Month: May 2007

ITunes Stashes Your ID in DRM-Free Downloads

“With the launch of iTunes Plus, Apple’s become the first to sell DRM-free music from a major label. Not included in the press release is the fact that all such downloads are watermarked, containing the user’s full name and email address.

It’s quite clever, when you think about it. The only way it could ever be a privacy concern for the user is if they do something they shouldn’t, such as share the file with others. If you think that DRM-free music is an excuse to start throwing it up by the gigabyte on Bittorrent, there could be public humiliation and, perhaps, a legal suprise or two in your future. ” (Wired Gadget Lab)

Bloggiest Neighborhoods

outside.in: “Since we’ve been tracking local bloggers in over 3,000 US neighborhoods for the past six months now, we thought it would be fun to run the numbers and finally answer the question that’s been on everyone’s mind: what exactly are America’s bloggiest neighborhoods? The results below are based on a number of variables: total number of posts, total number of local bloggers, number of comments and Technorati ranking for the bloggers. “

Kidney News You Won’t Believe

“Ever since this first post on organ transplants just over a year ago followed by our subsequent New York Times column on the subject, we have received many, many tips about interesting, strange, provocative, and even useful incentives to encourage more organ donation. But nothing comes close to the latest one, which was sent in by at least 8 or 10 readers (thanks to all of you): a Dutch reality TV program, The Big Donor Show, in which three contestants compete to receive a kidney from a terminally ill donor.” (Freakonomics Blog)

Oasis, Killers Remake Sgt. Pepper’s…

…God Knows Why: “On June 1, Sgt. Pepper turns 40. BBC Radio 2, in bizarre, ill-advised tribute to that otherwise momentous occasion, has commissioned thirteen bands to cover the venerable album’s songs, with the results being aired June 2. The bands will use the Beatles’ original recording equipment and Beatle engineer Geoff Emerick will oversee the project.

Roughly half of the bands have been announced so far…” (Pitchfork)

Street lights go out when I pass by

//visualpalate.typepad.com/visual_palate/images/street_lights.jpg' cannot be displayed] I did a web search on this phenomenon because it seems to happen to me most times I walk past a certain street light on my street. I mentioned it to a few friends who, of course, thought I was wacky. Then, taking my cue from the fact that it was one particular lamp post, I began to ask several neighbors on my street (yes, I live on a street where I know and talk to my neighbors; in fact, we have block parties). My rational side suspected that it was a defective lamp which cycles on and off (several commenters in the thread to which this post points offered explanations of how this might work with sodium arc lamps) constantly, and that I was guilty of observer bias for remembering, and generalizing from, those times when it went off as I neared or passed it. (By the way, I am talking about this happening when I am walking down the street, not driving, so the speculation that my car headlights were activating the photocell that turns the lamp off does not apply.) But none of my neighbors had noticed this about that, or any other, street light on our street.

So should I descend to pseudoscience — do I have some psi power going on? I don’t have to be thinking about turning the lamp off for it to happen; in fact, I often forget about this, especially in the winter when I am not out walking down the street after dark as much, and am only reminded when I notice the light go out. Or do I put out some kind of EM pulse to which that particular street light is sensitive? Some of the commenters suggest we are “electrical beings” and thus can affect electrical circuitry. Certainly an extrapolation, and I have never noticed it with any other light fixtures or other electrical equipment. And, unlike some of the commenters, I don’t notice the light go on again after I pass. But on the other hand, that light is never already off, it seems, before I approach it, or as I drive up my street.

I am in that cognitively dissonant position of being a skeptic but also having a healthy respect for the power of belief. The lamp post on my street goes right to the heart of that dilemma. After reading other people’s beliefs about their ability to interfere with street lights, I realize mine is a weak case, typically affecting a particular lamp which does not go back on after I have passed. To debunk my doubts, though, I suppose I’ve got to go out one nice summer evening and sit under that particular lamp for a couple of hours and assess whether it is cycling on and off. What do you think?

BTW, here is a good Wikipedia discussion of the phenomenon.

