World of Warcraft is going to the pandas

The most violent panda we have ever posted

Game developer Blizzard has revealed the fourth expansion pack for “World of Warcraft” — an expansion that will let people play the massively popular online game as a race of giant humanoid pandas known as the Pandaren.

Blizzard unveiled the forthcoming “Mists of Pandaria” expansion Friday at its annual BlizzCon convention in California. And no, this is not a joke

“Mists of Pandaria” will introduce the continent of Pandaria to “WoW” — a place inspired by real-world Asia, home of the real-world pandas — as well as a new martial-arts-focused Monk class.

Uh, OK.

Tunisians flock to voting stations for their first taste of democracy

Standing in line at a polling station in Tunis
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Nine months after a people’s revolution ousted the despot Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired uprisings across the region, Tunisia on Sunday was holding the first vote of the Arab spring. The small country of 10 million is being watched by the Arab world as an experiment in moving from dictatorship to democracy.

If the elections usher in a credible new political class after 50 years of a one-party state, they could boost the democratic hopes for neighbouring post-Gaddafi Libya and Egypt, where there is profound uncertainty…

“There’s an overwhelming sense of joy and relief,” says Mehdi Lassoued, a tyre company worker, wrapped in the Tunisian flag. “I feel we are finally moving on, that we can finish this revolution, vote for a legitimate government.”

Tunis university professor Ghofrane Ben Miled says: “There’s so much expectation and excitement on the street. I didn’t sleep, I was wired. It felt like the nights during the revolution, but calmer. I’m 42 and I’ve never voted before.”

Flag-festooned cars with horns blaring are everywhere and hundreds queue in the sun, wearing homemade paper hats. Asked who the election winner will be, most say: “We all will…”

There are now 110 political parties and scores of independents. Tunisians will appoint a 217-seat assembly with the specific role of rewriting the constitution to prepare for parliamentary elections next year.

A complex proportional representation system means that no one party will dominate the assembly…

A high turnout is expected – as high as 80% in some precincts. Full results will be released on Monday…

Amid the optimism there is a sense of vigilance. Many say that the people staged the revolution and they will take to the streets again if they feel they are being cheated or let down.

RTFA. Lots of accurate anecdotal description of people coming out to vote for the first time in their lives.

Enjoy it. Help the revolution if you’re in a position to do so. They are leading the Arab Spring.

Pic of the Day

Containers on the stern deck of the 47,230 ton Liberian-flagged Rena hang precariously, about 12 nautical miles from Tauranga, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island October 20, 2011. The recovery of fuel oil from a stricken container ship grounded off New Zealand resumed on Thursday as salvage teams worked to minimize the damage in the country’s worst environmental disaster in decades. Two days of strong winds and high seas had prevented the pumping of oil from the Rena, which has been stuck for more than two weeks on the Astrolabe Reef.

Hair professionals can add to discovery of skin cancer lesions

In a survey of hair professionals, some reported that they look at customers’ face, scalp and neck for suspicious skin lesions, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of Dermatology…

Elizabeth E. Bailey, M.D…and colleagues conducted a survey of 304 hair professionals from 17 salons in a single chain in the greater Houston area…which included questions on the frequency with which they observed their customers’ scalp, neck and face for abnormal moles during the previous month.

Of the 203 respondents, 69 percent reported being “somewhat” or “very likely” to give customers a skin cancer information pamphlet during an appointment; 49 percent reported they were “very” or “extremely” interested in participating in a skin cancer education program; and 25 percent share general health information with customers “often” or “always.” Most respondents (71.9 percent) also reported they had not received a course on skin cancer but a modest number were educating their customers and observing for suspicious lesions.

When answering questions about observing suspicious skin lesions during the previous month, 73 participants (37.1 percent) reported looking at more than 50 percent of their customers’ scalps; 56 (28.8 percent) reported looking at more than 50 percent of their customers’ necks; and 30 (15.3 percent) reported looking at more than 50 percent of their customers’ faces. Additionally, 58 percent of participants reported they had recommended at least once that a customer see a health professional for an abnormal mole…

“In conclusion, this study provides evidence that hair professionals are currently acting as lay health advisors for skin cancer detection and prevention and are willing to become more involved in skin cancer education in the salon,” the authors write.

“Future research should focus on creating a program that provides hair professionals with expert training and effective health communication tools to become confident and skilled lay skin cancer educators.”

