All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Grab Bag

Neat Stuff

Warren Ellis, Free of Charge
Warren Ellis, the author behind Planetary, Black Summer, Transmetropolitan, The Authority and many others, has launched a new webcomic effort called FreakAngels.

It looks promising.

Source: FreakAngels

20 Bizarre Science Experiments
Bizarre and more than a little gruesome.

You may have heard of the famous Milgram Obedience Experiment, which showed that Americans are just as likely as Germans to commit atrocities based on dubious authority figures telling them to.

Did you know a followup was done with cute, fluffy puppies and live voltage?

How about the experiments involving grafting one dog's head to another dog, that helped lead to the successful development of the life support machines used during heart/lung transplants?

Fascinating stuff.

You might not want to read it before a meal though.

Or immediately afterward.

Source: Museum of Hoaxes (No, these weren't hoaxes, it's just the site)

Kirby + Snoop Dogg == K-Dogg?
Youtube mashup of Snoop Dogg and Kirby.

It works eerily well.

Source: Youtube

Bad Language
Warren Ellis was right, the English troops did curse a lot.

Also, you too kids can earn lasting fame by swearing!

Source: Wikipedia

Devil Feet
One of those great oddball historical moments, this time where a mysteeeeeeerious set of foot prints was blamed on Satan. Or a kangaroo. Or a weather balloon.

Source: Wikipedia

Guitar Heroes
So it seems that Aerosmith is making a band-specific Guitar Hero game.

I'm not sure what this means exactly, though it's good for Aerosmith fans, I suppose. Guitar Hero is the series that tends to use cover bands whereas Rock Band uses the original artists, so it's a switch. Of course, Aerosmith tried to make a videogame before... and the world still suffers.

Source: Reuters

Behold the Glory of Colbert
Witness it.

St. John McCain

He's Such a Maverick!

So it seems that St. John McCain is in a bit of trouble, and his media teflon is wearing thin.

First you had a NYTime story that broke a few days ago, revealing that McCain had a very close relationship with a lobbyist who had frequent business before his committee. This lobbyist, a woman by the name of Vicki Iseman, bragged around town about her extensive influence with McCain, and how she could get access to him for her clients.

His campaign staff, in 2000, seemingly had the same idea, and it worried them. After all, their boss makes a big deal out of his 'independent' image, and his favorite campaign plank is how he, and he alone, has emerged unscathed from Washington's culture of corruption.

At a townhall meeting in New Hampshire last November, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told the audience that he’s never allowed himself to be corrupted by lobbyist money:

Everybody says that they’re against the special interests. I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to.
Source: Think Progress

As it turns out? Not so much.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, McCain has taken nearly $1.2 million in campaign contributions from the telephone utility and telecom service industries, more than any other Senator. McCain sides with the telecom companies on retroactive immunity.

McCain is also the single largest recipient of campaign contribution by Ion Media Networks — formerly Paxson Communication — receiving $36,000 from the company and employees from 1997 to mid-year 2006.

But, surely, this was all innocent, right? It's not like he did any illicit favors for the people who gave him large amounts of money....oh, darn.
In 2004, as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, McCain reversed a position and took “crucial legislative action” that saved Paxson Communications from “financial ruin.” Drew Clark reports:

McCain initially supported legislation that would have forced Paxson and handful of broadcasters — but not the great bulk of television stations — off the air by December 31, 2006. Bud Paxson himself personally testified about this bill with “fear and trepidation” at a hearing on September 8, 2004.

Two weeks later, McCain had reversed himself. He now supported legislation that would grant two-year reprieve for Paxson — and instead force all broadcasters to stop transmitting analog television by December 31, 2008. Paxson and his lobbyists, including Iseman, were working at this time for just such a change.

Vicki Iseman has represented Paxson since 1998, longer than any of her other clients. The Washington Post reports that Iseman’s clients have given nearly $85,000 to McCain campaigns since 2000, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.
Err, yeah. Saved them from financial ruin. Ok.

But just because he was corrupted once, that surely doesn't indicate a pattern of being a sleazy politician for hire, does it? I mean... wait, what?
-- Rick Davis arranged a cocktail meet and greet with McCain and a Russian businessman, Oleg Deripaska, so controversial that the US has revoked his visa -- at an economic conference in Switzerland. Davis' lobbying firm was trying to secure business with the Russian at the time, while the firm was already representing a competing political interest in Ukraine.

Seven months later, in August 2006, Davis was present again at a social gathering that was also attended by McCain and Deripaska, this time in Montenegro, another Eastern European country in which Davis's firm was working. The three were among a few dozen people dining at a restaurant during an official Senate trip....

Afterward, a group from the dinner took boats out to a nearby yacht moored in the Adriatic Sea, where champagne and pastries were served, partly in honor of McCain's 70th birthday.

Salter said neither McCain nor Davis recalls Deripaska being on the yacht after dinner.
Rick Davis is McCain's longtime campaign leader, and, as it turns out, a hugely important Republican lobbyist.

He too had rather striking conflicts of interest, working for McCain and people with business before his committee.
Davis is a particularly easy target, having several money-related scandals in his background. A veteran of the Reagan administration, Davis ran McCain's presidential bid six years ago. He also founded a lobbying firm -- Davis, Manafort Inc. -- which has made at least $2.8 million lobbying Congress since 1998.

Over the past eight years, Davis' two roles often overlapped. In 1999, while he was McCain's campaign manager, his firm represented SBC Communications Inc. and Comsat Corp. At that time, both communications companies had controversial mergers pending at the Federal Communications Commission. The Senate Commerce Committee has legislative authority over the FCC, and McCain was chairman of that committee. Both mergers were eventually approved....
Oops! He did it again!

Source: Firedoglake

So St. John McCain has ties to shady Russian oligarchs, a lobbyist running his campaign, another lobbyist who was so close to him that it made his campaign staff think he was having an affair (since he cheated on his first wife with his current wife that should come as no surprise... what is it with Republicans marrying their mistresses anyway?...).

