Thursday, January 29, 2009

L.A. Times: Wine Judges Unsteady

A judge samples entries at the New York Wine and Food Classic at the Copia food, wine and arts center in Napa, Calif., in August 2007. Copia closed late last year. Only 10% in a four-year study of California State Fair judging were able to consistently give the same rating, or something close, to the same wine sampled multiple times in a large blind tasting.
The whole thing is a fraud to begin with. It's fermented grape juice!

N.Y. Times: Analysis of Stimulus Plan

There is no doubt that the impact of the $819 billion economic stimulus package advanced by President Obama and approved by the House on Wednesday will start to be felt within weeks once the final version becomes law.

But estimating how effective the huge program of tax cuts and spending will be in getting America’s economic engines humming again is a far more complex calculation requiring almost line-by-line scrutiny of the 647-page bill, lawmakers, economists and policy analysts say.

While it may be difficult to predict how well the overall plan will work, it is easier to draw conclusions about its individual components, gauging them against the basic goal of any stimulus: to promote economic activity and create jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fox News: U.S. Airways Cover-Up?

Leave it to America's Best Journalist (read: most incompetent), Bill O'Reilly, to find a conspiracy angle on the the US Airways Hudson River crash....

O'REILLY: A little bit, a little bit. But nothing overwhelming that we know of. A little bit. And the pilot radioed that he saw the things. I believe there were ducks and geese in the air. I got it. But what I'm saying to you, if the engines were weak, prone to stalling, and hit a few ducks, it's going to stall. If it was a strong, powerful engine with no problem, it rifles right through the ducks.

BANKS: Bill, you raise a very good point that the burden of proof is going on US Air to show these engines were not compromised in any way prior…

O'REILLY: I think this is a big story that's been overlooked by the media in the, you know, emotional of the pilot, of the hero pilot.

BANKS: Bill, I don't mean to interrupt. I want to stress these were not ducks. I want to stress they were Canadian geese which are enormous birds. These birds are three to four times the size of the birds that actually get tested on these engines.

O'REILLY: You know what I'm talking about here. I think there has got to be an explanation about GE, General Electric, making these engines, as you are pointing out, they have had trouble with these engines all over the place. They are culpable, too. We will get into that on another day. Ms. Banks, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

The Onion: "Dimension-Jumping Guy"

I can see it in their eyes. They're thinking, "Hey, look. It's the dimension-jumping guy!" "Come on, dude who isn't bound by time or space—show us how you can project your physical form across the planes of existence!" It's true, when people look at me, all they see is the ghostly aura that remains here on earth while my body is shot clear across the cosmos to a parallel world.

But Dennis Myrie is so much more than a guy who can effortlessly slide between the many simultaneously occurring dimensions of the known universe. For instance, I also play the banjo.

WSJ: You won't believe what's in that stimulus bill

The 647-page, $825 billion House legislation is being sold as an economic "stimulus," but now that Democrats have finally released the details we understand Rahm's point much better. This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.

We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

L.A. Times: "Flying Palace"

Get a load of the interiors of the new A380 jumbo-jumbo airliner...

A tad ridiculous if you ask me. I just want to get there!

No comfort shown here can beat having three seats to yourself in coach class.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

L.A. Times: Earthquake Overdue

The southern stretch of the San Andreas fault has had a major temblor about every 137 years, according to new research. The latest looks to be overdue.
Just what we need right now!

L.A. Times: Indians Not Liking 'Slumdog'

Even as American audiences gush over "Slumdog Millionaire," some Indians are groaning over what they see as yet another stereotypical foreign depiction of their nation, accentuating squalor, corruption and impoverished-if-resilient natives.
Yes, the movie's all a cliche, but that doesn't make it any less powerful. See my own review.

Wash. Post: Korean Blogger Predicted Downturn

He had been a so-so student who studied communications at a so-so junior college in a backwater town south of Seoul. Thirty-one years old and single, he spent much of his time alone in his room. As his father noted, "He can't even get a job."

But he knew a global economic smack-down when he saw one.

Minerva saw it coming last fall, far earlier and with far more acuity than the South Korean government, which his blog has humiliated and angered.

Besides getting mad, the government got even. In a move widely perceived by the public as a chilling echo of the 1970s, when a military dictatorship ruled South Korea, the government detained Park this month, invoking a seldom-used telecommunications law that charges him with harming the public by spreading "false rumors."

