Friday, September 25, 2009

Crips, Bloods, and the Women's Institute

A raucous series of Women's Institute gatherings has forced the Beaminster Town Council to move its meetings, and the press is mercilessly hounding the women (deservedly so).

For us ignorant Americans, the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI), describes itself as "the largest voluntary organisation for women in the UK with 205,000 members in England, Wales and the Islands," playing "a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities."

Apparently they also support the social abhorrent practice of laughing, talking too loudly, and singing 'Jerusalem' in a semi-public setting. Clearly the "Women's Institute" is just a clever ruse to cover for the women's hooliganistic activities.

The Metro article uses the teapot (pictured) as a way to, and I quote, "represent the WI in an abstract yet stereotypical way". No doubt these women have teapots tattooed  on their nether regions. Crips, Bloods, and the Women's Institute: they are as one.

The women seem to think that simply because they have been meeting in the town hall on the third Monday of every month since 1919 they have some sort of right to be there. The noise has driven the Town Council and members of the press to distraction, so much so that the council has moved its meetings to another room to avoid the din. I don't know why they didn't confront the women, but I guess there's no dealing with hooligans like Angela Seckington, 71, president of the Beaminster WI.

Says Cherry Armstrong (no relation to Lance), ''Our membership has doubled and I think that is because we have good fun and we have tried to be a bit more modern.'' Meanwhile the size of the town council has remained the same. It doesn't seem a fair fight, especially since Armstrong's husband is a member of the Beaminster Town Council.

At least they're not singing 'Wonderwall'.

Metro (photo)
Daily Mail
Women's Institute

Bikini Baristas: The Gray Line of Black Coffee

I am shocked, shocked that acts of titillation are going on at the bikini barista stands in Everett, Washington.

Lingerie espresso stands. Bikini baristas. Sexpresso.

Having pushed the gray line of acceptable public behavior a bit too far, five female baristas have been charged with prostitution by the Everett police. Accusations of nudity and acts which are at least titillating if not downright sexual come after a three month investigation. The Everett Herald article does not mention how many detectives volunteered to work this investigation.

I don't know how it is in your area, but around here the bikini barista stands are ubiquitous. Sex sells, especially the marginal sex, the sex that is just barely acceptable. It's why you're reading this article. Right now the 2nd and 3rd most popular articles on my blog are the Swedish Military Bra Crisis, and Attack of the Artfully Displayed 50 foot Women.

The issues started coming to a head last year in Bonney Lake, not far from Everett, where a protest was organized objecting to an espresso stand that changed over to a bikini format (news article with embedded video of cute baristas). According to the owner, the bikini format seemed to be more profitable.

Although there are some of you who are strongly against this, most of you aren't. It's too close to the social norm. After all, as the girls say, for the most part the bikinis are nothing you wouldn't see at the beach or at the Wild Waves water park (the picture on the left is from the Wild Waves site, by the way).

While the lewd behavior may be punishable under the same laws that apply to lewd homeless men in overcoats, I think it's going to be hard to make the prostitution charges stick. It's just too close to the gray line.

Maybe most enlightening is not the Herald article itself, but the comments it generated:
This article talks about the women being paid to flash or strip. Is that prostitution? If it is, if there was a charity event where men auctioned themselves to the highest bidder and the money goes to charity, and then men went on a date with the women who won the bid and they kissed, would that be illegal?

They didn't even sell sexual intercourse, just sexual behavior! Now they're being punished, being called prostitutes? This is why even though I don't support prostitution, I think it should be decriminalized.

I left the biz while it was still considered a fun, easy way to make a LOT of money, NOT something you need an "entertainers permit" (aka: stripper permit) to work at a mocha stand...but the whip cream licking, butt & boob grabbing for money IS basically prostitution.

I understand that they are enforcing the law, so for that reason I won't join in the feeding frenzy. I would like to see the bigger issue be addressed eventually the see the goverment step out of some of the "moral" issues and let people make some of thier own decisions.

Frankly, there are a lot more comments in support of the girls than against them. If you have a different opinion you should post and make your opinion heard. This is the internet age. Take advantage of your ability to voice your thoughts.

Me, I have no opinion. I'm just driving people to my blog with pictures of scantily clad women. Everyone else does it.

Everett Herald
All Voices (photo)
King 5
Wild Waves

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Miruko Robotic Eye

Teachers used to have eyes in the back of their heads, now they can wear them on their arms as well.

This is really cool in a scary futuristic sort of way - though I guess the future is now. Taking advantage of face recognition technology similar to the way the Sony Party Shot does (thanks Mr. Chadwick), the Miruko wearable robotic eye is more portable, more sci-fi, and definitely more creepy.

It's a mutant fashion statement.

As you can see from the video you wear it on your arm. While you walk around it watches things you can't (or your significant other won't allow you to) look at. It can track faces in general, or look for a particular face, as it does with the iPod game in the video. I'm sure it can be trained to look for other things as well.

The implications of the technology are terrifying, of course, but we old people terrify easily. Airport security checks are an obvious use, but you've got to think spies and assassins, and gang members, and your mother getting hold of the technology, don't you? Throw in a little software that age-adjusts an old photo and you got yourself a nasty little machine for recognizing anyone you have a picture of. (BTW: I claim copyright on all story plots having to do with robots, eyes, aging, spies, and terrified old people. They are all my idea. MINE MINE MINE.)

And I'm sure the young and libidinous can come up with all sorts of beach-time applications.

So what can we curmudgeons do to stop the march of progress? Nothing. But at least now our paranoia is justified.

