I Think You Know Why I’m Calling You

John Graham-Cumming recounts his successful efforts to have the British government formally apologize for its treatment of Alan Turing:

On the bus home I heard directly that Alan Turing’s nieces had many memories of their Uncle Alan. They even still had his teddy bear. I hung up and sat at the back of the bus and cried quietly. I had always felt that Alan Turing’s treatment was appalling, but to hear the family speak of the man was too much. I was convinced that I had to see my campaign, which had started on an impulse, to its completion.

Graham-Cumming did all this in a little more than a month and as he states "most of it from the top of a red London double-decker bus using an iPhone." I’m personally thrilled at his success as it has been a long time coming. Whether we know it or not, Turing played a large part in all of our modern lives and certainly the recent history of Britain.

Eight Years and Still Suffering

It’s been eight years today since the coordinated attack on New York and Washington D.C. in which almost 3,000 people perished. Most of us have gone on with our lives; I know that feels like a lifetime ago when I recall where I was and what I was doing. However, for many of the first responders and residents in lower Manhattan, life hasn’t gone on. I watched the documentary Dust to Dust: The Health Effects of 9/11 earlier today after thinking about these people. I suppose I had the impression that ill health effects from the recovery and clean-up efforts were limited to a few individuals. If this documentary is even half true1 (and it does seem legit based on some additional reading I did today), the effects were far worse than I imagined.


It is tragic how the people that the nation — and indeed the world — lined up to thank as heroes have been treated since. The documentary lays the blame at the EPA and the Bush administration for mishandling the health issues and rushing back to a sense of normalcy (something which was not without reason; though doesn’t justify the lack of safety precautions). Once we learn about the treatment of these people who ran toward danger and worked tirelessly to help, we all get to shoulder some of that blame, too. We cannot allow people who serve the public to be treated as throw-away tools. It is entirely disrespectful to their sacrifice and it ensures that no one will step up to fill these roles for future generations. I’ve not found anything that suggest these individuals are asking for handouts. They want to be treated with the respect deserved them, those responsible for placing them in unsafe conditions to be held responsible, and to get the care they need. That’s really not asking for much, in my opinion.

So, if you can find an hour to spare, I highly recommend watching this documentary. This isn’t some left- or right-wing political agenda film. It is a intimate look at how modern America, in her rush to get back to our normal way of living, has indeed forgotten about some of those we swore we never would forget.

Incidentally, he documentary is narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. Buscemi, as it turns out, was a former New York City firefighter and returned to New York on Sept. 12 to help aid in recovery efforts for a week. Though no mention is made of this in the documentary (nor if Buscemi himself suffered in ill health effects), he clearly is in a position to help speak out about such an issue.

  1. It is sad in light of such a tragedy that I feel the need to have to include this but I want to be clear that I am not some conspiracy theorist nor am I looking for something to complain about the Bush administration. This just strikes me as a very real and ongoing problem associated with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. []

So What Does Health Care Look Like in Other Countries?

So, what does health care and insurance look like in other countries? T.R. Reid answers five common misunderstandings about other countries’ health care and insurance systems:

In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really “foreign” to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we’re Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we’re Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we’re Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we’re Burundi or Burma: In the world’s poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can’t pay stay sick or die.

For some more myths about health care reform, you can visit FactCheck.org (a site which is routinely name-checked by honest people of both parties) or CNN Fact Check on President Obama’s address tonight.

What It Says and What It Does

Ars Technica reports that the FCC asked the public how and if the term "broadband" (as in internet connection) should be defined, after it had proposed that "basic broadband" as simply 768kbps to 1.5Mbps (as in connection speed). They also seemed to think that this should be based on the actual speed that providers have, as opposed to what they claim in advertisements.

Sadly, the providers had a few issues with this. Mainly, they’d like to define what is broadband based on nominal speeds, not the actual speeds they provide. They argue that it is complicated to determine actual speed (never mind that there are countless sites to assess your current connections speed when a provided wants to sell you a different service). Even worse, they don’t want to have the definition tied to any applications (that is; video, torrents, gaming, VOIP, etc.). That way, if they decide to conveniently turn off a service on their pipeline, they can still call it broadband.

So what if you can’t actually do anything with it? It’s still fast! Well, in theory, anyway.

