The News: DOUBLE BUSTED Edition!

– NBC reporter Chris Hansen, famous for catching child predators via hidden camera, was busted cheating on his wife recently… by surveillance camera footage. Now he’s gotten caught cheating on his mistress… with another mistress! This time a Las Vegas stripper is alleging that she had a six month love affair while Hansen was cheating on his wife with a young reporter from Florida. Well played, sir!

– In this post I discussed the “London, England” phenomenon, where American media tend to refer to cities by their full name, like “London, England” or “Paris, France”. In the post, I noted how many American cities are named after European cities (there are twenty US cities named “Athens”, for instance), and how many US cities share names (there are thirty US cities named “Franklin”). So while foreigners might laugh at the “London, England” practice, I thought I’d mention one European who isn’t laughing. Bojana Jovanovski, a 19 year-old Serbian tennis star who is currently ranked #54 in the world, was supposed to play in a tournament in Carlsbad, California. However, whoever handles her travel bought her a ticket to Carlsbad, New Mexico. She knew she was in the wrong place when a local at the airport gave her a “WTF look” when she told him she was there to play in a tennis tournament. She managed to make it to the correct Carlsbad with just thirty minutes to spare… and lost.

– It took forever to get started, but the new One World Trade Center is coming along nicely.

– The Daily Mail has this story about an English woman named Kerri Dowdswell, who normally wears size ten jeans. But when she eats, her belly expands so much that she looks like she’s in the last couple weeks of a pregnancy. A little while later, her belly contracts to normal. It’s gotten so bad that she wears maternity pants when she goes out to eat! Even scarier: doctors are stumped as to why it’s happening!

– The Daily Mail also has this collection of cool photos taken with an FEI microscope, which can “achieve 1,000,000 times magnification” of traditional electron microscopes.

University Challenge is a long-running British game show in which teams from different universities compete in a question and answer game that makes Jeopardy! look like grade school material. In a recent game, host Jeremy Paxman asked “‘which organisation [this] flag represented”:

Grand Union flag

The team from Homerton College, Cambridge buzzed in and answered “the 13 American colonies”. Paxman said they were wrong, and gave the team from Balliol College, Oxford a chance to answer (they guessed “Canada”, which is unambiguously wrong). As someone with a flag fetish, I know that this flag was the first flag of the United States, and is known here as the “Grand Union flag”. I also know that it was the flag of the East India Company, which was the answer Paxman had on his answer cards. The BBC has insisted that their answer is correct, because they asked what organization the flag represented. A small nerd brouhaha has broken out in the UK.

Friday’s Random Roundup

Here’s a couple of news stories and odd stuff I’ve found on the Internet this week:

– What is “multiculturalism”, anyway? See, I don’t mind “celebrating diversity”, so long as that celebration takes place within the framework of the majority culture. That’s why I laugh at people who complain about “them thar Mezzicans, not speakin’ the Anglish”: you could easily have said that a century ago about the Italians and the Irish. “Them thar Mezzicans” came to the US for a better life. They’ll have kids here one day. Those kids will speak Spanish at home, but English almost everywhere else. And then they’ll have kids, and those kids will speak English almost exclusively, except for a few scattered phrases here and there… just like how the grandkids of Italian immigrants speak only English, except for a few words like “paisan” or “mangia mangia”. So, needless to say, I find it downright alarming that Muslims in the UK feel empowered enough to start creating “sharia zones”, where drinking, smoking, drug taking, prostitution, gambling, music concerts, commercial banking and “free mixing between the sexes” are prohibited. How could Britain allow people with views incompatible with Western culture immigrate to the UK? Why would people who despise Western culture want to move there? Is it all well and good to accept the fruits of the British economy, but reject wholesale British culture?

– Speaking of Muslims, there’s an island in French Polynesia called Tematangi that is almost exactly opposite the globe from Mecca. Since Muslims are required to follow qibla (to face Mecca when praying), Tematangi makes it all kinds of complicated to do that.

