Friday’s Random News

I’ve got this giant stack of digital stuff on my desk (ok, they’re just bookmarks), so let’s get it on!

– Actor Ashton Kutcher made a biopic of former Apple head Steve Jobs. As part of “getting in to character”, Kutcher decided to go to Jobs’ famous “fruititarian” diet. Within days, Kutcher was in severe pain. Admitted to the hospital, his pancreas was all out of whack. What did Jobs die of? Pancreatic cancer. (story)

This editorial from TorrentFreak talks about jail terms for unlocking mobile phones and how it shows the “true black heart” of the copyright monopoly. Which is funny, because Canipre, a company that helps movie studios sue downloaders was recently busted for using Flicker photographs without permission.

– There’s a new technique for estimating a person’s time of death… and it involves the brain’s internal clock. Neat, yet somehow scary.

– Speaking of science, some scientists are convinced that the Planck spacecraft has shown actual, physical evidence that our universe might not be the only one.

– Also from the world of science, the Suomi NPP satellite recently captured images of gravity waves caused by a cyclone near the Bay of Bengal. The pictures are fascinating!

– You might have heard this already, but Georgia Tech will soon offer a full online master’s degree for only $7,000. In what educators are calling a “first”, Tech will offer full, genuine CS master’s degrees to folks who can ante up the bargain basement price (well, and pass the coursework, of course).

– Cops in California went undercover at a local high school to bust a 17 year-old special needs kid for selling them marijuana. The kid – diagnosed with “Asperger’s and other disabilities” was at first excitedto make a new friend, especially one who called and texted him around the clock. But then the “friend” tried to get the kid to sell his prescriptions meds. When the kid refused, the “friend” badgered him to get him some weed. What I want to know is… why do cops have such a GIANT HARD ON to bust kids? (story)

– I love it when liberals fight each other! In what had to have been one of the oddest scenes ever, a group of transgendered men attacked feminists at a conference at Portland State University. So, basically, this particular bunch of feminists believe that “social roles based on sex are undesirable and harmful to women”. And this particular bunch of transgendered men believe that “social roles based on sex are natural and innate and that it is instead the unchanging nature of biological sex that is undesirable.” The men approached the women, who were sitting at a table with books and pamphlets. The men knocked the table over and destroyed the books. Fun!

(Mostly) Weird News

– You’ve probably heard this by now, but a school in Beaver County, Pennsylvania was recently put on lockdown… because of the theme song to Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air TV show. It seems a receptionist at a local optometrist’s office called the mobile phone of Travis Clawson, a senior at Ambridge Area High School, to confirm an upcoming appointment. Clawson had the Fresh Prince theme as his voicemail greeting. The receptionist, apparently the only American unfamiliar with the song, misinterpreted the line “[s]hooting some b-ball outside of the school” as “shooting them all outside the school”. Panicked, the woman called police, who shut down the school for a half hour and questioned Clawson for three hours. Oooops! (link)

– It could be worse: 18 year-old Alisa Massaro, of Joliet, Illinois, had a necrophilia fetish so bad that she could contain it no longer. Her longtime boyfriend, the 24 year-old Joshua Miner, allegedly hatched a plan in which his friend Bethany McKee, 18, would lure two men to Massaro’s house with promises of “sex and video games”. Miner’s other friend, Adam Landerman (the son of a police officer) assisted. Landerman allegedly “surfed” on the backs of the two dead men, and later (allegedly) joined Miner and Massaro for a three way on top of the corpses. Jesus… what’s wrong with people? (link)

– Thanks to bizarre urban planning, there is a house on Anna Catherine Drive in Orlando that is 50 feet from, and shares a backyard with, a home on Summer Rain Drive. But to actually drive from one house to another takes seven miles of roads. According to Google Maps, the drive takes 20 minutes. (link)

