A Complete Substitute for Life


News and Site Updates Archive 2008/08/16

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.

- Ben Hecht


16 Aug '08 - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin likens Russia's actions to Bush's foreign policy: pointing to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Putin speaks of leaders who must be restrained: "Of course, he ought to have hanged for destroying several Shiite villages - and so too the Georgian leaders who razed 10 Ossetian villages at once, ran over elderly people and children with tanks and burned civilians alive in their sheds."  The problem with international law for a superpower is it constrains overweening ambition.  Its virtue: it constrains aggressive ambitions of others.  Bush gutted it because he thought the US wouldn't need it.  But Russia shows that the Bush doctrine can just as easily be the Putin doctrine.  America created a world of vigilante powers spouting rhetoric about high ideals to justify unchecked military interventions for reasons unspoken...  Have you ever looked at someone and known immediately not to trust them?  Alexander Todorov's lab at Princeton University shows the spectrum of trustworthiness in faces using a computer model.  He found that when a face is altered so viewers perceive it to be extremely trustworthy, it appears to be smiling, while faces that look extremely untrustworthy appear to frown.  Moral?  When it matters what people think, try to smile.  It helps you manipulate them.

Southerly 1 (Paekakariki, near Wellington), Southerly 2 (Wellington south coast), Southerly 3 (Canterbury) and
What it's like to have your house blow away (interesting pictures and 1st-hand stories)

    A man finds an old-fashioned oil lamp on the beach.  He takes it home and starts cleaning it up.  A genie pops out.
  "I've been in there so long my powers are weak.  I can only grant you one wish, and it's a choice of two.  I can either make you super-rich or super-smart.  What'll it be?"
Man: (after a moment's thought) "Y'know, I've always been bothered about being kinda slow.  Always felt people were laughing at me behind my back.  Well, no more of that!  Make me super-smart!"
Genie:  "Done!"
The genie vanishes.  The man smacks himself on the forehead.
Man:  "I should have taken the money!"
Americans, as a rule, don't resent people who have more money than they — particularly if the wealth is earned - envy, maybe, but not resent (you don't resent people whom you hope to emulate).  Most Americans dream about having much more money than they do.  What they readily resent is someone smarter than they, who knows it, shows it, and seems to think being smart makes you better than everyone.  A gap in income you can always dream of closing - a gap in IQ, not so much.  It's more personal, easier to resent.  Across an IQ gap of more than one standard deviation (about 15 points), communication between 2 people becomes difficult; beyond two standard deviations it is effectively impossible.

    The cool oceans around New Zealand will limit the impact of global warming.  Increases of 2° - 4° are likely by 2100 - however, NZ should warm more slowly than the rest of the world...  Maps of GDP - the last shows GDP growth rates, which are inversely correlated with wealth, but positively correlated with having rich neighbours.  (A good coastline is a substitute for rich neighbours, so NZ is okay.)  Sadly, geography is rarely taught above elementary grades as one can learn a lot from looking carefully at maps...  NZ Is Led by a Decent Sort: Prime Minister Helen Clark left the remote mountain hut late last night to spend time with the widow of her close friend and mountain guide Gottlieb Braun-Elwert, who died on a backcountry trip yesterday.  Braun-Elwert, 59, had a heart attack on a tramping trip with Clark, her husband Peter Davis and others near Lake Tekapo.  Clark and her party spent 2 hours unsuccessfully trying to resuscitate father-of-2 Braun-Elwert.  Poor weather blocked initial attempts to reach them on Mt Gerald.  Clark and Cabinet Minister Damien O'Connor left the remote hut late by snowmobile.  Braun-Elwert's widow Ann said Miss Clark made the treacherous night-time trip in order to spend time with her.  "She made a special effort to come out in the dark last night - probably a bit scary coming down the mountain in the snow."  Miss Clark and her husband once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, with Mr Braun-Elwert.

