All News Is Gossip


News and Site Updates Archive 2007/07/31 - 2007/08/18

Politeness, n: The most acceptable hypocrisy.

- Ambrose Bierce

18 Aug '07 - United States architect, Eugene Tsui, has designed the longest bridge in the world spanning the Strait of Gibraltar and connecting the continents of Europe and Africa.  This revolutionary design does not resemble any existing bridge and features an original floating and submerging concept while creating a 3-mile wide floating island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  From this newly created island a person could view both the European and African continents.  When construction begins it would be the biggest architectural project in the world — and the most ecological — dwarfing Three Gorges Dam in China and Ground Zero in New York City - and would instantly become the greatest tourist destination on Earth.  Spanning about 9 miles the 14.5 kilometre floating bridge contains 150 windmills and 80 underwater tidal turbines generating 12 billion kilowatt hours of electricity...  Say you buy a set of plane tickets to vacation somewhere with your sweetie.  But just before your trip, the relationship turns sour.  Your airline may sympathise, but it won’t let you transfer the ticket to another friend — even if you paid for it.  The reason?  They disingenuously claim that they prohibit name changes because they’re worried about security and potential fraud.  But what they won’t tell you is they’re also worried about their earnings.  Making airline tickets transferable could cost the domestic airline industry more than $1 billion in monthly revenues...  The 10 most caffeinated diet drinks (via Neatorama)...  10 tips that will make sure you go broke.

       A bigger bug than I would really like to be holding in my hand...  Virtually any economist will tell you that globalisation is good, but that it creates winners and losers.  The benefits of global trade accrue from what economists call “comparative advantage,” the theory that a country gains from specialising in production activities at which it is relatively better (even if it is not the absolute best at producing anything).  All countries that do this are better off than they would be without international trade.  But even though it's possible to prove mathematically that this is true for nations, it's not true for every group of people within nations.  These are globalisation’s losers: firms driven out of business; workers whose wages go down or whose jobs are displaced by foreign competition; mortgage holders who are foreclosed upon by foreigners; corporations that bought by foreigners and, like Chrysler, discarded.  When a country runs a large current-account deficit, as the US does now, foreign manufacturers and holders of dollar debt come into focus as their factories supply American stores and their financiers buy more iconic American assets.  (Play then pay.)...  In the 1930s, shortly after the first commercially available camera was introduced, Stalin had his enemies "air-brushed" out of photographs.  With the advent of high-resolution digital cameras, powerful personal computers and sophisticated photo-editing software, the manipulation of digital images is becoming more common.

       The Stelvio Pass, located in Italy, rises to 2,757 metres - the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps.  The original road was built between 1820 and 1825 (impressive!) by the Austrian Empire to connect the former Austrian province of Lombardia with the rest of Austria.  Since then, the route has changed very little - its 60 hairpin bends (48 of which, on the northern side, are numbered with stones) are a challenge to motorists to say the least (via Neatorama)...  23 of the most dangerous roads in the world (and the Stelvio Pass Road isn't among them)...  Remember: the World Health Organization and the World Bank estimated in a 2004 joint report that 1.2 million people are killed each year in traffic crashes, and 20 million to 50 million are injured or disabled...  In Intimate Terrorism, Michael Vincent Miller theorises that marriage, like childhood, has developmental stages, the most dangerous of which, following the heady romantic period, can be summed up as: "This person, or this union, isn’t at all what I imagined."  Because modern marriage is under so much pressure to provide so many levels of fulfillment and because love and sex are so thoroughly bound up with one’s sense of identity as a man, as a woman, people become consumed with feelings of failure so unbearable that spouses lash out at their partners rather than apprehend their own panic or contribution to the decline.  Culture doesn’t teach us to fail gracefully or fruitfully but to attempt to recapture original glory.  Husbands and wives who can move beyond terrorizing each other are those who can first acutely experience their profound disappointment in their inevitably changed circumstances: disappointment is not such a long stretch from empathy.

       Klaus Leidorf takes photographs from his Cessna 172. He has an eye for colour and pattern and finds beauty in their interplay. Page down through a few of the listings in the "Previous Posts" column for some breathtaking shots...  A photographer who has mastered the art of lighting...  52 photographs that helped to change the world...  Salary, Gender and the Social Cost of Haggling: Just how much will negotiating for that extra $1,000 cost a woman?  "Although it may well be true that women often hurt themselves by not trying to negotiate, [a Carnegie Mellon] study found that women's reluctance was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did.  Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalise women who asked for more - the perception was that women who asked for more were 'less nice'." (via MetaFilter 13 August)...  Overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.  From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign — over 95% of all incidents — has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw. - Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism.

