Too Much Information


News and Site Updates Archive 2007/04/30 - 2007/06/19

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.

- Daniel K Moran

19 Jun '07 - Is this the way of the future?  New Songdo City is a $31 billion development 60 kilometres south of Seoul on 600 hectares of reclaimed land.  It will be one of the world's first cities in which all information systems - residential, medical, business - are linked.  A resident's smartcard house key can be used to get on the subway, pay a parking metre, see a movie, borrow a free public bicycle. or use one of 10,000 available electric "smart" cars for a quick jaunt across town.  There will be fixed-line fibre optics to the home and high-speed wireless access everywhere.  If a garbage can is full, embedded sensors automatically alert a facilities management team to empty it and public recycling bins will use RFID to credit residents every time they toss in a bottle...  Australian researchers discovered that honeybees can distinguish human faces.  The insects were shown black-and-white photos and given treats for correct responses...  An absolutely wonderful presentation on M-theory and how it may, in fact, be the Theory of Everything that's been sought for so long...  "From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honour, integrity, and selfless service," General Taguba said.  "And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values.  I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib.  We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention.  We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values.  The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable."

       Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1831) was an English philosopher and social reformer.  As requested in his will, Bentham's body was preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet, termed his "Auto-icon".  Originally kept by a disciple, it was acquired by University College London in 1850.  The Auto-Icon is kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the College.  This has led to the (untrue) rumour that he is occasionally brought to meetings of the Council (at which he is listed as "present but not voting").  The Auto-Icon has always had a wax head because the head was badly damaged in the preservation process.  The real head had been displayed in the same case for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks - including being stolen on more than one occasion.  It is now securely locked away...  A new kind a shoe - it feels just like being barefoot.

       How a 40-tonne humpback whale gave tourists a flying lesson...  JobVent is the web site for anyone who has ever said "I hate my job", or "I love my job" - for people who are about to start a new job, and want to see what other people think of working there.  Vulgar comments are kept to a minimum, no names are used and all postings are anonymous (via Cynical-C)...  Stay cool this summer - a hat cool pack can be affixed to any cap and lowers body temp by 2°C (about 3°F).  An ice-in-a-can spray shoots out a -10° frost onto towels for handy face wiping (each can contains about 70 squirts).  A 15° cool neck wrap keeps arteries from boiling over and helps with circulation and an armpit pack reduces body heat in the chest...  Scientists at the University of Manchester (UK) have invented an electronic device that can make a cheap violin sound like a Stradivarius - but it costs less than US$700...  Lightning strikes the earth about 8 million times a day.

       Impressive birthday cakes (by the way, you share your birthday with at least 9 million other people in the world)...  Gold is a soft, yellow, corrosion-resistant element, the most malleable and ductile metal; it is a good thermal and electrical conductor and is generally alloyed to increase its strength; used as an international monetary standard, in jewelry, for decoration, and as a coating on electrical and mechanical components.  Palladium is a soft, ductile, steel-white, tarnish-resistant, metallic element occurring naturally with platinum, especially in gold, nickel, and copper ores.  It can absorb large amounts of hydrogen, so it is used as a purification filter for hydrogen and catalyst in hydrogenation; it is alloyed for use in electric contacts, jewelry, watch parts and surgical instruments.  Platinum is a silver-white metallic element usually mixed with iridium, osmium, or nickel; it is ductile and malleable, does not oxidize in air and is used as a catalyst and in electrical components, jewelry, dentistry, and electroplating.  Silver is a lustrous white, ductile, malleable metallic element, occurring both uncombined and in ores such as argentite; has highest thermal and electrical conductivity of the metals; highly valued for jewelry and tableware; widely used for coins, photography, dental and soldering alloys, electrical contacts, and printed circuits.  White gold is an alloy of gold and nickel, sometimes contains palladium or zinc; has pale platinumlike colour; a nickel alloy is hard, strong and good for rings and pins while white gold-palladium alloys are soft and pliable, good for gemstone settings; highest quality white gold is usually 18 karat gold with palladium and sometimes trace platinum for weight and durability.  Whilst high-quality white gold alloys retain lustre, most are coated with rhodium for shine and may require re-coating.  1 in 8 people is allergic to white gold.