– The FCC has long held dominion over the nation’s telecommunications network. But it has been reluctant to get involved with regulating ISPs, VoIP providers, or any other data-based industries that use IP instead of a traditional circuit-switching network. So AT&T has a cunning plan to convert its entire network to IP-based communication, effectively “de-regulating” itself. The old telephone network, which you helped pay for with your tax dollars, would be dead and buried, and AT&T would be free do… well, so whatever it wanted, and damn the FCC for having the gall to try and stop them. Look, I’m as much of a “free market guy” as they come, but it’s clear that the telcos and cable companies have done a disastrous job with broadband access. America ranks 9th in the world in overall average broadband speed, but we pay an average of $528 a year for the privilege, which ranks us a paltry 21st out of 33 countries in similar speed tiers. Yet the idiots who run Time Warner Cable (which, I realize, is not AT&T) go whining to the North Carolina legislature when a small town like Wilson, NC gets fed up with their slow service and wants to create their own municipal broadband network (result: North Carolina has some of the highest broadband prices in the nation, despite Research Triangle Park being second only to Silicon Valley in the number of tech firms. In fact, Charlotte has the most expensive broadband in the entire country, more than even New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C). And guess what? Time Warner Cable CTO Irene Esteves recently said that consumers “don’t want” gigabit Internet. Well, no, not for $500/month we don’t. But if Google Fiber came to Belmont, NC I can assure Ms Esteves that I’d switch over so fast it’d make her head spin.

– I have no interest in having kids, but this article at the Daily Fail has some interesting info about old wives’ tales about pregnancy and scientific truth (or the lack thereof) about them.

– Did you ever tie a note on a balloon and let it go? It seems like every school kid did when I was young, as a way to teach kids about weather patterns and geography. A kid in England did this not too long ago, and his balloon floated all the way to New South Wales, Australia! That’s 10,545 total miles… neat-o!

– The city of Ixonia, Wisconsin was named at random. It seems that residents couldn’t agree on a name for their new town, so on January 21, 1846, a young resident named Mary Piper drew random letters from a hat. She continued until something approaching a name was formed.

– Interested in medieval embalming practices? Who isn’t? Hot on the heels of the discovery of Richard III’s remains in a parking lot in northern England, a group of French researchers released their report on the heart of England’s Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart. It was a custom in Richard’s day for hearts to be removed from bodies and preserved separately from the body. Richard’s heart was apparently wrapped in linen, preserved with mercury, and then soaked in extracts of myrtle, daisy, mint, pine, oak, poplar, plantain and bellflower. The heart was lost for several centuries, then found by accident in 1838. The heart had turned to dust, and it was this dust that was analyzed by the French researchers. They also confirmed that Richard likely died of gangrene, and was not poisoned, as was sometimes rumored. (link)

– Poor Lauren Silberman. She became the first woman to appear at the NFL Combine (a week long “scouting camp” for players who’ve recently left college). I can just imagine her, setting the ball up on the tee… shaking her arms a couple of times to loosen up… doing a couple of small jumps to prepare… then thinking to herself: “Here goes… I’m going to strike at the heart of this male-dominated, patriarchal institution… I’m going to free all my fellow sisters to… DAMMIT!”:

The Random (Mostly Entertainment) Post

– One of my favorite shows of the new year is ITV’s historical drama Mr Selfridge. In it, Jeremy Piven plays Harry Selfridge, the American entrepreneur who revolutionized retail in the US and UK. Born in the woods of Wisconsin, Selfridge worked at a store owned by a cousin of Marshall Field as a teen, and when other prospects didn’t work out (including trying to gain admission to the US Naval Academy), Selfridge went back to Field’s cousin to get a letter of introduction to Marshall. He began working at Marshall Field’s as a lowly sales clerk in the sock department, but soon rose to the top thanks to a neverending stream of ideas. It was Selfridge who came up with the idea of putting merchandise out so customers could see and feel it, instead of the old way of keeping it behind a counter. Selfridge moved perfumes and cosmetics to the front of the store, so that customers would smell enticing perfumes as they walked in. Selfridge pioneered the concept of prêt-à-porter in women’s clothing. He even invented the saying “x shopping days until Christmas” and is most likely the person who coined the phrase “the customer is always right”.

