Friday, March 27, 2009

Man caught in vacuum sex act gets 90 days

updated 10:08 a.m. CT, Fri., March. 27, 2009

SAGINAW, Mich. - A man police caught performing a sex act with a car wash vacuum has been sentenced to 90 days in prison.

Jason Leroy Savage must also submit to drug testing.

The 29-year-old from Michigan, was sentenced Wednesday at Saginaw County Circuit Court. Savage pleaded no contest to indecent exposure last month.

Police say Savage was arrested after a resident called officers early on Oct. 16 to report suspicious activity at a car wash in Thomas Township, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit.

Savage's attorney, Philip Sturtz, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

British local governments deploy anti-teenager pink lights designed to make kids ashamed of their appearance


British local councils have a new weapon in their arsenal of devices that collectively and indiscriminately punish teenagers simply for being young. The new tool is a pink overhead light designed to exaggerate acne, with the intention of making children so unhappy and insecure about their appearances that they go somewhere else (mind you, these councils are almost certainly also allocating funds to helping teenagers cope with low self-esteem and avoid the problems associated with it, such as depression and vulnerability of recruitment into violent activity).

Other weapons in the arsenal against youth include the "Mosquito" -- an annoying high-pitched tone that adults can't hear, that shopkeepers and councils have deployed against teens and kids (and, of course, any babies that happen to be in the area), and "anti-kid steps" that are supposed to prevent the menace of kids staying in one place, talking to one another.

Anti-teenager “pink lights to show up acne” (Thanks, Dan!)

(Image: BBC)

DIY Funerals and the Quest for Authenticity


Two weeks ago, I posted about people who are bringing the DIY ethic to funerals. For my latest essay over at GOOD, I thought a bit more about this concept and how it might be part of a larger quest for authenticity. From GOOD:

As cyberspace becomes a “layer” on top of the physical world and we spend more of our lives online, a new-found appreciation emerges for authentic experiences, interactions, and goods. I think that’s part of why so many people are embracing the “maker mindset” of DIY culture, from Stitch and Bitch to Maker Faire...

Last year, my colleagues and I at Institute for the Future spent a day brainstorming with James Gilmore and Joe Pine, authors of the famous business book Experience Economy. Their latest book, Authenticity, is about what the demand for truly “real” things means for business strategy. It was fascinating to think with them about the myriad contexts in which questions of authenticity arise. What does “authentic” mean on a Bourbon Chicken Grill’N Dip label that boasts of “authentic food court flavor”? Or in Las Vegas, where the fakeness itself is authentic? Or in death?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities


Earlier this month, I posted about the Science Museum of London's fantastic online exhibition "Brought To Life: Exploring the History of Medicine." In Fortean Times this month, Jen Ogilvie visits Blythe House, the physical home to many more of the strange artifacts not on public display. From Fortean Times:
Most of the medical history objects crammed into Blythe House’s cupboards and jostling for space on its shelves come from the collection of the pharmacist and philanthropist Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), and the air of barely contained chaos seems somehow to bear the echo of his exuberant, omnivorous delight in things. In the surgery room, lines of near-identical scalpels and tonsil guillotines are marshalled in drawerfuls of menace; nestling nearby are materials and skull fragments used in experiments by an English doctor interested in Neolithic trepenation; German WWI cotton wool is bundled in corners; surgeons’ ornate walking sticks hang over high shelves, lasting testimony to the status anxiety of their owners. Locked up in the drugs room are the antidote cases and medicine chests sent by the publicity-savvy and lionizing Wellcome on famous adventurers’ expeditions to Everest or Brazil or the Antarctic, and thousands of jars of exotically strange natural medicines collected from around the world and inscribed with apothecary-evoking legends like ‘East Indian Blistering Fly’ or ‘Dragon’s Blood’. The room of x-ray machines crosses an eccentric inventor’s workshop with a torture chamber, and contains oddities like the Pedoscope, left-over from the days when irradiation seemed a fun way to fit shoes...
Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tetris 'helps to reduce trauma'

00:29 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Playing the computer puzzle game Tetris can help reduce the effects of traumatic stress, UK researchers say.

Volunteers were exposed to distressing images, with some given the game to play 30 minutes later, the PLoS One journal reported.

Players had fewer "flashbacks", perhaps because it helped disrupt the laying down of memories, said the scientists.

It is hoped the study could aid the development of new strategies for minimising the impact of trauma.

However, the researchers accept translating their findings into practical applications could prove difficult.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often associated with experiences during conflict, can affect anyone who has suffered a sudden and shocking incident.

One of its main features is the "flashback", in which the distressing sights, sounds or smells of the incident can return in everyday life.

Tetris may work by competing for the brain's resources for sensory information
Dr Emily Holmes
Oxford University

The Oxford University experiment works on the principle that it may be possible to modify the way in which the brain forms memories in the hours after an event.

A total of 40 healthy volunteers were enrolled, and shown a film which included traumatic images of injuries.

Half of the group were then given the game to play while the other half did nothing.

The number of "flashbacks" experienced by each group was then reported and recorded over the next week, and those who played Tetris had significantly fewer.

Treatment hope

Dr Emily Holmes said it might produce a "viable approach" to PTSD treatment, although she acknowledged that a lot needed to be done to translate the experiment into something that could be used to help real patients.

She said: "We wanted to find a way to dampen down flashbacks - the raw sensory images of trauma that are over-represented in the memories of those with PTSD.

"Tetris may work by competing for the brain's resources for sensory information.

"We suggest it specifically interferes with the way sensory memories are laid down in the period after trauma and thus reduces the number of flashbacks that are experienced afterwards."