Boing Boing
Pink Tentacle (photo)
Info Scotland (via Business Week)

Pokémon Maxi Pad

Words fail me. A pikachu reusable maxi pad? I suppose it is environmentally friendly...

But, you ask, how will Hello, Kitty respond to this marketing onslaught? Like any good kid-friendly cartoon character: with weapons.

Etsy via
The Zeray Gazette via
Associated Content
Ms. Pink
Jim's Gun Supply

Sumo Suit Athletics World Championships

It is a day for world championship stories, isn't it? First the Gurning World Championships, now this - though I have to point out that the Sumo Suit Athletics World Championships took place in July and I didn't start blogging till August. Still, I would be remiss if I didn't write something about it.

Taking place on the Battersea Track (home to the Serpintine Running Club - "possibly the largest running and triathlon club in Britain"), the second annual Sumo Suit Championships are traditional track and field events performed while wearing a sumo suit. Competitors vie for victory in the 100m and 400m runs, the long jump, high jump, and shot put. Not surprisingly (since it was only the second championship), several world records were set this year, in fact - due to a change to smaller suits for the women this year - world records were set in all the women's events.

Words really can't do this event justice, so here is video of Sky News' coverage of the event.

Telegraph (photo)
Sumo Suit Athletics
Sky News (via YouTube)
Serpintine Running Club

World Gurning Championships

The World Gurning Championships were held at their traditional venue at the Egremont Crab Fair this past weekend. Gordon Blalock (right) was victorious for the first time in 13 tries.

Gurning is the making of faces. Practiced throughout rural England, the most famous competition takes palace at the Crab Fair in Egremont. Accounts differ, but the fair is really, really old. It began in 1267 (not a misprint), with the first gurning competition held there thirty years later when King Henry III gave the fair a Royal Charter, which apparently caused the Lord of the Manor to distribute crabapples to the folks at the fair. The first faces were made in response to eating the bitter crabapples and a seven-hundred year tradition was born.

Blalock had the good fortune of having Tommy Mattinson (center in lower right photo), absent for this year's competition. Mattinson, was the eight-time defending champion, and the record holder with eleven overall titles beating the record of ten gurning championships held by his father Gordon Mattinson (lower left). Bet they have some amazing holiday photos.

The first female competitor was Mabel Braddock who took part in 1966, but the only woman (and the only US citizen) to make the overall top 3 in the post-war era (1945-present), was Marie Quinn who was runner up in 1974 (photo, sadly, unavailable). You can see the entire post-war winners list on the Egremont Fair website.

For those of you radio-face people out there thinking this gurning championship is easy pickins, the 2010 competition is scheduled for September 18th.

Egremont Crab Fair (photo)
Ananova (photo)
Woodlands Junior School (photo)
Guiness World Records (photo)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bid On EBay to Be a Jetpack Test Pilot

The Martin Aircraft Company of Christchurch, New Zealand is selling the opportunity to be a jet pack test pilot on EBay.

The bidding closes tomorrow. The current bid is $31,100. Fortunately it's free shipping.

Working jetpacks have been around since the 1960s, but according to a Wall Street Journal article from March of this year, only 13 people are known to have flown jetpacks without a line connecting them to the ground. Flights typically last all of about 30 seconds, which the FAA doesn't even deem long enough to be considered a flight.

Probably the most famous of those pilots is Bill Suiter, 64, who flew in the James Bond Film Thunderball in 1965 and also at the opening ceremonies for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Suiter's credentials for becoming a jetpack test pilot were that he was of draft age and he lived next door to the engineer in charge of the military project. He still flies jetpacks for Thunderbolt Aerosystems.

There is a Facebook group called I Want to Fly a Jetpack dedicated to the event (only 143 members, get in now and beat the rush).

The winning bidder will get at least 6 flights over a 3 day period of test pilot training, and can (if they so choose), share those flights with up to three other people. The training will take place at the Martin facility in New Zealand.

If you win I'll let you take me along as one of your friends.

Update: Just a email pointing me to the Trade Me (where Kiwi's Buy and Sell) listing for 10 more jetpack experiences. Auction closes October 12!

Martin Aircraft Company (photo)
Total Experience
Wall Street Journal
Thunderbolt Aerosystems

Military Dress

Pathos - I wasn't a lit major, but I think that's the right word.

If any of you have seen Lars and the Real Girl then you understand how even the most ludicrous situations can evoke sincere emotions. I sat down to watch that movie half expecting a train wreck of bad slapstick and sexual innuendo, but was shockingly surprised to find it to be a well-played story with a sincerity I hadn't expected (highly recommend it if you haven't seen it - tough guys might want to watch it alone).

The same is true of this picture. When I read the headlines and saw the picture I was prepared for some farcical tale, but found something different. Barry Delaney, pictured, wore the dress and pink leg warmers to the funeral of his friend, Private Kevin Elliot. Elliot was killed in Afghanistan. The military press release put it this way:
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed the death of Sergeant Stuart Millar and Private Kevin Elliott of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. 
The soldiers were killed as a result of an explosion believed to have been caused by a rocket-propelled grenade when they were attacked by insurgents whilst patrolling on foot in Babaji District, Helmand Province on the morning of Monday 31 August 2009.
Elliot and Delaney had made a pact that whoever died first, the survivor would wear a dress to the funeral. Following Elliot's death at 24, Delaney fulfilled the pact, surrounded by Elliot's colleagues in their regimental uniforms. The humor of a man in a dress at a military funeral is not lost on me, but at the same time I can't help but think that we would all be lucky indeed to have friends as true as Barry Delaney.

