Saturday, November 22, 2008

Next stop: Hong Kong!

I'm spending Thanksgiving the way it should be spent - eating deer penis in Hong Kong!

Also going to visit my awesome cousin and his wife, seen here giving Buddha a rockin' high-five!

Will try to post stuff while there, but I do plan on eating dim sum nonstop.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations.

The more I learn about science, the more scared I get. From New Scientist:

Matter is built on flaky foundations. Physicists have now confirmed that the apparently substantial stuff is actually no more than fluctuations in the quantum vacuum.

The researchers simulated the frantic activity that goes on inside protons and neutrons. These particles provide almost all the mass of ordinary matter.

Each proton (or neutron) is made of three quarks - but the individual masses of these quarks only add up to about 1% of the proton's mass. So what accounts for the rest of it?

Theory says it is created by the force that binds quarks together, called the strong nuclear force. In quantum terms, the strong force is carried by a field of virtual particles called gluons, randomly popping into existence and disappearing again. The energy of these vacuum fluctuations has to be included in the total mass of the proton and neutron.

Obese Canadians allowed to have two airplane seats for the price of one.

Is being fat a disability or a personal choice? Discuss in the comments! From Reuters:

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Obese people have the right to two seats for the price of one on flights within Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday.

The high court declined to hear an appeal by Canadian airlines of a decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency that people who are "functionally disabled by obesity" deserve to have two seats for one fare.

The airlines had lost an appeal at the Federal Court of Appeal in May and had sought to launch a fresh appeal at the Supreme Court. The court's decision not to hear a new appeal means the one-person-one-fare policy stands.

The appeal had been launched by Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet.

Mystery slabs of meat keep appearing at park.

Jeez, what's the problem. It's free meat! From the Boston Globe:
FRAMINGHAM - The evidence: a 5-pound shoulder cut, a scrap cut, covered in gristle, a 10-pound roast, and a slice of liver.

The crime scene: the town green.

For five weeks, butcher-quality cuts of red meat - it appears to be beef - have been appearing regularly beneath a tree in the historic Town Centre Common, and the caper has perplexed just about everybody in town. Police and town health officials are investigating. Residents are bewildered, even worried.

"I hear the meat might be poisonous," said Taryn Fusco, who has spied the meat on recent walks through the park with her Shih Tzu-Yorkie-mix. "I feel unsafe bringing my dog to the park."

Authorities have inspected the meat and sent samples to the state public health lab in Boston to determine whether it's been tampered with. They are pursuing every lead they can find, though those have been in short supply.

"It's our mission to get to the bottom of why these pieces of meat are being left," said Lieutenant Paul Shastany of the Framingham Police Department. "Why? Who? And what is it? What kind of meat?"

Burma comic jailed for 45 years.

From BBC:

A popular comedian active in Burma's democracy movement has been sentenced to 45 years in jail by a Burmese court.

Zarganar was found to have violated the Electronics Act, which regulates electronic communications.

He is the latest in a string of opposition activists to be given long jail terms by the military government.

He was detained earlier this year for criticising the government's slow response to Cyclone Nargis in interviews with foreign news groups.

More than 100 activists have been sentenced over the past two weeks in a judicial crackdown across the spectrum of Burma's pro-democracy movement.

Some people have been sentenced to terms as long as 65 years.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Scientists discover Furby look-alike.

Cute in a weird-looking way. Kinda like me! From CNN:
Scientists have found a wide-eyed primate -- a clawed fur ball that fits snugly in one hand -- in the first live sighting in more than 80 years of a creature that some thought was extinct.

Over a two-month period, scientists working in Lore Lindu National Park on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi caught and released three pygmy tarsiers. They bear a striking resemblance to the Furby, an electronic toy that spoke its own fantasy language and dominated children's wish lists in the late 1990s.

They caught two males and one female, said Sharon Gursky-Doyen, a Texas A&M University anthropology professor who led the expedition. The group spotted a fourth -- high in the tree canopy -- but were unable to catch it.

The species had not been observed alive in more than eight decades, since they were collected for a museum in 1921. Many scientists had believed them to be extinct until eight years ago, when two scientists trapping rats in Sulawesi accidentally trapped and killed one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Robot Uprising Watch: 6 ways to build robots that won't harm us.

New Scientist understands that robots will one day massacre or enslave humanity. They've come up with six ways to create robots that won't do so, but as we all know... robots find a way.