In 1906, Selfridge and his wife went to London on a vacation. He found London’s department stores lacking in almost every way: their selection of merchandise was limited, their sales methods were downright hostile to customers, and the whole system seemed at least 20 years out of date. He spent £400,000 (almost $58 million in 2011 dollars) building a new store in what was then a rundown section of Oxford Street. And it became a huge success. But things all went downhill for Selfridge from there. He loved his wife, but loved beautiful women, too. He’d often shower pretty show girls with furs and jewelry from his store.

But – and here’s the whole point of this post – as this article from the Daily Fail points out, the real story is even more amazing than the one on TV. The real Selfridge fell in love with a dancer named Jenny Dolly, and literally showered her with millions of dollars. Jenny loved ice cream, so Selfridge had it shipped by airplane to Paris every day, where Jenny was performing (no telling how much that cost in 1910!). He helped her buy a chateau near Fontainebleau and paid the equivalent of millions of modern dollars to decorate it. Jenny and her twin sister Rosie loved to gamble, and Selfridge would sit behind them at gaming tables, handing them stacks of thousand franc notes.

I won’t spoil it for you… but let’s just say it doesn’t end well for either Selfridge or the Dolly sisters. And if you haven’t seen the show yet, you should download it as soon as possible… it’s great!

– If, like me, you’re a fan of the BBC’s historical drama The Hour, you might want to read this article about whether the show deserves a third season (series). I love the show, and of course I want to see season 3 (and 4 and 5 and 6 and…). But the show’s ratings aren’t that good in the UK, and critical opinion has been sharply divided.

– My current favorite band, the Greek synthpop duo Marsheaux, are finally going to release their new album, Inhale, this April. Check out this sampler at SoundCloud. I CAN’T WAIT!

– Ever wonder what Andrew Ridgley, the other half of Wham!, is up to? Here’s your answer.

Dashrath Manjhi was a poor laborer born a small village in Bihar, India. Manjhi’s wife died because she could not get medical attention. Although the nearest village isn’t that far away as the crow flies, the winding, circuitous mountain roads meant that the trip was 44 miles (70 km) one way. Heartbroken after her death, Manjhi swore that no other wives needed to die because of the roads. So from 1960 to 1982 he spent almost all his time, night and day, carving a road through a mountain. The result was a 360 foot long (110 m) road, 25 feet deep (7.6 m) in places and 30 feet wide (9.1 m)… chiseled by hand through solid rock. The road cut the route to the nearest village from 44 miles (70 km) to less than a mile (1 km).

– The Centro Financiero Confinanzas building in Caracas, Venezuela was supposed to be a glistening skyscraper dedicated to modern industry and finance. Started in 1990, building ceased in 1994 after the main investor died and the Venezuelan banking system fell into a crisis. Squatters moved in and quickly turned it into a city of its own. Read the fascinating story behind it here.

– Prince Charles recently visited The Florence Institute, a community center near Liverpool which had recently undergone a £6.4 million restoration. As he was leaving the Institute, patrons at a rundown pub nearby began gently hecking him… you know, stuff like “hey, Charles, why don’t ya come in for a pint?”:

Charles pub

 

To their complete surprise… he did! I guess ol’ Charlie isn’t the big stick in the mud most of us thought he was!

News for November 12, 2012

Man, I haven’t “done the news” on this site since March 7, 2012! So let’s get it on!

– Valerie Eliot, widow of poet T.S. Eliot, has died. Although I was a huge Eliot fan in high school, I didn’t really know much about his personal life. Needless to say, I was shocked to read that his widow had died… until I read the linked article. Eliot married a woman named Vivienne Haigh-Wood in 1915, but the marriage wasn’t a happy one (you may remember the play and movie, Tom & Viv, about their flawed relationship). The two separated in 1932, but remained married until her death in 1947. In 1957, Eliot, then 68, married Valerie, who was 30 at the time. Eliot died in 1965 at age 76, but Valerie lived on until November 9, 2012.