The Times

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Swedish Military Bra Crisis

Well, that headline perked you up, didn't it? Yes the Swedish military has a bra crisis, if you can call something that's been a problem for thirty years a crisis. Sweden, which has the largest active military in Scandinavia, began accepting women into its armed forces in 1980, and fairer sex now make up between 4 and 5 percent of the country's military.

Swedish men are provide with military grade underwear, but the women have always been forced to fend for themselves."The women have had to buy sports bras instead. But they are not tested for combat situations nor for fire safety, and they are not functional. They unhook too easily," said spokesman Paulina Rehbinder of the Council of Conscripts, an organization that doesn't even have a Wikipedia article.

While unhooking too easily may not seem like a problem to the men in the audience, if you're out on the trail carrying your gear and your bra comes undone you have to unload everything, fix the problem and load up again, a non-trivial problem if you happen to be under fire.

And because they aren't treated for fire safety they can melt onto the soldier's skin. (And that mental image just takes all the fun out of writing this article.)

The good news for the 1000 female recruits due to come in during the next 12 months, the military is now testing out a military brassiere and expect it to be available in the next year or so.

Honestly guys, how many of you are thinking about volunteering to perform the all-important how-easy-is-it-to-unhook test?

Wait! Before you label me entirely misogynistic, let me also point you to this article on sexual harassment in Sweden which (I'm not kidding) right now is listed on the front page of The Local website along with the bra article. Talk about your mixed Swedish massages messages.

The Local (photo)

The Naked Gun 91.38

91 year old Robert E. Thompson of Lake Worth, Florida heard his dog attacking an intruder at his house so he grabbed his .38 and went to help the dog out. The WWII vet fired a warning shot and held the intruder at bay until the police arrived.

Noteworthy, of course, is that Thompson sleeps in the nude. Caught up in the moment, he didn't even realize he was naked until the police arrived to arrest 26 year old burglar.

For those of you hoping to catch a picture of the naked nonagenerian, I'm afraid you're out of luck, but I did find a picture of Priscilla Presley, star of the Naked Gun films, which I hope will suffice.

Thompson is even older than Sue Erzan who earlier this month ran off an armed robber with a can of Raid.

Metro UK
Florida AP
Top of the Nudes
Wikipedia (photo)

No Longer Fit to Play With Jimmy Buffett

The after (left) and before (right) pictures remind me of Lou Ferrigno changing back into mild mannered Bill Bixby.

Of course the transformation is no joke to 38 year old Lin Tianzhuan of China. He began getting these growths when he was 13 and has spent most of his life since then hidden away indoors because of the reactions he got when he went out in public. Called "Coral Boy" or "The Human Coral Reef" he would have been a natural fit for Jimmy Buffett's backup band, the Coral Reefers, except that the growths are are as hard as they look.

He tried using creams and anti-biotics but they were ineffective. Instead, Lin said, "it just got worse. They grew and grew and soon they were all over my arms and legs, my back and even my head. It was as if I was turning to stone and it was terrifying."

As you can see from the after picture, the year long therapy has worked amazingly well, Lin having only a few discolored patches remaining from previous condition.

Hopefully Mr. Buffett can get along without him.

Croatian Times (photos)

Poems From the Day I Was Sick at Tassajara

And now for something completely different. Apparently last year my daughter visited the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center south of Carmel, California. Apparently while she was there she was under the weather. Like all great artists, she took this opportunity spin some golden poems from the straw of illness. I give you now one of those poems.

I particularly liked the bit that goes "the last thing that she wants to do/Is vomit in the yurt."

After that teaser, and without further ado, from Poems From the Day I Was Sick at Tassajara I give you "Did Buddha use toilet paper?"

Did Buddha use toilet paper?
by Elaine Albertson
A starry night folds into dawn,
The birds and crickets coo,
But in the Zendo one is gone.
A monk has got the flu.
"Alas," she sighs, "I can not move."
Her shaved head starts to quiver.
She thinks, "I might faint if I do."
Her stomach gives a shiver.
She rolls up on her belly
And attempts to sit upright.
As she pulls her legs to lotus
Her intestines twitch in fright.
She looks around in panic
At the freshly washed wood floors.
It makes her clenched and manic
To think of vomiting indoors.
So she flashes up to standing
And her bare feet quickly tread
Across the room and towards the landing
Pausing by her bed.
"I don't think I can make it,"
She despairs, "My tummy hurts,"
But the last thing that she wants to do
Is vomit in the yurt.
She grasps the wood support that lines
The hut's circular wall.
Her conscience starts to cry inside,
"This isn't zen at all!"
Yet like a hungry fire
Stomach pain makes her knees buckle.
It burns her from the inside
And makes white paste of her knuckles.
It's a fast and sudden moment
As her true nature is found.
Moaning she pulls back her robes
And vomits on the ground.
She stares in blurry wonder
At the artwork that she's made;
Last night's dinner torn asunder.
Her throat feels raw and scathed.
A puddle lies below her,
Half-digested rice and beans.
Disgust would be expected but
She somehow feels quite clean.
She tiptoes carefully around
The new acidic lake
And leaves the front way, bathroom-bound.
She's finally awake.
She waddles to the outhouse,
Splashes water on her face,
Scrubs some vomit from her chin
And thinks about the space
Did Buddha use an outhouse?
Did he vomit, weak and leaning?
Did he give every gross excretion
Equal weight and meaning?
In nausea and pain can one
Realize one's Buddha nature?
When our Buddha relieved himself
Did he use toilet paper?
The monk fumbles these questions
As she stares into the mirror
But in sight of her reflection
Her muddled thoughts are clearer.
A human must be human
Woman, man, or in-between
And it would not be right then
To pretend that we are clean.
The monk looks at the toilet,
At the waste can filled with pads,
Tampons, and contraceptives.
She smiles. She is glad.
She groks the fragile moment
Casting off all separation.
No right nor wrong nor clean nor gross.
She rejects all gradations.
Not posh, not intellectual,
Not simple, not refined,
She leans forward, palms on the sink,
And melts into her mind.
She crumbles through linguistic bounds,
In that outhouse, and then
She lives the moment she has found:
A smelly, nauseus zen.

