Qui tangit frangatur.

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

To everything (turn, turn, turn)

So sung The Byrds. 'Been doing a little more night riding over the last week. 'Moved the cleats back by 5 mm, and, correspondingly, lowered the saddle by 2 mm. 'Shifted the saddle forward by 4 mm, but my knees and lower back didn't like it.

23 Oct:  39.7 miles (63.5 km)
Elevation climbed:  1450 feet (442 m)

25 Oct:  35.7 miles (57.1 km)
Elevation climbed:  1210 feet (368 m)

26 Oct:  60 miles (96 km)
Elevation climbed:  920 feet (280 m)

30 Oct:  67.9 miles (108 km)
Elevation climbed:  1400 feet (426 m)

Time — and my average speed over my usual routes — will tell if this new set up is better.

Pain free

A man went to a dentist for a regular check up. The dentist discovered that a tooth was in such a poor state that it had to be extracted. The man agreed to the procedure.

When the dentist proceeded to give the man an injection of anesthetic but the man said, "No, I don't need an injection." The dentist gently explained that the procedure is very painful, but the patient was adamant that he would be just fine without the needle. The patient claimed that he had two experiences in his lifetime that rendered him immune to pain. Shrugging, the dentist went ahead to extract the tooth.

To the dentist's amazement, the man didn't even wince. Quite astonished, the dentist remarked, "That was amazing! The two experiences you had which made you immune to pain must have been something really special. Would you care to tell me about them?"

The man said, "Sure. One day, when I was out hunting, I suddenly developed the overwhelming need to take a crap. I ducked behind a bush, lowered my pants, and, as I squatted down, my scrotum landed on a rabbit trap and..."

The dentist exclaimed "Oh my God! That must have been excruciating! But... but what was the second experience?"

The man replied, "When I ran out of chain."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meme, meme, meme

Book meme!
(Thanks, dear!)

i.   Grab the nearest book.
ii.  Open the book to page 123.
iii. Find the fifth sentence.
iv.  Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
v.   Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

My line is:

There the history of salvation is evoked by the sounds of words, here the same history is enacted in the liturgy's sacramental symbols.

This is fun!



Not an endangered species

IDIOT SIGHTING: Hubby and I had the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a large enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, "Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower." I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, "NO, it's not. Four is larger than two."

We haven't used Sears Repair since.

Lake Charles, Louisiana.

IDIOT SIGHTING: I live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the deer crossing sign on our road. The reason: "Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore."

Kingman, Kansas.

IDIOTS IN FOOD SERVICE: My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.

Kansas City, Kansas.

IDIOT SIGHTING: I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."

Birmingham, Alabama.

IDIOT SIGHTING: The stoplight on the corner buzzes when its safe to cross the street. I was crossing with a co-worker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?!"

She is a probation officer in Wichita, Kansas.

IDIOT SIGHTING: At a good-bye luncheon for a dear coworker: She was leaving the company due to "downsizing." Our manager commented cheerfully, "This is fun. We should do this more often." Not another word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.

Texas Instruments, Dallas, Texas.

IDIOT SIGHTING: I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself, and for the sake of her own life, couldn't understand why her system would not turn on.

A deputy with the Dallas County Sheriffs Office, Texas.

IDIOT SIGHTING: When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver's side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "Its open!" His reply, "I know - I already got that side."

A Ford dealership in Canton, Mississippi.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Puppy love

The recent flood of dangerously cute pictures by lingthemerciless (and her friend, Janice) made me reminisce about my dogs.

Here's Rex (on the left) when he was 2 years old. At that time, Jenny (on the right) was 4.5 years old. Jenny was an incredible dog. When gate opens for the cars and the dogs dash out, Jenny would remain. Upon hearing the command, "Jenny, get them back!" she would run out after them. A few minutes later, with Jenny nipping at their heels, all the dogs would come galloping back into the compound.

One of the puppies, Pinky, peers inquisitively as I fiddle with the manual SLR camera. Much of my childhood and early teens were spent traipsing forest trails in Upper Peirce and Mandai with the dogs.