She stressed that no conclusions could be drawn on the general effects of computer gaming on memory.

Dr Holmes added: "We are not saying that people with PTSD should play Tetris but we do think it is hugely valuable to understand how the brain works and how it produces intrusive flashback memories.

"Because we cannot study the genesis of real flashback memories during real trauma we need to find other approaches and this sort of cognitive science can give us models to help us better understand emotional memory."

Professor David Alexander from the Aberdeen Centre for Trauma Research stressed it was ethically impossible to simulate an event so catastrophic as the type of incident which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The volunteers here knew that something was going to happen, but they were not going to be harmed - a genuinely traumatic incident is different in scale, and is usually completely unexpected and marked by feelings of loss of control."

He said that post-traumatic stress was normally detected and diagnosed only weeks after the event, rather than in the hours immediately afterwards, and it was very difficult to predict which people were likely to develop it.

Tetris: A short history and stategy guide




The instant rise and continued success of Tetris has had profound and virtually incalculable impact on the video game industry. It is typically listed as one of the top 5 video games of all time in magazine and Internet panels every year as much for its influence as for its gameplay.

Though its immediate success was clear, its prolonged success was in the beginning anything but sure. Behind the scenes were dramatic last second negotiations for rights, ruthless legal battles spanning years, strange coincidences, and the largely ignored personal property rights of its creator - all in an epic struggle for Tetris exclusivity, which was as elusive as the game was successful. Today it remains - by far - the most widely played electronic game in history, with no signs of slowing down.

1984: The Birth of Tetris:

Borne from his fondness for the classic geometric puzzle board game “Pentominos”, an innovative Russian computer programmer named Alexey Pajitnov develops an electronic variant using just four building blocks (Tetris from Greek “Tetra” meaning four) for the computers at his workplace, the Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

When he gives it to colleagues, it becomes an instant, hugely addictive hit, and shortly thereafter spreads like wildfire via floppy disk throughout the Soviet Bloc’s computer literate.

1986: Foreign Interest:

Two years later, Robert Stein, head of London-based Andromeda, has since played the game and contacts Pajitnov with a licensing deal. However, they were unable to reach an agreement.

Stein then travels to Moscow, yet after several days’ negotiations, fails to leave with a signed contract with Elorg (short for Elektronorgtechnica), the Russian ministry in charge of the import and export of hardware and software.

1987: The Unofficial Licensing of Tetris:

Despite the lack of a signed contract, Stein sells the Tetris rights to media mogul Robert Maxwell’s British-based software company, Mirrorsoft, and its American counterpart, Spectrum Holobyte. In addition, he continues to press Elorg for a contract.

1988: The First release of Tetris:

In January, after procuring the rights to Tetris the previous year, Mirrorsoft and Spectrum Holobyte release the first PC-compatible version to wide critical and commercial success in both Europe and North America, effectively setting the scene for worldwide interest.


Score & Level:

The key essentials to most Tetris variants are your score and your level. To obtain the highest scores and fastest possible levels, one should create a "Tetris." A Tetris is the clearing of four lines at once using the I-shaped Tetrimino, or “I-Tetrimino.”

Create a Tetris:

To create a Tetris, the player should leave one of the 10 columns open (preferably the first or last), build up the remaining 9 columns with at least 4 solid rows of Tetriminos, and when the I-Tetrimino comes, drop it into the empty column for a huge “Tetris” bonus. Of course, for the biggest bonus, complete two or more Tetrises in a row, or a “Back-to-Back”! The only way to do this is without having any Single, Double or Triple line clears until your next Tetris.

Tetris Cascade:

To get the most Cascades at once, there is a special method, and this is an advanced trick! Using either (or both) S- or Z-Tetriminos, stack them up horizontally (that is, with the flat part facing down) against the right or left side of the playfield, right on top of each other, until they reach about 4 pieces high (or 8 rows). Use the remaining 7 columns to build an absolute solid layer of rows using the other Tetriminos (including leftover S- and Z-Tetriminos), with no holes. This layer can go as high as you like.

Once you have roughly four S- or Z-Tetriminos stacked on top of one another (but could be less or more), and a solid layer of rows beside them, place a vertical I-Tetrimino on the outer highest point of the topmost S- or Z-Tetrimino. If it was an S-Tetrimino, it would be the right side, and if the Z-Tetrimino, it would be the left side. Then when another I-Tetrimino comes into play, place that vertically on the other end of the Z- or S-Tetrimino – or onto its lowest point, thus creating your first “line” – and viola, a 7 row Cascade will occur for a huge bonus!


Tetris Helps reduce Trauma

From the BBC:

Here is a fascinating study from Oxford University where volunteers were shown distressing images and then given Tetris to play 30 minutes later. Players had fewer "flashbacks" than non-players. Researcher Dr. Emily Holmes claims, "it might produce a 'viable approach' to PTSD treatment."


More Tips:

Appendix of Tips


Stanley Kubrick on ghosts and evil

"There's something inherently wrong with the human personality," he says. "There's an evil side to it. One of the things that horror stories can do is to show us the archetypes of the unconscious: we can see the dark side without having to confront it directly. Also, ghost stories appeal to our craving for immortality. If you can be afraid of a ghost, then you have to believe that a ghost may exist. And if a ghost exists, then oblivion might not be the end."

