Uncommon talent illustrates the commonplace

Rio Rancho High School (Rio Rancho, NM) earned serious bragging rights after claiming top prize…at the Vans Custom Culture Art & Design Showcase at the Long Beach Museum of Art. The four shoes chosen from Rio Rancho High School came from a pool of over 900 participating highschools, with designs spanning four categories: art, music, action sports, and local attitude. The students earned their school $50,000 towards its art programs, in addition to an additional $5,000 for creating shoes that best embodied their “local attitude…”

The five national finalists were chosen by more than 100,000 votes place through online voting: Big Bear High School (Big Bear, CA), Mountain View High School (Meridian, ID), Watkins Glen High School (Watkins Glen, NY), Rio Rancho High School (Rio Rancho, NM) and Eastern High School (Louisville, KY)…

Earlier this year, each of the nearly 900 participating high schools were sent four pairs of Vans shoes as a blank canvas to design their creations. Each shoe was to represent one of four themes: Action Sports, Music, Art and Local Flavor. Schools then submitted photo entries via the Vans Custom Culture website with global voting eventually whittling the entries down to the “Final Five” showed their work at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Kudos to the kids in Rio Rancho. This is the 2nd time they’ve won big for their high school art program.

Prove to the people of America that Mitt Romney is not a unicorn!

As you all probably know by now, a group named Left Action is calling on Mitt Romney to prove that he is not a unicorn and is therefore eligible to run for president. Below, you will find startling true facts about Romney’s origins, as well as an analysis of the very real dangers of having a unicorn in the White House.

How do we know Mitt Romney is a unicorn?

Many people believe he is a unicorn.

Many people say he is a unicorn.

I read on the internet that Mitt Romney is a unicorn.

The Man from Ulandia: The Unauthorized Biography of Mitt Romney, states that Mitt Romney is a unicorn. If it is in a book, it must be true…

Why should you be concerned that Mitt Romney is a unicorn?

Unicorns are un-American.

Unicorns practice a weird religion that involves rainbows, puffy clouds, swirly pastels, and moonbeams.

The Constitution of the United States specifically prohibits unicorns from holding public office.

If a unicorn is president of the United States, our number one enemy, Unilandia, will soon dominate the world stage. While Unilandia has a small army in comparison to ours, their military complex boasts many horns. In fact, recent intelligence reveals that Unilandia has horns of mass destruction (HMD).

If we have a unicorn for president, back room deals with Unilandia will certainly lead to the loss of American jobs, particularly in the crucial areas of circus acts and stuffed animals.

A unicorn in the white house would lead to young people to engage in promiscuity

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SpaceX Dragon splashdown return to Earth from ISS rendezvous

Photo provided by SpaceX – capsule in Pacific right after splashdown

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully returned to Earth Thursday, becoming the first privately-owned spacecraft to complete a mission to the International Space Station.

The pilotless Dragon left the ISS after a nine-day mission loaded with 1,455 pounds of cargo on early Thursday morning. After separating from the space station, Dragon fired a series of engine burns to slow itself down enough to drop from orbit. The craft encountered temperatures of up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on the most intense part of the fall.

Dragon also fired a series of thruster bursts to keep itself on target for a splashdown a few hundred miles from southern California. At 45,000 feet above the Earth, the craft deployed two small parachutes that stabilized its flight path. Once those parachutes were fully deployed, three main brightly colored chutes were released, each with a diameter of 116 feet. Dragon’s altitude loss then slowed to about 17 feet per second, allowing it a comfortable aquatic arrival.

While Dragon descended from the heavens, a NASA aircraft watched via infrared camera and a pre-positioned group of ships owned by SpaceX sat ready to recover the 19-foot-long spacecraft. The craft touched down in the cloud-covered Pacific Ocean at 11:42 a.m. ET.

The ships’ crewmembers initially had trouble locating the spacecraft because of the heavy cloud coverage in the area, but the orange-and-white main parachutes caught their attention. SpaceX dive teams then disconnected the main parachutes and towed the craft to the barge, which used a heavy-lifting crane to take it on board…

Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 22 after a series of delays. It docked with the ISS on May 25, becoming the first privately-owned spacecraft to do so. The spacecraft brought experimental equipment and other cargo to the ISS.

