News, commentary and fun things from the Internet and around the world.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Placebos, Drugs & Healing
The $64,000 question: Why do some people recover and other people, with the same disease/condition not recover? What is the role of the patient's desire/psychology/faith in healing? No doubt, there is some intangible contribution the patient makes, whether or not it is enough to save them. Now, this study shows that for the most part, taking a placebo really does almost the same amount of good as taking drugs, without the side effects. I can't wait for Star Trek medicine to arrive.

Sleep Less, Live Longer?
My mom used to say that I was sleeping my life away. I thought she was being figurative, but may she was being literal. This is really good news for insomniacs.

Manilow -- The Comeback
When I was a teenager, Barry's songs fit my melodramatic world perfectly. He was my musical god. And then, when I became an adult, I switched off the sacarine stuff. And now, I hate to admit it, I actually like hearing his songs again. Maybe its just because I remember them. Maybe it's because I used to like them. Maybe it's because I have no musical taste. Whatever.

100 Ways To Cope With 100+ Temperatures
Fluff journalism at its best... only from the Arizona Republic staff. There actually are some good facts burried inside this piece. If you are in the southwest, make sure you know these facts... could make a difference.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

The Rock as the Scorpion King [photo copyright Universal Pictures]
The New Face of Action Heroes
I hate to admit this, but last month I saw The Rock (Dwayne Douglas Johnson) interviewed several times, and I actually like him. I know nothing of his wrestling career, and I haven't seen his movie, but he came off in the interviews as a very likeable personality. He is one of a new breed of action heroes defined in this insightful look at cultural changes and movies from LA LA land (Los Angeles). But not everyone agrees.

Cloning The Tasmanian Tiger
I read the book Jurassic Park (which was much better than the movie) and I knew that Robin Cook had a medical background, so I was fascinated by the science behind the computer animation. I wondered if he was projecting a possible future use of existing science. Now, reports from the Australian Museum say that scientists there have used old DNA to clone 4 of the thylacine's genes. That might not be enough, according to Ian Lewis, of Genetics Australia who cloned Australia's first cattle, because cloning an extinct species is much more difficult than cloning from the living animal.

Hugo Chavez Is Classy
The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is allowing Pedro Carmona, the man who proclaimed his position in the April coup, to leave the country for political asylum in Columbia.

Concierge Care: The Wave of the Future?
Some startling trends are putting the "hospital" back in hospitality. It's not that hospitals or medical groups are starting to treat all patients better. Instead, they are offering "boutique" services to those patients who can afford to pay for it, things like valet parking, Nordstom's style of customer service, and appointments where you never have to see the inside of a waiting room. It sounds like fun.

Monday, May 27, 2002

Handbag shows WTC attacks [photo copyright Reuters]WTC Attack In "Art"
Personally, I wouldn't buy a purse that showed airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center twin towers, but then people have always questioned my taste.

World's Leading Earthquake and Tidal Observatory Opens in Austria
The Conrad Observatory, named for Victor Conrad, one of the early leading seismologists, opens at Trafelberg in Austria and will be run by Peter Melichar. One of only 20 supraconducting gravimeters in the world, it will measure changes in gravity and report on seismological events throughout the world. The site was selected because it is away from man made structures that would interfere with its readings, and consists of several large tunnels dug into a mountainside.

Cosmo Goes Global
Apparently, sex sells around the world. Cosmopolitan magazine has a network of magazines it publishes all over the world, customized for each local marketplace and culture, including Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, Romania, Turkey, Lithuania, Russia, Czech Republic, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Greece, Italy, Japan, Poland, and Finland. I was surprised to learn that there are over 125,000 subscribers in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Of course, there are women under those veils!

Laura & Jenna Bush Arrive in Hungary
On her visit official solo visit as First Lady, Laura Bush visted with President Ferenc Mádl and the US Ambassador to Hungary, Nancy Goodman Brinker. If they were drinking in private places, I doubt Jenna needed to use any fake IDs.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Today's Theme: Health Issues

Students Doing Yoga at Lick Middle School [photo copyright BBC News]Yoga Being Taught In California Schools
I know, only in California... but as a practitioner of kundalini yoga, I must say, I'm glad to see this report. Physical education teacher, Phyllis Camp at James Lick Middle School in the San Francisco area, is using yoga to help kids learn to relax, concentrate and gain physical strength. The article is full of quote from the kids about what they like about learning yoga. This is part of a larger program, ABC Yoga Project, that is being used in several area schools.

Industry To Bring Pregnant Koreans Here For Births
I have heard before about Mexican women coming to America to give birth, but I'm a little surprised at the elaborate system in place to bring pregnant South Korean women here to give birth. It's not just that they want to come to America... it turns out that we are one of the few countries to automatically give citizenship to anyone born on this soil. Other countries have altered their birth/citizenship laws in recent years, but this right is proctected by the 14th amendment, added to the Constitutution after the end of the Civil War. As many as 1% of all South Korean babies are born here, and most come from wealthy families. The granddaughter of Lee Hoi Chang, a candidate for president, was born in Hawaii recently, causing him much political trouble.

New Bacteria Is Antibiotic Immune
Bad news for people. Now, there is a bacteria that can't be killed by antibiotics. The extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL) bacteria was isolated in Hairmyres hospital in East Kilbride, Scotland. As many as 41 patients have been found to have this bug, and it has contributed to the death of at least one patient, according to Dr. Dugald Baird, a microbiologist.

