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.