11/25/2008 10:24:01 AM
Researchers have found that sad people watch significantly more television than happy people, Matt Palmquist reports on the Miller McCune blog, though it’s unclear whether sadness causes more TV watching, or more TV watching leads to sadness. The study, based on the General Society Survey conducted from 1975 to 2006, concluded that “People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged, with TV becoming an opiate.” Happy people, according to Palmquist, “were more socially and religiously active, voted frequently, and read more newspapers.”
11/24/2008 3:44:33 PM
Video games are evolving into more and more elaborate forms, but they're still dominated by white or Asian protagonists. Writing for The Escapist, Chris LaVigne asks, why aren’t other races and cultures being represented in video games?
The argument for more minorities in video games has been made before, notably in a 2003 article by Ernest Adams, but discourse usually concerns the portrayals of black and Hispanic people in games like Grant Theft Auto. What LaVigne advocates is a way for games to reflect today’s high level of globalization.
As an example of what not to do, LaVigne cites the popular game Tomb Raider, which takes place in Peru, yet the native Peruvians are relegated almost entirely to the background and never speak. And with the glut of World War II games like the Call of Duty series, LaVigne wonders why gamers can’t play as “the Filipino soldiers who fought alongside American forces at the Battle of Luzon to free their capitol city, Manila? Why can't we play as the Rhodesians (now Zimbabweans) who fought with the British military against Axis forces? It was a world war, after all. Why don't developers see the value of telling these unique stories instead of giving us the same 'good ol' boy' Yankees and ‘stiff upper lip’ Britons that were already clichés when they were first introduced?”
Games like Resident Evil 5 (with African characters and setting) and Prince of Persia are headed in the right direction, according to LaVigne. Hopefully, he writes, developers will stop “babying their audience” and open them up to a genuine representation of the world, digital or otherwise.
Image courtesy of RebeccaPollard, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/24/2008 2:12:42 PM
“With HIV, ignorance is not bliss,” said Dr. Veronica Miller, director of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, in a statement released during the organization’s national summit last week. Miller’s comments came after new research presented at the summit showed that routine HIV tests are not exactly routine.
Research found a mere 50 to 100 out of 5,000 emergency rooms across the country routinely screen for HIV, even though the percentage of ER visitors who test positive is much greater than the percentage of the general population that’s known to be infected. Another study found that only 4.9 percent of fully insured patients with “a serious illness suggestive of AIDS” got HIV tests, and yet another revealed that only 36 percent of insured patients who sought treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases were tested for HIV, according to the forum’s statement.
Scientific American notes that these findings come two years after the Centers for Disease Control recommended everyone ages 13 to 64 get an HIV test, but that “many doctors are reluctant to offer it because insurers don’t always pay for the screen,” which can cost anywhere from $15 to $120.
Image by Mark Coggins, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/18/2008 9:27:04 AM
The Mars Phoenix Lander has accrued thousands of friends and fans on Facebook and Twitter since “dying” last week, when the red planet’s freezing temperatures ended the machine's functionality, Scientific American reports.
NASA spokeswoman Virginia McGregor became a pseudo-celebrity when she began transmitting Twitter tweets and Facebook messages on the lander’s behalf. This proves that 1) social networking is inescapable, even in space; and 2) humans can mourn inanimate objects in record numbers.
For a space program with a history of public relations problems, harnessing the power of social networking to eulogize the Phoenix was a brilliant bit of marketing, and a great way to exploit the sentimentality of space geeks like [sniff] yours truly.
11/17/2008 3:32:17 PM
As Barack Obama enters his presidency, he doesn't plan to let the commanding presence he built on YouTube fall by the wayside. Continuing the investment in viral communication he started during the campaign, Obama tested out the presidential radio address format on You Tube last Saturday, a technological shake-up that didn’t go over so well with some radio loyalists.
“What is he thinking?” Susan Stamberg asked fellow NPR personality Andrea Seabrook on All Things Considered.
Stamberg continued, “there are so many advantages to radio, but one of the main ones is you can’t fool around on it. I mean you can have fun, but you can’t fake it. You cannot fake sincerity. People hear that voice and they know if it’s telling the truth, if it’s speaking with conviction, if it means what it says. Television, you, ya know, you put on makeup, you curl up the side of a mouth, just smile photogenically, it’s all so distracting.”
Putting the traditional radio address on video is “like roast beef for Thanksgiving,” she said.
You can watch Obama's latest address here:
11/17/2008 12:47:03 PM
Coffee shop customers regularly transform café tables into their own personal offices. The price is right: A couple bucks buys you coffee, a “desk”, and free wireless access, which many penny-pinchers aren’t ashamed to log onto for hours on end.
The loitering isn’t always good for business, though. In fact, some coffee shops are trying to guilt trip patrons into coughing up more cash. According to AdRants, the Netherlands' CoffeeCompany chain uses its wireless networks as a shame inducing marketing tool. They regularly change their networks’ names from OrderAnotherCoffeeAlready to BuyAnotherCupYouCheapskate, or use it to offer promotions like TodaysSpecialExpresso1.60Euro. Other cafes, including Ritual Coffee Roasters, a hot spot for Bay Area tech startups, have taken a harder line, covering up outlets so patrons are forced to move on when their laptop batteries run out of juice. Still, many customers don't take a hint—they just bring back-up batteries and stay put.
