Sunday, December 30, 2007

I can relate to this story

Man Commits Crime to Escape Nagging Wife

A man from Shanghai has been constantly blamed and harassed by his wife for not making enough money. He finally decided to rob people just so he could go to jail and avoid his wife’s nagging abuse.

29 year-old Linghua Wong works as a technician. He and his wife XiaoFeng have been married for nine years and have one daughter. Everyone knows Wong is a good father and husband, but his wife is not happy that he’s making so little money, and so she verbally abusing him by calling him names and making fun of him.

At first, he tried not going home to avoid his wife’s nagging but that didn’t work. Finally, he just couldn’t take it anymore. He walked in to the police station and lied that he robbed someone and ask to be taken to the jail. The police did not believe his story and refused to arrest him, so he decided to rob someone for real.

He pointed a toy gun at a taxi driver, told him that he’s a fugitive and demanded the driver’s money. The driver then screamed, which scared Wong away.


After his failed attempt, he tried again with a young couple. The young couple turned out their pockets and showed they had no real money. Wong desperately turned to a woman who was passing by and the woman replied calmly, “You can shoot me, but I only got 3 bucks”.

Wong, frustrated with failure, gave up, but was soon arrested for his many attempts.

“I intentionally kept doing this because that gives me enough evidence to be arrested so I can go to jail and not have to face my wife again.”

Wong is so afraid of his wife he cannot even ask for a divorce. Instead he chose to break the law and go to jail.

He was sentenced to four years for intentional robbery, but at least he is finally free from his wife.

In China, Shanghai men are well known as “Pa Lao Po”, which means “afraid of wives”. Shanghai women are the dominant ones in the family.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rankin's Eyescapes photographs

Rankin, photographer and founder of Dazed and Confused magazine, created an incredible photographic series of more than a dozen decontextualized irises. Scrolling horizontally back and forth across these images is quite trance-inducing. The project is called Eyescapes. Link

Use the above Link to scan irises horizontally back and forth

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Night Before Christmas

December 24th, 2007 under Offbeat News.

T’was the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house,
Made of plaster and stone.

Photo Luodanli

I had come down the chimney,
With presents to give,
And to see just who,
In this home did live.

I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.

No stocking by the mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures,
Of far distant lands.

With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought,
Came through my mind.

For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary.
I found the home of a soldier,
Once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping,
Silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor,
In this one bedroom home.

The face was so gentle,
The room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured,
A Canadian soldier.

Was this the hero,
Of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?

I realized the families,
That I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers,
Who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world,
The children would play,
And grownups would celebrate,
A bright Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed freedom,
Each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder,
How many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve,
In a land far from home.

The very thought brought
A tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees,
And started to cry.

The soldier awakened,
And I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry.
This life is my choice.”

“I fight for freedom,
I don’t ask for more,
My life is my God,
My country, my corps.”

The soldier rolled over,
And drifted to sleep,
I couldn’t control it,
I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still,
And we both shivered,
From the cold night’s chill.

I didn’t want to leave,
On that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor,
So willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice, soft and pure,
Whispered, “Carry on Santa,
It’s Christmas Day, all is secure.”

One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right,
“Merry Christmas my friend,
And to all a good night.”

This poem was written by a peace keeping soldier
stationed overseas.

Please, Christmas is nigh and some credit is due
To our service men and women
For us being able to celebrate these Festivities.

Let’s try in this small way to pay
A tiny bit of what we owe.
Stop …
Think of our heroes, living and dead,
Who sacrificed themselves
For us.

To catch a thief

Entrapment ... Harry Cordaiy, 11, with the device used to catch the culprits. He painted a mouse trap with green food colouring and used a $5 note as bait. James Brickwood
Photo: James Brickwood

Caroline Marcus
December 23, 2007

LIKE any superhero worth his cape, Harry Cordaiy has an alter ego.

The year 5 student at Avalon Public School now goes by the name "Mousetrap Man" after hatching an ingenious plan to snare a pair of schoolyard crims who were knocking off lunch money to fund their lolly habit.

Like Agatha Christie's famed whodunit The Mousetrap, Harry's story is full of mystery and intrigue.

On three consecutive days last month, about $150 went missing from schoolbags, which students must store in the hat room during recess. Harry was a victim - he lost $18 - and other students had cash and bus passes nicked.

Harry, 11, sprang into action.

"The teachers said 'wait, wait, wait' and they weren't taking any action," he said.

"I decided to act because I was annoyed that they had robbed a lot of classes, and a lot of people were missing $20."

Harry drew on know-how acquired from hours spent glued to the History Channel, his favourite program being a documentary about Vietcong-made traps in the Vietnam War.

On the fourth day, he placed a mouse trap with a $5 note attached in his school bag during recess.

He had squirted the device's main bar and metal fittings with green food colouring, cutting a small hole in the note and securing it on the bait hook with sticky tape, so that the thief would have to wrestle with it, thereby setting off the spring and getting hit with the coloured bar.

To his surprise, the thieves took the bait and - after he spread the word among classmates - a witch-hunt began.

"I thought 'Oh my God, I might catch these guys'," Harry said. "Everybody was running around seeing who had green on their fingers."

One of the offenders was caught green-handed en route to the bathroom in a desperate bid to wash off the evidence. The younger boy confessed his guilt. An accomplice in the same year was also nabbed.

The pair had amassed a booty of $165 from their crime spree - blowing $15 on lollies at the canteen. Harry's mother, Michaela, 38, a nurse, could not be more proud of her son. She said she had grown up around mousetraps and did not believe any child could have been seriously injured.

"Harry has a strong concept of fairness and didn't want to see anyone else lose their money," Mrs Cordaiy said. "Initially, the vice-principal had to say it was a little extreme and we don't condone it - but privately teachers were, like, 'Good on you, mate'.

"[The offenders] probably just didn't realise how much trouble they'd really caused. This is the northern beaches, for God's sake. Nobody is that poor."

When he's not busy fighting crime, Harry plays rugby union and league and dreams of putting his technical skills to use as an engineer. He has been voted in as a school leader next year.

Principal Rob Richmond said the two students involved in taking the money had been disciplined.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

10-Year Chinese Haunting Finally Debunked

This 5 story “haunted” building in the GuangXi province of China has scared most of it’s owners away.

Anyone who ever lived in the house, heard horribly spooky sounds coming from somewhere in the house.

In ten years, the house has been sold to four different owners, and soon after each moved in, they moved out because of the haunting.

The building is actually very nice and used to be valued at about $34,000, but with the haunting no one wanted to buy it until two brothers paid $6,500 and bought it.

The small town Chan brothers did not believe in haunted houses and could not pass on the great price for such a large building.

Each night, the brothers would hold their breath and try to find where in the house the noise was coming from.

After numerous nights of searching, they figured out the noise sounded like something flapping in the water and it came from the bathroom pipe on the first floor.

The decided to break the pipe open and immediately found what was haunting the house.

About 10 catfish were found swimming in the sewer. Two were about 10 pounds and the rest were about 5 pounds each.

So it turns out the haunting was nothing more than some catfish in the sewer system, but… how did they get their in the first place?

In 1995, the first owner of the house was a catfish lover.

One day, he bought a bucket full of cat fish for dinner and left them in the bathroom waiting to be gutted. Apparently, two of them escaped through the toilet bowl and made a happy family of 10 living in the sewage pond.

