Saturday, January 17, 2009

Small birds can take down planes.

This is a lot more common than I thought. Who knew that commercial aircrafts were so vulnerable? From Live Science:

More than 200 people have been killed worldwide as a result of wildlife strikes with aircraft since 1988, according to Bird Strike Committee USA, and more than 5,000 bird strikes were reported by the U.S. Air Force in 2007. Bird strikes, or the collision of an aircraft with an airborne bird, tend to happen when aircraft are close to the ground, which means just before landing or after take-off, when jet engines are turning at top speeds.

The incidents are serious particularly when the birds, usually gulls, raptors and geese, are sucked into a jet engine and strike an engine fan blade. That impact displaces the blade such that it strikes another blade and a cascade can occur, resulting in engine failure.

A 12-pound Canada goose striking an aircraft going 150 mph at lift-off generates the force of a 1,000-pound weight dropped from a height of 10 feet, according to Bird Strike Committee USA.

[...] Large aircraft are certified to be able to keep flying after impacting a 4-pound bird, however 36 species of birds in North America weigh more than this, according to the committee. Even smaller birds, such as starlings (which the committee's Web site refers to as "feathered bullets" due to their density), can cause engine failure.

The greater the difference in the speed of the plane and the bird, the greater the force of the impact on the aircraft. The weight of the bird is also a factor, but the speed difference is a much bigger factor.

Government gives soldiers' kids virtual versions of parents.

Hey kids, sorry we may kill your parents for no good reason, but here's a Tamagotchi to call "Mom"! From New Scientist:
It is a poor substitute for the real thing, but the US government is hoping a "virtual parent" could provide emotional support for the children of servicemen and women while they are away on active duty.

The Department of Defense is soliciting proposals for a computer program that would enable young children to interact with a virtual version of their parent. Officials hope it could provide reassurance and general chat when phone or internet contact is not possible.

The DoD believes that "the stresses of deployment might be softened if spouses and especially children could conduct simple conversations with their loved ones in immediate times of stress or prolonged absence".

PSA: Sex and heart attacks.

The second paragraph is pretty weird. Who doesn't want to die having sex? From CNN:

While research shows that sex can indeed trigger heart attacks in some people, especially men, the odds of literally succumbing to passion are very low. Sexual activity is a contributing factor in less than 1 percent of heart attacks, according to a 1996 study by Harvard Medical School researchers.

Although heart attacks during sex are rare, no one wants to be among the unlucky few who die while getting lucky. So if you have cardiovascular disease (CVD), or even if it runs in your family, it's important to ask your doctor what type of sexual activity is safe. If you've just had a heart attack, for instance, you should wait three to four weeks before having intercourse, according to current guidelines.

Hometown News: Man shoplifts shark.

From Gothamist (thanks Jen!):
30-year-old Long Island native Elbert Starks was arrested yesterday for allegedly shoplifting a live shark from Total Aquarium in Lynbrook. Police say the heist took place last month, when Starks—a sex offender on probation—grabbed a $350 nurse shark from a tank, put it into his jacket, and drove it to a new home in his apartment's aquarium. (The shark survived!)

Starks is also accused of using a credit card stolen from another pet shop to buy a 2-foot-long green moray eel for $300, which he put in the tank with the shark. An employee tells the Post, "This guy obviously has a thing for fish."

He's charged with grand larceny, which could land him in jail for five years; in his defense, Stark's lawyer explains, "He loves sea life basically, that's what it comes down to."

Good punk music actually coming out?

I don't normally share label news, but on a whim, I checked Asian Man Records' website and I'm super excited. They've got GREAT stuff coming out in 2009: New Queers, Ben Weasel, Riverdales, Nicotine, Monkey, and Classics of Love (Jesse Michaels of Op Ivy/Common Rider).

Asian Man continues to carry the torch thrown away by Lookout! Looking forward to these releases.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Circuit City news.

Bad news: 34,000 people will lose their jobs.

Good news: Liquidation sales start tomorrow, and they're still accepting gift cards until all the merch is gone! Rock Band 2, here I come!

More info here.

EDIT: Dang - Consumerist has this to say:

Are liquidation sales good places to find bargains?
No. Most of the time the liquidator raises all the prices back to their original number and starts marking down from there, with the markdowns getting steeper week by week. He's still allowed to make big signs that scream 50% OFF!!!! even though that price at the time might be the same or even higher than the price before the liquidation. By the time prices actually get below what they were pre-liquidation, most of the inventory has been picked pretty clean. Except for the most dedicated bargain sleuths, liquidation sales are a ripoff.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Zombie Watch: Zombie star spins like crazy.

