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News and Site Updates Archive 2007/05/26 - 2007/05/27

I don't necessarily think that digital storage is amazing, but I think that digital manipulation has a lot of possibilities.

- Sean Booth

27 May '07 - I only just now realised some of my links were being truncated and I carelessly had not been double-checking them after I uploaded.  My apologies - I believe the error has now been corrected as have all the broken links.

26 May '07 - Wolf and I returned from the Little Rock Film Festival a few days ago.  We were disappointed overall.  We had told them that participation in a Q & A session was our reason for coming; we were assured by two separate officials that it was all handled and the session was even listed in the schedule online.  However, it did not eventuate.  Worse, a careless copy was made of our movie for the screening which ended up horribly dark and terribly loud.  When I pointed these and several other glitches out to them (very constructively, I might  add), we were told it was entirely our fault for not having a cellphone.  (I guess they wanted to ask us whether or not we minded?)  This was their first year of operation, so perhaps I should be tolerant, though even one mea culpa would have gone a long way toward smoothing ruffled feathers.  We were one of many filmmakers with similar problems.  Nevertheless, the trip was not a complete waste - we met a musician from the Gulf coast of Mississippi who had assisted his friend, Don Wilson, in making a stunning feature-length film, Mississippi Son, about the effect of hurricane Katrina on that area.  All the media attention and most of the funds have gone to New Orleans, while the Mississippi residents, who were in the direct path of the storm and were devastated, have continued to be largely ignored.  See a trailer of their film and/or visit their website for more information...  Researchers at Newcastle University believe ugly men exist as a way of repairing our gene pool.  Women would rather date men with good genes, who can fight disease easily, than a classically beautiful man...  In a recent study, sociologist Diane Felmee found only 1/3 of women said looks were the first thing that attracted them to a man.  Most preferred a sense of humour or financial and career success.

       Itching helps one detect when an enemy is mounting an assault.  The body's first line of defense is the skin, and itch is the alarm that tells us when something (for example, a tick or other insect) has penetrated that first line.  Itching triggers a desire to scratch, so the tick or other unwelcome guest can be pulled out.  Conveniently, the brain rewires itself so that the normally painful sensation of rough scratching feels pleasurable.  We still feel the pain, but somehow, when it's accompanied by itch, our brains don't interpret it the same way - they let us perceive the damage to our skin as pleasurable...  The average difference in the age of death for identical twins is more than 15 years...  The People's Republic of North Korea (DPRK) media report that are no cases of AIDS in the DPRK.  "This is due to higher morality owing to the people-centred socialist system."  The Dear Leader also protects his people from SARS ("a stunning tribute to the advanced health and social benefits system of the DPRK") and maintains a country with no drug abuse, and nobody living on the streets.  Visit North Korea's official website if you don't believe me...  Exposure to Helicobacter pylori (the stomach bacterium that leads to many/most cases of peptic ulcers) before the age of 10 may reduce the risk of asthma and allergy.  One of the primary causes of the current startling increase in allergies, asthma, and atopic dermatitis among children in developed countries may be our cleanliness fetish, which leaves the developing immune system little to chew on...  The 4 functions of myth: to instill awe, to explain the world, to support customs and to guide people.  Creation stories occur in all cultures - and they are all myths...  There are about 15,000 recorded earthquakes in New Zealand every year, with between 100 and 150 big enough or shallow enough, to be felt.

       Did you know that you can take a fluorescent tube out under a large overhead electricity pylon and it will light up like a light sabre?  Artist Richard Box filled a field with tubes lit by this "waste" energy emanating from powerlines.  University of Bristol Professor Denis Henshaw, whose study of the effects on health of living close to power lines is internationally recognised, said the "sculpture" was creative and effective.  According to Box, "There's sound as well as light - a crackling that corresponds to the flashing of the lights.  There's a certain smell too and your hair stands slightly on end."  Whee.  A 6.5M Quicktime panorama as well...  Visible antennae transmission waves in a panoramic photograph taken with a digital SLR camera using a telephoto lens.  Startling clear and visible transmission waves surround the antennae atop Black Mountain in Henderson, Nevada - look closely - they are definitely there...  Some of the best business cards I've ever seen.  Another cool card, and here...  An odd You-tube video, which posits that the Earth has "grown".  While I certainly can't agree with some comments (which I felt bordered on the bizarre) and this theory doesn't explain subduction zones, still, there were a lot of interesting things posited.

