Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Washingtonian's Best and Worst of Congress

Check out the results of this survey about members of Congress. Includes categories like nicest, meanest and biggest jock. Some samples:


Falling Star
1. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)
2. Larry Craig (R-Id.)
3. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

Republicans stuffed the ballot box for Clinton.


1. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
2. John Boehner (R-Ohio)
3. Ralph Hall (R-Tex.)

Frank wins in a landslide. Should voters worry that the architect of mortgage-assistance bills is given to one-liners? “A funny thing happened on the way to foreclosure. . . .”

From Washingtonian via my new favorite RSS feed:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mind Voodoo and Weight-Loss

Based on my personal experience, I've always thought there was a mind-voodoo component to weight-loss.
Simply by telling 44 hotel maids that what they did each day involved some serious exercise, the Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer and Alia J. Crum, a student, were apparently able to lower the women’s blood pressure, shave pounds off their bodies and improve their body-fat and “waist to hip” ratios. Self-awareness, it seems, was the women’s elliptical trainer.
Source: NYT via Metafilter

Extreme Ironing

I'd settle for a man ironing in my living room.
Extreme ironing might be the coolest sport that didn't make it into the Olympics this year. Started over a decade ago by UK knitwear factory worker Phil Shaw, it requires four simple criteria: a man, an iron, an ironing board, and a crazy natural environment that makes people think, holy crap I can't believe he's ironing on that thing! Shaw calls extreme ironing "the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt."


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Elected Officials: Focused on the Real Problems

This is real. You can look it up on Thomas: H.Con.Res.404
Supporting the goals and ideals of Complaint Free Wednesday:

Whereas the average person complains approximately 15 to 30 times per day, resulting in approximately 4,570,350,000 complaints per day in the United States;

Whereas people complain in order to negatively get attention from others, avoid taking action, pre-excuse poor performance, brag, or exercise control over others;

Whereas complaining damages a person’s health, relationships, and ability to solve underlying problems;

Whereas violence usually begins with complaining by expressing grief, pain, or discontent;

Whereas it is not complaining if a person acts proactively to resolve an issue;

Whereas ‘A Complaint Free World’ is an organization that encourages people to wear purple bracelets as a symbolic reminder to change a person’s complaining nature;

Whereas ‘A Complaint Free World’ has delivered approximately 5,439,532 purple bracelets to people throughout the world;

Whereas ‘A Complaint Free World’ hopes to inspire 1 percent of the world’s population to have a positive attitude;

Whereas supporters of this movement have worked with thousands of schools in the United States through the Complaint Free program and have achieved amazing results in creating positive attitudes; and

Whereas Complaint Free Wednesday will be observed on the day before Thanksgiving, providing each person in the United States a day free from complaining in order to prepare for a day of gratitude: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress -

(1) supports the goals and ideals of Complaint Free Wednesday;

(2) encourages each person in the United States to remember that having a positive life begins with having a positive attitude; and

(3) recognizes and reaffirms the meaning of Thanksgiving by asking each person in the United States to use Complaint Free Wednesday to refrain from complaining and prepare for a day of gratitude.

Jim Thorpe, greatest athlete of all time

Every four years when someone does something remarkable in the Olympics, he suddenly becomes the greatest athlete of all time.

But speaking of history, let’s go back to the time of Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe.

Better known as Jim Thorpe, this [Sac and Fox Indian from Oklahoma] had a pretty impressive resume.

Let’s see … he won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon during the 1912 Stockholm Games.

As a football player he was a running back, defensive back, kicker and punter for his college team, the Carlisle Indians.


He also participated in baseball, basketball, lacrosse and track while in college, excelling at all of them.

He went on to play in the National Football League, earning All-Pro honors one season and being named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1920s.

Thorpe played two seasons of professional baseball, and even found time to play pro basketball, starring for a barnstorming team made up entirely of [Indians].