        A taxi driver in Beijing decided to cool the interior of his taxi by creating a 2-square-metre lawn on top of it.  And apparently, it seems to work well under the 36°C weather in Beijing...  Marc Sky, the dollar artist, makes incredible origami sculptures out of dollar bills, including animals, cufflinks, people, messages - practically anything...  Money origami - shows YOU how to do some of them - a classy way to give money as a gift.  Another site with slightly different objects...  People keep all kinds of weird things in jars, from Habu snakes to one-eyed pigs to human penises...  Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabrey brilliantly pantomime an argument to Beethoven's 5th...  High 'n Low is a silicone shim for wobbly tables and chairs.  This piece of rubber can be used over and over and is easily carried in pocket or purse where it is readily accessible when a chair or table is unstable...  Complete listing of the wonders of the world, both past and present...  Photographs of the new 7 wonders plus an article about the selection process...  In case you've never seen it, Johnny Cash's touching music video of "Hurt" and the original by Nine Inch Nails for comparison.

       I've heard again from the Mississippi musician friend I met in Little Rock.  They've uploaded a new trailer of their movie which is more like a music video.  I did a search online for hurricanes and came up with an interesting page on Galveston - after a hurricane plowed through the town in 1900 killing nearly 6,000 people and devastating what was then "the centre of commerce for the entire Southwest," rather than leave their shifting sandbar, they walled off the entire city and raised everything in it - houses, churches, offices, trees, gardens - by as much as 17 feet - then filled it all in with dredged silt (it worked for a while).

Before the project started, engineers went around town marking telephone poles to show how high
the owners should raise their buildings.  In both photographs the man points to the same white line.
From Against the Tide: The Battle for America's Beaches by Cornelia Dean

That site led me to another interesting page on the 1947 Texas City explosion - fertiliser being loaded to ship to Europe got too hot.  The resulting blast knocked people to their knees 10 miles away and broke windows 40 miles away.  A 3,000-pound anchor was hurled more than 2 miles and dug a 10-foot pit where it struck the ground.

       Speed Demon photography contest boasts some truly AWESOME shots...  Question: How can a non-believer be a nice person?  Answer: It's only temporary - they can't keep it up - just ask Billy Graham...  In 1999, Nicholas Christenfeld and his colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, uncovered evidence suggesting that a person's initials might affect perhaps the most important aspect of his life - the moment of his death.  Using a large, computerised database of death certificates, they identified people whose initials formed a positive-sounding word such as ACE, HUG and JOY, and those that had very negative connotations, like PIG, BUM and DIE.  Using factors such as race, year of death and socio-economic status as controls, the researchers discovered that men with positive initials lived approximately 4½ years longer than average, whereas those with negative initials died about 3 years early.  Further analysis suggested that those with negative initials were especially likely to die from psychological causes, such as suicides and self-inflicted accidents.

     With Japan’s welfare system buckling under the demands of an ageing society, the world’s oldest man apologised yesterday for his longevity.  Tomoji Tanabe, 111, was born in the southern island of Kyushu in 1895.  Curiously, Yone Minagawa, who lives in the same prefecture, is 114 and holds the title of world’s oldest woman.  Japan’s population of centenarians is the largest in the world.  Most of the 28,000 Japanese who have made it beyond 100 are women and the highest concentration of the very elderly is in the southern part of the archipelago.  The area around Hiroshima and the island of Okinawa are especially rich in former "world’s oldest" title holders...  Alice in Wonderland - "...I don't recall freedom of religion meaning no religion.  Our currency even says "In God We Trust."  So, to all the atheists in America: Get off of our country..."  Random drug facts: 55.1% of all US prisoners are in prison for drug offenses.  A Canadian researcher found that children from broken marriages are twice as likely to be prescribed attention-deficit drugs as children whose parents stay together.

       Pizza in a cone - easy to eat while you walk...  A funny David Armand (as "Johann Lipowitz") mimeing to Paul Young's "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)"...  A 2006 study of 23,000 people in 12 countries done by a group at the University of California, Berkeley concluded: liberals tend to be: against, skeptical of, or cynical about familiar and traditional ideology; open to new experiences; individualistic and uncompromising, pursuing a place in the world on personal terms; private; disobedient, even rebellious rule-breakers; sensation seekers and pleasure seekers, including in the frequency and diversity of sexual experiences; socially and economically egalitarian; and risk prone; furthermore, they value diversity, imagination, intellectualism, logic, and scientific progress.  Conservatives exhibit the reverse in all these domains.  Moreover, they felt need for order, structure, closure, family and national security, salvation, sexual restraint, and self-control, in general, as well as the effort devoted to avoidance of change, novelty, unpredictability, ambiguity, and complexity, is a well-established characteristic of conservatives.