Trash Track Is Back

The MIT Trash Track team was back in Seattle over the weekend to talk about their project. I was there and got action photos of the researchers...uh...talking. It's what researchers do.

The MIT Trash Track project follows the death cycle of the trash that we toss out. We throw our trash away, but it doesn't just "go away", it goes somewhere, and this research project uses modified cell phones as a LoJack to track the journey discarded items take to their final destination. The Trash Track project is one of several initiatives under the umbrella of the Senseable City Lab at MIT which does research in to how to take advantage of our increasingly connected world to improve the quality of life (as opposed to those despicable cads who want to track our every move - the Trash Track guys are on the side of Good, not Evil - though I am somewhat concerned about the interloper in their group photo.)

Last month I wrote about dragging a dryer in the back of my Prius down to the Seattle Library to have it tagged and tracked. Saturday I wanted to find out what happened to my dryer.

The group was again at the Central library branch. There were two parts to the event, an hour long presentation by the group and then food a reception where you could get up-close and personal with the research team.

Most of the folks who had been here in August were back: Assaf Biderman (associate director of the Senseable City Lab), project leader Kristian Klöckl, Jennifer Dunnam, and E. Roon Kang all returned, this time with the notable addition of their boss, Senseable City director Carlo Ratti.

The talk itself took place in the auditorium at the library. I was a little late - took a half hour to cross the 520 bridge because of the Husky game, though I take some solace in that they beat USC. There were about a hundred people in the auditorium, of whom I recognized no one from last month except the MITers themselves. Also at tables up in front were Rita Smith of Waste Management, and Tim Croll of Seattle Public Utilities. WMI and SPU are partnering with the Trash Track research.

The first half of the presentation was an overview of the whole Senseable City lab by Carlo and Assaf. The talked about the EyeStop project, Digital Water (think Bellagio fountains combined with an ink jet printer), the Copenhagen Wheel (a step up from the mopeds of my youth), and their most visual presentation, the cell phone usage analysis of Currentcity.

After that the dynamic duo started talking about the concepts of Trash Track. First there is the observation that the technology for tracking things is becoming increasingly small and increasingly inexpensive, making it ever easier to make tracking devices ubiquitous, what they like to call "digital dust". They are looking ahead to the day when everything is connected, even your trash. A lot of trash is identifiable already; open up your computer (not now!), and you'll find all the little bits and pieces are marked with company identifiers and manufacturing batch codes so that if there is a bad batch the company can go back to try and figure out why it went bad. We track our food so we can identify the source of e. coli outbreaks. Digital dust will make the tracking smarter and more accessible.

Then they spoke about the technology behind the project. The tracking unit is basically a stripped down cellphone that has no voice capabilities. The biggest problem to overcome in the field is battery life. Your cell phone battery lasts only a couple of days without recharging. To address that, they include a motion sensor on the board so that the tracker only transmits when it is moving, and even then it transmits its location only once every five minutes. This allows the tracking device to operate for six months or more.

The tracker communicates via SMS messages over the same cell phone network you and I use. It sends back information of cell tower strength which is used to triangulate its position, the same way companies locate missing persons, fugitives, and cheating spouses. SMS messages? How long will it be before your running shoes have a Twitter feed? Oh, well, at least someday you'll be able to go on the internet to track down that missing sock.

The next generation of the tracker is based on Qualcomm's inGeo system which adds a GPS to the system. This will give them a redundant tracking system, which addresses the biggest problem they have back in the lab: dirty data. If you've used a cell phone you know about dropouts and poor connections. The tracking devices suffer from the same problems, which means they can go missing for minutes or days depending on their location, and because the triangulation is not accurate in the way GPS is, sometimes the tracker will seem to jump around a lot. The GPS will give another, more accurate source which can be used to clean up the system (and possibly improve the triangulation process). The tracker will continue to be viable even if only one of the tracking methods is available.

One of the neat things about using cell phone technology is that data can be transmitted back from anywhere in the world. If an old computer gets shipped off to Africa to be stripped down, the device will beam its information back from Africa to Cambridge, Mass.

Then we heard briefly from Rita (WMI), and Tim (SPU). Rita grew up in central Washington who went to work for a small recycling company that was bought out by WMI in 1988. She thinks that Trash Track provides an opportunity to get people (that would be you and me, but mostly you) to shuck off the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" attitude most of us have about trash. By seeing where the trash actually goes, that it doesn't just disappear into the ether, people have a better understanding of the death-cycle of their Stuff, and can modify their behavior based on that increased knowledge. And, as Tim pointed out, that sort of thing has already happened with recycling. Even without any major recycling events last year, Seattle recycled 50% of its refuse (by weight), and the city has a goal of getting that up to 60%. Tim also brought up the idea of product stewardship, where manufacturers would be responsible for recycling their products when they are no longer useful - just push a button that says you're done with your TV and the manufacturer comes by to pick it up - interesting idea but probably won't be seen until after the advent of flying cars.