       Dragonfly - a uniquely shaped bag detailed in multi-colored hand glued Austrian crystals features push down snap closure and detachable chain strap.  Comes beautifully boxed with a keepsake bag; 6" wide x 3" high x 2" deep, only US$4,395.  The fish is $4,495, the poodle is $4,695 - but the shell is a mere $3,995 if you're looking for a bargain...  Two of the "41 Facts about Money...": One of the best ways to raise money for a charity is to have a free dinner for a lot of people and have an empty envelope tucked under their plate for the express purpose of making whatever size donation they want; 1/3 of Americans would need at least $3 million to feel rich (via Presurfer)...   Imagine a 20-car bullet train departing Chicago for New York.  The stopwatch starts when the centre of the train leaves the station, but the train leaves cars behind at each stop.  So when the train arrives in New York, now comprising only two cars, its centre has moved ahead, although the train itself hasn't exceeded its reported speed.  "If you're standing at the two stations, looking at your watch, it seems to you these people have broken the speed limit," Aephraim Steinberg, a quantum optics expert at the University of Toronto says.  "They got there faster than they should have, but it just happens that the only ones you see arrive are in the front car.  So they had that head start, but they were never travelling faster than their expected speed" (explaining why researchers seem able to send photons speeding faster than light).

       Moscow street lamps based on signs of the zodiac - some of which are quite well done...  Richard Paey is serving a 25 year mandatory minimum sentence under Florida's draconian drug laws.  He was convicted of drug trafficking in March 2004 for possessing more than 100 pills, which he said he needed to treat his chronic pain.  All sides conceded he never sold a single drug - even the court of appeals agreed that his sentence was unjust.  Paey's feet are twisted, his hands tremble and his body is failing.  An old car accident ruined his spine; he also has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair.  His pain is unbearable and he now relies on a morphine pump provided by the state to dull it.  The sad irony is that while he is allowed to self-medicate in prison, it was his self-medicating at home that got him imprisoned in the first place.  Florida Governor Charlie Crist is considering clemency so that, after 2 years incarcerated, Richard can return home to his wife and children...  According to a 2005 report of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the US — with 5% of the world’s population — houses 25% of the world’s inmates.  Their incarceration rate (714 per 100,000 residents) is almost 40% greater than those of their nearest competitors (the Bahamas, Belarus, and Russia).  Other industrial democracies, even those with significant crime problems of their own, are much less punitive: the US's incarceration rate is 6.2 times that of Canada, 7.8 times that of France, and 12.3 times that of Japan.  Their corrections sector employs more Americans than the combined work forces of General Motors, Ford, and Wal-Mart, the 3 largest corporate employers in the country; they spend some $200 billion annually on law enforcement and corrections at all levels of government, a 4-fold increase (in constant dollars) over the past quarter century.  The growth is entirely attributable to a growth in punitiveness, perhaps representing a political response to the success of the civil-rights movement...  Studies into clinical depression have led to the development of an intriguing concept known as depressive realism.  This theory puts forward the notion that depressed individuals actually have more realistic perceptions of their own image, importance, and abilities than the average person.  While it’s still generally accepted that depressed people can be negatively biased in their interpretation of events and information, depressive realism suggests that they are often merely responding rationally to realities that the average person cheerfully denies...  Strange New Zealand: a collection of amusing pictures...  Endowment effect: when people demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it.

       A very interesting blog discussing which Eastern European company has the best headquarters.   I thought Radio RMF FM Krakow, Poland won hands down, though there are photos of some very unusual and lovely buildings included over the 5 pages...   Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds, being able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates.  The pigeon has passed the "mirror test" (he is able to recognise his reflection in a mirror) and is one of only 6 species (the only non-mammal) with this ability.  He can recognise all 26 letters of the English alphabet; he can conceptualise and can differentiate between photographs and between two different human beings in a photograph when rewarded with food for doing so...  24 hours of air traffic over Europe - at first it looks like ants, then more like bees.  So many!  And that's just Europe (84,846,639 people touched down at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in 2006 alone - and another 76,248,911 at Chicago's O'Hare, et cetera, et cetera).  I wonder that the environment isn't in even worse shape than it is (she says as she prepares to fly halfway around the world)...  Tired of drivers speeding by in front of his house, Mike Wood of Ohio created life-size cardboard cutouts of his children and put them up in his front yard.  Motorists have slowed down, and some have even yelled at Wood for letting his children play so close to the street.  His idea has already been posted on some law enforcement Web sites around the country.  He’s now selling the signs for $60 (via Neatorama).

       Hang your coats and hats on giant pencils in a pot - a colourful addition to a kid's bedroom or a playroom...  WikiScanner allows users to track the source of computers used to make changes to Wikipedia.  WikiScanner revealed that CIA computers were used to edit an entry on the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  A graphic on casualties was edited to add that many figures were estimated and were not broken down by class.  Another entry on former CIA chief William Colby was edited by CIA computers to expand his career history and discuss the merits of a Vietnam War rural pacification program that he headed.  Aerial and satellite images of the US prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were removed using a computer traced to the FBI, WikiScanner showed.  CIA spokesman George Little said he could not confirm whether CIA computers were used in the changes, adding that "the agency always expects its computer systems to be used responsibly."  The FBI did not have an immediate response...  As pillows absorb germs from skin and the air, they become a breeding ground for mould, bacteria and dust mites.  The older your pillows are, the more likely they're contaminated.  Replacing pillows every 2 years is one solution - or you can use pillow protectors...  The left side of President Abraham Lincoln’s face was much smaller than the right, an aberration called cranial facial microsomia.  The defect joins a long list of ailments — including smallpox, heart illness and depression — that modern doctors have diagnosed in Lincoln...  10 Reasons why Teddy Roosevelt was a cool US president (via Neatorama).