     The word golf was first mentioned in writing in 1457 in a Scottish statute on forbidden games as gouf, possibly derived from the Scots word goulf (variously spelled) meaning "to strike or cuff".  This word may, in turn, be derived from the Dutch word kolf, meaning "bat," or "club," and the Dutch sport of the same name.  It is often claimed that the word originated as an acronym for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden", but this is false.  Golf balls are famous for "dimples" - small dips in the surface of the golf ball which decrease aerodynamic drag and allow the ball to fly further; the synthetic materials composing the modern ball continue to be developed.  NZ has the 2nd-highest number of courses in relation to population (Scotland, of course, is 1st)...   William Howard Taft, a US president elected in 1908, weighed 335 pounds (152 kilos).  Perhaps he should've played more golf...  Trackstick:  Track weeks of your every step, load it into your computer via the built-in USB connection, apply the nifty Google Earth integration and all of a sudden you can see your life mapped by a series red lines.  Travel great distances and you'll have that Magellan feeling...  Lightning in slow motion (YouTube via Neatorama).

    For the past few years it has been hard to ignore America’s crumbling infrastructure, from the devastating breach of New Orleans’ levees after Hurricane Katrina to the collapse of a big bridge in Minneapolis last summer.  In 2005 the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that $1.6 trillion was needed over 5 years to bring just the existing infrastructure into good repair.  This does not account for future needs.  If America does not act, it will have the infrastructure of a 3rd-world country within a few decades.  Economic growth will constrict; quality of life will diminish.  America invests a mere 2.4% of GDP in infrastructure compared with 5% in Europe and 9% in China and the distribution of that money is misguided.  The more roads and drivers a state has, the more federal money it receives.  This discourages states from trying to cut traffic.  And because the petrol tax pays for transport projects, if America drives less, there is less money for infrastructure.  Yet 2 months after the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, the Senate approved a transport and housing bill that included money for a stadium in Montana and a museum in Las Vegas...  Driving into a dust storm in Australia.

    Saharan dust storms help sustain life over extensive regions of the North Atlantic Ocean.  Scientists mapped distribution of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen and investigated how organisms such as phytoplankton are sustained in areas with low levels.  Plants grow in these regions because they use iron minerals in Saharan dust storms.  The dust fertilises by allowing use of organic material from dead or decaying plants.  The Atlantic draws CO2 from the atmosphere through growth of photosynthesising phytoplankton.  So - does this mean deserts are good?  Well, consider this: In Britain (where it can be damp), media have been reporting a strange mould affecting audiotape and videotape.  Thousands of kilometres of magnetic tape have already been destroyed by the dust-like substance, and many museums and archives may not know it yet, as they have not opened their boxes of old cassettes for years.  The mould is so hardy that it spreads easily, so if you touch one contaminated tape and then handle another, you are likely to infect it too.  Think you're safe with all your movies on DVDs?  Think again: "Laser rot" can set in...  A workable way of reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere may be by adding lime to seawater; this has the potential to dramatically reverse CO2 accumulation.  The process of making lime generates CO2, but adding the lime to seawater absorbs almost twice as much...  From the air, patterns made by centre pivot irrigation...  Global warming rug...  A helicopter that can fly upside-down (YouTube via LikeCool)...

    Rather than following the common-sense explanation that the poor see what the rich have and covet it (leading to burglary and violent crime), as the incomes of the rich and poor diverge, so do their interests.  Members of a relatively equal society find it fairly easy to reach agreement about the purpose and priorities of the legal system.  But if the rich favour protecting property, while the poor care more about preventing and punishing interpersonal violent crime, the lack of consensus will produce a weak system that fails to meet the desires of either group.  Great gaps between rich and poor may hurt democracy and rule of law if elites prefer leaders to protect their interests, while the disadvantaged turn to a leader who promises to ignore property rights.  Counterintuitively, voter turnout is low in societies with high income inequality: in unequal places, poor people unhappy with government policies might be expected to turn out en masse to vote.  Instead they stay home.  Why?  Candidates focus on voters with money because they need campaign funds.  Since the poor gravitate toward parties that favour redistribution and the wealthy align themselves with parties that don't, campaign contributions primarily benefit parties and candidates whose platforms don't include redistribution.  By the time of the election, the only candidates left in the race have shaped their platforms to maximise fundraising and poor voters have already been left out...  12% of websites are pornographic as are 25% of total search engine requests and 35% of all downloads.  More than 40% of internet users view porn.  "Sex" is the most searched-for word on the internet.  70% of porn traffic occurs during working hours.  The vast majority of porn traffic originates in the US.