R.I.P. Mary Douglas

Wide-Ranging Anthropologist Is Dead at 86 : “Dame Mary Douglas, an anthropologist whose influence ranged beyond the traditional questions of her field to examine areas as diverse as kosher diets, consumer behavior, environmentalism and humor as she described how humans work together to find shared meaning, died Wednesday in London.” (New York Times ) Douglas’ thoughts on cultural boundaries and the things that fall between them were some of the most influential during my anthropological studies. //graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/05/22/world/22douglas.190.jpg' cannot be displayed]

String Theory

Seed Cribsheet #9: “To unite the seemingly incompatible worlds of the very large and the very small, physicists propose string theory, a model of the universe in which tiny strings vibrate in more than three dimensions. This Cribsheet covers the basics of string theory: what it says, why we think it might give us a unified theory of physics, and whether experiment supports it. In addition, we tell you how the strings are shaped and why string theory may not be the final ‘theory of everything.'” (Seed Magazine )

Engineered Insanity

A Gallery of Wonderfully Useless Complexity: “Not content to leave his devices in the realm of the two-dimensional, many subsequent inventors and tinkerers have created working ‘Rube Goldberg’ machines whose complexity far exceeds anything the cartoonist ever envisioned.

In this gallery, we bring you some recent examples of Goldberg-inspired engineering madness, including several from the recent Rube Goldberg contest, an annual competition held at Purdue University.” (Wired News)

Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams

“Can you picture yourself walking into the neighborhood pharmacy with prescriptions for ecstasy (MDMA) and psilocybin?

If MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) has its way, the days of prescription psychedelics may not be too far away. For those who know the history of psychedelic research, this eventuality has been a long time coming. But others — who may only be familiar with the intense emotions and activities around the “War On Drugs” over the past several decades — may be surprised to learn how much progress MAPS has made.” (10 Zen Monkeys)

Advice from an ER doctor to drug seekers

Thanks to walker for pointing me to this diatribe from Craigslist. It is clear, despite his/her disclaimers toward the bottom of the passage, that the ER doctor is very angry with this class of patients. But clean up the language a bit and it is something that ought to be posted on the ER door as an open letter.

How to impeach Gonzales

The icing is Iglesias: “Congress could and should impeach Alberto Gonzales. One ground for doing so, as I have previously suggested (subscription required), is the attorney general’s amnesiac prevarication in his testimony before the Senate and the House. But if Congress wants more, it need look no further than the firing of David Iglesias, former U.S. attorney in New Mexico. The evidence uncovered in Gonzales’ Senate and House testimony demonstrates that he fired Iglesias not because of a policy disagreement or a management failure, but because Iglesias would not misuse the power of the Department of Justice in the service of the Republican Party. To fire a U.S. attorney for refusing to abuse his power is the essence of an impeachable offense.” — Law professor Frank Bowman (Slate)

Jerry Falwell’s hit parade.

Timothy Noah in Slate Magazine: “For 20 years, evangelicals have chided the mainstream media for treating Falwell’s ghastly pronouncements as news; Falwell, they often confide in private, ceased being a significant figure well before he left his signature political organization, the Moral Majority, in 1987. If so, someone forgot to tell Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., who as a presidential candidate in 2000 condemned Falwell’s intolerance (‘The political tactics of division and slander are not our values, they are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country’) but last year, as a presidential candidate positioning for 2008, made peace with Falwell and gave a commencement address (‘We have nothing to fear from each other’) to the 2006 graduating class at Falwell’s Liberty University. On news of Falwell’s death, McCain said in a statement, ‘Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country.’ Nonsense. He was a bigot, a reactionary, a liar, and a fool. Herewith, a Falwell sampler…”

Gonzales Pressed Ailing Ashcroft on Spy Plan, Aide Says – New York Times

In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, James Comey, former assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft, describes Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card rushing to the critically ill Ashcroft’s hospital bedside in March 2004 to pressure him to override Comey’s refusal to reauthorize the secret warrantless domestic surveillance program before its expiration the following day.