       Sky circles of unknown origin were spotted on above Murmansk.  The circles reportedly appeared suddenly, without any sound of flying jets..  Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance.  The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes - or so says Chris Goodall, British author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life...  Broccoli, pumpkin, blueberries, fish, spinach, tomatoes - superfoods that can prevent disease...  Escalation by the Numbers: few numbers out of Iraq can be trusted.  Counting accurately amid widespread disruption, mayhem, and bloodshed, under a failing occupation, in a land essentially lacking a central government, in a US media landscape dizzy from endless spin is probably next to impossible.  But even approximate figures offer an all-too-vivid picture of what the American president's much-desired invasion has let loose...  50 religious insights by George Bush (his top 50 quotes about religion, the Almighty, and putting words into God's mouth)...  Or maybe you would prefer Bush's thoughts on the zombie threat?  (A great job of editing!)...  Deep inside Siberia there is a lake, one of thousands.  In the middle of this lake is a small island; on this island is an ancient fortress more than 1,500 years old...  One snake turns to his buddy and says, "Are we poisonous?" His buddy says, "Why?" And the snake says, "I just bit my tongue."  Remember this while you travel: In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation.

31 Jul '07 - We are returning to New Zealand to live (finally!) the 3rd week in August.  I checked Orbitz to see the price of tickets.  I began with one-way flights because I don't expect to return to the US for years.  The cheapest fare that came up was Air New Zealand, whose tickets were US$1,061 + $128 in fees.  By contrast, Quantas had a flight for $1,185 + $150 in fees and Continental was said to have $1,985 fare but + only $36 in fees.  (Can this be correct?)  I wondered how this compared to the cost of a round-trip - what a surprise!  The price of the Quantas ticket went up by a mere US$85 though the fees increased by $230, bringing the total to $1,585, or a 19% increase.  Continental was not listed for the round trip, but American was listed for both.  American went from US$1,132 + $129 in fees for a one way to $1,620 + $273 in fees for the round trip - a 50% increase.  The big surprise, though, went to Air New Zealand, which jumped to $4,135 + $273 in fees - an increase of 271%!  What could possibly be the rationale here?

A very nice person named Amelia directed me to the Institute for Figuring, where I learned of their various projects which take the art of crochet to hyperbolic levels.  Their most ambitious is crocheting a coral reef, "a homage to the disappearing wonder of the Great Barrier Reef and corals everywhere.  So too, the IFF is bringing into being a crocheted invocation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the vast gyre of plastic trash that is accumulating in the north Pacific Ocean... the Rubbish Vortex is being composed from used plastic shopping bags cut into strips and knotted together...  The Vortex will be exhibited along with the full Crochet Reef in Los Angeles in 2008."  Also, check out the beaded work as well...  Just 53% of students enrolled in standard undergraduate programs get their bachelor's degree within 5 years.  Changing majors, transferring schools and good old slacking off can all result in extended enrollment.  One of the obvious downsides is the added financial burden of an extra year or two in school.  But there are hidden costs too.  "You lose a lot of money in loan interest and forgone wages by taking that 5th or 6th year to finish," says Jacqueline King, director of the American Council on Education Center for Policy Analysis.  The average college senior now has 6 credit cards with a $3,200 total balance.

       The Lincoln Mark VIII rolling door concept car from 1993 - the doors roll under the car to open.  Sadly, it is one of a kind - because that means repairs will be hard to come by.  It is interesting to note that the driver's door does not work and no one seems able to fix it...  In the United States, half of all adults have gum disease or tooth decay and 3 out of 10 people over 65 have lost all their teeth...  If you only watch one YouTube movie today featuring dancing country farmer's daughters who are contortionists who sing about potato salad - it should be this one. It starts a little slow, true, but just keep watching and - well, you'll see...  According to a 2006 Harvard study, 10 million adult men in the US are so angry, they're sick.  In fact, their disease has a name: intermittent explosive disorder, or IED.  This condition has been known since 1980, but the Harvard study claims it's far more common than anyone believed.  Few people see psychiatrists because they can't control their tempers.  And those who do, say the researchers, are often misdiagnosed with other mental problems.  Almost 1 in 10 adult men routinely display wildly disproportionate aggression when they are so angry that they are likely to damage property, or threaten or injure others.  Researchers estimate that half that many women also suffer from IED.  What I don't understand is what separates a "disorder" from just a plain undesirable characteristic.  I see this as part of the creeping medicalisation of humanity.