McCain of course is waging a scorched-earth PR campaign against these allegations, and, err, facts. The problem is, for whatever reason, his lies are no longer going unchallenged...
Broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson yesterday contradicted statements from Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign that the senator did not meet with Paxson or his lobbyist before sending two controversial letters to the Federal Communications Commission on Paxson's behalf.

Paxson said he talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before the Arizona Republican wrote the letters in 1999 to the FCC urging a rapid decision on Paxson's quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television station.

Paxson also recalled that his lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, likely attended the meeting in McCain's office and that Iseman helped arrange the meeting. "Was Vicki there? Probably," Paxson said in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday. "The woman was a professional. She was good. She could get us meetings."
This comes after an industrious reporter uncovered a deposition in which St. John McCain had already said on the record that he did, in fact, have inappropriate contact with Paxson, who had business before his committee at the time.
McCain himself in a deposition in 2002 acknowledged talking to Paxson about the Pittsburgh sale. Asked what Paxson said in the conversation, McCain said that Paxson "had applied to purchase this station and that he wanted to purchase it. And that there had been a numerous year delay with the FCC reaching a decision. And he wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business."

The deposition was taken in litigation over the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law filed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The contradiction in the deposition was first reported by Newsweek yesterday afternoon.
McCain's campaign, now caught lying, twice in a row, is trying to spin the lies as being little white ones, and thus of no consequence.

Yeah. Try that one out, see how far it gets you.
McCain attorney Robert S. Bennett played down the contradiction between the campaign's written answer and Paxson's recollection.

"We understood that he [McCain] did not speak directly with him [Paxson]. Now it appears he did speak to him. What is the difference?" Bennett said. "McCain has never denied that Paxson asked for assistance from his office. It doesn't seem relevant whether the request got to him through Paxson or the staff. His letters to the FCC concerning the matter urged the commission to make up its mind. He did not ask the FCC to approve or deny the application. It's not that big a deal."

Source: The Washington Post

In short, McCain's campaign is going to hell in a handbasket. It started with one lobbyist, and snowballed from there, revealing that McCain is surrounded by them, and very easily corrupted.

Of course, the story of how this Vicki Iseman got where she is today is equally interesting.
Iseman, 40, was raised on a farm outside of Homer City, Pa., and attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1990 with a degree in elementary education.

She went to Washington and got a job as a receptionist at Alcalde & Fay in Northern Virginia. Within a year, she had risen to special assistant to the firm's president. She was later promoted to lobbyist and was made the youngest partner in the firm in the late 1990s. She specialized in telecom issues, and one of her primary clients was Florida-based Paxson, which was rapidly purchasing a series of broadcast stations to create a national network.
So, fresh out of college with degree in elementary school teaching, she goes to a major lobbying firm, gets hired as a secretary, then quickly gets promoted, then again, then again in quick succession, despite having no training in lobbying in any form.

The fact that she was a blond secretary who is willing to pal up to powerful men for favors had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

Source: Ibid

Oh, and of course, the guy who bought McCain's influence? Paxson? The name's no coincidence. He founded Pax TV, the Wholesome Christian Network.
In 1998, Paxson launched PaxTV, his national network, which featured reruns of "Touched by an Angel" and other family-friendly fare. There was a major hole he wanted to fill in his network: Paxson had no presence in one top-20 market -- Pittsburgh.

The transaction called for the Christian broadcaster Cornerstone TeleVision of Wall, Pa., to take over the noncommercial license of WQEX, the sister station to public broadcaster WQED. Cornerstone would then sell its commercial license to Paxson for $35 million. The money would be split between Cornerstone and WQED, which was operating in the red.

The proposed station swap was highly contentious in Pittsburgh and involved a multi-pronged lobbying effort by the parties to the deal. Local activists and some community leaders had objected to one of their public TV stations being turned over to a religious channel.
Hah ahahahahahhhahahaha oh God it's good. McCain helped steal a public tv station for a religious whacko network after being paid off by a floozie of dubious credentials 25 years his junior.


Source: Ibid

Friday, February 22, 2008

Crazy People


So one of the ultra-theocratic parties in the Israeli government has decided that gays are responsible for a series of recent, and exceedingly minor, earthquakes.


Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave "legitimacy to sodomy".

Israel decriminalised homosexuality in 1988 and has since passed several laws recognising gay rights.

Two earthquakes shook the region last week and a further four struck in November and December.

Mr Benizri made his comments while addressing a committee of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, about the country's readiness for earthquakes.

He called on lawmakers to stop "passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes".
Ahh, that pesky seismic activity caused by gays.

Honestly, is gay sex such a mystery to these people that they think it can cause the tectonic plates to move?

Source: BBC News

Those Wacky Serbs
So the Serbs aren't happy that, after a decade of UN administration where nobody tried to exterminate their entire race, the Kosovar people have declared independence.

Gee, I mean, why would they hold a grudge against the government that tried to slaughter their families with tanks?

They torched our embassy in Belgrade in response to the United States recognizing the new nation of Kosovo.

Of course, sometimes arson and rioting goes south....
Rioters set fire to the US embassy in Belgrade on Thursday, killing one person, while more than 90 people were injured in clashes with Serbian police in unrest following Kosovo's independence.

The burnt body found in the embassy was not identified, but an embassy spokeswoman said the person was not a staff member.

"All embassy staff are accounted for," Rian Harris said.
*Nelson voice*

Source: Raw Story

A cop in Arkansas has apparently been caught on an old tape using a taser on a cow.

Would a cow even feel an ordinary taser? Their skin is exceptionally thick. They walk through electric fencing all the time.

So not just a jerk, but possibly an incompetent one.

Source: Raw Story

Looks like the cables that failed around the Middle East may have been sabotaged after all, at least some of them.
Damage to several undersea telecom cables that caused outages across the Middle East and Asia could have been an act of sabotage, the International Telecommunication Union said on Monday.

