Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guitar Hero shuts down.

I guess people can only fit so many plastic drum sets in their apartments. From CNN:
The premiere plastic guitar game just flamed out. Activision, beset by falling sales, has decided to shutter the division that created "Guitar Hero" and its sequels.

It's an ignominious exit for a title that was once touted as the first great game franchise of the 21st century. "Guitar Hero" was created in 2005 by indie studio RedOctane, in collaboration with Harmonix, which had previously found success with the "Karaoke Revolution" franchise.

"Karaoke Revolution," where players plugged microphones into their consoles and were scored on the accuracy of their singing, was the first game to show a significant number of videogamers were interested in making "music." RedOctane's "Guitar Hero" proved they were equally interested in shredding a plastic guitar.

Activision purchased the franchise in 2006 for $100 million; to date it has shipped more than 25 million units for a roughly $2 billion ROI. "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" made $1 billion on its own. Harmonix went on to publish the highly successful "Rock Band" franchise, which added drums, microphones and keyboards to the plastic guitar mix.

How the mighty have fallen. The holiday season was a disastrous one for the music game genre. First Harmonix was sold by Viacom to a consortium of shareholders; the terms were undisclosed, but it was reported to be a fire sale. MTV Games, which collaborated with Harmonix on "Rock Band," was shut down. "Guitar Heroes: Warriors of Rock," the sixth title in the series, received lackluster reviews and even more lackluster sales.

Activision posted a $233 million net loss for the fourth quarter. Its decision to lay off the 500-person "Guitar Hero" division was, Activision said in a press release today, "due to continued declines in the music genre."

Shirtless GOP lawmaker caught trolling Craigslist to cheat on his wife.

Upstate Rep. Christopher Lee abruptly quit his job yesterday after he was exposed trolling for an extramarital tryst on Craigslist -- using his real name and Gmail account.

In a mind-boggling blunder, the Buffalo-area Republican, who is married with a young son, responded to an ad in Craigslist's "women seeking men" section in DC. He claimed to be a "divorced" "lobbyist" and a "fit fun classy guy."

As proof, Lee sent along a cheesy photo of himself, flexing his muscles and posing shirtless in front of a mirror.

Lee's cover was blown when his would-be conquest did an Internet search, discovered he was lying, and sent the treasure trove of their correspondence to, which yesterday posted it online. Lee's staffers -- who initially suggested the lawmaker's e-mail had been hacked -- dodged media queries before announcing the resignation late yesterday.

"I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents," Lee said in the statement, which did not address the Craigslist brouhaha. He later told Fox News Channel, "I gotta work this out with my wife."

Lee's downfall apparently was sparked by his exchange with a 34-year-old single woman of "black/Irish" descent, who had advertised online for a "financially & emotionally secure" man.

"Will Someone Prove To Me Not All CL [Craigslist] Men Look Like Toads," she wrote in a Jan. 14 ad.

"Hi, Hope I'm not a toad. :)," Lee responded.

"I'm a very fit fun classy guy. Live in Cap Hill area. 6ft 190 lbs blond blue. 39. Lobbyist. I promise not to disappoint."

Lee, who represented Amherst, NY, is 46 -- although the woman he'd apparently hoped to romance had specifically said she wanted a man between 30 and 40.

At some point, Lee sent the photo of himself, posing in dress pants with a bare chest.

"I just took this one . . . I'm relaxing at home," Lee e-mailed.

"So do you always send shirtless pics to women from cl?" the woman responded. "Sorry. It's all I had," Lee replied.

The Gmail address he used matched the one posted on Lee's Facebook account.

When the woman asked if he was divorced, Lee answered, "Yes," and said he had a child.

In reality, Lee is married. He, his wife, Michele, and their young son recently moved into a new, $650,000, five-bedroom, four-bath home in the Buffalo suburb's Pomeroy Park area, public records show. According to his e-mail exchanges with his new Craigslist friend, Lee wasn't a first-time philanderer.

When the woman -- reportedly a college grad and government employee -- asked Lee when his last date was, he replied, "Lol. last Monday. She was not as advertised. Lol . . . how do people think you aren't going to figure it out once you see them in person."

In June 2009 -- shortly after he helped pass the Student Internet Safety Act -- Lee wrote an op-ed piece warning kids about the dangers of the Internet.

"Responding to what may seem like a friendly e-mail . . . can have serious consequences," he wrote. "Private information and images can so easily be transmitted to friends and strangers alike."

Keith Olbermann to join Current TV.

Cool, I hope he becomes the new host of Infomania! Item!
Keith Olbermann announced on Tuesday that he will host a one-hour, nightly primetime show on Current TV starting in late spring. He will also become the "chief news officer" for Current. Olbermann had been without a television home since he abruptly left MSNBC, where he had hosted "Countdown" for eight years, in January.