       Digital imaging offers the ability to use images in new ways and transform perceptions.  Now, any image can be put on a wall (wallpaper), curtains, ceilings and carpet.  Iranian artist Seyed Alavi had an aerial view of the Sacramento River woven into a carpet for the floor of a pedestrian bridge connecting the Sacramento International Airport terminal to the parking garage - a real "flying carpet"...  Patrick Blanc's Vertical Gardening - perfect for cities!  Click on "Walls" for photos...  Getting access to the Gmail accounts of a deceased person (if it matters)...  What Dick Cavett's uncle knew about war...  Global tropical cyclone tracks from 1985 to 2005; includes hundreds of systems that affected over a dozen countries.  The picture was made using NASA imagery and data from various meteorological agencies...  A fascinating display of typological collections, from taillights to RV's to drivethrough menus. Originality is not always rewarded...  "A religious war is like children fighting over who has the strongest imaginary friend."

       Each step has its own drawer.  The idea comes from yachts and other boats where space is at a premium and under-stair storage is pretty common.  It's also used on RVs.  Having lived on both, it has been my experience that keeping the space free of dust-bunnies is impossible...  A 6-year study of a million adults showed that people who get only 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night have a lower death rate than those who get 8 hours...  Amazing video of a dog selecting and using a tool...  Several ways to tie a tie...  So you think you're smart?  Too smart for your salary?  Then prove it...  An exceptionally novel cursor...  Largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island: Vulcan point in Crater Lake on Vulcano Island in Lake Taal on Luzon, Philippines...  Hack your brain by making Mitch Altman's Brain Machine - it flashes LEDs into your eyes and beeps sounds into your ears to make your brain waves sync up into beta, alpha, theta, and delta brainwaves (and no, I have not tried it).

       Israeli artist Boaz Arad created this Hitler rug so people can wipe their feet on Adolf, "to show how the Holocaust has scarred Israel, but has also been misused by it."  The exhibition is at the Tel Aviv Center for Contemporary Arts (via Neatorama)...  A variety of wooden-made PC peripherals such as keyboard, USB memory, card reader, and USB hub...  For teenagers these days, cell phone use is constant.  "Texting" friends is the equivalent of the now-passé note-passing.  An estimated 61% of 12- to 19-year-olds carry cells, up from 25% in the year 2000, according to Teenage Research Unlimited...  In 1957, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, the first nuclear facility to generate electricity in the United States, went on line.  It was taken out of service in 1982...  All US Presidents have worn glasses...  An average 61,000 people are airborne over the US in any given hour...  Every human spends about half an hour as a single cell.

       An inflatable catamaran that fits in your trunk; it weighs 40 kilograms but can hold 240 kilos (room for 2 people) with sail, rudder, keel fins...  Etiquette - the primary French sense is ticket or label, hence a soldier's billet, hence prescribed routine.  In English, the word means, among other things, the conventional rules observed in the intercourse of polite society.  US flag etiquette requires flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.  It should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse; when flown at half-staff, it should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant then lowered to the half-staff position.  On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon, then raised to the top of the staff; a flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, nor as a covering for a ceiling nor for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.  It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discarded...  The surreal photographs of Rodney Smith...  International dress size converter...  A "tragedy of the commons" is a type of social trap that involves a conflict over resources between an individual’s interests and that of the common good.  In this situation, a group of people works toward short-term individual gains, which, in the end, lead to a loss for the group as a whole.  Tragedy of the commons originated from a parable published in 1833 by William Forster Lloyd. The theory itself, however, dates back to Aristotle who said: "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."  Aristotle knew what he was talking about and one great example of this is the overfishing of our oceans, which has been increasing dramatically over the last 50 years as advances in fishing technology have been made.