    Who is this mystery man?...  There are due dates and attendance requirements at places like Yale, but no one takes them seriously.  Extensions are there for the asking; threats to deduct credit for missed classes are rarely (if ever) carried out.  In other words, students get an endless string of 2nd chances.  Not so at places like Cleveland State.  A friend once got a D in a class in which she’d been running an A because she was coming off a waitressing shift and had to hand in her term paper an hour late.  Students at Cleveland State, unlike Yale, don’t have a platoon of advisers, tutors and deans to write out excuses for late work or give them extra help. They get their education wholesale from an indifferent bureaucracy.  They don’t get an A- just for doing the work.  40 years ago the average GPA at both public and private universities was 2.6 - close to the traditional C curve.  Since then, it’s gone up everywhere but not by the same amount - the average GPA at public universities is now 3.0 (a B); at private universities it’s 3.3 (just short of B+).  At most Ivy League schools, it’s closer to 3.4.  At Yale, students who come to class and work hard expect nothing less than A- (the mark of "entitled mediocrity"); mostly, they get it.  At Cleveland State, they’re trained for positions somewhere in the middle of the class system (the depths of bureaucracy), conditioned for lives with few 2nd chances, no extensions, little support, narrow opportunity — lives of subordination, supervision, control (deadlines, not guidelines).  At Yale, for elites, there’s always another extension (bailout, pardon, stint in rehab), plenty of contacts and special stipends (country club, conference, year-end bonus, dividend).

    A human statue of Liberty made by 18,000 officers and men at Camp Dodge, Des Moines, Iowa...  One Harvard-grad turned stay-at-home-mom, on the subject of her days: "I dance and sing and play the guitar and listen to NPR.  I write letters to my family, my congressional representatives, and to newspaper editors.  My kids and I play tag and catch, we paint, we explore, we climb trees and plant gardens together.  We bike instead of using the car.  We read, we talk, we laugh.  Life is good.  I never dust."  (Housewives can be complements to the breadwinner, not just supplements.)  Most fathers in the US now spend more time with their children and do more of the household tasks than their counterparts did, and Congress and employers both have made market-friendly provisions, such as parental leave, designed to encourage mothers of young children to take up paid employment.  Never mind the social costs, we now have an army of consumers and a vast labour pool — what could be more market-friendly?  Indeed, since the late 1990s, so-called family-friendly policies in Europe have been explicitly linked to the promotion of women’s employment in order to further the economic growth and competition agenda.  Women have achieved the freedom to join men on a more or less equal footing in the marketplace, which strengthens the notion that the only thing ultimately of value is one’s ability to turn a buck...  Hybrid cars, which use both electric and petrol engines, are so quiet that cyclists and blind pedestrians can't hear them coming.  So the sound of a traditional engine is to be emitted through a loudspeaker mounted near the radiator.  It projects a realistic engine sound ahead of the car when it is running solely in electric mode and the sound changes depending on speed and throttle.

    Sir David Attenborough warns that children who lack any understanding of the natural world will not grow into adults who care about the environment.  "The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out," he said, "and an interest in the natural world doesn't grow as it should.  Nobody is going protect the natural world unless they understand it."  Half of youngsters aged 9 - 11 were unable to identify a daddy-long-legs, oak tree, or bluebell; deer were commonly misidentified as an antelope...  Two villagers in the Söse valley of Germany have discovered their ancestors in a fairly direct way — thanks to DNA testing of remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age bones, they can claim to have the world's longest proven family tree (about 3,000 years).  In a cave an archaeologist found 40 skeletons protected by a thick layer of calcium from dripping limestone; 2 of them had a rare genetic pattern – and 2 matches were found among village locals.  3,000 years?  Apparently they were not very adventurous.