– And speaking of “multiculturalism”, England’s local government is provided by councils, which vary in size based on the  population. In London, each borough (except for the City of London) has a council. In smaller cities, a council might be similar to an American city council. In rural areas, they might be more like a “county commission”. Anyway, the liberal area of Brighton and Hove elected England’s first Green Party council recently, and one of the first things the newly-empowered Greenies tried to do was have “Meat-Free Mondays” in the city worker’s cafeteria. It didn’t go over well.

– One more “multiculturalism” issue: liberals insist that there’s no such thing as a “liberal bias” in the mainstream media. However, it sure is interesting that the New York Times referred to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist, as a “gun-loving,” “right-wing,” “fundamentalist Christian” who was opposed to “multiculturalism” in multiple articles online and in print. Yet, at the same time, the paper has not once referred to Nidal Malik Hasan (the Ft. Hood shooter) as a Muslim. In fact, the only hint the Times gave that Hasan might be Mulsim was that he was quoted as shouting “Allahu Akbar!” when shooting. But there’s no liberal bias, right?

– A few quick science stories: the Higgs Boson particle, one of the great mysteries of modern physics, might have been found. HIV treatment in Africa is getting so good that life expectancy is almost back to normal. And the NHS, Britian’s national health service, might have come up with a nifty way to cut waiting times: by just letting sick people die.

– And lastly, Musee Grevin in Paris just unveiled a wax statue of Brad Pitt. It’s not creepy at all.

Thursday’s News Roundup

– The FBI finally arrested Whitey Bulger yesterday after a 16 year hunt. It only took ten years to track down Bin Laden. What’s next? Finding Jimmy Hoffa?

– The Archbishop of Canterbury was guest editor New Statesman, a position he used to criticize the British government’s austerity measures. Which is funny, because the Archbishop of Canterbury is the last person who should be critical of the leadership of others. The Anglican Communion has imploded on his watch, yet he has time to criticize David Cameron for cutting programs to keep the British government from drowning in debt. It’s like Herbert Hoover complaining about Jimmy Carter’s “leadership skills”.

– North Carolina’s gas tax is set to become the third highest in the nation. Maybe it’s because the state is shrinking (thanks to Jill Wagner for the link!).

– Is Gordon Ramsey’s star waning? So few people turned up to audition for his show MasterChef that producers “enhanced the crowd” by digitally copying the people who did. Nice.

– When a California man’s cable went out, he called Cox Cable and threatened to kill himself. The Cox technician, taking no chances, called the cops on the man.

– Someone is leaving huge bags of vomit outside a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Philadelphia. Police don’t know if the perpetrator(s) have a beef with the chain, or are perhaps paid to dispose of the waste and are just being lazy.

– Ever seen a $156,679 bar tab? Now you can, as someone took a picture of the receipt from when the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins recently visited the Foxwoods Casino.

– Lastly, New York magazine has a good “nostalgia piece” about the 1988 film Heathers. How has it aged? Read the article and find out!

Wednesday’s Random Stuff

– For years I’ve been saying that the “Drug War” isn’t really a war on “drugs”, it’s a war on “people” and a war on “civil rights”. And now the blue-ribbon Global Commission on Drug Policy agrees with me. The panel, which includes “former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, Greece’s prime minister, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. officials George P. Schultz and Paul Volcker, the writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, and British billionaire Richard Branson” has concluded “that criminalization and repressive measures have failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world” and recommends decriminalizing many drugs, especially marijuana. Predictably, White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske called the report “misguided”.

– Delta Airlines has discontinued the discount it once offered for checking bags online. A Delta spokesperson called the move a “competitive response”… because no other airline offered such a discount. So yes, Delta thinks it’s becoming more competitive by removing something that used to make it unique. The mind boggles. Read more here.