PodCamp Nashville

Over the past year, I’ve gone from someone who consumed and dabbled in new media after hours (okay, and sometimes during work hours!) to one who helps to create it as part of my day job. It was a very exciting and affirming part of my decision to work at Bentley when they asked me to start help creating screencasts, blog posts, and online communities for the structural engineering community. This past year has been a very steep — yet rewarding — climb up the learning curve.

Meet me at PodCamp Nashville
Meet me at PodCamp Nashville

Paralleling that wonderful sense of that I’d made a good decision to go to Bentley, I also feel that the new media and geek community here in the Nashville area is even stronger than the one that was in Richmond (note: I also have more of a reason to be involved, now, so it’s part feedback loop). A couple of really exciting examples of this are BarCamp Nashville (in October) and PodCamp Nashville (in March). You can read more on unconferences elsewhere and I don’t mean to make these out to be some sort of pinnacle of geek/ new-media culture (they may royally suck here, for all I know as I haven’t been to one yet and have no comparison anyway). The point is that there is a desire to have these sorts of event and — far more importantly — the community that goes along with them here in Nashville. Socialization was something that Richmond had a very strong sense of; but it seems that Nashville has more socialization with a purpose, not just a end in and of itself.

So, I’m going to PodCamp this year. I’m not going to attempt to contribute any sessions myself as I still feel I’ve got more learning ahead of me that teaching (maybe next year?). But I’m so glad to support this sort of thing here and I feel that I need to at least contribute my participation as an attendee to encourage more of this. After all, it’s one thing to complain when nothing cool ever comes to insert your town name here but it is another to not bother to show up when something potentially cool does happen.

So, if you’re in the area on Saturday, March 7th and have an interest in new-media: podcasting, screencasting, blogging, etc., then please come to PodCamp Nashville. We’ll see what it is and if we think it can be better, we’ll make it better. That’s community.

Nature Endorses Obama

Nature – One of the two leading international science journals – has an editorial endorsing Sen. Barack Obama. Apparently, this is the first time in the prestigious journal’s 139 year history that it has ever endorsed a candidate – for US president or otherwise.

a commitment to seeking good advice and taking seriously the findings of disinterested enquiry seems an attractive attribute for a chief executive. It certainly matters more than any specific pledge to fund some particular agency or initiative at a certain level — pledges of a sort now largely rendered moot by the unpredictable flux of the economy.

This journal does not have a vote, and does not claim any particular standing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Obama.

War on Photographers

Bruce Schneier on the current War on Photographers:

…it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.

RIAA Has Friends in Nashville

I suppose no one should be shocked that the state that calls “Music City” its capital would end having clashes between music fans and copyright owners. Now, a state bill seeks to get state-funded universities to do some of the dirty work. From ArsTechnica:

A new bill proposed in the Tennessee state senate aims to reduce copyright infringement at universities by forcing the schools to become antipiracy enforcers. If passed, the bill would require universities that receive funding from the state to analyze all traffic passing through their networks in order to track down and stop infringing activity. Under the proposed bill, universities could lose state funding if they refuse to implement network analysis systems or if they receive ten or more infringement complaints from content owners during a single year.

Given much of a higher-learnings tainted record of on-campus law enforcement, I frankly don’t trust them to handle it from either side of the copyright issue. However, playing CSI – IT isn’t the universities job and we shouldn’t be putting the schools’ funding at risk to make them play along.

Yea, Sony?

Cable and telcos side with Comcast in FCC BitTorrent dispute. From ArsTechnica:

But other parts of the private sector have sent the FCC urgent requests for protection from potentially unfair ISP behavior. Sony Electronics, which now offers a wide variety of legal content for its web-enabled TV sets, wrote to the Commission on February 13 asking for a clearer definition of “sensible” or “reasonable” management practices.

Yea, Sony!? Politics does make strange bedfellows. It’s good to see Sony on the right side — for once.

Video for Sen Obama’s Campaign

I’ve yet to decide of who is left in the running whom I’m voting for in November for President, so please don’t mistake this as any sort of endorsement. However, a photo of mine has found its way into a promotional video for Sen. Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign (though I don’t think is from the official campaign). The music isn’t too bad, though it reminds a bit of some of the kid’s music we listen to with our daughter. Anyway, since Virginia yesterday voted for Obama by a rather wide margin (along with D.C. and Maryland), I thought this was appropriate. So, if you’re supporting the Sen. from IL, enjoy — especially the photo at 1:57 in of the senator rolling up his sleeves.