Image by superfem, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/12/2008 4:34:23 PM
It’s flu season again—one more reason for Google to make a new techno-gadget. Their Flu Trends tracking system can estimate flu levels one to two weeks faster than the government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Google, making it one of the fastest indicators of who’s blue with the flu.
The numbers are on the rise now, and it’s no coincidence that I suddenly find myself bombarded at the grocery store by nice, white-jacketed people eager to poke a needle into my arm. Flu season brings flu vaccinations, and people are faced again with the choice to shoot up or brave the maelstrom of infectious disease. Here’s a little guide to help you make the decision that suits you best.
The CDC advises a flu vaccination shot for “anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu,” but particularly for children, pregnant women, people older than 50, and health care professionals or those living in nursing homes. Interestingly, nearly 60 percent of health workers don’t get the shot, reports USA Today. One nurse explained that she avoids it because the only time she got sick with the flu was when she got vaccinated. Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University hopes to stifle stories like this one, which he says have created a wide-spread myth about the transmittance of the flu through the vaccine.
Many in the world of alternative health still remain wary about the shot. Natural Solutions reported in 2006 that the vaccination has myriad antibiotics and additives, such as formaldehyde, gelatin, and thimerosal, an organic form of mercury. They recommend alternative methods of preventing the flu, including their 5 homeopathic remedies, outlined in an online-exclusive accompanying their article “Sidestep the Sniffles.” Yoga Journal also offers a few suggestions, ranging from bolstering your immunity with the Ayurvedic herbs ashwaganda and turmeric, or meditating to reduce stress.
The societal upshot to getting immunized is that you prevent yourself from being a transmitter. Unvaccinated people, even those who never come down with the flu, may spread the disease to others. For this reason, Schaffner told USA Today that it is a professional responsibility for health care workers to get the shot. If your workplace or child's school has not made it mandatory to get vaccinated, however, the decision is yours to make.
, licensed under
11/12/2008 9:36:22 AM
Adding to the trend of green and alternative burials, one British woman is developing a new, elegantly morbid way to honor the dead: by pressing loved ones’ cremains into fully functional pencils.
The project “Carbon Copies” is the brainchild of Nadine Jarvis, a product designer who is currently exploring ways “to challenge our archaic post mortem traditions and to offer proposals for alternate treatment for our deceased.”
Image courtesy of Srthnow, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/7/2008 3:37:57 PM
Want some help with your math homework, free of charge? Or maybe you need a refresher course without reenrolling in school. Open Culture points to a series of online video lectures on calculus by Princeton lecturer Adrian Banner, author of The Calculus Lifesaver: All the Tools You Need to Excel at Calculus.
Banner’s videos join the growing ranks of educational multimedia resources on the web, like the free audiobook site LibriVox and the online lectures via iTunes U. Once you've graduated beyond those, the Boston Globe suggests Fora.tv, Bigthink.com, Edge.org, and any one of the lectures from the Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conference.
11/7/2008 12:36:55 PM
Though it received little attention in the campaign, technology policy has been on Obama’s presidential agenda for some time.
Almost a year ago, Obama revealed his plan to create a new cabinet position for a Chief Technology Officer, who “will ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies, and services for the 21st century,” according to Obama’s new web site, Change.gov. Wired’s speculative laundry list of candidates for the post includes everyone from Google CEO Eric Schmidt to Dr. Evil.
Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Forum and techPresident, tells Information Week that, “If someone of the caliber of Eric Schmidt were to be asked to serve this country in the White House, I think you would see a far quicker adoption of policies that not only help the tech industry but help the tech industry help the country and the world.”
Obama has also pledged steadfast support for net neutrality, digitizing medical records, and expanding broadband access. Information Week calls him the “first presidential candidate to unveil a wide-reaching and in-depth technology agenda.” However, there are potential downsides of an Obama presidency for technology, writes CNet. For instance, “For technology firms, a substantial downside—and one that's difficult to overstate—is how hostile a solidly Democratic Congress and White House could be toward free trade.”
11/7/2008 12:26:21 PM
For the on-the-go woman, tired of toting a facemask around in her purse, a team of intrepid inventors created the an anti-chemical warfare bra. According to the patent, “Each of the cup sections has a filter device, an inner portion positionable adjacent to the inner area of the user's chest, and an outer portion positionable adjacent to the outer area of the user's chest.” So in the event of a chemical attack, women could just take their clothes off.
The patent was issued in August of 2007, and rescued from obscurity by Improbable Research. I’m still trying to figure out why we haven’t seen this item mass marketed, yet.
11/6/2008 12:02:37 PM
Americans have been warned not to expect too much from Obama’s election too soon, but that doesn’t mean people can’t speculate. The Union of Concerned Scientists believes we’ll see an aggressive approach to climate change policy once Obama takes over, and 3QuarksDaily provides a nice summary of what the federal and state elections mean for science.
Obama and the next Congress are positioned to enact a comprehensive “Green Deal,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, that could modernize our energy infrastructure while stimulating the economy. Already, Obama plans to send delegates to December’s UN climate meeting in Poland, and Cosmos wonders whether Obama can break the deadlock gripping those talks.
One question still remains: Will these actions be enough to forestall the effects of the dangerous environmental regulations (or deregulations) that the New York Times blog speculates the Bush administration is pushing through during its last days in office?
Image by Ralph Alswang, licensed by Creative Commons.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!