A few good men

Cheeks to the rescue – ever been in a desperately embarrassing situation where you wished you could just crawl into a hole? Imagine being a 13 year old and fluffing the words to the American national anthem on live TV, and in front of 20,000 people. Fortunately, NBA team coach Mo Cheeks came to the rescue, helping her with the words and singing with her to the end. We can never have enough stories like this (via MetaFilter, also see the video).

Never good enough

The big news today is that Apple has launched its new music service. $.99 for a single track and $10 for an album. However, the folks at MetaFilter are positivery derisory of the entire scheme, even though it has almost no DRM issues (burn to CD effectively as many times as you want). What do they want? Free music, of course.

While I’ll admit that practically all of the music I have was downloaded for free, if I had an Apple, I’d definitely give this new service a try. I still have many songs that haven’t been ripped properly or are at a low bitrate, and I think that $.99 (60p!) is a reasonable enough price to pay for a track, especially when I don’t download that much anyway.

Apple’s new offering is pretty decent, and I think the prices will be reduced soon enough. It’s disappointing to see that many people aren’t willing to give it a chance.

Phone Booth

Just watched Phone Booth tonight. Overall, an mildly entertaining movie that is somewhat predictable, but with an interesting use of sets (namely, the phone booth) and a compelling dynamic between the caller and the ‘hero’. Could’ve been much better though; I believe that the original screenplay was far edgier and, unsurprisingly, less ‘Hollywood’.

SARS

A lot of people aren’t worried about SARS. They say, well, it’s only killed a few hundred people, that’s a drop in the ocean compared to malaria, AIDS, influenza, car accidents, smoking, etc. etc. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that you do not measure the threat of a disease merely by the number of people it has killed. SARS is qualitatively different from any other disease; there is no known cure and will not be one for some time. Its mode of transmission and lifecycle makes it capable to spread extremely quickly unnoticed. The fatality rate of roughly 10% is also quite high, and considering that there are no contingencies in place to deal with it in (e.g. availability of ventilators), it could have severe effects on all countries – even first world countries with first class healthcare systems.

SARS is a new disease and it is not well understood. The fact that it has killed less than 300 does not reduce its evident threat and does not mean that we should only be worried when people start dying in the US and UK.

Smoky

Support For New York-Style Smoking Ban – the results of a MORI poll conducted in the UK on whether we should have a smoking ban. One question: is it standard in America to have smoking and non-smoking areas in restaurants, and if so, do they work well? I can’t remember from my previous visits.

Adrian on Mars, part two

Are you going to be in or around Cambridge on the 29th April? If so, what better way to spend the evening than attending a delightful presentation by me on ‘The Human Mission to Mars’. I’ll be talking about why we should send humans to Mars, how we might do it and how much it’d cost, and why humans are better than robots. In the second half of the talk, I’ll be talking about my time at the Mars Society Desert Research Station last December in Utah and showing off my holiday snaps.

It’ll cost �1 for entry and is being held at the Winstanley Lecture Theatre (Blue Boar Court) in Trinity College at 8pm. Be there, or… don’t be there.