“The hospital visit by Mr. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., who was then White House chief of staff, has been disclosed before, but never in such dramatic, personal detail. Mr. Comey’s account offered a rare and titillating glimpse of a Washington power struggle, complete with a late-night showdown in the White House after a dramatic encounter in a darkened hospital room — in short, elements of a potboiler paperback novel.” (New York Times )

Understanding Empathy

Can You Feel My Pain? “Is shared experience really necessary for a physician to understand or treat a patient? I wonder. After all, who would argue that a cardiologist would be more competent if he had had his own heart attack, or an oncologist more effective if he had had a brush with cancer?” — Richard Friedman MD (New York Times )

Is the "Five-Second Rule" a Myth?

“Harold McGee, also known as the New York Times’ “Curious Cook,” has an article about a new paper from a Clemson University research group led by Paul Dawson on the validity of the “five-second rule” — the old adage that if you drop food on the floor but pick it up within five seconds, it’s okay to eat it. According to a 2003 survey conducted by Jillian Clarke (a high-school intern at the University of Illinois who later won an Ig Nobel Prize for her research), more than 50% of adult men and 70% of adult women knew of the five-second rule, and many said they followed it. Now the Clemson researchers have gathered data to assess its validity once and for all. The results?” [read on] (Freakonomics Blog via walker)

The researchers’ basis for determining if the dropped food is safe to eat depends on ascertaining what bacterial load they pick up from a dirty surface after various intervals. But that does not address the likelihood that the added bacterial load is probably an infinitesimal addition to the daily bacterial load to which we are exposed already, from the same varieties of microbes, even if we never eat a piece of dropped food. More important, although I am not a bacteriologist or an immunologist, I seem to recall an argument that exposure to dirt should be considered akin to an inoculation, invigorating the immune system, and that an obsession with cleanliness may actually leave a person in immunological jeopardy when the time comes to defend oneself. At least that’s my reasoning when I eat something I’ve dropped…and I utilize something more like a thirty-second rule.

Study: Vitamins tied to prostate cancer

A study of approx. 300,000 men revealed the correlation. “Heavy multivitamin users were almost twice as likely to get fatal prostate cancer as men who never took the pills, concludes the study in Wednesday’s Journal of the
National Cancer Institute
. Overall, the researchers found no link between multivitamin use and early-stage prostate cancer. The researchers speculate that perhaps high-dose vitamins had little effect until a tumor appeared, and then could spur its growth.”

Psychiatrists, Children and Drug Industry’s Role

New York Times exposé: “Doctors… maintain that payments from drug companies do not influence what they prescribe for patients.

But the intersection of money and medicine, and its effect on the well-being of patients, has become one of the most contentious issues in health care. Nowhere is that more true than in psychiatry, where increasing payments to doctors have coincided with the growing use in children of a relatively new class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics.

These best-selling drugs, including Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Abilify and Geodon, are now being prescribed to more than half a million children in the United States to help parents deal with behavior problems despite profound risks and almost no approved uses for minors.”

Self-Nonmedication

Bruce Stutz, in the New York Times Magazine, gives a first-person account of his struggles to get off an antidepressant after treated with it. He speculates on whether these drugs have more costs than benefits:

“Ron Duman told me about one way that scientists try to test the effectiveness of a given antidepressant in the lab. Put a laboratory rat into a beaker of water and see how long it struggles to get out. When it stops, remove it from the beaker and treat it with the drug. Repeat the test. If it struggles for a significantly longer time than before, the drug is considered to have antidepressant potential.

Is this ability to keep us going altogether good? As Rosenbaum pointed out to me, people under stress can do great harm not only to themselves but also to those around them parents to their children, couples to each other. But when does reliance on a drug keep us from seeking ways to resolve the causes of stress? General practitioners, not mental-health specialists, write most of the prescriptions for antidepressants. For most doctors and psychiatrists, drugs, not therapy, have become the first line of defense. Only some 20 percent of people prescribed an antidepressant ever have even a single follow-up appointment.”