 There's a jungle in the main Madrid train station.
Called Atocha, it is the largest railway station in Madrid and the first - inaugurated on 9 February 1851.
Architect Rafael Moneo’s idea for the latest extension to the station was to make waiting more comfortable.
He converted the building into a moist and tropical greenhouse, breathtakingly beautiful and mellowing.
Covers 4.000 m2 and contains more than 500 species including carnivorous plants, goldfish, turtles, birds.
(via  A lovely LARGE photo by photographer Georg Himmrich

12 May '07 - The lens of the eye is made of extremely durable crystallin proteins - but chemical changes diminish their elasticity over decades of use.  This is one reason why people age 40 and up develop farsighted vision.  The eye's lens also gradually turns a yellowish colour - so much so that even without cataracts (clouding caused by too much UV and cholesterol and/or by diabetes and smoking), the light reaching the retina of a healthy 60-year-old is is only 1/3 that of a 20-year-old.  This is one of the reasons why older people have more difficulty seeing in the dark...  Unusual photos of an airplane's wake vortices; ine shows a plane descending through thin layers of cloud 5 miles from landing...  Arnd Drossel, 38, a German performance artist, took a 220-mile roll through North-Rhine Westphalia to raise money for psychiatric patients.  His journey was made inside a protective capsule - 250 high-grade steel strands welded into something resembling a massive ball of wool which he propelled by simply walking.  His trek was to symbolize courage, exemplified by rolling though the tiger enclosure at a zoo (I'm not too sure why courage was required for what he did - but oh, well)...  So far, physicists have succeeded in observing 16 pointlike or fundamental particles, a number that increases if you count antimatter particles, or if you differentiate among, say, the 8 types of gluons.  Particles in the largest group, called fermions (in honour of Enrico Fermi) are the stuff of matter.  Fermions include electrons and quarks, which come in the whimsical-sounding varieties up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom.  A hadron is a collection of quarks, or quarks and antiquarks.  A proton is a hadron composed of two up quarks and one down; a neutron consists of two downs and one up.  A top quark is estimated to last no more than 1 × 10-24 seconds. (For comparison’s sake, 1 × 10-24 centuries comes to 3 millionths of a billionth of a second.

       "Cheques sent through the mail are not enough.  [E]very able-bodied adult [should] have a position in both the production system and the 'caring' economy: part of a working life or of a working year should be devoted to participating in the provision of care for the young, the old, the infirm, the poor, and the desperate." - What Should the Left Propose? by Roberto Mangabeira Unger...  Looks like an alien, sings like a diva Klaus Nomi was one of the 1980s' most profoundly bizarre characters.  He was a cult figure in the New Wave underground scene, a genuine counter tenor who sang pop music like opera.  On the verge of international fame as a singer, he became instead one of the first gay artists to die of AIDS.  The reaction he provoked was so strong, that he is still unforgettable, even 20 years after his death.  Watch the trailer for The Nomi Song, a documentary about his life (Quicktime required) or view an incredible video of him singing "Lightning Strikes"...  Before being extradited to the US, Hew Griffiths, from New South Wales, had never even set foot in America.  But while in NSW, he pirated software produced by American companies.  Some in the Australian legal community feel that their country should protect her nationals from being removed from their homeland to a foreign country merely because the commercial interests of that foreign country are claimed to affected by the person's behaviour.  Griffiths "cracked" copy-protected software and media products and then distributed them free of cost.  He did not make money himself.  He offered to plead guilty if he could serve his time in Australia but his request was denied.  On top of a possible 10-year jail term, Griffiths could be fined $US500,000.  By way of comparison, the average sentence for rape in Victoria is 6 years and 10 months...  "Send" may be the most dangerous word in the English language...  Fathers who play less of a role in child rearing are more likely to have overweight or obese offspring, Australian researchers say.  Curiously, a mother's parenting style has little impact leading to the conclusion that it is more often Dad who enforces stricter boundaries.

       Socially reponsible design from the Cooper Hewitt design museum - for example, transporting water is a time-consuming and cumbersome necessity for many millions of people.  Rather than lifting and carrying water, containers, the Q-Drum is a cylindrical container that rolls along the ground with as much as 75 litres of water.  It is used in a number of African countries including Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana. Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania.  Several other excellent examples are shown on the site...  You don't usually watch music videos, you say?  This one might be worth your time - Sarah McLachlan's "World On Fire" shows what the $150,000 needed to produce the typical music video might have been used for instead...  Depending on age and gender, an adolescent with an IQ of 100 is 1.5 to 5 times more likely to have had intercourse than a teen with a score of 120 or 130.  Each additional point of IQ increase the odds of virginity by 2.7% for males and 1.7% for females.  Higher IQ has a similar relationship across the entire range of romantic/sexual interactions, decreasing the odds that teens have kissed or even held hands with a member of the opposite sex at each age.  By 19, 80% of US males and 75% of women have lost their virginity, and 87% of college students have had sex.  But this number appears to be much lower at elite (more intelligent) colleges.  Only 56% of Princeton undergraduates have had intercourse.  At Harvard 59% of the undergraduates are non-virgins, and at MIT, only a slight majority, 51%, have had intercourse.  Further, only 65% of MIT graduate students have had sex.  Student surveys at MIT and Wellesley also compared virginity by academic major.  At Wellesley, 0% of studio art majors were virgins, but 72% of biology majors were - and 83% of biochem and math majors!  Testosterone may depress IQ.  One team found that salivary testosterone levels were lower for preadolescent boys with IQs above 130 or below 70 - the same two groups most likely to be virgins in adolescence.