7.5 years later. Jenny has since passed away from cancer (a disease Boxers are genetically susceptible to). Rex became depressed ever since Jenny left. We got him a companion, Caesar, a German Shepherd, but they didn't get along. After a few fights, they settled on ignoring each other's presence. At one point, Rex's weight ballooned to 67 kg (147.4 lbs). It became quite a task bringing him out.

REX [sits down on the sidewalk]
BEN:  Rex, come on. Let's go.
REX [continues sitting]:  Nope.
BEN:  Come on! I haven't got all day.
REX:  Nope.
BEN:  Rex! If you don't move now, I'm gonna drag you all the way home!
REX:  Make me.
BEN [tugs futilely at the leash]:  Ugh! Ugh!

I spent many evenings sitting on the sidewalk, waiting until Rex decides it's time to return home.

In his later years, Rex even recognized — and answered to — his nickname, "Fat Dawg."

At the age of 14, having developed bloat, and, being too old to survive an operation, Rex was put to sleep at Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital. I cried buckets.

'Stumbled upon two friendly 9.5-month-old Great Dane puppies (Yes, these are puppies. Great Danes are giant dogs.) whilst biking on a mountain ridge in a redwood forest in North California.

This is Freckles, an extremely affectionate English Cocker Spaniel. We crossed paths 4 years ago. Besides eating, she likes nothing more than dozing off in my arms.

Even as a toddler, I had dogs with me. I have forgotten the name of this Boxer puppy, but my grandma called her OrrPi (Black Nose).

If you are into dogs and have room in your home (and heart) for one, or know someone who does, please consider Rusty, a licensed and sterilized, 8-year-old, male Golden Retriever. He appears to have been abandoned by his owner and will be euthanized soon if nobody adopts him. He doesn't need much exercise, just some TLC. Contact skinnypinny[AT]hotmail[DOT]com for details.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Homo sapiens. Oh, really?

Seriously, you can't make this up!

Monkeys kill Delhi deputy mayor

BBC News
21 October 2007

The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi has died a day after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys.

SS Bajwa suffered serious head injuries when he fell from the first-floor terrace of his home on Saturday morning trying to fight off the monkeys.

The city has long struggled to counter its plague of monkeys, which invade government complexes and temples, snatch food and scare passers-by.

The High Court demanded the city find an answer to the problem last year.

Solution elusive

One approach has been to train bands of larger, more ferocious langur monkeys to go after the smaller groups of Rhesus macaques.

The city has also employed monkey catchers to round them up so they can be moved to forests.

But the problem has persisted.

Culling is seen as unacceptable to devout Hindus, who revere the monkeys as a manifestation of the monkey god Hanuman, and often feed them bananas and peanuts.

Urban development around the city has also been blamed for destroying the monkeys' natural habitat.

Mr Bajwa, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is survived by his wife and a son, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.



Rumor has it that after the Rhesus macaques are gone, giant, man-eating gorillas will be introduced to get rid of the "ferocious langur monkeys."


For the extended version — replete with rhinos and lions (in that order) — head on over to crufty's  :-D

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lemmings, lemmings, they drown

At least 31 dead as Indonesian ferry sinks
October 19, 2007

At least 31 people were killed and 125 rescued after a ferry sank off Indonesia's Sulawesi island in the latest of a series of transport accidents to hit the archipelago nation, officials said Friday (19 Oct).

Residents near the town of Bau Bau on southeast Sulawesi heard survivors screaming and pleading for help after the Acita 03 capsized at about 9:00 pm (1300 GMT) Thursday, ElShinta radio reported.
The 22-metre ship sank several miles (kilometres) from shore when passengers clambered to the boat's roof to make mobile phone calls when they couldn't get a signal, transport ministry official Djoni Algamar told AFP.
"The ship lost its balance and capsized," he said, adding that only 60 names had been on the ship's manifest.

(The rest of the article.)


Allegations of callousness notwithstanding, I am submitting these geniuses to Wendy Northcutt as mass nominees for the 2007 Darwin Awards.

'Can you hear me now?'

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Bertrand Russell said

Okay, this is going to be a quick one as I have to leave for a ride with Arthur and NicIz2HardKore in 15 minutes. I'll polish up the post (and possibly add my trademark viciousness $0.02) when I return.