Self-Nonmedication

Bruce Stutz, in the New York Times Magazine, gives a first-person account of his struggles to get off an antidepressant after treated with it. He speculates on whether these drugs have more costs than benefits:

“Ron Duman told me about one way that scientists try to test the effectiveness of a given antidepressant in the lab. Put a laboratory rat into a beaker of water and see how long it struggles to get out. When it stops, remove it from the beaker and treat it with the drug. Repeat the test. If it struggles for a significantly longer time than before, the drug is considered to have antidepressant potential.

Is this ability to keep us going altogether good? As Rosenbaum pointed out to me, people under stress can do great harm not only to themselves but also to those around them parents to their children, couples to each other. But when does reliance on a drug keep us from seeking ways to resolve the causes of stress? General practitioners, not mental-health specialists, write most of the prescriptions for antidepressants. For most doctors and psychiatrists, drugs, not therapy, have become the first line of defense. Only some 20 percent of people prescribed an antidepressant ever have even a single follow-up appointment.”

FREE Bullshit Deflector!

“The “Bullshit Protector” flaps are a great way to protect yourself from GOP or punditry bullshit and spin, when spewed by the likes of George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, or even your local home-grown GOP wingnuts. It was inspired by Bill Moyer, a 73 year old vet, who was seen wearing “Bullshit Protector” flaps over his ears while Bush addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City, Utah.” Download and cut out yours here. //www.wiseass.org/images/bsprotect.jpg' cannot be displayed]

Discardia

“Discardia is a new holiday.

Why do we need a new holiday?

Well, not exactly need, not as such, but this is a very good holiday. It doesn’t involve obligations or expense or overblown expectations of specialness. It does not require you to interact with people whom you do not wish to interact with. In fact, it doesn’t require you to do anything.

Okay, that doesn’t sound too bad. When is it?

The exact days vary. It takes place in the time between the Solstices & Equinoxes and their following new moons. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes it’s long.

Odd. So what is it a celebration of?

Nothing.

What?

Discardia is celebrated by getting rid of stuff and ideas you no longer need. It’s about letting go, abdicating from obligation and guilt, being true to the self you are now. Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load.” (Metagrrrl)

The first time I saw this, I read it as Discordia. Now that miight be a holiday I would celebrate wholeheartedly.

Banksy Was Here

The invisible man of graffiti art: “The British graffiti artist Banksy likes pizza, though his preference in toppings cannot be definitively ascertained. He has a gold tooth. He has a silver tooth. He has a silver earring. He’s an anarchist environmentalist who travels by chauffeured S.U.V. He was born in 1978, or 1974, in Bristol, England—no, Yate. The son of a butcher and a housewife, or a delivery driver and a hospital worker, he’s fat, he’s skinny, he’s an introverted workhorse, he’s a breeze-shooting exhibitionist given to drinking pint after pint of stout. For a while now, Banksy has lived in London: if not in Shoreditch, then in Hoxton. Joel Unangst, who had the nearly unprecedented experience of meeting Banksy last year, in Los Angeles, when the artist rented a warehouse from him for an exhibition, can confirm that Banksy often dresses in a T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers. When Unangst is asked what adorns the T-shirts, he will allow, before fretting that he has revealed too much already, that they are covered with smudges of white paint.” (The New Yorker)

Dangerous books for boys (and girls and men and women)

On Boing Boing: “Already a huge hit in the UK, The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, is taking the US by storm. The first print run of 80,000 has been supplemented by a second order for 300,000 copies.

While the book is beautifully produced and entertaining, it really doesn’t contain any risky projects that the title and nostalgic design suggest. I can’t blame them — the authors and publisher would open themselves up to lawsuits if they included potentially dangerous projects in the book.

…But “dangerous” books are available, if you want them. Some are reprints of old books now in the public domain, others can be picked up used or downloaded on P2P networks, and some are still being published today by brave authors and publishers.

Here are a few of my favorites…”

Newest Retirement Strategy?