~ Stanley Kubrick, Newsweek 1980

Contraband vault packed with guns, money, dope

There are three vaults in Arizona that store contraband nabbed by US port inspectors and customs agents on Arizona's 370-mile border with Mexico. A reporter from the Arizona Republic visited one of them, in Nogales, where racks are packed with 27,000 pounds of marijuana, boxes of speed, coke, and guns. A file cabinet holds half-a-million dollars in cash. From the Arizona Republic:
The Nogales vault, the largest of three such facilities in Arizona, represents just one stop in the government's enormous disposal network. Security is tight at the facility, which is surrounded by fences topped with razor wire and signs warning, "Restricted Area."

There is a lock on the gate, two more on doors leading into the main room. All who pass through must sign successive log sheets as they enter and again when they leave.

A trio of port inspectors arrives from Lukeville with freshly seized marijuana. The men unload sealed boxes and remove tire-shaped bricks of marijuana, removed from the wheels of a pickup truck. The scales are tested for accuracy. Each curved block of pot is cross-checked with a shipment sheet showing the precise total weight: 59.4 kilograms.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wine-casks turned into hotel rooms


The rooms offer two single beds as well as an attached sitting room and bathroom. These rooms have been pretty popular with tourists in the sleepy village of Stavoren. If you get tired of the in-room television and radio, you can rent a bicycle and travel along one of the many popular bike paths to see the old growth forests and beach. There is even a famous statue of “Lady van Stavoren” to keep an eye on the harbour as well as an eccentric local story to go along with it.

The wine casks are a great reuse as hotel rooms because of their ability to seal tightly. Visitors have stayed in the hotels four special recycled rooms from all over the world. Prices for the rooms range from approximately $150 USD a night to about $40 USD a night depending on the length of your stay and the season you go in. How can you afford not to?

Sleep it Off Inside a Wine Cask (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Colorful ecstasy mimic tablets and cocaine in a "ukelele"


The DEA's Office of Forensic Sciences publishes a monthly newsletter called the Microgram Bulletin, which features news and photos about unusual drugs and drug smuggling techniques.

I like reading the newsletter for two reasons: first, it's filled with examples of human ingenuity (the August, 2008 issue has photos of fake kidney bean made to smuggle heroin). Second, it's mind-boggling to see the weird drugs that people like to take: Butanediol? Nandralone? Boldenone? Trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine? Sceletium tortuosum? N,N-dimethylamphetamine? Testosterone cypionate? Bromo-Benzodifuranyl-Isopropylamine Hydrochloride? I've never heard of thse. Apparently, the world is filled with connoisseurs of esoteric inebrients!

The December 2008 edition of the newsletter has photos of colorful ecstasy mimic tablets (above) along with photos of cocaine being smuggled in an "ukelele" (sic), which doesn't seem to be a ukulele.

The Portland Metro Forensic Laboratory of the Oregon State Police recently received 18 vibrantly colored tablets of five different types, all suspected Ecstasy. The exhibits were seized in Portland by the Portland Police Department, incidental to a stop for a traffic violation and subsequent consent search. The tablets were mixed together; there were six round orange tablets imprinted with an Interstate 5 shield logo (total net mass 1.7 grams), four green tablets, shaped and imprinted to resemble a “Transformer” (total net mass 1.1 grams), four round purple tablets imprinted with an JL Audio logo (total net mass 1.2 grams), three pink tablets, shaped and imprinted to resemble the head of Bart Simpson (total net mass 0.8 grams), and one round blue tablet imprinted with the Superman logo (total net mass 0.2 grams). The Transformer and Bart Simpson tablets were very detailed and well-pressed, and more resembled candies or children’s chewable vitamins as opposed to typical Ecstasy tablets. Analysis by color tests (Marquis and nitroprusside), GC/MS, and UV, however, indicated not MDMA but rather a 1 :1 mixture of benzylpiperazine (BZP) and trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP) for the orange, green, purple and blue tablets, and a 1 : 2 mixture of BZP and TFMPP for the pink tablets. The piperazines were not formally quantitated, but were present in a moderate to high loading based on the TIC and UV. The laboratory has received numerous Ecstasy mimic tablets containing this piperazine mixture over the past year, but never before in these unusual tablet shapes. Since this initial submission, the laboratory received an exhibit containing another 30 of the green Transformer-shaped and imprinted tablets, also containing the 1 : 1 mixture of BZP and TFMPP.
Microgram Bulletin, Dec 2008

Verizon doesn't understand simple math


Verizon told George Vaccaro that bandwidth charges in Canada were .002 cents per kilobyte, but billed him at .002 dollars, or 100 times as much as he was quoted.

But Verizon customer service insists there's no difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents. Here's the recording of the call. George was incredibly patient with the Verizon customer service supervisor, who just couldn't understand the many examples George gave him to explain the difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars.

VerizonMath (Thanks, Jim!)

Rice Krispie and candy sushi


Mike B sez, "For my 7-year-old son's school lunch birthday party, my Japanese wife made faux sushi using Rice Crispy treats, Swedish Fish, Fruit Rollups and licorice. And of course she packed it all in a proper faux lacquer (plastic) sushi box. It was a big hit with my son's classmates."

Birthday treats for school (Thanks, Mike!)

Utterly Nuts, but Sane Enough to Execute in Texas


A court ruling for the (dark) ages:

A condemned Texas inmate who removed his only eye and ate it in a bizarre outburst several months ago on death row is “crazy,” yet sane under state law, a judge wrote in an appellate court ruling today that rejected his appeals.

Andre Thomas raised 44 claims in his petition to the state’s highest criminal court, challenging his conviction and death sentence for the murder of his estranged wife’s 13-month-old daughter five years ago in Grayson County in North Texas.