    They are the mounts of legendary heroes and remain among the most prized of equines, but scientists have found that white horses are actually genetic mutants whose defective DNA carries a gene that accelerates ageing and rapidly turns their coats grey.  Such horses would probably never have survived in the wild but when some particular white horse was born thousands of years ago it so caught the eye of ancient humans that they protected it and did their best to breed more.  Today about 1 horse in 10 carries the mutation, dubbed the "greying with age" gene.  These horses are brown, chestnut or black when born; their coats turn white within about 6 years (they are distinct, however, from rare albino horses, which are white at birth)...  There are now just 8 sheep for every New Zealander as flocks continue to dwindle.  In 1982 the ratio was nearly 22 for every person.  There are 34,200,000 sheep and 4,270,870 people...  200 documentaries you must see before you die (and since I've only seen about half, that must mean I'll live for a long time)...  Need a place to watch the game?  With this multimedia trailer and a generator, you'll have an instant party in any parking lot.

    Subjects tested in a room with a mirror have been found to work harder, to be more helpful and to be less inclined to cheat compared with control groups performing the same exercises in nonmirrored settings.  The few nonhuman species that have been found to recognise themselves in a mirror are those with sophisticated social lives - chimps, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, dolphins, Asian elephants and even pigeons have passed the famed mirror self-recognition test (they will, when given a mirror, scrutinize marks applied to their faces or bodies; they'll also check up on personal hygiene, inspecting their mouths, nostrils and genitals).  Most people look in a mirror and form the opinion that they're more attractive than others actually find them to be (it's difficult to ascertain if animals do the same)...  Animation/CGI techniques are making great strides.  Face retargeting allows you to film an actor's face and then map his motion (expressions, diction) to a CG character's face so that that face matches the motion and expressions of the original regardless of the shape, age, gender, or even species of either the actor or the target.  Too plump to get those good roles?  Too old?  No problem!  Let motion capture grab the essence of your face and physical actions and map those onto a perfect avatar who will appear in your place!  Also to "unwrap a video" may take on new meaning - a simplified full reconstruction of 3D surface models from video is designed to be easily used in a variety of instances and can allow for the modification of a character even after filming is complete (this explanatory video helps illustrate how the effect is done).  I can see a future for this in correcting continuity errors and in movie product placements tailored to individual countries or regions.

    Henry, a 111-year-old from Invercargill, will soon become a father for the first time.  This tuatara showed no interest in mating until he was caught getting intimate with the much younger Mildred (aged somewhere between 70 and 80).  Mildred's eggs are now scheduled to hatch in about 6 months.  "With these guys foreplay might take years.  One just has to be patient," said the tuatara curator at the museum where Henry lives...  China now has the largest gender imbalance in the world, with 37 million more men than women and almost 20% more newborn boys than girls nationwide.  In the 2020s, 10% of Chinese men will be unable to find wives, which could have a huge impact on Chinese society.  Sexually segregated societies in the US - frontier towns flush with unmarried men, immigrant ghettos in early 20th-century cities, mining camps - are behind America's propensity toward violence.  The immigrants and westward migrants who shaped early America were largely young single men, who are - today as well as then - disproportionately responsible for drug abuse, looting, vandalism, and violent crime.  A long-term study of Vietnam veterans may explain exactly why: the subjects' testosterone levels (linked to aggression and violence) dropped when they married and increased when they divorced.  Eternally single men, by extension, maintain high levels of testosterone - a recipe for violent civil unrest.