//lifehacker.com/assets/resources/2007/05/stamp.jpg' cannot be displayed] Buy the new ‘forever postage stamps’ now but save them. They cost 41 cents apiece but the USPS promises they will be good for first class postage no matter how high it goes. One Lifehacker reader says that a postal worker gave him this advice when he went to buy stamps this week (the first class rate goes up to 41 cents as of next Monday, 5/14). Of course, the USPS may be persuading us all to sink our savings into postage stamps because they know something about the impending obsolescence of snail mail that we don’t.

DSM-IV and ICD-10 Diagnostic Codes

“Have you ever wondered what your doctor has written in your records? Sure, you can ask. But, such questions might slip your mind in the limited time of a visit. Or, you may not feel comfortable. If you have ever received a carbon copy form your doctor filled out (e.g., to request lab work) you may have seen cryptic codes with check marks next to them. Now you won’t have to wonder what your doctor is recording about you, like I did for weeks until I finally looked it up.

Table 1 : Codes for Mood Disorders

Table 2 : Codes for Substance Induced Mood Disorders

Table 3 : Code Extensions for Severity/Psychotic Features/Remission Specifiers” (A Silver Lining)

Phones studied as attack detector

“Homeland Security officials are looking into outfitting cellphones with detectors that would alert emergency responders to radiological isotopes, toxic chemicals and biological agents such as anthrax.

‘If it’s successful, it’ll change the way chemical, biological and radiation detection is done,’ says Rolf Dietrich, deputy director of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, which invests in high-tech solutions to secure the nation against terrorist attacks. ‘It’s a really, really neat thing.'” (USAToday)

Top 10 Body Hacks

From Lifehacker, how to:

  1. Hold your breath longer
  2. Cure warts with duct tape
  3. Stop brain freeze with your tongue
  4. Scratch your leg to make it to the loo
  5. Power use your ears
  6. Free your mind under a high ceiling
  7. Think while you sleep
  8. Cure hiccups with water
  9. Whistle with two fingers
  10. Tell if someone’s lying

A Scandal That Keeps Growing

New York Times editorial: “It is long past time for President Bush to fire Mr. Gonzales. But Congress, especially the Republicans who have dared confront the White House on this issue, should not be satisfied with that. There are strong indications that the purge was ordered out of the White House, involving at the very least the former counsel, Harriet Miers, and Karl Rove. It is the duty of Congress to compel them and other officials to finally tell the truth to the American people.”

Phones studied as attack detector

“Homeland Security officials are looking into outfitting cellphones with detectors that would alert emergency responders to radiological isotopes, toxic chemicals and biological agents such as anthrax.

‘If it’s successful, it’ll change the way chemical, biological and radiation detection is done,’ says Rolf Dietrich, deputy director of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, which invests in high-tech solutions to secure the nation against terrorist attacks. ‘It’s a really, really neat thing.'” (USAToday)

Monitor’s flicker reveals data on screen

This one is from several years ago — “Reflected and diffuse light from an obscured computer monitor can still be used to reconstruct what is on its screen, say UK researchers. The technique could be used to spy on computers through an office window, for example, even if the monitor was not facing the window.” (New Scientist) The system only works for CRTs, so your laptops and flat panel displays are safe. It was also thought that flat panels were safe from Van Eck phreaking, in which images can be reconstructed by tuning in to the radio coils in CRTs. But the same researcher from the earlier result, Cambridge University’s Marcus Kuhn, has reconstructed LCD images by tuning in to radio transmissions from the video cables carrying the signal to the display. (New Scientist via abby)

Native American DNA found in UK

“Genetic analysis turned up two white British women with a DNA signature characteristic of American Indians. An Oxford scientist said it was extremely unusual to find these DNA lineages in Britons with no previous knowledge of Native American ancestry.

Indigenous Americans were brought over to the UK as early as the 1500s. Many were brought over as curiosities; but others travelled here in delegations during the 18th Century to petition the British imperial government over trade or protection from other tribes.” (BBC)

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Light Bulb Lunacy?

