Cross-Dressed Propaganda


News and Site Updates Archive 2008/07/23

In the information society, nobody thinks.

- Michael Crichton

23 Jul '08 - Alternatives to oil over the next 20 years are likely inadequate because oil cannot yet be completely replaced.  In the main, oil exporting states are unstable politically, socially, economically and demographically.  The Middle East is almost constantly in turmoil - Saudi Arabia being most vulnerable.  Conflicts worsen through interference of major importing states increasingly anxious to ensure a secure their oil supply.  Responses to an impending shortage vary - China and (to a degree) India seek to buy oil but also invest in militaries and work diplomatically as backup.  Europe and Japan have a similar strategies (especially regarding Russia) but neither has openly upgraded its military - yet - instead relying on the US for "muscle".  The Bush Administration, conversant with Peak Oil, may have sought to guarantee access via Iraq, though the operation to secure it is not going as well as anticipated.  Over the next 20 years desperate importers may become involved in fighting, perhaps via "expeditionary force" militaries seizing certain oilfields.  Outright seizures may also happen.  The developed world will experience discord and strife as populations suffer sharp drops in living standards, then approve any means to restore them - including direct military action.  Religion, ethnicity or levels of consumption may justify actions against foreigners in an attempt to ensure adequate energy supplies at home.  Sustained shortages will lead to sharper divisions between social classes - slower economies will devolve to local or regional focus - though not all essential needs can be met domestically - especially food.  Who will feed Egypt?  Ethiopia?  Iraq?  Expect turmoil and unrest.  The world will be far harsher - poorer, more physical, less populous.  Learn to cope.

       Are steroids un-American, as Senator Joe Biden Jr has been heard to say?  Or are they as American as apple pie?  How do you reconcile the imperative drilled into children by parents, teachers and the news media that winning is everything with the increasingly quaint moral injunctions to play fair, exercise good sportsmanship and do the right thing?  If your childhood idols are preening supermen like Hulk Hogan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who preached clean living but revealed their own reliance on steroids, which path are you likely to follow?

       Stanley Milgrim's famous experiment showed how ordinary people, simply doing their jobs and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.  It is ingrained in many of us to obey authority and these participants suffer learned helplessness, where they felt powerless to control the outcome.  If we are helpless, we are able (certainly in our own minds) to evade ownership of our actions in case they turn out to have been wrong.  In one of Milgrim's variants the experiments were no longer associated with Yale - this caused obedience to drop.  One detail of which I had not been aware was that in some of the experiments, the learner (victim) was right there in the same room.  This made it less likely that participants would proceed to the end and deliver the maximum shocks.  This has implications for military and political applications of torture...  The ability to pay careful attention isn't important just for students and air traffic controllers.  Attention is crucial to a host of other skills: the ability to sort through conflicting evidence, to connect more deeply with other people, and even to develop a conscience.  Attention is an organ system like circulation or digestion, with its own anatomy, circuitry, and chemistry.  Skills of focus can be bolstered with practice in both children and adults, including those with attention-deficit disorders.  In just 5 days of computer-based training, the brains of 6-year-olds begin to act more like adults.  With good attentional control one can control cognitive processes and emotions and better articulate actions.

      In terms of safety, if the sky looks threatening or you hear thunder, immediately get inside a substantial building (one with plumbing and/or power wiring as lightning will usually travel through the wiring or the plumbing into the ground) or inside a hard-topped metal vehicle.  Stay away from showers, sinks, hot tubs and electronic equipment such as the tv, cellphones, radio or computers.  Picnic shelters, carports, dugouts, sheds and other partially open or small structures are not safe.  Stay away from tall objects like trees - lightning tends to hit the highest thing around (in an open field that could be you - and a tent offers NO protection).  Stay away from metal objects (fences, poles, backpacks) - the current from a lightning flash will easily travel.  The US rang up 45 lightening deaths last year and there have been 16 so far this year.  Lightning struck our house when we lived in North Carolina; it melted our telephone and destroyed a large surge protector; a momentary bluish globe of - what?  A plasma of charged particles? - was visible near the ceiling.  I was too fascinated to be alarmed.  (BTW, Georg Wilhelm Richmann was killed by ball lightning to his forehead in 1753 when attempting to replicate the 1752 kite experiment of Benjamin Franklin.  A 1960 paper reported that 5% of the US population reports having witnessed ball lightning.)  How to make ball lightning in your microwave...  A 20-second video of our earth and moon from 31 million miles away...  The 48 Laws of Power.