Japan's "suicide forest"

Dark Yet Interesting

Aohkigahara Forest west of Tokyo at the base of Mount Fuji is also known as the "suicide forest." According to Wikipedia, it's the second most popular suicide spot after San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. From CNN:
Japan's suicide rate, already one of the world's highest, has increased with the recent economic downturn. There were 2,645 suicides recorded in January 2009, a 15 percent increase from the 2,305 for January 2008, according to the Japanese government

Local authorities, saying they are the last resort to stop people from killing themselves in the forest, have posted security cameras at the entrances of the forest.

The goal, said Imasa Watanabe of the Yamanashi Prefectural Government is to track the people who walk into the forest. Watanabe fears more suicidal visitors will arrive in the coming weeks.
Desperate Japanese head to 'suicide forest' (Thanks, Ed Szylko!)

The inevitable peroration of cheap R/C helicopters


A "fully remote-controlled flying word," perhaps not coincidentally the same uttered by owners of these cheap choppers after they've run them into the fireplace. £25 from a UK crapvendor. [via Oh Gizmo!]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Audioclips of Bill O'Reilly reading his bad porno novel


Thanks to Al Franken, we all know that Bill O'Reilly wrote a terrible pornographic novel in 1998. Now the Village Voice's head garage-sale nut has digitized a bunch of choice clips from the audiobook (read by O'Reilly), including "Say baby, put down that pipe and get my pipe up," "Cup your hands under your breasts and hold them for ten seconds," and "Cunnilingus involves the lips and tongue."


"Off With Those Pants": Bill O'Reilly Seduces You in Clips From His Dirty Audiobook

Portraits of US Presidents' mistresses


Annie Kevans has painted a lovely series of oil portraits of the girlfriends of U.S. Presidents.

Shown above: Kay Summersby (Dwight D Eisenhower), Monica Lewinsky (Bill Clinton), Maria Halpin (Grover Cleveland), Pam Turnure (John F Kennedy), Jill Cowan (John F Kennedy), Blaze Starr (John F Kennedy), Marilyn Monroe (John F Kennedy), Madeleine Brown (Lyndon B Johnson). All the Presidents' Girls (Via Presurfer)

Xeni on the road in West Africa: Ritually Stolen Penises and Vaginas - Not a Joke Here.


Jeez, where do I start with this one. So -- there is an odd cultural phenomenon in West Africa involving panic over the belief that one's genitals have been "stolen" through witchery. Usually it's reported as "penis theft," but there's a female version too -- the belief that witches can also make "normal" adult female genitals shrivel up and dry "like old lady parts."

Pesco has blogged about this before on Boing Boing. During my visit to West Africa this month, I fearlessly followed up on this urgent news imperative for our blog, in person. Bottom line, yes, these mass "penis theft panics" do happen from time to time. Seem to occur more often in Nigeria than anywhere else, but below, a scanned news article from one local newspaper in Benin about a craze in 2006 which left a number of people dead (large size here), and here, a news report about what was probably the biggest-ever penis-thievery-crisis in recent history, back in 2001.

Over dinner in Cotonou this Monday night with two foreigners working in Benin, I heard the story of that big 2001 scare like this:

On a busy November day in a bustling public street market in Cotonou, some Beninese people started shouting that their man-junk had been stolen by a group of men nearby, who happened to be Nigerian. A mob soon formed, things got hysterical fast. The mob poured gasoline on the accused and set them on fire, killing them. BTW, the first rule of being accused here of witchcraft penis theft (or even regular old petty theft) is: run to the police as fast as you can, because a mob will form and try to kill you. After this initial freakout, about 9 more copycat incidents soon followed, in which the accused schlong-stealers were either burned alive or hacked to death.

One of the expats in Cotonou Monday night told me the bittersweet punch line was -- the men who claimed their penises were stolen and caused all the mayhem were later apprehended by police, stripped of clothing, and paraded in front of television news crews totally naked, to show that yes, their wedding tackle remained intact and the whole thing was BS.

Someone (either a cop or a TV reporter) on camera asked one of the chained, naked, still-be-penised guys "So! What do you have to say for yourself! Obviously it's still there!"

To which the guy replied -- "Well, it was a lot larger before."

- - = - -

Update: Oh, interesting, there was a Harper's article about this phenomenon not long ago. "A mind dismembered: In search of the magical penis thieves," by Frank Bures (thanks, Nach0s).


Newspaper box graveyard and other images of the econopocalypse


The Boston Globe's "Images from the Recession" page features pictures from around the world showing the stark reality of the econopocalypse. Here's a storage yard filled with disused newspaper boxes and racks in San Francisco.

Scenes from the recession (Thanks, Jeff!)

(Image: AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Have Atoms, Will Travel: Mobile Soviet nuclear power plants


Before Chernobyl, Russian engineers deployed autonomous nuclear power plants to remote locations, many of which rode on self-powered tank treads. [via Red Ferret]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Elephant on Rampage in India

Reuters Oddly Enough Images

An elephant damages a vehicle after going on a rampage in the southern Indian city of Kochi February 27, 2009. The elephant was brought under control after a three-hour rescue operation by animal experts and the police.


Here's the droid you're looking for, from Lockwasher's photoset at Flickr:
"Star Wars 'n' suds, Beer2D3 by Lockwasher. Beer2D2...the 3rd was created for last weekend's San Jose Super Toy show. Beer2's body is fashioned from a 4.7 liter keg and measures in at over 16" tall "

Star Wars dot com has an interview with the artist.

Lockwasher's photoset via via Make

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Canadian Science Minister won't confirm belief in evolution

Researchers aghast that key figure in funding controversy invokes religion in science discussion

Canada’s science minister refuses to answer whether or not he believes in evolution on the grounds that asking questions about his religion is inappropriate.

