Archive for December, 2005


Thursday, December 29, 2005


The Ultimate Showdown

A cool animation with all sorts of super heroes fighting it out.

(2.8meg Shockwave)

U.S. stalls on human trafficking

`Three years ago, President Bush declared that he had “zero tolerance” for trafficking in humans by the government’s overseas contractors, and two years ago Congress mandated a similar policy.

But notwithstanding the president’s statement and the congressional edict, the Defense Department has yet to adopt a policy to bar human trafficking. [..]

The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they’re in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry’s biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.’

Goatse License Plates

Science and the private life of teaspoons

`Australian scientists have proved what is common knowledge to most people — that teaspoons appear to have minds of their own.

In a study at their own facility, a group of scientists from the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health in Melbourne secretly numbered 70 teaspoons and tracked their movements over five months.

Supporting their expectations, 80 percent of the spoons vanished during the period — although those in private areas of the institute lasted nearly twice as long as those in communal sections.

“At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain a workable population of 70 teaspoons,” they wrote in Friday’s festive edition of the British Medical Journal.’


List of Famous Unsolved Codes and Ciphers

`This is an unofficial list of well-known unsolved codes and ciphers. A couple of the better-known unsolved ancient historical scripts are also thrown in, since they tend to come up during any discussion of unsolved codes. There has also been an attempt to sort this list by “fame”, as defined by a loose formula involving the number of times that a particular cipher has been written about, and/or how many hits it pulls up on a moderately-sorted web search.’


Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Indian chemists fear rise in Viagra misuse

`Chemists in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand have decided not to stock or sell Viagra, a medication for erectile dysfunction, because it may create law and order problems, a news agency reported on Tuesday. [..]

“We will not stock or sell the drug as it may lead to some people going berserk and creating law and order problems,” said Amar Sinha, general secretary of the Jharkhand Chemist and Druggist Association.’

Family clash spawns blaze

`A Vassalboro man who allegedly poured gasoline around the house and onto two people late Sunday morning, starting a fire that burned the family home, apparently got angry when he was told he should not clean his chain saw in the house, police said Monday. [..]

Sheriff Everett B. Flannery Jr. said Knox’s brother-in-law, Timothy Barrett, 57, told Knox to clean the chain saw outside the home on 117 Main St.

Flannery said Knox pulled a coaxial cable out of the wall and began whipping Barrett with it and chasing him around while carrying an ax, before he threw gasoline on the wood stove.’


Firecracker Mistake Costs Tampa Woman Four Fingers

`A firecracker mistake cost a Tampa woman four of her fingers.

Fire officials say the 48-year-old woman was trying to light her home when the power was out and reached for what she thought was a candle. But once she lit it, fire officials say she blew off four fingers because it was a firecracker and not a candle.’


‘Santa’ arrested after beating street sign

`Police here know whether this particular Santa Claus has been naughty or nice. An officer responding to a call Christmas morning of a disturbance on the city’s east side found James Lahl dressed as Santa Claus and hitting a street sign, according to a report.

Lahl, 53, had pulled a no parking sign from the ground and was beating another street sign with it, police allege.’

Swallowing Cell Phone May Not Be Voluntary

`A woman who police thought deliberately tried to swallow her cell phone during an argument with her boyfriend was apparently the victim of an assault instead, authorities said.

Police have a suspect in the bizarre incident that sent the 24-year-old woman to the hospital last week, Sgt. Allen Kintz said. Police would not say whether the boyfriend was the suspect and would not explain exactly what they believe happened.

“It appears she didn’t voluntarily swallow this phone,” Kintz said. “It’s not quite the way it was first portrayed.”‘

Update to a Woman Swallows Cell Phone After Argument


Business dispute suspected in Russia gas attack

`A gas attack in a home-supply store on one of the busiest shopping days of the year sickened scores of people yesterday in an incident that police called likely motivated by a commercial dispute or blackmail attempt.

