Paul Allen funds studies of the brain

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is putting $500 million of his fortune into looking for the “essence of humanity” in our brains.

I sent him an email explaining that, while the brain is indeed fascinating and worthy of study, it is nothing but the hardware. The software (what makes us who we are) is the mind. You ain’t gonna find the “essence of humanity” in the jumbled nerves of the brain.

If Mr. Allen really wants to find what makes us human, he’ll fund some studies of consciousness.

I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the human brain. I’m awed by its enormous complexity. Our brains are many magnitudes more advanced in the way they work than any computer software ever invented. Think about this: We can teach students to program computers in a couple of years of school. But even with a lifetime of learning, at present we are far away from fully understanding the brain.

via Billionaire Paul Allen Pours $500 Million Into Quest To Find The Essence Of Humanity In The Brain – Forbes.

Rebuilding Together

Evelyn Contre (boardmember) and Dan Sargent (Director) of Rebuilding Together of the Triangle

At lunch today, I stopped by the home of Mr. John Snipes in Southeast Raleigh. Rebuilding Together of the Triangle’s executive director, Dan Sargent, invited me to see the renovation work being done on Snipes home.

Mr. Snipes, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam era, had a tree fall on his home by last year’s tornado and his insurance didn’t cover all the costs of fixing it. For 11 months his home has been covered by a tarp. Mr. Snipes’s roof and air conditioning needed replacing, too. His home had no insulation and for the past two years he heated his home with electric space heaters.
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“Your USPS shipment postage labels receipt” scam

I got this creative phishing email scam in my inbox today. The links go to a phishing website where the crooks collect your payment information. Don’t be fooled!

From: “Royce Erickson”
To: mister cool guy at
Subject: Your USPS shipment postage labels receipt.
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2012 11:14:02 -0300

Acct #: 0341903

Dear client:

This is an email confirmation for your order of 3 online shipping label(s) with postage. We will charge you the following amount:

Transaction ID: #6924766
Print Date/Time: 03/12/2012 02:30 AM CST
Postage Amount: $47.65
Credit Card Number: XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX

Priority Mail Regional Rate Box B # 0697 5722 3716 9279 1176 (Sequence Number 1 of 1)
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Can we revisit our can policy?

Recycling bin

I made an unexpected trip home from my office Wednesday to fetch something I had left behind. On this brief trip I saw two different homeless men walking with bags of cans. No, I didn’t call the cops, but I did realize that more homeless people seem to depend on these cans than I had first thought. No one wants to jail homeless people for trying to get by and I know our police officers aren’t interested in doing that, either.

My issue with recycling theft stemmed completely from seeing men in pickup trucks systematically scouring recycling bins, never with the homeless people trying to get by. Perhaps Raleigh’s recycling theft ordinance should be adjusted so that those taking smaller quantities might not be unfairly targeted.

One suggested adjustment the ordinance I’ve heard would simply make the contents of the recycling bin the city’s property and make it a crime to remove them, omitting the spelling out of any penalty. Raleigh could then choose how to respond based on the level of the theft. It’s definitely worth considering.

Raleigh’s Community Watch forum

There has been a lot of discussion in Raleigh’s neighborhoods regarding the Treyvon Martin tragedy in Florida, specifically about the proper role of community watches. I thought to email Chief Dolan, Raleigh’s chief of police, today to see if he and his staff would be interested in participating in a forum delving into the role of community watches and how we can keep our communities safe while still respecting everyone’s civil rights. I initially thought this would be a good discussion at April’s RCAC meeting but the interest and audience might be bigger than that.

I think this is something that the community needs to discuss so I am hopeful we can hash things out to clear up any confusion.