Email notification to Brandon Starr's blog has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol in two-toed sloths, and has been used as an effective exfoliant.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Irrationalists killed children in yearlong ritual
Incan children were fattened up for a year, drugged, and died of exposure at the height of a religious festival
Fascinating article. They can tell what the children were fed using much the same technique that allows us to examine hair and tell whether someone used drugs within the last year.
Barbaric customs, to be sure. Modern irrationalists, of course, kill mostly those who don't believe in their particular brand of irrationality. And then they call themselves civilized. And better yet, they don't do the killing themselves--much easier to let others do the killing for them. As long as the media can stay focused on nonissues like Britney's kids, it can stay culpable as a hand-in-hand partner in the slaughter.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Ford sales down only 21% from last year
Ford sales drop 21% from last year
And some are seeing this as good news, in the coulda-been-worse way.
High oil and gas prices are here to stay, friends. And the auto industry is finally waking up to the fact that there really aren't enough refineries to keep up with demand, nor is the world keeping up with crude oil exploration compared to discoveries.
This year may be the first time since the mid-80s that more oil has been discovered than was used by the world. This is because the high prices make it more feasible to undergo exploration. Yet this bright spot is somewhat dimmed when you realize that the oil discovered is more and more often in hard-to-reach places or countries with horrible political situations. The low-hanging fruit has been plucked. Guess what? The remaining oil costs more to extract. Even if prices did fall, it wouldn't be for long, because the new discoveries wouldn't turn into oil wells then, and prices would bounce right back up.
The earth does not have a rich, gooey oil (or nougat) center. While it may not ever run out in the absolute sense, it absolutely will run out as far as oil that can be extracted and brought to market in a reasonably economic way. The sooner we act on this realization, the better off we will be--financially and ecologically.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Turns out velociraptor had feathers (AP)
Time to crank up the old CGI machines and make the 'raptors even cooler.
Ah, what the hell, blame it on Jurassic Park's frog DNA.
Anyway, as one of the types of dinosaurs close to the link to birds, it wasn't too surprising for scientists to find this, but it was rather difficult--you have to find a specimen in good enough shape to still be able to have the bones' quill knobs in evidence.
While velociraptor wasn't even close to being able to fly, it may as the article states have been used in courtship, to control the raptor's body temperature or the temperature of its nests, or to aid in turning at full speed. Or combinations of some or all of the above, of course.
More than ever, the deadly critter "looks more like a giant turkey."
Monday, September 17, 2007
The Internet just got a little weirder. No, I'm not talking about O.J. Simpson's arrest for robbery. It's the "two months of Halloween on" I-Mockery.
Check it out.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Teen hacks iPhone, makes it usable on T-Mobile
Teen hacks iPhone, makes it usable on T-Mobile
While I think that's interesting, his technique requires about two hours and skills in both soldering and coding. And it only opens it up to T-Mobile; other providers use different signals that apparently aren't usable at all.
Frankly, it's not going to change things a lot. Even if you really wanted T-Mobile, you'd have to buy an iPhone and trust either your skills or the skills of some hacker you hire to change it. And talk about voiding a warranty!
Friday, August 17, 2007
HWN.org is following Dean. It's tracking in a way extremely dangerous for the United States and possibly Mexico.
It is already chugging along on an east-to-west path just above Brazil, and is about to move from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf has record high water temperatures in many places. Right now it looks like it will start to head WNW in about a day, which will keep it just above South America.
Most hurricanes, at some point, switch directions because they move from the trade winds to what we think of as the more normal west-to-east winds of the jet stream.
The question is, when will it turn north? Soon, smacking Florida? Late, whacking Mexico? Or will it do what seems very likely, and split the difference, hitting the oil-rich Gulf Coast area of Texas and Louisiana? It's clearly too soon to tell, but you may want to gas up now if you have any large tanks that need filling--the current happy prices could well rebound if Texas or Louisiana gets smacked by a storm that is ALREADY a category 3 and hasn't even found the happy hunting grounds of the warm Gulf of Mexico yet.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
hwn.org--watch those storms!
Keep your eye on Hurricane Watch Net.org. They provide info and graphics on all storms--especially in the Atlantic and Gulf regions.
For named storms, you can also get a graphic of where the storm is and where it's being projected to go.
Right now, we're looking at Tropical Storm Erin, which isn't likely to become a hurricane but is poised to smash directly into Texas. That's one reason energy has been higher the last couple of days.
We're also looking at Tropical Storm Dean, which has the eventual potential to threaten landfall anywhere from Mexico to Florida, and likely will do so as a hurricane. It's making its way due west from the Atlantic just above the coast of Brasil. Projections right now just show it going straight, but these storms always turn at some point--and they turn north.
Either way, it'll be going into Gulf waters at a time of record temperatures there. That means lots of energy for the storm to pick up.
Dean could turn out to be a monster.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Talking about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"
I read the book, and I wanted to wait a while before talking about it. This way those who wanted to read it right away could, and those who wanted to read it right away but had to wait in line for other family members to finish also could.