Agreeing with a special someone out there, yes, takchek can be hilarious when he chooses to. The following posts — from Cragslist — are in the same vein as his latest post, Singaporean Husband Hunter:


What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I’m tired of beating around the bush. I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy. I’m not from New York. I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board ? Any wives ? Could you send me some tips ? I dated a business man who made an average of around 200 - 250K. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. $250,000 won’t get me to Central Park West. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker, and lives in Tribeca. She’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right ? How do I get to her level ?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out ? Give me specifics - bars, restaurants, gyms

- What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings

- Is there an age range I should be targeting ?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the Upper East Side so plain? I’ve seen really ‘Plain Jane’ boring types, who have nothing to offer incredibly wealthy guys. Then I’ve seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the East Village. What’s the story there ?

- Lawyers, investment bankers, doctors. How much do those guys really make ? And where do the hedge fund guys hang out ?

- How do you rich guys decide on marriage vs. just a girlfriend ? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY.

Please hold your insults - I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial - at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice hearth and home'.


An Investment Banker's Response

Dear Pers-431649184:

'I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.

Firstly, I’m not wasting your time. I qualify as a guy who fits your bill - that is, I make more than $500K per year. That said, here’s how I see it:

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is a plain and simple crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity - in fact, it is very likely that my income will increase, but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms, you are a depreciating asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, however, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain - you’re 25 now and will likely remain pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 - stick a fork in you!

So, in Wall Street terms, we'd call you a trading position - not a buy and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to 'buy you' (which is what you’re asking) - so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following: if my money were to go away, so would you - so when your beauty fades I need an out too. It’s as simple as that. So the deal that makes sense for me is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as 'articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful' as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that, if you are as gorgeous as you say you are, your $500K man hasn’t found you - if only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money - and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you’re going about it the right way. Classic 'pump and dump'. I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, please let me know'.


Other reader comments (compiled)

1. If she piles on the weight, it's likely to be 'plump and dump!'

2. The Investment Banker's response is correct if you see the gold digger as providing only companionship, looks and sophistication.

However, some Investment Bankers may wish to have offspring carrying their genes into the next generation. This is a long-term contract, and you have to 'buy and hold' rather than 'lease'. Therefore this 25 year-old beauty should change her sales pitch to: 'I'll give you nice children AND I'll let you do whatever else you want on the side as long as you're discreet'.

3. I hate to say it but, in the current environment, this Master of the Universe should ship her in ASAP. Then at least he'll have a nice shoulder to cry on when he gets canned. We're ALL depreciating assets these days. At least this young lady has some gumption as well as those spectacular good looks and style to fall back on'.

4. Response to investment banker: Ah! But I am an depreciating asset all right (for that matter, you are too - but your cash flow stream more than overcompensates for the toxicity of the future tummy expansion, and contraction of the hair). But the depreciating asset is a convertible one with two embedded options:

The first option is for conversion to a wife, preferably before the day that the hair / tummy factor becomes less than positive and cashflow benefits become more important. If you do not take up that wife-conversion option, then the expanding gut and thinning hair will require a constantly and exponentially increasing stream of invested earnings to attract young chicks.

The second option is that you have a put option on a baby (which is preferably contingent on the first option being exercised), safe in the knowledge that good genes will be passed on. You have to admit, the main reason why you investment bankers are so attractive is because you can make money. However, we have established information that those money-making genes do not travel very well. My good looks will probably be passed on though.

So, for an upfront investment in this depreciating asset will, in the long run, make your overall yield curve positive.

5. If women can pad their bras, men can pad their earnings.


Oh yes, what did the Nobel Laureate for Literature (1950) write?

Marriage is for women the commonest mode of livelihood, and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution.
         (Bertrand Russell)

Friday, October 12, 2007

A voice in the wilderness, eh?

Mobile phone cancer risk 'higher for children'

By Harry Wallop, Telegraph
October 9, 2007

Children should not be given mobile phones because using them for more than 10 years increases the risk of brain cancer, a leading scientist has said.

People who have used their phone for a decade are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a tumour on a nerve connecting the ear to the brain, according to a group of scientists who have surveyed the results of 11 different studies.