       Photographs of deep-sea life.  My favorite is the ping-pong tree sponge, although the telescope octopus runs a close second...  There’s a whole lot of bill padding going on according to a billing survey by William G Ross, professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law who specializes in billing ethics.  Ross polled 5,000 attorneys; 251 responded.  Two-thirds said they have “specific knowledge” of bill padding; 54.6% admit they have sometimes performed unnecessary tasks just to bump up their billable output; 34.7% engage in "double billing" (for example, doing billable work for client B while on an airplane flight already being charged to client A).  “Making work” can also be a problem.  Ditto mistakes due to inefficiences of law firms and the partner-associate-legal assistant structure.  What if a lawyer charges client A because he needs to research a lot of stuff, then client B calls with the same problem.  Does client B get a smaller bill, or does he pay for "research" for information already available?...  In results that may perturb most animal welfare groups, tests suggest chickens can feel pain (there was doubt about this?).  Those known to be experiencing some form of discomfort or lameness choose food laced with morphine when given the choice.  By contrast, chickens who are fully fit choose feed that is not spiked with an analgesic.  From the same article: Elephants make graves by breaking branches to cover their dead colleagues.  More on the animal front: Irene Pepperberg ran an experiment on parrots in her lab using a walnut tied to a string dangling from the bird's perch.  Those young parrots who had not yet been language-trained solved the problem by pulling up on the string with their feet to reach the nut.  But the parrots who knew how to talk just looked at the researchers and said, "Want nut."  Because the lab protocol requires that the birds *always* get an appropriate response to their verbal demands, this was actually the optimal strategy - and the birds knew it (via Metafilter)...  Trust me, not ALL Americans are this ignorant - though far too many are...  Dear Cape Cod Chip Company: I am attaching a picture of the bag of your usually enjoyable "Cape Cod Potato Chips" that I bought today.  The objects sitting beside the bag were its full contents.  You will notice that these include a few soggy chips and a full, shriveled potato...  Will you kindly send me a replacement bag?...  Nigerian scammers have come up with a twist - apologising via email for all the financial scams, and asking for bank information to send a payment for "inconvenience" you've been caused.  The Nigerian government is willing to send you $150,000!  Wow.  Wonder why the Nigerian government can't figure out how to put that money to better use?  Oh.

2 May '07 - Mannyapolis, the film my son Wolf and I did for our senior thesis, has been accepted by the Little Rock Film Festival and will be screened the 19th and 20th of May.  If you are a kind person, you would view our film's trailer on the festival site here (because that will increase our "buzz").

       Need a playhouse for the kids?  The Napa Valley Chalets (shown) were designed to provide "different but equal" Playhouses for 2 pre-teen siblings.  Each luxury Playhouse has a fully finished interior, glass doors and windows, electricity, built-in furniture and play features like a connecting bridge over swings.  Cost?  A mere US$179,000.  (Other models are somewhat cheaper.)...  A delightful love story told in just 3 pictures!...  According to the Recording Industry Association of America, "The Greatest Hits 1971 - 1975" by the Eagles is the best-selling album ever with 29 million copies sold.  Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is 2nd, followed by "Led Zeppelin IV," Pink Floyd's "The Wall," and AC/DC's "Back in Black"...  When is a mistake not a mistake?  In language, the answer is “When it's in the dictionary.”  The word internecine usually has the meaning “relating to internal struggle,” but in its first recorded English use in 1663, it meant “fought to the death.”  The Latin source of the word, internecīnus, meant “fought to the death, murderous” and comes from the verb necāre, “to kill.”  The prefix inter– was here used not in the usual sense “between, mutual” but rather as an intensifier meaning “all the way, to the death.”  This was not known to Samuel Johnson, however, when he was compiling his great dictionary in the 18th century.  He misunderstood the prefix and defined the word as “endeavoring mutual destruction.”  Johnson's dictionary was so popular and authoritative that his error became adopted as correct usage.

