Heifer International

A friend told me about Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that donates livestock to poor people around the world. The idea is that Heifer gives a poor family or community an animal that produces food, like a milk cow or a chicken. The family can than live off the proceeds, milk or eggs in this example, directly or sell it for other food that they need. In exchange, they agree to give at least the first offspring of their animal to another family in need.
They also have other projects. For example, they are working in the US to increase the number of young farmers.
You can read more about Hiefer International on their website. They’ve also been featured in the New York Times and Fortune magazine – the links are on their website.

Weird news: 12 pounds of coins found in a man’s belly

There’s an article on CNN about a man who swallowed twelve pounds of coins, necklaces and needles over the course of a decade. He had a disease called pica, which comes from the Latin word for magpie. It’s a condition (such as when kids eat dirt), but this man’s was probably linked to a psychiatric disorder. I wonder if it was just a weird side effect or if it actually started with a rational decision, such as needing to hide money and spread from there …

Moon sized diamonds

According to this article, Moon-sized diamond found in space, they’ve found a moon sized diamond in space. It’s a crystallised white dwarf star. It weighs 5 million trillion trillion pounds, however it’s 50 light-years from earth, so I doubt it will be feasible to mine for quite a while. Quite an incentive though … maybe even more so than going to Mars.

Fishing Cameras

I had to post this because it goes along with the Fantasy Hunt site that I talked about earlier. Slashdot pointed me at this article that says, “A new camera could help save dwindling fish stocks by letting fishermen identify and free unwanted catch immediately after nets are hauled in, its Danish inventor said yesterday.” This camera takes a picture of a fisherman’s catch and can immediately tell them the type and size of each fish! According to the article, currently 1/3 of all catches are “waste”. This would eliminate that. The question is, is the technology cheap enough for the average fisherman? And do they need a sys admin aboard to keep it running?


My favorite blog so far is Slashdot, News for Nerds. Stuff that matters. It’s like a newsletter for geeks but both the topics and the discussions are supplied by the audience. Today they had an article about a topic I just recently talked about, online networks like Friendster and Orkut. Here’s the Slashdot discussion, Detecting Patterns in Complex Social Networks. The article referred to in the original post is rather sparse, but some of the follow up comments in the discussion have links to some very interesting networking sites. The networking sites have studies that even pull in mathematical theories, globalization, and international trade, as well as other topics. You can get a graduate degree in networking. I wonder who actually hires you if you end up with a degree in networking. Do you end up in economics, strategy, international relations? Any of the above?
The book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell talked about how new trends spread like epidemics. I don’t have the book in front of me but he talked about three types of people that spread a new trend or idea. Only one of these types of people has large numbers of contacts. This type of person with the contacts has a huge network and spans between groups – they are responsible for a trend spreading. (One of the other types of people was the expert – people trust their judgement.)
One of the articles referred to in the Slashdot discussion says that one of the things researchers study is the clumps. I believe the author of the The Tipping Point would have argued that it’s the ties between clumps that are interesting. They are what holds the larger network together. There are also probably experts and focal points within each network but the network wouldn’t spread to groups with other interests without the connectors.

The Shadow of the Lion

I am reading The Shadow Of The Lion by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint & Dave Freer right now. I’m enjoying it (although I think it could be a little shorter than it’s 900+ pages.) The book takes place in an alternate reality in a Venice, a 16th century Venice, that has magic, monsters, priests and gods. It’s pretty good – definitely a fantasy novel with a lot of character development. Speaking of character development, it reminds me a lot of one of my top favorite (like probably top ten books of all time), Angel with the Sword by C.J. Cherryh. They both have lots of character types in common. To start with they both take place in a city riddled with canals with an abundent underlife. Both have a female character who has her own boat that she inherited from her very strong, single mom whom we never meet. Both canalers fall in love with a mysterious blond guy who is working for high class families. Both books have two brothers who were born to one of the high class families but are in hiding. Both have two, maybe lesbian, female singers/musicians. Both have swamps where scary people live but you can hide. And so on. They are very different books but if you enjoy one, you will probably enjoy the other one because the worlds and character types are similar.

Online Networking

Speaking of Friendster and Orkut … a friend I haven’t seen since 1992 just sent me a Friendster invite! I haven’t heard yet how he found me. And on Orkut I found a high school classmate who I haven’t seen or heard of since 10th grade!

Amazon Reviewers

According to the New York Times, Amazon suffered a glitch for about a week that showed the identies of those that had provided anonymous reviews. (See the article.) They made it sound quite common for authors to offer 5 star reviews of their own books and for people to rate their enemies books very poorly. Hopefully, Amazon.com books get enough reviews that one or two don’t sway the overall ratings too much. (I have to say that if I were going to do that something that morally wrong, I’d create a whole new Amazon.com login, not just mark it anonymous!)

Online Dating and Criminal Checks

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about criminal check services for online dating, “Online-Dating Sites Unveil Self Background Checks.” They listed a couple of sites (like VerifiedPerson.com) that already provide the service. While definitely a great service, I don’t imagine many people will want to think that their potential date might NEED to be background checked. It’s a scary thought. The sites offer everything from height and weight verfication to criminal backgound checks. I was wondering if you could have some sort of “certify” button, so if you go out with someone, even if it doesn’t work out, you can click that you certify that they looked like their picture. My boyfriend said it wouldn’t work because people are too vindictive. I think people are too worried about what might come back at them to be mean.

I’ve used Match.com, but I like the sites like Friendster and Google’s new Orkut that allow you to meet people through your friends. You set up your profile and then you identify everybody else on the network that you know. Then when someone is looking at your profile (say one of your buddies who wants a date), they can see all of your friends. You can always see how a person traces back to you (so-and-so knows so-and-so who knows …), and you can see how their friends rated them in different categories. I had great fun seeing who all I knew and how the spider web spread out from there. You can also specify whether you are looking for dates, business contacts, friends, etc.

Fantasy Hunt

When my boyfriend first told me about the Fantasy Hunt website, I told him there was no way people would pay $5/month to watch a video cameras of fields. I was wrong. The first time you catch glimpse of a zebra or big buck and you spend 10 minutes trying to keep it in camera range and focus long enough to get a good picture … you’re hooked. So don’t say I didn’t warn you! (The best time to check out this website is at dawn or dusk, as that’s when the animals come out.)

Update: It looks like Fantasy Hunt is no longer around but here’s a similar site, BNC Ranch.