Australian Doctors Call For End of Junk Food Ads During Children's Programming
Whether or not they will be heard, the Australian Divisions of General Practice (ADGP) has asked for a ban on all junk food commercials during the hours of 4 pm to 7 pm. But the request was rejected by the Australian Food and Grocery Council because they said it was an overly simplified solution to a complex problem, childhood obesity. I just want to know... who would get to decide whether pizza or fried chicken are declared as "junk foods."

Saturday, May 25, 2002

Port Orford State Park beach view [photo copyright Oregon State Parks]Wanting To Vacation
Several years ago, I drove the Pacific Coast from San Clemente, CA to Seattle, WA and it was a fabulous experience. I had several favorite places along the way, including the Redwoods, the Oregon Coast including the Cape Blanco Lighthouse near Port Orford, and the central California coast.. One of those placed I decided that I would have to return to is the Cambria area, near the Hearst Castle. And here is a wonderful trip report about the area. It makes we want to go down and start up the truck right now.

Soccer (Football) & Politics & Passion
Soccer isn't the consuming passion in the US that it is throughout the world. In fact, the amount of passion people put into soccer is surprising and maybe even confusing. Is soccer a form of war? And how does bin Laden feel about it?

Western Style Bookstore Arrives in Cairo
Diwan, the first bookstore designed as a gathering place, has opened in Cairo, and confronts head on issues of censorship and the impression that Egyptians are not readers. Visitors are amazed at the variety of things that are legally available (nothing on the banned list are available), and the wide range of media included in the store. I think it is wonderful to imagine a store like my neighborhood Borders is now available in Cairo.

Islamic "Coke" Available In Iran
First, there was Coke. Then there was Diet Coke, New Coke, Classic Coke and Vanilla Coke. And now there is Zamzam-Cola., named for the holy spring of water in Mecca that is believed to flow from heaven. With the ongoing boycott of American brands, this alternative soft drink is growing in popularity and production has increased.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Whale Coast Oman logo [copyright Oman Whale and Dolphin Research Group]Plan To Free Trapped Dolphin
A dolphin has become trapped in nylon ropes in Bahrain. Tim Collins, from the Oman Whale and Dolphin Research Group, has visited the site and is planning a rescue attempt.

Ongoing Problems At Camp X-Ray
Mamdouh Habib, recently transfered to Camp X-Ray from Egypt after being arrested in Pakistan, has claimed that he doesn't know why he is being held and that he has been blindfolded for eight months. There has been some confusion over whether he is Egyptian or Australian, although his family is living in Sydney. He is believed to be an outspoken Muslim, and was picked up right after the 11 September attacks. Australian investigators have been promised that they can speak with him soon, along with the other Australian detainee, David Hicks.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Today's Theme: Weight Watching

Jared with before jeans [photo copyright Subway]The Skinny on Jared and Subway
Being skeptical about anything in a TV ad, I wondered just how true the claims about Jared and Subway sandwiches could be. Weight Watchers recently came out with their own opinion about making Subway part of a diet plan, and they endorse it, with some reservations. If you want a good laugh, check out what this "investigation" uncovered about Jared's supposed secret liposuction. It seems that these commercials have really inspired a lot of people to start asking questions about the "Subway Diet" which, by the way, Subway doesn't promote.

Why Are We Getting So Fat?
I'm sure that you have heard there is an epidemic of obesity, not just in America, but in the Western world. Here's one opinion about the causes, which I think hits the nail right on the head. And how do we solve this issue, especially among children? Learn about one journalist's visit to Mississippi and what he discovered about obesity there. And in a study in Pennsylvania, the results show that we are generally living healthier, even if we are getting fatter at the same time. Australia finds that children there are avoiding many diseases, but are also becoming more obese.

Why People Regain Lost Weight
A fascinating new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says that the stomach produces ghrelin, a hormone that increases the appetite. This hormone activates the hypothalamus which regulates food intake, and triggers a metabolism slow down and a reduction in fat burning. They believe this explains why people who have gastric bypass surgery tend to keep their weight off longer.

Meridia Risks Not Reported To FDA
Meridia, one of the new drugs for weight loss being advertised on TV, may be risky to use than previously believed. Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder of Public Citizen Health Research Group, a consumer group, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to charge Abbott Laboratories for illegally withing holding information about test patient deaths related to taking Meridia. It seems that there are no magic pills after all...

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The new reincarnate trulku [photo copyright Kuensel Online]Real Life "Little Buddha"
The movie, Little Buddha (with Keanu Reeves and Bridget Fonda), was based on the true story of three children who were determined to be the reincarnation of an important Buddhist lama. Now, Ngawang Tenpey Nyenjyed, a 5-year-old, has been identified as the reincarnation of Gyelwa Shacha Rinchen, an 18th century Je Khenpo (theocratic leader) of Bhutan.

Science & Technology Conference In China Draws Nobel Prize Winners
More than 100 scientists, including Nobel winners Robert Mundell, Lawrence Klein, Michael Spence and S.C.C. Ting, are making presentations at Nanjing University this week. The conference is designed to help the scientists increase awareness within their community about the dangers to human society from some of the advances in science and technology.

