Darling River in Australia gets partial respite from slow death

An irrigation farm larger than Singapore and sucking up billions of liters of water each year has been bought by Australia’s government to help save one of the country’s most vital rivers from a slow death and climate change.

Toorale Station, a cotton farm covering 910 sq km (351 sq miles) in the west of New South Wales state, was sold to the national and state governments for almost US$19 million, one day before it was set to go to auction.

The purchase will allow 20 gigaliters — equivalent to 20,000 Olympic swimming pools — to be returned each year to the ailing Darling River, which is one of two streams flowing through the Murray-Darling basin, home to almost half the nation’s farms…

Large irrigation farms, some capable of using more water than contained in Sydney Harbor, are accused of exacerbating a long-running drought that has already wiped more than A$20 billion ($16 billion) from the A$1 trillion economy since 2002.

The property, previously owned by the Clyde Agriculture conglomerate, is primarily used for cotton growing, although Clyde also grows wheat, barley, chickpeas, canola, cottonseed, beef, lamb and mutton in the Bourke area.

Surely sounds like Lubbock and West Texas to me. The Ogalala aquifer is being sucked drier and deeper, year by year, to satisfy the demands of taxpayer-subsidized cotton growers.

Paradox of language choices in a global culture – in India

Removing English-language signage

A decade ago, the world hurtled toward a calendrical crisis, and India seized an opportunity. An affliction called the Y2K bug impended. Thousands of Indian techies were marshaled to repair the software glitch. The rest is outsourcing history.

The outsourcing boom craved English speakers. Hole-in-the-wall “academies” from Kerala to Punjab began to sell English classes for a few dollars a week. A colonizer’s language was recast in the minds of many young lower-income Indians as a language of liberation, independence and mobility.

A decade hence, Indians who have achieved that mobility may struggle to understand the newspaper headlines in Mumbai in recent days. They tell of brigades of young men shattering the windows of shops and restaurants whose signs declare their names only in English, not in the regional language Marathi.

The men are cadres of a political party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, that has electrified a section of lower middle-class youth in this city. Many of them view English as a language of exclusion: a secret code that, having become success’s prerequisite, traps millions of non-English speakers in failure.
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Fictional mad scientists quiz

Test your knowledge of literature’s mad scientists, as the world’s biggest particle collider is started up in Geneva by a group of undoubtedly very sane physicists

1. Why does Crake, in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, create a genetic pandemic that apparently kills off all human beings apart from his friend Jimmy?

– He is a power-hungry maniac

– To replace human beings with his own genetically engineered race, the Crakers

– He is madly in love with Jimmy and wants to annihilate any potential competition

– It’s a mistake – he was actually working on a virus to eliminate the common cold

The quiz carries on from there.

Hilarious, you don’t need a tinfoil hat to get it wrong.

Human Resources check out your website? 1 in 3 aren’t hired

Think he’ll be hired as account manager

Written references could become old hat for hiring managers with one in five saying they use social networking sites to research job candidates — and a third of them dismissing the candidate after what they discover…

An additional nine percent said they don’t currently use social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace to screen potential employees but they do plan to start

The top area for concern among the hiring managers with 41 percent citing this as a downfall were candidates posting information about drinking or using drugs.

The second area with 40 percent of concern were candidates posting provocative or inappropriate photographs or information.

Other areas of concern to arise from social network sites were poor communication skills, lying about qualifications, candidates using discriminatory remarks related to race, gender or religion, and an unprofessional screen name.

Try to switch on your brain before you post that photo, folks.

Cripes! Facebook for the kindergarten set

It would be easy to assume that the first month of Cameron Chase’s life followed the monotonous cycle of eat-sleep-poop familiar to any new parent. But anyone who has read his oft-updated profile on Totspot, a site billed as Facebook for children, knows better. Cameron, of Winter Garden, Florida, has lounged poolside in a bouncy seat with his grandparents, noted that Tropical Storm Fay passed by his hometown, and proclaimed that he finds the abstract Kandinsky print above his parents’ bed “very stimulating!”

