Dog Festival in Kathmandu

A street dog is seen after being worshipped during a dog festival in Kathmandu.

KB and I – and those few human beings close to us – are firm believers, advocates if you will, of life experienced with the guardianship of four-footed friends. The history of humankind is paired, from wolves to dogs, horses, cats and even squirrels – many variations on the theme through the long and winding road of evolution.

We always benefited from the help and companionship.

Ubuntu 8.10, with 3G support – coming this week

Early reports are that we could be hearing quite a lot of big news this week about the next generation operating system used the world over. Windows 7? Well, yeah. But really keep your eyes on Ubuntu 8.10.

Canonical Ltd. announced the upcoming availability of Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop Edition for free download on 30 October.

Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop Edition is designed for the pervasively connected digital lifestyle. With new 3G network support, users can move smoothly from wired and WiFi networks onto 3G cellphone networks while traveling. Ubuntu 8.10 is also built to be shared – users can start a quick “guest session” on the fly and let someone use their computer to surf the web or check email, while maintaining the security and integrity of their own data. And if that person really enjoys their brief session as an Ubuntu guest, they can put Ubuntu on any USB key and take it home to install on their own computer rather than having to burn a CD.

Configuration of a 3G account in a wireless deployment of Ubuntu 8.10 appears to be incredibly simplified. First appearances show that there are enough new features in this version of Ubuntu to make it worth a good, long look.

I have at least one family member already running on 3G networks via XP – who has Ubuntu living on his notebook. I’ll nudge him about the upgrade and see how it plays.

So while Microsoft news may consume a lot of oxygen throughout the technology industry this week at its developers conference, a nice bit of action could very come from the Ubuntu 8.10 launch.

The latter is a lot more interesting to me.

US new home prices at 2004 level. And your point is..?

New homes in the US changed hands at their lowest price in four years during September.

The median price of a new single-family home was $218,400 according to the US Commerce department.

Sales were up 2.7% on the previous month, beating economists’ predictions, although total sales for the month were 33% below last year’s figures.

Meanwhile, the number of unsold new homes, which stood at 394,000 at the end of September, remains near historic highs, bolstered by a large number of US home foreclosures adding more properties to the market.

Mail me a penny postcard when inflated home prices get back down to, say, 1998. That would be a median price around $152,000.

That’s around the period that hustlers discovered you could qualify an illegal migrant laborer for a single-wide by running the paperwork through your Cousin Ernie’s storefront Mortgage Loan Company. Because Ernie didn’t have to be licensed or live up to the regulations required of banks. He could dump the contract to Countrywide Mortgage or one of their peers in a week or two – and the derivative spiral got its start.

So, take me back to 1998 prices and I’ll begin to have a little confidence beyond anyone but the locally-owned bank that I know is solvent, honest and regulated.

Jury finds Stevens guilty of corruption

A jury found U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska guilty Monday of all seven counts in his federal corruption trial.

The jury found Stevens guilty of “knowingly and willfully” scheming to conceal on Senate disclosure forms more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts from an Alaska-based oil industry contractor.

Stevens faces a maximum sentence of up to to 35 years in prison — five years for each of the seven counts.

Legal experts note the judge has the discretion to give Stevens as little as no jail time and probation when he is sentenced.

Tears are optional.

Thanks, K B

Humans made fire 790,000 years ago

The ability to make fire millennia ago was likely a key factor in the migration of prehistoric hominids from Africa into Eurasia, a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology believes on the basis of findings at the Gesher Benot Ya’aqov archaeological site in Israel.

Earlier excavations there…showed that the occupants of the site – who are identified as being part of the Acheulian culture that arose in Africa about 1.6 million years ago — had mastered fire-making ability as long as 790,000 years ago. This revelation pushed back previously accepted dates for man’s fire-making ability by a half-million years.

Dr. Nira Alperson-Afil said that further, detailed investigation of burned flint at designated areas in all eight levels of civilization found at the site now shows that “concentrations of burned flint items were found in distinct areas, interpreted as representing the remnants of ancient hearths.” This tells us, she said, that once acquired, this fire-making ability was carried on over a period of many generations.

She said that other studies which have reported on the use of fire only verified the presence of burned archaeological materials, but were unable to penetrate further into the question of whether humans were “fire-makers” from the very early stages of fire-use.

The new data from Gesher Benot Ya’akov is exceptional as it preserved evidence for fire-use throughout a very long occupational sequence. This continual, habitual, use of fire suggests that these early humans were not compelled to collect that fire from natural conflagrations, rather they were able to make fire at will,” Alperson-Afil said.