        The airline industry will soon account for 15% of man-made CO2 emissions.  At certain altitudes, aircraft produce contrails - condensation trails caused when the plane's hot exhaust hits chilly atmosphere.  These contrails have a complex effect on the climate.  During summer daytime, these clouds have a cooling effect because they are white and reflect some of the sun's energy back into space.  Sometimes they last for several hours.  Unfortunately, at night they trap heat - creating a detrimental greenhouse effect.  Fewer than 1/4 of flights are at night but they account for 60 - 80% of contrail greenhouse effect.  Flights in the dead of winter also contribute.  Planes could diminish this by changing their altitude.  The regions of "ice-supersaturated" air where contrails form is only about 500 metres thick.  Sensors on aircraft could inform pilots where this layer lies enabling them to shift altitude during times when a contrail is detrimental...  Pop in a new CD and you might notice that the quality of the music itself — maybe something as simple as a snare drum hit — just doesn't sound as crisp and as clear as it used to.  Why does music not sound as good as it once did?  (via Spluch originally from Yahoo)...  Having one child makes you a parent; having two makes you a referee...  The 10 most commonly used passwords are: password, 123456, qwerty, abc123, letmein, monkey, myspace1, password1, blink182, (your first name).  If you use one of these passwords, turn off your computer right now and go take a nap.

        What do you suppose Prince Charles was thinking when he let himself be photographed in such a pose?  Being Prince Charles can be difficult because everything you do can be misinterpreted......  96% of those aged 55 and older were able to answer a question taken from an 8-year-old's maths paper while only 88% of those 18 to 25 could.  The question is: What is one eighth of 32?  Is it a) 6 b) 4 c) 2 d) 8 e) None of these f) Don't know?  If you answered f, I suggest you should unplug your tv and go buy a few books...  At least 2/3 of adults polled say they don't believe parents should stay together when they don't get along, even when there are children in the family.  Yet children polled see a "happy home life" as one in which all spend time together as a family.  Several children spoke of parents being too busy to spend time with them.  One summed up his feeling, saying: "You feel lonely with nobody to talk to and all you can do is play on the computer or watch TV."  Overwhelmingly all respondents identify "love" as the most important component - 67% of adults and 70% of children.  Unfortunately, children only need to love their parents; adults need to love their kids - but also want to be able to love each other and don't always continue to think that they can...  Computers and hard drives aren't as fragile as they were a few years ago, but you're asking for trouble if you move your PC around while it is running.  While your computer is running, its hard disk is very vulnerable.  A tiny magnet literally floats less than a hair's breadth above a platter where data is stored.  A minor bump can send the magnet skittering into the disk's surface...  These are the monitors I'd like on my desk...  Flash depiction of the rise of obesity in the US over the past 20 years by state (yes, they tend to clump).

       Hand soap...  What would you do if you came home, like this guy did, and found a spider THAT BIG on your wall?...  Forgiveness is giving up my right to hate you for hurting me...  The origin of everyday punctuation marks...  Pencils that have a seed embedded in the top - when the pencil gets too small you plant it (via Neatorama)...  World map showing the paths of total solar eclipses from 2001 - 2025...  Google - only with a black screen.  Why?  Not only is it easier on the eyes, but 122,092.189 watt hours of energy (and counting!) have been saved thus far by the people who have used it because it takes a lot to illuminate white screens.  See their vision statement...  The practice of embalming became widespread in the US during the Civil War, when soldiers' bodies were preserved so they could be shipped home for services...  The budget report issued by the White House for fiscal 2008 shows the Bush Executive offices need 32 times more money than any previous administration has.  I wonder why...  Because we're now moving back to Wellington and shipping our household goods by boat, photos like this give me pause...  Officials confirm that all online data has been lost after the Internet crashed and was forced to restart...  Strange Maps (an interesting website)...  A parasite common in Asian bees has spread to Europe and the Americas and is behind the mass disappearance of honeybees in many countries, says a Spanish scientist who has been studying the phenomenon for years...  Metabolism boosters: here are 13 ways to increase your metabolism without resorting to pills (via Spulch)...  Giant squid have volleyball-sized eyes, the largest in the animal kingdom...  My new favourite YouTube clip about George W Bush, who, as he will tell you himself, is not an expert...  If you're into chemistry, the Rota Periodic Table approaches poetry.  It is based on showing valences, not orbitals; elements having more than one valence are shown using markers to indicate other valences...  Mankiw's 10 Principles of Economics - may not sound like it would be a funny sketch, but it IS...  "Democracy is not such a good idea. Why would anyone want to be governed by a majority of stupid people?" - Marvin Minsky

