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Archive for September 2012

Animated tower – and a lot of cooperative folks inside

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This animation was made by people opening and shutting window shutters on the 11-story HESAV (Health High School Vaud) in Switzerland. It was produced by Guillaume Reymond for NOTsoNOISY. The second half of the video shows what making this was like from the other side.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm

School bans parents at school sports without criminal record check

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A school has banned parents from watching their children take part in sports events – unless they pass a criminal records check. Parents have been banned from watching their children compete at sports unless they have been vetted by police.

The Isambard Community School in Swindon, Wilts., insists all parents must clear a Criminal Records Bureau check to weed out potential paedophiles.

Neil Park, 54, was furious when he was turned away from watching his son George, 12, play rugby.

The father-of-five said: “I was turned away from the school because I had not been CRB checked.

“I couldn’t believe it. Government guidelines state that parents are allowed to watch games…But any strangers can be questioned and requested to show the appropriate paperwork, which is fair enough…

The school introduced the new measure at the start of the term to prevent strangers from accessing other parts of the school from the playing fields.

A spokesman said: “It is with regret that from now on we will be unable to accommodate parents wishing to spectate at our sports fixtures unless they are in possession of an up-to-date Swindon Council CRB check.

You can always count on the Brits to lead the way in Nanny State political correctness.

This is a logical next step for right-wing nutballs in places as backwards as Arizona and, apparently, Swindon. The “show your papers” syndrome. They are prepared to “protect” children until everyone in the land is required to show an appropriate license for every step they take.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Police chief resigns – only certified member left on the force is the dog

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The police chief of the small eastern New Mexico town of Vaughn resigned Wednesday, leaving the town with just one certified member on its police force – a drug-sniffing dog named Nikka.

Dave Romero, attorney for the town, said Wednesday that police Chief Ernest “Chris” Armijo decided to step down after news stories reported that he wasn’t allowed to carry a gun because of his criminal background.

“He decided the attention was distracting,” Romero said.

State officials said Armijo couldn’t carry a gun since acknowledging that he owed tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent child support payments in Texas. Armijo also faces new felony charges after being accused of selling a town-owned rifle and pocketing the cash.

According to records, the only qualified member of the Vaughn Police Department is Nikka, a drug-sniffing dog. Vaughn’s other officer isn’t certified and pleaded guilty to charges of assault and battery last year. Noncertified officers can’t make arrests and can’t carry firearms.

Vaughn…is a quiet town that is an overnight stop for railroad workers. And while residents say there is no crime problem, the town is set deep in what U.S. Homeland Security Investigations officials say is an isolated region of the state popular with drug traffickers. Officials say the desolate roads in Guadalupe County make it hard for authorities to catch smugglers moving drugs from Mexico…

At Penny’s Diner, residents said they were embarrassed by the attention the episode has put on the small town.

“There’s just a whole lot of nothing going on here,” said cook Joyce Tabor. “We have very little crime. It’s quiet. So this really doesn’t matter.”

If you’re ever in that neck of the prairie, do stop in to eat at Penny’s. When I used to be on the road, that always was a reasonable place in the middle of nowhere to get a decent meal.

Oh – a comment on the problem? Pretty typical for a state which battles Mississippi for nationwide leadership in no skills, no education and opportunist local politicians.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Cytori’s stem cell therapy wins government research contract for treatment of burns

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Cytori Therapeutics (CYTX), a biotechnology company…won a $4.7 million U.S. government contract to develop a stem cell therapy to treat burns caused by thermal or radioactive bombs…

“We’re seeing a lot of momentum,” Chief Executive Officer Christopher Calhoun said today in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “This contract is one more major thing that we are delivering on, and there is more to come…”

Cytori’s experimental therapy takes adipose tissue, or body fat, from a patient and through its device separates the adult stem and regenerative cells before transferring them to a burn wound. Money from the contract will be used to develop the device and take it through the U.S. regulatory approval process with the Food and Drug Administration, Calhoun said.

“These cells help to facilitate the healing of the injury,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “They release growth factors that stimulate new blood flow.”

Testing the technology in a clinical trial and getting approval may take five years, Calhoun said. The company is currently testing its therapy for other soft tissue damage, as well as cardiovascular disease.

Once approved, the device will be deployed in hospitals across the country, and can be used for routine burns as well as a treatment for patients in wake of a “mass casualty event” that could injure 10,000 people…

If I understood the discussion with Calhoun on Bloomberg TV, similar governmental research for approval moved ahead in the EU almost 2 years ago. And, of course, government agencies here can nudge the FDA to get off their rusty dusty by starting their own trials of new techniques fighting illness and injury.

I watched the interview with Calhoun and was impressed. The science appears sound, contributing more to knowledge of the critical role stem cell research can play in cures for any number of ailments. Too bad we lost as much time as we did because of objections from the anti-science crowd led by religious fundamentalists. Absurd in a nation supposedly honoring separation of church and state.

Of course, that’s part of the ongoing struggle to defend freedoms won decades ago – on choice, civil rights, voting rights. Most Americans have hearts that are left of center on political and social questions. But, they don’t hurl their money or noise around like the right-wing does.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

Cyber attacks on U.S. Banks expose Internet vulnerability

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Cyber attacks on the biggest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., have breached some of the nation’s most advanced computer defenses and exposed the vulnerability of its infrastructure…

The attack, which a U.S. official yesterday said was waged by a still-unidentified group outside the country, flooded bank websites with traffic, rendering them unavailable to consumers and disrupting transactions for hours at a time.