Friends know that I consider Quest for Fire to be semi-autobiographical. This study is very helpful to my emotional well-being.

Muslim cleric weds girl, 12 – public outrage follows

A Muslim cleric has caused public outrage in Indonesia after marrying a 12-year-old girl. Pujianto Cahyo Widianto married the girl in the central Java city of Semarang, during an unofficial religious ceremony.

He reportedly chose her from a pool of 20 girls, before flying to Singapore with his new bride, as well as his first wife.

Investigators from Indonesia’s child protection agency said Mr Widianto had chosen the girl based on her intelligence, maturity and physical development.

He is reported to have justified his actions by saying he was emulating Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, and that he would wait until his wife reached puberty before having sex with her.

He’s already being condemned by Indonesian politicians and leading Islamic figures in the region.

Who might possibly be on his side?

Trying to retrieve cellphone – man’s arm trapped in toilet

Train of Terror

A passenger on a French train had to be rescued by firemen after having his arm sucked down the on-board toilet.

The 26-year-old victim was trapped when he tried to fish out his mobile phone, which had fallen into the toilet bowl, and fell foul of the suction system.

The high-speed TGV train had to stop for two hours while firemen cut through the train’s pipework.

The man was carried away by emergency services, with the toilet still attached to his arm.

See! All those tales of mobiles falling into toilets are true.

The same holds for the idiots who go fishing after them!

Google Earth comes to the iPhone – and it’s awesome!

Color me impressed: Google has released a custom Google Earth application for the iPhone/iPod Touch, and it’s stunning.

The Google Earth geographical software has been altered to make maximum use of the iPhone’s screen and functionality. You’re able to tilt the device to adjust your view when browsing mountainous terrain, use the ‘My Location’ feature to jump right to where you are in the blink of an eye, and use Google’s local search engine to look for information on cities, places and businesses. Google has also added additional layers to the application, namely Panoramio and Wikipedia, for geo-located high-quality photos and informative articles respectively.

As CNET points out, Google Earth for iPhone has a small Webkit-based browser to show the specific information users click on, and includes a link to the Safari browser Apple builds into the iPhone. When you click the address of a business using the local search engine, the iPhone will intercept the command and show it on the Google Maps application, enabling you to get directions instantly.

Product Manager for Google Earth Peter Birch has also announced that a similar application running on Android is high on the priority list for the future, but that there’s nothing to announce at this point.

Someday, I may get one of these critters. They are the portable platform of the future – something I realized going back to the Palm devices I used to own. Too bad Palm didn’t get it.

Does size matter? McCain hopes not

Barack Obama’s rally at the University of new Mexico
Photo by Daylife/Getty Images

Playing up his ties to the area as a senator from the neighboring state of Arizona, John McCain pitched himself to New Mexico voters as the candidate that best understands their issues…

The problem for the McCain campaign is that less than 1,000 people heard him make this argument at his rally here, compared with the 40,000 that are expected to greet Barack Obama when he arrives in town this evening.

Actually, 45,000 turned out for Barack Obama.

The McCain camp has also tried to turn Obama’s crowd sizes against him, calling him the “world’s biggest celebrity.” McCain mocked the huge numbers Obama drew in Europe at the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota. “Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent,” McCain said in August. “I’ll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day.”

Do you wonder if McCain realizes what a stupid remark that is?

But Obama’s solid lead in the polls here seem to reinforce what the crowd sizes indicate – that Obama has the edge in this state that went for Bush four years ago, no matter who their next door neighbor is.

In Europe, crisis revives old memories and even older solutions

Hoarding food for the “crisis”

“I haven’t forgotten history,” says Gert Heinz, a tax adviser in Munich. “If you depend on paper money you can lose everything. We’ve learned that the hard way after two world wars.”

So when Chancellor Angela Merkel went on television recently to tell Germans that their bank accounts were safe, Heinz, who at 68 still remembers the rows of canned food that his mother hoarded in the attic, decided he would rather be safe than sorry.

He converted another chunk of his savings into gold and stocked up on a six-month supply of rice, sugar, flour and a special brand of milk powder that lasts for half a century.

Heinz may be an extreme example, but he is not alone among Europeans who are looking for ways to protect themselves in the face of a financial storm that – at least so far – has affected them much less directly than it has many Americans. Indeed, his reaction reflects the history of a Continent that has weathered wars, revolutions and financial crises over the centuries, burnishing national convictions that are very different from those in the United States.

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