Bravo. Another milestone completed.

Citigroup whistleblower refused to be intimidated — she’s awarded $31 Million

Sherry Hunt never expected to be a senior manager at a Wall Street bank. She was a country girl, raised in rural Michigan by a dad who taught her to fish and a mom who showed her how to find wild mushrooms. She listened to Marty Robbins and Buck Owens on the radio and came to believe that God has a bigger plan, that everything happens for a reason.

She got married at 16 and didn’t go to college. After she had her first child at 17, she needed a job. A friend helped her find one in 1975, processing home loans at a small bank in Alaska. Over the next 30 years, Hunt moved up the ladder to mortgage-banking positions in Indiana, Minnesota and Missouri…

In November 2004, Hunt, now 55, joined Citigroup as a vice president in the mortgage unit. It looked like a great career move. The housing market was booming, and the New York- based bank, the sixth-largest lender in the U.S. at the time, was responsible for 3.5 percent of all home loans. Hunt supervised 65 mortgage underwriters at CitiMortgage’ sprawling headquarters in O’Fallon, Missouri, 45 minutes west of St. Louis.

Hunt’s team was responsible for protecting Citigroup from fraud and bad investments. She and her colleagues inspected loans Citi wanted to buy from outside brokers and lenders to see whether they met the bank’s standards. The mortgages had to have properly signed paperwork, verifiable borrower income and realistic appraisals.

Citi would vouch for the quality of these loans when it sold them to investors or approved them for government mortgage insurance…

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Exercise can jog your memory

It’s well established that exercise substantially changes the human brain, affecting both thinking and emotions. But a sophisticated, multifaceted new study suggests that the effects may be more nuanced than many scientists previously believed. Whether you gain all of the potential cognitive and mood benefits from exercise may depend on when and how often you work out, as well as on the genetic makeup of your brain.

For the experiment…recruited 54 adults, ages 18 to 36… The volunteers were healthy but generally sedentary; none exercised regularly…

The results were, in certain aspects, a surprise. As expected, many of the volunteers who’d been exercising for the past month significantly improved their scores on the memory and mood tests. But not all of them did. In general, those volunteers who had exercised for the past month and who worked out on the day of retesting performed the best on the memory exam. They also tended to report less anxiety than other volunteers.

Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.

Interestingly, while exercising before the test didn’t improve the memory scores of those who’d remained sedentary for the past month, it did increase their self-reported anxiety levels. They were more jittery than they had been on the first lab visit.

Perhaps most intriguing, though, was what the researchers discovered when they compared the volunteers’ BDNF gene variants and their scores on the memory test. They found that those with the variant that blunts BDNF production after exercise — a fairly common variation, existing in about 30 percent of people of European Caucasian heritage — did not improve their memories, even if they exercised regularly…

What all of this means for people who are hoping that exercise will improve their minds is unclear, Dr. Bucci says, but it does suggest that the interplay of physical activity and brainpower is more complex than we have perhaps yet acknowledged…

But the overall message of this study and of ongoing research in his lab, Dr. Bucci adds, is that exercise generally enhances the ability to remember. The people who did improve their memory test scores, he points out, were invariably those who’d exercised throughout the previous month and again the morning of the testing, suggesting a powerful cumulative effect from the exercise sessions..

RTFA for details of how the test was conducted, for information on BDNF production and genetics.

AFAIC, it’s worth posting this short article about testing for exercise and mental results. Push comes to shove, there are always a few well-paid pundits who fund their career serving as skeptic about anything positive and productive from eating healthier, living an active lifestyle – possibly and probably ignoring network television as an alternative to exercise. 🙂

Tomato genome project ready to bear fruit

Gerard Bishop and Graham Seymour, lead UK researchers

An international team of scientists has cracked the genetic code of the domesticated tomato and its wild ancestor, an achievement which should help breeders identify the genes needed to develop tastier and more nutritious varieties…

Researchers who carried out the work said that together the sequences provide the most detailed look yet at the functional parts of the tomato genome and show order, orientation, types and relative positions of all of its 35,000 genes…

“Tomatoes are one of the most important fruit crops in the world, both in terms of the volume that we eat and the vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals that both fresh and processed tomato products provide to our diets,” said Graham Seymour…one of 300 scientists involved in the Tomato Genome Consortium.

