So here’s an odd problem – the power button on my monitor is broken. At the moment, this is ok because it’s on and it displays things just fine; but I can’t turn it off. This will be a problem at the end of the year, however, because once I unplug it, I doubt it will turn back on without some tinkering. Well, it can’t be that hard to replace a switch. I guess the hard part will be making sure that the whole thing is grounded before I start (to a first approximation, CRTs are 45,000-volt power supplies that can store these huge charges for months at a time – learn about lifters). So… yeah. not a problem yet, but it will be eventually, and in the meantime, it’s weird. The monitor is about 10 years old, and it’s lasted pretty well (we got it with our Windows 3.1 machine), so I can’t really complain. and it will be fun to fix, once I get around to it.

In national news, electronic voting seems to have been thrust upon us. I think the article gives a fairly good treatment of the topic – electronic voting machines are going to be used all over the US in this election, and it is too late to change them for this election, despite numerous security problems and outcry from what seems like most of the educated populace. I fear this is only going to muddy up what I consider the most important election of the past 50 years. Well, we’ll see how bad things get.

On a happier note, California is going to vote on giving $3 billion to stem cell research. Unfortunately, I am not a registered voter in California (I am in Minnesota instead), so I can’t cast a ballot here. However, I really hope this goes through. I really don’t see how anyone who is informed on the issue could possibly be against stem cell research. Even assuming that pro-life people have a leg to stand on in the abortion issue (which I contest), that barely applies at all to stem cells. Blastocysts, which are where embryonic stem cells come from, are blobs of goo small enough that you can’t see them with the naked eye. They resemble algae much more closely than they resemble people. Cutting them up does cause them to lose the ability to become a person (though they need to be implanted in a surrogate mother before that could happen anyway, so it’s not like they are going to be people if left to their own devices). However, they have huge potential to help actual people. They are potential cures to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, amputations, blindness, psoriasis, and a slew of other diseases and disabilities.

As an anecdote about the potential of stem cells, there is a man in Germany who lost his lower jaw to cancer 9 years ago. Over the summer, doctors made a scaffold for a new jaw, and covered it with stem cells, bone marrow, and various chemicals to facilitate growing. This was surgically placed on the man’s shoulder, where it grew for two months. Then, it was taken off of his shoulder and attached to his head. He now has a new, working jaw, and can speak better and even chew soft things. Admittedly, they used adult stem cells (which, unlike embryonic stem cells, do not come from embryos). However, embryonic stem cells show even more promise than this, because the same line of cells can make any kind of tissue (adult stem cells, in contrast, can only make a few kinds of tissue, and are not nearly as resilient). The story about the German guy can be found on New Scientist.

Well, that’s about it for now. Much is going on in the world right now, and we should all try to stay informed. I’m tired, so I’m now going to bed. Good night!

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