       James Howard Kunstler takes an apocalyptic view.  On the current projections of oil supply America will see the beginnings of "a major collapse" of suburbia within the next 10 years, which no amount of "wishful thinking" about alternative energy supplies will be able to arrest: "We are not going to run Wal-Mart, the Interstate Highway system and Walt Disney World on any combination of solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels, ethanol or used french-fry potato oil.  The bottom line is that we will use all these things but we will be very disappointed in what they will actually do for us.  The problem is too big.  The design of our living arrangement is simply inconsistent with the energy realities of the future.  But Americans are just not able to process this.  If you look hard enough at America, what you discover is a shockingly infantile belief system, with two fundamental ideas that are deleterious to our future.  There's a widespread belief in America that it's possible to get something for nothing, and that mentality has been very destructive to our society.  The other idea that has become normative is that when you wish upon a star your dream comes true.  These two things have become the basis of the new American ideology.  More than half of the American public live in the suburbs.  There is going to be a very strong expectation that they will be supported and that their troubles will be attended to.  But what we're seeing with the mortgage crisis is that people who have made their stand in the suburbs are being hung out to dry, because there's nothing that can be done for them without bankrupting the nation."  Kunstler predicts a future of economic disarray, political eddies, "and quite a high potential for social turbulence as a result."

       What if rising seas threaten one day to swamp skyscrapers in Manhattan or entire towns in Florida?  Whose responsibility will it be to move buildings out of the way?  Who will take the hit for the lost property value?  If you could never afford to live on the beach, might you have to pay a share of reinbursing the people who could when the ocean claims their houses?...  Australia's ABC television show The Gruen Transfer weekly pits two advertising agencies against each other, challenged with selling the unsellable.  The proposition for this week's show was to convince Australians that New Zealand should be invaded.  The two ads (see "...need to invade New Zealand") or else a YouTube video of the competing ads with commentary...  Remember-This-When-You're-Feeling-Smug Department: Paramount executive, Sherry Lansing presided over the company’s motion picture group during a string of blockbusters: Forrest Gump, Braveheart and Titanic.  She was hailed in the Hollywood press as a genius - until she suddenly lost her touch.  After a series of box-office disasters, she was replaced.  The studio appeared to be justified in its decision when it went on to have its best summer in a decade.  But not so fast.  More recent winners, War of the Worlds and The Longest Yard, were in production when Lansing was still in charge.  Like so many things in life, the success or failure of a movie is heavily influenced by factors beyond anyone’s control.  Fortunate events like a string of hit movies are most likely to be followed by more ordinary events.  Lansing was a victim of what statisticians call regression toward the mean.  Anyone who has ever bought a mutual fund because it has been on a roll or bet that a racehorse will extend its winning streak has fallen into the same confusion.  In all life’s games, though some players are better than others, randomness maintains the upper hand.

      The art of Dan Witz: In Plain View. 30 years of artworks illegal and otherwise.  Excerpt: "When did you get your first tattoo?"  "17."  "What was it?"  "A star."  "A star?  Does that have any meaning?"  "It means I have a tattoo."  Illegal artwork, he says...  Only a global agreement has any prospect of reducing risks of climate change (assuming, of course, its human origin) to acceptable levels - thus much depends on China and India.  Said Ma Kai, head of China's powerful State Council: "China does not commit to any quantified emissions-reduction [plan].  Our efforts to fight climate change must not come at the expense of economic growth.  It is quite inevitable that during this (industrialisation) stage, China's energy consumption and CO2 emissions will be quite high."  Last month, India likewise issued its National Action Plan on Climate Change.  The plan's authors, the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change, said India would rather save its people from poverty than global warming, and would not cut growth to cut gases.  The Indians also pointed out that no feasible technology to trap and bury the gases of coal-fired power stations has yet been developed, "and there are serious questions about the cost as well (as) permanence of the CO2 storage repositories".  And there you have it...  14 months in the making, 42 countries, and a cast of thousands: Where the Hell is Matt? - a YouTube video that's unexpectedly entertaining...  Tru:Blood synthetic blood nourishment beverage (energy drinks are running out of marketing ideas).

