten years ago was wrong, and I said so at the time.  Instead of saying, “Fuck you, you don’t scare us”, y’all just scurried away and hid under your security theater and foreign military meddling covers.  You let Bush hand the terrorists their victory on a silver platter, and that victory was that their terrorist act worked.  You got all scared and voluntarily sacrificed your own freedoms – the very things that once made your country great – for a thin illusion of security.  It would have been inspiring and admirable if instead you had deliberately and explicitly rejected any responses that would have curtailed the rights and freedoms of Americans.

Anyway, I’m tired and rambling on.  Instead of digging myself in deeper, what these people said.


For some reason the maps at the bottom of my posts often don’t show up right the first time.  A page reload usually fixes it.  Will investigate when I get a chance.

The PDA Problem

I’ve blogged before about the inadequacies of the PDAs I’ve tried. Those comments still stand, but I now find myself with a specific problem I want a device to solve. I’ve got two likely candidates but so far no proof that either of them does what I want.

Plus, I find myself squeezed between two advocacy camps that remind me a bit of the good old Mac vs. PC war. Hence this post. Perhaps I can exploit some of that frothy energy to do some of my research for me.

The specific problem I want to solve is one of workflow surrounding shopping lists. I have a number of collections of things I’m actively building, and maintaining and displaying the lists of what I have and what I want has always been a headache. I need the data to display on my website, an easily editable copy on my PC at home, and a portable copy to consult when I’m in the field shopping (and possibly away from any form of network connectivity). Ideally these should all automatically reflect the latest edits.

Requirements, a little more formally:

  1. Representation: There are multiple documents. Each must exist both as part of my website and on my portable device (device to be chosen as a result of this evaluation).
  2. The website version must be in a format I find easy to parse, as I will be writing my own PHP code to display it nicely. I would prefer plaintext or CSV stored on my web server, or MySQL storage.
  3. The portable copy must be displayable compactly and succinctly on the portable device (ie, maximum information density and relevance within the limits of the display) and also be easily editable on that device. It doesn’t have to look pretty on the portable device, but columns are needed.
  4. When the portable device is online (preferably via wireless or phone service or both, though wired docking is acceptable), it should automatically pull down updated versions from my website and push local edits to my website. It does not need to handle the case of both versions having new edits – between syncs I will edit one or the other but not both. Acceptable transfer methods are MySQL connection, HTTP GET/PUT, FTP, SCP or SFTP.

I’ve tried a couple of Palm products before and been bitterly disappointed. They were capable of hosting portable, editable shopping lists but the syncing workflow was absolutely horrible; I had to use special proprietary software to sync, and it could not work automatically because this software had no concept of files – I had to cut and paste my content between these applications and the real files on my PC. And although my current cell phone can theoretically display web pages and store files, it’s a total joke. I’m not even going to try using it for this.

So now it has been suggested to me that the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android phones should be capable of doing what I want. I have seen demonstrations from both camps that show how similar workflows could happen, but they’re both imperfect; for one thing, they both involve online storage and document formats that would not be under my control.

I realize in both cases I could develop my own software to satisfy my particular use case, but I’d rather just use off-the-shelf components. I think it is much more likely I’ll be able to do that with an Android device because there’s Linux in there somewhere and much as I hate shell scripting, I’m willing to use it to automate stuff.  The ideal world on the portable end is an editor for the data, and two buttons to push and pull the data to and from my web server or MySQL server.

Cool apps and games are of secondary concern – I want this problem solved, and anything else is just icing on top.  So far the best workflow I have is taking paper printouts of my shopping lists with me when I go out, and that sucks – this is the Glorious Future already, so why can’t I find a Personal Digital Assistant that assists me digitally?

I will be doing more research, but it’s surprisingly hard to find out what these platforms are capable of before buying them.

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