Such a sustained network attack ranks among the worst-case scenarios envisioned by the National Security Agency, according to the U.S. official, who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly. The extent of the damage may not be known for weeks or months, said the official, who has access to classified information…

While the group is using a method known as distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, to overwhelm financial-industry websites with traffic from hijacked computers, the attacks have taken control of commercial servers that have much more power, according to the specialists.

“The notable thing is the volume and the scale of the traffic that’s been directed at these sites, and that’s very rare,” Dmitri Alperovitch, CTO of Palo Alto, California-based security firm CrowdStrike…

President Barack Obama’s administration is circulating a draft executive order that would create a program to shield vital computer networks from cyber attacks…

The U.S. Senate last month failed to advance comprehensive cybersecurity legislation and the administration is contemplating using the executive order because it’s not certain that Congress can pass a cybersecurity bill, officials said.

So, aside from a qualitatively new style of DDOS attack on Web operability, we are reminded once more of the incompetence of the elected officials taking up space in Congress.

Which irks you the most? Irresponsible script kiddies masquerading as hackers or irresponsible ideologues masquerading as politicians?

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2012 at 6:00 am

Seagull steals GoPro camera snapping San Francisco sunset

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Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2012 at 12:17 am

Hitachi develops incorruptible quartz glass-based data storage

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Back when compact discs were first coming out, they were touted as being able to store data “forever.” As it turns out, given no more than a decade or so, they can and do degrade.,,Hitachi has unveiled a system that really may allow data to last forever – or at least, for several hundred million years. It involves forming microscopic dots within a piece of quartz glass, those dots serving as binary code.

The idea is that eons after the dots are applied to the glass, a person (or whatever’s around then) should be able to easily read them using nothing more than an optical microscope – no medium-specific device, such as a CD player, will be necessary. Hopefully, the concept of binary code will still be understood.

The current prototype measures two centimeters (0.8 inches) square by two millimeters thick, and incorporates four layers of dots. It currently has a memory capacity of 40 megabytes per square inch, which is roughly equivalent to that of a music CD. The researchers believe, however, that adding more layers to boost its capacity should be doable.

The glass square has withstood exposure to high-temperature flames along with various harsh chemicals, and survived being heated to 1,000º C for two hours. Not surprisingly, it is also unaffected by radio waves or immersion in water. Of course, glass is breakable, although quartz is known for being particularly hard…

Human beings aren’t especially good at long-term conceptualizing. Wall Street types think it’s a big deal to understand the value of information beyond 3 months. Most politicians think in terms of a year or two. The spookier types who prattle about Methuselah and Noah walk around with all their knowledge stuck into a paper volume assembled by a committee only 7 centuries ago – and first editions are stuck in museums.

Having original and basic knowledge recorded and accessible for millenia makes all the sense in the world. Aiding future historians with insight into the dimness of our earlier visions, records.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Man comes to his sister’s aid – kills burglar – his own son

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A Connecticut man responding to his sister’s call for help during an apparent burglary at her home next door, shot and killed a masked intruder who turned out to be his own teenage son…

Tyler Giuliano, 15, was wearing a ski mask and appeared to be armed when he was shot on Thursday by his father, who authorities declined to identify, said Lieutenant J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police.

The father’s sister, who lives next door, was home alone before 1 a.m. when she called him to report someone trying to break into her home. The father went over to investigate and was approached by a masked person dressed entirely in black and holding a shiny object…

“Believing the suspect was armed with a weapon and about to attack him, the (father) discharged his personal handgun at the suspect,” police said.

Giuliano was pronounced dead at the scene.

“(He) was lying on the ground in the driveway with obvious gunshot injuries, holding a weapon,” the statement said.

Vance declined to further describe the weapon.

Phew! You could write fourteen books, movie and TV scripts for this one.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Pic of the Day

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REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and representing Mona Lisa is pictured behind a curtain during a preview presentation in a vault in Geneva September 26, 2012.

The Mona Lisa Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Zurich, will present September 27, a painting and historical, comparative and scientific evidence, which demonstrate that there have always been two portraits of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the “Earlier Version”, made 10 years earlier than the “Joconde” that is displayed in Le Louvre in Paris.

Fascinating. She looks younger to me – and definitely more demure. :)

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

Bored? Here’s why — maybe!

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Canadian researchers — including a professor from the University of Guelph — have come up with a new, precise definition of boredom based on the mental processes that underlie the condition.

Although many people may see boredom as trivial and temporary, it actually is linked to a range of psychological, social and health problems, says Guelph psychology professor Mark Fenske. He’s among authors of a new study in Perspectives on Psychological Science…

“It’s an amazingly under-studied area given how universal the experience is,” Fenske said.

“The fact that it’s difficult to define is, in part, why there has been so little research done. We need to have a common definition, something we all can agree on, of what boredom is.”

A scientific definition is needed, not only to accommodate the different characteristics of boredom that have already been established, but also to bridge across a variety of theoretical perspectives, Fenske added.

The researchers, led by York University professor John Eastwood, set out to better understand the mental processes that fuel feelings of boredom.

They found that attention and awareness are keys to the aimless state. After reviewing existing psychological science and neuroscience studies, they defined boredom as “an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity,” which arises from failures in one of the brain’s attention networks.

In other words, you become bored when:

• you have difficulty paying attention to the internal information, such as thoughts or feelings, or outside stimuli required to take part in satisfying activity;

• you are aware that you’re having difficulty paying attention; and

• you blame the environment for your sorry state (“This task is boring”; “There is nothing to do”).

“At the heart of it is our desire to engage with the world or some other mental activity, and that takes attention,” Fenske said. “When we cannot do this —that seems to be what leads to frustration and the aversive state we call ‘boredom.’”

I hope you don’t find this topic, uh, boring!

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2012 at 6:00 am

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