– Remember the Daylight Saving Time change last week? I bet Niles Gammons of Urbana, Ohio does. Gammons was arrested for DUI last Saturday night at 1:08 AM. He was released shortly thereafter with a simple court summons. A little while later, the same arresting officer, in the same patrol car, saw Gammons’ car on the road again. He pulled the car over and found Gammons drunk behind the wheel. Thanks to the time change, Gammons was arrested for DUI at 1:08 AM… again! Two DUI arrests on the same day, at the same time? Awesome!

– Reasons to hate liberals: a) the £80 million school in London that has an indoor swimming pool, glass walls showing off a panoramic view of the city, a wait staff to bring tea and coffee to teachers, custom-made £300 chairs for students; b) Our Dear Leader and his looming $136 billion bill coming due in December; c) Driverless cars are the wave of the future… but not in Washington DC; d) despite the stereotype of religious folks as knuckle-dragging morons who believe the earth is 6,000 years-old and flat, liberals can be anti-science, too. In fact, I wrote about it back in March. But now Fred Pearce, an environmental consultant for New Scientist magazine, wants to know why so many in the green movement are taking anti-science positions; and e) back in March, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg banned food donations to homeless shelters… not because the food might be tainted, or open shelters to legal liabilities… but because New York “can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content”. This has come up again in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

– Britain has, over the years, invaded 90% of all the countries on the planet. In fact, just 22 countries have not been invaded by Britain at one point or another. But guess who Britons consider their greatest foe? According to a survey conducted by Britain’s National Army Museum, that would be George Washington! (Runners-up, in order: Ireland’s Michael Collins, France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, Germany’s Erwin Rommel and Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Atatürk).

– Hats off to Microsoft! IT security firm Kaspersky has released its quarterly IT Threat Evolution report, and for the first time no Microsoft product appears on the “10 most vulnerable apps” list. Adobe apps account for five entries into the top ten (good job, guys!) while Oracle’s Java appears twice. WinAMP, iTunes and Quicktime appear once each.

– Journalists from The Sporting News recently asked 103 football players from 27 teams which coach, other than their own, they’d like to play for. The winner, in a landslide, was Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, with 31% of the vote. The runner-up, Bill Belichick of the Patriots, could only snag 10% of the vote. WOOT! GO STEELERS!

– Guess what the Voyager 1 spacecraft has detected at the edge of the solar system? Strangeness. Oh, astronomers have found starless galaxies, too.

– The word of the day is chamfer. A chamfer is “a beveled edge connecting two surfaces”. Although the word is most often used in woodworking, architecture and circuit board design, the word has also come to mean “the beveled dents in the side of electronic devices that help you open the device”. If you have a laptop or phone with little “dents” in the side which help you open the device, you have chamfers.

– Lastly… there’s no way Christy Turlington is 43 years-old:

Esprit_Wellness_Campaign_2012_06

Yes, this is a new picture from her upcoming campaign for Esprit.

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong

iarmtron

“There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth’s protective layers. There are places to go beyond belief.”

– Neil Armstrong

The Wednesday Roundup

Put on your seat belts kids… we’re hitting the ground running today!

– Ah, ObamaCare. The news just gets worse and worse for you.

– And research indicates that liberals are less tolerant online than other people? NO WAY! It’s hardly surprising, given all the liberal crap I see on Facebook and Twitter here in the Madison, Wisconsin of the South Charlotte, but it’s nice to see the actual black and white numbers.