Here's the article and briefly, the six tenets of safe robot construction, along with their likelihood of success:

1. Keep them in low-risk situations.
2. Do not give them weapons.
3. Give them rules like Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.
4. Program robots with principles.
5. Educate robots like children.
6. Make machines master emotion.

Trend Spotting: Urban chicken farming.

People need better hobbies. From Newsweek:

[...] As it turns out, Mackin is hardly an anomaly, in New York or any other urban center. Over the past few years, urban dwellers driven by the local-food movement, in cities from Seattle to Albuquerque, have flocked to the idea of small-scale backyard chicken farming—mostly for eggs, not meat—as a way of taking part in home-grown agriculture. This past year alone, grass-roots organizations in Missoula, Mont.; South Portland, Maine; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Ft. Collins, Colo., have successfully lobbied to overturn city ordinances outlawing backyard poultry farming, defined in these cities as egg farming, not slaughter. Ann Arbor now allows residents to own up to four chickens (with neighbors' consent), while the other three cities have six-chicken limits, subject to various spacing and nuisance regulations.

That quick growth in popularity has some people worried about noise, odor and public health, particularly in regard to avian flu. A few years back in Salt Lake City—which does not allow for backyard poultry farming—authorities had to impound 47 hens, 34 chicks and 10 eggs from a residential home after neighbors complained about incessant clucking and a wretched stench, along with wandering chickens and feathers scattered throughout the neighborhood.

MTA unveils plan to provide even worse service for more money.

From the Daily News:

The MTA's doomsday budget will wipe out the W line, zap the Z line and ax more than 1,500 NYC Transit jobs, the Daily News has learned.

The list of bus and subway cuts the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will unveil at its monthly board meeting Thursday is extensive and potentially bruising, sources said.

Riders can expect longer waits, more-crowded rides and having to make additional transfers to get to their destinations if the draconian moves are put into effect.

And from here:

The MTA's bruising budget proposal more than doubles the fare disabled riders pay for a special van service - and socks express bus riders with a 50% hike, the Daily News has learned.

Access-A-Ride users would pay twice the base subway-bus fare, which is now $2 but is headed for a big boost unless the state adopts a bailout plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, sources told The News. The doubled fare will be based on the increase, so it will cost more than $4 per van ride.

Express bus riders are looking at $7.50 per trip, up from $5, under the plan being released by the MTA tomorrow, according to sources.

"What are they insane?" Liz Salsbury said as she boarded an express bus to Queens in midtown Tuesday.

[...] To help close a $1.2 billion budget gap, the MTA is seeking to raise fare and toll revenues by about 23%. The base fare will likely rise into the $2.50-to-$3 range.

Officials haven't set new target prices for the unlimited-ride MetroCards.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn swarming with disgusting creatures. Oh, and rats too.

No word yet if the Williamsburg rodents come from rich suburbs and are spending a lot of money to look that filthy. From the NY Daily News:

It isn't only the hipsters who are moving into Brooklyn's trendiest neighborhoods.

Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Brooklyn Heights have more buildings with reported rat problems than central and south Brooklyn neighborhoods, according to a new city Health Department tracking Web site.

"There's more people living in those areas. . . . More people in tighter quarters. . . . More waste is being generated for the rats," said Health Department Assistant Commissioner Daniel Kass. "In some neighborhoods, the density of restaurants really makes a difference."

Subway gal beats up three muggers.

From the NY Post:

A feisty Harlem woman turned the tables on three subway muggers, chasing down two of the thugs while snatching back her purse - because it had her green card in it, cops said yesterday.

Marie Conde, 26, was riding a downtown 3 train at 5:30 a.m. Sunday and had briefly dozed off when three punks confronted her as it pulled into the 72nd Street station.

"I opened my eyes, and one of them punched me in the right eye," the French-speaking Guinean immigrant told The Post through an interpreter.

"I just started screaming really loud. And then one of them grabbed my purse and they ran out.

"I didn't know what to do, so I just started running after them. I grabbed one of them by the arm."

As she held on for dear life and struggled with the thieves, she yelled over to two people to call cops.

As she continued to grab at the muggers, they decided they had enough. One of them begged Conde to let go of his accomplice.

"Leave him alone!" the thug cried out. "He's my friend!"

Buddhist monk rapes British tourist.

If you read the rest of the article, it's amazing how British media and society either doesn't take rape seriously, or blames women for it. Only 6% of rape cases end in convictions in England. Even in this case, where the monk immediately confessed, police are still skeptical and still listening to "their sides of the incident."