"We do not want to preempt the results of ongoing investigations, but we do not rule out that a deliberate act of sabotage caused the damage to the undersea cables over two weeks ago," the UN agency's head of development, Sami al-Murshed, told AFP.
Sabotage, not, not terrorism.

I just don't see your radical groups severing net access. It's not all that, err, scary.

Source: Raw Story

Morons at an English restaurant left an obscene message on the bill for a couple of customers who complained about poor service.
Ten friends found the abusive and sexually-explicit message on their bill at Joe Delucci's Italian restaurant in Bird Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Diner Clare Watkin said she thought it was written after they complained about poor service.
I think she might have a point.

Source: BBC News

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Friends of El Presidente

Super-Corruption Powers, Activate!

Shrine to their Glory
This is seriously messed up.

A photo homage to Alphonso Jackson.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Alphonso Jackson has decided to honor himself with giant photo exhibitions in two of the lobbies at HUD’s headquarters. The images are each “about 2 feet by 3 feet” and many feature Jackson with President Bush.

Jackson’s accomplishments include the fact that he is currently facing investigations by the FBI and the HUD Inspector General for improperly awarding a contract to a “golfing buddy.”
Integrity is something that happens to other people, for Republicans.

Source: Think Progress

So, as usual, we discover Bush administration ineptitude by following the trail of bodies.
The Chinese facility that supplies the active ingredient of the widely used blood thinner heparin was never inspected by the Food and Drug Administration because the agency confused its name with another just like it, agency officials said yesterday.


More than 350 adverse reactions to the drug have been reported to the FDA since the end of 2007, including a dangerous lowering of blood pressure, breathing difficulties and vomiting. Four patients who took the drug died. One of its two manufacturers, Baxter International, stopped selling its multiple-dose vials of heparin earlier this month, and yesterday the FDA advised doctors to prescribe alternatives.
Another 10 months of this! Hooray!

Source: The Washington Post

Charlie Wilson's Cartoon
Lest we forget who, you know, armed and trained the forerunners to Al-Queda, then turned them loose on an unsuspecting world.

Source: The Onion

Water Carriers
Yet another story about reporters, if they deserve that title, who let anonymous administration sources smear private citizens off the record, then cover for them when the person whose life they ruined tries to get justice.
A federal judge said Tuesday he will hold a former USA Today reporter in contempt if she continues refusing to identify sources for stories about a former Army scientist under scrutiny in the 2001 anthrax attacks.


"It's a travesty that a journalist can be essentially bankrupted for doing her job. This case is also particularly offensive because they know who some of these sources were," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

"I can't even imagine the chilling effect this is going to have on reporters' willingness to cover the next terrorist attack, or anthrax attack, or anything involving police," she added.

Hatfill, who worked at the Army's infectious diseases laboratory from 1997 to 1999, was publicly identified as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks. He is suing the Justice Department, accusing the agency of violating the federal Privacy Act by giving reporters information about the FBI's investigation of him.
Yes, it'd be just horrible if the next time around, reporters thought twice about accepting anonymous smears against people from the government, and then covering for their hatchet job friends when the victim tries to seek relief in the courts.


Source: Raw Story

Image of 2008 Campaign
Assuming McCain isn't destroyed by the scandal he's wrapped up in at the moment, this will be the defining image of the election year. Expect to see it a lot on tv.

Source: Firedoglake

Even More Science

Frontiers of Research

Oxford to Study... Faith?

University of Oxford researchers will spend nearly $4 million to study why mankind embraces God. The grant to the Ian Ramsey Center for Science and Religion will bring anthropologists, theologians, philosophers and other academics together for three years to study whether belief in a divine being is a basic part of mankind's makeup.
Let's see. About ten percent, maybe as high as fifteen percent, of Americans are atheists.

This country hates Atheists more than any other social/ethnic group, even teh gays.

So... I'm guessing, if there are still that many self-described godless heathens, then the answer is no.

Source: Raw Story

Load of Blarney
The authenticity of the Blarney Stone, kissed by about 400,000 tourists a year, has been questioned by Mark Samuel, an archaeologist and architectural historian, and Kate Hamlyn in a new book.

According to legend, kissing the stone at Blarney Castle, near Cork, endows the kisser with the gift of gab or great eloquence and skill at flattery.


Blarney Castle dismisses the theory that the current stone is not the one with the claimed magical powers.

Marketing manager John Fogarty told AFP the Blarney Stone is a piece of the Stone of Scone or "Stone of Destiny", on which the kings of Scotland were crowned.

One legend says the Scone Stone is supposed to be the pillow stone said to have been used by the Biblical Jacob.


"McCarthy heard of the powers of the stone from a woman who was saved from drowning in Blarney Lake behind the castle. She told him he would get the gift of eloquence by kissing it," Fogarty said.
Wait, you mean an alleged magical rock found in a lake by a crazy woman might not, in fact, be magical? Or for that matter, the right 'magic' rock?

My faith in Scot-Irish sobriety and seriousness is forever shaken to the core!

Source: Raw Story

Self-Healing Rubber
Some French boffins have come up with a synthetic rubber that mends itself after cuts or damage at room temperature.
French chemists on Wednesday announced they had created rubber that heals itself after it has been cut, a breakthrough that could lead to clothes that self-mend if torn and toys that repair themselves if damaged by a tot.

The molecular concoction -- described by other scientists as having "a touch of magic about it" -- can self-heal at room temperature in around 15 minutes by simply pressing the damaged pieces together, they report in the British weekly science journal Nature.
Nifty. I hate it when my rubber clothes tear and have to be mended.

Err. (I presume they mean things like shoe soles here).

Oh, and there's a nifty bit at the end for anybody sick of hearing the 'ignorant Aztecs thought the Spanish were gods' story.
In a commentary also published by Nature, synthetic materials scientists Justin Mynar and Takuzo Aida noted that when the Spanish conquistadores first witnessed the Aztecs playing a game with a bouncing rubber ball, they thought such balls must be possessed by evil spirits.

