Apple buys chipmaker Intrinsity

A month after the rumors first started flying, Apple finally confirmed that it has indeed purchased Intrinsity, a Texas-based chipmaker.

Apple confirmed the acquisition on Tuesday to The New York Times, though it did not disclose the purchase price or what Apple’s plans for Intrinsity are. One guess has the value at $121 million.

It’s the second chipmaker purchased by Apple in two years starting with P.A. Semi, which it bought for $278 million. It’s also the fourth acquisition Apple has made since last fall; it bought map API maker PlaceBase in October, social music site LaLa in December, and mobile ad company Quattro Wireless in January for $275 million.

Though it appears like Apple is on a bit of a shopping spree right now, the company has the funds to back it up. At the end of its second fiscal quarter of 2010, Apple reported it had accumulated $41.7 billion in cash. Though Steve Jobs told investors at the annual company meeting that he had no plans to use that to offer a dividend to shareholders, he did hint what he’d rather do instead.

You never know what opportunity is around the corner,” Jobs said at the February meeting. “We’re very fortunate that if we needed to acquire something we could write a check for it and not have to borrow money.”

American-owned company doing most of its manufacturing offshore – making a lot of money for Apple investors who are often liable to be Americans. Intrinsity provides tools, technology and design expertise to the chip industry. Based in Austin, Texas – which ain’t Republican Texas country.

Not the purest example of what can be achieved in the 21st Century economy; but, certainly more productive than the buggywhips preferred as central to a growing economy by politicians who still haven’t figured out Maynard Keynes or Franklin Roosevelt.

Parents using smartphones to entertain/teach bored kids

When Julie Sidder’s daughters were younger, her diaper bag was filled with coloring books, crayons, storybooks and little games in case one of them became restless.

Now that Sidder’s kids are 4 and 7, the diaper bag is gone, but the need for entertainment — especially in restaurants — is not, which is why two-thirds of the apps on Sidder’s iPhone are for her children.

“People have always brought toys, or something to entertain their child, into restaurants and stores,” says the mom, who lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “Now we just have better technology…”

More and more parents are discovering smartphones’ similar ability to engage squirmy kids at restaurants, in the car and anywhere else where youngsters grow bored.

Almost half of the top 100-selling education apps in the iTunes App Store were for preschool or elementary-aged children in November 2009, according to a content analysis by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which promotes digital media technologies to advance children’s learning.

Expert Carly Shuler says the reason for this — assuming the majority of 3- to 10-year-olds don’t own their own phones — is because adults are taking advantage of the smartphone’s ability to act as a mobile learning or entertainment device for their children.

Shuler, a fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (part of the Sesame Workshop) calls this phenomenon the “pass-back” effect — as in parents passing their phones back to their bored kids.

Har! And it also makes good sense – presuming you’re bright enough to make good choices of what you store on your smartphone for your kid.

NYC bystanders leave good Samaritan to die

Shocking footage of the death of Hugo Tale-Yax, a Guatemalan aged 31, was captured on CCTV cameras in the Jamaica area of Queens. The video, put up on the website of the New York Post, shows pedestrians walking and cycling past the man during the course of more than an hour as he lay in a pool of blood on the pavement.

The footage begins at about 5.40am on the morning of Sunday 18 April when a woman wearing a jacket and skirt is seen walking along the pavement. She is being followed by man in a green short-sleeve shirt who comes up to her from behind. Though it is out of camera, it is assumed that Tale-Yax came to the help of the woman as she was being attacked by the man.

The video camera then captures the attacker fleeing in the direction in which he had come, followed a few seconds later by Tale-Yax who appears to be chasing him but stumbles on the pavement and falls.

He lies there, face down, in a gathering pool of blood, having been stabbed several times in the chest with a knife.

Several people then walk by, looking down at Tale-Yax but failing to stop…

It is not until 7.23am, more than an hour after the victim collapsed, that emergency services are called…

There has been comparison to another notorious murder in Queens in 1964 when a young woman called Kitty Genovese was stabbed in the street as she came home early one morning to her apartment block. More than 10 people in the vicinity heard her repeated screams but failed to respond.

I remember the Kitty Genovese case well. Everyone pretends they don’t hear. This time, everyone pretends they don’t see anything that concerns them

And I doubt the problem is fear-based.

This land, this city is free enough of fear – at least the white middle-class – to erase that excuse. The United States of God-Bless-America could have invented “egregious” if earlier imperial nations hadn’t been ahead of us in time’s line.

If you’re only always concerned with your own problems, you ain’t too likely to notice someone else in trouble. Or dying.

Blocking pain with the aid of chile peppers

A substance similar to capsaicin, which gives chili peppers their heat, is generated at the site of pain in the human body. Scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have discovered how to block these capsaicin-like molecules and created a new class of non-addictive painkillers…

“Nearly everyone will experience persistent pain at some point in their lifetime,” Dr. Hargreaves said. “Our findings are truly exciting because they will offer physicians, dentists and patients more options in prescription pain medications. In addition, they may help circumvent the problem of addiction and dependency to pain medications, and will have the potential to benefit millions of people who suffer from chronic pain every day.”