       The solar system chair may look uncomfortable but we are told that it has class, style and is so comfy you won't want to get up...  Imagine for a moment that instead of Timothy McVeigh destroying the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, it had been a mouse.  Suppose this mouse got into the wiring of the electrical system, tangled the circuits and caused a big fire, killing all those inside.  Now think of the victims’ families.  There would, of course, still be enormous grief and suffering, but there would be one significant difference: There would no resentment, no consuming anger, no hatred, no need to see the perpetrator punished (even if the mouse somehow got out of the building) in order to experience “closure.”  Why the difference?  Because McVeigh, we think, committed this terrible act out of his own free will.  He chose to do it, and he could have chosen not to.  McVeigh, then, is morally responsible for the death of the victims in a way that the mouse would not be.  And our sense of justice demands that he pay for this crime.  There is an undeniable human tendency to see ourselves as free and morally responsible beings.  But there’s a problem.  We also believe — most of us anyhow — that our environment and our heredity entirely shape our characters.  (What else could?)  But we aren’t responsible for our environment, and we aren’t responsible for our heredity.  So we aren’t responsible for our characters.  But then how can we be responsible for acts that arise from our characters?  (My own thought is that McVeigh didn't fit his environment and was pruned in a Darwinian fashion.  He was not responsible for what he did, he WAS what he did.)  Or alternatively: 10 simple ways to save yourself from messing up your life - for example, stop taking so much notice of how you feel.  How you feel is how you feel - it’ll soon pass.  Same with what you’re thinking.  Since you can’t stop yourself thinking, or prevent emotions from arising in your mind, it makes no sense to be proud or ashamed of either - you didn’t cause them.  Only your actions are directly under your control.  They’re the only proper cause of pleasure or shame.

       George Story didn't mind playing those tell-us-something-interesting-about-yourself party games.  He'd grin and announce that he once had been photographed nude in a national magazine.  The editors of Life backed up his claim every decade or so for more than 60 years by rerunning the eye-catching photo and reminding readers that Story had appeared in the magazine's debut edition, 23 November 1936.  Story, who died 4 April 2000 was only seconds old when a photographer slipped into the delivery room of a Portland, Oregon, hospital and snapped a photo later headlined "Life Begins."  A new photo of Story was supposed to appear in the farewell issue of Life, which ceased publishing in May 2000.  But in what the magazine's editors described as a "sad and altogether strange" convergence of events, Story died of congestive heart failure two days before a Life photographer was scheduled to take his picture.  The magazine's headline this time: "A Life Ends"...  One gram of vaporized polonium can kill nearly 1.5 million people...  "When you die, do you want your life force to vanish or pass on to your children and their children?  In pre-history, families consumed their freshly dead ancestors so that their wisdom and essence was preserved and carried on within the family.  Modern Man-Eater provides the modern equivalent using current technology.  Your or your loved one's body will be separated into its discreet components then dried, distilled, and processed into vitamins, minerals, and food additives that can strengthen your entire family for years to come!  Sanitary and food-grade quality - truly feeds your soul!"  While I have no qualms about recycling the dead (nature does this sooner or later anyway), the premise of this site is silly and its use of random commas annoying.  Nor do they mention what happens if Uncle John dies of CJD.  But go there if you like - you might find it amusing (originally via J-Walk).

       Helmet Hair: "Received my pigtails today.  They're great!  Put them on and gave them a test ride, can't believe they stay on at high speeds.  My husband rode behind in case they came off or maybe didn't want to be seen with me, not sure, but I love'em..." (via J-Walk)...  With its thin design and embedded magnet for easy hiding, the Annoy-a-tron can be placed in a variety of locations.  Select one of the 3 sound choices (2 kHz, 12 kHz, or alternating) and push the switch to the on position.  Place it in a proper hiding spot and let the fun begin.  It generates a short (but very annoying, hence the name) beep every few minutes.  Your unsuspecting target will have difficulty timing the location of the sound because the beeps vary in intervals ranging from 2 - 8 minutes.  The 2kHz sound is generically annoying enough, but if you really really want to aggravate somebody, select the 12 kHz sound.  The higher frequency and slight built-in electronic noise will make a full-grown Admin wonder where his packets are...  Top 10 potential natural disasters (list was compiled for the US, but some of the disasters would have global effects).  These include in order of importance: total destruction of Earth, Gulf coast tsunami, East coast tsunami, heat wave, mid-west earthquake, Yellowstone (supervolcano) eruption, Los Angeles tsunami, asteroid impact, New York City hurricane, Pacific Northwest tsunami - essentially suffocating, baking, squashing, or vaporizing.  Rating these seems a bit silly - certainly an asteroid's impact could vary widely - perhaps it's done by the statistically likely death toll? I find it odd that "pandemic virus" didn't show up on the list at all...  A view of the Earth from Saturn (it's prettier than I would've expected)...  How to win a photography contest (but if we all follow these tips, THEN who will win?)