The presentation ended with a panel Q & A, before we headed upstairs for the food reception with the team.

I thought the most interesting points of the Q & A were made by Kristian, the Trash Track project lead.

First is to consider how long a product exists vs how long a product is actually used. You get a latte at Starbucks and drink it in five minutes and tossed the cup. The cup was used for only five minutes, but for that five minutes it had already existed for weeks or months (not counting how long it existed in raw-material form), and will continue to exist for years as a recognizable, if somewhat mashed up, cup, all for just five minutes use.

The second thing he brought up is when does something go from having value to being trash? Who gets to decide that this item is suddenly and irrevocably "waste"? What we need to do is change the idea of  "waste" for the idea of "alternate use" - what can be reclaimed and reused? How can we manufacture products so that the parts are valuable even after its primary purpose is complete?

Afterwards I went upstairs where there was a huge television showing the routes taken by some of the trash that had been tracked. I met up with the still infamous Mrs. DeGroot, but no one else from last month's tracking event. And there was food.

And my dryer? Still in the data mill. Hopefully find out soon where it is and has been. They put out five hundred tags in August, and will have another deployment later to get the total up to 3000 for the Seattle area. Next time I'll bring something with a little less heft to be tracked.

Okay, so it wasn't quite as exhilarating as tagging a dryer, but the presentation made me think, which is always fun. The last thing I got to do was watch Assaf and Carlo get interviewed by CNN. I don't see the video online yet, so it may not have aired, but if you get a chance definitely watch it if for no other reason than to see live footage of researchers in action, by which I mean, of course...uh...talking.

Happy Elephant Appreciation Day!

Hot on the heels of Talk Like a Pirate Day, and vaguely reminiscent of Festivus, today we celebrate Elephant Appreciation Day, whether we like it or not.

This officially trademarked holiday was created in 1996 by Wayne Hepburn of Mission Media, Inc., and, more importantly creator of the Elefunteria website, dedicated to all things elephant.

Hepburn's elephant obsession began with an elephant adorned paperweight in 1970, and by 1997 had grown to a marginally obsessive collection of more than 1900 items including figures, toys, books, and music boxes.

His website shares his enthusiasm with the world. There you can find all sorts of information about elephants, but you can also find information about how to celebrate Elephant Appreciation Day. For example, the dancing figures above are demonstrating the "Tail Up Elephant Parade", a conga-line like dance, and one of two official Elephant Appreciation Day dances. He provides a chart of phonetic pronunciations of the word for elephant in several different languages (including representations in braille and morse code), and, of course, anyone this inspired about anything has to be moved to poetry:
I've tried and tried but simply can't
Find anything better than the Elephant.
And, at the risk of bringing the trademark cops down on the lads, I will also give you this link to the ska-punk-indie band Elephant Appreciation Day (download their entire EP!).

Holiday Insights

Friday, September 18, 2009

Moscow Tornado

For only the third time in recorded history a tornado has touched down in a suburb of Moscow, Russia.

The F3 class tornado touched down in Krasnozavodsk, northeast of Moscow. More than 100 people were injured and there is one reported fatality of a boy trapped under a tree.

As you can see from the picture on the left, the consequences could have been much more severe, but the tornado went straight between these apartment blocks, tearing up trees and tossing cars, but leaving the buildings standing.

Previously major tornadoes have hit the Moscow area in 1984 and 1904.

A first person video is embedded below, as well as a news report.

MOS News
Ria Novosti
Bukvalno Live Journal (photos - click through for the entire gallery)

SC Cheerleader Bags Gator

If you're a fan looking for a Trojan cheerleader vs. Florida football player story then you are out of luck.

This is the story of 16 year-old Cammie Colin, cheerleader, softball player, and Lil Wayne fan, who just culled her first alligator in South Carolina's annual alligator harvest.

Although the alligator population in South Carolina dropped so low in 1964 that alligator hunting season was closed, today there are 100,000 alligators in South Carolina (okay, 99,999 now). Because of increases in both the alligator and human populations there were increasing conflicts between gators and humans.

The alligator harvest was first established in 1995. This year there are 1000 permits available. The state is divided into four regions with 250 permits allocated for each region. Permits are assigned by lottery with a preference for those who have been denied permits in the past. There were 3700 applications for the harvest that began at noon on September 12, and runs until noon on October 10.

In order to obtain a permit you must be at least 16 years old, making Colin one of the youngest to obtain a permit. The hunter is not allowed to shoot a free-ranging alligator. The "kill-shot" must be made by something with a line (a crossbow, for example, or a harpoon), so that the alligator doesn't get away. After the gator is brought boatside or onto land it can be shot with a gun. Other people may be in the hunting party, but the permit holder must be the one who makes the kill shot.

In Colin's case there were four other people in the boat with her when she shot the 10.5 foot alligator in the tail. The gator then dragged the boat and its occupants for more than an hour, at which time it was shot by family friend and fellow boat occupant Jay Iadonisi. Said Iadonisi:
You've got five people in the boat, and an upset alligator that doesn't want to go in the boat, and you have to get him up close enough to where you can make a clean kill, and to be as humane as possible.
The 353 pound gator yielded 40 pounds of steaks for Colin's family freezer.

The State (photo) (via Obscure Store)
My Fox Atlanta
Big Game Hunt
Proceedings of the Eighth Eastern Wildlife Damage Management Conference (1997)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good Fencers Make Good Neighbors

Yes, the President of the United States is playing with a light saber.