For Olbermann, his move to Current gives him a chance to wield large influence over a a relatively tiny network. Current averages about 23,000 viewers in primetime every night--a far cry from the million or so viewers who watched "Countdown."

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday morning, Olbermann said that "nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media, and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news that is produced independently of corporate interference." He called Current "the model truth seeking entity" in television, and said that his new show was "the most exciting event in my career."

Olbermann said the show "will be for all intents and purposes an improved and we hope amplified and stronger version of the show that I just did at my previous network." He could not, however, provide details of the name and time of the show, saying only, "stay tuned."

Al Gore, the chairman of Current TV, also spoke on the conference call. He said he was "extremely honored and delighted" that Olbermann was coming to Current. He said Olbermann was a "great fit with Current in every way."

Olbermann will also be the executive producer of the new show. In the conference call, he called Current the only "independent news and information" channel in the United States. He said he was looking forward to working somewhere where "purely market forces are not the deciding factor in what we're doing here."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Asteroid may hit Earth in 2036.

We are dooooooomed!! From HuffPo:
Apophis Asteroid is back in the news after a Russian report concluded it could hit Earth in 2036. They even have a date for the potential impact.

"It's likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036," Professor Leonid Sokolov of St. Petersburg State University concluded, according to UPI, which also reports an unrelated 4-foot-wide asteroid passed by Earth this week.

Sokolov says while the chances for impact are slim, it's important to plan for all possible scenarios, per Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. He added the asteroid is most likely to disintegrate into smaller parts that could collide with Earth in following years.

The Apophis Asteroid made headlines in 2009 when scientists predicted a greater than 2 percent chance of impact.

NASA scientists are cautious about the prospect.

"Technically, they're correct, there is a chance in 2036 [that Apophis will hit Earth]," said Donald Yeomans, head of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office. But that chance is just 1-in-250,000, Yeomans added.

Woman dies after illegal butt enhancement surgery.

From Daily Mail:
A British student who flew to America for illegal buttock-enhancement surgery has died from medical complications.

Police said Claudia Adusei, 20, checked into a budget Philadelphia hotel with three friends to have the procedure.

Almost 12 hours after receiving 'industrial silicone' injections of she complained of chest pains and was rushed to hospital where she later died.

The procedure, which can cost up to £2,000, involves substance usually used as a sealant.

Adusei was among a group of four British women from London who had flown to Philadelphia on February 5 for cosmetic surgery.

The Delaware County Medical examiner said a preliminary cause of death is the silicone injected into the woman's vascular system which ultimately led to a heart attack.

They have not released the name of the party who reserved the rooms at the Hampton Inn or who administered the silicone.

But the female 'surgeon' who performed the procedure is reported to have disappeared when the victim began feeling ill.

Police are now seeking two people involved in the cosmetic procedures which they believe were arranged over the internet.

Nonprofit ad meant to stem violence leads to death threats.

From the Nonprofit Quarterly:
Yesterday we reported how a purposely-insensitive Groupon television ad that ran during the Superbowl, mocking the plight of Tibetans, triggered negative reactions and resulted in an apology from the company's chief executive.

Now comes word of another Superbowl campaign, launched with good intentions by an Iowa nonprofit that serves victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, that so enraged some people that they've issued death threats against the organization's head. The campaign by Riverview Center in Dubuque encouraged people to watch television ads other companies were airing during the Superbowl and "pay attention to some of the negative messages" they contain. The campaign also invited people to visit Riverview's website to learn about what they can do to help end violence and sexual abuse.

Among the items on the Riverview site is an ad that features a smiling baby with the following voiceover: "He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s aggressive. He raped his girlfriend. But he wasn’t always this way. What are you teaching your son? …” Although the spot has been airing for about a year on television stations in northeast Iowa and parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, Sunday's campaign brought attention to it for the first time to many more people, including some around the world alerted to it by other blog postings.

After the ad aired, the angry emails began pouring in to Josh Jasper, Riverview's president and CEO. Said Jasper about the outraged responses: “I appreciate and respect when people have differing viewpoints. But for individuals to take it to a personal level and threaten my life, that’s taking it too far.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Shipwreck's oldest beer to be analyzed, brewed again.

Samples of the world's oldest beer have been taken in a bid to determine its recipe - and brew it again.

In July 2010, a Baltic Sea shipwreck dated between 1800 to 1830 yielded many bottles of what is thought to be the world's oldest champagne.

Five of the bottles later proved to be the oldest drinkable beer yet found.

The local government of the Aland island chain where the wreck was found has now commissioned a scientific study to unpick the beer's original recipe.