Overall, well done.
POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD!
It seems the "prediction webpages" were hit-and-miss with their predictions. Specifically, they were "hit" when it came to Harry and Voldemort and the Horcruxes, and "miss" when it came to most everything else that wasn't pretty explicity set up in the series.
Overall the whole fascist thing was a brilliant stroke. Most people seemed to think that Harry wrangling with Voldemort would provide plenty of danger factor for the dramatic struggle. Wrong, and Rowlings recognized this. This isn't just a book randomly set in time; this is "Year 7" of a school system with seven years in it. Even with Dumbledore defenestrated at the end of 6, Hogwarts would be a place of great protection for Harry. What better way to up the ante of the story than by taking that away from him?
Still, while I recognize the importance of that move, the middle of the book does sag a little bit, and directly because of it. There are an awful lot of scenes with the friendly trio and, worse, for a long time, a duo. Fortunately, this is eventually resolved and we get "back to the fun," which involves other people. This is good, because while not on the verge of becoming a magical version of "Waiting for Godot," Rowling does struggle to keep the story moving along. I imagine this chunk is going to be somewhat truncated in the movie version, only hitting the important parts.
Rowlings is interesting as a storyteller. She proves more than about anyone else that you don't have to have truly original ideas to be a great storyteller.
Shakespeare came up with almost zero of his play's plots. Yet he remains the greatest writer in English of all time by almost anyone who is widely enough read to have an intelligent opinion on the matter.
Similarly, there is nothing "new" in the stories of Harry Potter:
1) The basic Harry-vs-Voldemort plot is clearly set up along the lines of the hero's journey, as delineated so well by Joseph Campbell. The hero is often a highborne person who ends up raised in poverty or secrecy, who then makes a reconnection to his heroic roots on the cusp of adulthood. Then he goes through a series of adventures, which all inescapably lead him to and prepare him for a central conflict, the culmination of which will make him both a man and a hero. See, for example, Hercules. The parallels between the Harry and England's earlier great magical hero, King Arthur, are even more legion.
2) Every bit of the way magic is done in "Harry Potter" is based on the wider culture so inescapable that it is straight out of Halloween. Magical brooms and wands, dark cloaks, pointed hats, magical phrases, bubbling cauldrons--if it all seemed "right" and comfortable to you from the beginning of the series, that's because it was based directly out of the stuff drilled into your head from birth, by everything from Mother Goose to Scooby-Doo.
3) Even things like Horcruxes have a lot of bases in earlier things. Why didn't Sauron die in the great elven/orcish battle thousands of years before Bilbo Baggins was born? Because part of his soul was in the One Ring, and as long as the ring existed, Sauron couldn't really die. The Ring affects anyone who carries it negatively, and is difficult to destroy. So it is with the Horcruxes of "Harry Potter." There are other examples, but that is the easiest comparison to make.
So, again, Rowlings doesn't have a ton of original plot ideas or settings. What makes her a great storyteller is how she puts it all together. And it's an interesting lesson for anyone interested in writing or storytelling. The plots are all a thousand years old. It's the storyteller who is new.
Monday, July 30, 2007
There are fans, and there are fans.
And then there are fans that take aROM version of an '80s video game and turns it into an homage to that greatest of TV shows, "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
Thank you, I-Mockery, for bringing this to the world's attention with your review.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Harry Potter set a five-day non-holiday week total at over $140 million.
Yeah, so the marketing worked. Was the movie any good?
We went to see it as a family. Frankly, I loved it.
The acting was stronger in this one than perhaps any other one. Umbridge and Luna Lovegood were especially strong newcomers to this chapter. I somehow knew Helena Bonham Carter would eventually get a role in the "Potter" films, and sure enough, here she is, and well done.
Many of the returners are especially strong, too. Alan Rickman is riveting as Snape--probably his finest in the series, and I love him every time out. Emma Thompson plays her hippie/addleminded Divination teacher role and really pulls some good emotion out of the audience.
Slightly disappointing was Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, but then he doesn't have much to do except attack, attack, attack. Plus, it's a little like "Jaws 2": once you've seen the shark, it isn't as scary. He didn't do anything wrong, but he really didn't find much special to do with the material either. Hopefully he'll get a stronger chance with the final two movies. (There's a reason Voldemort is backgrounded in this outing, but I'd rather not delve too deeply into it, lest I provide too big a spoiler.)
And the acting of the kids were particularly strong, as well. The three main kids have really settled into their roles, and we get strong outings from Neville Longbottom among others as well.
If you have any interest in the history of the rise of Nazi Germany or other fascist regimes, you'll definitely enjoy the theme of how new, Ministry of Magic-approved teacher Dolores Umbridge worms her way through the school's corridors of power.
For whatever reason--the stronger-than-ever acting, solid direction, the themes of loss and frustration--I found myself emotionally involved with the characters more than in any other outing.
So far, this is my favorite "Harry Potter" movie.