Now that the ghost is gone, the price tag of the house soon rocketed to over $133,000. Not too bad for a little myth busting…

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Baby Accidentally Flushed at Birth-SAVED

A 36 year-old woman accidentally gave birth yesterday in a train traveling from Tai Dong to Tai Pei. The nine month pregnant woman was in the bathroom when her baby was born and accidentally flushed down the toilet.

When the train reached the next station, an hour and a half later, the rescue team arrived and got to work. They immediately sent the mother to the hospitol while they tried to pull the baby from the toilet bowl opening.

Due the the babies fading condition, they finally decided to saw the pipe in half and rescued the baby.

She was born weighing 6.6 pounds and is now in stable condition.

1920s Antique BED BUG MURDER LABEL Bed Bugs Are Terrible
1920s Antique BED BUG MURDER LABEL Bed Bugs Are Terrible
Antique 20s BED BUG MURDER LABEL in exquisite condition! Proclaims "bed bugs are terrible"! I heard through the grapevine that there is an epidemic of bed bugs in a certain European country right now.

Label measures approximately 3 x 4-1/2" (ungummed) and will come with an instructional label as well.


Sold,wonder who the lucky buyer was? and if they needed it?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair (1939)

Use the following to see an movie of the 1939 World's Fair

Thumbsnails of movie

Click Screen to begin movie

1939, sound, 55 min, Technicolor, 35mm. Transferred from a 35mm nitrate print.

This item is part of the collection:
Prelinger Archives

See: Andrew Wood, "The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair,"

This drama illustrates the contribution of free enterprise, technology, and Westinghouse products to the American way of life. The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair pits an anti-capitalist bohemian artist boyfriend against an all-American electrical engineer who believes in improving society by working through corporations. The Middletons experience Westinghouse's technological marvels at the Fair and win back their daughter from her leftist boyfriend.

Memorable moments: the dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern and Mrs. Drudge; Electro, the smoking robot; and the Westinghouse time capsule.

The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair (1939)

Use the following to see an movie of the 1939 World's Fair

Thumbsnails of movie

Click Screen to begin movie

1939, sound, 55 min, Technicolor, 35mm. Transferred from a 35mm nitrate print.

See: Andrew Wood, "The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair,"

This drama illustrates the contribution of free enterprise, technology, and Westinghouse products to the American way of life. The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair pits an anti-capitalist bohemian artist boyfriend against an all-American electrical engineer who believes in improving society by working through corporations. The Middletons experience Westinghouse's technological marvels at the Fair and win back their daughter from her leftist boyfriend.

Memorable moments: the dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern and Mrs. Drudge; Electro, the smoking robot; and the Westinghouse time capsule.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Man’s Trouser Snake Kills Him

Chab Kear, a 36 year-old Cambodian man, was hanging out drinking when he saw a snake swimming in a river.

Intoxicated the man decided he would jump in and catch the snake in hopes of later selling it later. Chab proceeded to take of his trousers and jump in the river to catch the almost 2 meter Cobra.


Successful, he put the snake into his trousers and tied the legs around his waist.

As Chab continued to drink and be merry until the snake finally managed to get its fangs free and bite
He tied the animal inside his trousers and a scarf around his waist, but as he continued carousing the enraged snake managed to get its fangs free and bite Kear three times on the stomach.

Chab’s last words before dying were “don’t worry - it’s nothing a drink can’t fix”.

(Bangkok Post)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The making of ''Trespassing''

To watch a trailer, read reviews and find out where the film is showing

Watch Corbin Harney praying for the land and people
Vote for Trespassing on

C Indian Country Today
May 10, 2006.
All Rights Reserved

NEEDLES, Calif. - When filmmaker Carlos DeMenezes filmed the Colorado River Indian Tribes and Fort Mojave Tribe's successful fight to halt the proposed Ward Valley nuclear waste dump, another reality was revealed: the cruel legacy of how American Indians were targeted by the nuclear industry.

The filmmaker's journey began when he left his native Brazil and came to Los Angeles to study film in 1982.

After gaining his degree and experience as a filmmaker, he searched for meaning in the industry: ''I did not want to only make money; I wanted to make something that means something.''

DeMenezes began researching the nuclear industry in books and film and soon found his way to Ward Valley, where American Indians and environmentalists joined together to fight the proposed nuclear waste dump.

Steve Lopez, Mojave; David Harper, of the Colorado River Indian Tribes; Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney; and the Arizona chapter of the American Indian Movement are among those who risked arrest and continued ceremonies at Ward Valley to protect the Mojave Desert, tribal sacred places and home of the desert tortoise.

At the proposed nuclear dump site, Lopez spoke of Avi Kwa Me, also known as Newberry Mountain. ''We did not migrate over the Bering Strait. Our people came from right there.'' American Indians united with environmental groups and lobbied in
Washington against the storage of nuclear waste in unlined trenches that threatened the water supply of more than 1 million people along the Colorado River on the border of California and Arizona.

Ward Valley served a greater purpose for the filmmaker, revealing a reality far more than just the transportation of nuclear waste to ancestral Indian lands.

''We went to Ward Valley and realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg. It wasn't about transportation anymore. It was about all the consequences of the Cold War and its impacts on Indian people,'' DeMenezes told Indian Country Today.

''Trespassing'' shows Japanese and global peace advocates at the Nevada Test Site, including the Alliance for Atomic Veterans' military veterans of nuclear testing. Japanese radiation survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki speak of global healing and forgiveness. The film shows the Nevada Test Site and Yucca Mountain, aboriginal Western Shoshone land, and reveals in chilling detail the Cold War atomic bomb blasts and the ongoing Western Shoshone protests and arrests.

For those who knew Dorothy Purley, of Laguna Pueblo, N.M., the film holds a poignant legacy. Purley was a former uranium miner who became an outspoken activist against the uranium industry on Indian lands. She died of cancer during the making of the film.

Filmed at the Indigenous Environmental Network's gathering on Laguna Pueblo, Purley described how Laguna and Acoma Pueblo miners and their families at home were saturated with radioactive dust from the mines.

''When they used to blast, all that yellow stuff would come towards the village. You know, we Native Indians have the things like drying food out in the sun, and our meats and stuff. And yet, we breathed it and ate it. And, you know, we weren't aware of it,'' Purley said.

''I feel betrayed because we weren't really told. We weren't really made aware of what we were getting ourselves into. I think if the mine hadn't opened, I don't think any of our lives would have been in jeopardy at all.''

In the Four Corners area, Navajos tell how they worked in the uranium mines without protective clothing long after the nuclear industry knew of the high rate of lung cancer for miners.

Paul Belin, Navajo veteran and uranium miner from Red Valley, Ariz., said uranium dust was all over Navajos as they worked, in their clothing and in their food. Red Valley and nearby Cove have one of the highest mortality rates from cancer and lung diseases from uranium mines. ''We didn't even know that this was dangerous. They never told us,'' Belin said.

A U.S. Senate committee revealed that as early as 1950, the Atomic Energy Commission knew that uranium miners had a high rate of lung cancer but it did nothing. Then, a former public health official testified that the cancer rate for uranium miners is 400 percent higher than the national average, the film reveals.

''Trespassing'' points out that the United States is the only country that has used the atomic bomb on civilians, innocent women and children.