GQ On Fell, Volume 1: Feral City

Fell, Volume 1: Feral City
Written by Warren Ellis; Art by Ben Templesmith

Fans of the parts of TV’s Homicide that played like a hardboiled No Exit will dig this book. Eight mordantly funny short stories about Richard Fell, a misanthropic police detective keeping what passes for the peace in a bleak and bad-mojo-ridden municipality called Snowtown. It’s full of tense close-quarters showdowns in dimly lit spaces and illustrated in a gloomily gorgeous color palette that runs from toxic-sunset violet to busted-nose red.

See the rest of the list here.

BMW Group Designworks USA x Thermaltake concept gaming PC


BMW Group Designworks USA built this "Level 10" concept gaming PC in partnership with Thermaltake, a fine pairing, since it would be a challenge to keep the wwhole thing cool without air being ducted through a case from front to back. Still, it's undoubtedly attractive. I'd go through the trouble to find compatible hardware free from pesky (and at the moment necessary) wiring across the entire chassis. [via Core77]

Old Russian analog viewfinder gives Lumix LX3 Red zazz


Aaphovasse tells us:

Not wanting to spend 300 dollars for the Lumix LX3 viewfinder, I found this one on one of old Russian cameras I got in Moscow many years ago. The wide angle setting works perfectly for the 16:9 aspect ratio. Upon seeing it, my daughter (who inherited the LX2) rolled her eyes and accused me of being a complete photard, but at least now I have a viewfinder. The LX2, and now the LX3 are the first cameras I ever owned without one. Though I am well used to using the digital screen by now, there is great comfort in being able to frame your image close to your eye.
For some reason this makes me want to listen to "Hell March."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chuck Norris sues, says his tears no cancer cure

Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:21pm EST

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tough-guy actor and martial arts expert Chuck Norris sued publisher Penguin on Friday over a book he claims unfairly exploits his famous name, based on a satirical Internet list of "mythical facts" about him.

Penguin published "The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 facts about the World's Greatest Human" in November. Author Ian Spector and two Web sites he runs to promote the book, including, are also named in the suit.

The book capitalizes on "mythical facts" that have been circulating on the Internet since 2005 that poke fun at Norris' tough-guy image and super-human abilities, the suit said.

It includes such humorous "facts" as "Chuck Norris's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried" and "Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits," the suit said, as well as "Chuck Norris can charge a cell phone by rubbing it against his beard."

"Some of the 'facts' in the book are racist, lewd or portray Mr. Norris as engaged in illegal activities," the lawsuit alleges.

Norris, who rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s as the star of such films as "The Delta Force" and "Missing in Action," says the book's title would mislead readers into thinking the facts were true.

"Defendants have misappropriated and exploited Mr. Norris's name and likeness without authorization for their own commercial profit," said the lawsuit.

The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks unspecified monetary damages for trademark infringement, unjust enrichment and privacy rights.

Norris, whose real name is Carlos Ray Norris, claims in the suit he is protective of what his name is associated with. He has recently made U.S. headlines for backing Republican presidential candidate former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

A spokesman for Penguin, owned by Britain's Pearson, was not immediately available for comment.

(Editing by Michelle Nichols and Todd Eastham)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Man dressed as Batman character, the Joker, shot dead by police

Peter Walker and agencies, Friday 13 March 2009 01.45 GMT

A man dressed as Batman villain the Joker has been shot dead by police in America after pointing a loaded shotgun at them.

The dead man, who was said to be obsessed with the character, was wearing full costume and makeup when he was challenged by officers in a national park in Virginia, according to legal documents.

The FBI named him as army specialist Christopher Lanum, who was wanted as a suspect over the stabbing of a fellow soldier at Fort Eustis, a major army base in the state, several hours before. Lanum's girlfriend, Patsy Ann Marie Montowski, who was with him when he was shot, told investigators that the soldier idolised the Joker, played in the most recent Batman film, The Dark Knight, by the late Heath Ledger.

The events began at the base early on Sunday when Lanum become embroiled in an argument with a fellow soldier, Mitchell Stone, allegedly stabbing him and using a stun gun on him.

Lanum and Montowski fled in her van, which was later spotted around 200 miles away inside Shenandoah national park. Police pursued the pair, who crashed the van after running over a spiked strip laid in the road.

According to the FBI documents, Lanum told Montowski to kill him with the shotgun but she refused. He then pointed the gun at police, his finger on the trigger, and refused orders to drop it, before being shot several times.

Montowski was also shot and taken to hospital. Details of the case emerged yesterday after she was charged in connection with the case following treatment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gallery of engraved laptops


You've seen some of them before here, but some newly-lased beauties stand out. Foliage is about the perfect engraving theme, but this one is particularly clever.

Analogs: Joel Scilley's "Audiowood" turntables


Joel Scilley is a thinking man's carpenter, having grabbed an MA from Carnegie Mellon and a PhD in media studies from Pitt before heading back to the Bay Area to make handcrafted turntables. Like you do.

Scilley makes some out of his "Audiowood" players out of burlwood that has a more organic feel. Others look more modern. Having grown up in the Ozarks, I'm somewhat inured to the charms of burlwood crafts, so I prefer the modern ones, but "Barky", the model below made from a cross-section of a trunk, it downright cute.

The Audiowood designs will be shown off in Oakland starting the 14th. [via Mocoloco]

One-eyed filmmaker conceals camera in prosthetic (AP)

Posted on Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:09PM EDT

BRUSSELS - A one-eyed documentary filmmaker is preparing to work with a video camera concealed inside a prosthetic eye, hoping to secretly record people for a project commenting on the global spread of surveillance cameras.