Boxes containing timers wired to glass vials were discovered at the attack scene and three other stores in the same chain in Russia’s second-largest city.

Seventy-eight people sought medical care: 66 were briefly hospitalized and sent home, officials said. Police said the store where the people were sickened hadn’t opened for the day and all those affected were employees or police, ITAR-Tass news agency reported. [..]

St. Petersburg police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko said the gas appeared to be methyl mercaptan, which smells like rotten cabbage and is both naturally occurring and manufactured for use in plastics and pesticides. It rarely has long-lasting effects.’

One of the researchers at work used to use a lot of mercaptans. They smell fucken horrible. Maybe the worst things I’ve ever smelt.


Man, trapped by fallen tree, kills himself

`A disabled man who was injured when a windblown tree crushed his trailer killed himself as he lay trapped in the wreckage on Christmas Day, authorities said.

The injuries that Richard Payne suffered when the tree fell early Sunday were not life-threatening, Island County Coroner Robert Bishop said Monday. The cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Bishop said.

However, it did not appear that Payne had any means of summoning help, sheriff’s spokesman Jan Smith said in a statement. There was no phone in the trailer and no nearby neighbors in the remote wooded area at the south end of Camano Island.’


Naked ‘Satan’ Injures Fla. Sheriff’s Deputy

`A naked man in Lake County, Fla., claiming to be Satan was arrested after he threatened to kill a sheriff’s deputy and then injured the man in a neighborhood street, according to a police report.

Officers responded to complaints of a naked man screaming in the streets Monday in the area of Wall Street and Grant Avenue in Eustis, Fla.

When deputies arrived, they found Roy Lee Henson walking with his boxer shorts around his ankles and screaming wildly, according to the report.’

Honda Rolls Out World’s First Motorcycle Airbag

`Along with deadly features like satellite navigation, 80-watt per channel premium audio with six-element speaker system, a cold-weather comfort package which includes foot-warming system channelizing engine-heated air over the rider’s feet and is controlled by a fairing-mounted lever, the new Honda Gold Wing comes with first protection airbag system.’

Why We’re Going Back to the Moon

`The moon is a scientific laboratory of extraordinary facility, richness and benefit. The history of our corner of the solar system for the past 4 billion years is preserved and readable in the ancient dust of the lunar surface. This record is lost on the dynamic and ever-changing surface of Earth. Other planets do not record the same events affecting Earth and the moon, including impacts, space particles and the detailed history of our sun. The recovery of this record will let us better understand the impact hazard in the Earth-moon system as well as unravel the processes and evolution of our sun, the major driver of climate and life on Earth.’

Search On For Injured Wood Cutter

`Lyon County authorities were desperately looking for a woodcutter Thursday who reported possibly cutting his leg off with a chain saw before the cell phone connection died.

The man called 911 at 11:56 a.m. and said he may have cut his leg off and needed an ambulance, Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Page said.

“He said he was dizzy, there was lots of blood, and then the phone went dead,” said Page, who listened to the taped call several times.

“He sounded pretty distressed; pretty shook up,” he told The Associated Press.

Dispatchers were unable to get the man’s location before the communication ended.’

Possibly cut his leg off? It doesn’t seem like there’s much room for speculation on the wood cutters part. Either the leg is off or it’s on. [shrug] 🙂


Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste

`The closest most people will ever get to remote Papua, or the operations of Freeport-McMoRan, is a computer tour using Google Earth to swoop down over the rain forests and glacier-capped mountains where the American company mines the world’s largest gold reserve.

With a few taps on a keyboard, satellite images quickly reveal the deepening spiral that Freeport has bored out of its Grasberg mine as it pursues a virtually bottomless store of gold hidden inside. They also show a spreading soot-colored bruise of almost a billion tons of mine waste that the New Orleans-based company has dumped directly into a jungle river of what had been one of the world’s last untouched landscapes.