Human Rights Activist On Trial (Again) In Cairo
Saadeddin Ibrahim, a professor at the American University in Cairo, and director of the Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Developmental Studies, is on trial again. He is charged with receiving money from a foreign source without the government's permission. The funds came from the European Union and were to support a project that encouraged Eqyptians to vote. He is a member of the MOST Scientific Steering Committe of UNESCO.

First Woman in Jordan Granted A Divorce
Until recently, only men were allowed to divorce in Jordan. When King Abdullah took the throne in 1999, he vowed to improve the status of women, and authorized the ammendment of the divorce laws. The woman was granted the divorce only after she agreed to release her ex-husband from financial obligations to her in the future.

Assassination Attempt Against Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i Foiled
According to official reports, four commanders of the Revolutionary Guards attempted to kill the Ayatollah in his home, and the reason they failed was not made public. The Revolutationary Guard is an elite military force that is responsible for maintaining order for the Ayatollah. This event is seen as a sign that his power in Iran may be crumbling.

Bush's Plans In Russia A Secret
The Moscow Times is reporting that details about President Bush's trip are being kept secret.

Star Trek Icon To Be Auctioned
Yep, some lucky (and poor) soul will be able to put Captain Kirk's chair, the conn, in his or her home this summer. In a related story, Wil Wheaton is auctioning off a Wesley action figure.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

French angelfish living in the Garden Banks area [photo copyright The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary]Shell Oil Planning Pipelines In Gulf of Mexico
Shell is planning to build two pipelines, one for oil and the other for natural gas, in the US Gulf of Mexico near the Garden Banks area of the Magnolia Field development which is run by Conoco. The Garden Banks area is a coral reef and a national marine sanctuary.

Bronze Statue Lost After WTC Attacks
The World Trade Center offices were full of artwork, much of which was lost in the tragedy. During the recovery efforts, however, firemen found the bronze statue, The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin. But now it is missing again. The offices of Cantor-Fitzgerald were full of Rodin statues, as Gerald Cantor had one of the largest personal collections of his work, and used it to decorate their offices. Cantor and his wife, Iris, were also the benefactor of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, which includes the B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden. As patrons of the arts, they also provided for the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. While Gerald died in 1996, their ongoing work is supported by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, which is lead by Iris.

Cantor-Fitzgerald lost 700 employees in the tragedy, and they have commited to providing 25% of their partner profits to the families of those lost over the next five year. They have also built a website as a memorial to those lost.

Anti-Bush Press in Cuba
The news from Cuba has always been anti-Bush, and for the most part, I have found it to be anti-America. I'm not saying that I believe this is true by posting it here. I'm only saying that there are different opinions about what is going on inside America that can only be gleaned from the foreign press, biased as it may be. I don't know if these accusations are true. Decide for yourself. [previous anti-Bush news from Cuba]

American Optimism On The Rise (Still)
Let's face it... in spite of all of the things we could say are wrong with America, it's still a place of great personal freedom where people really can live their lives as an American Dream come true. Even the terrorists can't take that away from us. Way to go, America! I challenge everyone who reads this to make one decision that exercises your personal freedoms and takes you one step closer to living your own version of the American Dream. Do it! Now!

Monday, May 20, 2002

Today's Theme: Things Coming To An End
Red kangaroo and joey [photo copyright Rich Brant]
Open Season on Kangaroos
Well, not exactly. I grew up where the deer population was regulated by the hunting season. When the population was high, the season was extended to compensate. But in Australia, they have hired a contractor to go in and shoot up to 15,000 kangaroos from the population in the Puckapunyal Army Base just north of Melbourne in Victoria. Despite the protests of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the cull is going to happen, but the local group has been promised access to ensure that things are done humanely.

New Russian Censorship
Imagine a place where some books are believed to harm the spirit of the people. Now imagine that instead of holding protests or book burnings, you are given this offer: For every book by an author on the harmful list that you voluntarily turn in, you will recieve a book by an author on the "useful" list. No questions asked. What's the next step, turning in your neighbors for reading books from the wrong list? And what is so terrible about the works of the best selling author, Victor Pelevin, that they are considered harmful? What?! He isn't "patriotic" enough! Just as Walking Together, a youth group headed by Vasily Yakimenko.

Fighting For The Truth
Some people believe that Fanie Olivier will become a South African folk hero for whistle blowing and standing up against an onslaught of bureaucratic opposition for the stand he took while a professor at the University of Venda. Power to the little people!

What's Pain Got To Do With It?
Fascinating story about the genetics of pain, pain disorders, gate-control theory, and my favorite, "knock-out mice" -- all contributing to the expanding knowledge around pain and its treatments. Which is a good thing, since the U.S. National Pain Foundation says that 40% of us experience pain daily. Take two analgesics and call me in the morning...