Prof Kjell Mild, of Orbero University, Sweden, who is a Government adviser and led the research, said that children should not be allowed to use mobile phones because their thinner skulls and developing nervous system made them particularly vulnerable.

His study comes just a month after a separate piece of research, jointly funded by the Government and the mobile phone industry, found there was only a "very faint hint" of a link between long-term use of mobile phones and brain tumours.

This six-year, £8.8 million Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) programme came under fire for failing to investigate more thoroughly those who had used their phones for more than a decade.

Most scientists have had difficulty researching this area as mobile phone usage did not become widespread until the late 1990s.

Professor Mild said the danger may be even greater than his study suggests because 10 years is the minimum period needed by cancers to develop.

"I find it quite strange to see so many official presentations saying that there is no risk. There are strong indications that something happens after 10 years," he said.

He has called for more research, especially into a possible link between mobile phones and Alzheimer's disease, since "we have indications that it might be a problem", as well as a possible link with Parkinson's.

The need for greater research has been echoed by Prof Lawrie Challis, who led the MTHR research.

He has confirmed that a second wave of studies - funded by the Government and the phone industry - would include a long-term look at the health of 200,000 mobile users in Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The Swedish scientists' initial findings were unveiled in April but are published in full in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Occupational Environmental Review.

They want a revision of the emission standard for mobiles and other sources of radiation, which they describe as "inappropriate" and "not safe".

The international standard is designed merely to prevent harmful heating of living tissue or induced electrical currents in the body, and does not take into account the risk of getting cancer.



Only ten minutes on a mobile could trigger cancer, scientists believe

By David Derbyshire, Daily Mail
August 30, 2007

Mobile phones can take as little as ten minutes to trigger changes in the brain associated with cancer, scientists claimed yesterday.

They found even low levels of radiation from handsets interfere with the way brain cells divide. Cell division encourages the growth of tumours.

Although the researchers did not come up with evidence that mobile phone signals are harmful, the findings suggest they could be.

Several major studies have also found no link between mobile use and brain tumours, nor a dramatic rise in cancer rates.

But campaigners insist the discovery undermines official advice that the devices are safe.

The guidance is based on the assumption that the phones emit too little radiation to heat the brain dangerously.

However, the new study by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel suggests "nonthermal" radiation could pose a risk.

The Israeli scientists exposed human and rat cells in a laboratory to low-level radiation at 875 megahertz - a similar frequency to the one used in many mobile phones.

Although the radiation was far weaker than emissions from a typical handset, it began to switch on a chemical signal inside the cells within ten minutes, the researchers report in the Biochemical Journal.

The chemical signals they detected were involved in the division of cells.

The researchers say the reaction was not caused by heating and claim they have found a separate way in which mobile phones could damage health.

Dr Rony Seger, a co-author of the study, told the magazine New Scientist: "The significance lies in showing cells do react to cellphone radiation in a non-thermal way."

Although changes in the chemical pathway seen by the Israeli scientists have been linked to several cancers, the researchers say there was no sign of a cancer-causing effect.

Dr Simon Arthur, a health expert at Dundee University, said the effect was 'unlikely to cause cancer'.

Dr Dariusz Leszczynski, of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Helsinki, said: "If cell-phone radiation cannot induce biological effects then there will never be any health effects.

"On the other hand if we can show this radiation is able to induce biological effects then we have a different story."

A major review of mobile phone safety is due to be published by the Health Protection Agency next month.

The agency's last major report, in 2004, found no evidence mobiles were a serious health risk. It did, however, caution against excessive use, especially by the young.

Dr Michael Clark, a spokesman for the agency, said: "Because of findings like this that pop up from time to time, a precautionary approach is justified."

Graham Philips, of campaign group Powerwatch, said: "Safety guidelines assume health effects from mobiles can only occur when significant heating of body tissue occurs.

"This study shows biological changes in response to low-level mobile phone radiation - something that could potentially have implications for health.

"Further research is required, however guidance based purely on thermal effects is clearly out of date."



Mobile phone use 'linked to tumour'

By Nic Fleming, Telegraph
January 26, 2007

Long-term users of mobile phones are significantly more likely to develop a certain type of brain tumour on the side of the head where they hold their handsets, according to new research.

