Monday, October 13, 2008

Tablet PC as a hammer

It does seem to be a selling point. No embed code, so link will take you to a video.

State of the art bathroom stylin'

This one is Design Vertebrae Odyssey.

Unjust religious afterlives

The Aztecs did not believe your fate was based on whether or not you lived a moral life. Instead, they believed that whichever of the three afterlives you got depended largely on your role in society and the manner of your death. So you could be a total shit who spent their adult life breaking into blind people's houses to move their furniture around, and depending on how you died, you could still find yourself sitting by the side of some god in the late afternoon sun, eating cheese and drinking wine with your feet in the pool.

To end up in the hellish realm of Mictlan, you had to die either from old age or from a disease (with a couple of exceptions). So, if your syphilitic Grandpa kicked the bucket, he'd be cremated along with a dog, which would serve as his guide along the dangerous, treacherous, four-year path to Mictlan.

Can memory save elephants from climate change disruption?

Charles Foley of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York and colleagues wondered if any of the surviving elephants had remembered the previous drought.

The researchers looked at how the deaths broke down by sex and clan structure. They found that of three clans, two migrated from the region during the drought, presumably to seek food and water. Their strategy seems to have paid off: the groups that left lost five calves between them, whereas the group that stayed lost 11 of its 27 calves.

Cursed movies

The Omen:

An assistant to special effects consultant John Richardson on the other hand, wasn't quite as lucky. On Friday the 13th of August 1976, Richardson crashed his car in Holland. His assistant was sliced through by the car's front wheel. Scrambling out of the wreckage, Richardson looked up and saw a road sign: Ommen, 66.6km.

Urban rooftop windpower does not pay off

... small wind turbines require open, exposed locations that have high wind speeds. These locations are usually found in rural areas, which can produce nine times more wind energy than urban areas.

Bacteria were the real killers in the 1918 flu pandemic

For instance, had a super virus been responsible for most deaths, one might expect people to die fairly rapidly, or at least for most cases to follow a similar progression. However, Shanks and Brundage found that few people died within three days of showing symptoms, while most people lasted more than a week, some survived two – all hallmarks of pneumonia.

Animal tales humor from New Yorker


“Hey, look, the truck’s stopping.”

“Did they take us to the park this time?”

“No—it’s a fire. Another horrible fire.”

“What the hell is wrong with these people?”

The Death of Yugoslavia (part 1 of 6 from BBC)

RoofRay -- checking your solar potential

Rough check using Google Earth.

Flipping domains

In addition to flipping, domainers have other ways of making money from their investments. Most domainers post ads on their Web sites, which can generate a decent monthly income. And Jackson says more and more domainers are teaming up with Web developers to create their own online businesses.

Then there are even more creative arrangements.

"I've leased a domain to the president of Spain," says Adam Dicker, a domainer who owns, a site where domainers chat about industry trends and sell domains to each other. Dicker says the Spanish premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero rented his domain,, and used it as the homepage for last spring's presidential campaign. Maybe it helped. Rodriquez Zapatero was re-elected. Notes Dicker, "And he paid a good buck."

Police has no obligation to protect

One day [estranged husband with history of violence] Mack called Ruth to say that he was coming to her house to kill her. Ruth called the police for immediate help. The police department "refused to come to her aid at that time, and asked that she call the department again when Mack Bunnell had arrived." Forty-five minutes later Mack arrived and stabbed Ruth to death. Responding to a neighbor's call, the police eventually came to Ruth's house...after she was dead.

Ruth's estate suid the city police for negligently failing to protect her. The California appeals court held that the City of San Jose was shielded from the negligence suit because of a state statute and because there was no "special relationship" between the police and Ruth—the police had not started to help her, and she had not relied on any promise that the police would help. Case dismissed.


The Supreme Court has held that neither the U.S. Constitution nor the federal civil rights laws rquire states to protect citizens from crime. As one federal appeals court observed, ordinary citizens have:

no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution. The Constitution ... does not require the federal government or the state to provide services, even so elementary a service as maintaining law and order.

Being the very medium of pure Mind

Truth be known, it is by clinging to what are Mind's phenomena that we experience only the impermanent, feel only disturbance, and find no self identity — never being fulfilled. In short, the phenomenal world is not the true world; it is born of desire for what is inadequate to Mind.

Zombie animals and the parasites that control them

A female Sacculina begins life adrift in the sea, but when the parasite picks up a crab's scent, it sneaks inside the crab's shell and makes itself at home. Once attached, the barnacle sends root-like tendrils all throughout the crab's body.

Those tendrils allow the parasite to draw nutrients from the crab — and take over its mind. From then on, the crab lives only to serve its master — it no longer molts, mates, or re-grows broken appendages, because those activities would take energy away from the barnacle. And when the parasite is ready to reproduce, the crab — even a male one — will care for the barnacle larvae as its own.

Neurons from skin cells of ALS patients

For study purposes:

In order to perfect these cells for transplantation, scientists will have to come up with a combination of genes or chemicals to induce similar reprogramming events in the skin cells without the use of potentially tumor-causing agents.

The skin cells used in the experiment came from two Columbia patients, one 89 and the other 92. Both patients had a mild form of ALS, but one that is caused by a single genetic mutation. The genetic simplicity of this form of ALS - and the fact that it always inherited - should assure that the neurons produced from these stem cell lines will eventually succumb to the disease.

At this point however, the Eggan group has not yet seen the disease in the dish. "The next step," said Eggan, "is to produce neurons from iPS cells developed from a normal, healthy person, and try to determine what's different about the neurons we have made from the ALS patients."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nurikabe -- one weird-ass figure of folklore

Wikipedia says, "the nurikabe is a yokai, or spirit, from Japanese folklore. It manifests as a wall that impedes or misdirects walking travelers at night. Trying to go around is futile as it extends itself forever. Knocking on the lower part of the wall makes it disappear.”

Socialist origins of pledge of allegiance

Excerpted from Cato:

From its inception, in 1892, the Pledge has been a slavish ritual of devotion to the state, wholly inappropriate for a free people. It was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist pushed out of his post as a Baptist minister for delivering pulpit-pounding sermons on such topics as "Jesus the Socialist." Bellamy was devoted to the ideas of his more-famous cousin Edward Bellamy, author of the 1888 utopian novel Looking Backward. Looking Backward describes the future United States as a regimented worker's paradise where everyone has equal incomes, and men are drafted into the country's "industrial army" at the age of 21, serving in the jobs assigned them by the state...Bellamy's book inspired a movement of "Nationalist Clubs," whose members campaigned for a government takeover of the economy.

Scientific theories that make our heads explode

Stuff like quantum entanglement and multiverses spelled out only the way Cracked can.

Terrifying things they don't tell you about childbirth

Like episiotomies and alien-shaped heads.

Knights Templar seeking compensation

The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ has launched a court case in Spain, demanding Pope Benedict “recognise” the seizure of assets worth €100bn. The Spanish-based group of Templars apparently says in a statement: "We are not trying to cause the economic collapse of the Roman Catholic Church, but to illustrate to the court the magnitude of the plot against our Order."

Economics of vengeance

Attempting to quantify it:

Naci H. Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University, gathered information on 89,000 people in 53 countries to draw a map of vengefulness. What he found was that among the most vengeful are women, older people, the poor and residents of high-crime areas.