Many medical professionals don’t realize the benefits of adding those few seconds of examination for a problem which only continues to increase in a population which spends more and more time outdoors. I may holler about sedentary Americans; but, a significant and expanding minority is getting off their rusty dusty and exercising outdoors in some manner or other. Michelle Obama’s advocacy for children is starting to have an effect.

Personal experience with a military derm practice reinforces these conclusions. You’d expect careful broad examinations; but, it used to be common to evaluate patients based on the context. But, the derm I knew, he and his staff would take the extra time to look for melanoma with patients who rarely were in much sunlight. Like submariners.

It became clear his detection rate exceeded “normal” stats and he was among the first to press for expanded exams.

Manchester United 1 – 6 Manchester City…WTF?

The worst defeat for Manchester United since the founding of the English Premier League in 1992. Listless, mediocre defending, few shots taken at goal much less into the goal – while Manchester City played a professional, workmanlike match throughout.

There will be plenty of professional coverage of the match by those writers paid to do so. I recommend the GUARDIAN UNLIMITED for that task. The result was just so stunning I had to make mention, had to record this at my personal blog.

Sir Alex’ strategy can’t sufficiently motivate a team that doesn’t reach its own standard. Roberto Mancini can take credit for bringing together an international aggregation into a real team.

Mario Balotelli [center] celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal of the match
Daylife/Reuters Picture used by permission

Mastodons hunted in North America earlier than Clovis culture

Humans were hunting large mammals in North America about 800 years earlier than previously thought, new analysis of a controversial mastodon specimen – with what appears to be a spear tip in its rib – seems to confirm.

The find suggests humans were hunting mastodons using tools made from bone about a thousand years before the start of the “Clovis culture”, reputedly the first human culture in North America. Other evidence points to mammoth hunting using stone tools around this time, but the notion of pre-Clovis hunting has remained highly controversial.

The mastodon was found in 1977 by a farmer called Emanuel Manis. He contacted archaeologist Carl Gustafson, who excavated the skeleton and noticed a pointed object embedded in its rib. Gustafson took a fuzzy x-ray and interpreted the object as a projectile point made of bone or antler.

By dating organic matter around the fossil, he estimated that it was about 14,000 years old. Other archaeologists challenged Gustafson’s dates and his interpretation of the fragment as a man-made point.

Decades later Professor Michael Waters from Texas A&M University contacted him about re-examining the specimen using modern technology. His analysis was published on Thursday in the journal Science…

Waters analysed collagen protein from the mastodon’s rib and tusks to confirm that the animal died about 13,800 years ago, almost exactly as Gustafson predicted…

Two other sites in Wisconsin appear to show people were hunting woolly mammoths and using stone tools between 14,200 and 14,800 years ago. The Manis specimen suggests they also hunted mastodons and used bone tools.

Together, the three sites provide strong evidence for pre-Clovis hunting. “They’re incontrovertible,” said Waters. “Clearly, people were hunting mammoths and mastodons again and again, playing a part in their ultimate demise…”

Waters does not credit alternative hypotheses. “Ludicrous what-if stories are being made up to explain something people don’t want to believe,” he said. “We took the specimen to a bone pathologist, showed him the CT scans, and asked if there was any way it could be an internal injury. He said absolutely not…”

Archaeologists can be as inflexible as politicians. Facts transmute into ideology and even when the ideology is disproven by new facts, advancements in analyzing evidence, those who are committed to their original understanding find it difficult to move on.

Waters said it best – describing what-if stories made up to explain something people don’t want to believe.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Indian girls choose new name to replace “unwanted”

More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean “unwanted” in Hindi have been given a fresh start at a mass renaming ceremony in Maharashtra state. They had been called Nakusha by parents who would have preferred sons.

Hundreds of people committed to fighting gender discrimination attended the ceremony in rural Satara district.

Statistics show a continuing preference for boys in India. The gender imbalance has widened every decade since independence in 1947…

Female foeticide remains common in India, although sex-selective abortion based on ultrasound scans is illegal. Sons are still seen by many as wage-earners for the future.

Satara, where the ceremony took place, has one of the country’s lowest female populations, with 880 females to every 1,000 males, says the BBC’s Zubair Ahmed…

The 285 girls at the ceremony ranged in age from one to 20…

There is a comparable constant in all theocratic societies. Discrimination, social division along parameters which haven’t a damned thing to do with reality, potential character. Foolishness.