Typical Reaction to the Revelation That I Do Not Own a Cell Phone

1998: Solidarity    ("Yeah, me neither - I hate those things!")
1999: Envy    ("Lucky you; I had to get one for work.")
2000: Indifference    ("Okay, what's your home phone number then?")
2001: Encouragement    ("You should get one - you can play Tetris on them now!")
2002: Confusion    ("I thought you were, like, a tech guy.")
2003: Sympathy    ("They're getting pretty cheap. You'll be able to afford one soon.")
2004: Irritation    ("So how am I supposed to get hold of you?")
2005: Derision    ("If we go out tonight I'll send you a fax.")
2006: Skepticism    ("Are you serious?")
2007: Awe    ("Wow, you're like the last one.")
2008: Incomprehension    ("You don't ... how ...?")

       A 1982 Frank and Ernest cartoon once said, "Sure he was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards... and in high heels."  Ginger Rogers had grace, a solid work-ethic, spunky good humour, enough talent to win an Oscar for her dramatic skills - and she improved as she went along.  Originally named Virginia McMath, Ginger, married and divorced 5 times, died in 1995 at the age of 83.  Fred Astaire, named Frederick Austerlitz at birth and considered by Rudolph Nureyev to be the greatest dancer of the 20th century, died in 1987 at the age of 88.  This dancing couple won an Oscar for their number "The Continental" in the 1934 classic The Gay Divorcee.  Katharine Hepburn once said of them, "She gives him sex appeal, he gives her class."  Their "Waltz in Swing Time" from Swing Time (1936) is generally considered to be the most virtuosic partnered routine Astaire ever committed to film.  Is this a dying art form in movies?...  A new mathematical model indicates that dust devils, water spouts, tornadoes, hurricanes and cyclones are all born of the same mechanism and will intensify as climate change warms the earth's surface.  The new equation allows for a more accurate calculation of the maximum expected intensity of a spiraling storm based on the depth of the troposphere and the temperature and humidity of the air in the storm's path (the troposphere is the lowest layer of atmosphere), taking into account energy feeding the storm system and the full measure of friction slowing it down.  Changes in storms' intensity can then relate to actual environmental conditions.  At the Phoenix landing site the model indicates dust storms can have winds in excess of 200 mph...  Though left-handers comprise just 10% of the population, since 1974 presidents Ford, Reagan, George HW Bush, and Clinton have all favoured their left hands as have Al Gore, Robert Dole, John Edwards, Bill Bradley, and Ross Perot (via Neatorama).

       "A few years ago we were audited for gambling losses for '93 and '94.  We went 3 times to the examination level and lost each time.  We had excellent records proving that we truly had lost more than we had won (over and above W2Gs and smaller jackpots).  We gamble pretty exclusively at Caesars Tahoe and had their computer printout of total coin in (loss) and coin out (wins).  Anyway, $4,000 later in attorney and accountant fees, we won in appeals.  Now we are being audited for '96 and '97.  We went into the examination with again perfect records and again the computer printout from Caesars.  This time they said that even though we lost more then we won, we would have to claim the total "wins" ($650,000) as income.  That's every 25¢ and $1 bet that we supposedly won.  We could claim the total loss ($670,000) as losses but our gross income went from approximately $80K to $730,000 - quite a jump in tax bracket!  We lost all our exemptions and various credits from schedule A.  Bottom line, they say we owe $9,000 for 1996 alone even though we really did prove we lost more then we won.  Needless to say, we have again hired our lawyer for another $4,000 and will go to appeals."  Yet aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time but he has never reported winnings or losses on his income tax return...  McCain vs McCain: Immigration Reform - During this campaign, McCain has abandoned his support for comprehensive immigration reform to pander to the right wing of his Party.  After adopting an enforcement-first approach that he previously said wouldn't work, McCain even promised to vote against the bipartisan bill that bears his name if came up for a vote...  The best thing about old age is that it doesn't last all that long.