Shoot it in the head!! From

The fading glow of a "zombie" star reveals that its body remains plenty active, as seen in an incredible rotation rate.

The very old star has a dead heart, having exhausted all the fuel that runs thermonuclear fusion. But the star itself goes on spinning about its axis once every 2.6 seconds and generating intense magnetic fields.

The term zombie was applied by researchers associated with the work, in a statement today. The more scientific term is Soft Gamma-ray Repeaters (SGRs). There are only five known, four in the Milky Way Galaxy and one in a nearby satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Each of these strange beasts is between roughly 6 and 20 miles in diameter (10 to 30 km), yet contains about twice the mass of the sun. They're part of a larger class of dead, collapsed stars known as neutron stars.

UK Kennel Club issues new rules to spare animals lives of pain and misery.

From New Scientist:

The UK Kennel Club, representing British dog breeders, issued new regulations on 12 January that could banish hallmark features of bulldogs and other breeds, on the grounds that they're cruel and disabling for the dogs themselves.

The new regulations make complete sense to me from an animal welfare perspective. So well done the Kennel Club, which spells out the changes for each dog breed in a review.

It did make me reflect, however, on how such cruelties have been tolerated and even encouraged without public condemnation for so many years, even though the objective of breeding is one purely of human vanity.

It seems unfair that, while people who breed freakish animals to satisfy vain and frivolous objectives have got away with it, scientists who experiment on animals with the arguably more noble objective of developing medicine to reduce suffering have been pilloried by extremists.

Zombie Watch: Researchers discover protein that causes cell suicide.

Hmm. Scientists finds a way to cause cells to kill themselves. What could go wrong?? From the Albert Einstein College of Medicine:
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have identified a small intracellular protein that helps cells commit suicide. The finding, reported as the "paper of the week" in the January 16th print issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, could lead to drugs for combating cancer and other diseases characterized by overproduction of cells. The research was led by the late Dennis Shields, Ph.D., a professor in Einstein's Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology for 30 years, who died unexpectedly in December.

In response to stress or as a natural part of aging, many cells undergo programmed suicide, also known as apoptosis. Cancer cells often become immortal and dangerous by developing the ability to suppress apoptosis.

A decade ago apoptosis was thought to be directed solely by the nucleus and mitochondria of cells. Dr. Shields' laboratory was the first to show that a cellular organelle known as the Golgi apparatus also plays a role in apoptosis.

Our world may be a giant hologram.

I think anyone who's ever gotten stoned in junior high school has come to this same conclusion. From New Scientist:

DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.

For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

Boy licks lamppost, gets stuck.

What's really strange is that this is the town that A Christmas Story is based on! From Chicago Tribune:
HAMMOND, Ind. - In a scene straight out of the movie "A Christmas Story," a 10-year-old Hammond boy got his tongue stuck to a metal light pole.

Police say the unidentified 4th grader was able to tell them a friend had dared him to lick the pole Wednesday night. Temperatures in Hammond were around 10 degrees at the time.

By the time an ambulance arrived, the boy was able to yank his tongue off the frozen pole.

Police say ambulance personnel explained to the boy's mother how to care for his bleeding tongue.

The 1983 movie is set in a fictional city based on Hammond, the hometown of author Jean Shepherd.


Update: Cops take away 3-year-old Adolph Hitler.

Creepy: Ice cream man faces prison time for showing off his Mr. Softee.

WTF: Student forced out of school for being molested.

Sad: India razes slums, leaves poor homeless.

Science: Don't even THINK about having sex in an ant colony!

Duh: Amy Winehouse continues to be a walking (well, crawling) disaster area.

Funny: If movie posters were honest.

Lame: Japan Times op-ed piece says Japanese have every right to discriminate against foreigners.

Science: Atmospheres of other planets detected.

Duh: Paintballs can cause "devastating" eye injuries.

British Foreign Secretary calls Bush's War on Terror "a mistake."

From the Daily Mail:

The concept of a War on Terror where military might was used to try to crush extremist organisations has been 'misleading and mistaken', David Miliband said last night.

The Foreign Secretary suggested that the entire post-9/11strategy has been dangerously counterproductive.

He added it acted as a recruiting sergeant for terror networks rather than dismantling them.