Stewart Udall, former Secretary of the Interior Deprtment, speaks in the film of the profound effect that the truth of the nuclear industry has had on him. He also speaks of the need for honesty.

''I think that's the way our country works best; and I think that the people are entitled to know, and that if there isn't openness, our country is betrayed. I think that's one of the great lessons that I learned out of this is, if secrecy is more important than honesty and openness, the country's going to suffer and people are going to suffer.''

In an interview, DeMenezes reflected on what Navajos and their neighbors to the north, the Dineh in Canada, have often pointed out: they were used as guinea pigs in the uranium mines during the Cold War.

''It was inhumane,'' DeMenezes told ICT.

He said that by outsourcing, contracting out the work of mining uranium, the U.S. government was able to insulate itself from much of the blame for what happened to Pueblos, Navajos and other Native miners during the Cold War. All were victims at a time when the majority of tribal members did not speak English. They were never told of the dangers.

DeMenezes said outsourcing is what the U.S. government is doing now in Iraq.

During the screening of the film at the Arizona International Film Festival, the arrest of Western Shoshone brought tears from the audience in Tucson.

When this was pointed out to DeMenezes after the screening, he said, ''I cry all the time.''

Please visit the Indian Country Today
website for more articles related to this topic.

Art students aim to save lives
By Jane Elliott
BBC News, health reporter

The Tongue Sucker device

The device is designed for lay people
The London bombings of 2005, which left 56 dead and 800 injured, shocked a group of graduates so much that they decided to invent a device to save lives.

The team of four - Philip Greer, Graeme Davies, Chris Huntley and Lisa Stroux - were all students at the Royal College of Art when they came up with the inspiration for the "Tongue Sucker" to aid breathing.

"All of us lived in London and thought that there might be something that could be done following the bombings," explained 26-year-old graduate Lisa.

"We talked to the paramedics involved, the doctors and the nurses and emergency services about it. They said that one of the problems of a disaster of this scale is getting trained people to the site - in London that can take up to 12 minutes or even longer.

First aid device

"Once you get there one of the first things you do is to open the airway or check that the unconscious patient is breathing, so this is why we wanted to design something that could be used by bystanders."

Now their design has been given an accolade and £68,000 by the Danish government.

The team are going to use the cash to develop a prototype and get it into hospitals for clinical trials.

Experts stressed that the device would need thorough testing before it could be put into use.

The idea was to make them as available to as many people as possible, first aid kits, taxis, trains the underground
Lisa Stroux

The Tongue Sucker is a small plastic chamber with a bulb-shaped air reservoir which allows untrained bystanders at the scene of an emergency to keep the airway of an unconscious person open.

You squeeze the bulb, place it over the tongue of the injured person and release.

Suction then draws the tongue off the back of the throat, creating a small but vital gap to allow the unconscious person to breathe.

Once in place, the first-aider is free to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), call for help or assist other casualties. In addition, the brightly coloured bulb signals to arriving paramedics which casualties have been treated.

Getting airways open

It is estimated that about 250,000 people in the UK become unconscious every year, and without their airway being cleared they can die or suffer severe brain damage.

Lisa is convinced their idea will help prevent deaths.

"We have proven the concept, that it works, but just with manikins and ourselves and other people available to us - all conscious," she said.

"The idea was to make them available to as many people as possible - first aid kits, taxis, trains, the Underground, etc."

The Danish government gives five "Index" awards each year to designs around the globe that it feels have done the most to improve lives.

The 11-strong jury were particularly impressed by the Tongue Sucker, which they praised for its simplicity, low cost and low-tech design.

Lisa Stroux
Designers have scooped top award

Dr James Kinross, of St. Mary's Hospital, London, who has seen the device and advised the students, said the Tongue Sucker was very effective and could be a vital tool in helping open an unconscious person's airways.

"If you are the first on the scene it could be very difficult to open the airways."

But Dr Meng Aw-Yong, medical adviser at St John Ambulance, said the device would need careful checking before being put into use.

"In an unconscious patient it is vital to check that their airway is open and this can be achieved, without any equipment, by the simple manoeuvre of lifting the chin and tilting the head back to raise the tongue off the back of the throat.

"We understand that some people are nervous about approaching casualties.

"Research shows that the fear is of performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and it is not presently clear how this device will help. In fact there are potential pitfalls with introducing devices into an unconscious person's mouth. We hope clinical evaluation will determine the Tongue Sucker's effectiveness.

"There is no substitute for knowing simple first aid procedures. Going on a first aid course can equip you with the knowledge and confidence to deal with many emergency situations."

Democracy in a Chinese classroom
By Weijun Chen
Director, Please Vote For Me

Wuhan city, China
The eight-year-old children go to school in Wuhan
Thousands of years of life under a feudal system in China have fostered a culture where official power and authority have seldom been checked.

Once one has the power, then one has everything, and so the whole nation would like to be government bureaucrats.

For example, 60% of China's college graduates choose government as their ideal career.

Chinese government officials are not civil servants in the Western sense, rather they are the people who possess real power.

Against this backdrop, I decided to film a class of eight-year-old schoolchildren in my home city of Wuhan as they went through the process of electing a class monitor.

It was the first time that the post had not been the gift of the teacher and it was the children's first taste of democracy. It turned out to be a cut-throat competition.

Wrong-footing rivals

The class monitor is charged with maintaining order in the classroom when the teacher is out of the room and is expected to report any rule breaking to the teacher.

Cheng Cheng

Cheng Cheng's ultimate ambition is to be president of China
The three candidates were all thoroughly determined to win this prized position of power, and they used a variety of tactics to try to achieve their ambition.

Little Cheng Cheng was astonishing, very conniving. In fact they were all quite strategic in their campaigns.

They had to undertake several tasks to impress their classmates, such as performing a musical "turn" in front of the class, making speeches and taking part in debates where they had to point out each other's faults.

Every step of the way they were forcefully supported and guided by their parents, who behaved almost like political advisers.

Cheng Cheng, whose ultimate ambition was to be president of China, wanted to be class monitor because, he said: "You can order people around."

He was coached by his parents in speechmaking, singing, and wrong-footing his rivals.

Lone parent

Luo Lei had already been a class monitor for two years.

When asked whether he wanted the help of his parents in securing his classmates' votes, he said: "No, I will rely on my own strength.

Xu Xiaofei
Xu Xiaofei's mother said being a lone parent was a disadvantage
"I don't want to control others. People should think for themselves."

But soon his parents were helping him with techniques and tricks he could use to make himself popular with the class.

Xu Xiaofei, the only girl candidate, was reluctant at first to try to sell herself to the class, but her mother trained her to make speeches and tried very hard to build up her confidence.

But, as a lone parent, she felt she was at a disadvantage:

"I told her I couldn't help very much. She doesn't have a normal family with a father and mother. I can't help her the way Luo Lei's parents help him."

It is also important to understand that China's Family Plan policy of "one couple, one child" has led to a situation where children find there is too much hope from parents and grandparents pressing on their weak shoulders.

Personally, I do not think we have prepared people properly in how to be parents with only one child. It is a big problem.

Democracy in action

Every child or "small sun" has his parents caring for him and influencing him. His family all expect him to be a success in society, even though he is so young.

There is no world of childhood in China.