– Speaking of confusing, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church are paving the way to approving same sex unions. However (and you’ve gotta love this), the two denominations are careful to differentiate between “marriages’ and “same sex unions”. Heterosexual couples in TEC and ELCA will only be able to get traditional marriage ceremonies and not the “civil union” ceremony gay couples can get. Why? Lutheran Bishop Wayne Miller said: “If pastors start performing civil unions, it sets up a very confusing message about whether or not this church still holds marriage as the standard for how a man and a woman enter into a lifelong commitment with one another”. Why thank you, Bishop, that all makes perfect sense!

– Since the Anglican Communion is going to hell anyway (in North America and England at least), you might as well have fun with it. The English church of St Mary The Virgin, in Surrey, has doubled their average Sunday attendance (ASA) since hiring Stephanie Nadarajah as a vicar:

Stephanie Nadarajah

To her credit, the 29 year-old Nadarajah has a theology degree from Cambridge and worked at a few high-level jobs at the NHS before becoming a vicar, so she’s a pretty smart cookie in addition to having a pretty face.

– Speaking of “pretty English girls with strange jobs”, Harriet Haslam-Greene was a model. Now she’s a soldier, stationed in Afghanistan with The Highlanders, 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

– And what would a news update be without a strange story from England? Tom Clarke, a 15 year-old boy, was kicking a soccer ball around the back yard of a pub when he accidentally kicked the ball through a glass panel in a neighbor’s green house. Like most teenagers, the scared teen fled the scene. The owner of the greenhouse, perhaps understandably, called police. But when the cops couldn’t find a suspect, they called in a helicopter with a thermal imaging camera! What should have been a teenage accident turned into something from a Will Smith summer blockbuster, and instead of the “stern talking to” you might have expected Clarke to get, he now faces criminal charges.

Festive Friday Roundup!

– Those wacky Brits! I was all excited by the headline “British royalty dined on human flesh“, only to find that the actual article talks about how various human body parts were used as medicine. Mummies were ground up as powder to cure… something or the other, moss taken from dead soldier’s skulls was used to treat nosebleeds, that sort of thing. It’s an interesting article, but wasn’t quite the “Charles I feasting on leg of peasant” I’d imagined.

– You know who is pretty enough to eat? Yasmin Le Bon, who’s still got it at 46.

– Hey look! Scientists in Canada have apparently cured cancer, but no one cares! [insert “Big Pharma can’t make money off this so they’ll suppress it” conspiracy theory here.]

– And look! Farmers in China applied a “growth accelerator” called forchlorfenuron to their watermelons. Only they applied it much too late, so now much of China’s watermelon crop is exploding.

– Guess what, Americans? The Supreme Court ruled that cops don’t need a warrant to search your house! And the Indiana Supreme Court recently ruled that citizens do not have a right to resist illegal entry by the police into their homes. Wonderful. Way to overturn 800 years worth of common law, Indiana!

– Perhaps the folks in Indiana will begin pay homage to their Fearless Leaders, like Saparmurat Niyazov, president of Turkmenistan. Niyazov “had his parliament officially name him Turkmenbashi, ‘father of all Turkmens’, named streets, schools, airports, farms, and people after himself, as well as vodka, a meteorite, the country’s second largest city, and a television channel, banned the Hippocratic oath and demanded that doctors swear allegiance to him” and had a 40-foot gold statue built of himself. Nice!

– A dog in British Columbia survived a fall after being dropped from a considerable height by an eagle or some other bird of prey. It all worked out well for”Miracle May”, as she’s being called: the stray was apparently in poor health when the bird attacked her. She fell to the ground near a nursing home, and the residents took her to a shelter. When news of her story hit the media, donations poured in, and now May’s making a full recovery.

– Work in a dingy office? Use an Altoids tin to create a mini garden!

– Check out Christian Schallert’s crazy, 258 SQUARE FOOT apartment in Barcelona! It’s a bit too cramped for me, but I’ve gotta admire the guy’s ingenuity in getting that much stuff crammed in to such a small space:

The No-Fool’s Friday Round-Up

My virtual desk is creaking under the load of news I have for you… so let’s get to it!