This was part of an event to promote Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. Athletes and para-athletes demonstrated their sports for the president. First Lady Michelle Obama goes to Copenhagen on October 2nd to represent the US bid against Spain, Brazil, and Japan.

The fencer pictured is 2008 Olympic silver medalist Tim Morehouse. While the event is meant to highlight the US Olympic bid, Morehouse is using it as an opportunity to promote the sport, and hopefully to also help find funding for his Olympic training. Although fencing is one of only four sports to appear in all the modern Olympics, it is poorly supported here in the United States. Vanity Fair ran an article on Morehouse in August titled "Will Fence for Food" where they cover Morehouse's efforts to bring fencing out of the backwaters of US sports.

You can read Morehouse's giddy first-hand take on the event here in his blog.

It appears some prescient japanese toy makers got the jump on this event: Gamu Toys already has an Obama action figure complete with light saber, Samurai sword and various ballistic weapons. I recommend you take time to look through the whole gallery.

Reuters Oddly Enough
Comics Alliance (photo)
Tim Morehouse
CBS News
Vanity Fair
Gamu Toys
Boing Boing

Extreme Body Piercing

These two stories just seem to go together.

On the right, we have Jian Liao who was on the track in Guilin, China, when a classmates errant javelin toss pierced his knee. The EMTs first tried to cut the javelin off with bolt cutters, but the motion caused Jian excrutiating pain, so instead they set fire to the javelin and burned in half which looks dangerous (probably is dangerous), but didn't cause Jian any pain.

And to the left we have Hu Zhuyin who was working at a building site in Qingdao, China when he slipped while climbing a scaffolding and impaled himself on a crowbar. The crowbar missed his aorta by only a centimeter.

Firefighters had to cut through the bar so the Hu could lie flat before doctors were able to operate.

Rough day to be Chinese, eh?

Austrian Times (javelin photo)
Croatian Times (crowbar photo)

Literally an Eye Tooth

Sharon "Kay" Thornton can see again after almost a decade of blindness after having part of a tooth implanted in her eye to support a plastic lens.

Suffering from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a reaction to medication that caused her to lose her sight in 2000, Thornton had tried a stem cell procedure to correct her blindness; she was not a candidate for a corneal transplant.

The entire process takes months to complete and has only been performed about 600 times world wide. This is the first time it was performed in the United States.

First, a healthy tooth and part of the patient's jawbone are removed. The tooth and bone are shaved and sculpted, and a hole was drilled into them to hold the prosthetic lens. Then the whole unit is implanted into the patient's chest and left for several months, so that the tooth and lens can bond. Finally, it is implanted in the eye.

If the eye is healthy enough a piece of plastic may be used instead of a tooth.

Following the procedure Thornton can see about 20/70 out of her repaired eye without corrective lenses.

In order to qualify for the procedure Thornton had to meet strict criteria: she had to have end-stage ocular surface disease, had to be able to detect light well enough to tell what direction its coming from, and she also had to have a healthy mouth and a good tooth.

In Thornton's case, of course, they used her canine, also known as an eye tooth.

Yahoo News
AOL News (photo)
Mayo Clinic

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Movie Pre-makes

What if Forrest Gump had been made in 1949? Indiana Jones in 1951? Or Ghostbusters in 1954? YouTube member whoiseyevan has cobbled together old movies to make what-if trailers for these movies, what he calls pre-makes. Forrest Gump stars Jimmy Stewart as Forrest, Charlton Heston plays Indie, and Bob Hope, Dean Martin, and Fred MacMurray are the ghostbusting trio. He also has side-by-side making of versions so you can see the modern films compared directly to the vintage films he uses to make the trailers. Here is the trailer and the making-of for Indiana Jones.

Click through to his YouTube site to see the whole bunch.

Watch 'em. Like 'em.


Dungeons & Dragons Themed Soda

The folks over at Jones Soda have released a set of limited edition of sodas based on Dungeons and Dragons.

The Seattle-based Jones Soda Company have been making their unique brand of soda since 2000. Jones Sodas are noted primarily for the variety of flavors and their unique labeling.

Clearly not sodas for the meek, the Dungeons and Dragons Spellcasting Soda set features D&D themed labels and flavors like Eldritch Blast and Bigby's Crushing Thirst Destroyer.

Last year they released a sports themed set with the flavors Dirt, Sweet Victory, Sports Cream, Perspiration and Natural Field Turf.

Jones also produces a less strange line of products, if you can call Strawberry Manilow less strange. The current list of ever-changing flavors can be found here on their web site.

Even more interesting than their flavors are their labels. Changing more frequently than their flavors, instead of being magically created by the Marketing Gods, the labels are mostly pictures submitted by regular people like you and me. You can see the pix up for current consideration in the Photo Gallery. (Be sure to vote mine up - I wanna be on a label!).

You can also order cases of soda with your own custom label for birthdays, weddings, band promotions and the like.

Geek Dad
Jones Soda Co

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Killer Rabbits of Cairns Backyard

Things seem to be taking a nasty turn in the serpent community lately. Normally docile animals are taking up arms (which, frankly, snakes have no way of doing) and fighting back. First the squirrels started attacking, and now its rabbits.

Not since the vicious attack on President Carter, or possibly even since the murderous attack on King Arthur has the world seen such lagomorphic violence as is becoming commonplace around the world.

