Monday, August 31, 2009

Shark Attack Reported Near Carlsbad

NBC San Diego: "A woman was attacked by a baby Great White shark off the coast of Carlsbad less than a week ago, suffering bites to her foot and calf.
Lifeguards working along the beach have been told of the attack and say it's very uncommon in our waters.
According to Bethany Edmund, whose account of the experience appears on the Shark Research Committee website, she was taking pictures with her new underwater camera at Terramar, the popular surfing spot around 4:30 p.m. August 25 about 250 to 300 feet from shore.
She writes that she spotted a sea bass jump in front of her while she was in the water. As she tried to take a picture, she felt a sharp pain in her right foot.
"Thinking I might have kicked the reef, I shrugged it off and continued taking photographs," she wrote. "About 30 seconds later I felt the same sharp pain and, this time, I began to swim away from the area."
Seconds later, as she was swimming Edmund said she was hit on the upper right thigh and "propelled about 1 foot out of the water."
She realized she was being attacked and started to body surf toward shore. She felt something grab her calf and pull her back under the water.
"I ignored what had just occurred and caught another wave to the beach. This time I felt the same sharp pain in my left calf, but this time I was dragged under water and shaken for 4 – 5 seconds," Edmund wrote. "During this struggle I accidently kicked the shark and it released me."
She contacted lifeguards the day after the attack and described the shark as about 6 feet in length with a dark blue/black top and a white belly.
We spoke with one Encinitas lifeguard who had been told of the attack. "A shark specialist looked at her injuries and confirmed the bites are those from a baby Great White," said Elena Tellechea. "But the wounds didn't even cut through the skin.""

Time lapse footage of LA wildfires

Video - Breaking News Videos from "Embedded video from CNN Video"

Critics want Ikea to go back to the Futura

Online campaigns express outrage over decision to switch font in catalog

STOCKHOLM - Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain, said Sunday it never expected such a backlash after switching typeface in its latest catalog.

The company’s decision to make its first such font change in 50 years — from the iconic Futura typeface to the Verdana one — has caused a worldwide reaction on the Internet. The catalog — which the company advertises as the world’s most printed book — was distributed last month.

“We’re surprised,” said Ikea spokeswoman Camilla Meiby. “But I think it’s mainly experts who have expressed their views, people who are interested in fonts. I don’t think the broad public is that interested.”

Verdana was invented by Microsoft for use on a computer screen, not on paper. Its wide, open letters with space between characters are designed to increase legibility on small computer screens.

Ikea said that in order to reach many people in many different ways, it needed a font that works in both digital and print media.

“Verdana is a simple, cost-effective font which works well in all media and languages,” Meiby said.

But some Ikea fans were outraged, finding Verdana less elegant than Futura.

The online forum Typophile ended its first post with the words, “It’s a sad day.”

A week ago, Romanian design consultant Marius Ursache started an online petition called “Ikea, please get rid of Verdana.” On Sunday, the campaign had more than 2,700 signatures.

The move to a simple, modern-looking font also fueled Twitterposts such as “Ikea, stop the Verdana madness” and “Words can’t describe my disgust.”

Swedish art director Christoph Comstedt disagreed.

“I don’t think the average consumer will react, maybe people in the advertising business,” Comstedt said.

Ikea has 246 stores selling inexpensive furnishings globally and around 140,000 staff members.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shuttle Discovery lights up night sky

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Space shuttle Discovery and seven astronauts blazed into orbit Saturday on a spectacular midnight flight to the international space station, hauling up a treadmill named after a TV funnyman and thousands of pounds of more solemn supplies.

Discovery lit up the sky for miles around as it thundered away on NASA's third launch attempt. Lightning flashed far in the distance, and the ascending shuttle resembled a bright star until it blinked out of sight five minutes after liftoff.

The space station was soaring more than 220 miles above the Indian Ocean, southwest of Tasmania, when Discovery took off. The shuttle will reach the orbiting outpost Sunday night.

"It looks like third time really is the charm," launch director Pete Nickolenko told commander Rick Sturckow. "We wish you and your team good luck and Godspeed."