Of course, these busy social networkers don’t actually post journal entries or befriend playground acquaintances themselves. Their sleep-deprived parents are behind the curtain, shaping their children’s online identities even before they are diaper-free…
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Volvo DRIVe Diesel gets 53mpg – and I can’t have one

At long last, Volvo buyers can rejoice as the company introduces its high-mpg, low-emissions diesel DRIVe series at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. The DRIVe variants of the C30, S40 and V50 are factory-ecomodded diesels that beat all European emission standards while delivering 53 mpg or better, depending upon the model. The new Volvos promise to be a hot seller for those who would rather do without the excitement of a Mini or reliability of a Toyota.

Provided, of course, they live in Europe

Volvo says the it boosted fuel economy by reducing drag and rolling resistance while improving transmission and engine efficiency. Much of the fuel savings come from attractive drag reduction techniques…Tweaks include dropping the chassis heigh 10mm, covering the radiator grille, adding wind deflectors in front of the wheels. Underbody panels improve airflow under the car. The transmission got revised ratios and lower-friction oil…Taken together, the small adjustments have helped us achieve our aim.” Volvo calls it a “holistic approach to eco-performance.”

Beyond improving fuel economy, the mods cut C02 emissions to no more than 118 grams per kilometer. For comparison, the Prius emits 104. Eco-benefits aside, we must admit the spoilers, lowered ride height and diamond-cut “Libra” rims make for one damn fine lookin’ Swede. Most importantly, the price premium for the DRIVe modification is between 150 and 450 euros ($210-630). For now, that’s a better value than any hybrid, though it doesn’t mean Ford’s dropping its investment in gas-electric drivetrains. Of course, the DRIVe series cars are available only in Europe, although it seems a few smog controls on the 1.6 liter diesel engine they use would make them ready for the United States.

When you RTFA – please note the folks writing the article must have flunked arithmetic in 2nd grade. My conversion of euros is correct – theirs isn’t.

Oh, how I wish, I wish, these critters were available Stateside. My wife’s 240DL is one of those which refuses to keel over; but, I might be able to tempt her with one of these.

And as I always say, I’d love a platform like this converted to a compact pickup.

High fashion laptops in Vivienne Tam’s spring collection

High-tech took on a fashionable twist in New York when the designer Vivienne Tam sent models down the runway clutching slim, red Hewlett-Packard laptops instead of evening bags.

“It’s a little laptop, like a fashionable clutch,” Tam said backstage before her show at which she gave a sneak peek at the limited-edition computer. “It’s so light, you could carry it anywhere.”

Her signature red peony print, the motif for her spring 2009 collection, appeared on the cover of the laptop, or “digital clutch,” which will not be available until early next year.

I wanted to give life and color to a computer,” Tam said. “Even if you’re in the office, you should feel like you’re in a garden.”

Since I’ve telecommuted for years, I actually get to work from the garden whenever I wish to.

I don’t think a peony-covered laptop would make it more enjoyable.

Sex, drugs and party favors from the oil and gas industry

A “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” existed in the federal agency that handles royalty payments from oil companies, including sexual encounters between government employees and industry representatives.

The Interior Department’s Inspector General, who has been investigating the U.S. Minerals Management Service’s Royalty-In-Kind program, said government employees who were supposed to be regulating the oil companies were engaging in drug use and having sex with industry contacts.

“Several staff admitted to illegal drug use as well as illicit sexual encounters,” Inspector General Earl Devaney wrote in a Sept. 9 memo to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

Devaney said that between 2002 and 2006, a third of the Royalty-In-Kind staff socialized with, and received a wide array of gifts and gratuities from companies with which the government was doing business.

Ah, yes, the Oil Patch Boys surely have enjoyed a party-and-a-half these last several years. Any voters out there with enough brains to consider changing mules?

The head of the department said it really wasn’t too bad. Not more than 50 government employees were involved!

University to conduct largest-ever study of how you die

The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study is to be launched by the Human Consciousness Project of the University of Southampton – an international collaboration of scientists and physicians who have joined forces to study the human brain, consciousness and clinical death.

“Contrary to popular perception,” Dr Parnia explains, “death is not a specific moment. It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.

During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present. There then follows a period of time, which may last from a few seconds to an hour or more, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process. What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process.”

A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20 per cent of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.

Doctors will be studying the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will record and compare perception vs. reality of so-called out of body experiences. No doubt this will upset several flavors of the mysterious ways and bible-thumping crowd.