Scientists evaluate Big Balls in Costa Rica

The ancient stone spheres of Costa Rica were made world-famous by the opening sequence of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” when a mockup of one of the mysterious relics nearly crushed Indiana Jones. So perhaps John Hoopes is the closest thing at the University of Kansas to the movie action hero.

Hoopes, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Global Indigenous Nations Studies Program, recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica where he and colleagues evaluated the stone balls for UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization that might grant the spheres World Heritage Status…

Hoopes, who researches ancient cultures of Central and South America, is one of the world’s foremost experts on the Costa Rican spheres. He explained that although the stone spheres are very old, international interest in them is still growing.

“The earliest reports of the stones come from the late 19th century, but they weren’t really reported scientifically until the 1930s — so they’re a relatively recent discovery,” Hoopes said. “They remained unknown until the United Fruit Company began clearing land for banana plantations in southern Costa Rica.”

According to Hoopes, around 300 balls are known to exist, with the largest weighing 16 tons and measuring eight feet in diameter. Many of these are clustered in Costa Rica’s Diquis Delta region. Some remain pristine in the original places of discovery, but many others have been relocated or damaged due to erosion, fires and vandalism.

The KU researcher said that scientists believe the stones were first created around 600 A.D., with most dating to after 1,000 A.D. but before the Spanish conquest…

Speculation and pseudoscience have plagued general understanding of the stone spheres. For instance, publications have claimed that the balls are associated with the “lost” continent of Atlantis. Others have asserted that the balls are navigational aids or relics related to Stonehenge or the massive heads on Easter Island.

“Myths are really based on a lot of very rampant speculation about imaginary ancient civilizations or visits from extraterrestrials,” Hoopes said.

John Hoopes maintains a website to disseminate the realities of the stone balls – and to dispel some of the myths. As well as he can.

Euro court rules Google’s ad model is legal and competitive

Google Euro Street View camera cars
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Europe’s highest court ruled Google did not infringe trademark law by selling keywords to trigger ads after Louis Vuitton and others said the practice undermined their brands.

The Court of Justice of the European Union said advertisers were free to buy keywords identical to trademarks of rivals as long as consumers were not confused on the provenance of goods and services by the way ads were displayed online.

The court said that in cases where ads could confuse consumers, brand owners should invoke their rights against the advertisers concerned, not against Google — unless Google failed to act on a complaint or actively manipulated keywords.

Cripes. This part is a surprise. Sounds like the priorities of responsibility in the Robinson-Patman act in the U.S..

The ruling validates the AdWords paid-search business at the core of Google’s $23 billion online advertising operations, as well as the way competitors like Yahoo! sell ads, and gives brand owners a way to protect their trademarks.

It’s a good decision in large parts,” said Fabian Ziegenaus, an intellectual property lawyer at Linklaters.

“It does not forbid Google per se to sell trademark keywords, so the business model is not at stake, and brand owners are also protected through the decision…”

Google used to block advertisers from buying others’ brand names as keywords but changed its policy in North America in 2004 and four years later extended that to Britain and Ireland.

It says it will honor valid complaints from brand owners and prevent their rivals from using a trademarked keyword in their ad text.

Well done. I don’t always expect this level of understanding in Euro courts. Mostly because their assignment of priorities starts with protecting competitors rather than consumers.

Nintendo sees a 3D future in its 3DS

Why is this man smiling?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The Nintendo DS family of game devices will soon have a successor, and its name is the 3DS.

According to Nintendo’s announcement, today, the 3DS will boast 3D gaming capability without requiring users to wear “any special glasses” to play titles.

The company said that the 3DS will “succeed [the] ‘Nintendo DS series.'” Perhaps most importantly, the 3DS will boast backward compatibility, allowing users to play games originally built for the Nintendo DS or DSi.

Nintendo was stingy with details. It didn’t indicate how the 3D functionality would work with the 3DS. It also failed to mention how much the console would cost or what games would ship with it. Nintendo plans to offer full details on the 3DS at the E3 show in June…

Nintendo’s decision to offer a 3D gaming device will be controversial. Although the industry is seemingly doubling down on 3D technology, some are skeptical of its true appeal. And whether gamers will want to consistently view 3D games is decidedly up for debate.

Then again, Nintendo has spent the last few years taking routes that were initially scoffed at. When it first announced the Wii game console, critics were doubtful about its broader market appeal. Nearly four years later, the Wii is the world’s most popular video game console.

Will Nintendo do it to everyone, again? Their competitors are still trundling along trying to promote mediocre knockoffs of Wii tech.

Super-Sizing Jeebus

We’ve been overeating our way through ever-larger portions over the past 1,000 years, a U.S. study revealed after studying more than 50 paintings of the Biblical Last Supper.

The study, by a Cornell University professor and his brother who is a Presbyterian minister and a religious studies professor, showed that the sizes of the portions and plates in the artworks, which were painted over the past millennium, have gradually grown by between 23 and 69 percent.

This finding suggests that the phenomenon of serving bigger portions on bigger plates, which pushes people to overeat, has also occurred gradually over the same time period, said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

“The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food,” Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” said in a statement.

“We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history’s most famous dinner…”

The study found that, over the past 1,000 years, the size of the main meal has progressively grown 69 percent; plate size has increased 66 percent and bread size by about 23 percent.

Har! I believe every calorie of it.