"Imagine their reaction if, on cutting the ball in half, it was made as good as new simply by pressing the two halves together," they write.

"Even today, such a feat would have a touch of magic about it. But this is what (has been) achieved."
What was it Arthur C. Clarke said? Any sufficiently advanced technology would appear to be magic?

Yeah. So it would appear.

Source: Raw Story

Spreadsheet Science
Sometimes all you need to excel is Excel.

Ha, ha, yeah. Sue me.
It took just a couple of hours using data available on the internet for University of Sydney scientists to discover that the Milky Way is twice as wide as previously thought.

Astrophysicist Professor Bryan Gaensler led a team that has found that our galaxy - a flattened spiral about 100,000 light years across - is 12,000 light years thick, not the 6,000 light years that had been previously thought.

Proving not all science requires big, expensive apparatus, Professor Gaensler and colleagues, Dr Greg Madsen, Dr Shami Chatterjee and PhD student Ann Mao, downloaded data from the internet and analysed it in a spreadsheet.
Ahh, astronomy. The only science where a 1 in 10 accuracy rate is considered the norm.

Source: University of Sydney

Gravity Lamp
An architect type boffin at a Virginia school has come up with a design for a gravity powered lamp. It works something like the ancient greek programmable robot; you raise a lead weight and its descent provides stored energy to perform a task.

Concept illustrations of Gravia depict an acrylic column a little over four feet high. The entire column glows when activated. The electricity is generated by the slow fall of a mass that spins a rotor. The resulting energy powers 10 high-output LEDs that fire into the acrylic lens, creating a diffuse light. The operation is silent and the housing is elegant and cord free -- completely independent of electrical infrastructure.

The light output will be 600-800 lumens - roughly equal to a 40-watt incandescent bulb over a period of four hours.

To "turn on" the lamp, the user moves weights from the bottom to the top of the lamp. An hour glass-like mechanism is turned over and the weights are placed in the mass sled near the top of the lamp. The sled begins its gentle glide back down and, within a few seconds, the LEDs come on and light the lamp, Moulton said. "It's more complicated than flipping a switch but can be an acceptable, even enjoyable routine, like winding a beautiful clock or making good coffee," he said.
It doesn't say how long the lamp stays lit on a charge though, that I notice. Hopefully it will be quite a while. Having to constantly turn your light back on would make reading an annoying task.

Source: Virginia Tech News

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is O'Reilly Still On the Air?

Warning: Strong Satire

In a discussion of recent comments made by Michelle Obama, Bill O'Reilly took a call from a listener who stated that, according to "a friend who had knowledge of her," Obama " 'is a very angry,' her word was 'militant woman.' " O'Reilly later stated: "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down."
Apparently, Bill-O only wants to lynch the uppity niggers.

That's awfully generous of him.

Source: Firedoglake

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


,What the World Needs is More

Devil Toad
So those wacky scientists have discovered a giant, sharp-toothed, armored prehistoric frog that weight ten pounds.

No word on whether it had hypno-vision.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A frog the size of a bowling ball, with heavy armor and teeth, lived among dinosaurs millions of years ago - intimidating enough that scientists who unearthed its fossils dubbed the beast Beelzebufo, or Devil Toad.

But its size - 10 pounds and 16 inches long - isn't the only curiosity. Researchers discovered the creature's bones in Madagascar. Yet it seems to be a close relative of normal-sized frogs who today live half a world away in South America, challenging assumptions about ancient geography.


"This frog, if it has the same habits as its living relatives in South America, was quite voracious," Krause said. "It's even conceivable that it could have taken down some hatchling dinosaurs."


It seems to be a relative of South American horned frogs, known scientifically as Ceratophrys. Popular as pets, they're sometimes called pacman frogs for their huge mouths.

Like those modern frogs, Beelzebufo had a wide mouth and powerful jaws, plus teeth. Skull bones were extremely thick, with ridges and grooves characteristic of some type of armor or protective shield.

The name comes from the Greek word for devil, Beelzebub, and Latin for toad, bufo (pronounced boo-foe).

The family link raises a paleontology puzzle: Standard theory for how the continents drifted apart show what is now Madagascar would have been long separated by ocean from South America during Beelzebufo's time. And frogs can't survive long in salt water, Krause noted.

He contends the giant frog provides evidence for competing theories that some bridge still connected the land masses that late in time, perhaps via an Antarctica that was much warmer than today.
A dinosaur eating frog.


Source: My Way News (Associated Press feed)

Tiny Pterodactyl
From giant (presumably) evil toads, we go to tiny pterodactyls.

Probably also evil.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As pterodactyls go, it was small, toothless and had unexpectedly curved toes -- yet scientists are welcoming their new find as another piece in the puzzle of ancient life.

"We have this really amazing creature, sparrow sized, which lived essentially in the trees, showing us a very new, very interesting side of the evolutionary history of those animals," said Alexander W. A. Kellner of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It is cute though.


Sleep Bot
So some wiseguy researchers are working on a robot to scan, recognize, and reenact your dreams.

Fernando Orellana and Brendan Burns have teamed up on a neat project, which involves a robot logging and re-enacting dreams of a human subject. Brainwave patterns and eye movements during dozing will be monitored, depending on what is logged, the robot will alter its behavior accordingly. Sure, this is not dream enactment proper, but it is as close as we are going to get in the not too distant future.
Oh the humanity.

Source: Gizmodo

New York Times and T-Rex Sex
Seriously. They ran a column, for Valentines week, about the romantic habits of the T-Rex. It gets a
Which brings me to my tyrannical fantasy. I want to take a journey 68 million years back in time to see a Tyrannosaurus rex couple mating. What was it like? Did they trumpet and bellow and stamp their feet? Did they thrash their enormous tails? Did he bite her neck in rapture and exude a musky scent? Somehow, I imagine that when two T. rex got it on, the earth shook for miles around.