A large-scale study found that those who had regularly used mobiles for longer than 10 years were almost 40 per cent more likely to develop nervous system tumours called gliomas near to where they hold their phones.

The new research, to be published later this year in the International Journal of Cancer, is the second study to suggest increased risks of specific types of brain tumours in regions close to where mobile phone emissions enter the head.

However, a number of other studies have found no increased health risks associated with mobile phone use.

Prof Lawrie Challis, the chairman of the government-funded Mobile Telecommunications Health Research (MTHR) programme, said last week that most research had shown that mobiles were safe in the short term but that there was a "hint of something" for longer-term users.

Prof Challis, who is negotiating funding for a long-term international study, said last night: "I agree with the authors that this is a hint that needs further exploration. It's further reason why a long-term study is necessary."

Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News, a US newsletter on radiation and health that reported the new study, said: "We now have two tumour types found among people who use mobiles for more than 10 years shown by two different research groups. That is compelling evidence."

Researchers from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland compared the mobile phone use of 1,521 people with gliomas with that of 3,301 people without the cancers.

Before separating out long-term users or looking at the different risks of developing tumours on the side where users held the phone, the scientists found no link between mobile use and gliomas.

However when they looked only at people who had used a mobile for 10 years or more, they found that they were 39 per cent more likely than average to get a glioma on the side of their head where they held their handset.

Prof Anssi Auvinen, an epidemiologist involved in the study, said: "It seems credible as it was after long-term exposure — which makes sense in terms of the length of time it takes for tumours to develop — and it is localised to the side of the head where the handset is held."

A spokesman for the Mobile Operators Association said: "The overall results of this study do not show increased brain tumour risk in relation to mobile phone use.

"The findings related to tumour location are difficult to interpret."



Mobile phone use and cancer linked

By Nic Fleming, Telegraph
August 31, 2007

Fresh fears over the health hazards linked to using mobile phones have been raised after scientists found that handset radiation could trigger cell division.

A study found that exposure to mobile phone signals for just five minutes stimulated human cells to split in two - a process that occurs naturally when tissue grows or rejuvenates, but that is also central to the development of cancer.

Previous research on the safety of mobile use has led to conflicting conclusions, with some suggesting links with tumours in the nervous system and others finding no risks.

The six-year Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme, which provided £8.4 million of Government and industry funding for 25 studies, is expected to present its final report next month.

Official guidance that mobile phones were safe was based on the mainstream scientific assumption that electromagnetic radiation from such devices could damage cells and tissue only by heating them.

But the new research, reported in this week's New Scientist, supports the position of those researchers who argue that handsets can trigger potentially harmful changes to cells irrespective of temperature changes.

Prof Rony Seger, a cancer researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and colleagues exposed rat and human cells to electromagnetic radiation at a similar frequency to that emitted by mobiles but at only about one tenth of the power.

After just five minutes the researchers identified the production of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) - natural chemicals that stimulate cell division and growth.

Cancers develop when the body is unable to prevent excessive growth and division of cells in the wrong place.

Prof Seger said yesterday: "The real significance of our findings is that cells are not inert to non-thermal mobile phone radiation.

"We used radiation power levels that were around one tenth of those produced by a normal mobile. The changes we observed were clearly not caused by heating."

The UK has adopted international safety standards for electromagnetic radiation. These state that the amount of energy absorbed from an electric field or radio wave cannot exceed two watts per kilogram (W/kg) when averaged over 10 grams of tissue. Almost all mobile phones emit less that than one W/kg.

Graham Philips, of Powerwatch, a lobby group that campaigns on mobile phones, masts and powerlines, said: "Current safety guidelines assume health effects from mobiles can occur only when significant heating of body tissue occurs.

"This study shows biological changes in response to low-level mobile phone radiation - something that could have implications for health. Further research is required. However, guidance based purely on thermal effects is clearly out of date."

Other scientists pointed out that cell division occurred naturally as tissue grew or rejuvenated within the body, and that the preliminary study did not prove any health effects.