Calling for a more intelligent analysis of the threat posed by fundamentalists, he delivered a damning critique of the current U.S. administration's strategy.

Mr Miliband claimed that the West cannot 'kill its way' out of the threats it faces.

Peru high court protects drunk employees.

I'm moving to Peru. From Breitbart:
Peru's top court said showing up to work drunk isn't enough to get you fired, less so if you aren't likely to put others at risk. Peru's constitutional court ruled a seaside district in Lima dealt out a punishment "disproportionate" to the crime by firing a maid for drinking on the job in 2004.

Judge Fernando Calle said that the firing was "abusive" because a maid "isn't a manager or a judge, she's not going to cause a car accident or kill anyone."

The court ruling said an employer has the right to fire a worker for "repeated" drunkenness, but not for an isolated incident.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Air passenger ordered to drink his own urine.

This is alarming news for all of us who carry around jars of urine. From Ananova:

Airport security staff ordered a retired policeman to drink his own urine sample to prove it was safe.

Yu Fahai, 58, was going through security at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, when he was challenged over a bottle of liquid in his pocket.

Yu, who received a kidney transplant several years ago, has to regularly test his urine for infection, reports News Morning.

"The checker asked me what was inside, and I told her it was my urine. She said: "Urine? Drink some to prove it"," said Yu at his home in Chibi, Hubei province.

Yu, who was taking his first ever flight after attending a TV awards ceremony in Shanghai, has now lodged a complaint against the airport.

Bush official admits torture at Guantanamo.

Quick, someone mention Jack Bauer's name! That'll make this all right!! From

The Pentagon official overseeing the tribunals for Guantanamo Bay detainees has concluded that the US military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the September 11, 2001 attacks, The Washington Post reported today.

"We tortured (Mohammed al-) Qahtani," Susan Crawford said in an interview with the newspaper.

"His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Ms Crawford, a retired judge who also worked in the Reagan Administration, is the first senior
Bush Administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have said that the US does not torture.

Too much coffee causes hallucinations.

I can attest to this. From Ananova:

Drinking too much coffee dramatically increases the risk of hallucinating, according to new research.

Healthy young men and women who had more than seven cups of instant coffee a day were three times more likely to hear or see things that were not there.

It is thought that caffeine boosts levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, reports the Daily Mail.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sex offender wins lottery run by rape support group.

From CNN:
An Alaska lottery held to raise money for a group that helps sexual abuse victims had a surprise winner: a convicted sex offender.

Alec Ahsoak, who according to the state sex offender registry was convicted in 1993 and 2000 for sexual abuse of a minor, came forward Saturday with the winning ticket for the $500,000 Lucky Time Pull Tabs jackpot.

Proceeds of the lottery help Standing Together Against Rape in Anchorage, a nonprofit group that offers support to sexual assault victims among other services.

"It's not how we had envisioned the story going," Nancy Haag, the group's executive director, told CNN Radio.

Alaska has the highest per capita number of rape cases in the United States, according to FBI statistics.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Medicinal plants on verge of extinction.

From New Scientist:

THE health of millions could be at risk because medicinal plants used to make traditional remedies, including drugs to combat cancer and malaria, are being overexploited. "The loss of medicinal plant diversity is a quiet disaster," says Sara Oldfield, secretary general of the NGO Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Most people worldwide, including 80 per cent of all Africans, rely on herbal medicines obtained mostly from wild plants. But some 15,000 of 50,000 medicinal species are under threat of extinction, according to a report this week from international conservation group Plantlife. Shortages have been reported in China, India, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda.

Commercial over-harvesting does the most harm, though pollution, competition from invasive species and habitat destruction all contribute. "Commercial collectors generally harvest medicinal plants with little care for sustainability," the Plantlife report says. "This can be partly through ignorance, but [happens] mainly because such collection is unorganised and competitive."

Zombie Watch: Woman gives birth.... two days after dying!

Yipes. From the Daily Mail:

An ice-skating star gave birth two days after she collapsed and died from a brain haemorrhage.

Doctors managed to keep Jayne Soliman's heart beating until they had delivered her daughter Aya Jayne.

Mrs Soliman, 41, had been declared brain-dead but was kept alive long enough for the child to be delivered by caesarean section on Friday afternoon.

Japanese eat collagen in attempt to stay young.

Submitted by reader JenK. From the Telegraph:

From winter hot pots and pigs trotters to sweets, jams and noodles, Japanese women are embracing a raft of new foods and menus which are promoted as being rich in collagen.