       The pagination tattoo - the mark of the beast: Over the past several years, many publishers have convinced themselves that breaking up stories into sometimes as many as 10 pages is an acceptable way to present content on the web.  The realistic ones at least admit that it’s a cheap way to boost stats.  The disingenuous (or naive) ones actually posit that they are improving readability and usability for their audiences by reducing scrolling (after all, scrolling is so difficult).  If you could choose only one of the following — long term — which would you choose: a user who consistently generates 10 page views a day on your site but spends only 5 minutes with you, or a user who literally stares slackjawed at the screen for 2 hours a day with your site running on it, but who generates only one page view?  Your accountants will always pick the former, but you should always pick the latter...  Doctors fear people could be physically addicted to tanning.  Some frequent users of tanning beds received a regular endorphin hit, experiencing a high similar to drugs like heroin.  In a recent Wake Forest University study, frequent tanners were given a drug that blocked the pleasurable sensations that went along with the tanning-bed experience.  After their sessions, half of them suffered withdrawal symptoms.  "I got nauseous and jittery, and just kind of felt sick to my stomach," said one.  The tanners in the study were also given the choice of two different beds: one had UV rays and the other didn't.  Without knowing there was a difference, almost all the participants eventually gravitated toward the UV bed.

       “Terrafugia” loosely translates as “Escape the Earth”.  The Terrafugia Transition™ is a road-able aircraft in that can land at the airport, fold up its wings, and drive on the road.  It is for pilots - it is not intended for use by short-distance commuters, people running errands, or for any trip through city traffic or under 100 miles.  Instead, if you travel 100 - 500 miles at a stretch, then the Transition may be for you.  However, if you don't already have a pilot's license, you will need to get one...  Habitat 67, by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, is located at 2600 Av Pierre-Dupuy, Quebec, Canada.  It's like no other apartment complex you've ever seen.  The project was designed to create affordable housing with close but private quarters, each equipped with a garden.  Ironically, the building's units are now quite expensive rather than "affordable" due to its architectural cachet...  Chaoscope is downloadable freeware that runs under Windows.  It helps you comprehend dynamic systems by rendering breathtaking pictures of strange attractors.  My favorite is les grands fonds.

        Dubai, the United Arab Emirates state known for wild architectural endeavours, is planning a "dynamic" skyscraper.  The 68-story building will literally spin with each individual floor independent of the others.  (The central elevator core is fixed - and why they made the artist's rendering pink and purple, I'm not quite sure.)  The floors can be voice-controlled, daylight controlled, or just set to constant motion and can even generate power as they turn by using wind turbines, fitted between the rotating floors...  Good news for infidels in the UAE: the lash has now been banned as a means of punishment - only Muslims may be whipped should they commit certain crimes "punishable by lashing under Sharia."  Whipping guidelines are detailed: the whipper must hold a qu'ran and not drop it; the whip must be free of metal and splinters.  Lashing should not cause "excessive pain" and must be done all over the body to avoid damage or marks.  The whippee can't wear armour, but women can remain fully dressed.  They also get to sit - which means the most naturally padded part of the body is out of range.  Pregnant women can't be lashed - they get to wait until 2 months after the child is born...  A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods, grouped into data, information, concept, strategy, metaphor, and compound visualizations via either process or structure...  Imagine being able to record a smell and play it back later, just as you can with sounds or images.  Engineers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan are building an odour recorder capable of doing just that.  Simply point the gadget at a freshly baked cookie, for example, and it will analyse its odour and reproduce it using a host of non-toxic chemicals.  The device could be used to improve online shopping by allowing you to sniff foods or fragrances before you buy.

       The Tax Foundation estimates that, based on an 8-hour workday, Americans as a whole work:

Time Worked per Day To Pay for:
1 hour 43 minutes All federal taxes (income, sales, etc.)
1 hour 22 minutes Housing and household operations
1 hour 8 minutes Health and medical care
52 minutes State and local taxes (income, sales, etc.)
51 minutes “Other” taxes
40 minutes Food
39 minutes Transportation
28 minutes Recreation
17 minutes Clothing