Twelve thousand people in 15 countries were polled in August
58% thought terrorism could destroy democracy
62% thought voting in national elections was very important
57% thought the US political system better equipped than China's to tackle climate change
14% said they would be very unlikely to support the idea of a global parliament

Luo Lei's parents were able to help his campaign by taking the class for a trip on the modern monorail system - which is managed by his father's police department - and by giving him gifts to hand out after his final speech.

But the "small suns" also had some tricks of their own.

Cheng Cheng ensured that his classmates shouted down Xu Xiaofei before she had even started to speak, and she found it difficult to recover.

Luo Lei

Luo Lei was elected by classmates in a secret ballot
The next day he told her it had all been Luo Lei's doing, and then proceeded to boo Luo-Lei off the stage.

Later, in a debate in front of the class, he accused him of being a dictator who had beaten his classmates while he had been child monitor.

Luo Lei replied that even parents beat their children and added: "Do you think it's for no reason? It's because they did something wrong. If my method is wrong, I'll change it."

In the end, although the class agreed that Luo Lei had been very strict with them, they elected him in a secret ballot.

I believe the children's joy and sorrow throughout the election, their winning and losing, truly reflect the tough yet hopeful democratisation process in China.

Please Vote For Me is part of the BBC's Why Democracy? season and will be broadcast on Sunday 7 October at 2000 BST on BBC Four.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rare Chinese Monkey Picked Tea

Legend says that over ten centuries ago, upon seeing his master pick tea leaves, a monkey climbed up and collected the leaves and brought them down for his master.

Whether it be legend or simply a cheaper form of labor, the story has turned into a rare product that you can purchase and enjoy.

Monkey Picked Tea is a rare tea that is carefully picked by specially trained monkeys in a remote mountain region of China.

It is claimed that none of the monkeys are mistreated or harmed in this process. They say that the monkeys are treated as respected members of their family.

We have not been able to find any pictures of any monkeys actually picking tea leaves, but we did find this one video that shows a girl whip a camera around and claim the monkey was picking tea… you be the judge.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Off Topic but important Burma fights for Democracy

This important as it is the struggle for the Indigenous people of Burma and their fight for justice which is the same struggle the Western Shoshone (Newe)people face. Fortunately the US government has not resorted to killing as a method of stopping the Western Shoshone as they attempt to reclaim their homelands, at this time. Please help the Burmese people in any way that you are able!!!
Burma: 'net cut as brutal crackdown worsens

Posted by Xeni Jardin, September 28, 2007 9:10 AM | # | Discuss (7)

Kathryn Cramer says,

CNN is reporting that Myanmar has cut Internet access and also reports "Unconfirmed reports of bodies in the streets, protesters shot." and "New video appears to show point blank shooting of protester in Yangon."

As a clarification, and no surprise here: officials in the military regime controlling Burma (Myanmar) still have internet access, regular folks do not.

BB reader Dave Hecht adds

The NYT's Lede blog has pretty extensive coverage of Burmese military junta's shutdown of public internet and other communications channels. We must be living in the future if to stop a revolution, the government needs to shutdown the Internet. The Times page has links to blogs, some of which are still up, some which are ominously blacked out. Link.

Image above from the photostream of Jim Rees, who explains:

With Burma in the news lately I thought I'd post this photo of this sign that greeted me when I visited in 1989, a year after the coup that brought the current military leadership to power. This is on the Thai side of the border just outside Mae Sai.

At that time the new Burmese government, short of cash and not wanting anyone to observe conditions inside the country, was asking over $500 just to get in. This part of northern Burma was not really under government control, it was a stronghold for the KNU. You could sneak over the border from Thailand and get a brief look at the other side, but this was officially discouraged and there were stories of people being kidnapped or thrown in jail. I didn't go very far.

Here's a recent BBC report about Burmese bloggers, and press freedom inside Burma (hint -- there isn't any): Link.

That story points to London-based blogger Ko Htike, who has been posting reports on behalf of people inside Burma. Htike's blog is mostly in Burmese, but with some English and lots of pictures, including the image re-posted here, below.

Update: BB reader John Gale points out that this appears to be Japanese reporter Kenji Nagai. "The report over on BBC suggests that he was targeted and possibly shot at point blank range because he was holding a camera."

Here, on Htike's blog, photographs and first-person testimony from a man who identifies himself as a Singaporean working in Burma. The post includes graphic images of injuries he says he received at the hands of soldiers who were attacking protesters. Snip:

My wife found the "40mm riot control munnition" empty cartridge that the soldiers shoot at me. I would like the embassy and media to know the actions of this army. We are just ordinary citizen going to work and they just shot at us for no reason. Imagine what they would do to the protesters!

Marilyn Terrell says,

Ethical Traveler is offering people a place to post their messages and photos of support for the monks in Burma: Link.

Below, an image from of a solidarity gathering earlier today in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Posted on Friday, September 28, 2007 at 02:29PM by Registered CommenterGreg

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Real Life “King Kong” to Get Married

Yu, Zhenghuan,30, has nicknamed himself ‘King Kong’ but not because of his size but rather because of his hairiness. He suffers from the rare condition called hypertrichosis and has become relatively famous in China.

Recently Yu has announced that he is planning to get married at the end of the year to a girl he met at a friend’s party.

“We fell in love at the first sight.” he was quoted as saying. “I am like King Kong and would do everything for the woman I love. If my schedule is not too full this year, I plan to get married with her at the end of the year.”

“I am a normal person. But when I was young, I always felt I was inferior to others, who saw me as a freak.”

Yu, who was born in Anshan city, has heavy black hair covering his body and face as is typical of hypertrichosis patients.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Google Earth flight simulator

Google Earth flight simulator
Posted by Xeni Jardin, September 1, 2007 2:03 PM | # |

Many BoingBoing readers have sent in word of a "hidden" flight simulation feature in Google Earth that's making the blog-rounds. TechCrunch has a post on how to use it here. (thanks Chris and others)

Google Earth’s Hidden Surprise: A Flight Simulator

Duncan Riley

googleearth.jpgWe’ve always known that Google has wanted to challenge Microsoft’s desktop dominance in a number of areas, but to date we didn’t know that extended to gaming.

Hidden inside Google Earth is a secret Flight Simulator that takes full advantage of Google’s extensive satellite imagery.

To access the hidden feature, open Google Earth and hit Command+Option+A (note it must be capital A) or Ctrl+Alt+A if you’re using a Windows Machine.

The Google Earth Flight Simulator comes with two aircraft options, a F16 Viper and the more manageable SR22 4 seater. Players have the option of commencing the game from their current location in Google Earth or can pick from a list of pre-determined runways. Control instructions can be found here.

Overall the game play is fairly simple in terms of control, but the striking difference is flying over real pictures of locations. I took a quick flight from San Francisco International, headed North to the Golden Gate then turn back over the city before heading towards the Valley. It wasn’t perfect, but it was as good visually as the paid Microsoft Flight Simulator, and in terms of actually presenting real objects it was better.

Thanks to Marco for the how-to.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Bearded wonders go head to head

Bearded wonders go head to head

Parade of World Beard and Moustache Championships contestants
Competitors paraded through Brighton on Saturday morning
Some of the world's most hirsute faces have gathered on the English south coast to see who has the fullest beard or the most stylish moustache.

Competitors from the UK, America, Germany and many other countries are taking part in the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Brighton.

The 2007 event is being hosted by The Handlebar Club which was set up exactly 60 years ago in a London theatre.

Categories include Dali moustache, goatee and full beard freestyle.