From the Daily Mail:

A young Buddhist monk is being held by police in Cambodia for allegedly raping a British tourist he was guiding to mountain-top temples.

Police said the orange-robed novice had been arrested after the 39-year-old unnamed British woman told police he had attacked her at a tourist site in the north-west of the country.

The monk, Thorn Sophoan, 17, confessed to the crime, according to local police.

[...] The monk faces up to 25 years in jail if he is convicted of rape.

Many young Cambodians become monks to escape widespread poverty, but they do not always devote their lives to the clergy. Sometimes they are briefly ordained so they can pay gratitude to their parents, honour a dead relative or study Buddhism.

Man chops off own head with chainsaw.

The amount of details here is not for the squeamish. Gotta love British press. From the Independent:

A man cut off his own head with a chainsaw in a carefully thought out suicide because he was "irrationally opposed" to leaving his repossessed home, an inquest heard today.

David Phyall, 50, tied the Black & Decker tool to a leg of a snooker table in his lounge with string, taped up the on button and plugged it into a timer, Winchester Coroner's Court heard.

Mr Phyall, who had consumed a small quantity of alcohol but no drugs, then lay down under the snooker table face up and placed the chainsaw against his neck.

A piece of the tool's cardboard box initially cushioned the blades from his neck.

The hearing heard the timer, which is usually used to turn lights on and off, was fixed to start up the chainsaw for 15 minutes.

When it activated, it sliced three-quarters through his neck and across into his right shoulder only stopping from a complete severing when his t-shirt was dragged into the blades.

Court orders halt to sale of spyware.

The FTC continues to prove to be the coolest government agency. From the FTC's site:
At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a U.S. District Court has issued a temporary restraining order halting the sale of keylogger spyware. According to the FTC’s complaint, the Florida-based CyberSpy Software, LLC marketed and sold RemoteSpy keylogger spyware to clients who would then secretly monitor unsuspecting consumers’ computers. The FTC seeks to permanently bar the unfair and deceptive practices and require the defendants to give up their ill-gotten gains.


FOX News: Scientists discover new penguin, thought to be extinct for 500 years.

NY Times: Crazy ol' Ted Stevens loses Senate seat.

HuffingtonPost: Cheney, Gonzales indicted in Texas court.

LA Times: Ginkgo biloba doesn't prevent dementia.

Raw Story: Hate crimes surge after Obama win.

Reuters: Top anti-drink cop caught drunk driving.

SF Gate: Obama seeks immediate action to curb emissions.

Yeshiva University: Overuse of migraine medications may make migraines worse.

Sneeze causes driver to lose control of car, plunge into river.

From FOX News:
BOSTON — An untimely sneeze nearly cost Andrew Hanson his life.

The 42-year-old Weymouth man told authorities that a sneeze caused him to lose control of his pickup on Soldiers Field Road and plunge into Boston's Charles River on Tuesday.

Hanson was able to wade to shore after escaping from the truck, which was partially submerged in 4 feet of water. He was not seriously injured but was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

Lawrence Callahan of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation said Hanson told him that after he sneezed, "the next thing he knew he was in the river."

Crime novelist attacked in scene similar to her new book.

Wow, she's not lucky teeth-wise. From Chicago Sun-Times:

Life was imitating art when crime novelist Laura Caldwell lay face down on a Lincoln Park street holding pieces of her shattered teeth in her bloody palm.

Her upcoming book, Red Hot Lies, portrays a red-headed female lawyer walking at night through the Old Town neighborhood, feeling increasingly uncomfortable as she realizes she is being followed.

On Thursday, Caldwell, a red-headed attorney who in 2005 successfully defended a man who spent five years in jail awaiting trial for murder, was jogging at Seminary and Altgeld in Lincoln Park when she saw two men -- one with a hood pulled over his cap and the other who was lifting his jacket over his head.

Nervous, Caldwell felt the hair rise on the back of her neck. Suddenly, one of the men kicked her from behind, and she fell onto the street.

"They smashed my mouth into the pavement and kicked me a few times," she said. "They screamed about money, but I said, 'Guys, I am jogging and I don't have any money.' They took my iPod and ran off."

Caldwell, 41, said it's the second time her front teeth have been knocked out. The first time was about 20 years ago when she was in a scooter accident.

Blind woman's house almost taken away over a penny balance.

From Breitbart:
ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) - A 74-year-old blind woman's 1 cent debt to a Massachusetts city has been settled.

People from across the country called Attleboro City Hall on Tuesday offering to pay the 1 cent balance owed by Eileen Wilbur for an overdue water and sewer bill.