Bikinis, Nude Sunbathing and Islam Don't Mix
And yet, that is exactly what Western tourists bring to Malaysia, an Islamic country. There is a battle going on internally, pitting the fundamentalists who are appalled by the practices of non-Islamic and the businessmen who don't want to lose the tourist trade income. In the middle of this battle is Abdul Kadir Sheikh, the tourism minister. Will capitalism or religion win? This will be an interesting situation to watch.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Mirel Ukeles at the Flow City site [photo copyright  J. Paul Getty Trust]Art & Garbage
Mierle Laderman Ukeles is the first "artist in residence" in the sanitation department of New York City. Her past projects have included videotaping a "ballet" of street sweepers, a parade of sanitation bosses sweeping a Manhattan pararde route with brooms, and Flow City, a clean-up project along the Hudson River. She sees sanitation workers as domestic servants on a public level, and sees a relationship between her feminist views of women as an ancient domestic class and sanitation workers. For years, she worked at the Fresh Kills landfill, which closed in 2001, only to be reopened to take the debris from the World Trade Center clean up.

Saudi Royal Wins Kentucky Derby
Prince Ahmed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is a businessman with a passion for horse racing. Since the 1980s, he has purchased thoroughbred horses through his company, Thoroughbred Corporation, and has finally achieved his goal of winning the Kentucky Derby with a stallion named War Emblem. As Chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing company, he is the head of a large publishing empire that includes the largest circulation English language daily Arab newspaper, Asharq Al Awsat. His horse, Point Given, was the winner of the 2001 Belmont Stakes.

Gays & Lesbians Refused Communion
At a time when gay marriages are being accepted in more countries like Germany and Holland, and when a gay Canadian won the right to take his male date to the prom, it seems a slap in the face to read this news today from Sydney. Rev George Pell at St Mary's Cathedral, known as the Mother Church for Australian Catholocism, refused communion to parishioners who were identifying themselves as gay and lesbian by wearing a rainbow striped sash, part of the Rainbow Sash movement. Archbishop Pell had earlier refused communion to group members while located in Melbourne.

The World's Newest Country
Nearly two years after civil fighting broke out, today is the first official day of independence for East Timor. The people of East Timor voted to become independent of Indonesia in 1999, and has been a UN territory since that time. Prior to that time, East Timor had been a Portugese territory. While under Indonesian rule, many people believe that as many as 200,000 people were killed. The newly elected President Xanana Gusmao thanked the international community, including Australian Prime Minister John Howard and former US President, Bill Clinton, for their support of the new country.

Closing Arizona's State Forests?
U.S. Forest Services officials are preparing to close most or all of the six national forests in Arizona because of public safety concerns in light of the horrific fire in the Prescott area and our ongoing drought. If you are planning to go camping over the Memorial Day weekend, most likely you will be out of luck.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

History of 10 Downing Street
While perhaps not the best known address in America (especially for the Beverly Hills 90210 generation), 10 Downing is perhaps the best known foreign address here. I was thrilled to learn about the history of the building, including the story of Sir George Downing, a Yank and a Harvard graduate. I wonder if he belonged to a secret society?

Bush Knew
And there is one more thing on my mind today. I'm not an expert, and I'm not a Bush fan, but I'm sick to death about hearing the claims that Bush knew about the attacks in advance. Honestly, if someone had told me the day before that there was a terrorist attack planned, and described in full detail what would happen, no matter how much I trusted the source, the story is just to gawd damn unreal to believe. What good does finger pointing do at this time? How about putting all of that energy to good use, doing something constructive, no matter how small, to make the world a better place? That is something EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US CAN DO INSIDE OUR OWN LIVES. I've got no room for whiners and complainers and finger pointers.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Mulder and Scully ending Sunday night [photo copyright Houston Chronicle]
Buh-Bye X-Files
As the last season draws to a close, I find myself considering purchasing the series of DVD, something I never thought I would do. I'm not the only person who seems to be anticipating X-Files withdrawl. The finale is all over the press, all over the world.

  • In Australia, they give more of a description of the last episode that I've found anywhere else, and wax on about the greener pastures of syndication.
  • Lana Berkowitz in Houston says that she doesn't expect another TV series ever to capture her imagination in the same way.
  • The Christian Science Monitor describes how the X-Files episode format has changed forever the storytelling structure on episodic TV.
  • Andrew Stuttaford of the National Review claims that the X-Files is passe, pre-September 11, and part of the Clinton mentality.
  • Wendy Beauchamp says that the show is past its prime and failed to reinvent itself after the loss of characters like Krycek and the Cigarette-Smoking Man.
  • And finally, John Levesque says that the only reason ever to watch the show was the chemistry between Mulder and Scully.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Today's Theme: Code Breakers

I just saw "A Beautiful Mind" for the first time, and it has left me very curious about code breaking and our not-so-famous code breakers from that era.

William Tutte was a theoretical mathematician who died recently. He most recently was a retired professor at the University of Waterloo, and honorary director of their Center for Cryptographic Research. He started his career, like many others, by working at Bletchley Park during WWII where he distinguished himself by using only his mind, he deciphered part of the German code that others had not broken with the Enigma machine. While a student at Cambridge, he and his friends discovered a way to break a square into smaller squares, each one smaller in size than the one before it. His Ph.D. work involved algebra and created a new field of study called matroid theory, and his work on graph theory became more important as computer technology evolved. He is also a former editor of the Journal of Combinatorial Theory, a journal that published original research in mathematics and science.

Navajo Code Talkers are a big topic in the last few years. Not only were they our secret weapon during WWII, but also during the Korean War and in Vietnam.