The judging and prize-giving takes place at the Brighton Centre throughout Saturday.

Moustaches - Natural, English, Dali, Imperial, Hungarian, Freestyle
Partial Beards - Natural Goatee, Chinese, Musketeer, Imperial, Freestyle, Sideburns Freestyle
Full Beards - Verdi, Garibaldi, Natural Full, Natural Full with Styled Moustache, Freestyle

In pictures: Big beards and mighty moustaches

The contest's aim is to "encourage and celebrate standards of excellence in the growth, design and presentation of facial hair", while also "putting a smile on people's faces".

Show organiser Steve Parsons said there were some competitors who had gone to great lengths.

"The freestyle beard is probably the most spectacular one because basically, as the name suggests, it's freestyle, so you can do anything you like.

"For example at the last championships in Berlin, one of the competitors there actually styled his beard in the shape of the Brandenburg Gate with horses and flags and everything."

Proceeds this year will go to a testicular cancer charity and the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton.

Previous events have also been held in Norway, Sweden and the US, with the 2009 championships already set to head to Alaska.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disguise that took the intrepid zoologist into the crocodiles' lair

Disguise that took the intrepid zoologist into the crocodiles' lair
by NEIL SEARS and NIGEL BLUNDELL - More by this author » Last updated at 23:37pm on 10th June 2007

When Dr Brady Barr decided to dress up as a crocodile, the disguise needed to be good.

Otherwise he was in grave danger of being eaten by the real thing.

The zoologist adopted his bizarre outfit in the hope of getting closer to a colony of Nile crocodiles, which can grow up to 20ft.

His disguise was a prosthetic head attached to the front of a protective metal cage covered with canvas and a generous plastering of hippo dung to mask his human scent.

Dr Brady Barr in disguise: Within touching distance of the deadly croc

It was 13ft long - average Nile size. The head was made of glass fibre, while the frame of the body was aluminium covered with a sheet of Kevlar body armour.

Thus protected, he crawled on his hands and knees up to the fearsome reptiles, close enough to touch them.

The most dramatic moment in a documentary film about Dr Barr comes when he is approaching the largest croc on the riverbank - and mistakenly makes a sudden movement. It suddenly turns to face him head-to-head. Dr Barr whispers into his microphone: "Oh, the big one is moving towards me. He has his eye on me. I'm really nervous. I've got to back off!"

Dr Barr creeps up behind the animal he's studying

But just as he is about to retreat, another moves up behind him.

A sweating Dr Barr whispers to the camera crew: "Now I'm stuck between two giant crocs. How close is the one behind me?"

Back comes the answer: "Next to your right leg."

"So it's unsafe for me to get up and move, right?" "I would say so!"

Dr Barr, 44, claims to be unique in having studied all 23 species of crocodilian - crocodiles, alligators and caymans - in the wild.

For his latest quest, he travelled to Tanzania, where Nile crocodiles lurk in riverbank mud holes during the dry season and crowd on top of each other in burrows. When a hippo and her calf sniffed inquisitively at him, no doubt attracted by his coating of dung, he stayed as calm as possible.

"That could have been a very dangerous situation," said Texas-born Dr Barr. "And that was before I'd even seen a croc."

It's a slow crawl as a crocodile, but will the real thing spot his digital watch?

Ultimately he managed to infiltrate the crocodiles' lair and attach to their tails small hi-tech 'data loggers' which monitor their activity and give scientists biological information such as the temperatures in their dens.

At least one-third of all crocodile species are endangered, and his extraordinary activities have the aim of bringing worldwide attention to their plight.

Dr Barr inside his hippo dung-smeared croc contraption

"Crawling up to the crocs wasn't easy," he added. "Worse was scrambling inside their lair.

"Any time you do that, you are asking for trouble. I am worried that I am getting too old and slow. I'm starting to understand that I can't take as many chances as I have in the past."

• Barr's documentary launches National Geographic Channel's new series, Dangerous Encounters, next Monday at 9pm.

Offering hope to Afghan addicts

Offering hope to Afghan addicts

By Bilal Sarwary
BBC News, Kabul

Anti drugs poster at the Sanga Amaj Drug Treatment Centre for women
The anti-drugs message at the clinic is kept clear and simple

On a hot summer's night in Pakistan, 33-year-old Rahima was having a fight with her husband in a refugee camp. It came to an end when Rahima's husband forced her to consume a small opium capsule.

"This is how I became an opium addict," says Rahima. "He gave it to me thinking this might end the night's fight.

"However, I became addicted to it by mistake - a mistake that cost me dearly because my baby died four days after birth."

In the years to come, Rahima's life only continued to get worse.

"No one respected me. When I went to weddings and family events, people made fun of me and called me 'the addict'," she says.

After the fall of the Taleban, Rahima returned to Afghanistan and heard talk of the Sanga Amaj Drug Treatment Centre for women in western Kabul, funded by the US state department through the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics.

There are a lot of cases of addiction, but most addicts don't make it to clinics and centres
Dr Toorpaikay Zazi

Failings in war on drugs
Inside Afghan opium market

The first of its kind in the area, the Sanga Amaj centre is named after a female journalist who was mysteriously shot dead in Kabul a few months ago.

After only a month's treatment at Sanga Amaj, Rahima was back to normal. She now works at the centre as a janitor, earning $100 a month.

Many women in the community have sought treatment at the Sanga Amaj centre.

"They are admitted here for a month - we look after them like a family; they are eating and living here, and medication is free," says Dr Toorpaikay Zazi, the head of the centre.

"However, we have been getting too many patients and we don't have enough space to admit all of them."

According to Dr Zazi, most of these women are pressurised into addiction by their husbands.

"They do it because their husbands urge them to do it. Others do it because they can't afford medicine, and there simply aren't any clinics in the rural areas," she says.


Thirty-year-old Basmina, another patient at the centre, became drawn to opium after observing her cousin's drug use.

Fearing retribution from her husband, Basmina has been forced to lie to her family, stating merely that she is sick and undergoing normal treatment in a Kabul hospital.

Ward at the Sanga Amaj Drug Treatment Centre for women
Sanga Amaj is one of the few women-only clinics in the country

"My cousin was consuming opium - her husband was beating her all the time," she says. "One day I asked her to let me try some, and since then I have been addicted. Since I have been admitted here, I have started to regain control of my life."

Rahima is one of hundreds of Afghan women who are addicted to opium, heroin and hashish, says Mohammad Nasib, managing director of the Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan (Wadan).

The institution runs similar treatment centres in the Afghan provinces of Ghazni, Paktia, Helmand and Nimruz.

"It's a big social stigma to be a drug addict. Most of our programmes for female addicts are community-based - we treat them mostly in their houses."

In Helmand province alone, Wadan's drug treatment centre has 900 patients on the waiting list, some of them female.

"We treat female addicts only at community-based and home-based settings, emphatically not at residential facilities," says Mr Nasib.

A recent survey conducted by the Sanga Amaj centre suggests there are hundreds of drug addicts in the local community.

"There are a lot of cases of addiction, but most addicts don't make it to clinics and centres," says Dr Zazi.

This year Afghanistan's poppy production has hit record highs once again, a disheartening situation that is predicted to worsen.

Anti drugs poster at the Sanga Amaj Drug Treatment Centre for women
'Drugs kill' is the simple but effective message

Afghan poppy production accounts for more than 90% of the world's opium trade, and the nation has continued to accumulate addicts within its own borders - it is estimated that there are 50,000 cases of addiction in Kabul alone.