Oh yeah, he was also a ballroom dancer. And I don’t mean just some guy who could cut a rug while trying to impress the opposite sex, but one who actually won the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship.
By Scott Adamson at Independent Mail.Com (via

Sleep Deprived High

This explains a few things about being at Clarion West.
People who are sleep-deprived often report getting a "second wind" where they suddenly wake up and feel great — though they are still too fatigued to do any major problem-solving. A group of researchers have discovered there's a good reason for this. Sleep deprivation floods your brain with dopamine, the very same hormone that amphetamines like crystal meth shoot into your neural receptors.
Source: io9

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How Accurate Are Stories in the News?

"No one was ultimately harmed (physically, anyway - a couple of folks had their lives upended, though) in this incident, which is certainly a good thing. But the frenzy around it was unsettling to me; as soon as it was published (including some really stupid factual errors) the story was around the world and it made me wonder: how accurate are the stories I know nothing about but read all the time? If something as small as this could have errors in it (some of which I won't go into as they really should be kept in the courtroom, as far as I'm concerned) because of a feeding frenzy does that bode well for our acceptance of everything else we read in the Oregonian or hear on the Today show? A small example: somewhere, somebody got the idea the video was taken with a cell phone and you can tell from the headlines that the media thought this was a cool concept."

Source: Roadrage Incident

Searching for Red Nuggets

I don't understand this but I bet it's really cool.
Astronomers continue to puzzle over the recent discovery of a strange population of dense, compact galaxies that existed in the early universe but are nowhere to be seen today. They suspect the galaxies somehow puffed up into the bloated behemoths we see around us, but new research shortens the timescale during which this mysterious swelling could have happened.

In April, astronomers reported finding extremely compact galaxies as far back as 10 billion years ago, or 3.7 billion years after the big bang. The galaxies contained the same number of stars as modern, blob-shaped galaxies known as ellipticals – but were two to three times smaller on average.

Now, observations have turned up compact galaxies roughly a billion years later, when the universe was almost 5 billion years old. Some, dubbed 'red nuggets', are extremely compact – weighing as much as modern ellipticals, but measuring as little as a tenth their size.
Source: New Scientist

Stem Cells From Menstrual Blood Save Limbs

Stem cells derived from human menstrual blood have, in mice, prevented limbs with restricted blood flow from withering. Trials in humans facing amputations are expected to start next year.

Now Thomas Ichim, of MediStem, and his team have published a proof-of-principle study in mice, showing that the endometrial stem cells revitalise damaged limbs in much the same way that bone-marrow-derived stem cells do.

Source: New Scientist

Monday, August 18, 2008

Anti-Gaming Group Pursues Appeal to Supreme Court

My Prediction: The Indians Win
"The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, has been seeking to establish a reservation since gaining federal recognition in 1998. But a group called Michigan Gambling Opposition tied up the tribe's land-into-trust application with a lawsuit against the Bush administration.

Seizing on the dissenting opinion of one of President Bush's judicial nominees, MichGO is now asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the land-into-trust provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934."


Federal Judge Recognizes Treaty Rights

I hate to see tribe against tribe in stuff like this.
The Wenatchi Band of Washington has fishing rights at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, a federal judge ruled last Tuesday.

The Yakama Nation had won an injunction that prevented the Wenatchi Band from fishing at the hatchery. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2006 lifted the injunction and ordered a trial on the merits.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Around the globe, Klein finds examples of how the implementation of what she's coined "the shock doctrine" is used to exploit a public reeling from natural or man-made disasters to implement economic and social policies to which they would never have otherwise submitted.

Source: A.V. Club ( via: metafilter)

Tips For Better Meetings

"Every meeting has a start time and an end time. That means it starts on time and ends on time. If someone is chronically late to meetings, the others must bring peer pressure to bear on that individual. If most of a company's executives exhibit this trait, then find another company. It's a sign of immaturity and disrespect for others.

Every meeting is run by someone who is responsible for every aspect of the meeting including agenda, attendance, punctuality, and documentation. That person keeps everyone on topic and moves the meeting along using the methods described below.

Key decisions that are reached during the meeting regarding strategies, plans or objectives should be published by whoever ran the meeting within one day. That also goes for follow-up or action required and an owner for each item."