Tuesday's launch attempt was called off by thunderstorms and Wednesday's by fuel valve trouble. Everything came together in NASA's favor Friday night; even the valve and its indicator switch behaved, allowing Discovery to blast off seconds before midnight Friday. The shuttle safely reached orbit eight minutes later, on the following day.

Discovery's most prominent payload is NASA's new $5 million treadmill, which is named after Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

Colbert tried to get a space station room named after himself and even won the online vote earlier this year, but NASA went with Tranquility instead in honor of the 40th anniversary of man's first moon landing.

The comedian said the treadmill — for "all those chubby astronauts" — is a consolation prize.

The treadmill is flying up in more than 100 pieces and won't be put together until sometime next month.

In all, the space shuttle will deliver about 17,000 pounds of gear to the space station. The experiments include six mice that will remain at the orbiting complex until the following shuttle visit in November. Part of a bone loss study, the mice will be the first mammals — other than humans — to spend a prolonged period at the space station.

"Let's go step up the science on the international space station," Sturckow radioed right before liftoff.

Three spacewalks will be performed during the 13-day shuttle flight, to install a new ammonia tank, part of the space station's cooling system, and replace other equipment and retrieve outdoor experiments.

The station also will get a new resident, Nicole Stott. She will replace an astronaut who moved in during the 13-day shuttle flight last month. That spaceman will return to Earth aboard Discovery, as will Buzz Lightyear. The action figure toy has been in orbit for more than a year, courtesy of Walt Disney World.

Stott, who will spend at least three months at the space station, tapped her heart with her right hand before climbing aboard Discovery and said, "I love you" to the cameras, presumably for her husband and 7-year-old son.

Discovery's crew includes two Hispanics, the first time two have flown together in space. Both are Mexican-Americans, and one of them, Jose Hernandez, grew up in a migrant worker family. Hernandez will file bilingual Twitter updates from orbit. A Swede is also on board.

It was NASA's 33rd nighttime shuttle launch and preceded, by just two days, the 25th anniversary of Discovery's first liftoff. Flags flew at half-staff throughout Kennedy Space Center on Friday in memory of Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Only seven shuttle flights remain, including this one. A blue-ribbon review committee should file its report soon, offering options to President Obama for the direction of NASA's human spaceflight program. As it stands now, the space shuttles will be retired after space station construction is completed in the next year to year-and-a-half.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jurassic Park Inspired Plans Will Extinct Us All, Must Be Quashed

Since way back in 1993, when the movie adaptation of Jurassic Park, we knew the popularization of Michael Crichton's dinosaur nightmare novel would be the end of us. Well, that prediction seems frighteningly close to fruition.

A researcher named Hans Larsson, who cites Jurassic Park as his inspiration, announced this week that he could soon to play God with Chicken genomes to create creatures with dino-like characteristics.

As we all know, dinosaurs and birds are closely related, so by pulling a DNA switcheroo, Larsson says, he can produce an army of prehistoric monsters. In an effort to lull humanity into a false sense of security, Larsson insists he doesn't have immediate plans to do so, because it would simply be too large an undertaking.

While the prospect of dinosaurs roaming the world is unsettling enough, consider where Larsson's getting the dough for his project: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs programme and National Geographic. Now, we don't want to tell the President how to do his job, but this should end.

Imagine if terrorists got their hands on the research! Osama bin Laden would be riding up and down Manhattan on a T-Rex and suicide Pterodactyls would be crashing from coast-to-coast. Something. Must. Be. Done.

First step: invent time machine. Second step: stop Jurassic Park's publication. Third step: live happily ever after.