WSJ: Why the Prisoner Endures

Why 'The Prisoner' Endures
(Wall Street Journal, 1/20)
Eventually tiring of the John Drake role, Mr. McGoohan was able to persuade his British boss to bankroll a series in which a Drake-like character would explore more meaty themes. He delivered a libertarian classic, somewhat marred by the hurriedly written final episode in which Mr. McGoohan's character leads the Village's other inhabitants in a successful revolt. He finally confronts Number One, who is wearing a false face. When that is yanked off, a monkey mask is revealed. And when that is also pulled off, the face of Mr. McGoohan himself is seen.

Washington Post: Downturn Accelerates

The world economy is deteriorating more quickly than leading economists predicted only weeks ago, with Britain yesterday becoming the latest nation to surprise analysts with the depth of its economic pain.

Washington Post: War on Terror Ends

President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. With the stroke of his pen, he effectively declared an end to the "war on terror," as President George W. Bush had defined it, signaling to the world that the reach of the U.S. government in battling its enemies will not be limitless.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

WSJ: 'Tough Love' in the Outback

Aboriginal society has experienced a dramatic decline -- partly a result of these very reforms. Australia's government has proclaimed the upsurge of violence, child abuse and alcoholism among Aborigines a national emergency. It is responding with controversial new policies that critics decried as racist, such as restricting welfare payments to Aborigines but not to whites or other Australians.

Those policies, however, are starting to show early results, the government says. They are also shaking up the Aborigines' ancient social structure. In Yuendumu, for example, the policies have unleashed a nascent feminist movement which is threatening to erode the vast powers of male tribal elders.

Beware the Television

The television has not been around long, but has quickly dug itself into our lives. The number of television sets inuse rose from 6,000 in 1946 to 12 million by 1951. Today nearly 98% of American homes have at least one.

Without Television some people describe feeling ‘lost’. Sadly the television has become a member of so many American families and few question its purpose, minimizing its existance it to nothing more than a harmless form of entertainment. But it is much more than that. It can create reality and regulate our thoughts, it can override our conscience and mandate right and wrong.

N.Y. Times: Milan, Why So Gloomy?

Gloom is "In".
DARK times call for dark coats. That was the impression the Milan designers gave after four days of runway shows in which the particularities of individual labels got lost in a continuous loop of gloom.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Las Vegas: Father Chains Daughter to Bed to Prevent Overeating

Robert Blue was frank with police officers when they confronted him at his home last week to determine whether his 15-year-old daughter was being restrained against her will.

He "voluntarily stated that his daughter was chained to her bed to keep her out of the kitchen and from overeating," a police report states.

An officer then saw the 165-pound girl in her room and realized that Blue was telling the truth.

L.A. Times: U.S. economy may sputter for years

U.S. economy may sputter for years
(Los Angeles Times, 1/19)
Transfixed by the daily spectacle of dismal economic news and wild Wall Street swings, few Americans have looked up to see what a wide array of economists say lies beyond the immediate crisis.

And with good reason: The picture isn't pretty.

The sleek racing machine that was the U.S. economy is unlikely to return any time soon despite the huge repair efforts now underway. Instead, it probably will continue to sputter and threaten to stall for years to come.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Onion: Mattress King Selects Wife

OSHKOSH, WI—Joyous tidings were trumpeted throughout the hamlets of central Wisconsin this week after 43-year-old Mattress King James Koepke III, Lord and Master of a vast bed and box-spring empire, selected Beth Lowery, a buxom, flaxen-haired maiden from the small village of Waukau, to be his bride.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Photo: Living on the Edge

I came across this great photo when Google image searching for "on the edge". It's a real photo from Devil's Pool on the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia. Source: Mike and Andrea's Photo Gallery.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How Lying Works

How Lying Works
(, 1/16)

A good overview on lying, including how to do it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

L.A. Times: Bush was a uniter after all

Bush was a uniter after all
(Los Angeles Times, 1/15)
Bush broke many of his initial campaign promises, but he ended up keeping his promise to be "a uniter, not a divider," though hardly in the way he intended: He leaves behind a united nation, brought together at last by a heartfelt desire to see him gone.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wall Street Journal: American Power Is on the Wane

American Power Is on the Wane
(Wall Street Journal, 1/14)
The first reason, surely, is the U.S.'s truly exceptional budgetary and trade deficits. There is nothing else in the world like them in absolute measures and, even when calculated in proportion to national income, the percentages look closer to those you might expect from Iceland or some poorly run Third World economy. ...