Source: CNET

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tribes Don't Want Fire Crews in Sacred Sites

I don't know what to think about this. I wish I knew more about fire fighting.
Tribes in northern California don't want fire crews trampling on sacred sites and fishing grounds in the Six Rivers National Forest.

The Karuk Tribe, the Yurok Tribe and the Tolowa Tribe say federal officials should let the 9,400-acre Blue 2 and the 62,000-acre Siskiyou Complex fires burn naturally. They worry that containment fires could ending up causing more damage than necessary.


AP Story: here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brightly-Colored Bugs Sit on Medicinally-Active Plants

"If you're poisonous, it's to your advantage to advertise that to your predators," says Capson. But to him, the bright colours tell an entirely different tale. "What it's telling us is: 'You should go ahead and sample the plant I'm eating to search for pharmaceutical compounds'," he says.

Capson's team decided to test their theory in the forests of Panama. They chose 10 plants which they knew contained medicinal compounds, and 10 non-medicinal plants which looked very similar to them. In four national parks, they searched for the plants in their natural environment and recorded the number of bright insects on their leaves as they went.

Source: New Scientist

Free Topos Maps from USGS

"However there is another way to print free topos. You can download, for free, a high resolution PDF file of any US topo map made. These are the same maps that the Google Earth app is using, but here they are dished out one by one in PDF format. Go to the USGS Map Locator page, and search for the quad you want. You can type in an "street" address just like in Google. Click on the appropriate miniature map and then choose which scale map of the area you want to download. The PDF files of the standard 7.5 minute topo map will be between 6 and 16 megs. You'll need Photoshop or equivalent to crop and size them. Be prepared to use some heavy duty processing power. These are big, very detailed maps."

Source: Cool Tools

Forest Service Winning Fight to Make Reclaimed Wastewater Snow on Tribal Sacred Lands

I should probably read the decision before ranting about it but it's over 100 pp. and I don't have time right now. I've been following the case and I find it difficult to believe that it's gone as far as it has.

Why is USFS using reclaimed wastewater to make snow anywhere? This is a sacred place to the Tribes, they don't want reclaimed wastewater sprayed around. That should be the end of it.

Can you imagine going to a church, temple or synagogue and saying: "Hey, we're going to power-wash this place with reclaimed waste water"?
"In Navajo Nation v. US Forest Service, an en banc panel of the court ruled that the U.S. Forest Service did not violate the religious rights of tribes by allowing the use of reclaimed wastewater to make snow in the sacred San Francisco Peaks of Arizona. A three-judge panel had previously ruled in favor of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe and other tribes in the Southwest that use the site for ceremonies and other purposes."


Navajo Nation v. US Forest Service

Sunday, August 10, 2008


"If you're a fan of dinosaurs, the premise of British series Primeval will immediately appeal to you. Airing for the first time in the U.S. tonight, Primeval is the story of a glittering portal that opens in Gloucestershire's Forest of Dean — a portal that connects a Jurassic desert with contemporary England."

Source: io9

Olympics: Fasted Pool?

"The Water Cube pool is close to 10 feet deep. That's 3 feet deeper than the pools of the past. The lane lines that separate swimmers are called wave eaters because they dissipate turbulent water. The goal is to make the water as flat and clear as possible, despite the churning that swimmers create.

An indoor setting also helps, along with temperature, humidity and lighting control. Wide decks with seats sharply cascading back give swimmers an uncrowded sense of space. That can energize athletes, like American Dara Torres, who calls the pool "awesome."

Source: NPR

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Orwell Prize organization will, starting today, post George Orwell's diary entries online exactly 70 years after they were written.

Source: slashdot

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Left-Hander To Rule America

Four (including me) of my Clarion West class are lefties.

"WHETHER Barack Obama or John McCain triumphs in November, the victor will be the eighth left-handed president of America. While making up just 10% of the general populace, 18% of American presidents have been lefties, perhaps given extra drive by centuries of persecution."