Across the country, a growing number of "beauty" restaurants are specifically devoted to serving collagen hot pots in which clear chunks of the translucent tasteless protein are melted into a medley of vegetables, meat or fish.

Dishes which are naturally rich in collagen such as pigs trotters, shark fin and chicken skin have also soared in popularity and are appearing on menus in restaurants as anti-ageing specials.

Meanwhile, supermarket shelves and convenience store shelves are piled high collagen-rich food products, including noodles, sweets and supplements.

Sales of collagen hot pots - known as "nabe" ­ at 7,300 outlets of the convenience store chain Family Mart have also sold more than double their initial target since going on sale last November, according to reports.

But the craze has been cast into the spotlight by scientists who claim eating collagen has no discernible anti-ageing benefits.


Science: Milky Way 50% more massive than previously thought.

PSA: Rabid bat prompts warning in Chicago.

Lame: One Evil Empire looking to expand in another.

Sad: Tuna stocks down 90% and face extinction from overfishing.

Yipes: Oil truck crashes into car during road test.

Politics: UN Human Rights Council condemns Israeli's attacks on Gaza.

Scientists refute argument of climate skeptics.

From Science Daily:
Scientists at the GKSS Research Centre of Geesthacht and the University of Bern have investigated the frequency of warmer than average years between 1880 and 2006 for the first time. The result: the observed increase of warm years after 1990 is not a statistical accident.

Between 1880 and 2006 the average global annual temperature was about 15°C. However, in the years after 1990 the frequency of years when this average value was exceeded increased.

[...] With the help of the so called "Monte-Carlo-Simulation“ the coastal researchers Dr. Eduardo Zorita and Professor Hans von Storch at the GKSS-Research Centre together with Professor Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern estimated that it is extremely unlikely that the frequency of warm record years after 1990 could be an accident and concluded that it is rather influenced by a external driver.

The fact that the 13 warmest years since 1880 could have occurred by accident after 1990 corresponds to a likelihood of no more than 1:10,000.

Bride seeking to rent wedding guests.

Renting friends and relatives seems to be a theme today.. From Breitbart:
A Ukrainian bride whose family and friends cannot make it to her wedding in Britain advertised Monday for "decent" guests to attend the ceremony in their place. She even needs a bridesmaid.

She has posted an advert online saying that only her parents can be at her wedding in London and she needs 30 people to fill her side of the church.

"I'm having a large mixed wedding of about 150 people. My partner has loads of family around to invite to the wedding," said the ad on

"Unfortunately for me, my family are all in Ukraine so they all can't make it, only my mum and dad will be there. I need 30 decent people to represent me for the church wedding and you will get free reception tickets.

"This includes free meals and dance -- it could be just a time for you to relax and have fun."

The woman asks for would-be guests to send a picture of themselves and "tell me a bit about you", adding: "PS. I also need volunteers to be bridesmaid, groomsmen and ushers."

Renting animals, girlfriends, and even relatives a big business in Japan.

I strongly dislike the idea of renting out "pets" for short periods of time. It's disruptive if not potentially traumatic for the animals. I think the Japanese folks mentioned in this article need to strike a better life/work balance so they can form real, responsible relationships.

Lola is a Persian cat who works at the Ja La La Cafe in Tokyo's bustling Akihabara district. It is one of a growing number of Cat Cafes in the city which provide visitors with short but intimate encounters with professional pets.

When I called, there were 12 felines and seven customers, mostly single men.

One man, in his early 30s, was attempting to bond with an Oriental Longhair by means of a rubber mouse.

Yutsuke, who speaks with a lisp, is normally rather shy with people. He longs for a cat of his own but frequent business trips make that difficult. Besides, he lives alone, so the Ja La La is his solution to the problem.

[...] If felines do not appeal, other establishments will rent you a rabbit, a ferret or even a beetle.

There are more than 150 companies in Tokyo which are licensed to hire out animals of various kinds and although beetles may be cheap, dogs much more popular.

First you pay a deposit and a hire fee. Then you are issued with a leash, some tissues and a plastic bag and given some advice on how to handle your new friend.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

14% of Americans can't read.

No wonder why no one reads the Coozer Files... From Live Science:

Statistics released by the U.S. Education Department this week show that some 32 million U.S. adults lack basic prose literacy skill. That means they can't read a newspaper or the instruction on a bottle of pills.