       The chemical dopamine induces both desire and dread.  It motivates animals and people to seek positive rewards, but it also can promote negative feelings like fear.  It has this dual effect on the nucleus accumbens - injection of a chemical to model normal signaling in the front of the nucleus accumbens causes rats to eat nearly 3 times as much as they normally do; injection of the chemical in the back causes them to display fearful behaviour normally shown in response to a predator.  Disruption of dopamine neurotransmission in one region of the nucleus accumbens may be a mechanism for pathological excess of fear in disorders such as schizophrenia, whereas disruptions in an adjacent region may be a mechanism for excessive reward-seeking in conditions like addiction.  Impulse control disorders such as pathological gambling and hypersexuality can occur in patients taking dopamine agonists for Parkinson's disease.  Due to the unusual nature of these behaviours, often an association is not made with the medicine.  Other problems include compulsive shopping.  Up to 50% of humans carry a gene variation that provides extra pleasure from eating, drugs or alcohol - which may explain why some continue to eat even when not hungry...  In a recent experiment, researchers found that participants’ personal performance improved, and interpersonal relationships and sensitivity towards others declined, when they were reminded of money.  Specifically, those participants who were exposed to money spent less time helping a person who needed it, sat farther away from another person and preferred solitary activities.  In addition, they showed preferences for working alone and asked for help less frequently.  On the other hand, participants also revealed an increased desire to take on more work and showed greater persistence in difficult tasks.

       I no longer have a young daughter - but if I did, I doubt I would buy her a Barbie Black Canary Doll ("...includes her black motorcycle jacket, fishnet stockings, black gloves, and boots.  This is one truly hot chick that will turn your other dolls green with envy!")  US$50.  Nor the Barbie hot tub party bus vehicle play set.  ("There’s a bathroom behind the kitchen, complete with toilet - you can lift the seat - sink, shower, toilet roll, towel rack, and fabric towel.  Open the outside wall of the RV to find, under a canopy, a hot tub with removable basin — you can really add water for Barbie water play!  Watch the lights flash and listen to the Jacuzzi bubbling, party music blaring, horn honking, and microwave beeping.")  Only US$139.  Nor would I buy Pregnant Midge ("She is Barbie's oldest friend - she wears a tiny white wedding ring, and has a detachable magnetic stomach that allows easy 'delivery' of the baby.")  Only US$150.  Barbie exists to consume.  Toys are not the product of natural childhood fantasies - they manifest the ideas of adults - of marketers who push toys that reflect an adult's imagination more than a child's.  What would I buy MY daughter instead?  Probably a laptop and a cat...  Though an ABC news site called her "Drunken Hookup Barbie" this video doesn't indicate irresponsible drinking by Barbie (or Ken for that matter).  Barbie couldn't help herself - toy dolls can't prevent sexually transmitted lead poisoning by practicing safe sex because they aren't anatomically able to use condoms...  In-a-nutshell: To pick the right mate, never marry a person who has no friends or who is not responsible with money.  Steer clear of someone who never makes demands counter to yours or who is overly attached to Mom.  A sense of humour is imperative and so is communication as more marriages are killed by silence than violence.  Is there a history of divorce in the family?  An atmosphere of racism, sexism or prejudice in the home?  Avoid fibbers, ragers, control freaks, the envious, the secretive...  Four-fifths of Cambodians do not have access to any electricity.

       Americans are the world's top consumers of cannabis and cocaine despite punitive US drug laws (16.2% had tried cocaine at least once; 42.4% had used marijuana).  In the Netherlands, where drug policy is more liberal than the US, 1.9% of survey participants said they had used cocaine and 19.8% marijuana.  Drug use "does not appear to be simply related to drug policy," researchers wrote.  So why not save money and revamp drug laws?...  IPods, mobile phones and laptops could be examined by airport customs officials for illegal downloads under strict new counterfeiting measures being considered by G8 governments.  Recent research by the British Music Rights group found that the average teenager and student has 800 illegal downloads on their MP3 player.  The suggestion that the new laws could be used by customs to scan MP3 players, mobiles and laptops for illegal downloads is just one of a number of potential measures causing concern in the technology world, leading to fevered debate...  As repugnant as torture is, the fact is most countries - even those with democratic governments - do it.  An average of 78% of governments in the world used torture against at least one person under their control in any given year during the last 25 years of the 20th century.  Governments in which the citizens have a right to vote and freedom of expression are more likely to stop using torture - but a system of checks and balances, an important dimension of liberal democracy, lessens the likelihood that a country terminates its use of torture.  Why?  Because a separation of power often means it is harder to effect change.