– Unless I’ve missed it, it seems like the US media has been awfully quiet about Vice-President Joe Biden locking a journalist in a closet for several hours so that he (the journalist) couldn’t ask questions during a fundraiser. Seriously – this is borderline kidnapping folks… why do I have to read about it from British newspapers?

– Monsanto, the biotech firm that’s been genetically altering crops for years, is now facing a giant lawsuit. You see, Monsanto’s seeds are sterile, meaning the farmers have to buy new ones from the company every year… which is one thing. But Monsanto has (allegedly) sued some farmers who have had their crops contaminated by Monsanto products. The charge? Patent infringement. What’s worse, many of these farmers are organic, and they want nothing to do with Monsanto’s seeds, since cross-pollination can cause them to lose their “organic” status. So, basically, a conventional farmer plants Monsanto seed. Some of it gets picked up by the wind and lands on organic farms… and instead of the organic farmer suing Monsanto for creating the mess, Monsanto sues the organic farmer for using their seeds without permission. Nice!

– Speaking of “nice”… you know how airlines are supposed to compensate you if your flight is cancelled or if you’re bumped because of overbooking? Well, cheap-ass European airline Ryanair doesn’t think its fair that they should have to pay for that, so starting April 4, the airline is going to charge a £2 “compensation levy” on all airfares. So you can pay for their screw-ups!

– One of the first real-time “instant message” chats on the Internet (well, ARPANET) took place in 1975. Participants included Ronald Reagan, artist Marcel Broodthaers, cultural anthropologist Edward Said and actress Jane Fonda. Someone somewhere made a transcript, and it’s an interesting read. It’s funny how novel the idea seemed at the time, and you can actually see the moment Reagan went from “old fuddyduddy who just doesn’t get it” to “man who understands the awesome capability of such a tool”. Check it out!

– There’s yet another possible HIV vaccine out there. The difference with this one? It’s completely artificial (it’s not modified pig genes, for instance) and it has the ability to change along with HIV. Human trials could start in a year.

– Speaking of medicine, HuffPo (I know, I know) has a nifty post about a woman who had a botched eye lift and now cannot close her eyes. And yes, a lawsuit is pending.

– It’s come to this: four cans of vegetables can get you FOUR free tickets to a Timberwolves game. It almost doesn’t seem worth it (the team is 17-58 at the moment).

– Speaking of sports, I found this great article about soccer in the US, and why it never took off the way gridiron or basketball did (short answer: stupid business practices, but be sure to read the whole thing).

– Lastly, it looks like Yahoo! Messenger is now censoring links sent in instant messages. Basically, there’s a site out there called FilesTube that indexes public file sharing sites like RapidShare and MegaUpload. It’s kind of a Google for pirates. Links to FilesTube in Yahoo conversations are quietly deleted, with no warning given to the sender or recipient. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal… except how is Yahoo! doing this? Is this something built-in to the client? Or is Yahoo! actually searching and filtering millions of messages a day?

The Big Birthday Roundup!

Yes, today is my 40th birthday. And really, what better way to celebrate is there than by posting a bunch of links?

– First of all, good vibes and prayers to the folks in Japan after last night’s earthquake. God bless!

– Google has finally allowed users to block domains from search results. You basically go to Google, enter a search term, click a link to a domain you don’t want to see results from, then go back to the Google page and click “Block [domain] from search results”. For those of us who frequently search for IT issues, it’s almost worth the wait to be able to block!

– The TSA is at it again: they busted Montel Williams for having a marijuana pipe (even though they’re only supposed to have jurisdiction in airport safety issues) and they photocopied a man’s credit cards and other personal papers. Oh, and the FAA has ordered airlines to remove the emergency oxygen supplies from airplane restrooms, just in case a terrorist might think of using it as a bomb. They’re supposed to be working on a safer replacement, but in the meantime, if you’re in the restroom and the oxygen masks deploy… I guess you just die. And, for the record, Montel Williams has multiple sclerosis, and uses marijuana medicinally. So there.