    It appears that anti-ageing cosmetic surgery actually accelerates the ageing process.  If one cuts through healthy tissue and blood vessels and detaches the dermis from the underlying muscle, scar tissue is created and circulation reduced.  Smaller blood vessels regrow, but they aren't as effective as the larger vessels that used to supply the skin with blood and nutrients.  Skin becomes thinner as it is stretched; effects don't last so one must keep stretching.  Hair can fall out at the front and sides of the scalp because of reduced blood supply due to brow and facelifts.  Is liposuction better?  Because the body can't put on weight in areas where fat cells have been ripped out, fat collects in surrounding areas - resulting in odd, unnatural lumps and dents...  The brain's reward system (the pleasure response) is critical to learning.  Dopamine is a part of that reward system.  It's level in the brain is elevated whenever we experience pleasure or well-being.  Eating and sex are survival activities which bring pleasure.  Even their anticipation is pleasurable.  When a trained monkey can't see inside a box but it can reach inside and grasp a hidden peanut, dopamine increases just when the animal recognises the food with its fingers.  But opiates, alcohol, cannabinoids, nicotine, and other drugs can also increase dopamine and subvert the normal function of the reward system - for example, sugar can be quite addictive.  In general, behaviours associated with pleasure are reinforced by dopamine (cigarette smoking is one such).  As a result, synaptic junctions of neuron nets strengthen, often permanently.

    Hiring a skip (1, 2) claims a piece of space on the street.  It becomes the foundation on which anything can be built.  It sits between private home and public street, with potential to serve both.  What would you do with a skip?  People have designed a small skate ramp, a pool, a lounge, a grassy yard, and a park.  The problem is that your permit must be renewed every 30 days...  Since killing civilians is inevitable in modern warfare it cannot be called an accident - bombers and helicopter pilots don't necessarily intend to kill them, but when they attack villages and crowded city streets they know that civilians will die.  When soldiers and Marines on the ground can't tell the difference between civilians and insurgents and are told to clear an area, they will kill civilians.  This may not be deliberate, but it is not an accident.  Clearly, under the tort (civil) standard, bombers and pilots act with substantial certainty their actions will cause civilian death.  Similarly, in a criminal context, under the Model Penal Code (MPC) these actions are taken with practical certainty that civilians will die.  Naturally, those who try to justify modern wars will proudly assert the righteousness of the cause and the great intentions of those prosecuting the wars.  Yet, when wars are justified by trumped up charges, bogus claims, and fabricated evidence, this line fails.

    Residents are at less risk of being obese or overweight if they live in walkable neighbourhoods - those that are more densely populated, designed to be more friendly to pedestrians and have a range of destinations for pedestrians. Neighbourhoods built before 1950 tended to offer greater overall walkability as they more often were designed with the pedestrian in mind, while newer neighborhoods are often designed to facilitate car travel. A man of average height and weight (6 feet, 200 pounds) weighed 10 pounds less if he lived in a walkable neighbourhood while a woman of average size (about 5-foot-5, 149 pounds), weighed 6 pounds less...  If you’re an average Australian you’re worth just over $250,000 have a house valued at $458,488, a mortgage of $341,000, credit card debt of $3,085 and earn $1,124.50 a week...  When to brush your teeth: brushing as soon as you get out of bed removes the plaque and bacteria that form on teeth overnight.  This prevents any sugar eaten at breakfast being converted to acid, which damages teeth.  Avoid brushing straight after eating as any sugar or acid will temporarily loosen protective enamel on the teeth and brushing will scrape this away.  If you can't brush before breakfast, wait at least an hour after for the enamel to harden...  Things you don't see everyday - grab shots taken in unusual situations...  Interactive graphic: How Class Works.