Simon Cook, a biochemist at the Babraham Institute near Cambridge, said: "The reason people are intrigued is that this pathway is frequently activated in cancer.

"The research is certainly interesting. However, they saw a very transient activation of this pathway, which we know is not sufficient to promote cell division.

"In cancer you see a much stronger, persistent and sustained activation and even this is just one of many changes required for cancer development."

Simon Arthur, from the University of Dundee, said: "The ERK1/2 pathway can be turned on by a huge variety of different things such as natural compounds produced by the body that regulate cell growth, and various forms of environmental and chemical stress.

"The research shows the effect on cells in culture in tightly-controlled laboratory conditions. In a living person there are lots of different processes occurring at the same time, so we do not know whether the signal from radio waves would produce a similar measureable effect."

The health debate

May 2000: Parents left confused after an official report, chaired by Sir William Stewart, then chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), concluded that there were no proven health risks associated with mobile phones but that children should minimise their use as a precaution.

Feb 2001: The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) set up to encourage further research into potential health hazards of handsets and masts.

May 2001: Research in America suggested children's brains absorbed 50-70 per cent more radiation from handsets than adults because their skulls were smaller.

Oct 2004: Swedish research concluded that those who used mobiles for 10 years were almost twice as likely to develop an acoustic neuroma - a tumour on a nerve connecting the ear to the brain.

Jan 2005: Chairman of the Health Protection Agency advised parents not to allow children under nine to use mobiles because of potential but unproven risks.

Dec 2006: A Danish study of people with brain tumours concluded there were no increased risks for heavy users.

Jan 2007: A study in Finland of people with nervous system tumours called gliomas found no link with mobile use until it separated out long-term, regular users. It was concluded that they were 39 per cent more likely to get a glioma on the side of their head where they held their handset.

Sept 2007: MTHR expected to present final report, including results of several unpublished studies. Prof Lawrie Challis, the chairman, expected to say there are no proven risks from short-term use, but to announce large-scale monitoring of health of handset users over 10 years.



'Can you hear me now?'

Enjoy your (impending) visits to the oncology clinic, lemmings :-P

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nobel Prize in Physics to be announced

By Matt Moore and Karl Ritter, Associated Press
October 9, 2007

Stockholm, Sweden - Discoveries of planets orbiting stars outside the solar system, efforts to better understand why weather is so chaotic and work on carbon tubes are among the discoveries that could win the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday.

But the prize, one of the original five outlined in the will of Alfred Nobel, is one of the toughest to predict, and in some cases, comprehend, given the complexity of science involved for an award with a wide latitude of subjects to touch on.

"Physics is a tough one," said David Pendlebury, of research services at Thomson Scientific, which analyzes the work, citations and experience of scores of possible Nobel laureates and conducts an online poll to see who the likely winners could be.

The rest of the article here.

One thing is for sure though, it won't be those geniuses who think that bicycles and their wheels need to be heavy or of a certain weight or else they won't climb well, suffer from stability problems on the flats, or simply launch off into space and risk being anally probed by a certain extraterrestrial with a long, light-emitting finger.

You read it here first.

Funding for graduate school: a primer

Some valuable info from takchek:

Clearing the air about Grad School Funding.

Point 3 is quite interesting because I know graduate students (Arts and Letters) who voluntarily plot their higher education along this trajectory. I.e. being unable to pay for a Masters degree — and with Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistant positions unavailable to non-PhD candidates — they obtain funding for a doctorate, do 2 years, and then drop out with a terminal Masters.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Work ethic

Something my former housemate spotted:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

East versus west: moral bankrupts on a high horse

Something you won't read in The Straits Times, The Sycophantic Times, or, The Shitty Times:

Web of cash, power and cronies

By Eric Ellis, The Age
September 29, 2007

SINGAPORE isn't just skilled at mandatory executions of drug traffickers, running an excellent airport and selling cameras on Orchard Road. It also does a useful trade keeping Burma's military rulers and their cronies afloat.

Much attention is placed on China and its coming hosting of the Olympic Games as a diplomatic pressure point on the rampant Burmese junta. But there is a group of government businessmen-technocrats in Singapore who will also be closely monitoring the brutality in Rangoon. And, were they so inclined, their influence could go a long way to limiting the misery being inflicted on Burma's 54 million people.