Most of these addicts are believed to be refugees who have returned to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan in recent years.

A recent Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UN Office of Drugs and Crime joint survey said there were 920,000 addicts in Afghanistan, an estimated 120,000 of whom are women.

Gone are the days when Afghan opium was only hitting the streets of the UK and mainland Europe - it is now clear that it is also having a devastating effect on the nation's own citizens.

Just before I leave the centre, Rahima has a final message for Afghan women.

"Being a drug addict is being away from humanity - you don't have the respect of anyone - you become useless.

"Being a drug addict was my past, not my future," says Rahima with a smiling face, busy cleaning dishes in the kitchen.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nuke plants in Utah would pose public health risks

Nuke plants in Utah would pose public health risks
By Joseph Mangano
Article Last Updated: 08/25/2007 12:14:12 PM MDT

Some state legislators are making great efforts to change state law so that nuclear reactors can be built in Utah. They believe that nuclear power is "clean" because it doesn't emit greenhouse gases. But is it clean, or is it a threat to public health?
Utah is no stranger to the health hazards of radiation. Fallout from Nevada atomic bomb tests and occupational exposure of uranium miners, millers and transporters have affected many. For years, even as evidence grew, officials denied that anyone was harmed.
Only in 1990 did Congress finally acknowledge these risks when it enacted a program to compensate bomb-test downwinders and uranium workers from the Cold War era.
A more recent threat was/is the plan of nuclear utilities to build a temporary nuclear waste storage facility at the Skull Valley Goshute reservation 45 miles from Salt Lake City. Again, industry and government give assurances that the waste will be safely transferred to and stored at the site. But with massive amounts of waste planned for Skull Valley, a new threat (worse than bomb fallout and uranium mining) would be posed.
Now there is a push for nuclear power reactors to produce electricity to meet the state's growing demand. Although they produce no greenhouse gases, reactors routinely do produce over 100 radioactive chemicals - the same cocktail found in bomb-test fallout. These chemicals, which include Cesium-137,

Iodine-131 and Strontium-90, all cause cancer. Some decay quickly; others last for hundreds and thousands of years.
The equivalent of several hundred Hiroshima bombs exists in a typical reactor. A large-scale release from mechanical failure or act of sabotage would be the worst environmental disaster in American history, exposing thousands to radioactivity, causing widespread suffering from acute radiation poisoning and cancer.
But another Chernobyl or 9/11 is not necessary for reactors to cause harm, as they routinely release a small portion of the 100-plus radioactive chemicals into the air and water. These products enter human bodies through breathing and the food chain, and attack healthy cells. They are especially toxic to the fetus, infant and child.
When reactors were first built, low-dose exposures to radioactivity were presumed to be too small to harm humans. But considerable evidence indicates otherwise. Pelvic X-rays of pregnant women were stopped after studies showed a doubling in the risk of the child dying of cancer. A 2005 study by experts at the National Academy of Sciences examined many scientific studies and concluded that there was no safe level of exposure.
Utah is a state with low poverty and unemployment, and high income and educational levels. There is no obvious reason why state disease rates should exceed the U.S rate as a whole. For most types of cancer, rates are in fact lower. But cancer mortality in Utah children is slightly above the national rate - even though the death rate for all other causes is below it.
Incidence of thyroid cancer, which is especially sensitive to radioactive iodine in fallout, is 26 percent above the national rate. Although many factors may account for these types of cancers, none is obvious, and previous exposures to radioactivity must be considered.
The experience of the past half century suggests that caution should be taken before any nuclear reactor operates in Utah. Potential health hazards of nuclear reactors are serious and would persist for generations. Other options for generating electricity that pose no threat to public health, such as solar and wind power, should be taken seriously.
* JOSEPH MANGANO is executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, a research organization based in New York.

Under the hood of the $100 laptop

And another first for my blog embedded video, glad that I don't have to pay the download costs. That's the coolest part thanks Blogger -gregor

Under the hood of the $100 laptop
By Andrew Webb

$100 Laptop's chief software engineer Chris Blizzard on how the innovative memory and screen save energy.

Embed this video on your site
Watch in the News Player

A team of US-based researchers, backed by a billionaire, have re-invented the computer in an attempt to revolutionise education in the developing world.

The engineers who designed the energy efficient laptop have thrown out a whole host of conventional ideas in order to produce a computer that will be useful in nations where electricity is in short supply.

Prototype laptop

Dubbed the $100 laptop, though the first models are more likely to cost $170, the light and robust machine outwardly resembles a toy but look inside and it reveals itself to be a very serious device.

At its heart is a processor running at 433 Mhz - fast enough to write an essay, surf the internet, or make a video call.

Power saving

This is throttled back so it stays cool on its own without the need for a power guzzling fan. It is the first of many tricks that ensure the battery can power the laptop for 13 hours.

More energy is saved by removing the need for a backlight on the display. It uses natural light so it can be read in brilliant sunshine.

The coup de grace is that when the computer goes to sleep and the CPU is hibernating the screen is still readable.

Data design

The engineers have also re-thought storage.

"One of the things in laptops that take up a lot of power is actually the hard drive. It is actually spinning around as a motor. It just uses up a lot of power," said OLPC designer Chris Blizzard.

"...there are no moving parts that require motors. It also has to do with reliability but it is mostly to do with power at this point.

"And there is a storage chip that is on the motherboard where you put your files instead of a hard drive."

Students with laptops at a school in Nigeria
Field testing of the laptops was done in Nigeria and Brazil
The XO operating system for the OLPC is custom built and adapted from Linux to slash the amount of power the chip requires. It uses applications which make far fewer demands on the processor than in a conventional computer.

The laptop is expected to be used in schools so educational programs feature heavily in its software roster.

It also has onboard programs familiar to even the most sophisticated users in the developed world, like a web browser, adapted from Firefox.


Getting connected is done via the miniature antennae which, like FM radio aerials, can be moved to receive the best wi-fi signal. That cuts power usage compared to concealed wi-fi cards, which drain batteries quickly when struggling to receive weak signals.

The plan is to use the laptops to form a mesh wi-fi network to spread net access around remote villages. Each machine relays data to its neighbours until the information reaches a satellite base unit that connects directly to the world wide web.

What we are hoping is you will be able to get a 10 to one ratio - that is for each minute you pull and crank on the laptop you can get 10 minutes use out of it
Chris Blizzard, designer
In stand-by mode the laptop should be able to act as a wi-fi router for around 24 hours without being charged.

When the laptop does need charging, but electricity supplies are scant, good old-fashioned elbow grease can generate power.

"One of the things that has been developed in concert with the laptop is a device that can be used to power it," said Mr Blizzard.

The OLPC is fitted with a ripcord that owners can crank to power up the device.

"What we are hoping is you will be able to get a 10 to one ratio - that is for each minute you pull and crank on the laptop you can get 10 minutes use out of it."

The naysayers

Despite the success of the design, established aid agencies have criticised the concept of giving computers to some of the most impoverished nations.

"The big priorities for all these countries need to be to get all children into schools in a manageable class size," said David Archer of Action Air International.

"That means employing more teachers and having some fundamentally basic materials in schools. I am afraid that putting laptops into the schools is not the first priority for these countries."