Canadian Rob Spence's eye was damaged in a childhood shooting accident and it was removed three years ago. Now, he is in the final stages of developing a camera to turn the handicap into an advantage.

A fan of the 1970s televsion series "The Six Million Dollar Man," Spence said he had an epiphany when looking at his cell phone camera and realizing something that small could fit into his empty eye socket.

With the camera tucked inside a prosthetic eye, he hopes to be able to record the same things he sees with his working eye, his muscles moving the camera eye just like his real one.

Spence said he plans to become a "human surveillance machine" to explore privacy issues and whether people are "sleepwalking into an Orwellian society."

He said his subjects won't know he's filming until afterward but he will have to receive permission from them before including them in his film.

His special equipment will consist of a camera, originally designed for colonoscopies, a battery and a wireless transmitter. It's a challenge to get everything to fit inside the prosthetic eye, but Spence has had help from top engineers, including Steve Mann, who co-founded the wearable computers research group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The camera was provided by Santa Clara, California-based OmniVision Inc., a company that specializes in the miniature cameras found in cell phones, laptops and endoscopes.

Zafer Zamboglu, staff technical product manager at OmniVision, said he thinks that success with the eye camera will accelerate research into using the technology to restore vision to blind people.

"We believe there's a good future in the prosthetic eye," he said.

The team expects to get the camera to work in the next month. Spence, who jokingly calls himself "Eyeborg," told reporters at a media conference in Brussels that the camera hidden in a prosthetic eye — the same pale hazel color as his real one — would also let him capture more natural conversations than he would with a bulky regular camera.

"As a documentary maker, you're trying to make a connection with a person," he says, "and the best way to make a connection is through eye contact."

But Spence also acknowledged privacy concerns.

"The closer I get to putting this camera eye in, the more freaked out people are about me," he said, adding people aren't sure they want to hang around someone who might be filming them at any time."

The Grand Moff's Wine Cooler


Kalorik has a new wine cooler out. It is their first to meet ANSI specifications for use aboard the Death Star. From the pitch:

It comes with 2 wireless temperature probes that you insert into uncorked bottles, sealing the spout of the bottle while sending accurate temperature readings of the liquid itself (not the bottle) to the LCDs on the outside of the chiller. Also, you can have the bottle out of the chamber (on the dinner table, let's say) and the probe transmits the temperature to the base unit wirelessly. The chiller will alert you when the wine has become to warm and it’s time to put it back in the chamber. The unit also has a “quick freeze” option to chill Champaign as quickly as in the freezer. It allows you to simultaneously chill a bottle of red, white, rosé or champagne.
Kalorik Wine Cooler [Kalorik]

Kangaroo intruder terrorizes sleeping family

Mon Mar 9, 2009 2:07pm EDT

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian couple thought they were being attacked by an intruder when a kangaroo crashed through their bedroom window and started jumping on them.

"My initial thought, when I was half awake, was it's a lunatic ninja coming through the window. It seems about as likely as a kangaroo breaking in," Beat Ettlin told local media Monday.

The three-meter (9 feet) kangaroo smashed through the window in Ettlin's Canberra home Sunday night.

While Ettlin and his wife and young daughter took refuge under the blankets, the injured kangaroo jumped on top of them, gouging holes in the furniture and smearing blood all over the walls, said the Australian Associated Press.

The next thing Ettlin heard was his 10-year-old son Leighton screaming from his bed: "There's a 'roo in my room!'"

Ettlin, a 42-year-old chef, wrestled the bleeding kangaroo, got it into a headlock and dragged it out the front door. The kangaroo disappeared into bushes.

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Dean Yates)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Font made of stacked books


Amandine Alessandra's "Books as Type" is a lovely little typeface made out of cleverly stacked books. Book as Type (Thanks, Denis!)

Religion: Biological Accident, Adaptation — or Both

By Brandon Keim EmailMarch 09, 2009 | 5:56:12 PM

Whether or not God exists, thinking about Him or Her doesn't require divinely dedicated neurological wiring.

Instead, religious thoughts run on brain systems used to figure out what other people are thinking and feeling.

The findings, based on brain scans of people contemplating God, don't explain whether a propensity for religion is a neurobiological accident. But at least they give researchers a solid framework for exploring the question.

"In a way, this is a very cold look at religious belief," said National Institutes of Health cognitive scientist Jordan Grafman, co-author of a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We're only trying to understand where in the brain religious beliefs seem to be modulated."

Though scientific debate about God's existence has transfixed the public, Grafman's findings fit into a lesser known argument over why religion exists.

Some scientists think it's just an accidental byproduct of social cognition. They say humans evolved to imagine what other people are feeling, even people who aren't present — and from there it was a short step to positing supernatural beings.

Others argue that religion is too pervasive to be just a byproduct. Historically, at least, it must have provided believers and their communities some sort of advantage, or else it would have disappeared.

The argument breaks down into the so-called byproduct and adaptation camps. Of course, they might both be right.

"Religious beliefs might have arisen as a byproduct," said Justin Barrett, an Oxford University specialist in the cognitive neuroscience of religion, "but once in place, they're pretty handy."

Grafman started by interviewing 26 people of varying religious sentiments, breaking down their beliefs into three psychological categories: God's perceived level of involvement in the world, God's perceived emotions, and religious knowledge gained through doctrine or experience. Then they submitted statements based on these categories to 40 people hooked to fMRI machines.

