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January 31, 2005

Stevia?

After finding out about Stevia here (it's a potent naturally sweet plant), Joy and I have been pursuing further information. It's not all conclusive, though some of it does make you wonder if there's a conspiracy against a natural easy to cultivate, sweet plant, and a gross, tumor-inducing alternative.

Anyway, we picked up some of the powder and concentrated drops at a local speciality store, and have to say, it is sweet. So far, we've only made lemonade, but it did a fine job at that. I'm now looking for a place to find a plant, to perhaps add to another ongoing project I expect to post more about soon.

Anyone who reads this ever heard of Stevia/have any experiences?

January 29, 2005

Some useful frame shifts....

Joy and I have been meaning to start discussing some of the methods and techniques we've learned from this great book by George Lakoff. If you're even remotely left-leaning, it's a quick read, and you should go get a copy, and read it right now. You can read more of Lakoff's articles at the Rockridge Institute

Anyway, the book suggests that part of the reason it's so hard to make inroads against the right-wing viewpoints so commonly expressed around us, is that the right-wing has established the frame of the discussion in their own terms. Turns out, you can't fight an opposing frame with facts - cognitively, once someone has accepted a frame, they reject opposing facts. So, instead of using the right-wing frames, and voicing our objection, we need to build new frames from our viewpoint.

Here are some that we think are promising. It's hard to encounter one frame, and remember to re-cast - but worth it.

  • Forced-birth: The anti-abortion side of the argument is rarely about actually caring for living people. They are not “pro-life” - all they care about is making sure that pregnant women actually have babies. Generally, the position doesn't include pre- or post-natal care, money to cover education or health care for the new family... all of which would be necessary to be “pro-life”.

  • The Iraqi Offensive: They haven't ever attacked us. We invaded them under false pretenses - no ties to Al-Qaeda, no weapons of mass destruction. This “war” was really an invasion, that has caused tens of thousands of deaths. The whole thing has truly been offensive.

  • The War Against Hatred of the United States: Why are we in danger? Because people want to kill us. Why do they want to kill us? Because they hate us. So, what should we be doing to stop this? We need to stop the spread of hatred of our country. You can't stop terrorism; terror is a tactic. It's the hatred that's the problem. Our current approach is making the problem worse. Thus we need to be fighting a war against that hatred.

  • Save the Human Race: “Save the Earth” sounds good, but the earth is going to be here not matter what we do. The real problem is that our lack of strong environmental protection policies is going to lead to the ultimate destruction of humanity. This new frame brings the idea to a more personal level.

We'd love to hear your comments and reactions.

January 28, 2005

BSE-like disease found in another species...

To all those who have been wondering whether BSE is going to jump to other species, the answer has been found

Yayh. Too late to turn vegetarian? Maybe not, but it seems like it might be necessary.

January 22, 2005

More on my home VoIP setup

To follow up on my last post about my VoIP experiences, I wanted to lay out the system I've built so far, and what it gets me.

I put together several of the tools I mentioned in the last post to make a system to allow family members to reach each other more easily. This is essentially already a fall-back system for everyone, since everyone in my family has a cell phone, and, consequently, calling on the evenings and weekends is already “free”.

I built a system where I tell everyone the toll free number of the system, and I give each of them an “extension” based on their names. It's pretty easy to guess how to reach everyone, so the only number that has to get written down is the toll free number, itself.

Once into the system, if you enter someone's name (as numbers - ie, 27926 is Bryan), you get prompted for what means they can be reached by. Normally, 1 for home, 2 for cell, 3 for work. You choose one, and the system puts you through. The called party sees your original caller ID, and you talk just like normal.

Why is this so great? Well, it works not only from home phones, but anywhere. And it's darn cheap. The cost of calling anyone in the Bay Area (me, my girlfriend, my sister, or her fiance) is only the cost of the toll-free leg of the call: $0.02/minute. If you want to reach anyone else, it's still only another $0.013/minute, for a grand total of $0.033/minute. That's with no monthly minimums or maximums, and through a toll-free number.

At those rates, I can give my family calling to each other “as a present”, and pay for it virtually entirely out of the income from the ads for other VoIP services that Google sticks on most of my posts about this.

Speaking of which - if you're not interested in how I do this, why not click on one of the ads and find out about some other service? I should warn you, at this point, most of the other services which show up as ads here charge monthly fees, assuming that something like $20/month unlimited will lure people in. And, it does, because normal phone lines cost just under $20/month without long distance and extra features. Rediculous - anyone I know who wants to can spend $70, buy a Sipura SPA-1001, and I will hook them into this system. The marginal cost per user is nothing. You can buy your own long distance minutes, have your own free incoming number, and dump your home phone line. At $16/month after taxes and fees, it doesn't take that many months to break even. At $0.013/minute for outgoing, free in-system (and various other destinations that are VoIP-enabled) calling, it's hard to imagine why this wouldn't be worth it.

Update: But why get help from me, when you could go it alone with one of the many services finally coming out to assist you in swapping your phone line for others. In particular, I just noticed the Bellster announcement, and there's been a technology called DUNDi for a while.

January 13, 2005

Blast from the past....

The Net really does never forget:

This is my response to the 4 questions of the Kidlink program. And, yes, I've had some form of Internet e-mail since I was 13, in 1991.

Here it is

More eGO shenanigans...

So, to add to the excitement of the ongoing eGO situation, I give you the latest chapter:

Theft!

I was dropping Joy off at her place tonight, only to discover that her eGO had been stolen. Argh. More on the story as it develops...

January 11, 2005

Talk: Google UI

I attended today's BayCHI talk @ PARC tonight. The speaker is one of the original UI designers at Google, where she's still involved in the process. It was a good talk, with a lot of useful information on why Google's UI is still so clean, and how they've managed to maintain that competitive advantage over so much time and new features>

Click here to read my notes