    What is Hanny's Voorwerp?  Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel discovered the strange green "voorwerp" (Dutch for "object") last year.  Personally, I think it looks like Kermit the Frog (Click image to enlarge)...  The last thing the FBI needed was another embarrassment.  Overreaching damaged the FBI's reputation in the high-profile investigations: the Centennial Olympic Park bombing probe falsely accused Richard Jewell; the theft of nuclear secrets resulted in the botched prosecution of scientist Wen Ho Lee; in the anthrax probe, an innocent man was smeared - Ivins' colleague Steven Hatfill.  In this case, Ivins complained privately that FBI agents had offered his son, Andy, $2.5 million, plus "the sports car of his choice" late last year if he would turn over evidence implicating his father in the anthrax attacks.  Ivins also said the FBI confronted his hospitalised daughter, Amanda, with photographs of victims of the attacks and told her, "This is what your father did."  Certainly, I can't know whether or not there is merit to the charges that were allegedly to be made against Ivins - nevertheless, I think the methods used by the FBI are just wrong.  Perhaps we'll never definitively know just who the anthrax killer was.  Personally, I don't think it's too surprising that the people who choose to work in bioweapons research are an eccentric lot - but that characteristic by itself is proof of nothing.

    A sophisticated piece of racehorse training equipment can monitor animals at speeds of up to 38mph.  The 4-tonne trainer is powered by a Volvo diesel engine and has a hydraulically controlled silicone saddle to simulate different jockey weights as well as electronically controlled reins.  The animal runs in an open-front stall while a rear cabin houses driver, trainer and vet.  The horse's vitals are continuously monitored.  The race industry is said to have "increasingly sophisticated demands"...  In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.  Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, a new process will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases.  Later, oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power house or electric car, day or night.  In their enthusiasm, they say that within 10 years electricity-by-wire from a central source "could be a thing of the past."

    At 40 feet, it is the tallest yew hedge in Britain and keeping it tidy is a mammoth job.  It takes 2 workers, a cherrypicker and 2 days of solid work, costing more than £5,000, to give the 300-year-old hedge in Gloucestershire its annual trim.  The hedge is thought to have been planted about 1710.  The ton of clippings is used to produce a life-saving cancer drug.  (That's a fairly tall man inside the orange circle)...  The small group of press who had signed up to cover Mr Clinton's annual trip to the continent to visit the work of his Clinton Foundation was stranded in Newark, New Jersey.  The 727 that was to ferry the press to Ethiopia had breakdown after breakdown - a broken air conditioner, a problem with the fuel tanks that led to an aborted take-off, a shattered cockpit window involving a small fire, a broken fuel valve.  One of Clinton's advisors took to listing the problems on the back of his hand.  "He ran out of room and had to use his middle finger."

    Weird Linen: It's amazing what people buy to sleep under or wear to the shower...  US Federal agents may take a traveller's laptop or other electronic device to an offsite location for an unspecified period without any suspicion of wrongdoing as part of border search policies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently disclosed and may share copies of a laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or "other reasons", according to the policies issued by 2 DHS agencies, the US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  DHS officials say the new policies apply to anyone entering the country (this includes US citizens) and are necessary to prevent terrorism.  An increasing number of international travellers report that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices are being taken.  Policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drive, flash drive, cellphone, iPod, video and audio tapes and "all papers and other written documentation," even books and those "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket litter'."

    Bees provide crucial pollination service to numerous crops and up to 1/3 of the human diet comes from plants pollinated by insects.  However, pollinating bees are suffering widespread declines in North America and elsewhere and scientists warn that this could have serious implications for agriculture and food supply.  While the cause of these declines has largely been a mystery, new research reveals an alarming spread of disease from commercial bees to wild pollinators...  He takes the passport of a 16-month-old British boy and puts it on to a £40 smartcard reader the size of an iPod, punches in a code, and the information contained in the passport’s microchip appears on his screen.  This is not supposed to happen.  He copies the contents of the microchip to another chip, making a clone.  He alters the cloned chip, removing the image of the child, replacing it with another image.  And, if the chips had contained biometric data such as fingerprints or iris scans, he could have changed those too.  He now has a passport in the name of a real person with a chip containing different biometrics – facial image, fingerprints and so on.  A blank passport (even a good fake one) to put the chip in and he's in business...  People who use monosodium glutamate, or MSG, as a flavor enhancer in their food are more likely than people who don't use it to be overweight or obese even though they have the same amount of physical activity and total calorie intake, according to a new public health study.  The majority of study participants prepared their meals at home without commercially processed foods.  82% used MSG in their food.  Those users were divided into 3 groups based on the amount they used.  The 1/3 who used the most MSG were nearly 3 times more likely to be overweight than non-users.