30 Apr '07 - Slightly over half of all Americans – 52.6% – now receive significant income from government programs, according to an analysis by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, New Jersey.  About 1 in 5 Americans hold a government job or a job reliant on federal spending.  A similar number receive Social Security or a government pension.  About 19 million others get food stamps, 2 million get subsidised housing, and 5 million get education grants.  For all these categories, dependents were counted as well as the direct recipients of government income.  Personally, I would separate those who worked for wages from the rest.  I suppose this list includes elected politicians?...  The Jung von Matt agency in Hamburg, Germany has come up with an inventive ad program to make people more aware of Colgate Smiles kid's toothbrushes.  Would a dentist with a funny mask put your child more at ease or scare him half to death?...   Shakespeare's Hamlet in plain English (just gives the main idea - don't use it as a credible source)

       A novel aircraft seating layout described as a “radical solution” to economy-class travel creates an additional column of seats by positioning passengers in opposite directions.  Feel like staring complete strangers in the face for hours?  On the other hand, Micro Reactor System has unveiled its Flexible Electronic Curtain, a window that turns from transparent to opaque when activated.  Using liquid-crystal molecules between two sheets of plastic, the windows blind themselves in any number of colours when turned on.  My thought is that this blind can be pulled down between chairs and made opaque by the occupier of chair on either side as desired.  The attendant could override the opacity for meals, drinks and seat checks...  Almost half of Britain's divorcing couples used a private investigator last year to confirm, or deny, their suspicions about their spouse cheating on them says accountancy firm Grant Thornton...  Russia plans to build the world's longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the US with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.  Tsar Nicholas II, Russia's last emperor, was the first Russian leader to approve a plan for a tunnel under the Bering Strait, in 1905, 38 years after his grandfather sold Alaska to America for $7.2 million.  The planned undersea tunnel would contain a high-speed railway, highway and pipelines, as well as power and fiber-optic cables.

       How does a waterspout form?  First a circular white spot surrounded by an irregular dark area forms on the water's surface.  Next a pattern of light and dark bands spiral outwards.  Then a dense, swirling ring of spray, called a cascade, appears around the dark spot and rises toward the clouds.  When it connects to the clouds, the waterspout begins to move with them.  When the waterspout is mature, it can be several hundred feet high.  It often creates a visible wake and a wave train as it moves.  The waterspout is a long-lasting discharge current between the water's surface and the clouds above...  Morgan Robertson's 1898 novella Futility had many parallels with the RMS Titanic disaster; the book concerned a fictional state-of-the-art ocean liner called Titan, which (like the Titanic) eventually collides with an iceberg on a calm April night whilst en route to New York.  Many die because of the lack of lifeboats.  Various other details in the book coincide with the actual disaster.  Later, she wrote a book, Beyond the Spectrum, that described a future war fought with aircraft that carried "sun bombs".  Incredibly powerful, one bomb could destroy a city, erupting in a flash of light that blinds all who look at it.  The war begins in December, started by the Japanese with a sneak attack on Hawaii.

       Fancy a 3-foot copper frog sculpture (with verdigris patina) for your garden?  You select the pose and whether he is reading, playing an instrument, or just looks ready to talk.  Human-sized frogs are also available...  I would like to say something about insurance.  My husband has an excellent family policy through his employer that even covers dental and eyeglasses.  The cost (his part and what his employer pays as well) is something like $200/month.  There are four of us - but recently my older son became too old to remain covered.  The same insurance company offered him a comparable policy for US$1,200 per month.  Their cheapest, most basic high-deductible coverage was $800 per month - this despite the fact that he is 25, in excellent health, does not drink or smoke, doesn't even drive a vehicle and has made no claims for the past 6 years except for required immunizations for university.  I can now begin to understand the problem people have paying for decent insurance if they don't have a great group plan through their employer.  Something is so very not right about this.  Then this morning I got a call from a telemarketer offering me medical and dental coverage for the whole family for a mere $100 per month.  At least I now know enough not to believe her...  When the temperature outside gets above 60°F, gasoline at the pump expands, and you get less of it.  Gasoline expands roughly 3 times faster than water.  An investigation by the Kansas City Star newspaper found that American drivers may overpay $2.3 billion a year, with drivers in warm states like California hit the hardest.  If you want to avoid "losing" fuel in your tank, fill up overnight or early in the morning before it gets hot.  Or fill up if it's below 60° — you may actually get a little extra fuel for your money.