What is far harder to discern is the intricate web of political and military ties that have helped shield Freeport from the rising pressures that other gold miners have faced to clean up their practices. Only lightly touched by a scant regulatory regime, and cloaked in the protection of the military, Freeport has managed to maintain a nearly impenetrable redoubt on the easternmost Indonesian province as it taps one of the country’s richest assets.’


Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Appeal over ‘Australian Taleban’

`The Home Office has lodged an appeal against a High Court ruling that an Australian man imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay has a right to British citizenship.

David Hicks, 30, was detained in Afghanistan in 2002 and has been held by the US at Camp X-Ray in Cuba. [..]

The Home Office accepted Mr Hicks was entitled to citizenship but said it can refused or withdrawn because of the charges Mr Hicks faces.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The ruling by the courts was a disappointment. The Home Office was granted permission to make an appeal and we have done so.”‘

Celeron 1400 MHz Overclocked to 4159 MHz

`Just yesterday we could report about how Crotale reached a new milestone with 4Ghz with a Celeron M 1.4GHz. We didn’t think he would stop there and he didn’t. He kept pushing that poor processor even further and has now reported in 4159 MHz! That’s a 197% overlock and if he can’t go any further than this I have to say it would be a very sad ending as he is so close to pass a historic milestone with a 200% overclock. We’ve also received a new runner up with Andreas “himura” Johansson who has overlocked a Celeron M 1.5 GHz to 3.6Ghz, a 140% overclock. Impressive is the least we can say about what these guys are doing.’


Instant Rapper

This is what I should have asked for for chistmas. 🙂


AIDS expert has theory on vaccine’s delay

`In an unusually candid admission, the federal chief of AIDS research says he believes drug companies don’t have an incentive to create a vaccine for the HIV and are likely to wait to profit from it after the government develops one. [..]

Tramont is head of the AIDS research division of the National Institutes of Health, and he predicted in his testimony that the government will eventually create a vaccine. He testified in July in the whistleblower case of Dr. Jonathan Fishbein.

“If we look at the vaccine, HIV vaccine, we’re going to have an HIV vaccine. It’s not going to be made by a company,” Tramont said. “They’re dropping out like flies because there’s no real incentive for them to do it. We have to do it.”

“They will eventually — if it works, they won’t have to make that big investment. And they can make it and sell it and make a profit,” he said.’

Talking Head Vibrators

`Talking Head Vibrators are the first of its kind vibrator that delivers audio as well as physical sensation—offering different sound chips for different moods, and with the ability to record a voice yourself with a recordable sound chip, coupled with a state of the art silicon vibrator with “rabbit” feature that brings an extra new dimension to your sensation.’

with sample audio clips.


Web Page Compression

So, I’ve been fiddling with compressing my pages to reduce bandwidth. I had been using ob_gzhander, which compresses pages at the script level, but the other day I figured out how to get zlib.output_compression working, which compresses pages at the web server level. [ini_set wasn’t working, but I figured out I could enable it via .htaccess.]

I tried the different compression levels and recorded the compressed page size and the page generation time for each level. I used my November 2005 archive page for the test. Here’s the results:

compression level page size
av. gen time
std. dev.
-1 (default) 108.5 2.20 .06
0 512.6 3.80 .65
1 121.5 2.20 .10
2 118.1 2.20 .12
3 116.3 2.20 .10
4 111.5 2.20 .10
5 109.2 2.20 .16
6 108.5 2.19 .06
7 108.4 2.17 .06
8 108.4 2.30 .14
9 108.4 2.30 .17

So it turns out the default level of compression, which appears to be compression level 6, is a good choice to use. Interestingly, my page generation time increases when I don’t compress the page. Since the compression is done by the web server and not PHP, compression should have no effect on the generation time. This suggests there’s probably something wrong with my page generation timer code and that it’s waiting for some action from the client.