Collectively known as "Singapore Inc", they gather around the $A150 billion state-owned investment house Temasek Holdings, controlled by a member of the ruling Lee family.

With an estimated $A3 billion staked in the country (and a more than $20 billion stake in Australia), Singapore Inc companies have been some of the biggest investors in and supporters of Burma's military junta — this while its Government, on the rare times it is asked, suggests a softly-softly diplomatic approach towards the junta.

When it comes to Burma, Singapore pockets the high morals it likes to wave at the West elsewhere. Singapore's one-time head of foreign trade once said as his country was building links with Burma in the mid-1990s: "While the other countries are ignoring it, it's a good time for us to go in … you get better deals, and you're more appreciated … Singapore's position is not to judge them and take a judgemental moral high ground."

But by providing Burma's pariah junta with the crucial equipment mostly denied by Western sanctions, Singapore has helped keep the junta and its cronies afloat for 20 years, since the last time the generals killed the citizens they are supposed to protect.

Withdraw that financial support and Burma's junta would be substantially weakened, perhaps even fail. But after two decades of profitable business with the trigger-happy generals and their cronies, that's about the last thing Singapore is likely to do. There's too much money to be made.

Hotels, airlines, military materiel and training, crowd control equipment and sophisticated telecoms-monitoring devices for its secret police — Singapore is manager and supplier to the junta, and the "cronified" economy it controls.

It's impossible to spend any time in Burma and not make the junta richer, thanks to Singapore suppliers' contracts with the tourism industry. Singapore's hospitals also keep Burma's leaders alive — 74-year-old junta leader Than Shwe has been getting his intestinal cancer treated in a Singapore government hospital, protected by Singapore security. Singapore's boutiques keep junta wives and families cloaked in Armani, and its banks help launder their money and that of Burma's crony drug lords.

Much of Singapore's activity in Burma has been documented by an analyst working in Prime Minister John Howard's direct chain of command, in the Office of National Assessments. Andrew Selth is recognised as an authority on the Burmese military. Now a research fellow at Queensland's Griffith University, Mr Selth has written extensively on how close Singapore is to the junta.

Often writing as "William Ashton" in the authoritative Jane's Intelligence Review, Mr Selth has described in various articles how Singapore has sent the junta guns, rockets, armoured personnel carriers and grenade launchers, some of it trans-shipped from stocks seized by Israel from Palestinians in southern Lebanon.

Singaporean companies have provided computers and networking equipment for Burma's defence ministry and army, while upgrading the bunkered junta's ability to network with regional commanders — so crucial as protesting monks take to the streets of 20 Burmese cities, causing major logistical headaches for the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military.

"Singapore cares little about human rights, in particular the plight of the ethnic and religious minorities in Burma," Mr Selth writes.

"Having developed one of the region's most advanced armed forces and defence industrial support bases, Singapore is in a good position to offer Burma a number of inducements which other ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) countries would find hard to match."

Singapore's Foreign Minister, George Yeo, is the current chairman of ASEAN.

Mr Selth says Singapore also provided the equipment for a "cyber war centre" to monitor dissident activity while training Burma's secret police, whose sole job seems to be ensuring pro-democracy groups are crushed.

Monitoring dissidents is an area where Singapore has particular expertise. After almost five decades in power, the Lee family-controlled People's Action Party ranks behind only the communists of China, Cuba and North Korea in leadership longevity, skilled in neutralising opposition.

"This centre is reported to be closely involved in the monitoring and recording of foreign and domestic telecommunications, including the satellite telephone conversations of Burmese opposition groups," Mr Selth writes.

Singapore Government companies, such as leading arms supplier Singapore Technologies, dominate the communications and military sector in Singapore. "It is highly unlikely," Mr Selth writes, "that any of these arms shipments to Burma could have been made without the knowledge and support of the Singapore Government."

He notes that Singapore's ambassadors to Burma have included a former senior Singapore armed forces officer, and a past director of Singapore's defence-oriented Joint Intelligence Directorate, people with a military background rather than professional diplomats.