Statements based on God's involvement — such as "God protects one's life" or "Life has no higher purpose" — provoked activity in brain regions associated with understanding intent. Statements of God's emotions — such as "God is forgiving" or "the afterlife will be punishing" — stimulated regions responsible for classifying emotions and relating observed actions to oneself. Knowledge-based statements, such as "a source of creation exists" or "religions provide moral guidance," activated linguistic processing centers.

Taken together, the neurological states evoked by the questions are known to cognitive scientists as the Theory of Mind: They underlie our understanding that other people have minds, thoughts and feelings.

The advantages of a Theory of Mind are clear. People who lack one are considered developmentally challenged, even disabled. Anthropologist Scott Atran, a proponent of the byproduct hypothesis, has suggested that it let our ancestors quickly distinguish between friends and enemies. And once humans were able to imagine someone who wasn't physically present, supernatural beliefs soon followed.

But just as a Theory of Mind provided benefits, so might its supernatural byproducts and the religions that grew from them.

Unlike other animals, humans can imagine the future, including their own death. The hope given by religious beliefs to people confronting their own mortality might provide motivation to care for their offspring.

Supernatural beliefs may also have produced group-level advantages that then conferred benefits to individuals.

"You get some selective advantages, such as inter-group cooperation and self-policing morality," said Barrett. "And maybe the entire network of belief practices, and whatever is behind them, gets reinforced."

According to Barrett, religion may even have created a feedback loop, refining the Theory of Mind that produced it.

"It could be that when you're in a religious community, it improves what psychologists call perspective-taking," he said. "Exercising your Theory of Mind could be good for developing it, making your reasoning more robust."

David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University, said the findings fit with the idea that religion started as a cognitive byproduct and became a cultural adaptation, but cautioned against over-interpreting them.

"It's tremendous to see religious belief manifested at the neurological level," he said. "But there's a sense that when you bring things down to that level, that trumps other kinds of understanding. That's not true in this case."

Grafman declined to speculate, instead concentrating on what he hopes to achieve with future research: studying other kinds of religions than were represented in his small sample size, and comparing religious cognition to legal and political certainties.

"The differences and nuances between these types of belief systems will be important to understanding the deliberation that goes on," he said.

Grafman also stressed that the study examined only the nature of religion, not the existence of God.

"He, or She, didn't come in for the evaluation," he said.

Citation: "Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief." By Dimitrios Kapogiannis, Aron Barbey, Michael Su, Giovanna Zamboni, Frank Krueger, and Jordan Grafman. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 106, No. 10, March 9, 2009.

Image: Neural activation produced by God's perceived love (left) and anger (right)/

See Also:

Quack back massager from 1930


To think that the humble anal bead began life as a quack 1930s back massager! From the Aug, 1930 ish of Physical Culture (which magazine, I'm reliably assured by Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre is a kind of ground zero for quack medical adverts.

Moto Major 350 by Salvatore Majorca


From Bike EXIF:
Torinese engineer Salvatore Majorca created the revolutionary Moto Major straight after WWII. Apparently it was an engineering rather than styling exercise, but 60 years on, its shape is still breathtaking.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Anatomical armchairs

The message of these lovely anatomical armchairs seems to be, "Tain't no sin, to take off your skin and laze around in your guts."

Flow armchair by AK-LH (via Cribcandy)

Salvador Dali's rotary dial cosmetics compact

Up for auction on eBay is this fantastic cosmetics compact that Salvador Dali designed in 1935 for fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Over the years, Dali worked with Schiaparelli several times. From Dali Planet:

He inspired printed fabrics for her collections, in which the pattern represents the torn flesh of animals, and made her a skeleton dress, a pink belt with lips for a buckle, a hat like an upside-down shoe, another hat shaped like a giant lamb chop and a lobster-print frock that was worn by the Duchess of Windsor for a pre-wedding portrait for Vogue by photographer Cecil Beaton.

The Duchess seemed unaware that the lobster was positioned almost as a fig leaf or a long arm reaching up to the precise part of her anatomy that had caused the abdication crisis.

British university boasts first Beatles degree

Tue Mar 3, 2009 3:46pm EST

LONDON (Reuters) - A university in Liverpool has launched a Master of Arts degree in The Beatles, the city's most famous sons, and called the qualification the first of its kind.

Liverpool Hope University says on its website that the course entitled "The Beatles, Popular Music and Society" consists of four 12-week taught modules and a dissertation.

"There have been over 8,000 books about The Beatles but there has never been serious academic study and that is what we are going to address," said Mike Brocken, senior lecturer in popular music at Hope.

"Forty years on from their break-up, now is the right time and Liverpool is the right place to study The Beatles.

"This MA is expected to attract a great deal of attention, not just locally but nationally and we have already had inquiries from abroad, particularly the United States."

The university said it was the first postgraduate taught course on The Beatles in the United Kingdom, and possibly the world.

The Fab Four were born and raised in Liverpool and went on to become arguably the most successful pop band of all time.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

Cocaine in Spain is hidden by a sprain?

Fri Mar 6, 2009 1:23pm EST

MADRID (Reuters) - A 66-year-old passenger who arrived at Barcelona airport in a wheelchair and with a leg cast made entirely of cocaine was arrested on Friday as he tried to get through customs.

The man, flying from Santiago, Chile, also had cocaine stashed in six cans of beer and two folding stools in his luggage, the Interior Ministry said. Police confiscated nearly 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of the drug in total.

Police believe the man, or his accomplices, may have broken the leg on purpose so as not to arouse the suspicions of customs officials. Spain is the primary entry point for cocaine into Europe and is the largest consumer of the drug in the European Union.

