Captain Snarky

Come and get yer snark on with the captain...

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What does snarky mean anyway?

31 October 2005

From the 'They Can Put a Man on the Moon' Department

I read recently that Nokia is investing in a joint research facility with MIT. I guess they need the brainpower, because they seem to be unable to make a reliable, working piece of synhronization software. No, you're not the only one who has given up on trying to get Nokia PC Suite to work. Of course if that pesky IR feature won't work, you can always pay $50 for a cable. What the snark fark?! Maybe then you'll be able to synchronize your phone and your PC?

Sigh. I miss the good old days with Palm's HotSync. No, it wasn't perfect, but compared to Nokia's software it was a dream. I like the phones - but get with it on your software, Nokia.

24 October 2005

The Flying Spaghetti Monster & Other Tales

I think this is one of the most powerful rants I have read in a long time. There is freedom of speech here in the US, but regardless it's sure to infuriate a lot of people - particularly religous people. Cenk Uygur goes after Christianity, Islam and Judaism in a 'take no prisoners' manner. Will members of the Big Three unite and put out a contract on Mr. Uygur? At least a death sentence from Islam? Think that's far fetched? Well consider some of the things he says:

Jesus was a lunatic. God is not coming to your rescue. He hasn't come to anyone's rescue in thousands of years, including Jesus. Mohammed was a power hungry, scam artist and ruthless conqueror. Moses and Abraham were figments of the imagination of some long dead rabbi. He would probably laugh his ass off at all of you who still believe the fairytales he made up thousands of years ago. He probably wouldn't even believe it if you told him.

The Makers of Tamiflu - Insight

Once again there has been so much news on Avain Flu that it's nearly impossible to keep abreast of it all. With all the hubbub, though, there hasn't been any major news regarding human cases of the virus. Instead, have a look at this piece that provides a rare glimpse into the Roche business at a time where they are truly 'making a killing' as The Observer puts it. It's not a pretty sight.

21 October 2005

No Rest for the Wicked...

And I suppose Captain Snarky has contributed his share of wickedness in his lifetime. The real meaning here is that the Avian Flu and news of the same are both very fast-paced. Developments and information in the last four days include:

  • An interesting article co-authored by the inventor of the flat bed scanner, OCR technology and a pioneer in music and voice synthesizers [among other things] Ray Kurzweil, and the brains behind UNIX and Sun Microsystems, Bill Joy. In 'Recipe for Destruction' they object to the US publishing the full genome for the 1918 flu:

    This is extremely foolish. The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No responsible scientist would advocate publishing precise designs for an atomic bomb, and in two ways revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more dangerous.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness Stewart Simonson [breathe] is under fire as not having the background and knowledge required to be 'the guy' responsible for dealing with a major outbreak of bird flu. I think 'Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job' is still ringing in people's ears... An excerpt from the article published in the Boston Herald:

    U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) recently released a ``fact sheet'' blasting Simonson, Brown and other public safety officials.

    ``The Bush Administration has repeatedly appointed inexperienced individuals with political connections to important government posts, including positions with key responsibilities for public health and safety,'' the fact sheet read. ``Mr. Simonson is a lawyer, not a medical expert.''

18 October 2005

Europe on the Watch

Europe is facing up to fears of the pandemic with HN51 being identified in Turkey, Romania and now possibly Greece. Interestingly, the EU is being quite frank in saying that it is not really ready for a major outbreak. Poultry shipments from infected areas were quickly shut down by the EU, and Roche is saying that they are stepping up production in Europe.

Here in the US, PharmaLive is reporting on Senator Charles E. Schumer's increasingly visible efforts to get Roche to do whatever it takes to increase production of Tamiflu in the US. Go Charles - it would be appropriate to see more congress people stepping up like this. Roche has released a statement saying that they will be building a new plant in the US, which is a longer term project than Schumer has in mind, saying that he wants Roche to reach an agreement with a new partner to produce Tamiflu in the next two weeks.

The Bloomberg article also hits on the Intellectual Property angle to production of Tamiflu:

Roche is under pressure from politicians to give up its patents for the product, which can treat bird flu in humans. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Taiwanese health ministers have questioned whether only the Basel, Switzerland-based company should be making Tamiflu.