Pain has been called a “complex epidemic” in the United States. Nearly 50 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by disease or injury. Few physicians or dentists specialize in the field of pain medicine. With pain medication options largely limited to opioids (such as morphine) and aspirin-like drugs, some patients become addicted or dependent upon these drugs, or suffer side effects such as kidney or liver damage.

Researchers at the UT Health Science Center found a new family of fatty acids, produced by the body itself, that play an important role in the biology of pain.

“Capsaicin is an ingredient in hot chili peppers and causes pain by activating a receptor called transient potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). We started out seeking the answer to the question “Why is TRPV1 consistently activated in the body upon injury or painful heat? We wanted to know how skin cells talk to pain neurons,” Dr. Hargreaves said. “What we found was much more surprising and exciting. We have discovered a family of endogenous capsaicin-like molecules that are naturally released during injury, and now we understand how to block these mechanisms with a new class of non-addictive therapies…”

The research has led Dr. Hargreaves’ team to develop two new classes of analgesics using drugs that either block the synthesis of OLAMs or antibodies that inactivate them. These drugs could eventually come in the form of a topical agent, or a pill or liquid that could be ingested, or in the form of an injection. Both approaches have the potential to block pain at its source, unlike opioid narcotics that travel to the brain and affect the central nervous system.

RTFA. Like most New Mexicans, I’m a capsaicin fan – in one or another form. Usually red. As my father-in-law says, “Fruit should only be consumed when it is ripe.”

The ability of many natural substances to provide a dialectical range of effects is – to me – an additional indicator of how fundamental may be the substance itself.

Of course, now, I’m going to have to find out how likely that conclusion may be.

Getting organised – Google style

Information can be the bane of our lives. While the right kind of information at a given moment is extremely empowering, there is little doubt that we are drowning in the stuff.

Douglas Merrill knows this all too well. He is the former chief information officer of Google, the company that wants to take all that information and make it universally accessible. He was with the company for five years, from when it was a mere fledgling with a few hundred staff to when it hit the 19,000 mark…

Even though we have the web, and we have Google to “organise the world’s information” for us, our tendency to become overwhelmed is not our fault. No, says Mr Merrill, chalk that one up to Mother Nature:

“We are just not very good at remembering things, by and large. Our short-term memory can only hold between five and nine things at a time. And our brain weighs three pounds (1.4kg) and is just larger than the average chicken.

“Yet it is pretty fantastic. It can identify gender, how old someone is just by looking at a photograph of someone’s nose and even recognise a song after hearing just a few notes.”

Mr Merrill points out in his book Getting Organized in the Google Era that “your brain was developed eons ago primarily to prevent you from being eaten by carnivorous beasts – not to memorise lists or store facts.”

Interesting read – even though I diverge from the sentence above. After all, we were hunter-gatherers not just hunters [or hunted]. Someone had to remember where to look for apples and mushrooms.

RTFA. Nice piece of journalism and I guess I will get Merrill’s book.

Kidnap/Carjack victims call 911 – are put on hold

Four students who were kidnapped in a Sunday night carjacking in Atlanta used a cell phone to call 911 from the trunk of the car where they were being held, only to be put on hold by 911

The captives eventually called the Morehouse College police department, where a dispatcher alerted officers to their whereabouts, the students said at a news conference at Morehouse on Monday morning.

Two suspects, a 17-year-old and a juvenile, were arrested when police arrived at a West End bank where the suspects went to use the victims’ ATM cards…

Worthy said that after being kidnapped, one of the students in the trunk “got on his phone and dialed 911. He was unable to get anyone, he was put on hold at 911, so he switched over and called the Morehouse College police number.”

Morehouse police dispatcher Karen Wells answered the call, and directed officers from Morehouse and other Atlanta University Center campuses to the Wachovia Bank in West End, where police found the victims and arrested two of the suspects…

On the chilling dispatch tape released by Morehouse police Monday morning, the student is heard pleading with Wells, “please hurry, they said they are going to kill us.”

Ain’t cost-savings wonderful?

Some beancounter or other figured they could save bureaucrats a buck or two by removing human beings from the response time equation. And damned near got these kids killed.

Phone tapping row ready to rock India parliament

Indian opposition parties disrupted parliament, asking questions about a report alleging the government secretly tapped the phones of top politicians. Both the upper and lower houses were adjourned amid angry scenes. India’s home minister denies the allegations.

But senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani has called for a response from the the prime minister.

Outlook magazine reported that the mobile phones of politicians, including a federal minister, were being tapped. It claimed that the phones were tapped by the government using equipment from a federal intelligence agency…

The opposition is also calling for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter…

In the garb of tracking terror, the government is tracking politicians and even their cabinet ministers,” senior BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said before the session began…

Outlook magazine said that the phones of a federal minister, Sharad Pawar, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Communist leader Prakash Karat and a senior politician of the ruling Congress party Digvijay Singh had been tapped.

Has someone in the Indian bureaucracy gone completely bonkers and hired Dick Cheney to guide security policy? Or has the “American” disease of fear and terror simply continued its path of infection around the world?