From Australia comes a report of a menacing pair of rabbits that are taking out snakes near Cairns. The rabbits' victims, a king brown and a brown tree (both deceased) are pictured. Armando del Manso thought the snakes were being killed by his dog, but then one night he was watching from the veranda: “The snake was raised up in the air in the striking position and the two rabbits worked their way around him and killed him in two minutes.”

Two days later Del Manso was bitten by a python in his house. "We are absolutely inundated with snakes," he said. The rabbits, each about the size of a housecat, live under a pile of wood in the backyard with their two baby bunnies.

Although many were incredulous, here is a video (purportedly from Texas), of a rabbit treeing a snake (albeit an inexperienced, domesticated snake - but the rabbit didn't know that).


You know, it used to be that I saw coyotes around my house, and as the summer progressed I would see fewer and fewer rabbits. Now I still see the rabbits, but the coyotes are nowhere to be found. Makes ya think.

I think I'd sleep better at night if only I had the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Cairns (and again)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Trash

Speaking of trash, this Temple of Trash was created by Salzig Design for the Follydock IFCR, the International Folly Contest Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2007.

The Heijplaat section of Rotterdam and the surrounding ports are due to be re-developed over the next 20 years. In the meantime the IFCR took advantage of the open space to have contest to build some light-hearted structures. Entries included the Temple of Trash and the and the Ned Earth Land (play on the word Netherlands, doncha know), by the Hermanitos Verdes Architetti firm, pictured below.

The Temple of Trash is made of over 100 tons of compressed plastic bottles. It is 7 meters high, 25 meters long, 10 meters wide, and is surrounded by 1500 red, yellow, and orange flowers.

Hermanitos Verde Architetti
Salzig Design
Follydock IFCR (via Neatorama)

MIT Trash Tracking Exhibit This Saturday

For those of you following the MIT Trash Tracking in Seattle that we covered last month, the researchers will be back at the main branch of the Seattle Public Library on 4th Ave this Saturday, September 19th. There will be a program with the researchers from 11-12:30 in the Microsoft Auditorium on level 1, with a reception to follow.

More information is available in this article.

American Towns

Hermaphrodite Horses

Recent headlines regarding the gender ambiguity of women's 800M world champion Caster Semenya have brought gender issues to the forefront not only in track and field, but also in horse racing.

While horse racing is often a mixed-gender affair, there are mare-only events as well. As with human competitors, the female horses are also tested for performance enhancing drugs.

Australian horse Tuscan Abbe was tested following a convincing win, and her testosterone levels were "through the roof," not from doping, it turns out, but because she has internal testicles producing abnormal quantities of testosterone for a mare.  American horse Martha Maxine has been reclassified as a genetic male, unsuitable for breeding purposes. Australian horse What Am I and American horse Arizona Helen have similar issues.

For horses inter-gender detection can be more difficult because unlike most mammals, a male horse has no teats. This means that seeing teats on a horse induces a strong assumption that the horse is, in fact, female, which is not, in fact, always entirely accurate.

It is not clear whether the inter-gender status of racehorses is a recent phenomenon or if it is only more commonly detected now due to improved laboratory tests and veterinary technology.

Associated Press
Yahoo News Canada (photo)
Harness Racing
Standard Bred Canada

Doggie Treat

A man in Joliet, Illinois claims he is using the marijuana in his back yard to teach his dog how to sniff out drugs.

Police were called to the man's residence by an anonymous tipster. A woman living at house the let them into the back yard where they discovered three marijuana plants - two living, one dead - behind a shed. After confirming that the plants were in fact cannabis, they called the woman's husband on his cell phone.

The husband explained to the police that he had a "controlled substance license," and that he was only using the plants to train his dog to sniff out drugs.

When contacted by the Herald News on Sunday, the man said he could not discuss the matter involving the police until he learned more about the situation.

"I can't answer anything right now, the man said. "I don't know what's going on."

The dog, meanwhile, was found in the cellar next to an empty bag of dog food repeatedly yelling "Free Bird!"

All Voices
The Herald News
NBC Chicago

Monday, September 14, 2009

Unregistered Undogs

Since August 24 the dog police of Cairns, Australia, have been on a campaign to register the estimated 2000 unregistered canines in the region. Council officers can issue $200 payment notices if they hear barking, or see bowls, pet feces, or toys. As of September 5, 1397 notices had been doled out. Unfortunately, 61 of them (4%), were given to people who don't own dogs.

Cairns is located on the extended pinkie finger of northeastern Australia. Aside from dog registrations, its largest sources of revenue are tourism (because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef), and sugar production (because of its proximity to sugar).

Among the 61 non-dog owners are 45 who had dog warning signs on their gate, several cat owners who left their cat's water bowls outside, a budgie owner, and a woman with a collection of fiberglass animals (pictured).

No fines from the 1397 notices had been enforced as of September 5.

Sources: (again, and again)
The Mercury

Holy Moly, Where's the Stoli

Last month it was $10,000 worth of cucumbers in Adelaide. This month it's $600,000 worth of vodka in Sydney.

Theives broke into a business in the Sydney suburb of Lidcombe and used a semi to haul off an entire shipping container of vodka, 17,400 bottles worth.  They broke in about 1 o'clock Sunday morning, loaded up the container, and  drove out through the back fence.

Although it sounds like saying "lint comb" when you've got a cold, Lidcombe (post office pictured) is actually a working class suburb of Sydney at the junction of three railway lines: Richmond/Emu Plain, Bankstown, and Liverpool.