The third thing I'm really scared about is that we'll likely have very little money ourselves to pay for the Treasury bonds that are going to be issued, in tens of billions each month, in the years ahead. Sure, some investment firms, bruised by their irrational exuberance for equities and commodities, will take up a certain amount of Treasury issues even at a ridiculously low (or no) rate of return. But that will not cover an estimated budget deficit of $1.2 trillion in 2009.
The big question now is whether the world will have a market for all the new treasury bonds the government will be issuing. There comes a point where the "full faith and credit" of the U.S. Government implodes. --GC

N.Y. Times: Internet Threats Overblown

The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all. A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.
GC: It is typical human paranoia to become hysterical about some dramatic but unlikely event (a plane crash, tainted juice, internet predators, etc.) while ignoring the threats closer to home that are much more likely to occur (a car accident, sexual abuse by a family member, etc.). Emotions drive public policy (and parenting) toward addressing the unlikely event, thereby usually increasing the threat from more likely sources.

The Onion: Excuses

I stand before you a humbled man. I know I've made a real mess of things lately, but if you just give me one more chance to make it right, I promise to you that I will do absolutely everything in my power to restore your faith in my excuses.

Just hear me out, baby. I'll make you believe in my self-serving bullshit again.

The Onion: U.N. Acquires Nuclear Weapon

NEW YORK—The United Nations, a highly organized governing body bent on world peace, has obtained a nuclear warhead and intends to use the dangerous device to pursue its radical human rights agenda, sources reported Monday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

L.A. Times: Martyrdom Beckons

N.Y. Times: Anti-Love Drug May Be Ticket to Bliss

In the new issue of Nature, the neuroscientist Larry Young offers a grand unified theory of love. After analyzing the brain chemistry of mammalian pair bonding — and, not incidentally, explaining humans’ peculiar erotic fascination with breasts — Dr. Young predicts that it won’t be long before an unscrupulous suitor could sneak a pharmaceutical love potion into your drink. ...

When a female prairie vole’s brain is artificially infused with oxytocin, a hormone that produces some of the same neural rewards as nicotine and cocaine, she’ll quickly become attached to the nearest male. A related hormone, vasopressin, creates urges for bonding and nesting when it is injected in male voles (or naturally activated by sex). After Dr. Young found that male voles with a genetically limited vasopressin response were less likely to find mates, Swedish researchers reported that men with a similar genetic tendency were less likely to get married. In his Nature essay, Dr. Young speculates that human love is set off by a “biochemical chain of events” that originally evolved in ancient brain circuits involving mother-child bonding, which is stimulated in mammals by the release of oxytocin during labor, delivery and nursing.

“Some of our sexuality has evolved to stimulate that same oxytocin system to create female-male bonds,” Dr. Young said, noting that sexual foreplay and intercourse stimulate the same parts of a woman’s body that are involved in giving birth and nursing. This hormonal hypothesis, which is by no means proven fact, would help explain a couple of differences between humans and less monogamous mammals: females’ desire to have sex even when they are not fertile, and males’ erotic fascination with breasts. More frequent sex and more attention to breasts, Dr. Young said, could help build long-term bonds through a “cocktail of ancient neuropeptides,” like the oxytocin released during foreplay or orgasm.

Monday, January 12, 2009

L.A. Times: "Audacity as economic experiment"

In a measure of how quickly its options are shrinking, the United States is about to embrace an economic theory that was widely thought for most of the last generation to have been discredited: the idea that great bursts of deficit-funded government expenditure can jolt an economy back to growth.

And the nation is poised to put this theory to the test on a scale untried in peacetime by any developed country on Earth. ...

Obama's plan represents an unexpected comeback for the ideas of the late British economist John Maynard Keynes, who argued in the 1930s that governments could end the Depression by spending heavily to maintain demand for goods and services until frightened consumers and damaged businesses gained the courage to resume buying and selling on their own.