Divers found the two-mast ship at a depth of about 50 metres in the Aland archipelago, which stretches between the coasts of Sweden and Finland in the Baltic Sea.

The ship was believed to be making a journey between Copenhagen in Denmark and St Petersburg, then the capital of Russia.

The salvaging operation to bring up 145 champagne bottles - since determined to include vintages from Heidseck, Veuve Clicquot, and Juglar - had one casualty: a bottle that burst open at the surface, revealing itself to be beer.

The brew has already been sampled by four professional beer tasters.

"They said that it did taste very old, which is no surprise, with some burnt notes. But it was quite acidic - which could mean there's been some fermenting going on in the bottle and with time it's become acid," said Annika Wilhelmson of the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT).

VTT has now been commissioned to get to the bottom of the sunken beer's recipe.

"We're going to try to see if we can find any living yeast or other microbial cells, because that would be very interesting with respect to reproducing the beer," Dr Wilhelmson explained.

Kansas abolishes its arts commission.

It's pretty lame when governments cut programs and assume nonprofits will/can fill in the gap. From the Kansas City Star:
Gov. Sam Brownback signed an executive order Monday abolishing the Kansas Arts Commission and replacing it with a private, nonprofit organization.

The move will save the cash-strapped state nearly $600,000 a year, but it has upset some arts advocates who worry about eroding support for the arts and art education.

“Our state faces a nearly $500 million budget shortfall,” Brownback, a Republican, said before signing the order. “Let’s do all we can to protect the core functions of government.”

The Arts Commission funnels state and federal arts grants to local organizations, artists and art education programs. Starting July 1, the nonprofit Arts Foundation will seek private funds.

Brownback wants Kansas to spend $200,000 next year to assist the foundation, and he said additional funding in future years is a possibility. He appointed nine Kansans to lead the foundation.

The executive order takes effect July 1 unless lawmakers vote to overturn it within 60 days.

Arts Commission Chairman Henry Schwaller said he has already discussed that possibility with legislators.

Schwaller worries that the new foundation won’t be eligible for federal funding and that private donors are unlikely to make up the difference.

“We understand there’s a $500 million deficit,” he said. “But our funding is so small — only 29 cents per capita per year — that cutting this is not going to make a sizable dent.”

Catholic Church gives blessing to confession iPhone app.

I wonder if being an Angry Bird is a sin...
The Catholic Church has approved an iPhone app that helps guide worshippers through confession.

The Confession program has gone on sale through iTunes for £1.19 ($1.99).

Described as "the perfect aid for every penitent", it offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the sacrament.

Now senior church officials in both the UK and US have given it their seal of approval, in what is thought to be a first.

The app takes users through the sacrament - in which Catholics admit their wrongdoings - and allows them to keep track of their sins.

It also allows them to examine their conscience based on personalised factors such as age, sex and marital status - but it is not intended to replace traditional confession entirely.

Instead, it encourages users to understand their actions and then visit their priest for absolution.
More here.


Creepy: Snakes used to have legs.

Duh: The more you lie, the easier it gets.

Neat: Anthropologists discover earliest cemetery in Jordan. Also: red foxes may have been Man's best friend before dogs.

Yipes: Pirates seize Italian oil tanker.

Neat: New bear habitat lets children swim with polar bears.

Angry crowd of 1,000 Muslims burn down churches in Indonesia.

From BBC:
More than 1,000 Muslim protesters have stormed a courthouse and burned two churches in central Java, Indonesia.

The attacks in Temanggung happened after a Christian man was sentenced to five years in jail for distributing leaflets deemed insulting to Islam.

Indonesian police said the crowd considered the sentence too lenient and were demanding the death penalty.

The incident came two days after Muslim villagers in western Java killed three members of a minority Islamic sect.

A police spokesman told the BBC that the angry crowd began attacking the court building in Temanggung after the verdict was read out.

The violence spread to surrounding neighbourhoods where two churches were set on fire and a third was damaged.

Police fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowds.

In a separate development, a video has emerged of Sunday's deadly attack on members of the minority Ahmadiyah Muslim sect.

The footage apparently show how a group of about 20 men were forced by an angry crowd to strip before they were beaten so violently that several died.

The Ahmadiyah sect has been labelled by the government as deviant, but is not banned.

A body which advises the US government on religious freedom has said Indonesia must act against "extremist" attacks.

"Indonesia is a tolerant county that should be more intolerant of extremist groups. It's time the Indonesian government brings them to account for the violence and hatred they spread," said Leonard Leo, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population but it is a secular nation.

International human rights groups say more hardline fringe groups have been harassing religious minorities in recent years. The Indonesian president has been criticised for not doing enough to protect the rights of all citizens.

