Everything old is new again: Even though we're acting like biological weapons are a tool of the modern world, it turns out the Hittites were using fever-infected donkeys to attack their neighbors in 1320 BC. That just goes to prove there's rarely anything new under the sun.
Dan's been having some trouble getting the full speed he expects out of his DSL Internet connection. Now, DSL should always be at or near full-speed, since it's a "dedicated subscriber line." In other words, Dan should be the only one on the line; he's not sharing it with anyone else. But when he uses the speed test at Speakeasy.net, it looks like he's getting about 60% of the promised speed. As a result, when he tries videoconferencing, he ends up looking like Max Headroom.
Other sites for you to test your connection speed: about 4" of snow on the ground right now, according to the National Weather Service.
Even as technology changes and makes some things more reliable, the old ways of doing things sometimes have useful advantages that we end up needing to mimic electronically. Case in point: When Boston's transit system replaced its old mechanical signs with easier-to-read electronic ones, they added in the sound effects from the old mechanical boards because people found the sound comforting.
The President signed the new energy bill into effect the other day, and you wouldn't believe how much more ethanol and biodiesel it requires. We currently make six or seven billion gallons a year, and the law increases the national production mandate to 36 billion gallons per year in just a decade and a half. Keep in mind, though, that we go through an average of 388.6 million gallons of gas per day...so at our current rate of production, we only make enough ethanol to last about two weeks out of the year; so even if we made six times as much, we'd still be mostly dependent upon conventional petroleum.
In the long term, there's no getting around the fact that economic growth in China is increasing world oil demand, and that's going to result in higher prices here. Now would be a very good time to start thinking about ways to use less energy, while we can still consider high efficiency a luxury.
If you haven't done so already, think about taking some steps to control your online identity by doing things like buying your own name as a domain name on the Internet. It's not hard; Brian recommends PairNIC, though you can certainly buy your domain name through any number of services. Then learn how to use one of the many services available for setting up your own website. The more you control about how your name appears on the Internet, the less likely you are to fall victim to someone else's pranks or misdeeds.