The tomato is also a good model to investigate the process of fruit ripening, so understanding its genome should help reveal the molecular circuits that make fruits ripen and give them their health-promoting properties, the team said.

For any characteristic of the tomato, whether it’s taste, natural pest resistance or nutritional content, we’ve captured virtually all those genes,” said James Giovannoni…part of the U.S. tomato sequencing team…

The scientists said the findings show the tomato genome expanded abruptly about 60 million years ago. Some of the genes generated during that expansion were involved in the development and control of ripening, making them particularly interesting to tomato breeders…

Strawberries, apples, melons, bananas and other fleshy fruits share some characteristics with tomatoes, he explained, so knowledge about the genes involved in fruit ripening could potentially be applied to them, helping breeders and growers to improve food quality and cut costs.

James Giovannoni epitomized the ethics of basic research scientists when he said, “Now we can start asking a lot more interesting questions”.

Luddites will probably begin croaking in advance. While farmers intent on feeding that significant portion of the world lacking in vegetables – follow the research hoping for better crops, abundance, drought and disease resistance.

Porn actor sought for dismembering and mailing body parts

A gay porn actor is suspected in the killing of his acquaintance, videotaping and posting online the man’s dismemberment and mailing the severed limbs to different locations in Ottawa, including to a political party’s headquarters…

Authorities are searching for Luka Rocco Magnotta, 29, who they say is allegedly responsible for a human torso discovered in Montreal, thought to be linked to a human hand and foot that were separately mailed from Montreal to Ottawa…

The suspect has no criminal background, and his image and information related to him were later recovered from a “very graphic” website, Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere said.

The source later confirmed that at least one of the websites examined by authorities was a pornographic site…

Police say they plan to charge him with murder once he’s apprehended.

Lafreniere said authorities have also found other body parts, potentially from the same attack, which is believed to have been committed in Montreal…

“It wasn’t a random attack,” Lafreniere noted. “They knew each other…”

The human foot was sent to the Conservative Party of Canada headquarters in Ottawa, prompting a hazardous materials team to investigate…

The hand was intercepted by workers at a Montreal postal terminal…

In Montreal, the human torso was found behind an apartment building, authorities said.

Any other interesting bits and pieces will be reported as they are discovered. Yes, the Great White North has their own share of nutball murderers.

Texas teen works 2 jobs, gets straight-A’s — jailed for skipping class to get some rest — UPDATED

Diane Tran on the left – dipshit judge on the right

Diane Tran, a 17-year-old straight-A student, was hauled before a court after breaching the state’s truancy law. That allows only three unexcused day absent per month, or 10 days in a six-month period, before schools notify the court.

The student said she was having to combine her studies with a full-time job at a dry cleaners, and a part-time job at a wedding venue, so she was sometimes too tired to get to her classes.

Her parents had divorced and moved away so she was living with another family, and using her income to support an older brother at university, and a younger sister…

Mary Elliot, Tran’s employer at the wedding venue, said: “She’s a straight-A student. She keeps her grades up, but sometimes she oversleeps, because she’s been working…Kids are kids. If they’re kind of by themselves, help them don’t harm them.”

Diane is studying Spanish, English, history and algebra at Willis High School near Houston.

Judge Lanny Moriarty defended his ruling, saying he had warned Tran at a hearing last month not to miss any more school…

In addition to sending her to spend the night in Montgomery County Jail, he ordered her to pay a $100 fine.

The judge said: “If you let one run loose, what are you gonna’ do with the rest of ’em? Let them go too?…A little stay in the jail, for one night, is not a death sentence.”