       Harry Patch, aged 109, is the last British man alive to have served in the trenches during the First World War.  (I hope I look half that good when I'm 109)...  The Stokke Zero Gravity chair is my ideal - but not only does it cost about US$2,400 but it requires a lot of space to properly utilise its function.  That does NOT, however, stop me from wanting one...  Although ethics teaches that virtue is its own reward, economists are taught that reward is its own virtue...  If you ever need a wheelchair - how would you like to be able to travel over uneven terrain such as grass, gravel and sand, to go up or down steps and stairs, to climb curbs up to 5 inches high, easily raise yourself up to reach high shelves and countertops and to safely travel at eye level for a conversation while on the move?  Until the end of this year, you can save US$5k on an iBOT wheelchair.  Yes, the US$24k balance is still high, but to regain a lot of function is priceless.  Brought to you by Dean Kamen, the Segway guy...  As air moves up over a mountain range, it gets cold and loses the ability to hold moisture - so it rains or snows on the mountain.  When the air moves down the other side of the mountain, it gets warmer.  Warm air can hold lots of moisture, so it doesn't "let go" of the water vapour in the form of precipitation (rain, fog, snow.  The other side of the mountain which receives no rain is said to be in the "rainshadow" of the mountain because of this atmospheric effect.  The Amazon basin and river are the largest in the world.  The mountains that cause the Amazon to become largest via collection of rainfall are also responsible for preventing Chile's Atacama Desert to the west from ever receiving any rainfall.  Thus the driest and one of the wettest places in the world are right next to each other...  Residents of Sydney were urged to pack "Go-Bags" containing maps, radios and running shoes in case of natural disaster or terrorist attack.  They were advised they could carry the cat in a "cotton pillow case".  Scoffers suggested the Go-Bags could also carry "sunglasses, inflatable water-wings, a Sydney good food guide and a one-way ticket to Barcelona."  Officially, also recommended were important documents, toilet paper, phone numbers, spare glasses and a first-aid kit.

       My favourite polar bear picture (other great pictures here)...  The Open University Geological Society's Moyra Eldridge Photograpic Competition winners - entries are judged in 4 categories: geological joke, geologically inspired landscape, geological feature, "popular vote".  My favourite is from 2002, the hanging basalt columns in Svatifoss, near Skaftafell, southern Iceland.  If you like basalt columns as much as I do, other nice photos are Iceland, Lava Canyon, Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington, Cape Verde, I suspect also Iceland, because I think that photo is just a different view of this (near the bottom - check out the lovely countryside photos on your way down) and finally basalt columns in Boyabat Province, Sinop, Turkey (Black Sea Region)...  Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest. - Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)...  Items that will be difficult to get in an emergency include: generators (good ones cost dearly and gas storage is risky; they are noisy, a target of thieves and must be maintained), water filters and/or purifiers, portable toilets, seasoned firewood (wood takes 6 - 12 months to become dried enough for home use), lamp oil/wicks/lamps (first choice is CLEAR oil but If scarce, stockpile ANY!), Coleman fuel (Impossible to have too much), self defense items (guns, ammunition, pepper spray, knives, clubs, bats and slingshots), hand-can openers and egg beaters or whisks, honey/syrup/sugar, and dried foods (rice, beans, wheat - this assumes a way to cook them)...  Ever wanted to touch a rainbow?

       Giraffe stiletto — take a walk on the wild side...  At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has quite a reputation.  All the institute’s dolphins are trained to hold onto any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish.  Kelly took this task one step further - when people drop paper into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool.  The next time a trainer passes, she tears off a piece of paper to give to the trainer.  After a fish-reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on.  This behaviour is particularly interesting because it suggests that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification.  She has, in effect, trained her humans...  Blacks in the US convicted of killing whites are not only more likely than other killers to receive a death sentence – they are also more likely to actually be executed.  But African Americans on death row for killing nonwhites are less likely to be executed than other condemned prisoners...  According to the National Cancer Institute, sunlight-induced skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States with more than 1 million new cases each year.  A research team at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, showed that a combination of exercise and some caffeine protected against the destructive effects of the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation, known to induce skin cancer.  The caffeine and exercise seemingly conspire in killing off precancerous cells whose DNA has been damaged...  All babies in a Rhode Island study group who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) universally shared the same distinctive difference in their newborn hearing test results for the right inner ear, when compared to infants who did not have SIDS.  The inner ear contains tiny hairs involved in both hearing and vestibular function.  Vestibular hair cells are important in transmitting information to the brain regarding carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

9 Jul '07 - The existence of the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy was unknown until this galaxy nearest the Milky Way was discovered by British astronomers in 1994.  The fact that the Milky Way is seen in the sky at an angle has always puzzled astronomers.  We ought to be oriented to the galaxy's ecliptic, with the planets aligned around our sun in the same angle as our sun aligns with the Milky Way.  Instead, the odd angle suggests an influence by some other system.  We now know what it is - we actually belong to the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy.  The outer parts of the Milky Way were stolen from Sagittarius as the gravitational force of the Milky Way nibble away at it.  This may be the real reason for global warming since the higher Milky Way energy levels are almost certain to cause our sun to burn hotter and emit higher energies.  Indeed, temperatures have been seen to rise on virtually all planets in our system, quite apart from local greenhouse gases.  We have now reached the higher energy region of the massive spiral arm - we have been adopted by a new, stronger and more powerful system and can expect changes on almost every level of energy (illustration David Law, U of Virginia)...  A group of researchers say that many doctors waste patients’ time and lose their focus in office visits by interjecting irrelevant information about themselves.  Their paper, published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, involved 100 primary-care doctors in the Rochester, New York area.  They discovered that doctors talked about themselves 1/3 of the time and there was no evidence that any of the doctors’ disclosures about themselves helped patients or established rapport...  In the US, the Senate has the sole power to try impeachments.  The Vice President is President of the Senate - he presides.  The Constitution provides for only one exception in cases of impeachment: "When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside."  That's because of an obvious conflict-of-interest having the VP preside when the President is tried.  But there's no similar provision for having someone else preside if the VP happens to be impeached.  Presumably that's because no one could imagine a VP doing anything significant enough to warrant impeachment - an accurate reflection of the office's character for the first 200 years or so of our nation's history.  So if Cheney were to be impeached, he would preside at his own trial.