(Reporting by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Phakamisa Ndzamela)

USB Cat Tail


Faintly disgusting and completely wonderful, GeekStuff4U's USB cat tail has 2GB of memory. Unfortunately, it does not swish. [Akihabara News]

C-Box personalized condom dispensers are perhaps a bit too personal


A stylish condom dispenser for the bedside? Sure, I can get with that. One emblazened with guns, crosses, bedazzled hearts, spiders, or most inexplicably a skull and crossbones? I think CBox needs to go back to the drawing board and erase the bullet point that reads "Tacky, but creepy". They can keep the part that says "$20", though. That seems reasonable.

You know where I keep my condoms? In a hollowed-out copy of The Joy of Sex. (No joke.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pink dolphin


Regina Asmutis-Silvia, senior biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "I have never seen a dolphin coloured in this way in all my career.

"It is a truly beautiful dolphin but people should be careful, as with any dolphins, to respect it - observe from a distance, limit their time watching, don't chase or harass it

"While this animal looks pink, it is an albino which you can notice in the pink eyes. "Pink dolphin appears in US lake" (Thanks, Gabe "TuneUp" Adiv!)

Police seek man's stolen medicinal weed


A 42-year-old man in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada called police to report that he had been robbed of almost an ounce of pot. From the North Bay Nugget:
The man has a certificate from the federal government to possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

He told officers that he noticed his drugs were missing after a number of friends left his home.
"Man asks cops: Please find my marijuana"

IBM's "Antique Attic" gallery


You can—and should—lose hours digging through IBM's "Antique Attic", an online catalog of the actual old machines they hold on hand for posterity's sake. This Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator is circa 1948; it looks straight out of an Asimov paperback backdrop.

Hostage held for 10 hours with Sega light gun!


Kanye West spots something ... unusual ... about this man's firearm.
A man looking to collect on a debt broke into the house of 60-year-old woman in Brazil's Federal District, holding her hostage for ten hours on the business end of a Sega Light Phaser. Fortunately, the man released his hostage, unharmed, after negotiating with police.

The Great Pyramid of the forgotten Disco Dynasty

I've always wanted a Pyramid PC.

Now, there are two ways to go about this. One could be Jon Ive-y and make something subtle and sleek, a little brushed metal thing on your desk that gently glows at the peak when sleeping.

Or you could roar "Pyramid Power!" and make something like polo360x's amazing and enormous machine, which makes Las Vegas's Luxor hotel look like a Lamplighter. [Tech Power Up] (Thanks, The Dulcet Tones of Terry Wogan!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A dozen bizarre devices from medicine's dark past

These extraordinary objects are among 2500 featured in Brought to Life, the London Science Museum's new multimedia website exploring centuries of medical history.

Jugum penis, United Kingdom, 1880-1920

Guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of at least half our readers, this device was intended as a treatment for "nocturnal incontinence" and to prevent masturbation. It was designed to deter nighttime emissions by causing enough pain to waken the sleeper if an erection threatened.

Until relatively recently, masturbation was considered a moral weakness and at least partly responsible for a whole range of debilitating medical conditions. Now there is some suggestion that the opposite may be true: frequent self-pleasuring could protect against prostate cancer.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fish with transparent head


Since 1939, scientists have thought the "barreleye" fish Macropinna microstoma had "tunnel vision" due to eyes that were fixed in place. Now though, Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers show that the fish actually has a transparent head and the eyes rotate around inside of it. From the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute:

(Bruce) Robison and (Kim) Reisenbichler used video from MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to study barreleyes in the deep waters just offshore of Central California. At depths of 600 to 800 meters (2,000 to 2,600 feet) below the surface, the ROV cameras typically showed these fish hanging motionless in the water, their eyes glowing a vivid green in the ROV's bright lights. The ROV video also revealed a previously undescribed feature of these fish--its eyes are surrounded by a transparent, fluid-filled shield that covers the top of the fish's head.

Most existing descriptions and illustrations of this fish do not show its fluid-filled shield, probably because this fragile structure was destroyed when the fish were brought up from the deep in nets. However, Robison and Reisenbichler were extremely fortunate--they were able to bring a net-caught barreleye to the surface alive, where it survived for several hours in a ship-board aquarium. Within this controlled environment, the researchers were able to confirm what they had seen in the ROV video--the fish rotated its tubular eyes as it turned its body from a horizontal to a vertical position. "Researchers solve mystery of deep-sea fish with tubular eyes and transparent head" (Thanks, Justin Ried!)

Human-sized human candles


Artists Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz cast life-sized candles of themselves in beeswax, then watched their waxy doppelgangers melt.

Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz (via Street Anatomy)

Strange new fish: H. psychedelica


This trippy fish that has been confirmed as a new species and named, appropriately enough, Histiophryne psychedelica. Scuba divers discovered it off Indonesia and University of Washington researcher Ted Pietsch tested its DNA. From the Associated Press:
Like other frogfish — a subset of anglerfish — H. psychedelica has leglike fins on both sides of its body.

But it has several traits not previously known among frogfish, wrote Pietsch, of the University of Washington.

Each time the fish strike the seabed, for instance, they push off with their fins and expel water from tiny gill openings to jet themselves forward. That and an off-centered tail cause them to bounce around in a bizarre, chaotic manner.

The fish, which has a gelatinous, fist-size body covered with thick folds of skin that protect it from sharp-edged corals, also has a flat face with eyes directed forward, like humans, and a huge, yawning mouth.
"PSYCHEDELIC" FISH PICTURE: New Species Bounces on Reef

Pi Day ice-cube trays


Marylin sez, "Pi Day's coming up March 14 and here's an ice tray to impress your friends and colleagues at your Pi Day party." Pi Symbol Ice Cube Trays (Thanks, Marylin!)