Phony investigative journalism: CNN vs Toyota

Here’s today’s “investigative journalism” from CNN:

I won’t waste your time linking to this crap…

Auto manufacturer Toyota warned dealerships in 2002 that Camry owners were complaining about throttles surging and recommended adjustments in an electronic control unit to fix the problem, according to a document obtained by CNN.

The technical service bulletin went to every U.S. Toyota dealership in late August 2002 after some customers reported their vehicles were speeding up unexpectedly.

“Some 2002 model year Camry vehicles may exhibit a surging during light throttle input at speeds between 38-42 mph,” the bulletin states. “The Engine Control Module (ECM) calibration has been revised to correct this condition…”

The internal Toyota document was given to CNN by a group of attorneys now seeking a nationwide class-action lawsuit against the company. Clarence Ditlow said the document — not previously made public — indicates Toyota knew much earlier about an electronic connection to sudden acceleration problems. He also said the bulletin was apparently ignored or hidden from the public not only by Toyota, but also by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. – emphasis added.

The government is really hiding this information from the consumer,” Ditlow told CNN. “They’re in a conspiracy with the auto industry to keep these out of the public’s sight…”

Continue reading

Latest nutball debate tactic – smashing windows!

Kristallnacht returns as a right-wing tactic

Democratic offices in at least three states have reported instances of vandalism that party members say possibly were tied to Sunday’s historic vote on health care reform.

Early Monday morning, a glass panel at the Tucson office of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was shattered, spokesman C.J. Karamargin said. It wasn’t clear how the window was shattered, but visitors have to go through a gated courtyard to enter the office, and staffers suspect someone may have shot a pellet gun at the glass, he said…

In upstate New York, two similar incidents were reported before Sunday night’s vote, according to CNN affiliate WHEC. A brick was thrown through the window of the Monroe County Democratic Committee headquarters in Rochester, and another was tossed through a window of Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter’s office in Niagara Falls early Friday…

Another incident was reported earlier in the weekend by the Sedgwick County Democratic Party in Kansas. Party Executive Director Lyndsey Stauble told CNN that a brick with anti-Obama and anti-health care messages was thrown at the headquarters sometime late Friday or early Saturday. Nothing was taken, and no one was injured, she said, adding that a bakery next door called police…

An Alabama-based blog…says it has launched a “window war” against Democrats and has kept a tally of the recent incidents of damage, including the ones in New York and Kansas.

Michael B. Vanderboegh of Pinson, Alabama, told CNN…he called for people to break windows at Democratic headquarters at the city and county level. He said he didn’t call for the damages to congressional offices because, “I didn’t want to be responsible for anybody breaking a federal law…”

My answer is violence, by getting their attention,” he said, adding, “If we can get across to the other side, that they are within inches of provoking a civil war in this country, then that’s a good thing.”

The most corrupt political vermin gravitate to their own kind. Threats of violence escalate to overt acts of violence – and those who excuse such behavior are as corrupt as the dimwits they encourage.

Regulars here know what contempt I have for so-called anarchists who commit cruel and stupid acts of violence in the name of their purity. The history of American bigots is laced with as much violence and more. Do the bosses of the Republican Party think their reliance on mob threats would result in anything different?

OK. I calmed down a little bit. I watched a useful discussion, last night, among educated adults which included Ed Rollins. I hope his is the opinion, the guidance followed by his fellow Republicans. His description of the people I generally refer to as nutballs – is that they are despicable bigots and deserve no voice whatsoever in American politics.

I wait for Boehner and McConnell, good ol’ boys like Haley Barbour who wants to be president so bad he can taste it – to stand up like men and denounce these prototype Nazis – or will they put their hands in their pants and mumble something about how we all need more understanding?

Because that won’t stop the idiots who repudiate democracy, who would deny people’s right to vote and speak out.

BTW – It took Boehner and McConnell 3 days to stand up on their hind legs and denounce the vandals. Update: 25th March.

Google moves search service from China to Hong Kong

Google moved its China Internet search service to Hong Kong in a bid to resolve its dispute with Beijing over censored search results while keeping a foot in the world’s largest Internet market.

But comments on Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, suggested that Google’s attempt to strike a balance may not go over well with Beijing. Xinhua quoted a government official as saying Google has “violated its written promise” and is “totally wrong” by stopping censorship of its Chinese language search results.

Google said on Monday it intends to continue research and development work in China, as well as maintain a sales staff, even as it effectively stopped serving search results from its mainland Chinese site and redirected traffic to an unfiltered search site in Hong Kong.

For the average mainland Chinese Web surfer, the change is unlikely to make much difference unless they can get around government-imposed firewalls that block searches for sensitive topics like the Dalai Lama…

This is not the end of the saga, this is just the end of the chapter,” said Colin Gillis, analyst at BGC Financial. “You sort of make China look like the bad guy and you think you’re going to be selling Google phones? Good luck, we’ll see how that goes…”

“The Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement,” Google said in a post on its official Web blog on Monday.

The White House also said it was disappointed an agreement could not be reached between Google and China to allow the company to keep running Chinese search services…

Google said its decision to re-route traffic to an uncensored Hong Kong site in simplified Chinese that is specifically designed for users in mainland China is “entirely legal.”

You get the feeling everyone wishes the relationship could continue; but…

And I should note as a disclaimer I’m a shareholder in Baidu. Worth enough to buy Dim Sum for the whole family.