Urine power! Hydrogen produced from urea could be used to run cars, houses

It may not flush away the global energy crisis, but a new technology that uses urine could be powering cars and houses by the end of the year, according to a Discovery Channel report.
Scientists at Ohio University used a nickel-based electrode to make cheap hydrogen from urine, reports Discovery. Hydrogen gas is a common element but can be difficult to produce and store. When scientists stuck the electrode into a pool of urine and applied an electrical current, hydrogen gas was released – and used in fuel cells.
The prototype, developed by Ohio University professor Gerardine Botte, is about three inches by three inches and it produces up to 500 milliwatts of power. The scientists are hoping to create commercial versions of the technology, Discovery reported.
It’s estimated that a fuel-cell urine-powered car could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon, said Botte.
“One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses,” Botte said. “Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel.”
The professors focused on urea, which is a urine byproduct, explains University of Georgia professor John Stickney.
“Urea is a byproduct of a lot of cities and farms, but even if you take all the people and all the animals, there’s not enough to run the world,” he says. “So this technology isn’t something that’s going to take over for Saudi Arabia.”
But, he says, the new technology “is not irrelevant. It’s good to work on a lot of different fronts because you never know which one is going to work.”
Historically, Stickney notes, urea is made into fertilizer, which is not the only way cow urine is used. In India, a soft drink made with bovine urine was recently under development and that country’s leading Hindu cultural group hoped to market it as a “healthy” alternative to traditional soft drinks.
Though applications using urine won’t be available to consumers for quite some time, it’s definitely worth developing, Stickney says. “We are going to have to put together a lot of greener ways to collect energy that don’t produce greenhouse gases and don’t require us to go to war,” he notes. “While this wouldn’t solve all our problems, it could be a useful technology. And if you designed a farm correctly then the waste products could produce the amount of energy required to run that farm.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Calling All Amateur Astronomers: Help Solve a Mystery "A super-bright star is gradually going dim, and scientists want YOU to help them find out why.
For nearly 200 years, astronomers have been wondering why the star epsilon Aurigae turns down its light once every 27 years. Based on careful observations of the star’s periodic dimming, scientists believe that the supergiant star must have a mysterious companion that blocks its light periodically. But they still don’t know what that companion is.
Epsilon Aurigae’s next dip in brightness starts this fall, and telescope technology has come a long way since the star’s last eclipse in 1982-84. This time, astronomers are also hoping they’ll have the help of thousands of extra eyes: Starting today, a collaborative project called Citizen Sky is asking amateur astronomers to help solve the mystery of epsilon Aurigae.
“The star is too bright to be observed with the vast majority of professional telescopes,” astronomer Arne Henden of the American Association of Variable Star Observers said in a press release, “so this is another area where public help is needed.”
Because the star is so bright, even the most basic equipment — including the naked eye — can provide useful data. Normally the star can be seen from fall to spring in the Northern Hemisphere, even in urban areas with lots of light pollution. But beginning this fall, epsilon Aurigae is expected to gradually dim until it has lost half its light by early winter. The star will be dim during all of 2010 and then bounce back to its usual brightness by summer 2011.
Citizen Sky participants are being asked not just to collect data on the star’s brightness, but also to join in on other aspects of the scientific process. A three-year grant from the National Science Foundation will provide funds to recruit and train a team of citizen scientists, who will be taught to analyze data, create and test their own hypotheses and even to write up their results."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

DisInfo Podcast -- Douglas Rushkoff Interview

Dear Friends,

You've heard me talk about "out there radio," I'm sure. If you haven't gone the extra step to listen for yourselves, well, I feel a little sorry for you. Nonethless, my favorite podcast hosts now run the disinfo cast, and the latest interview is really great. Author Douglas Rushkoff - you may have seen him on the Colbert Report - but that 5 minutes doesn't begin to cover the ground this 45 min. interview does. Great stuff, some great advice for living a great life. I especially enjoyed his take on how the word "cool" has changed from meaning impervious to marketers to now meaning the ones who are the savviest consumers - a la the urban outfitters and the whole hipster crowd.

Please listen!