Friday, January 9, 2009

CNN: Shooting Slumdog Millionaire

The director, who is renown for films like "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later," had never even been to India before he and his crew traveled there to make the critically acclaimed Oscar contender "Slumdog Millionaire."

"It's pretty mad," admits Boyle. "Everything is extreme. It's too hot, the tea is too sweet; everything is kind of too much." But, he adds: "That's wonderful for drama, absolutely wonderful."

He and his crew threw themselves into shooting their drama in the streets and landmarks of India's "city of dreams" using passers-by as extras. They also shot in the Dharavi -- Asia's largest slum -- and Juhu slum which can be seen from the city's airport.
Also see my own review of the movie: My Life Disrupted by 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bush Says U.S. is Not Heading for Recession

Okay, so this article isn't exactly new. It was published Feb. 29, less than a year ago. I was cleaning out my old queue of articles I haven't reviewed yet, and this turned up. (It must have seemed absurd even in February, which is probably why I saved it.)

Poor guy! How can one man be so wrong on so many things? (Answer: Through faith in God.)

Las Vegas Sun: Nevada 42nd least healthy state

Nevada dropped to among the 10 unhealthiest states due to low graduation and high crime rates in an annual report issued in December.

Las Vegas Sun: Leaving Las Vegas

Young is part of the new migration trend: Clark County is now losing population, according to county officials — 10,000 from July 2007 to July 2008, based on the number of empty houses and apartments.

U-Haul measures the trend a different way: Are there more trucks coming to town or leaving? In 2007, outbound U-Haul rentals just barely outpaced those arriving here, the company said. In 2008 the number of outbound rentals was 1 percent greater than that of those arriving.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

N.Y. Times: Saving a Squirrel by Eating One

Saving a Squirrel by Eating One
(New York Times, 1/7)
While some have difficulty with the cuteness versus deliciousness ratio — that adorable little face, those itty-bitty claws — many feel that eating squirrel is a way to do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience.

With literally millions of squirrels rampaging throughout England, Scotland and Wales at any given time, squirrels need to be controlled by culls. This means that hunters, gamekeepers, trappers and the Forestry Commission (the British equivalent of forest rangers) provide a regular supply of the meat to British butchers, restaurants, pâté and pasty makers and so forth.

Washington Post: Tom Toles Cartoons

Here's a great archive of political cartoons from Tom Toles of the Washington Post.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Onion: I Have an iPod -- IN MY MIND!

I Have An iPod–In My Mind
(The Onion, 8/20/03)
I hear those little things carry up to a month's worth of music. Well, so does my mind. I can call up any song I've ever heard, any time I want. And I never have to load software or charge batteries. There are no firewire cords or docks to mess with. I just put my hands behind my head, lean back, and select a tune from the extensive music-library folder inside my brain.

Thirty gigabytes? So what? I know 7,500 songs, maybe more. Some songs, I forget I even have until they come around on shuffle. Why, just the other day, my mind started playing David Naughton's "Makin' It," a song I hadn't heard in years. And the sound quality was great!

Easy downloads? You don't know the meaning of the word "easy." And I don't have to know the meaning of the word "download." You may get MP3s off the Internet, you smug scenester, but I can get music off the television, the radio, even a passing ice-cream truck. If I don't want to waste the memory space on a high-fidelity copy, I just don't pay very close attention. Now, that's what I call convenience.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

L.A. Times: Gambling Runs Dry in Mesquite

(Los Angeles Times, 1/3)
Locals and travelers passing through have long kept Mesquite's casinos afloat. But like the spent mines that have busted many Western towns, Mesquite's source of wealth ran out. As the economy soured, tourists hoarded their cash, and the town's gross gambling revenue plummeted 11%. Visitor volume fell 7.4% last year; the average daily room rate fell 35.4%.

N.Y. Times: Portrait of Anthrax Suspect

Dr. Ivins, who had helped develop an anthrax vaccine to protect American troops, had spent his career waiting for a biological attack. Suddenly, at 55, he was advising the F.B.I. and regaling friends with scary descriptions of the deadly powder, his expertise in demand.

One recipient of his e-mail message, however, a graduate-school colleague, looked at the photograph of Dr. Ivins and leapt to a shocking conclusion.

“I read that e-mail, and I thought, He did it,” the fellow scientist, Nancy Haigwood, said in a recent interview.