Antonio Viveiros, a former city councilor who does not know Wilbur, wrote a check for one penny. He says he was "irked" by the fact that the federal government can spend billions for bailouts, yet a senior citizen was threatened with a lien on her home over 1 cent.

Wilbur's daughter first noticed the letter that warned of a lien and a $48 penalty if the overdue bill was not paid by Dec. 10.

Mayor Kevin Dumas says the whole situation was blown out of proportion.

Old documents shed light on Doctor Who.

Interesting that execs originally thought the show was too American - it's become as British as Marmite and imperialism. From BBC:
Newly released documents, which reveal the 1960s conception of Doctor Who, show how nervous the BBC was about producing a sci-fi show, writes Tom Geoghegan.

The Doctor without his time-travelling police box is difficult to imagine, but its creators initially proposed he journey through space in an invisible machine covered in light-resistant paint.

[...] The papers, accompanied by previously unseen images at rehearsals, show deep concerns about bringing a science fiction drama to a mainstream audience - "not an automatic winner", says a researcher.

"Even having done something as massive as Quatermass, they didn't have confidence in sci-fi. It was seen as niche and American.

PSA: Lean Cuisines recall.

One would think the chunks of blue plastic would make them taste better. From ABC News:
Reports of small chunks of blue plastic in Lean Cuisine brand frozen chicken dinners have led Nestle Prepared Foods Co. to recall 900,000 pounds worth of meals.

The frozen dinners were distributed nationwide, and at least one person has reported an injury, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. No other details of the reported injury have been released by the USDA.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Poland foreign minister makes racist Obama-cannibal joke.

If only there were jokes about Polish people we could use to retaliate.... From the Telegraph:

In an episode that could potentially strain relations between Warsaw and Washington, Radek Sikorski, an Oxford-educated politician who has lived in the US, was reported to have made the jibe by an opposition politician, Ryszard Czarnecki.

Writing in his blog, Mr Czarnecki, an MEP, quoted the foreign minister as saying: "Have you heard that Obama may have a Polish connection? His grandfather ate a Polish missionary."

A spokesman for the Polish foreign office conceded that Mr Sikorski had made the controversial comment, but denied that the foreign minister had intended to insult Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan.

"Mr Sikorski did not tell a racist joke," said Piotr Paszkowski, the spokesman. "He was only giving an example of the unpalatable and racist 'jokes' that surround President Elect Obama."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Japanese schoolgirl to play pro baseball.

Rad! From The Independent:

16-year-old schoolgirl is making a unique pitch to become the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan.

High school student Eri Yoshida was drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise, a professional team in a new independent Japanese league that will start its first season in April.

"I always dreamed of becoming a professional," Yoshida, who is 5-feet (152-centimeters) tall and weighs 114 pounds (52 kilograms), told a news conference Monday. "I have only just been picked by the team and haven't achieved anything yet."

Yoshida throws a side-arm knuckleball and says she wants to follow in the footsteps of Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has built a successful major league career throwing a knuckleball.

Yoshida took part in a tryout held earlier this month and passed with flying colors. The right-hander held male batters hitless for one inning in the tryout and her successful outing helped her become one of the 33 players picked in the draft.

Mystery girl stabs five in melee.

From FOX News:

STUART, Fla. — Investigators are searching for a third day for a teenage girl they say stabbed five others during a melee that ensued after a high school football game in southeast Florida.

The incident occurred near the main entrance of Martin County High School on Friday night after a game against rival South Fork High School. Sheriff's spokeswoman Rhonda Irons said Sunday evening that investigators have not made an arrest.

In the incident, one person involved also was Tasered by a deputy. Authorities say another person was bitten by a police dog and one woman was arrested in a series of unrelated fights that involved around 30 people outside the school. None of the injuries were life threatening.

Sex party to heat up Australia's politics.

Finally, a party I can get behind. And hump. From Breitbart:
Australia is about to get a new entry into national politics -- a party devoted to sex.

The brains behind the Australian Sex Party, which will be launched in Melbourne on Thursday, believe that politics has become too stuffy and conservative Down Under.

Describing itself as "serious about sex" the party sees itself as a political response to the sexual needs of Australians in the face of moral campaigners and prudish politicians.


New Scientist: Japan quietly starts horrible whaling hunts.

: Nosferatu considering run for NY governor.

Newsweek: The four worst kinds of soup.

Raw Story: GOP senator accuses Paulson of giving bailout funds to his friends.

Reuters: Israel to release 250 Palestinian prisoners.