But with backing from the likes of Google, Wikipedia, and AMD, the One Laptop Per Child Project's founder is brushing aside comments from non-believers.

Nicholas Negroponte
Professor Negroponte first proposed the laptop in 2002
"Keep in mind I don't have shareholders. It makes no difference to us whether so many go out one quarter [or not]," said Nicholas Negroponte.

"What we want to maximise is how fast children get these around the world or get alternates to this."

The competition

Nevertheless, the One Laptop Per Child Project is facing serious competition from at least two directions.

"The first front is from Intel, which has a classmate PC project. It is significantly more expensive, estimated at $400," says Ken Fisher from Ars Technica, a PC enthusiasts website.

"Also Microsoft has announced that it is selling a reduced rate Windows and Office package for $3 in certain countries."

"So, in terms of the project not being able to worry about money I think that is a very naive point of view."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Egypt footprint 'could be oldest'

Egypt footprint 'could be oldest'

Archaeologists in Egypt say they have discovered what might be the oldest human footprint ever found.

The outline was found imprinted in mud, which has since turned to stone, at Siwa oasis in the western desert.

"This could go back about two million years," antiquities council chief Zahi Hawass was quoted by Reuters as saying.

However Khaled Saad, director of pre-history at the council, said it could be older still, and pre-date Ethiopia's 3m-year-old skeleton, Lucy.

Lucy, discovered in 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia, is an extinct Australopithecus afarensis hominid estimated to be 3.2 million years old.

Creatures of her kind are assumed to have left the feet impressions recorded in volcanic ash at Laetoli in Tanzania. These prints have been dated to 3.6 million years ago.

The oldest footprints (and handprints) known to be associated with Homo (human) species are recorded in volcanic rocks at Roccamonfina in Italy. These are about 350,000 years old.

Commenting on the new discovery - which has yet to be reviewed by independent scientists - Mr Hawass said: "It could be the most important discovery in Egypt."

Until now the earliest evidence of human activity found in Egypt, most famous for the era of the pharaohs, dates from about 200,000 years ago.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The secret history of the Nazi mascot

The secret history of the Nazi mascot
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Melbourne

Alex Kurzem came to Australia in 1949 carrying just a small brown briefcase, but weighed down by some harrowing psychological and emotional baggage.

Tucked away in his briefcase were the secrets of his past - fragments of his life that he kept hidden for decades.

Black and white image of young Alex Kurzem in uniform, sitting on a soldier's knee

Alex was forced to keep his Jewish identity hidden

In 1997, after raising a family in Melbourne with his Australian bride, he finally revealed himself. He told how, at the age of five, he had been adopted by the SS and became a Nazi mascot.

His personal history, one of the most remarkable stories to emerge from World War II, was published recently in a book entitled The Mascot.

"They gave me a uniform, a little gun and little pistol," Alex told the BBC.

"They gave me little jobs to do - to polish shoes, carry water or light a fire. But my main job was to entertain the soldiers. To make them feel a bit happier."

Painful memories

In newsreels, he was paraded as 'the Reich's youngest Nazi' and he witnessed some unspeakable atrocities.

But his SS masters never discovered the most essential detail about his life: their little Nazi mascot was Jewish.

"They didn't know that I was a Jewish boy who had escaped a Nazi death squad. They thought I was a Russian orphan."

His story starts where his childhood memories begin - in a village in Belarus on 20 October 1941, the day it was invaded by the German army.
Black and white image of young Alex Kurzem in uniform
When the shooting stopped I had no idea where to go so I went to live in the forests, because I couldn't go back. I was the only one left

"I remember the German army invading the village, lining up all the men in the city square and shooting them. My mother told me that my father had been killed, and that we would all be killed."

"I didn't want to die, so in the middle of the night I tried to escape. I went to kiss my mother goodbye, and ran up into the hill overlooking the village until the morning came."

That was the day his family was massacred - his mother, his brother, his sister.

"I was very traumatised. I remember biting my hand so I couldn't cry out loud, because if I did they would have seen me hiding in the forest. I can't remember exactly what happened. I think I must have passed out a few times. It was terrible."

False identity

"When the shooting stopped I had no idea where to go so I went to live in the forests, because I couldn't go back. I was the only one left. I must have been five or six."

"I went into the forest but no-one wanted me. I knocked on peoples' doors and they gave me bits of bread but they told me to move on. Nobody took me in."

He survived by scavenging clothes from the bodies of dead soldiers.

After about nine months in the forest, a local man handed him over to the Latvian police brigade, which later became incorporated in the Nazi SS.

That very day, people were being lined up for execution, and Alex thought he, too, was about to die.

"There was a soldier near me and I said, 'Before you kill me, can you give me a bit of bread?' He looked at me, and took me around the back of the school. He examined me and saw that I was Jewish. "No good, no good," he said. 'Look I don't want to kill, but I can't leave you here because you will perish.

"'I'll take you with me, give you a new name and tell the other soldiers that you are a Russian orphan.'"

Joining the circus

To this day, Alex Kurzem has no idea why Sergeant Jekabs Kulis took pity on him. Whatever his motives, it certainly helped that Alex had Aryan looks. And together, they kept the secret.

"Every moment I had to remind myself not to let my guard down, because if ever anyone found out, I was dead. I was scared of the Russians shooting me and the Germans discovering I was Jewish. I had no-one to turn to."

Alex Kurzem (l) and his wife
Alex Kurzem kept the secret from his wife and family for decades

Young Alex saw action on the Russian front, and was even used by the SS to lure Jewish people to their deaths.

Outside the cattle trains which carried victims to the concentration camps, he handed out chocolate bars to tempt them in.

Then, in 1944, with the Nazis facing almost certain defeat, the commander of the SS unit sent him to live with a Latvian family.

Five years later, he managed to reach Australia. For a time, he worked in a circus and eventually became a television repair man in Melbourne.

All the time, he kept his past life to himself, not even telling his Australian wife, Patricia.

"When I left Europe I said 'forget about your past. You are going to a new country and a new life. Switch off and don't even think about it.'

"I managed to do it. I told people I lost my parents in the war, but I didn't go into detail. I kept the secret and never told anyone."

It was not until 1997 that he finally told his family, and along with his son, Mark, set about discovering more about his past life.

After visiting the village where he was born, they found out his real name was Ilya Galperin, and even uncovered a film in a Latvian archive of Alex in full SS regalia.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rare dead star found near Earth

Rare dead star found near Earth

Neutron star artwork, Image: Casey Reed/Penn State
Neutron stars form when massive stars exhaust their fuel
Astronomers have spotted a space oddity in Earth's neighbourhood - a dead star with some unusual characteristics.

The object, known as a neutron star, was studied using space telescopes and ground-based observatories.

But this one, located in the constellation Ursa Minor, seems to lack some key characteristics found in other neutron stars.

Details of the study, by a team of American and Canadian researchers, will appear in the Astrophysical Journal.

If confirmed, it would be only the eighth known "isolated neutron star" - meaning a neutron star that does not have an associated supernova remnant, binary companion, or radio pulsations.

Either Calvera is an unusual example of a known type of neutron star, or it is some new type of neutron star, the first of its kind
Robert Rutledge, McGill University
The object has been nicknamed Calvera, after the villain in the 1960s western film The Magnificent Seven.

"The seven previously known isolated neutron stars are known collectively as The Magnificent Seven within the community," said co-author Derek Fox, of Pennsylvania State University, US.