"This episode features an interview with author and media wizard Douglas Rushkoff.  We discuss his new book, Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back , his work as a media correspondent with the groundbreaking PBS series Frontline, and his long time interest in counter-culture."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lost people really do walk in circles "If you're lost in the woods and you feel like you're walking in circles, you probably are.
Without landmarks to guide us, people really do go around and around, a new study has found.
The finding emphasizes the importance of being prepared if you're going to set off into the wilderness or even into a maze of city streets.
"Just walking in a straight line seems like such a simple and natural thing to do, but if you think about it, it's quite (a) complicated thing going on in the brain," said Jan Souman, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tubingen, Germany.
"After these experiments, I would never go into a big forest or desert without a compass or GPS anymore."
Souman's project started when a German popular-science television show approached his group with a viewer question: Why do people walk in circles when they're lost?
At first, Souman wasn't sure if that common sensation was actually true. When lost, he suspected, people might veer to the left or right. But he didn't expect them to actually walk in true circles.
Trying to walk straight
To find out, he instructed nine people to walk as straight as possible in one direction for several hours.
Six walkers forged through a flat, forested region of Germany. Three trekked through the Sahara desert in southern Tunisia. (A sandstorm stopped further testing in the desert). All walkers wore GPS receivers so that the researchers could analyze their routes.
The results, published today in the journal Current Biology, showed that no matter how hard people tried to walk in a straight line, they often ended up going in circles without ever realizing that they were crossing their own paths."

Deaths at Disney World Prompt Investigations

The accidental death of a performer at Walt Disney Co.'s Walt Disney World in Florida -- the third employee fatality at the park since early July -- has prompted separate local and federal investigations.

Anislav Varbanov, 30 years old, died late Monday after he was injured performing a tumbling roll during a rehearsal for a show based on the Indiana Jones character in the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" movie series.

The U.S. Labor Department sent an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator to Orlando to determine what had happened. OSHA has up to six months to report its findings, a spokesman said. In addition, the local sheriff's office is looking into the matter, and Disney has launched its own investigation.

Mr. Varbanov's death followed the death last week of Mark Prince, 47, from complications following a head injury suffered during the performance of a pirate show. Last month, Austin Wuennenberg, 21, died when another train backed into a monorail he was operating. OSHA is also investigating those deaths.

A medical examiner in Orlando performed an autopsy on Mr. Varbanov Tuesday and ruled the death was caused by a neck fracture and was accidental, said Sheri Blanton, a senior program manager with the medical examiner's office.

Mr. Varbanov, a native of Bulgaria, had joined Walt Disney World last month and had worked and trained as a gymnast and acrobat since at least 1991, according to a Disney spokesman.

The Disney spokesman said the park uses its own "rigorously trained" employee team, including engineers, to examine the safety of equipment and practices at Disney parks. Eleven months ago, the safety team was reorganized to combine employee and customer safety at Disney's parks and resorts.

OSHA has launched five inspections of parts of Disney World in 2009, three because of the fatalities and two in response to complaints. In February, OSHA fined Disney $4,000 for violations related to exposed openings and electrical wiring. Walt Disney World employs some 60,000 people.

Florida tracks park accidents, but only those affecting customers, said Rob Jacobs, chief of the Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection. In the quarter ended June 30, Disney reported a dozen, ranging from a 66-year-old who fractured his ribs after colliding with another guest on the Rudder Buster water slide to a 48-year-old woman who felt weak after riding on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

Body odour ban for park visitors

Deodorants will be available for nervous or excited customers
Rollercoaster riders at a Surrey theme park are being banned from putting their arms in the air - after complaints about body odour.
Notices have been put on scary rides at Thorpe Park and staff have been issued with deodorant sprays for customers.
Director Mike Vallis said visitors had complained about BO during a previous hot spell this year.
A spokesman said: "People may say it's all a publicity stunt but we take our customer feedback seriously."
Mr Vallis said the combination of hot weather and exciting rides could produce the unpleasant side-effect of an excess of body odour.
"The human body reacts to being scared and being thrilled by sweating a bit more," he said.
"We are asking people to keep their arms down in the present hot spell.
"In some extreme cases we may even ask people to move to the back of the train so the whole ride doesn't have to go through a cloud of someone else's BO."
The spokesman added there was no question of banning people with body odour from the park's rides - which include Stealth, Colossus and Nemesis Inferno - but they would be spoken to quietly and asked to use a deodorant before riding a rollercoaster.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can your flip-flops kill you?