       Plainly dressed - actually has an appeal of its own. I especially liked the men's stuff (via J_Walk)...  Of the 7 different plastics in common use, only 2 of them — PET (labeled with #1 inside the triangle and used in soda bottles) and HDPE (labeled with #2 inside the triangle and used in milk jugs) — have much of an aftermarket.  So no matter how virtuously you toss your chip bags and shampoo bottles into your blue bin, few of them will escape the landfill — only 3 to 5% of plastics are recycled in any way...  On piracy: free sampling is the best method of introducing new products, but it is also the most expensive.  Not surprisingly, Forbes ASAP magazine ("Faker's Paradise," 5 April 1999, page 54) reports an alternative way to practice free sampling: "One security manager for a major manufacturer, who asked not to be identified, says she is sure some companies actually view being counterfeited as a boon to their efforts to build brand awareness.  After all, she says, if some companies give away merchandise to expand market share, what's not to like about having someone else take on the expense of manufacturing and distributing the goods, as long as they're high-quality copies?"  Basically, piracy is a way of having dual-tiered prices...  Where Do You Fit?  Do you cringe when your cell phone rings?  Do you suffer from withdrawal when you can't check your Blackberry?  Do you rush to post your vacation video to your website?  Place yourself in one of the categories in the Pew Internet Project's Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users by answering a few questions...  On the subject of surveys: test your political inclinations.  I discovered to my surprise that I am left of centre when I had assumed that I was much more radical than that...  Why Bush Hasn't Been Impeached: "Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in [America's] national psyche.  The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly.  It's a national myth.  It's John Wayne.  To impeach Bush [reason unspecified] would force [Americans] to directly confront [their] national core of violent self-righteousness - come to terms with it, understand it and reject it.  And [they are] not ready to do that..."  In his new book, A Terrible Love of War, James Hillman writes that there have been 14,600 wars during 5,600 years of recorded history.

       The biggest hole in the world (in Russia) - the suction above this hole has resulted in several helicopter crashes...  From Rutgers: the top 10 myths about divorce - read it if you are contemplating same...  Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that when it comes to taking that first smoke, women are more likely than men to be affected by environmental factors such as peer pressure.  Genetic factors, however, play a larger role in influencing men to start smoking...  Winners of the Best Visual Illusion of the Year contest...  Squalor is a degree of mess that goes beyond untidiness.  The state of the house deteriorates, small piles become big piles, then even bigger piles.  Sometimes beds can't be slept in, tables disappear under clutter.  Appliances and equipment can't be used.  Perhaps they've broken down, but you fear a repair person will report the mess, or access is blocked by other items.  But there are techniques and tools for freeing both yourself and your house from the prison of squalor...  The aftermath of Chernobyl: sorry, there is an advertisement at the front of this and it is horribly depressing - but it could help you count your blessings...  Incredible weather photos (my favorite is over 4 and down 4 on page 2)...  Personality comprises 5 features: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

       Have you ever thought of buying a retired Boeing 727-200 and turning it into a luxury home?  No?  Perhaps you should.  The cabin and cockpit combination would provide 1,066 square feet at a cost of US$100k - 200k.  In addition, there are two large cargo holds and some equipment bays below the cabin deck (accessible from the interior via hatches).  If you can find a retiring Boeing 747, it provides 4,500 sq ft of space plus huge amounts of storage.  Need more reasons?  Retired airliners are profoundly well designed, high tech, aerospace quality sealed pressure canisters that can withstand 575 mph winds and seven G acceleration forces with ease, could last for centuries (with effective corrosion control), are highly fire resistant, and provide superior security.  Your home would give you a feeling of strength, security, capability and ergonomics that eclipses any other, almost as if you were in a home designed 50 years in the future.  Imagine removing all the clutter, such as the seats and overhead compartments - what's left is an open, ultra high tech home (or so says the owner of one)...  I don't agree with the following, but perhaps the points are worth making: The source of [school] rampages must be the environment that creates them, not the killers themselves.  And by environment, [not] something as vague as society but rather the schools and the people they shoot and bomb.  It isn't schoolyard shooters who need to be profiled - they can't be.  It is the schools that need to be profiled.  A list should be drawn up of the characteristics and warning signs of a school ripe for massacre: complaints about bullying go unpunished by an administration that supports the cruel social structure;  antiseptic corridors and overhead fluorescent lights reminiscent of mid-sized city airport; rampant moral hypocrisy that promotes the most two-faced, mean, and shallow students to the top of the pecking order; and maximally stressed parents who push their kids to achieve higher and higher scores...  “Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.” - Nietzsche

Working in the digital domain, you're using approximations of things; you deal with sections of it,
and you're able to do so much more by just reducing the information to a finite amount.

- Sean Booth

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