       What is it with Dubai?  It seems to have become the black hole that sucks in excess wealth.  The new Burj Dubai is 160 stories - nearly half a mile.  It's a commute on its own via elevator just to get from the ground to the upper floors and back.  Dubai represents the biggest programme of infrastructure spending the world has ever seen.  As well as the Palm Jumeirah, two other palm islands and 300 islands arranged in the shape of a map of the world and a map of the solar system are rising from the mint-choc-chip green waters of the Persian Gulf.  Then there are the free-trade micro-cities in Dubai - Aviation City, Cargo Village, Aid City, Exhibition City, Silicon Oasis, Festival City and Health-care City.  Sports City, home to a Manchester United Soccer Academy and the International Cricket Council, cricket's governing body, will be the centrepiece for a bid for the 2020 Olympics.  Inland, Dubailand, a £50 billion enclave of 24 theme parks, villages, and shopping malls 4½ times the size of Manhattan, will be the Middle East's answer to Disneyworld.  There will be Universal Studios, Universal City, a Marvel Entertainment theme park, and an "authentic Dubai Old Town".  A Las Vegas-style strip of celebrity-themed hotels and resorts is also rising from the dusty desert scrub near the new port of Jebel Ali.  New 8-lane highways, railway lines and the Middle East's first metro system carve oily-black streaks across the desert linking all these new developments.  A maglev bullet train is planned to link Dubai with neighbouring emirates.  Political observers point out that terrorism or fresh conflict in the Middle East could upset these extravagant plans.

       What do beets, cabbage, Swiss chard, cinnamon, pomegranate juice, prunes, pumpkin seeds, sardines, turmeric and blueberries have in common?  They are all quite good for you and you likely haven't eaten any of them lately...  Anyone who wants to guess whether Israel and/or the US are going to attack Iran should look at the map of the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.  Through this narrow waterway, only 34 km wide, pass the ships that carry between 1/5 and 1/3 of the world's oil, including that from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.  The inevitable reaction to the bombing of Iran will be the blocking of this Strait.  That should be self-evident.  If that happens, the price of oil will skyrocket causing a chain reaction: a world-wide depression, the collapse of whole industries and a catastrophic rise in unemployment in America, Europe and Japan.  The advantage of dominating Iraq may well be outweighed by the rise of Iran as a nuclear, military and political power that will overshadow America's allies in the Arab world...  Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty was developed to the credit of Ogilvy London.  This video is from the Dove Self-Esteem Gallery of course designed to profit Unilever - yet, particularly for the film on that page called Amy, do contain enough truth to be affecting.  (Greenpeace's parody of the film Onslaught, which is also on that page).

       Bush responds to a heckler by telling the audience that "we believe in free speech in the United States of America."  Then the heckler is hauled away by the authorities (via J-Walk Blog)...  $4 gas has been for great for the US.  With public transit use nationally at a 50-year high, traffic dropped 2.1% in the first 4 months of this year across the country.  That mileage reduction - along with people driving smaller cars, and more slowly, to save gas - could mean that 12,000 fewer people will die in traffic accidents this year.  Air pollution has been reduced enough to prevent 2,200 respiratory-related deaths over the last year.  Less eating out and more walking and biking could mean a 10% reduction in obesity.  Cheap gas is unfair.  Driving creates huge social costs in the form of traffic, health-damaging pollution and global warming that aren't suffered solely by the person buying the gasoline.  Governments usually set up idiotic systems to offset such social costs (emissions trading, ethanol subsidies, taco truck regulations) instead of forcing individuals to pay for their own mess by adding a tax to remedy the imbalance.  That kind of tax - the most fair kind, really - is called a Pigovian tax, and its use is why gas costs $8 to $10 a gallon in Europe, where they have fewer road deaths even though they drive like complete idiots.

       Jet fuel has become so expensive that biofuel is now a cost competitive alternative for Air New Zealand.  The oily nut from the non-edible jatropha plant, grown on arid wasteland in tropical climates, is categorised as a 2nd generation fuel because it is not an edible crop and doesn't encroach on crop lands.  One hectare of jatropha plants produces up to 3,000kg of oily nuts.  This can produce 810 - 1,020 litres of oil for conversion to fuel.  Jatropha is used as a vehicle biodiesel in the Philippines and India (where agricultural crops of tribals have been destroyed to plant it).  Jet fuel costs 15 - 20% more per barrel than oil.  Air NZ burns 9 million barrels of oil a year equal to about 70m gallons of fuel.  (Note that jatropha "can be toxic and yields can be unreliable"...  The value of a statistical American life is $6.9 million in today's dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency reckoned in May — a drop of nearly $1 million from just 5 years ago.  This figure is not based on people's earning capacity or potential contributions to society or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family — some of the factors used in insurance claims and wrongful-death lawsuits.  Economists calculate this value based on what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks and on how much extra employers pay their workers to take on additional risks.  Most of the data is drawn from payroll statistics; some comes from opinion surveys.  According to the EPA, people shouldn't think of the number as "a price tag on a life."