University of Warwick: Black entrepreneurs four times more likely to be refused credit than white businesses.

Reuters: Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch dates back 1600 years.

Ohio State University: Researchers find link between nicotine addiction and autism.

Chicago Sun-Times: Japan slides into recession.

Chicago Tribune: Mark Cuban charged with insider trading.

CNN: Federal report admits that Gulf War Illness is real.

IHT: France arrests high-ranking Basque leader.

Healing accelerator built.

From New Scientist:

Medics are constantly on the lookout for ways to speed up the healing of wounds. One idea that has produced promising results is to lower the pressure around the wound to encourage the diffusion of oxygen from the blood into the damaged tissue.

Louis Argenta at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, says that this process can be accelerated further by rhythmically sucking and then releasing the pressure on the wound.

Injuries caused by accidents, disease, burns or surgery can all be helped, he claims.

The flexible device forms a secure seal around a wound and gradually pumps out air to lower the pressure, before gradually releasing the suction. It can even then apply increased pressure to a wound, which may help as part of the treatment.

Greed within GOP may have cost McCain Florida.

Interesting. From McClatchy:

TALLAHASSEE — Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer is being asked to answer to a call for an audit of party books amid questions from top Republican leaders as well as rank and file members about spending on chartered jets, five-star hotels, sports tickets and even men's clothing shops this election cycle.

''There are many folks who believe it's time for the RPOF to run the party with an eye toward fiscal discipline,'' said Brian Ballard, Florida finance chairman for the John McCain campaign. "Not a day goes by where somebody won't grab me and say you have to get control of the party -- it's out of control.''

While concerns about Greer's spending have been festering behind the scenes for weeks, New Port Richey Republican Joe Aloisio brought the dust-up into the open Thursday when he sent a letter to party members calling for an audit of party finances.

He asked why the party bought tickets to sporting events such as Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees games, trips to Disney World, and spent $682,000 on chartered planes when it could have been spending on TV and radio advertising for John McCain.

''Misappropriated money from the RPOF would have easily financed Spanish language and African-American media . . . and picked up the 3 percent we needed to win for John McCain,'' he wrote.

Albino children being killed for body parts.

This is awful. From BBC:

A six-year-old albino girl in Burundi has been found dead with her head and limbs removed, in the latest killing linked to ritual medicine.

Albinos in the region have been targeted because of a belief peddled by witchdoctors that their body parts can be used for magic potions.

The girl, who was attacked on Saturday, was the sixth person with albinism to be killed in Burundi since September. There have also been a number of attacks in neighbouring Tanzania.

Sudan arrests 60 journalists at censorship rally.

From BBC:

Police in Sudan have arrested more than 60 journalists during a protest against media censorship, witnesses say.

Riot police armed with canes and shields rounded up the journalists outside parliament and took them to a police station, witnesses say.

Those detained have subsequently been released, officials say.

Demonstrators said they had been protesting against a press crackdown under way despite guarantees of media freedom in a 2005 peace deal.

Those arrested included senior editorial staff and a number of women, witnesses said.

Murtada el-Ghali, editor in chief of the Ajras al-Hurriya newspaper, told AFP news agency that police had taken mobile phones and money from some of those arrested.

Record numbers seeking Bush pardons.

I wonder if he'll grant a blanket pardon to all military and government agents ordered to torture. From ABC News:
A record number of felons are seeking presidential pardons or commutations as President George W. Bush enters the final months of his term, creating one of the largest backlogs in clemency applications in recent history.

More than 2,300 people applied for a pardon or commutation in fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, the largest number for any single year since at least 1900, according to Justice Department Statistics. The unprecedented number of applications and the lengthy time needed to make final decisions have led to a backlog of more than 2,000 pending clemency applications.

[...] A number of high-profile felons have already sought clemency, among them Michael Milken, the junk-bond king and financier convicted of securities fraud in 1990; John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban; Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the former California congressman who was convicted of tax evasion; and Edwin Edwards, the former governor of Louisiana convicted in 2000 of racketeering, according to the Justice Department.

And possible investigations into the Bush administration's interrogation and domestic surveillance policies has also raised the theoretical question of whether Bush will attempt to grant a blanket, preemptive pardon to members of his administration.

Bush, who came into office in the wake of the scandal surrounding Bill Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, has so far used his pardon power sparingly. He has approved 157 pardons and six commutations, the lowest number of any president since World War II, except for his father, George H.W. Bush, who approved 74 pardons and three commutations in his four years as president.