Sorry, got interrupted... will finish this theme another time.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Fidel Castro standing before an American flag while greeting Jimmy Carter [photo copyright Globe & Mail]Castro Receives Carter Graciously
Former president Jimmy Carter has arrived in Cuba, the highest ranking US official to visit Cuba in over 40 years, and his greeting from Castro was televised on Cuban TV. The podium was draped with American and Cuban flags, and a band played the "Star Spangled Banner." Castro had invited Carter to visit Cuba 14 years ago, when the two dignitaries met at the funeral of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Carter and his wife, Roselynn had visited Cuba once before relations were cut off. Carter was accompanied by several staff member of the Carter Center, a non-profit humanitarian organization.

Drinking Tea May Increase Bone Density
There have been several studies released over the last couple of months that show benefits of drinking tea, including increasing bone density. This is especially good news for women as osteoporosis and low bone mineral density result in fragile bones as women age.

Clones Cloned Illegally
Pirated copies of the new Star Wars movie, Attack of the Clones, have been found in Malaysia according to Twentieth Century Fox Malaysia, and have been available on the Internet for several days. This must put George Lucas into an interesting position... people are using the technology he loves so much to steal his own thunder.

Caught In The Act
When you take your car to the shop, you don't expect that they are using it for joy rides. A man in the UK found out that his shop was indeed enjoying his new BMW thanks to a new global positioning satellite system he had recently stalled, TracM8 from Interactive Projects. Among other things, this system has a feature that sends a text message to a cell phone any time that the car is being driven above the speed limit. So imagine the man's surprise to start receiving messages while his car was in the shop!

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Today's Theme: Image Makeovers
New name for kiwi fruit [photo copyright Zespri]Kiwifruit's New Image
Did you know that there were only 4 fruits and nuts domesticaled in the 20th century? Three were done in the US: avocados, macadamia nuts, and blueberries. The fourth one was done in New Zealand: kiwi. But now, for reasons related to trademarks, the kiwi in your grocery will start carrying the name Zespri. This is a fascinating story of agricultural progress, international trade, and national pride. I love kiwi, and I'm fascinated to learn about this history.

Hillary's Foreign Image
Does anyone else think this is strange? Hillary Clinton met with the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia. I didn't see this in our news, but it is on the front page in Bangladesh, along with Hillary's comments about what a great friend they are to the US. [Note: The article has already been removed and replaced with a new one.]

Genghis Kahn's New Image
On his 840th birthday, the people of Mongolia are honoring their most famous son, and working to change our image of Genghis Kahn from the maurading aggressor to a cross between King Arthur and Sitting Bull. Maybe history has been cruel to him... history is always written to flatter friends and dishonor foes.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Jim Rankin's award winning photo [photo copyright Jim Rankin]
9/11 Photo Contest Winners Announced
A picture is always worth a thousand words, but when there is an event like the attacks on 11 September, how can one picture begin to contain all of the words and thoughts and emotions that we all felt? Yet the National Press Photographers Association has done just that in their Attack on America contest. The Toronto Star's reporter-journalist Jim Rankin won second place in that contest with his photo of Genetta Giudice on the day of mourning. I remember seeing this picture when they first published it. The paper has a gallery of Rankin's other photographs. Check out his work, he is fabulous!

How NOT To Fake Your Own Kidnapping
Mark Salerno, a Scottsdale doctor with financial pressures, decided to fake his kidnapping to San Diego instead of committing suicide like he had planned. Talk about twisted logic. It was all working until a witness came forward who saw the doctor climb into the trunk and shut himself in. He was smart enough to become a doctor, but not smart enough to be a good criminal.

Paper or Plastic?
They are stronger than ever before, and cheaper as well. They stand up better to the damp British climate. They are the unofficial national flower of South Africa because of the number of them flapping in the breeze attached to plants throughout the countryside. Cows in India eat them and choke. And now, in the UK, you have to pay 9 pence more to have your groceries packed in plastic bags.

Pucking Up Hockey
As a teen, I went to many of the Dayton Gems hockey games as a way to get out of the house with my friends. I can't say I was really watching the games. Last Christmas, I went with my brother and his family to the new Dayton minor league hockey team, Dayton Bombers, game. It was quite interesting. I got hit in the head with a t-shirt thrown from the ice! After my brother stopped laughing, he told me a story about someone who was seriously hurt by a flying puck. I had no idea that hockey had its own version of "foul balls" like baseball, that most noble of sports. In fact, the next morning in the paper, the sports page read "Last night, in the middle of a fight at the Nutter Center, a hockey game broke out..." and that is how it was. I was shocked at the level of aggression and the amount of time spent throwing punches instead of playing hockey. Now, I read where a player may have intentionally hit a fan with a puck. At least that is what procesutors are charging against Frank Curto for the injury a puck made to Gail Bourgeois in March at a Maritime Junior Hockey League playoff game between the Truro Bearcats and Amherst Ramblers.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Candid shot behind the scenes while shooting the last X-Files episode [photo copyright Fox]Good-Bye To The X-Files
I've been watching the last few shows with much anticipation, hoping that many of the loose ends will be tied up nicely. I liked the ending to Doggett's son's murder... ugly truth but we are left with the feeling that John is now ready to move on. I hate that Scully gave up her son. I loved the confirmation of Mulder's father, though. And I'm looking forward to seeing Mulder back on the final two episodes. Gillian has been making comments about her feelings on the ending, and she will appear on Letterman Friday night. I've heard that someone is running an X-Files marathon over Memorial Day weekend, including the playing of the X-Files movie, but I haven't found confirmation of this online. Also, F/X is running an X-Files auction on eBay.