"So the name Calvera is a bit of an inside joke on our part."

The authors estimate that the object is 250 to 1,000 light-years away. This would make Calvera one of the closest neutron stars to Earth - and possibly the closest.

Neutron stars are one of the possible end points for a star. They are created when stars with masses greater than four to eight times those of our Sun exhaust their nuclear fuel, and undergo a supernova explosion.

This explosion blows off the outer layers of the star, forming a supernova remnant. The central region of the star collapses under gravity, causing protons and electrons to combine to form neutrons - hence the name "neutron star".

Data search

Robert Rutledge of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, originally noticed the object.

He compared a catalogue of 18,000 X-ray sources from the German-American Rosat satellite, which operated from 1990 to 1999, with catalogues of objects that appeared in visible light, infrared light, and radio waves.

Artist's impression of Swift, Nasa
Swift was launched to observe gamma-ray bursts
Professor Rutledge realized that a Rosat source, known as 1RXS J141256.0+792204, did not appear to have a counterpart at any other wavelength.

The group aimed Nasa's Swift satellite at the object in August 2006. Swift's X-ray telescope showed that the source was still there, and was emitting about the same amount of X-ray energy as it had during the Rosat era.

The Swift observations enabled the group to pinpoint the object's position more accurately, and showed that it was not associated with any known astronomical object.

The researchers followed up with the 8.1m Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii and a short observation by Nasa's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Unusual properties

Exactly what type of neutron star Calvera is remains a mystery. According to Dr Rutledge, there are no widely accepted alternative theories to explain objects such as this that are bright in X-rays and faint in visible light.

"Either Calvera is an unusual example of a known type of neutron star, or it is some new type of neutron star, the first of its kind," said Dr Rutledge.

Calvera's location high above the plane of our Milky Way galaxy is also a mystery. The researchers believe the object is the remnant of a star that lived in our galaxy's starry disc before exploding as a supernova.

In order to reach its current position, it had to wander some distance out of the disc.

Stone age chewing gum

Stone age chewing gum

Las month, student Sarah Pickin found a piece of "Neolithic chewing gum" on an archaeological dig in Oulu, Finland. The gum, a hunk of birch bark, was likely chewed 5,000 or 6,000 years ago. From the Associated Press:

Kuvat Purupihka"Most likely the lump was used as an antique kind of chewing gum," said Sami Viljamaa, an archaeologist who led the dig near Oulu, some 380 miles north of the capital, Helsinki. "But its main purpose was to fix things..."

The ancient Finnish habit of chewing gum surged in the 1980s when Finnish scientists discovered that gum containing xylitol, a natural sweetener found in plant tissue including birch trees, prevents tooth decay.

Link to Washington Post, Link to Kierikki Excavation press release

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Shopping & Roller coasting at the same time

This has to be the ultimate stoner muncher ride I have ever seen, almost makes me want eto smoke and ride and munch my way around the store, of course if you miss something you have to go all the way around the store. Now lets see if they can set one up in a Walmart :-) LOL link at bottom of article -gregor

A grocery store in Shenyang, China, has installed a dark-ride-style ride-system that weaves among the shelves. Shoppers climb into the cars and ride through the store, grabbing their groceries as they go. If you miss your shelf, you have to ride through again. Of course, the store also gets to totally engineer your retail experience, taking you past impulse items at eye-level, etc. Link

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Photo tool could fix bad images

This could be a good think for a lot of folks,Good idea, for folks that thank want better shots than there skills or the situation allowes. Life is shot especiaqll on vacation, trying to get that perfect shot-gregor

Photo tool could fix bad images

By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, BBC News website, San Diego

This is the original image with a roof spoiling the view...
Digital photographers could soon be able to erase unwanted elements in photos by using tools that scan for similar images in online libraries.

Research teams have developed an algorithm that uses sites like Flickr to help discover light sources, camera position and composition in a photo.

Step One
Using this data the tools then search for objects, such as landscapes or cars, that match the original.

The teams aim to create image libraries that anyone can use to edit snaps.

Stage two
Stage one: The roof is isolated and the algorithm searches for similar scenes

James Hays and Alexei Efros from Carnegie Mellon University have developed an algorithm to help people who want to remove bits of photographs.

The parts being removed could be unsightly lorries in the snaps of the rural idyll where they took a holiday or even an old boyfriend or girlfriend they want to rub out from a photograph.

To find suitable matching elements, the research duo's algorithm looks through a database of 2.3 million images culled from Flickr.

"We search for other scenes that share as closely as possible the same semantic scene data," said Mr Hays, who has been showing off the project at the computer graphics conference Siggraph, in San Diego.

In this sense "semantic" means composition. So a snap of a lake in the foreground, hills in a band in the middle and sunset above has, as far as the algorithm is concerned, very different "semantics" to one of a city with a river running through it.

Stage three
Stage two: It compares photos online to find a matching scene

The broad-based analysis cuts out more than 99.9% of the images in the database, said Mr Hays. The algorithm then picks the closest 200 for further analysis.

Next the algorithm searches the 200 to see if they have elements, such as hillsides or even buildings, the right size and colours for the hole to be filled.

The useful parts of the 20 best scenes are then cropped, added to the image being edited so the best fit can be chosen.

Early tests of the algorithm show that only 30% of the images altered with it could be spotted, said Mr Hays.

The other approach aims to use net-based image libraries to create a clip-art of objects that, once inserted into a photograph, look convincing.

Stage three: The finished picture has the roof removed and boats in a bay added

"We want to generate objects of high realism while keeping the ease of use of a clip art library," said Jean-Francois Lalonde of Carnegie Mellon University who led the research.

To generate its clip art for photographs the team has drawn on the net's Label Me library of images which has many objects, such as people, trees and cars, cut out and tagged by its users.

The challenge, said Mr Lalonde, was working out which images in the Label Me database will be useful and convincing when inserted into photographs.

The algorithm developed by Mr Lalonde and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and Microsoft Research analyses scenes to find out the orientation of objects and the sources of light in a scene.

"We use the height of the people in the image to estimate the height of the camera used to take the picture," he said.

The light sources in a scene are worked out by looking at the distribution of colour shades within three broad regions, ground, vertical planes and sky, in the image.

Step Four
With knowledge about the position, pitch and height of the camera and light sources the algorithm then looks for images in the clip art database that were taken from similar positions and with similar pixel heights.

The group has created an interface for the database of photo clipart so people can pick which elements they want to add to a scene.

Universal sells songs without DRM

It's about time these companies realized they were shooting them selves in the foot and finally came aroud-gregor

Universal sells songs without DRM

Amy Winehouse at Glastonbury
Amy Winehouse is one of Universal's artists
Vivendi's Universal Music has said it is to test the digital sale of songs from artists without the customary copy-protection technology.

It will allow the sale of thousands of albums and tracks available in MP3-form without the protection, known as digital rights management (DRM).

Most major recording studios insist music sellers use DRM technology to curb online piracy.

Universal artists include 50 Cent, the Black Eyed Peas, and Amy Winehouse.

Universal said: "The experiment will run from August to January and analyze such factors as consumer demand, price sensitivity and piracy in regards to the availability of open MP3s."

Retailers including Google, Wal-Mart, and, will participate in the DRM-free trial, Universal said.

But participants do not include Apple iTunes online music store, the third largest music retailer in the US.