Lidcombe used to be known as Rockwood, and the Rockwood Cemetary just to the north of Lidcombe, is currently the largest cemetery in the southern hemisphere. Not wanting their town to be associated with the cemetery, in 1913 the townsfolk combined the names of their sitting mayor, Mr. Larcombe, and previous mayor, Mr. Lidbury to create the new town name of Lidcombe.

If you know the whereabouts of the stolen vodka please call the Lidcombe police as they would like to know where the party is taking place, too.


Conditional Discharge

I was proceeding in a Southerly direction, milord, when I heard uh, strange sounds coming from the Walldor place, milord. A sort of boogie-woogie music was being played. On further investigation, I saw the defendant standing there with a guitar and an old hat on the floor collecting pennies. Well, I decided that uh, he was contravening a breach of the peace.
-Long John Baldry, intro to "Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On the King of Rock and Roll"
The two scurrilous scalawags pictured above have been given 2 year Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs) by the Birmangham City Magistrates Court. Andrew Cave (left) and James Ryan have been banned from busking anywhere in England or Wales for the next two years. From the Birmingham City Council:
Today’s Order prohibits Cave from entering almost all parts Moseley, whilst Ryan has been banned from entering Mosley village. Cave has been banned from playing a musical instrument in Moseley whilst Ryan has been banned from playing in Moseley Village. Both of them have been completely banned from begging in England and Wales.
The homeless pair will face criminal charges should they violate the ASBOs.

It seems that for the past year and a half the pair have been playing music outside various establishments in Moseley, Ryan playing a guitar and Cave playing percussion on whatever happened to be around. The problem which caused 60 some-odd complaints over the period was not the music, per se, but was their rather limited repertoire which consisted of nothing but Oasis' Wonderwall over and over again, with an occasional dose of Faith, by George Michael.

This went on nearly every day from early evening until 3:00 am.

Councillor Ayoub Khan, Cabinet Member for Local Services and Community Safety, said:
I'm pleased that visitors and residents of Moseley will no longer be subject to this duo's anti social behaviour.  The council's BASBU officers have worked in partnership with the local community and the police so that our citizens can go out in Moseley without the hassle of being harassed for money or subject to excessive noise.
Ryan took a somewhat different position: "The whole thing's about playing a guitar, it's a joke. Most people loved it."

News of the Weird
Sky News
Birmingham News Room
Song of the Day

Malaysian Scuttlebut

With a decided lack of Britney or Paris stories of late, we turn to Malaysia, where Wook Kundor is talking about dissolving her marriage to Muhamad Noor Che Musa. Muhammad is currently undergoing voluntary  drug rehab in Kuala Lumpur, and Kundor fears that once he completes the program he will leave her for a younger woman.

While Malaysian men may have up to four wives, Malaysian women do not practice polygamy.

Kundor and the 37 year old Muhamad have been married for four years. It is his first marriage, and her 21st. Or 22nd. Or 23rd - it's hard to keep track.

Should they divorce, Muhamad will have little choice but to marry a younger woman because Kundor is 107 years old.

World News Australia (photo)
Breitbart (via Post Chronicle)
Web Hosting Talk

Attack of the Artfully Displayed 50 Foot Women

The International Center of Graphic Arts (MGLC), in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana plays host to the 28th Biennial of Graphic Arts during September and October. The MGLC describes the event this way:

The 28th Biennial of Graphic Arts is a multifaceted event with a long tradition; it consists of a number of exhibitions as well as other happenings. Once again, the Biennial’s central exhibition, The Matrix: An Unstable Reality, on view for two months in Ljubljana galleries, will focus on contemporary graphic art in the broadest sense of the term. 
At the invitation of the International Centre of Graphic Arts, which proposed the theme of the main show, this idea was further developed and shaped by Galerija Alkatraz, Galerija Ganes Pratt, Galerija Jakopič, Galerija Kapsula, and Galerija Škuc, which are also serving as venues for the Biennial. Alongside the central exhibition, the 28th Biennial of Graphic Arts includes as well the Artist’s Book Salon, the traditional exhibition for the winner of the Grand Prize from the previous Biennial, and a number of accompanying exhibitions. 
So how do you advertise such an august and prestigious event? Well, obviously, you use graphic art in the "broad" - est sense of the term, by which I mean you use pictures of boobs. Giant boobs. Billboard sized pictures of boobs.

 It's art, like the Venus de Milo, right?

If you want to see the full sized - NSFW (Not Safe For Work) - pictures of men trying to not look at the billboard you'll have to click through on the links below.

This woodcut image here is the way the MGLC advertises the exhibit online. Which picture do you think attracts more attention?

All Voices
Art Knowledge News

Unarmed Robbery

John Smith has been sentenced to twelve month youth custody for his part in a £175,000 jewelry store robbery from last December. Showing some signs of poor planning, Smith, an 18 year old with only stumps below his elbows, was designated as the getaway driver.

After three accomplices smashed an Ernest Jones window display, they all piled into a Ford Focus and sped off with the police in pursuit. The chase covered 30 miles and reached speeds of over 100 mph, and in spite of a crash when entering the Blackwall Tunnel, the car did not stop until it was pinned against the tunnel wall by police cruisers.

At one point other gang members were shifting gears for Smith.

Smith cannot dress himself and lives at home with his mother.

Smith's accomplices were also sentenced. Tyrone Tassell, 21, got a 32 months; Sunni Sacco, 19, got two years in a juvenile prison; and Craig Phillips, who sat in court sucking his thumb, was spared jail, getting two years supervision with six months of electronic tagging.

The really unbelievable thing is that they got a Ford Focus to go 100 mph.

Daily Mail (via Metro UK)
London Evening Standard