Source: The Economist

Spain has introduced measures that include paying jobless immigrants to go home.

"Faced with a 10.7 percent unemployment rate, [Spain] has announced a plan that would pay jobless immigrants to return to their home countries. The Catalan regional government, among the most progressive in Spain, has authorized a program that would temporarily segregate newly arrived immigrant children from non-European countries in special schools designed to better prepare them for integration into the regular educational system. The government is expending greater resources on preventing migrant-laden boats from reaching Spanish shores, and more frequently deporting those who do land."

Source: CS Monitor

The First Test Tube Orphan

"[The first test tube orphan] came about when a Japanese couple got divorced, after paying a surrogate mother in India to give birth to their child, who was conceived using in vitro fertilisation.

Since the split, Yuki Yamada, the baby girl's biological mother who was due to adopt her, is no longer interested, nor is the surrogate mother who carried the child. And, as a single man, Ikufumi Yamada is not legally allowed to adopt the 11-day old baby. So, she remains in the hospital in Jaipur City where she was born. Mr Yamada's mother is looking after the baby in hospital, but cannot take her out of India without adoption papers and a passport."

Source: New Scientist

Paternity Tests on Mummy Fetuses

"Egyptian scientists are doing DNA tests on stillborn children found in Tutankhamun's tomb in the hope of confirming if they are the pharoah's offspring and confirming his family tree."

Source: New Scientist

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rank Possible Advanced Civilizations According To Energy Consumption

By Dr. Michio Kaku

"A. A Type I civilization is truly planetary, using up all the energy from their sun which lands on their planet. They might, for example, be able to control all forms of planetary energy, such as controlling the weather and the power of hurricanes and volcanoes.

B. A Type II civilization has mastered stellar power, using up all the energy released from their mother star. They use up 10 billion times more energy than a Type I civilization. A typical example might be the Federation of Planets in Star Trek, which has harnessed the energy from only a tiny sliver of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

C. A Type III civilization is galactic, harnessing 10 billions more energy than a Type II civilization. They roam freely across the galactic space lanes. A typical example might be the Borg on Star Trek, or the Empire of the Star Wars series, or the Empire of Asimov’s Foundation Series."

Source: The Most Important Generation in History is the One Now Alive

Chard Stuffed With Risotto and Mozzarella

Chard Stuffed With Risotto and Mozzarella.

"... not that difficult to make but gorgeously scented and flavored[.]"

Source: Mark Bittman

Unlocking the Power of Ice

By Harold McGee

"When we remove enough heat from water that its molecules stop moving from one point to another and just jiggle in place, they begin to bond to one another and form solid crystals of ice. In plain water, this freezing process happens at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. And the freezer has to extract a lot of heat to make it happen. To turn a tray of 32-degree water into 32-degree ice, it removes an amount of heat that would bring the same tray of water all the way from 180 degrees down to 32 degrees.

That’s why ice cubes are so effective at cooling drinks. Ice doesn’t just suck out a degree’s worth of water heat when it melts, it sucks out about 80 times that much."

Source: New York Times

The Next Technical Revolution Will Happen In Space

By Sir Richard Branson

"The problem we now face is not the technology but getting it up there in a safe, reliable and cheap way with minimal environmental impact. Large non-reusable rockets launched from the ground based on designs dating back to the 1940s are not the answer to the urgent industrialization of space that we need to achieve.

I believe the answer will come from the private sector working with and also independent of agencies like NASA to bring new materials and engine technologies of aviation into space."

Source: How You Can Save The World

Sherman Alexie on Sonics Trial

I do not follow basketball at all but I'm a big Sherman Alexie fan and I love coverage of his testimony in the Sonics Trial.

Sixty-One Things I Learned During the Sonics Trial

By Sherman Alexie

"4. The sportswriters who hated my testimony or press conference subsequently overwrote their stories in cute attempts to outwrite me. Relax, guys, you ain't ever gonna be better than me. Or I. Or me. Or I. Shoot, I can never remember which pronoun I'm supposed to use."

Source: The Stranger