       A spectacular photo of lenticular clouds...  Consider two individuals, one a successful millionaire and the other a recently demoted banker.  Both might view a Rolex watch as a clear status symbol.  However for the millionaire, wearing the watch might not make the millionaire feel any more powerful than he/she normally feels.  In contrast, for our demoted banker, wearing the same watch might make the banker feel significantly more powerful.  Feeling powerless can trigger strong desires to purchase products that convey high status, according to new research.  This increased willingness to pay for status-related objects stems from the belief that obtaining such objects will restore a lost sense of power - perhaps why people who are deeply in debt still spend beyond their means...  A man who received head, neck and back injuries in a collision near his home was billed $A60 for a welcome letter from his lawyer's firm after he decided to sue for compensation.  His lawyer, who bills in 10, six-minute units at $490 an hour, also charged $49 to read an electronic "thank you" e-card from his client and charged a further $49 for an email advising of his coming holiday.

       We have a growing technical ability to work remotely.  So, then, what of what we do at home is work and what isn't?  The issue is not so much tapping out a brief message on a PDA; it's the ability to write articles, post blogs, draft documents, research the internet or sign contracts, all on tiny, mobile, handheld gadgets.  Will home become an unpaid 24-7 workplace?  A productivity expert weighed in with this comment: "Show me one employee who doesn't waste time at work.  I see so much abuse of working hours by employees – personal phone calls, socialising, checking auction listings, booking personal travel – that I don't believe it's unreasonable for an employer to want a bit of work on personal hours.  If you don't want to be on call" - you can always change careers.  [Surprise!  There ARE employees who don't waste time at work.]  The issues seem to arise when people stop being happy...  A terrorist outrage shortly before the election — or, more cost-effectively, a terrorist video attacking McCain and/or praising Obama — would be powerful evidence that Al Qaeda wants McCain to win, in hopes that he would continue such policies as bleeding American military strength into the Iraqi desert, facilitating the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, promoting Islamist extremism by vowing to occupy Iraq permanently, and confirming “blood for oil” suspicions by arranging no-bid petroleum contracts for American energy corporations...  This highly scientific *cough* test determines your level of caffeine intake by measuring how fast you can click your mouse.  The test will last for 30 seconds, during which you must click the button as many times as possible.

       Landscape and still-life images play a crucial role in photographer Wolfgang Tillmans' oeuvre, in which half-eaten fruit, sewer rats, crumpled clothing, or urban skylines are photographed with the same dignity and attention to beauty as human subjects.  I could find out nothing about this photo except that it is owned by the Guggenheim Museum, was painted in 1995, and is titled "police helicopter".  Why not add an 's' as there are clearly 2?  Why no caps?  Why no skyscrapers and why a factory right downtown?  Where IS this place, anyway?  To me, there is something oddly frightening implied.  Click on the photo for a larger image...  Associations between thunderstorm activity and asthma deaths and emergency room visits have been reported around the world.  Some find it odd that thunderstorms, which supposedly "clear the air" of pollen and pollutants, are implicated in asthma attacks.  The most prominent hypothesis as to why it happens is that pollen grains may rupture upon contact with rainwater releasing respirable allergens and gusty winds from thunderstorm downdrafts spread these particles which may ultimately increase the risk of asthma attacks.