I’m sure no one but me cares. 🙂


Tsunami was God’s revenge for your wicked ways, women told

`Marluddin Jalil, a Sharia judge who has ordered the punishment of women for not wearing headscarves, was uncompromising: “The tsunami was because of the sins of the people of Aceh.”

Thundering into a microphone at a gathering of wives, he made clear where he felt the fault lay: “The Holy Koran says that if women are good, then a country is good.”

A year after the disaster which many see as a divine punishment, emboldened Islamic hardliners are doing their best to eradicate sin — and women are their prime targets.

With reconstruction slow, irrational fears of a second tsunami high, and nearly 500,000 still homeless along 500 miles of coastline, the stern message falls on fertile ground. A Sharia police force modelled on Saudi moral enforcers enthusiastically seeks out female wrong doers for public humiliation.’


Stallone’s Knockout On Rocky

‘Hardman actor Sylvester Stallone was knocked unconscious in a boxing ring making the new Rocky movie.

He was left flat on his back for several minutes with cameras still rolling because the crew thought he was acting.

Fortunately, he came round and later made a fully recovery.’

Kin sue in hair spray fire death

`The daughters of a Brooklyn woman who died of burns after puncturing a clogged aerosol can of Aquanet hair spray have filed a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer. [..]

When the can’s nozzle became clogged after she had sprayed on some of the product, Squicciarini picked up a can opener from a kitchen drawer, according to court papers filed in the Brooklyn Supreme Court suit.

“With the can opener, Lorraine Squicciarini opened a hole in the bottom of the Aquanet can in an attempt to clear the nozzle,” according to the complaint. “The contents, including vapors and highly flammable and explosive materials,” spurted from the can. [..]

The suit against Unilever USA by Lorraine Squicciarini’s daughters, Barbara Squicciarini of Staten Island and Marisa Ciancimino of Hazlet, N.J., does not specify damages, but Schoen said he will seek $10 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages. [..]

Schoen said he researched earlier cases of injuries involving Aquanet and determined “the printed warning against puncturing the can, which was insufficient then, remains insufficient.”‘

Monday, December 26, 2005


Falling Sand Game

Strange but interesting.

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory

`As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held “theory of gravity” is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

“Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, ‘God’ if you will, is pushing them down,” said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.’


French Army faces inquiry on genocide in Rwanda

`One of the most controversial episodes in France’s recent history is to come under legal scrutiny after a judge opened a formal inquiry into allegations that the French Army conspired in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. [..]

An estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the violence that followed the death of Juvenal Habyarimana, then the Rwandan President, in an aircraft crash. The majority of the victims were Tutsis, slaughtered by the rival Hutu tribe. The 2,500-strong French peacekeeping force sent to Rwanda by M Mitterrand is accused not only of failing to stop the genocide, but of actively participating in it. [..]

Although Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French Defence Minister, described the claims as outlandish, the prosecutor decided that two witnesses were sufficiently credible to warrant an inquiry.

One is Auréa Mukakalisa, who was raped by Hutu militia in a refugee camp set up and controlled by the French Army. “The Hutu militiamen entered the camp and designated the Tutsis, who were forced to leave the camp by French soldiers,” Miss Mukakalisa, who was 27 at the time, said. “I saw the militia kill the Tutsis who had left the camp. I saw French soldiers themselves kill Tutsis using knives.” Her brother, Felicien, was one of the victims at the Murambi camp. His body has never been found.’


Kangaroos ‘scared by own noise’

`Australian farmers could be about to get an unusual new weapon to protect their crops from rampaging kangaroos.

Researchers in Melbourne have found that these voracious marsupials can be scared off by the thumping sound of their own large feet on the ground.

[..] a recording of a ‘roo thumping its foot appears to have been quite a breakthrough. This is the noise these macropods make when they sense danger before taking flight.

Using the animal’s own alarm system could be what irate farmers have been looking for. They often complain that kangaroo numbers have reached plague-like proportions. Several million are shot dead every year as part of an official cull.’