And if I could only take this journey, I could answer a question that sometimes bothers me. Did T. rex have a penis? Did he even, as lizards do, have two?
Thank you for the insight into your twisted mind. Those of us not yet driven mad by your column will be over here, on the other side of the padded door.

Source: The New York Times

Culinary Mad Science
Some people just have way too much time on their hands.
When some of the world's top chefs put their talent to whipping up some fun, the results can be disconcerting: a salsify or vegetable oyster turns into a cork, watermelon becomes meat and dishes connect to a mobile phone.

At this week's annual Omnivore Food Festival in Deauville, some of the world's most avant-garde chefs had fun with trompe-l'oeil.

Spain's Andoni Luis Aduriz, the chef from "Mugaritz" in Errenteria, dished up thin slices of appetising red meat served with salad dressing and sorrel but left diners gaping when he revealed the meat was water-melon.

Another of his dishes was a bar of soap sitting on a plate in the middle of a cloud of bubbles.

"The world of cosmetics is increasingly stepping into the world of gastronomy," he said. "They put more and more cooking ingredients into shampoos, such as honey, barley, flowers or apples. So I am putting gastronomy into cosmetics."

The bar of soap was made of barley milk, rice and gelatine, but the hardest part was producing bubbles that did not burst, a task that took a year of research with an engineer. They now last and taste of honey.
It goes on from there. Suffice it to say, these people are weird.

Source: Raw Story

Bronze Clock
Ancient Greek device, seemingly a clock for astronomical use, turns out to be just that. It's also as sophisticated as 18th century Western clocks.
A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works.

The machine was lost among cargo in 65BC when the ship carrying it sank in 42m of water off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. By chance, in 1900, a sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck and recovered statues and other artifacts from the site.

The machine first came to light when an archaeologist working on the recovered objects noticed that a lump of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Closer inspection of material brought up from the stricken ship subsequently revealed 80 pieces of gear wheels, dials, clock-like hands and a wooden and bronze casing bearing ancient Greek inscriptions.

Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon. Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods.


Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks.
Ahh, the ancient Greeks. They could do everything except organize a working national government. Oh well.

Source: The Guardian

Crap Shoot
So a no-fly zone has been declared by the Air Force types over a region of the Pacific, strongly suggesting that this is where, in fact, they plan to try and down the rogue spy satellite.

Of course, there's no need to do so, in fact, and even if they are successful the only real result will be to riddle space with additional shrapnel, and of course, anger the Russkies and Chinese military.

Source: Google Maps

Dried Out
So a long-term climate change study by the folks who won the Nobel Prize with Al Gore shows that the Southwest is going to start to run out of water. Err, pretty soon, actually.
Climate change and a growing demand for water could drain two of the nation's largest manmade reservoirs within 13 years, depriving several Southwestern states of key water sources, scientists warn.

Researchers at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Wednesday that there's a 50 percent chance that lakes Mead and Powell will dry up by 2021, and a 10 percent chance the lakes will run out of usable water by 2013.

"We were surprised that it was so soon," said climate scientist David Pierce, co-author of the institution's study that detailed the findings.
I guess we can soon add Phoenix to the list of cities that will be ghost towns, thanks in no small part to Republican incompetence and corporate greed.

Source: Raw Story

Ok, so it's not strictly speaking science. But science is involved, and I have to give IU credit when it does something right, if for no other reason than the novelty.
In 2006, IU put out more than 7,000 tons of garbage. This excess waste is beginning to take a toll on not only Bloomington, but also other cities in Monroe County, said a representative of Residential Programs and Services.


IU is improving with total amount of waste put out per year. In 2007, the University cut back to 4,103 tons. Though the amount of waste has decreased by more than 3,000 tons, IU still has a long way to go, said Steve Akers, residential programs and services associate director of Environmental Operations.
Woo, 3000 tons less garbage.

Though since recycling is hardly 100% efficient, it's a bit disingenuous to act like shoving stuff in a recycling bin solves the whole problem.

Ahh, there we go. I needed a little cynicism in my IU news. Don't want to go soft.

Source: The Indiana Daily Stupid (Student)

Monday, February 18, 2008



Total eclipse of the Moon, this Wednesday, between 10:01-10:51 PM EST.

Partial eclipse lasting longer.

Blood red mooooon.

Source: NASA

Completely Random

You Have to Have a Topic to Go Off Of It

So Reuters ran an article spelling Obama's name as 'Osama'. They're trying to pass it off as a 'spelling error', and not, say, some disgruntled staffer. Riiight. Because those S and B keys are so close together.

In a little noticed flub, the Reuters news agency referred to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) several times as 'Osama' in a widely distributed news article Wednesday, an article they pulled later in the day.

Though transcripts of the original article are hard to find, RAW STORY located one this morning. Many of the corrected articles distributed to news agencies scrubbed the original mistake.

The article was titled, "Obama takes on rivals over economic woes."

The following is reproduced from the cached Reuters article on AOL.

Reuters attributed the mistake to a 'spelling error.' A rewrite distributed later said it "Corrects spelling of Obama in paragraphs 14 and 18."
A spelling error they made, then made again four paragraphs later!

Wow, what a bad typing day!

Source: Raw Story

Hmm, Whiskey
On fire, no less.

Source: Whiskey Fire

Lifestyles of the Rich and Dictatorial
An NBC report showing where dictators live, from satellite photos.

Oddly, it doesn't sound like the White House, or the House of Saud's palaces, or Musharraf's place are in there.

Funny, that.

Source: Raw Story

Avarosis == Ass
I had to stop reading Americablog back in the runup to the Lebanon-Israeli massacre, as John Avarosis posted an angry screed about how Lebanon deserved to be blown to bits because the Israeli military just had to drop cluster bombs on civilians to regain their confidence, or some such nonsense. I very rarely even read a link from that site, as the man is a colossal tool. Apparently he's kept it up over the years.
But for the life of me, I'm just not really able to understand John Aravosis' take on it at AmericaBlog:

That's because far too often the Democrats don't give a damn about anybody who isn't a minority or starving to death (both valid causes to be sure, but are they the ONLY causes out there?). If you're in the middle, you're on your own.