– Think Americans are stupid? Apparently 30% of all British adults think time travel is possible. I’m not talking about “possible” in the theoretical sense of “maybe one day, with the right technology”… I’m talking “something you can do right now”. 44% of Brits also think some form of Men in Black-style “memory erasing” technology exists, 24% thought Star Trek-style teleporting exists, and 22% thought that light sabres are real, genuine weapons. Saddest of all, 18% of adult Brits think that you can see gravity.

– Back in the world of science fact, Voyager is still giving scientists information. The probe, launched in 1977, is approaching the very edge of our solar system, and in a few years will be in interstellar space. Cool!

– Back in Britain, Rifca Stanescu, an immigrant from Romania, has become that nation’s youngest grandmother… at the age of 23!

– Ever wonder what Pi would sound like as music? It’s actually quite pretty.

– Lastly… remember the egg toss from your youth? Cadbury’s Canadian website allows you to hurl their famous Easter eggs at any Google Maps address you want. It’s silly fun! Look, here’s Sanford Stadium in Athens:


Friday’s Random Roundup!

– Two geniuses at Stanford have figured out an easy way to double communications bandwidth. Basically, it’s a filter (not unlike noise-canceling headphones) which allows transmitters to receive as they send. Take THAT, modern physics!

– More genius: some folks at Art Lebedev have designed USB thumb drives that can be printed on plain paper and simply thrown away when used. Cost would be mere pennies, so if a friend needed a file, you could just tear one off a “pad” and let him take it.

– Not “genius”, exactly, but at least sanity: a British court recently ruled that an IP address is not a person. In other words, just because the Media Police find an IP address sharing a file, that doesn’t mean the person holding the account is automatically the culprit. Hooray!

– In the “not genius, but clever” department: if you have an account at a URL shortener, remember that most of them offer link tracking. So if you want to know if someone clicked a link in an email, just use the shortener to track their behavior.

– During World War I, British pilots downed German airships… with exploding darts. Remember the Hindenburg disaster? Imagine flying above the Hindenburg in a rickey old biplane… with an exploding dart.. that’s about to recreate the Hindenburg all over again.

– It’s the cutest Puma t-shirt ever!


Have a great weekend, folks!

Thursday’s Roundup

With the Super Bowl only days away, I’ve been far too excited to write. But not so excited that I couldn’t bookmark a bunch of interesting stuff to share with you. So… let’s get started:

– Mohan Srivastava is a Canadian “geological statistician”. Basically, mining companies go to some location and take hundreds of soil samples, and Srivastava crunches the numbers to see what’s in the ground there. Anyway, like a lot of people, Srivastava always thought that scratch-off lotto tickets were a scam… until one day, when he found a ticket in a pile of stuff on his desk. It had been given to him by a co-worker as a gag gift, but Srivastava decided to play it anyway. He won $3 (Canadian dollars, even) and went to the nearest gas station to redeem it. On the walk back to the office, he had an epiphany: what if he could use his statistical mojo to determine winning lottery tickets? Come to find out, it was amazingly easy. Read the whole article at… it really is damn interesting!

– If it were up to her, Baroness Floella Benjamin would ban TVs in childrens’ bedrooms. Ho-hum… more of the British nanny state if you want to read it.

– Maybe those obese British kids should exercise? Perhaps they might want to avoid swimming off the coast of Florida, where 100,000 sharks assembled.

– On this date in 1690, the government of the Massachusetts Colony issued the first paper money in America.

– 1973 marked the 50th anniversary of Yankee Stadium, so the team sent a letter out to former players and staff, asking them to share their most memorable moments in the ballpark. Slugger Mickey Mantle’s memories… probably weren’t what they had in mind. NSFW WARNING: Although the linked article just shows a scan of Mantle’s letter, Mantle’s written response is very lewd. So, no graphic images or anything, but you’ve been warned all the same.