The judge, of course, is a cretin. The Texas politician variety of the species.

Kudos to the people who have donated to help support her and her family.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

UPDATE: The court was reconvened and the judge “thought better” of his sentencing and how he handled this case. The charge has been rescinded.

About $100K was raised from the US and 18 other countries for Diane’s case, family support and college education. So far, she’s refused to use it for herself – indicating there are others more in need.

Iconic, efficient Warburg House cost less than $100K

Canadian design studio Bioi recently completed this compact home in Warburg, Alberta after being given the challenge to create a contemporary and energy-efficient home for under US$100,000. The result is a simple, open and sustainable home, with a reduced space that holds all of the functionality of a regular sized home. “Working alongside our client, we determined the true necessity of the space that they required,” project architect Jordan Allen told Gizmag. “Throughout the design phase redundant spaces were eliminated, and non-inhabitable spaces were pushed to an absolute minimum.”

Without losing the sense of open space the home has been squeezed into an interior space of 576 sq.ft.. “While the home may be of a size what many people would generally attribute to a cabin or ‘weekend’ home, it maintains the spatial proportions that are ample and comfortable enough to accommodate two people,” Allen told us…

The exterior of the building is protected by black corrugated steel sheets, which extend the full length of the house. Several windows and skylights have been included to allow natural light to filter in from the southern exposure, while also providing views of the surrounding natural landscape.

In keeping with its small proportions, the mechanical room takes up a mere 18 sq ft (1.7 sq m) and the kitchen has been reduced to nothing more than the purely functional. The building’s compact size greatly minimizes the heating load on the home, which is supplied via radiant in-floor heating. In addition, a heat recovery ventilator has been added to capture and reuse as much heat as possible. The heating system is also coupled with heavy insulation (R40 in the ceiling, R32 in the walls) supplying the house with “one of the highest EnerGuide ratings possible due to its reduced energetic demands,” according to Allen…

Efficiency needs to be affordable if we truly want to pursue an ecologically minded future,” concluded Allen “And no one said it can’t have some style at the same time.”

My wife and I lived in a similar space as well designed when first we were married. Only the addition of dogs sharing the space – and one or another changes in family relationships moved us over into the main house – keeping the original space as a guest house.

In practice, we don’t live in much more space than the original design. More than one room in the main house remains unused except for unheated storage.

I think Allen’s concept is right on the money.

Canadian Catholic Princes push back against Gay-Straight clubs in schools – by lying about liberty

Ontario Catholics are pushing back against the provincial Liberal government’s plan to force them to accept Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools.

Thomas Cardinal Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto…said…“If it happens to us, it can happen to you on this and other issues,” Collins said. “When religious freedom becomes a second class right, you also will eventually be affected.”

Collins said the GSA model was developed in the United States in the 1980s to promote views on human life and other issues that contradict beliefs of Catholics…

Education Minister Laurel Broten introduced an amendment Friday to her government’s anti-bullying bill that would strip school officials of their power to veto the club name Gay-Straight Alliance.

Broten said words are very meaningful, and students have told the government that it’s important they have a club name that reflects who they are.

“(Premier Dalton McGuinty) and I were both very clear that it was not for us at Queen’s Park to tell them what the name of their club should be, but neither should it be for someone else sitting in some other office in the province to tell them what the name of their club can’t be,” Broten said. “At a committee hearing we heard over and over again from students how important it was that they be able to have the name of the club reflected a space of safety and inclusion in their school. “

Broten said the name Gay-Straight Alliance has become a generic term for anti-homophobia groups.

The minister believes her anti-bullying bill can be adopted within the context of Catholic education.

Not that the Catholic Church in Canada, the United States or anyplace else I ever heard of cares a hoot in Hell about homophobia – except in its perpetuation. Calling the process of ideological segregation, diminishing human worth by theocracy, calling this “liberty” is a semantic scandal from a group of ideologues still stuck into the powers they enjoyed centuries ago.

The Inquisition is over and kids have a right to an anti-Inquisition club if they wish.