Madagascar Update
Interesting article from the always insightful Economist magazine. [previous post] Let's all count our blessings in America that our recent troubling presidential election ended so well compared to this.

Little Saigon in Southern California
A community center for the 135,000 Vietnamese who live in Orange County recreates Saigon as it might be today if we had won the war.

Japanese McDonalds Offer Internet Connections
I don't get it. McDonalds in known for FAST food, and now they want to be known for FAST internet connection. Except that with fast food, people come in and get out in a hurry. With fast internet connections, people are going to want to hang around. I know that America is behind the rest of the world in the cyber cafe phenomenon (being the isolationists we are, we have our own connections inside the privacy of our homes), but I just can't see McDonalds as a gathering place for the cyber culture I expect exists with cyber cafes. Anyone else scratching his or her head on this one?

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Roadside humor
Digital Creativity
I've had my digital camera for a year now, and I must say, I find more and more uses for it all of the time. A few months back, I was talking on the phone with my mom, telling her about my lastest steals from either TJ Maxx or Marshalls, trying to describe it, when it occurs to me... I can take a picture and send it through email. Since that moment, I've emailed more photos to mom than I would have ever thought possible. I now carry it with me everywhere, snapping city candids, trucks in traffic, advertising, anything that is either beautiful or resonates with my wacky sense of humor. I couldn't imagine my life without it now. But after seeing this article, I knew that I was just a mere toddler in the digital imaging realm.

First Year In The Desert Tips
If you or someone you know is spending their first summer in the desert, Arizona Public Service has a wonderful 4-page guide to help you keep cool and safe through the worst weather Phoenix can dish out. It's in PDF format, which means that you can use your browser to view and print it.

Who Says White Collar Criminals Have It Easy?
I do. I would love to have someone tell me I had to stay at home for 6 months instead of going to prison for collusion, just like Diana D. Brooks, the former chief executive Sotheby's who was found guilty and sentenced to house arrest. She's a Harvard grad, and she's resigned her positon as a trustee, I guess either because a) she would have to miss meetings for a while, or b) the other trustees didn't want to sit next to her after her trial and all of that social disgrace. She also serves on the board at Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Company, but I couldn't find out if she had resigned that position, also. Although, thanks to the Internet and her Discover Card, she could be doing a lot of serious shopping online. I wonder if she will compensate for her love of auctions by joining in at eBay... she could always get FedEx to pick up her outgoing auction items.

She got off easy compared to her boss, A. Alfred Taubman, who will be serving a year and a day in prison, inspite of letters recommending leniency from Henry Kissinger, Barbara Walters, and Gerald Ford, where no doubt his Palm Pilot will continue to be used. Taubman has a graduate school named after him, the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, the A. Alfred Taubman Health Care Center, and the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Library all at the University of Michigan. Yeah, and Enron used to have a ballpark named after them, too.

Here's A Dentist With A Bright Idea
Maybe he wanted to brighten up all of those dark mouths he looked into for a living. Maybe he saw it as a metaphor for enlightenment. Maybe it was because of the unusual toy his mother put into his crib (imagine putting a light bulb into a baby's crib!) But whatever the reason, Hugh Francis Hicks was a mild mannered dentist by day, and light bulb curator by night. Fortunately, he never quit his day job, but also opened the world's largest (perhaps only) light bulb museum in his dental office basement, the Mount Vernon Museum of Incandescent Lighting. He was also know to steal lightbulbs while traveling to add to his collection. Even Westinghouse gave him a 75,000 watt bulb specially made for his 75th birthday. His museum contributed to the PBS special American Experience: America 1900, and was included in America's Strangest Museums : A Traveler's Guide to the Most Unusual and Eccentric Collections. Unfortunately, this week, Dr. Hick's light went out.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...
Today's Theme: It's Only Natural (au naturel)

The Legend of The Khting Vor
Mythical beast, folklore legend, reported sightings... it must be a Cambodian cousin to the Lock Ness monster or Bigfoot. Perhaps. But instead of questionable videotape, the evidence from this beast is a pair of horns. But no ordinary animal horns, these are ringed, and as it turns out, quite fake. To quote Richard A. Melville of Johns Hopkins University: "This is the biggest hoax, parenthesis, if unintentional, end quote, in the annals of zoology. Period." So like its mysterious cousins, this reported animal is now the subject of ridicule, and perhaps, a real life X-File. Robert Timm of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, in Mulder-esque fashion, wants to believe that instead of being faked, the khting vor has become extinct. After extensive scientific study of the moutains of Cambodia, the rest of the academic community skoffs. In an unrelated story, however, many people still believe in the illusive jackalope.

UK Ban To Protect Oaks
I didn't know that there was a serious disease effecting the oaks in California and Oregon until I read it in the UK news. To protect their own oaks from this fatal disease (commonly called Sudden Oak Death) caused by the phytophthora ramorum fungus, they have instituted bans on plants from certain parts of the US, and have also made restrictions on timber so that the disease won't be carried over in the bark. For more detailed information, see this fact sheet.

