My Dad on Livestock, Me on Pigs

blogging, family, food

My Dad, a pathologist, has started blogging... and it appears he's got a knack for it.

His latest post is about a report, "Livestock's Long Shadow", from the Food and Agriculture arm of the UN. This report underscores why we should all endeavor to consume less animal protein... and particularly less beef. Some of the findings of the report cited by my pops:

  • Deforestation to create pasture for grazing and land degradation by overgrazing: "The total area occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet."
  • Greenhouse gas production: "The lifestock sector ... responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions ... a higher share than transport."
  • Water consumption: "The livestock sector is a key player ... accounting for over 8% of global human water use ... It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution..."
  • Reduction of biodiversity: "Livestock now account for about 20% of the total terrestrial animal biomass..."
  • Ill effects on public health, including obesity, vascular disease, and cancer.

As a companion to this report, I offer a piece from a recent Rolling Stone magazine by Jeff Tietz, "Boss Hog". That piece points to a few nasty details about commercial pig farming. For example, pigs shit three to four times as much as humans... and their shit is toxic due to the chemicals, antibiotics and such that they have to be injected with to stay healthy (apparently, most commercial pigs are from a single genetic line which, like bananas, makes them susceptible to the vagaries of monocultural threats). And what do you do with all that pig shit? Well, you put it in open pits and hope that some of it is converted into something else before the next flood comes along and washes all that toxic shit over the countryside or out to sea.

Anyway, eat a vegetable.

Help Look for Jim Gray with Mechanical Turk

open source, berkeley, photos, friends, research, education, iSchool

From David Molnar:

Jim Gray was the first person to receive a PhD from Berkeley in computer science. He's been missing for several days after setting out to sail from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands. The search team has obtained satellite photos of areas where he might be, but they need help filtering them. You can help over at Mechanical Turk:

All you need to do is look at pictures and mark them if they contain anything that looks like it might be a sailboat.

You can also see updates on the search at

Response to "The Facts About Voting System Test Labs"

elections, certification/testing, reform, standards, news, problems

The views expressed in this response are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of ACCURATE or the NSF.

On Monday of this past week two ACCURATE researchers, Aaron Burstein and Joseph Lorenzo Hall, authored a Guest Observer column in Roll Call that criticized the Election Administration Commission for the secrecy surrounding the recent revelation that an Independent Testing Authority laboratory tasked with certifying voting systems had been de-accredited ("Unlike Ballots, EAC Shouldn't Be Secretive"). On Thursday, the Director of the EAC, Thomas Wilkey, responded to our column ("The Facts About Voting Systems"). We feel the need to clarify a few points raised by Director Wilkey in his response and emphasize that the deeper issues we raised, as well as solutions that we proposed, remain unaddressed.

Read on for or response (here in PDF)...

Full story »

Roll Call: "Unlike Ballots, EAC Shouldn?t Be Secretive"

elections, certification/testing, reform, vendors, standards, news, politics, berkeley, problems, research, policy, legal, iSchool

Aaron Burstein and I wrote an op-ed in Roll Call that runs today. We describe how a recent case of secrecy at the Election Assistance Commission, involving its de-accreditation of testing lab Ciber, is actually the tip of a secrecy iceberg. We go on to explain the implications of the Ciber misstep and how secrecy mostly works against voting system oversight.

Unlike Ballots, EAC Shouldn?t Be Secretive

By Aaron Burstein and Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Special to Roll Call

January 22, 2007

The Election Assistance Commission has some explaining to do. The secrecy that pervades the EAC, which oversees testing and certification of voting systems, holds dire consequences for our electoral system. Both chambers of Congress need to work to dispel this culture of secrecy.

A recent case illustrates why secrecy is a fundamental problem at the EAC. Last summer the EAC prohibited a lab run by Ciber Inc. from testing new voting systems due to inadequate test plans and documentation. Nonetheless, the voting systems that Ciber previously has tested remained certified and were used in elections in November. The EAC has not disclosed which voting systems Ciber tested using faulty procedures, but according to our calculations, nearly 70 percent of registered voters in the 2006 general elections voted on equipment qualified by Ciber. This was no small misstep.

Full story »

Neurosis, Red Sparowes and Grails at GAMH

music, San Francisco, photos

Michelle and I saw Neurosis at the Great American Music Hall on Sunday with Red Sparowes and Grails. It was a totally awesome show. Considering Neurosis doesn't play out but a few times a year, no self-respecting fan of thoughtful heavy music would have missed it. And the opening acts, Grails and Red Sparowes, literally stole the show... in the way that the Eagles of Death Metal steal shows: by the time the headliner comes on, you're left with that feeling of having just seen a bunch of previews in a movie theatre and you forgot what damn movie you paid to see. Grails were good and had a very expansive sound that reminded me so much of my beloved Southwest. However, Red Sparowes left everyone speechless. They slayed... they've turned their style of heavy, landscape-painting instrumentalism into a sort of cult or a religion. They are the clergy and only suffer their disciples for hour-long sets... and we disciples drool buckets and thrash about in ecstasy.

Neurosis played some new stuff that sounded great. They've continued to work with Steve Albini, who's a great producer and a name to be dropped by every writer and her mother. The older stuff they played seemed kind of strained. Don't get me wrong; it was very good. However, you can tell that they've moved on and aren't playing these songs anymore for themselves, but for us. A few really old songs (like off of Enemy of the Sun) were especially badass. I can't wait to see their new work out on vinyl; the only way to consume such composition.

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