Admittedly, this is from Fox News; so is it truly worrisome or their typical reactionary smear tactics?

“How much money does it take to screw in a compact fluorescent lightbulb? About $4.28 for the bulb and labor — unless you break the bulb. Then you, like Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, could be looking at a cost of about $2,004.28, which doesn’t include the costs of frayed nerves and risks to health.

…Aware that CFLs contain potentially hazardous substances, Bridges called her local Home Depot for advice. The store told her that the CFL contained mercury and that she should call the Poison Control hotline, which in turn directed her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP sent a specialist to Bridges’ house to test for mercury contamination. The specialist found mercury levels in the bedroom in excess of six times the state’s “safe” level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter.” [thanks, Carol]

A Subway Named Mobius

//scholar.uwinnipeg.ca/courses/38/4500.6-001/Cosmology/moebius_strip.jpg' cannot be displayed]
1950 short story by astronomer A.J. Deutsch: “The principles of connectivity state that as a system makes more connections to other parts of itself, the connectivity of that system increases in an exponential fashion to staggering levels. The subway under New York City had been growing in complexity for years. It was so complex, in fact, that the best mathematicians could not calculate its connectivity.

Then the first train disappeared. The system was closed, so it couldn’t have gone anywhere, but when all the trains were pulled, they still couldn’t find it. The searchers would see a red light, wait curiously, and hear a train passing in the distance, sometimes so close that it appeared to be just around the next bend. Where was the train? What happened to the passengers? Professor Tudor has a theory…”

Does anyone else remember this story, which I read in the ’50’s and which has stuck with me ever since… ?

Also: 

Mathematical Fiction Homepage

“Do you like fiction and mathematics? Are you looking for a book or story that might be useful for the students in your math class? Are you interested in what our society thinks about mathematicians? Then you’ve come to the right place…
The Mathematical Fiction Homepage is my attempt to collect information about all significant references to mathematics in fiction. “

And: 

Moebius 17

If you can make heads or tails of it:

“Two writers are bombing a train. Eventually, drawing the highlights, they are suprised by the security staff. They are being chased but finally manage to escape. One of the two writers, starred by Johannes Benecke, decides not to give up until he gets “a fuckin’ picture of his fuckin’ train”. Trying to get a picture of his rolling canvas, he has to face a labyrinth of subway lines crossing each other, connections, quotations, fantastic observations, and paradoxical indications. However, Train No. 17 is missing inside the underground system. The Public Transport are looking for the disappeared train as well. The special Graffiti commission, special forces, and computer experts begin to chase. Parallelly, the chairman of the Public Transport, Himmel, is being accused of corruption while building a new cross connection. This is not by chance. In real life, Himmel’s name is Arno Funke who became Germany’s most sympathetic blackmailer of department stores using the alias “Dagobert”. Is he once again trying to escape in the underground with millions? Jörg Gudzuhn does not play a role in here. However, the actor starred already in 1994 as a commissioner searching the “Phantom” Dagobert. In 1991, he starred as a professor looking for a ghost train in Berlin in the movie “Moebius”. The current Moebius conspirancy started in 1997, when Frank Lämmer watched the Argentinian adaption of the story. Since that time, he has been on the “Moebius-stripe”. This differentially theoretical phenomenon, named after its discoverer A.F.Moebius, was not only engraved by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher in wood but has also animated the writer Esher to follow the nine ants of his namesake. Together with Jo Preußler he started the securing of evidence in 2002. After a wooden subway got cinematically lost inside the subway system of Buenos Aires, it is now up to No. 17. Both of the two Berlin film-makers have realized that one cannot get anywhere with this paradox using the five senses and a classical conservative world view. Therefore, they grab together with a crew of writers the motif of the short story “A Subway Named Moebius” by A. J. Deutsch(1950) and actualize the following idea: Two writers are bombing a train …”

Not cellular transmissions after all?

Experts may have found what’s bugging the bees: “A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday.

Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.

But the results are ‘highly preliminary’ and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. ‘We don’t want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved.'” (LA Times)

A Case Against Cheney

Richard Cohen: “Kucinich is an odd guy for whom the killer appellation ‘perennial presidential candidate’ is lethally applied. But he is on to something here. It is easy enough to ad hominize him to the margins — ya know, the skinny guy among the ‘real’ presidential candidates — but at a given moment, and this is one, he’s the only one on that stage who articulates a genuine sense of betrayal. He is not out merely to win the nomination but to hold the Bush administration — particularly Cheney — accountable. In this he will fail. What Cheney has done is not impeachable. It is merely unforgivable.” (Washington Post op-ed)

Guess what movie may make you sick…

Babel is immensely popular in Japan, in part thanks to a memorable and powerful role by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi. But, reminiscent of a memorable incident caused by an episode of the Pokemon cartoon series a decade ago, a number of Japanese have been sickened by a one-minute scene in Babel involving a visit to a club in which strobe lights flash for about a minute. The phenomenon has prompted the posting of a health advisory on the distributor’s website and on posters at theatres showing the film. (Yahoo! News) While strobe-induced seizure activity is a well-known phenomenon in patients with preexisting epilepsy, it is quite rare. In contrast, this has some of the hallmarks of communicable hysteria. It is a little different from the Pokemon incident, which affected viewers simultaneously without forewarning, and which probably attracted a much larger viewing population.

World’s cities step up pace of life

“Pedestrians in Singapore were crowned the world’s fastest movers, walking 30 percent faster than they did in the early 1990s, and in China, the pace of life in Guangzhou has increased by more than 20 percent.

Copenhagen and Madrid were the fastest European cities, beating Paris and London. And despite its reputation as ‘the city that never sleeps,’ New York ranked only eighth in the pace race, behind Dublin and Berlin.” (Yahoo! News)

Hell-in-a-Handbucket Dept.

Arctic ice cap melting 30 years ahead of forecast: “…now about 30 years ahead of predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.S. ice expert said on Tuesday. This means the ocean at the top of the world could be free or nearly free of summer ice by 2020, three decades sooner than the global panel’s gloomiest forecast of 2050.” (Yahoo! News)

R.I.P. Bobby Pickett

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“Bobby (Boris) Pickett, whose Boris Karloff impression propelled the Halloween novelty song “Monster Mash” to the top of the charts in 1962, making him one of pop music’s most enduring one-hit wonders, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 69. His longtime manager, Stuart Hersh, said the cause was leukemia.

Mr. Pickett’s multimillion-selling single — with the indelible chorus “He did the monster mash, it was a graveyard smash” — hit the charts three times: on its original release in 1962, when it reached No. 1, and in 1970 and 1973. Mr. Pickett’s Karloff impression was forged in Somerville, Mass., where as a 9-year-old he watched horror films in a theater managed by his father. He later made it part of his act when he began performing in Hollywood nightclubs in 1959.

Mr. Pickett also did the voice when performing with his band the Cordials. A bandmate, Lenny Capizzi, persuaded Mr. Pickett to do a song featuring the Karloff impression, and “Monster Mash” was born.” (New York Times )

New car smell is bad for you

Is nothing sacred??!! “That ‘new car smell’ can be hazardous to your health, The Ecology Center, a Berkeley, Calif., environmental group said. The Ecology Center said toxic chemicals such as bromine, chlorine and lead found in cars’ interiors give off harmful fumes for three years, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The group listed the 10 least toxic vehicles in a report: the Acura RDX; BMW X3; Chevrolet Cobalt; Chrysler PT Cruiser; Honda Odyssey; Nissan Frontier; Suzuki Aerio wagon; Toyota Matrix; and Volvo S40 and V50.

The 10 worst vehicles were: the Chevy Aveo, Express and Silverado; Hyundai Accent; Kio Rio and Spectra; Nissan Versa; Scion xB; Subaru Forester; and Suzuki Forenza.” (Earthtimes)