Researchers link processed food to lower IQs in kids.

I like to think that emulsifiers and preservatives help keep brain cells fresh. From Consumerist:
It could be that munching on processed foods packed with fat and sugar may make kids a bit less intelligent. British researchers have found 3-year-olds who munch on such grub tend to have a slightly lower IQ when they reach age 8. Meanwhile, 3-year-olds with healthier diets were shown to have higher IQs five years later.

CNN reports the link between processed foods and eventual lower IQs stops at age 3. Kids aged 4 to 7 didn't show different IQs at age 8 no matter what their diets were. The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, but the researchers dubbed the link between diet and IQ as "weak and novel."

The chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Obesity Leadership Workgroup notes that it's difficult to pinpoint what causes IQ fluctuations in kids because diet is simply one variable in child development.

Man killed by cockfighting bird.

A California man attending a cockfight has died after being stabbed in the leg by a bird that had a knife attached to its own limb.

The Kern County coroner says 35-year-old Jose Luis Ochoa was declared dead at a hospital about two hours after he suffered the injury in neighboring Tulare County on Jan. 30.

An autopsy concluded Ochoa died of an accidental "sharp force injury" to his right calf.

Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt says it's unclear if a delay in seeking medical attention contributed to Ochoa's death. Tulare officials are investigating, and no arrests were made at the cockfight.

Cockfighting is a sport, illegal in the United States, in which specially bred roosters are put into a ring and encouraged to fight until one is incapacitated or killed.
More here.

GOP lawmaker suggests "emptying the clip" at immigrants.

From Huffington Post:
Alabama state Sen. Scott Beason, a Republican, reportedly made eyebrow-raising remarks over the weekend, calling on members of his party to "empty the clip and do what has to be done" in order to address illegal immigration, which he regarded as a problem.

According to the Cullman Times, Beason concluded a fiery speech on the issue with the extreme language at a Republican party breakfast. His comments come in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

Beason accused Democrats in his home state of intentionally neglecting to tackle the immigration issue. He alleged his colleagues on the other side of the aisle were motivated by a belief that "when more illegal immigrants move into an area, when their children grow up and get the chance to vote, they vote for Democrats."

Later in his speech, the Alabama Republican warned that failing to confront illegal immigration could "destroy" local communities in the state.

In a phone interview with the Gadsden Times on Monday, Beason said that his "empty the clip" reference was taken out of context.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Film: Just how many days does Bill Murray spend stuck reliving Groundhog's Day? (Thanks Mike!)

Lame: Bank of America pays $410m to settle overdraft fees row.

Duh: Shocked mother sues Nutella for not being healthy.

Fast food meat contains 12% ammonia-treated scraps.

From ABC News:
How much meat is in your Taco Bell taco filling? How much is in your McDonald's Quarter Pounder or your Burger King Whopper? And is this meat really meat--or something else?

These questions took center stage in January when a California woman sued Taco Bell, claiming its taco filling is only 35 percent ground beef. The rest, she alleges in her class action suit, consists of edible padding: binders, extenders, preservatives, additives and other non-meat ingredients. Taco Bell says not only is its filling 88 percent ground beef, but that this beef is no different from what you'd buy at your local supermarket for use at home. The company has fought back with a counterattack ad campaign. Where's the truth?

Kantha Shelke, chief science officer of Corvus Blue LLC, a Chicago food science and nutrition research firm, says it's frankly impossible for a consumer to know how much meat is in a food item at Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King or any other fast food restaurant. That's because such disclosure is not required. Even when an item is touted as being "all-beef," it may be only 70 percent meat and not run afoul of regulations.

Non-meat ingredients in meat items include ones that add flavor or promote consistency, and binders. "American consumers think they're being cheated out of their money when they hear that term," says Shelke. "But logically speaking, binders are a very natural thing. They prevent water from coming out during cooking. When you make meatloaf at home, you use breadcrumbs for the same reason—to hold the moisture."

As for the meat itself, some of it can be…well, not exactly what you think of when you think of meat.

Bill Marler, an plaintiffs' attorney specializing in food safety lawsuits, says that it's common for up to 10 percent to 12 percent of that juicy burger you're about to pop into your mouth to be "ammoniated beef product"—scraps and trimmings left over from slaughter that used to be relegated for use in pet food.

They no longer are, thanks to a treatment process that uses ammonium hydroxide to protect meat made from scraps against bacterial contamination, thus rendering it fit--at least according to regulators--for human consumption.

The product is produced by Beef Products Inc. of South Dakota, whose website says that if you're eating a hamburger in a "quick-service restaurant" (the food industry's preferred term for fast food), "...chances are you'll be eating product produced by BPI."