The figures are for 2003, the latest year available. State and county results are available here.

For shits and giggles, I checked some of the stats. I figured I could point and laugh at Iowa from my high perch of literacy in the cognac-sipping, well-read county of Queens, NY. It turns out we're 46% illiterate! (For the record, Iowa is only 7% illiterate.)

Fat ninja stealing money in Palm Beach County.

Is it Madoff? From the Boston Globe:
A ninja, or at least someone dressed like one, is lurking in the shadows of Palm Beach County.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says a heavyset man with a visible potbelly and a ninja costume unsuccessfully tried to steal two different ATMs over the past two weeks.

Security video from the automated teller machines showed the unidentified man dressed in a black ninja outfit with a hood that showed only his eyes.

Authorities say the first attempt was made at a bank on Dec. 29 and the second at a Walgreens on Tuesday. Authorities did not say how the man tried to steal the machines.

US to turn away thousands of tourists because of new rules that no one knows about.

What better way to help the recession than to make tourism more difficult? From BBC:

The Foreign Office is warning that thousands of tourists could be turned away at US airports and ports, as a new online entry system comes into effect.

From 12 January, visitors from countries which do not need visas will need to fill in an electronic form at least 72 hours before they travel.

Those who have not registered risk being detained and sent back home.

The Foreign Office fears some people do not know about it and critics say it might put people off visiting the US.

The new online registration scheme replaces the green I-94 forms that people on short term visits to the US had to fill in on the flight and hand to customs on arrival.

Report: Bush rejected Israel's plea to rain Iran.

From Army Times:

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush rejected a plea from Israel last year to help it raid Iran’s main nuclear complex, opting instead to authorize a new U.S. covert action aimed at sabotaging Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, The New York Times reported.

Israel’s request was for specialized bunker-busting bombs that it wanted for an attack that tentatively involved flying over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country’s only known uranium enrichment plant is located, the Times reported Saturday in its online edition. The White House deflected requests for the bombs and flyover but said it would improve intelligence-sharing with Israel on covert U.S. efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.

The covert efforts, which began in early 2008, involved plans to penetrate Iran’s nuclear supply chain abroad and undermine electrical systems and other networks on which Iran relies, the Times said, citing interviews with current and former U.S. officials, outside experts and international nuclear inspectors who spoke on condition of anonymity. The covert program will be handed off to President-elect Barack Obama, who will deciding whether to continue it.

According to the Times, Bush decided against an overt attack based on input from top administration officials such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who believed that doing so would likely prove ineffective and could ignite a broader Middle East war.

Bungling cops arrest each other.

From Ananova:

Berlin police officers arrested each other as robbers made off with the cash after holding up an off licence.

Two crooks threatened a female employee with a machete at the cash-and-carry selling booze in the city's Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district.

When the woman opened the till and handed over £5,000, the shop's silent alarm went off.

Plain-clothes policemen arrived at the store minutes later but ended up being arrested when uniformed officers stormed in seconds afterwards.

The crooks escaped and police have issued an apology over the mix-up.


Lots of good stuff on today..

WTF: Google searches hurting the environment.

Lame: In other Google news, business trumps free speech as Google apologizes to China.

Creepy: Sydney couple's $30K wedding ruined by maggots and bats.

Sad: All children want in one Australian town is an alcohol ban so their parents will sober up.

Awesome: Australian vigilante hunting down pedophiles on youtube.

Lame: Prince Harry.

Sad: Indonesian ferry carrying 267 sinks in storm.

Awesome: Ancient lobster finally given his freedom.

Eats: Prize-winning noodle kugel. (I just like saying "noodle kugel")

Coozer Prophesy: Massive solar eruption will destroy everything.

It's like I always say - electromagnetic storms and/or Thor will zap our planet. From ABC:
U.S. scientists worry we aren't ready for a solar space storm that could knock out our electricity, our cell phones, even our water supply.

The chances of that happening are small, but it is a possibility as we move into an active period of solar storms.

How do they know? Well, it's happened before. Back in 1859, a solar eruption resulted in telegraph wires burning up.

Of course, the world is now covered in wires and wireless devices that could be vulnerable.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) gathered experts from around the country to look at the economic and social costs from these space storms. While they didn't make any recommendations, the scientists hope their report is a wake-up call.

"We're not trying to be alarmist," said Dan Baker, who is the lead author of the report, "but we are trying to show how our systems are interconnected."