       New research shows that poison ivy appears to be growing faster and producing more potent oil compared with earlier decades.  The reason?  Rising ambient CO2 levels create ideal conditions for it, producing bigger leaves, faster growth, oil that's even more irritating (it triggers an itchy rash in about 70% of people exposed to it) and making the plant more resistant to attack...  It costs so much more to process supermarket plastic bags than can be earned from selling them that they're simply trucked off to the dump.  And while a few flimsy bags don’t seem like much, they add up: Americans consume an estimated 100 billion every year.  Close to ¾ of cardboard boxes and nearly ½ of aluminum cans find new uses, but only about ¼ of plastic bottles - and just 5% of plastic bags - get recycled.  A plastic bag which costs a supermarket just 1¢ to buy costs the public 17¢ to deal with as litter.  So San Francisco has moved to ban them from big chain stores, replacing them with biodegradable bags made from corn starch...  Many women use more than 20 different beauty products on a daily basis striving to look their best.  9 out of 10 of these use make-up past its use-by date.  Dependence on cosmetics and toiletries means that a cocktail of 4 pounds 6 ounces (just over 2 kilograms) of chemicals a year is absorbed into her body through her skin...  This guy can drink cola through his nose...  Life in an American Gulag: in 2001, 19-year-old Murat Kurnaz was an innocent man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Accused of being a terrorist, he spent 5 years in Guantanamo before being released - now he's written a book about his experiences.

       Don't wonder where you'll sit on the way or when you get there.  Wear your seat!  (via Presurfer)...  Most respondents surveyed by Carphone Warehouse aged 16 - 24 would rather give up alcohol, chocolate, sex, tea, or coffee than live without their mobile phone for a month.  In contrast, more than 40% of the those >45 would give up the phone simply to be able to have their favourite hot drink.  The online survey polled 1,256 adults aged 16 - 64...  A 20%-efficient, 1-square-meter solar panel costs about US$1,000.  For $1,000, you can buy 40 cans of good quality white paint.  Each can covers 2,000 square metres with a nice bright reflecting film.  So for the same $1,000 investment you could buy one square metre of photovoltaic cells, or cover 2,000 square metres with white paint.  It would take more than 2,000 times 25 days, or about a century, for the CO2 mitigation from $1,000 of solar panels to catch up with the albedo increase of a large painted roof!...  William Sargent, a psychologist who has done intensive studies on the process of brainwashing, discovered in his research that if the subjects laugh at any point in the process, the "whole process is wrecked and must be begun all over again."  As Sargent’s brainwashing experiments reveal, a strong connection exists between laughter and freedom of thought; for laughter can disempower any given situation that causes stress in our lives...  Rather than viewing the Information Age as a force against the puerile, Dr Barry Jones, Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne, and highly respected intellectual, believes it is dominated by: "a decline of sustained critical debate on issues leading to gross over-simplification, the relentless 'dumbing down' of mass media, linked with the cult of celebrity, substance abuse and retreat into the realm of the personal, and the rise of fundamentalism and an assault on reason."  Potential benefits of information technologies include "data access, speed, precision, networking, boredom concealer and giving students control of the learning process."  However, "dependence on technological artifacts may leave some negative consequences such as fortification of alienation, limited imagination, and a discouragement of reading."  Whew.

       From The World Without Us by Alan Weisman: If a virulent virus depopulated earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished?  Days after our disappearance, pumps keeping Manhattan's subways dry would fail, tunnels would flood, soil under streets would sluice away and the foundations of towering skyscrapers built to last for centuries would start to crumble.  At the other end of the chronological spectrum, anything made of bronze might survive in recognisable form for millions of years - along with one billion pounds of degraded but almost indestructible plastics manufactured since the mid-20th century.  Meanwhile, land freed from mankind's environmentally poisonous footprint would quickly reconstitute itself, as in Chernobyl, where animal life has returned after 1986's deadly radiation leak, and in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a refuge since 1953 for the almost-extinct goral mountain goat and Amur leopard...  Researchers measured the success of individual deer based on their lifespan and the number and survival rate of their offspring.  The most successful male deer tended to father daughters that weren't so successful (they produced fewer calves than average).  Meanwhile, male deer that carried genes corresponding to greater female success didn't father as many calves.  This mismatch could help explain why some poor traits don't die out.  Males and females need to fulfill different requirements in order to be successful and this twist is likely to occur in any species where there are physical differences between the male and female - perhaps including humans...  The Rubinoos are suing Avril Lavigne.  Whaddaya think - did she rip them off or not?...  If you've always wanted to see how an egg develops into a chicken, here's your chance...  The 5 stages of drunkenness (only funny if it's someone else)...  Decoding a barcode...  How to chill a hot 6-pack of sodas or beer in 3 minutes...  Excellent commercial.  Requires Flash.  Watch it all the way to the end...  An incredibly beautiful peacock...  What do USA, Liberia, and Myanmar have in common?  They’re the only 3 countries in the world that don't use the metric system.