You Can Tell It's Nearly Summer In The UK...
...Because people are willing to take off their clothes. Another streaker report, and this one flashed the Queen. A reporter on the scene said that the Queen certainly saw him. Now, if it had been me, I would have looked. Would you?

Naked Chef Does Canada

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

A doctor holding an Ilizarov device [photo copyright University of Texas]
A New Meaning For Chinese Torture
Remember the scene in Gattaca where Ethan Hawke's character undergoes surgery to make his legs longer so he is the same height as Jude Law's character? Think that was fantasy? It's not. Today, people in China are undergoing horrible Ilizarov procedure where braces allow them to turn a screw that moves a break in their shin bones further apart, adding height to their stature in the process. That is, if it doesn't weaken their bones or twist their legs so badly that they will never walk again. The device was developed by a Ilizarov, Russian doctor in Siberia about 40 years ago. It makes me sick to think about it. Apparently, there are legitimate uses for these devices, and one will be used on Lyle Lovett to help him recover from his recent bull injuries.

Talk About Playing Possum
In Australia, a land known for it's animal curiosities like the kangaroo and tazmanian devil, a new species of possum has been discovered that has been around in the bush for over 200 years. Named the southern mountain brushtail possum (Trichosurus cunninghamii after the Australian National University team's statistician, Rose Cunningham), this possum is significantly different from its cousin brushtail possums. And in an interesting twist of fate, after playing dead to researchers for so long, the animal is at risk of extinction. For real. And it seems they have a bit of gypsy blood in them, moving their homes up to 20 times a year. (And I thought I moved a lot.)

Husband & Wife Garden Implement Makers Become Famous
In a classic success story, Murray and Elaine Campbell started making their own garden tools from their home in New Zealand out of necessity. Now their tools, under the brand name Highgrove, have been approved by Prince Charles and will be sold from his Highgrove Estate retail outlet, complete with the Prince's distinguishing mark, the three feather badge. It's the Commonwealth twist on the classic American success story, shifted from technology to gardening, appropriate for the priorities of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Monday, May 06, 2002

Spring Storm Dumps Snow on Calgary [photo copyright Globe and Mail]
Weird Weather, Earth Rumblings & Natural Disasters Continue
Calgary, Canada receives a late spring snow storm, while people in west Texas are cleaning up after tornados ripped through towns, and flooding strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. Lava has resumed flowing down Mexico's Colima volcano, indicating that an erruption could be coming. Forest fires are ravaging Colorado, the U Minh National Park in Vietnam, and New Zealand. The drought in Taiwan is so bad that they have postponed the opening of swimming pools. An earthquake rocked Guam two weeks ago, and heavy rains start flooding in the Pichincha Province in Ecuador. It's a weird planet out there... take your umbrella.

Iranian Editor Facing Jail, Whipping
It's hard to believe that freedom of the press is so restricted around the world. Ali-Hamed Iman, the editor of the Chams-e-Tabriz regional newspaper is facing 15 charges. Four newspapers have been closed in Iran this year. The Human Rights Watch organization is upset that the UN hasn't spoken out on these issues.

Watch Your Words Here, Too
A disgruntled citizen of Crisp County, Georgia spoke his mind about the political corruption he believed was going on his his little holler on an Internet message group, and today he faces a $1 million libel suit for his comments about Chris Cannon, a vice president for Waste Industries Inc.

Men's Suspicions Confirmed
Men have always suspected that women speak a different language. Now, there is proof that at least some women have their own language. A small group of elderly women in China are believed to the last speakers of one of the oldest languages on the planet, a language spoken only by women of the Yao ethnic group.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Raven image from totem pole
Totem Poles
As a kid, I remember learning about totem poles, but I don't remember being very excited about them. All of that changed when I encountered my first real totem pole several years ago. Created by the Native peoples of the northwest coast of North America, totem poles are large, with incredibly stylized graphic designs of animals stacked on top of each other. Totem poles are usually made from red cedar logs, and one log is used to make the pole, although other pieces of wood may be added to form wings and other protruding parts.

Many of the cities from the Puget Sound north through Alaska have totem poles, including the world's largest in Victoria, BC, Canada which has undergone a restoration, the Tlingit Indian Totem Pole in Market Square in Seattle, Washington, and Shingletown, California. They are an important part of the culture in that area, and they have leaked into most of Western culture. We have the expression, "low man on the totem pole" which somehow implies that the bottom position of the totem is of less esteem, when in fact, that is the opposite of the truth. While their image may be known, we don't have a good understanding of what they mean within their own culture.

Like many other cultural artifacts, totem poles were removed from this region by explorers and tourists, and many efforts are underway to return the totem poles to their original locations, including the Haisla Totem Pole Repatriation Project which is moving one from Sweden to Canada, and the totem pole from the Peabody Museum's Hall of the North American Indian at Harvard back to Alaska.

The art of totem carving is still practiced by these Native peoples, and today museums like the Royal Albert in Exeter, UK have commissioned totem poles for their collection.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Lt. Col. McSally sans abaya [photo copyright USA Today]
Saudi Arabian Fashion Police
A new fatwa (ruling) says that abayas, the all black cloaks worn by women in Saudi Arabia, must be produced to the exact standards of the religious ruling, or they will be confiscated from their wearer and destroyed, along with a punishment for the women wearing them. Recently, the abaya was in the US news because of Lt. Col. Martha McSally, the highest ranking female fighter pilot, refused to wear one while off base for personal religious reasons. The US Department of Defense had required them to be worn, but recently slightly relaxed its policy.

