Dying Without A Cemetery Plot Is Illegal in Le Lavandou, France

An example of just how crazy state regulation can be, the town of Le Lavandou recently proclaimed that “it is forbidden without a cemetery plot to die on the territory of the commune.” Don’t blame the town’s politicians for the bizarre law, however, — the blame lies squarely with environmentalists.

The small town of only 80 people knew it was running out of cemetery space, but because it is near the sea shore environmentalists successfully sued to block a new grave yard the town had planned. Instead the environmentalists want Le Lavandou to use an abandoned rock quarry as a graveyard, which the mayor, Gil Bernardi, denounced as nothing more than a “dump” which doesn’t give proper respect to the dead.

The town hopes to have the ruling overturned on appeal, but in the mean time officials were forced to enact the “no dying” law in order to minimize their own liability for those who die. The law may remain in effect for awhile as the appeals procedure could take upwards of three years to wind its way through the courts.


Dying prohibited in Riviera town. The Associated Press, September 21, 2000.

Good and Bad Software Programs

Since I was expounding on what I thought made good and bad software, I got to thinking about the best and worst software I’ve ever used.

On the best side, the best computer game I ever played was Pinball Construction Set. To my mind that game is still as close to perfection as I’ve seen. The beauty was that pinball is a pretty limited game but within that basic board and balls domain you could do anything. I remember creating a game once where the gravity was set to zero, there was one hole in the middle of the board for the ball to go into, and then bumpers, flippers and other stuff on the outside — called the game The Black Hole. You could do that sort of thing very easily and it was fun to play around with.

The worst software is a shoe-in — pretty much any Windows word processor. WordPerfect stinks, and MS Word somehow manages to be even worse. I spend much of my time at work editing documents in those two programs and they drive me bonkers. Most of my co-workers like WordPerfect because of the “Reveal Codes” feature, but I routinely run into documents where what I see on screen has nothing to do with the codes. Word is pretty much unuseable; I really have no idea how people get work done with it.

Carl Rowan Dead at 75

It was fascinating to watch the media coverage of Carl Rowan’s death. Right up to his death, Rowan was one of the nation’s most prominent journalists and a pioneer who broke racial barriers down in the new business.

On the other hand, many of the reports I saw were using footage of Rowan outside of a courthouse with lots of people, including fellow journalists, following him. None of the reports I saw, however, identified where this footage was from.

Given the courthouse and the reporters following him, this footage is almost certainly related to events following Rowan’s shooting several years ago of a man who was intent on breaking into Rowan’s home. The only problem being that Rowan was an ardent opponent of private gun ownership who repeatedly wrote columns maintaining that the Second Amendment does not give individuals the right to own guns (Rowan was one of a large number of celebrities who oppose guns but own them or hire body guards to own them — it’s only we uncouth rabble who don’t deserve to protect our homes and persons).

Ironically, although he worked with the Freedom Forum, Rowan was also more than willing to join in the anti-free speech forces who equate some speech with violence. After the horrible bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, Rowan wrote that “I am absolutely certain that the harsh rhetoric of the Gingriches and Doles … creates a climate of violence in America.”

Although, of course, you’d never find Rowan or other liberal columnists wondering whether something like the U.S. bombing of television and radio stations in Yugoslavia might create an atmosphere where terrorists feel justified in indiscriminately bombing civilians.

Is Iomega Serious?

PCWorld reports that Iomega is now shipping an MP3 player that uses its Clik! disks which it’s apparently now renamed the PocketZip.

Whatever they call it, the darn thing is only 40 megabytes. At $300 for the player and $10 per disk, I can’t imagine there’s any market at all for this player. Sure the cost-per-megabyte is only 25 cents, but a) these disks have a horrible reputation as being flakey and prone to problem as it is, much less if you’re going to take them jogging and b) who wants to switch disks after every 40 megabytes of MP3s?

If it had two disk ports and the quality was much better, then it might be more interesting, but it’s this sort of 2-3 years behind the times thinking that has practically ruined Iomega.

Plus, this player also integrates some of the stupid new security measures, and the morons at PCWorld don’t even think about what they’re writing.

One of those measures allows PocketZip disks to be shared among different players but prevents you from copying music tracks from someone else’s PocketZip storage disk onto your computer’s hard drive.

Of course it also prevents me from copying my music onto my hard drive, if I happen to have more than one hard drive. Suppose you’ve got some songs on this player, and your HD gets fried, and you run to Best Buy and replace it. Don’t even think about copying that music onto the new hard drive — the player interprets that as a piracy attempt.

The Immortality Watch

One of the things I’d prefer not to do is die (I’m going to need at least a couple centuries to get my web site updated!) Anyway, Lisa thinks the whole notion is absurd, but I think the odds of never having to die are now higher than they’ve ever been and increasing on an almost daily basis. The odds of effective immortality within my lifetime (I’d like to live at least 200 years) are still exceedingly small, but I am optimistic.

Something I don’t think people who don’t regularly read scientific journals realize is the extent to which human discoveries about biology are accelerating. I don’t know how to quantify it, but I believe there is a sort of Moore’s Law-style principle for biology in that not only are new discoveries being made, but the actual rate at which medical knowledge is being acquired is increasing over time.

Anyway, two news items last week strongly improved the price of my immortality futures.

Another advance was added to nanontechnology (Eric Drexler’s looking less and less like a nut every day) a few months ago. Researchers developed a robot small enough to do repair work at the single cell level. The full article on the robot was published in Science this past June.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology made newspapers around the world for discovering why some animals on calorie-restricted diets live so much longer. In mice given diets that contain all the necessary nutrients but just exactly the number of calories required to maintain life, the mice tend to live 40 percent longer than mice given higher, but still normal, calorie diets. Why this happened was a mystery until the MIT researchers announced that their experiments with yeast strongly suggest that the calorie restriction interacts directly with the SIR2 protein which functions to “shut off” certain cells and whose absence in yeast was found to shorten life span.

The good news is that the reason all of this works is that the SIR2 protein needs a chemical NAD, which is also needed by the body when it converts food to energy. At least in yeast and mice, it is now believed when they eat high calorie diets, there is less NAD available for the SIR2 protein since all the NAD is used to metabolize food. Restrict the calories, and all of a sudden there’s more NAD for the SIR2 to do its work and the result is a more efficient system that extends the lifespan of the organism.

Assuming all of this applies to human beings, it is not inconceivable that in a few decades we might all be taking medication to increase our NAD levels, thus getting the benefits without having to eat a 1,200 calorie diet from birth to death. And for people like me who have already lived a substantial portion of our lives, we can send in the nanorobots to repair pre-existing cellular damage.

It’s a cyberpunk future without the fascist governments (what I really want is the “suntan” lotion in one of Bruce Sterling’s Islands In the Net that literally changed skin color, although I’d want to get to choose more skin colors. Think of the market for teenagers — my nephew had green hair, I’m sure he’d have loved green skin!)

Red Dragon Tattoo

Woke up this afternoon from a nap to see The Illustrated Man running on the SciFi channel, which reminded me of a hilarious song “Red Dragon Tattoo” by the little known pop group Fountains of Wayne. In the song a guy who wants to impress a girl who isn’t interested in him decides to get a tattoo:

Red dragon tatto, it’s just about on me

I got it for you, so now do you want me?

Will you stop pretending I’ve never been born

Now that I look a little more like that guy from Korn

Personally, I’ve never understood the whole tattooing concept. I have a friend who literally has wings tattooed on her back. I prefer to avoid pain, and therefore tattoos.