He writes that after the 1988 crackdown, when the junta killed 3000 protesters, "the first country to come to the regime's rescue was in fact Singapore".

When I interviewed Singapore Technologies chief executive Peter Seah at his office in Singapore, I asked about the scale model of an armoured personnel carrier made by his company on his office table. He said ST sold the vehicles "only to allies".

Does that include Burma, I asked, given that Singapore controversially helped sponsor the military regime into ASEAN?

Mr Seah was non-specific: "We only sell to allies and we make sure they are responsible." He didn't say how. ST and Temasek don't respond to questions about their activities in Burma.

Singapore is so close to Burma that one of its diplomats there wrote a handbook for its business people there. Matthew Sim's Myanmar on my Mind is full of useful tips for Singaporean business people in Burma. "A little money goes a long way in greasing the wheels of productivity," he writes.

A chapter headed "Committing Manslaughter when Driving" describes the appropriate action if a Singaporean businessman accidentally kills a Burmese pedestrian. "Firstly, the international businessman could give the family of the deceased some money as compensation and dissuade them from pressing charges. Secondly, he could pay a Myanmar citizen to take the blame by declaring that he was the driver in the fatal accident. An international businessman should not make the mistake of trying to argue his case in a court of law when it comes to a fatal accident, even if he is in the right."

Mr Sim says many successful Myanmar businessmen have opened shell companies in Singapore "with little or no staff, used to keep funds overseas". The companies are used to keep business deals outside the control of Burma's central bank, enabling Singaporeans and others to transact with Burma in Singapore.

He may be referring to junta cronies such as Tay Za and the drug lord Lo Hsing Han. Lo is an ethnic Chinese, from Burma's traditionally Chinese-populated and opium-rich Kokang region in the country's east, bordering China. He controls a massive heroin empire, and one of Burma's biggest companies, Asia World, which the US Drug Enforcement Agency describes as a front for his drug-trafficking. Asia World controls toll roads, industrial parks and trading companies. Singapore is the Lo family's crucial window to the world, as it controls a number of companies there. His son Steven, who has been denied a visa to the US because of his links to the drug trade, married a Singaporean, Cecilia Ng, and the two reportedly control Singapore-based trading house Kokang Singapore.

A former assistant secretary of state for the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert Gelbard, has said that half Singapore's investment in Burma has "been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han".

Tay Za, who is romantically linked to a daughter of junta leader Than Shwe, is also well known in Singapore. He was prominent in the Singapore media last year, toasting the launch of his airline Air Bagan with the head of Singapore's aviation authority. Dissident groups say the trade-off for Tay Za's government business contracts in Burma is to fund junta leaders' medical trips to Singapore.

Eric Ellis is an Australian journalist and correspondent in South-East Asia.



Reprinted in The Sydney Morning Herald on October 1, 2007, "Singapore, a friend indeed to Burma," with two additional paragraphs:

Tay Za was featured in the Singaporean media last year toasting the launch of his new airline, Air Bagan, with the head of Singapore's aviation authority. Dissident groups say the trade-off for Tay Za's government business contracts in Burma is to fund junta leaders' medical trips to Singapore.

So when the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, vows to impose financial sanctions on Burma's regime, as he did this week, perhaps he should be calling Singapore's bankers rather than Australia's.



Remember, these are some of the reasons why the state exercises strict controls over what you can read, watch, film, or write: it is for your own good; it is to protect you from being influenced by "immoral elements." Majulah Singapura.

Quin custodiet custodes ipsos?* (Decimus Junius Juvenalis)

* = Who will guard the guardians?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Which Super Villain are you?

Your results:
You are Venom

Mr. Freeze
The Joker
Green Goblin
Dark Phoenix
Poison Ivy
Dr. Doom
Lex Luthor
Strength, disguise and adrenaline are your greatest weapons.

Click here to take the "Which Super Villain am I?" quiz...

Hot damn!
Now we're talking!

Trust me, there's nothing quite like sandbagging someone!


Hat tip to you and Scott.

Which Superhero are you?

Your results:
You are Green Lantern

Green Lantern
The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

WTH... Green Lantern?
He looks like a tree-hugging bandit on a futuristic production of Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
Come on, man...
Iron Man or something!