– The Wall Street Journal has this short but sweet piece about Britain’s continuing War on Christianity. The author, in my opinion, quite rightly, states that “Britain’s equality and non-discrimination rules already have more loopholes than a coherent principle can bear”. The author mentions the case of Nadia Eweida, who was suspended without pay from her job at British Airways for wearing a crucifix. Wearing a crucifix, the British government said, is not actually a protected practice of religion, in the same way that Sikhs are required to wear turbans, or certain Jewish men feel compelled to wear a yarmulke. Furthermore, the government stated, Eweida was always free to seek employment elsewhere. However, the same government is prosecuting Peter and Hazelmary Bull, a married couple who own a bed & breakfast and have, for years, refused to rent rooms to  non-married couples (gay or straight). So while Eweida is free to seek employment elsewhere, people wanting accommodation at the Bulls’ B&B are not free to seek lodging elsewhere. Yeah, it makes perfect sense.

– I don’t know if this is true or not, but some rich Nazi supporters in California allegedly built a huge compound for Adolf Hitler in the hills above Los Angeles. It seems that these Nazi nutters were so sure that Hitler would conquer America that they had the compound built in hopes that Der Fuhrer would rule America from there (the property is in the news because it’s going to be bulldozed soon and made into a picnic area).

– This is also highly suspect, but the footage is kind of cool: there’s a grocery store in Adelaide, Australia that’s supposedly haunted, and CCTV captured candy flying off the shelf all by itself. So the story goes, the alleged ghost is a former customer known for having a sweet tooth.

– Artist Paul Cadden makes some incredible drawings using only a pencil. Check them out: you will seriously think you’re looking at B&W photographs!

– Speaking of art, scroll down this page to see a bunch of iconic album covers reproduced using Pantone swatches. I especially like the one of Roxy Music’s Country Life.

– Aaron Parecki is an iPhone app developer. He developed an app that tracked his movements via GPS for a year. The results are pretty… and pretty cool!

– And lastly, today’s “Cute Animal Pictures” involve a German Shepherd dog who has become friends with some Lynx kittens.

Wednesday’s Roundup

I forgot to mention this, but I updated the Links page last week. I got rid of a bunch of dead links, axed some abandoned sites, added some new ones, and re-organized the whole thing. And now… on to the news!

– Apparently the US government has decided that any and all .com domains can be seized.

– I guess at this point we’re little better than Russia… where voter turnout for Vladimir Putin was 107% in some parts of the country.

– I’m a fan of neither Rush Limbaugh nor liberal columnist Michael Kinsley, but Kinsley has this great op-ed piece about the shallowness of the attack on Limbaugh after his Sandra Fluke gaffe:

People have the right not to buy a product or service they don’t wish to buy. Limbaugh’s advertisers are free to transfer their loyalty to Glenn Beck if they wish, and Limbaugh’s critics are free to deny themselves the rapturous comforts of Sleep Number beds.

Nevertheless, the self-righteous parade out the door by Limbaugh’s advertisers is hard to stomach. Had they never listened to Rush before, in all the years they had been paying for commercials on his show? His sliming of a barely known law student may be a new low — even after what he’s said about Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama — but it’s not a huge gap.

– And here’s an interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson from The Atlantic. I’m a Tyson fan, and generally like his view on American science education and NASA funding. But it’s also hard to argue with this rebuttal of the interview.

– And here’s a GREAT op-ed piece by Philip K. Howard about the need to “clean house” in Washington DC. No, not by “throwing the bums out”, but by overhauling the millions of pages of federal law on the books. For instance, a law have been passed in 1935. Instead of simply removing the old code and replacing it with new code, random amendments to the law were passed in unrelated laws in 1953, 1966, 1973, 1987 and 1998. Trying to keep track of it all is a nightmare. As Howard says, “[r]unning government today is like trying to run a business using every idea every manager ever had.”

– Click it here to read a short piece about the “10 Tech Laws that define our modern world”. It’s interesting!

– Speaking of “interesting”, my homeboys (and homegirls!) at Georgia Tech have converted the seismic readings from last year’s Japanese earthquake in to sound files. It’s cool to actually “hear” an earthquake and all the resultant aftershocks. GO JACKETS!

Continue reading Wednesday’s Roundup