And don't think this is only about a stupid $300. It's about health care. It's about education. It's about every single issue you care about. The powers that be simply aren't in this to help people in the middle. The Republicans want to help the big pharmaceuticals and the big business hospitals, while the Democrats want to help uninsured poor people and kids. And while all of that's nice, what are the rest of us supposed to do when our premiums hit $2000 a month and, God forbid, something catastrophic hits us?

The Republicans ONLY want to help the rich, and the Democrats ONLY want to help the poor. Screw everybody else. I am so sick of these people.
Yeah. Democrats don't want to help the middle class at all. It's not like better education, roads, jobs and healthcare help the middle class, right?

Source: Shakesville

A game I've never heard of gets armor designed by the guy who did Ghost in the Shell for a special event.

Why couldn't Galaxies have done this when I played it? They had more money than god, and never came up with any nifty promotions.

Source: Codemasters (Warning: TONS of images)

US Politics News

Your Government Inaction

FEMA Again?!
So it seems FEMA is coming under criticism again for the California wildfire response this time. They only had 2,500 homes lost and they still can't get the job done... though it's worth noting how much better they did in Cali than in New Orleans. Gee, I wonder if race had anything to do with the wildly varying responses.

(AP) Patty Reedy is still waiting for someone at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send her the mobile home she was promised before Christmas.

In December, agency inspectors said she wouldn't get a government house to replace the one she lost during last year's wildfires because it would be too difficult to haul the 60-foot, three-bedroom prefabricated home up a winding road to her remote mountaintop property.

Reedy isn't alone. FEMA brought dozens of mobile homes to Southern California after the fires, only to find their own guidelines prevented them from putting them on many properties in rough terrain. San Diego County officials say dozens of applicants were denied homes because their properties were inaccessible to trucks, didn't have connections into the electrical grid or were on hillsides deemed at mudslide risk.


Within a week, the agency had begun disbursing grants up to $28,800, short-circuiting detailed accounting requirements that slowed relief after the 2003 fires. So far, FEMA has paid more than $13.1 million to 1,973 people, mostly in San Diego County.

In 2003, the agency sent short, adaptable "travel trailers" to house people living in the mountains, but they are being avoided now amid concerns about toxic chemicals; this week the agency said it would move hurricane victims out of more than 35,000 trailers because tests indicate some of the temporary homes contain high levels of formaldehyde.

Instead, FEMA only dispatched three-bedroom modular homes to Southern California - luxurious compared to the 15-foot travel trailers, but, at 60 feet, too long to fit on many properties or be moved up steep roads full of switchbacks. They also require too much electricity to run off generators or solar panels and have to be hooked into the power grid. They have to be on flat land, away from any hills that might be at risk for mudslides.
So as it turns out, the only real issue here is that nobody wants to live in toxic trailers. FEMA is willing to pay you 30,000 to relocate, at least temporarily; they also will provide you a modular home, provided you don't have your house in some idiot remote mountaintop location.

Compare this to New Orleans, where toxic trailers is all most people ever got. Huh. Racial injustice, in America?

It cannae be!

Source: CBS News

Satellites Falling From the Sky
The Russkies are predictably unhappy about our real-world test of a satellite killing weapon.
Russia has accused the US of using a plan to shoot down a broken spy satellite as a cover for testing an anti-satellite weapon.

The US said last week that it would use a missile to destroy the satellite, to stop it from crash landing.

Officials say the satellite contains hazardous fuel which could kill humans.

But Russia's defence ministry said the US planned to test its "anti-missile defence system's capability to destroy other countries' satellites".
The Pentagon is saying they want to detonate this satellite in orbit solely out of concern for the hydrazine fuel source, which is, you know, ridiculously flammable and explosive and therefore unlikely to survive reentry, and not actually very toxic, certainly not as lethal as, say, flaming shrapnel raining down from space...

Source: BBC News

A scandal has hit the Baltimore police department as a year-old video of a cop threatening kids with beatings and death for skateboarding hits the web.

I wonder if our culture of torture and violence and rage has anything to do with this stuff... nah.
A Baltimore police officer was suspended yesterday after a YouTube video surfaced on the Internet showing him berating and manhandling a teenage skateboarder at the Inner Harbor.

On the video, the officer, Salvatore Rivieri, puts the boy in a headlock, pushes him to the ground, questions his upbringing, threatens to "smack" him and repeatedly accuses the youngster of showing disrespect because the youth refers to the officer as "man" and "dude."

At one point, Rivieri, a 17-year veteran of the force, says:

"Obviously, your parents don't put a foot in your butt quite enough, because you don't understand the meaning of respect. First of all, you better learn how to speak. I'm not 'man.' I'm not 'dude,' I am Officer Rivieri. The sooner you learn that, the longer you are going to live in this world. Because you go around doing this kind of stuff and somebody is going to kill you.
Right, right. Kill them. And who is this 'somebody', you jackbooted asshole?

Source: The Baltimore Sun

Bush Dynasty
So the Bush dynasty, it turns out, wasn't just a viper's nest of nazi sympathy and treason during World War II -- they were also slaveholders, way back when.
The skeletal facts surfaced in April 2007, when an amateur historian named Robert Hughes published his research in the Illinois Times, a small paper out of Springfield. Hughes found census records showing that during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, in Cecil County, Maryland, five households of the Walker family, the president's ancestors via his father's mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, had been slaveholding farmers. The evidence is simple but persuasive: genealogies of the Bush family match up with census data that counted farmers who used enslaved workers. With this, the president joins perhaps fifteen million living white Americans who trace their roots to the long-gone master class.
Is there a single monstrous act that hasn't in fact been committed by this family?

Source: The Root

Not to Worry
No need to fret about our government though. It's in very good hands.