    Woonbox provides for a "temporary stay"; it contains a shower, toilet and kitchen in a neat and compact box-like structure containing several compartments, each opening to reveal different units.  Designed to serve as temporary residence in places where permanent homes are difficult to locate, it can be set up in warehouses as a makeshift measure - it would come in handy for the homeless or for disaster victims.  (Try to ignore the annoying animated gif on their site)...  New analysis of data from a 1960s US health survey revealed that teenage girls who had lost their tonsils were 30% more likely to be overweight.  Younger children aged 6 - 11 who had tonsillectomies were 40% more likely to be overweight at the time of the survey.  Tonsil removal was a common treatment for chronic ear infections at the time.  (One study of 6,584 adults with a moderate to severe history of otitis media were 62% more likely to be obese than those who did not suffer the same problem.)  This data suggests that there are lingering effects of tonsillectomies on taste nerves and that can affect eating habits.  Middle-aged women with damage to their taste nerves preferred sweet and high-fat foods and had bigger waistlines than those with an unimpaired sense of taste.  (Maybe these are some of the people who eat lots of MSG - so that the food they think is bland will taste somewhat better.)

    Iron Bridge, Coalbrookdale, was the first iron bridge in the world. Its ribs, rails and arches were cast in the nearby works of Abraham Darby III, the grandson of the man who, by smelting ore with coke instead of charcoal, had found a way of making iron in bulk. It took 378 tons of cast iron to make...  Slydial lets callers dial a mobile phone but avoid an unwanted conversation on the other end.  The incoming call goes undetected by the recipient, who simply receives the traditional blinking light or ping that indicates that a voice mail message has been received.  This lets users avoid direct communication.  An array of recent innovations by other companies has encouraged the use of technology to deceive.  One development, for instance, allows the employee who is running late to add background noises resembling heavy traffic to a mobile phone call.  Another service places an automated call at a predetermined time so that the recipient can be extricated from a situation under the auspices of taking an “urgent” call...  Michigan is one of 41 states in the US that allows children under 18 to be imprisoned for life.  The US is among a tiny minority of countries (Somalia is another) that refuse to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that expressly forbids the practice.  Only 3 other countries - Israel, South Africa, Tanzania - mete out this sentence.  Technically, a child of any age could be incarcerated for life in Michigan for 1st-degree murder.  Above the age of 14, suspects can be placed directly into the adult court system.  At that point, even the judges' hands are tied - if a child is convicted in adult court of a serious offence - taking part in a robbery that leads to murder, say - he MUST be given life without parole, even if the judge feels it's inappropriate.

    Wall-climbing sofa by Lila Jang is for that odd corner.  (Silly.)

How to curtsey:

bullet  Put your right foot behind your left foot.
bullet  Briefly bend the knees with one foot forward keeping the upper body straight.
bullet  Repeat when the member of the Royal family leaves.

Debrett's says a curtsey - a show of respect to the Royal family - from a woman and a bow from a man is still the correct way to greet the Queen.

    Touch Sight is a digital camera for the visually impaired.  It has a lightweight, flexible Braille display sheet which displays a 3D image by embossing the surface, allowing the user to touch the image.  When the shutter is pressed, it records sound for 3 seconds to accompany the braille photo as a mnemonic aid.  It can be uploaded to share with others...  Amazing sandcastle...  Comic-book bandaids...  An easy way to trim a goatee...  Stained glass for geeks...  Lui is a capuchin monkey who is shown in this YouTube video taking a shower in a sink.  Clearly he knows the drill and his owner was nice enough to let him keep his teddy bear with him...  Stunning photos from the Olympics opening ceremony.

A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak.

- Michael Garrett Marino

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