       Blood puddle pillows are made of red velvet - quite comfortable for a brief rest in front of your computer during an overnighter - just make sure you warn your roommate...  Studies say that up to 40,000 surgery patients a year are left awake but paralyzed during surgery...  Roughly 1.5 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year.  About 50,000 die and another 80,000 are permanently disabled.  About 30% of patients with brain injuries are hypothermic upon arrival at the hospital, often because of cold weather, intoxication, small body type, or cold intravenous fluids that have been administered by paramedics at the accident site.  Results of the first National Acute Brain Injury Study, Hypothermia I, found that in patients aged 16 - 45, maintaining hypothermia after a severe head injury led to improved outcome.  48% of patients who were kept cold for a period of time had a good outcome and were able to live independently.  By contrast, only 24% of the hypothermic patients who were re-warmed had a significant recovery...  Energy Generation And Storage system (EGAS) is a power generator capable of being used in an unventilated home or apartment.  It produces no emissions because it uses not combustible fuel but leg muscle power to charge a spring system that slowly unwinds and spins a high efficiency generator delivering 400W - 1000W of power; 5 minutes of effort produces 30 minutes of useable power.  EGAS is useful in emergency situations.  It allows for continuous output while being recharged - useful on boats and for lights, laptops, cell phones and more.  About the size of a small suitcase, it weighs about 40 pounds.

       Ten handbags a real man wouldn't mind briefly carrying for a woman (of course, the #1 choice is one that looks like a football but my favorite reminds me of Alfredo Garcia)...  "At the abstract level, technology, particularly of the Western variety, deprives us of the possibility to make ethical decisions about how we conduct our lives, because the victims are so remote that they become transparent.  It starts with buying meat in the supermarket and proceeds to advanced war technologies.  In both those cases, you don't see the victim.  There is something inbuilt in the conception of Western consumerism and progress to make it possible for us not to know the price the Other pays for our way of life." - Oron Catts, artist in residence at the School of Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia in Perth...  Nora, the piano-playing cat and sequel...  In the first two years of an intimate relationship lust is the overwhelming emotion.  This morphs into the equally important and enjoyable stage of acceptance — now sometimes called nesting — in which sex and parties are of secondary importance; shared interests and setting and attaining goals cements the relationship together.  After 7 - 9 years, the nature of the relationship changes again and becomes based on a close friendship.  Changes in functional MRI brain scans can now document each of these stages...  Assistant District Attorney Bill Hawkins, chief of the juvenile division that prosecutes offenders age 10 to 16 in Harris County, Texas (where Houston is located) publicly stated in a 13 April 2007 Houston Chronicle article entitled "Violence against Guardians an 'Alarming Trend'" (written by Paige Hewitt) that "Parenting is an ugly job..."  Oh?  One only hopes Hawkins does not himself have children.

       This obelisk seems to be a great idea - it cleverly unfolds to reveal a waterproof table and 4 chairs.  The real problem is the price tag - just under US$10,000...  During the past 30 years, the number of male births has decreased each year in the US and Japan, but researchers are not exactly sure why.  A study in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives reports an overall decline of 17 males per 10,000 births in the US and a decline of 37 males per 10,000 births in Japan since 1970.  There are many possible causes...  Girl on phone: "Mommy, my nose is pierced, I'm marrying a girl, I'm in love with a gay boy, and I'm pregnant.  One of these is false.  Goodbye"...  The 3rd man in history to ever walk on water...  Shredding books can be art?  Please.  It's actually "changing common objects into sculptures in a state of flux"...  The world's most livable cities - Auckland is tied for 5th and Wellington is 12th but I think that's wrong.  They should be 2nd and 1st respectively...  A clever example of rather inventive marketing...  Take a good look at Saturn's moon Iapetus and it has a few striking features that set it apart from every other object in the solar system.  For one thing, it seems to have two faces: one white, like freshly fallen snow, and the other dark like volcanic rock.  But even stranger, Iapetus has a seam - right at the equator, and going halfway around the planet, it's probably 20 km (12 miles) high - as if the moon were cut in half and then smashed back together.  Some good pictures and a few theories here...  Women who consume animal products, specifically dairy, are 5 times more likely to have twins than those who do not, a new study finds.  "The continuing increase in the twinning rate into the 1990's may be a consequence of the introduction of growth-hormone treatment of cows to enhance their milk and beef production," said study leader Gary Steinman of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center...  Real estate photos worth more than 1,000 words: the first photo in the series is decent shot of a room or dwelling - but the second "reframing" photo of each group is so much better, it leaves the viewer thinking, "Now why didn't I think of that?"

The importance of information is directly proportional to its improbability.

- Jerry Pournelle

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