Sorry. I forgot that sarcasm doesn't show in text for a second there.
Bush uses "the Google."

CNBC's Maria Bartiromo got an interview with the president, and she asked him:
“I’m curious, have you ever Googled anybody? Do you use Google?”

His answer:
“Occasionally. One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see that. I forgot the name of the program, but you get the satellite and you can — like, I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, reminds me of where I want to be sometimes. Yeah, I do it some.”

Darn, what's fun of being commander-in-chief, and having your own fleet of satellites, if you have to use Google Earth like the rest of us. Bush's response on whether he uses email was also interesting:
“I tend not to email or — not only tend not to email, I don’t email, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don’t want to receive emails because, you know, there’s no telling what somebody’s email may — it would show up as, you know, a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn’t be able to say, `Well, I didn’t read the email.’ `But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn’t?’ So, in other words, I’m very cautious about emailing.”
What a maroon.

On the other hand, he didn't turn out to have much to fear about those emails being subpoenaed, what with the RNC taking rubber mallets to their RAID arrays, or whatever they did to conveniently lose their backups of all the days that anyone wants to look at.

Source: Attytood

Science! Update

(Also) Researching the Cure For Boredom

Flu Season! Rabbit Season! Flu Season!
So it turns out the prognosticators who create the annual flu vaccine, making guesses on what will be the dominant strains the next year, did a really poor job this time around.

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- The flu season is getting worse, and U.S. health officials say it's partly because the flu vaccine doesn't protect against most of the spreading flu bugs.

The flu shot is a good match for only about 40 percent of this year's flu viruses, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The situation has even deteriorated since last week when the CDC said the vaccine was protective against roughly half the circulating strains. In good years, the vaccine can fend off 70 to 90 percent of flu bugs.

Infections from an unexpected strain have been booming, and now are the main agent behind most of the nation's lab-confirmed flu cases, said Dr. Joe Bresee, the CDC's chief of influenza epidemiology.

It's too soon to know whether this will prove to be a bad flu season overall, but it's fair to say a lot of people are suffering at the moment. "Every area of the country is experiencing lots of flu right now," Bresee said.


Nano Nano! Art! (Use Mork Voice on title)
Here you go, this will cheer you up a bit. Art made using electron microscopes of various sorts.

Source: Wired

You've probably heard of Genomics, the scientific analysis of the total information content of a living organism's genome.

There's a related field dealing with the total information content of a living organism's protein, which is a far larger amount of data (because proteins can be coded the exact same way but have many different shapes.... the mad cow disease agent is a protein that is, content wise, basically identical to one you're SUPPOSED to have, but wound up differently... think of it like those magnet word puzzle things on front of fridges. You can spell out 'Purple Monkey Dishwasher' in a straight line, or a curve, or a circle, square, etc... the 'data' is the same, but the shape can be wildly varying, and in a protein, shape determines a lot of how it works.)

Anywhoo, proteomic study of the protein content of brains with and without MS has lead to the discovery of two new proteins that, when damaged, may contribute to the symptoms of the disease.
US researchers have found two potential targets for treating multiple sclerosis after an extensive trawl through proteins in the brain.

Comparison of 2,538 proteins from MS patients with those from healthy brains showed damage in two proteins not before linked to the disease.

In mice blocking the effects of the proteins led to reversal of symptoms, the study in Nature reported.
It appears the science is coming of age, in fact.

Professor Neil Scolding, from the University of Bristol Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, said: "From the scientific perspective, the exciting thing is that it's pretty much the first time that proteomics has directly yielded a candidate molecule that is both unexpected and novel on the one hand and has therapeutic potential.

"From the clinical perspective, showing that treatment approaches predicted by this proteomic interrogation of MS tissue do have a clear impact in experimental models of MS is extremely promising.
Ahh, science. Is there anything you can't do better than superstition?

Source: BBC News

Laser Jet Spy
So apparently, in an effort to combat counterfeiting, the US government has convinced many printer manufacturers to install spy mechanisms in their laserjets. A tiny code of yellow dots is printed on color laserjet pages that codes for a unique printer ID number that can be tracked back to you, the printer.. printer.
Imagine that every time you printed a document, it automatically included a secret code that could be used to identify the printer - and potentially, the person who used it. Sounds like something from an episode of "Alias," right?

Unfortunately, the scenario isn't fictional. In a purported effort to identify counterfeiters, the US government has succeeded in persuading some color laser printer manufacturers to encode each page with identifying information. That means that without your knowledge or consent, an act you assume is private could become public. A communication tool you're using in everyday life could become a tool for government surveillance. And what's worse, there are no laws to prevent abuse.

The ACLU recently issued a report revealing that the FBI has amassed more than 1,100 pages of documents on the organization since 2001, as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups, including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice. In the current political climate, it's not hard to imagine the government using the ability to determine who may have printed what document for purposes other than identifying counterfeiters.

Yet there are no laws to stop the Secret Service from using printer codes to secretly trace the origin of non-currency documents; only the privacy policy of your printer manufacturer currently protects you (if indeed such a policy exists). And no law regulates what sort of documents the Secret Service or any other domestic or foreign government agency is permitted to request for identification, not to mention how such a forensics tool could be developed and implemented in printers in the first place.

With no laws on the books, there's nothing to stop the privacy violations this technology enables. For this reason, EFF is gathering information about what printers are revealing and how - a necessary precursor to any legal challenge or new legislation to protect your privacy.
Unfortunately, it's the EFF we're talking about here, not the ACLU. These guys are infamous for losing in court.


Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Aral Sea
Big somewhat hippy blogpost on the Aral sea. Lots of pictures. More than a little breathless, but still probably worth a read.

Source: Naked Man in the Tree (yes, that is really the title of the blog)

Consumer News

Marketplace Powers, Activate!

So it seems that Greenpeace has taken to tampering with Kleenex in order to get their message out.

The battle over the environment has found a new front: the inside of a Kleenex box.