       Her father is a zebra, her mother a horse.  This zorse, resident of a German safari park zoo, was the accidental product of a holiday romance (I'd call her a horzee myself)...  A Sherman(esque) statement or Sherman speech is American political jargon for a clear and direct statement, by a potential candidate, indicating that he or she will not run for a particular elected position.  The term derives from the Sherman pledge, a remark made by American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman when he was being considered as a possible Republican candidate for the presidential election of 1884.  He declined, saying "If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve..."  There's no place like home - especially if you're a certain former first lady yearning to return there.  Or you might be more interested in her opinion of Barack Obama, or in telephone surveillance.  All cartoons are flash files, the first two about 5 meg, the last about half that size, all by the inimitable political cartoonist, Walt Handelsman...  Do you think ballots should be changed to include "None of the above [NOTA]" as a choice?  And if NOTA is elected, then a new slate of candidates must be fielded and the election held again?...  During the past 24 hours 214,000 acres of tropical forest disappeared forever; 2 billion gallons of human sewage were dumped into the world's oceans; 10,800 children died from drought or the lack of clean drinking water and 85 million barrels of oil were used...  After Albert Einstein died of a ruptured aorta on 18 April 1955 his ophthalmologist, Henry Abrams, removed his eyes.  Today they float in a small glass jar in a New Jersey safe deposit box...  A big ad.  No, I mean it - a REALLY big ad.  See for yourself...  Do you have what it takes to become a US citizen?  (Desire, for one.)  Take the test...  Cadaver calculator - find out how much your dead body is worth...  In Sweden, one of her colleagues picked her up at the hotel every morning.  It was September, bit cold and snowy.  They would arrive early at the company and the driver would park far away from the entrance (2,000 employees drive their cars to work).  The first day she didn't say anything; neither did she on the 2nd or the 3rd.  But one morning she asked, "Do you have a fixed parking space?  I've noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot." To which he replied, "Since we're here early we'll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will need a place closer to the door."

       As people convert natural landscapes to human-tailored ones they change the cycling of water and carbon dramatically.  Across the US, water supplies are under increasing pressure as populations grow.  Forests and soils that were once a sink for atmospheric carbon can become sources as the natural landscapes are disturbed.  Among the human-tailored landscapes that influence carbon and water cycles are lawns.  This colour-coded map shows satellite-derived estimates of the lawn area across the US - more than 3x that of irrigated corn...  Landscapes are the single largest consumer of non-agricultural water, and are typically over-watered by 30 to 300%.  In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park.  It's so good the EPA doesn't require San Francisco to filter it.  If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35.  Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000...  In California, one megawatt of power can supply about 700 homes...  Ever wondered how your surname has influenced your life?  Or wished that you could tell if someone is lying?  Or wanted to understand more about the science of seduction?  Professor Richard Wiseman has spent 20 years exploring the backwaters of the human mind and going to places where mainstream scientists fear to tread.  The result is Quirkology...  Nude clothing (not sheer and it does cover everything - more so than body paint, anyway) - slightly risque, I suppose.  Mostly just downright weird...  "Autism isn't something a person has, or a shell that a person is trapped inside.  There's no normal child hidden behind the autism.  Autism is a way of being.  It is pervasive; it colours every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion and encounter - every aspect of existence.  It is not possible to separate the autism from the person - and if it were possible, the person you'd have left would not be the same person you started with." - Jim Sinclair

       Inspired by the beauty of a falling Sycamore tree seed pod, the one-bladed Sycamore Ceiling Fan is said to be quieter and more efficient...  Doctors say deep vein thrombosis - in which blood collects in the legs, creating clots that can then travel to the heart, lungs and other organs - kills more than 200,000 people in the US alone each year.  Clots can form when the feet are flat on the floor for long periods of time.  Despite airline warnings and suggestions to keep the legs moving, passengers - particularly tall ones and those fighting cancer or taking oral contreceptives - are still getting blood clots.  "You can wiggle your legs up and down on your tiptoes, but people don't do that."  So, seats are being redesigned...  Impressive tree carving (I hope it doesn't seriously harm that really nice tree)...  "I do not consider it a very important question whether Christ was the son of god or not.  After all, what difference does it make?  If he never existed, we are under the same obligation to do what we believe is right; and believing that he was the son of god or disbelieving it, is of no earthly importance.  If we are ever judged at all it will be by our actions, and not by our beliefs.  If Christ was good enough to die for me, he certainly will not be bad enough to damn me for honestly failing to believe in his divinity." - Robert Green Ingersoll, (via Cynical-C where Ingersoll is a daily feature)...  The supposed "new" 7 wonders of the world have been selected via online vote.  Not MY favourites, for sure, they include the Great Wall, Brazil's giant statue of Christ, the colosseum, Mayan ruins, Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, Petra...  75 breeds of dog have been banned or restricted in various parts of the US, including some of your favourite breeds.