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer sent a letter to Roche, asking it to work with other companies to expand production. The U.S. only has enough Tamiflu to protect 1 percent of population, the Democratic lawmaker from New York said. Indian drugmaker Cipla Ltd. has said it plans to make a generic version of the drug.

``Countries all over the world have placed many more orders for Tamiflu than Roche can fill with its current manufacturing capacity,'' Schumer said in the letter. ``In the interest of the public health, I urge you to voluntarily suspend your patent so that other companies can assist you in filling these orders.''

Another article from Bloomberg points out that Roche is having other problems - namely with retaining the rights to Tamiflu that it has secured from Gilead Sciences:

Roche said earlier this month it's now in arbitration with Foster City, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. over the rights to Tamiflu. Gilead gave a termination notice June 23, alleging ``material breach'' of a development agreement signed in 1996, and demanded the return of the rights to Tamiflu.

17 October 2005

Must We Be So Unprepared for Avian Flu?

A thought provoking angle on the Avain Flu courtesy of the sharp folks at O'Reilly Radar. They take a look at how Intellectual Property laws are viewed by several countries in light of current events, and how countries' postions re: IP rights of companies that make Tamiflu and Relenza for example, could mean the difference between life and death for millions of people. This thread gets heavy as Phil's post on O'Reilly points out how serious the tension between human life and capitalism could be:

Given the very real possibility that H5N1 could lead to a global pandemic where 150Million people could die (and some experts think this is a conservative estimate) I think the ethical approach is to ignore IP law for the sake of saving life. Capitalism has given us lots of great things, but this is a case where capitalism and the idea of intellectual property break down.

It is somewhat reassuring to note that at least one US Senator sees this issue and is trying to tackle it.

15 October 2005

Some Amusement Lest We Forget to Laugh

Take one part nerdy, talented, soulful folk rocker and one part Sir Mix-A-Lot and his immortal hit Baby Got Back - and this is what you get. Enjoy.

Another Lens to View the Avian Flu

All you landlubbers following the Avian Flu have already spotted these articles proclaiming identification of HN51 in Turkey and Romania. Seems like authorities aren't taking many chances in either country. A few interesting morsels for additional reading... monitoring waterfowl in England and what might be one of the most interesting angless in the last few months, The New York Daily News' piece titled Big Touble and CNN's Witness to 1918 flu. Both put some context around the current fear of a new pandemic through the lens of the last Great Flu. Here's a brief excerpt from each:

Big Trouble
The year is 1918, and people throughout New Jersey are dying faster than carpenters can build caskets. As a result, all sorts of wooden boxes are being used for burial duty. And if a body doesn't fit, well, then you just have to break the limbs and fold them inside. It's different in Philadelphia. They're way beyond boxes. With 11,000 deaths in the month of October alone, and the danger that the corpses will act as incubators for other communicable diseases, the city has resorted to digging mass graves with steam shovels.

Witness to 1918 flu
He said the climate of fear was brought on by a mistrust of government officials and the press.

"People could see while they were being told on the one hand that it's ordinary influenza, on the other hand they are seeing their spouse die in 24 hours or less, bleeding from their eyes, ears, nose and mouth, turning so dark that people thought it was the black death," Barry says said. "People knew that they were being lied to; they knew that this was not ordinary influenza."

07 October 2005

Failure of US Government [Part 219] - Environmental Crises

Unlike the avian flu issue, the government steadfastly continues to avoid having any kind of environmental awareness or even conscience. Some call it a war. The environment is there for profit first, recreation second, and what else is there? Our leaders of recent years have collectively stuck their heads in the sand when confronted with the Kyoto Protocol. They have insisted on debating Global Warming until now when the situation has become desperate and virtually irrefutable. It's probably too late to do much about it. Rather than having a practical, comprehensive Energy Plan we have a lame joke. And while the laugh track is running, the government is fostering a rebirth of the wild, wild west with a mining free-for-all that is literally ruining people's lives and their livelihoods. And let's not forget, ruining beautiful places, too. What won't these Fockers do for a quick buck?

06 October 2005

Failure of US Government [Part 218] - Viral Pandemic

It looks like the US government has *finally* gotten some kind of a clue regarding the possible worldwide outbreak of the Avian Flu. It's about freaking time. Europe seems to have not only had a plan, but has actually been putting it into action. The US business press is predictably fascinated by how money will be made now that the slumbering giant seems to be awakening to the danger. Let's hope it's not too late.

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