– So, apparently, Verizon iPhone users can get a 450 minute plan for $40/month, but will need to add $20/month for unlimited texting and $30/month for unlimited data, for a total of $90/month. I just want to point out that my Virgin Mobile Droid costs $25/month for 300 minutes and unlimited text and data. Enjoy those iPhones, suckers!

– Hank Green is a nerd who has a hard-on for the James Webb Space Telescope. And who can blame him, really? The JWST will be amazing, and it’ll make the Hubble look like a toy in comparison. Here’s a video of Green giving his five reasons why the JWST is awesome:

Read more about the JWST at the official NASA site here.

The Thursday News Roundup

– There’s a meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion going on in Dublin this week. Sort of. Primates of the Global South made it clear to the Archbishop of Canterbury that they would not attend if Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church in the US, was invited. She was, so they boycotted. This post at the Anglican Communion Institute has a Pac-Man like graph which shows, in one simple picture, how the boycotting primates hold all the power in the Communion.

– Speaking of The Episcopal Church, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (of which the Church is a member) has been strangely silent about the sickening case of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia doctor indicted recently on eight charges of murder. Gosnell was the doctor of choice for women who wanted late-stage abortions… very late stage abortions. In fact, Gosnell didn’t really perform “abortions” so much as he’d give women huge doses of labor-inducing drugs, deliver the babies and then jab a pair of scissors into the base of the babies’ necks and cut their spinal cords. What’s worse is that few of the machines in his clinic (i.e. EKGs and respirators, etc). were functional, and even if they worked, they were rarely used. Hygiene was found to be almost non-existent. Many of his staff had attended medical school, but most were drop-outs. Even more vile: although his clinic routinely aborted 25-30 week-old fetuses during the week, he’d sometimes secretly open the clinic on Sundays to perform abortions on even later term babies. There’s a PDF at the linked article, but you really don’t want to read it.

– On a lighter note, Glee creator Ryan Murphy appears to be a bit of a dick. The short version of the story is that Kings of Leon didn’t want their music used on his show, so Murphy went on a rant about how the band is (somehow) taking music education away from children. Whatever.

– Paul Allen has died. No, not the co-founder of Microsoft and current owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers. I’m talking about Paul Allen, an Englishman and one of the few professional jousters in this world. Allen was killed when a wooden lance fragment went through his face mask, pierced his eyeball and punctured his brain. Allen was filming a segment about jousting for the popular British TV show Time Team when the accident occurred.

– TripAdvisor has released their 2011 list of the Dirtiest Hotels in America. If you have some spare time, check out the reviews for these places… they’re sadly hilarious! And it’s nice to see that NYC’s Hotel Carter made the list, although it fell from #1 last year to #4 this year.

– Speaking of New York, I’ve been spending a lot of time at ScoutingNY recently. It’s a blog written by a guy who scouts filming locations for movie and TV shoots in the city. If you like stories about urban architectural oddities, this site is for you! He has a few long posts in which he shows screen caps of old movies shot in New York (like Taxi Driver and Ghost Busters) and then takes photos of the same sites, so you can see what’s changed. But I especially recommend The Abandoned Palace At 5 Beekman Street and The Smallest Plot of Land In New York City to get started.

– American football was almost banned in 1905, a year when there were 18 deaths on football fields across the country. With President Theodore Roosevelt breathing down their necks, representatives of 62 schools met in New York City and approved several changes to the game. These included banning the “flying wedge” (a brutal, V-shaped formation that frequently led to injuries), creating the “neutral zone” between the offense and defense, and doubling the amount of yardage needed for a first down from five to ten yards. But their most innovative change – the one that would forever separate American football from rugby – was legalizing the forward pass. It might seem hard to believe with today’s pass-happy NFL, but the forward pass wasn’t popular at first. Check out this article at for the full story.