       Over time, the typical 10-acre cemetery contains enough coffin wood to construct more than 40 houses, 900+ tons of casket steel, and 20,000 tons of vault concrete.  To that add a volume of formallin sufficient to fill a small backyard swimming pool and untold gallons of pesticide and weed killer to keep the gravehyard unnaturally green (via Marginal Revolution)...  Alarmingly, 41% of Americans answered "Yes" to the question, "Do you think Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001?"  That total is actually up 5 points since September 2004 (via J-walk blog)...  In 1948, Lieutenant General William H Tunner was charged with organising and commanding the Berlin airlift after Stalin cut off overland access.  In order to accommodate the large number of flights, required maintenance schedules, and cargo loading times, a complex schedule and pattern was developed - 3 air corridors were created and aircraft were scheduled to takeoff every 3 minutes.  The airlift ultimately lasted 321 days; 278,228 flights were made and 2,326,406 tons of food and supplies, including more than 1.5 million tons of coal, were delivered to Berlin.  At the height of the operation, 16 April 1949, an allied aircraft landed in Berlin every minute, with 1,398 flights in 24 hours carrying 12,940 tons (13,160 T) of goods...  The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon whereby people who have little knowledge systematically think that they know more than others who have much more knowledge.  The phenomenon was demonstrated in a series of experiments performed by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, then both of Cornell University.  They noted previous studies which suggested that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."  They found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humour, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability while people with true knowledge tended to underestimate their competence.  Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill, fail to recognise genuine skill in others, and fail to recognise the extremity of their inadequacy.  If they are trained to substantially improve their own skill level, they individuals can recognise and acknowledge their previous lack (via Cynical-C).

Can you move a single matchstick to form a valid mathematical equation?
No sticks can be discarded, an isolated slanted stick cannot be interpreted as I (one),
and a V (five) symbol must always be composed of two slanted sticks.
The only valid symbols are Roman numerals and "+", "-" and "=".

How about this one?  Most who attempt it are able to get the first problem.
But whereas only 43% of healthy subjects can complete the second problem,
more than 80% of patients with lateral prefrontal damage are able to do so. 

Japanese company Orient Industry is a leader in the plastic partner (inflatable life-sized doll) field.  They now have 4 new "Candy Girl" models - at a price averaging ¥600,000 (US$4,900)...  Extreme tattoo (via Spluch)...  Genes (or their absence) do not hard-wire people for certain behaviours.  There is no gene for understanding calculus.  But genes do shape behaviour and personality by creating brain structures and functions that favour certain abilities and appetites more than others.  “Patterning genes” direct embryonic development, choreographing the developmental balance between the brain’s dorsal areas (along the back and the top of the brain) and ventral areas (at the front and bottom).  The dorsal areas play a strong role in vision and space and help us recognise other peoples’ intentions; ventral areas figure heavily in language, processing sounds, facial recognition, emotion, music enjoyment and social drive.  People with Williams syndrome appear to be lacking a few of these patterning genes causing their dorsal areas to be about 15% smaller than normal...  An Irish interview of Bush not shown in the US to save him embarrassment...  As of age 20, differences in initial conditions account for more of the variation in lifetime utility, lifetime earnings and lifetime wealth than do differences in bad luck received over the lifetime.  Among initial conditions, variation in initial human capital (skills and knowledge acquired, presumably, through good parenting with personal attention) is substantially more important than variation in learning ability or initial wealth for determining how a young adult fares in life.  More human capital means more of a chance for higher lifetime earnings, whereas mere high learning ability just means the money will start increasing sooner...  Rubber sidewalks are now being tested in 60 cities in 15 US states.  Inch-thick grey, pebbly rubber panels made from recycled tyres are linked together.  You can still draw on them with chalk...  A herd of 800 elephants on the move (via Grow-a-Brain)...  TSA inspectors hid the components of a fake bomb in carry-on luggage that also contained a bottle of water.  Passengers are prohibited from carrying containers holding more than 3 ounces of liquids, gels or aerosols through airport checkpoints.  The screeners at Albany International confiscated the water bottle but missed the bomb.  In all, the inspectors slipped 4 banned items through the main checkpoint during the test.

       Finding huge and unique things via Google Earth is a popular activity.  This giant pink bunny (Google Earth coordinates 44.244273,7.769737) in Prata Nevoso, Italy, was built by a group of artists from Vienna.  It's 200 feet long...  10 politically incorrect truths about human nature...  57% of all US adults own a pet or pets of one kind or another, with dog owners (39% of all adults) outnumbering cat owners (23%) and owners of all other pets trailing far behind.  More whites (64%) than blacks (30%) or Hispanics (39%) have a pet.  69% of adults with an annual family income of $100,000 or more have a pet, compared with 45% of adults with an income below $30,000...  "Based on the share of ARMs in some state of negative equity at the end of last year and the decline in home prices so far in 2007, a stunning $693 billion in mortgage loans are already in the red.  Assuming lenders are able to recover 70% of those assets - which seems optimistic given the massive amount of housing inventory yet to be unwound - that means US mortgage lenders are already grappling with $210 billion in outright losses." (via The Agonist)

Begin somewhere; you cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do.

- Liz Smith

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