         The Unbreakable Umbrella works just as well as a walking stick or cane but does not make you look funny or feel awkward.  Whacks just as strong as a steel pipe but it weighs only 775g.  It is legal to carry everywhere, never raises suspicions, no strange looks if carried by an able-bodied person, has no unusual parts, no more metal than an average umbrella, does not arouse suspicion, can be carried legally where weapons are prohibited, and it does protect from rain.  Do you know how to swing a baseball bat?  Do you know how to strike with a sturdy stick?  If you do, you know all you need to know but the price (US$179) and that it's warranted not to break "under normal use" (nor is the fabric covered)...  New Zealand's population is estimated to increase by one person every 23 minutes and 33 seconds.  This is based on the estimated resident population at 31 March 2008 and the following component settings: • one birth every 8 minutes and 51 seconds; • one death every 18 minutes and 36 seconds; • a net migration loss of one New Zealand resident every 59 minutes and 34 seconds...  Are you a different person when you speak a different language?  Bilingual women classify themselves as more assertive when they speak Spanish than when they speak English.  They also have significantly different perceptions of women in ads when the ads are in Spanish versus English.  In one study, a group of bilingual US Hispanic women viewed ads that featured women in different scenarios.  The participants saw the ads in one language (English or Spanish) and then, 6 months later, they viewed the same ads in the other language.  Their perceptions of themselves and the women in the ads shifted depending on the language.  One respondent, for example, saw an ad's main character as a risk-taking, independent woman in the Spanish version of the ad, but as a hopeless, lonely, confused woman in the English version.

       In 1886, when the Statue of Liberty (formally called Liberty Enlightening the World) was assembled, it was the tallest iron structure ever built.  Even though the outside is clad with copper sheets, an iron infrastructure was used to create the framework of the statue.  Designed and created by Gustave Eiffel, the inner framework served as a sort of proving grounds for his later iron creation, the Eiffel Tower...  Imagine a business executive who thinks: "I know that this new policy will harm the environment, but I don't care at all about that – I just want to increase profits."  Is the business executive harming the environment intentionally?  Faced with this question 82% of people polled said yes.  But then the word "harm" was changed to "help."  This time, the executive thinks: "I know that this new policy will help the environment, but I don't care at all about that – I just want to increase profits."  Is the business executive helping the environment intentionally?  This time, only 33% of respondents said yes...  Essential Items To Pack If You Want To Meet The Locals - #2: Bringing your own music in an MP3 player or portable CD player is a great way to block out the screeching noise of foreign cities, smooth the ride on trying bus or jeep journeys, or pass the time during long transit periods.  On the other hand, there is nothing more isolating than a pair of headphones.  Instead, try travelling with one or two classic cassette mix-tapes.  When you tire of the cab’s selection of “the coolest American music,” or a jeep driver’s library of Mongolian throat singing tapes, offer the driver one of your own.  You’re not the only one who may be interested in hearing something new.

       Basket starfish...  The President can order anyone in the US imprisoned in a military brig as an enemy combatant - even if they have never fought on a battlefield or with a foreign power against the US.  Rather, mere accusations by the President of "terrorism" are sufficient to justify the indefinite incarceration of such an individual as an "enemy combatant," who is then denied basic Constitutional guarantees.  It's hard to imagine a more un-American power than that - until quite recently it would have been inconceivable...  Project a map of the heavens onto your ceiling and walls with a starlight projector.  Featuring a rotating base with compass-point alignments, it’s possible to set up your AstroStar by aligning it according to your location and the time of the year so that it can project a map of the clear night’s sky all around you.  It’s also fully adjustable so that you can change it to accurately track the movement of the heavens as the year progresses...  More than a quarter of a million women have been sold as wives and baby-makers in South East Asia, mostly from Vietnam and Indonesia.  It's a new phenomenon of the last 10 years in Korea and Taiwan, where men can't find a wife - so they buy one.  The young women sacrifice themselves to help their families, who are very poor and receive money through the marriage.  Around AU$6000 is paid to a marriage broker to select a wife from as many as 100 candidates.

       An artichoke looks sort of like a thistle - that's because it is one...  Today, among strict adherents of laissez-faire economics, the offer to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is already being criticised as a trip down the Japanese path of putting off immediate pain while loading up the costs further along.  Taxpayers - who now confront plunging house prices, a drop on Wall Street and soaring costs for food and fuel - will ultimately pay the price.  To finance a bailout, the government can either pull more money from citizens directly, or the Fed can print more money - a step that encourages further inflation.  They are going to raise the cost of living for every American.  The government is debasing the value of money.  Freddie and Fannie need to fail - they are too big to save...  The world's most crowded swimming pool...  A modern version of the Periodic Table, with videos illustrating the properties of each element...  A statue of Elvis Presley - made more than 1,800 years ago.  Would it be better if I uploaded half as much but twice as often?  Thanks.

Whoever controls the media controls the culture.

- Allen Ginsberg

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