"Wiping away ancient forests," warned a note found inside a box bought recently at a drug store in New York by a stuffy-nosed reporter. "Here's a little secret that Kimberly-Clark, the largest tissue maker in the world and parent company of Kleenex, does not want you to know."
I'm sorry, but this is too far. Tampering with consumer goods is low-grade terrorism. What's next, slipping white powders into Kleenex boxes?


Source: The Washington Post

So it turns out the same gun dealer sold equipment to both of the recent campus whacko shootings.
The online gun dealer who sold a weapon to the Virginia Tech shooter said it was an unnerving coincidence that he also sold handgun accessories to the man who killed five students at Northern Illinois University.

Eric Thompson said his Web site,, sold two empty 9 mm Glock magazines and a Glock holster to Steven Kazmierczak on Feb. 4, just 10 days before the 27-year-old opened fire in a classroom and killed five before committing suicide.


"I'm still blown away by the coincidences," Thompson said Friday. "I'm shaking. I can't believe somebody would order from us again and do this."


Thompson said he checked his sales records after the name of the shooter was made public Friday. The records show $105.62 in items were shipped to an apartment in Champaign and signed for by someone other than Kazmierczak.
Ok, now, I won't jump on the blame bandwagon for the Virginia Tech shooting, because that was VIRGINIA's fault. Their law said that you could pass a background check despite having been recently committed against your will as a threat to other people.

This guy had no way to know that the V-Tech shooter was a whacko. He's not to blame there.

Here though, I kinda wonder.. I mean, you're shipping high-capacity magazines on short notice, directly to private addresses?

You don't, you know, wonder what they might be used for?

Source: Raw Story

Commercial Real Estate
So it seems that in a rush to keep their abnormal rate of construction going, the industry shifted from residential to commercial properties as the banking fraud scandal started to gear up.

One problem: building far more commercial space than people need will not, in fact, induce them to fill it.

So now huge amounts of square footage goes vacant, and the construction industry is starting to falter on commercial real estate as well. Charming.

Source: Sacramento Real Estate Statistics

Largest Beef Recall In U.S. History
So one of those charming huge volume meatpackers/processors has issued a recall for the largest amount of beef in U.S. history. The reason? They were grinding up cows so sick and diseased they could no longer stand. Which is a no-no after the Mad Cow disease thing.
The amount of beef -- 143 million pounds -- is roughly enough for two hamburgers for each man, woman and child in the United States.

The largest U.S. meat recall before Sunday came in 1999, when about 35 million pounds of product possibly contaminated with listeria were ordered off shelves. USDA officials said that was Class I recall, involving a known risk to human health.

Sunday's action was a Class II recall, under which authorities say there is little risk of illness.

Raymond said cattle that had lost the ability to walk since passing pre-processing inspections were slaughtered without an inspector having examined them for chronic illness -- a practice he said violated federal regulations and had been going on for at least two years.

Federal regulations are aimed at preventing the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE -- the scientific name for "mad cow" disease.

It's important to keep downed cattle out of the food supply because they also may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli or salmonella because the animals tend to wallow in feces and have weaker immune systems, according to AP.
One big problem: the USDA waited so long, or fell asleep at the switch so long, that most of the bad beef has already been eaten or sold.
About 37 million pounds of the meat went to school lunch programs and other federal nutrition programs since October 2006, said Ron Vogel, of the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service.

The recall dates back to February 1, 2006, and Raymond said "the great majority" of the meat has probably been eaten already. USDA officials have begun tracing the products covered by the recall, he said.

"A lot of this is fresh, raw product and with ground beef, etcetera, that has a very short shelf life and refrigerator life," he said.
Joy! Thank you, incompetent regulators!

So who do we have to thank for uncovering this despicable fraud and criminal activity on behalf of Big Agribusiness? PETA?

In January, the Humane Society of the United States accused Hallmark/Westland of abusing "downed" cattle, releasing video that showed workers kicking cows, jabbing them near their eyes, ramming them with a forklift and shooting high-intensity water up their noses in an effort to force them to their feet for slaughter.

Federal inspectors halted operations at the plant earlier this month after finding "clear violations" of USDA regulations.

California prosecutors on Friday announced animal cruelty charges against two former employees of the plant.
I was just talking to a friend last week about how we needed a better animal-health/"rights" lobby, and that the Humane Society would be my organizational pick to head it.

Nice to see they were way ahead of me on that one.


Buzz Off
In case you haven't heard (no pun intended), there's an age-discriminate sonic weapon that's being sold in the UK to drive kids away from the front of stores with a painful/annoying sound that older people are deaf to, due to aging in the inner ear.

The UK government looks to be stepping up to ban the device, on the grounds that, surprise, blasting loud, painful sounds at random crowds of people legally congregating on public streets might be illegal! Even if you don't like them hanging around in front of your house/store!
The creators of a pioneering device that uses high-frequency sound to stop teenagers congregating outside shops, schools and railway stations reacted angrily today to news that the government-appointed Children's Commissioner wants to see it banned.

The £500 Mosquito device has been installed at some 3,500 locations across the country since it first went on sale in January 2006. It emits an irritating, high-pitched sound that can only be heard by children and young people up into their early twenties, forcing them to move on.

But Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner for England appointed to represent the views of the country’s 11 million children, has set up a campaign – called Buzz Off – that is calling for the Mosquito to be banned on grounds that it infringes the rights of young people.

“These devices are indiscriminate and target all children and young people, including babies, regardless of whether they are behaving or misbehaving,” Sir Al told the BBC. “The use of measures such as these are simply demonising children and young people, creating a dangerous and widening divide between the young and the old.”

He added: "This device is a quick fix. It's not tackling the root of the problem and it's indiscriminate."

The campaign has won the support of human rights groups including Liberty, whose director, Shami Chakrabarti, described it as a "sonic weapon directed against children and young people".
What is this world coming to, when you can't fire weapons randomly into crowds of innocent people?

Source: Times Online