Gore Vidal's Opinion
As always, intersting, insightful and against the grain of our mainstream media opinions.

Chinese Customs Make For Interesting Situations
I always love reading articles like this, about the ins and outs of another culture. I learned today not to wear a green hat in China, or to give clocks as presents of good will. It's an amazing world... the the variety seems to be never ending.

Zimbabwe Still Arresting Journalists
I know the rest of the world doesn't believe in the freedom of the press like we do, but every time I hear another story about a journalist who is being persecuted for doing her or her job, I get upset. I know that free speech is a practice that brings things into the light quickly. I do believe that no truth can be hidden for very long... the truth always finds a way to let itself out over time. Now, Andrew Meldrum, a British journalist, and two local journalists, are facing charges for reporting on a woman's murder in Karoi. [background] [ongoing coverage of Zimbabwe] [interview with Meldrum]

Cambodian Prince Releases New Film
The Royal City, [Raja Bori], is Prince Norodom Ranariddh's first film, but he follows in the footsteps of his deposed father, King Norodom Sihanouk, renouned as a musician and filmmaker. Filmed at the famous Angkor Temple, the film was created by the Prince to let the world know about the rich cultural history of his land.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Strait of Gibraltar [photo copyright BBC News]
Joint British/Spanish Rule For Gibraltar?
Jack Straw is headed for Gibraltar with hopes to enourage its citizens to accept joint rulership after 300 years. [background]

Angry Bees Everywhere
In Mexico, a truck carrying 650 beehives crashed, releasing the angry bees into the air. Road blocks were set up to warn people not to open their car windows or drive fast and irritate the bees further. I wonder what the hazardous cargo symbol is for trucks carrying bees?

Canadian Board of Inquiry
Keep track of the official publication of the committe that is researching the "friendly fire" incident that killed four Canadian soldiers. [background] And I learned a new word "fratricide."

Tammy Leitner Voted Off
But did you know that she is from Mesa and quit her job as a reporter for the East Valley Tribune to join Survivor: Marquesas?

Thursday, May 02, 2002

photo copyright
Orgasmic Calculator
One of the most fun things I've found online in a long time... a calculator with sound effects for each key, leading up to a big orgasmic sound when you total it up. Makes me wish I had more calculating to do!

Australian Malpractice Insurance Problems Ebbing
Fearing the collapse of their country's largest malpractice insurance agency, United Medical Protection, some patients are finding that their scheduled services and procedures have been cancelled as doctors are not willing to take on the risks. The government has guaranteed doctors that they will be fully covered no matter what happens with UMP through the end of June, so the Australian Medical Association is urging doctors to resume surgeries.

Madagascar Split
In a story that will sound familiar to Americans, the outcome of the December election in Madagascar has been debated since the polls closed, and the courts declared Marc Ravalomanana the winner over the former president, Didier Ratsiraka. Both sides have claimed to be the ruler of the country, and now there are threats that 5 of the 6 provinces will seceed from the country in support of Ratsiraka.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Relax at the beach [photo source unknown]
Call In Sick, Take A Vacation Day...
...While you read this article and consider what it means for your own life. Almost 8 years ago, I ended up taking 3 weeks of vacation. I had never been off work more than a week with two weekends (one on each end) so it was a revelation to me! It changed my life. Less than a year later, I checked out of corporate America, left my resume at the door, and went out to become self employed. It's been wonderful. Except that over the last three years, I've started to notice that I'm habitually working too much. I'm really thinking about what I'm doing. After all, my day and my life are my own now, so why aren't I living the lifestyle that goes with that? I am spending this whole year getting my life back, developing a healthy lifestyle, and stripping away the crap from my life. I'm making progress, but reading this article shows me that I still have a long way to go. Thankfully, it's only May and I still have 8 months left.
[Thanks to forty.something for another great link]

What Do Americans Know About Canada?
Since 9/11, I've been obsessive about reading the news from around the world. Sure, for the first few weeks, I was just looking for info about the attack, but it didn't take long for me to realize that there is a whole wide world out there, and I was just starting to get a glimpse of it. I think Americans are isolationist by nature. I don't think it is self-absorption. If you look at our geography, we don't have the close quarters between nations like they do in Europe. Unless you speak Spanish, Mexico is easy to ignore, and Canada, well, most people ignore the state next door unless they have family. It feels a bit like Canada is just another friendly state, and one that is far enough away that we don't really get any of their local news. Our news coverage almost never mentions Canada, so it really takes some initiative for us to learn about the land and the people and the issues to the north.
[Thanks again to forty.something for another great link]

Response To The Saudi Prince's No Women Request
Leave it to Laurie Notaro to have a funny, on the mark response to this situation.

Bhutan's Foreign Minister To Visit Canada
Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley will be the first official from Bhutan to visit Canada. He is scheduled to meet with Adrienne Clarkson, Governor-General of Canada, and Prime Minister Jean Chretien among others.

Weird Search = "picture of George Jetson having sex" puts me at 6 on the list. WOW

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