Are flip-flops putting your health at risk?
Ah, the casual, comfortable flip-flop: A symbol of summertime, an emblem of relaxation — and a harbinger of death?

OK, well, that may be overstating it a little bit — but not by too terribly much, health experts say.

TODAY, with the help of the University of Miami emergency mobile flip-flop lab, tested some footwear and found that there were more than 18,000 bacteria on just one pair of flip-flops. Even more shocking than the number of germs were the types represented — bacteria from fecal matter, skin and respiratory germs. One pair of 6-year-old flip-flops had bacteria that caused yeast infection and diaper rash.

The New York Daily News recently tested two pairs of flip-flops as well, ones that traipsed through bars in New York’s West Village, plodded through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, rode the F, A, C, G, 2 and 3 subway trains, attended a Brooklyn Cyclones game in Coney Island and rode the Cyclone roller coaster. One pair wandered into the Coney Island subway station’s public restroom.

They found that the shoes that flopped their way into that public restroom harbored about 13,900 more bacteria than the other pair.

Presence of a deadly germ
Most disturbing of all, the flip-flops provided shelter to the potentially lethal germ Staphylococcus aureus. That’s serious, said Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He said the presence of this germ can be especially problematic if you have an open cut or blister on your foot, or if you handle your flip-flops a lot with your hands.

“That particular organism can give you a serious infection like a boil, or more serious, it could possess toxins,” Tierno told TODAY. “They can make you very sick or kill you.”

Tierno — also known as “Dr. Germ” — pointed out that if such shoes were worn for three months over the course of an entire summer, 93 percent of them would have fecal bacteria on them and 20 percent of them would have E. coli.

“These bacteria detected indicate obviously that feces, urine, spit, vomit, animal droppings were all present,” Tierno told TODAY. “That is what’s on the streets of a big city and in public bathrooms ... Think about what’s on the ground we walk on in New York City. There’s rat-doo and cockroaches, and they’re harbingers of all sorts of germs."

Dr. Lisa Plano, a microbiologist at the University of Miami, agreed with Tierno’s assessment of the dangers of germs on flip-flops, but said this knowledge shouldn’t inspire utter panic in flip-flop owners.

“As long as your skin is intact, as long as you use common sense and don’t knowingly expose yourself ... you shouldn’t be alarmed,” she said. “Even though those nasty things are out there, those nasty things have always been out there — we just haven’t always been looking for them.”

Protect yourself
So armed with information like this, what’s a fan of casual footwear to do? Tierno said to avoid touching your flip-flops and your unwashed feet as much as possible.

“That’s what you do when you’re wearing these types of shoes — you’re adjusting it often for comfort, since they flop around,” Tierno said. “They are thin and you handle it more than a regular shoe to slip it over your toe.”

To help combat such exposure, you can wash your hands often and remove your shoes before you walk around your home.

You also could consider reserving those flip-flops as part of your beach or poolside attire only, Tierno said.

“I’m not saying don’t ever wear them,” he said. “They are nice for the beach and the pool and perhaps even in your home. ... My thought is they should be worn temporarily. There is a place for them.”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Luxury Resort Offers $19 Room. The Catch? There’s No Bed!

The Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego is trying a new tactic for drawing guests in a struggling economy: the "Survivor Package." For $19 a night, guests get a tent to sleep in (no mattress, linens, lights, or air conditioning, and forget the free breakfast).

Managers of the luxury resort hope people will return after the promotion willing to pay full price for all the amenities.

50 Amazing Ramen Noodle Recipes

A sign of a tightened economy, ramen noodles are more popular than ever. Still, they can get boring after a while. From Rasmussen College, here are 50 ways to dress up ramen noodles in salads, soups, main dishes, breakfast, and even desserts.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Whole Foods comes out against health care reform, calls it "socialism"

From America Blog:
"The CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, just penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. It sounds like something written by Dick Armey with the help of Sarah Palin and the teabag brigade. I am absolutely shocked. Joe, an avid Whole Foods shopper, up until this morning, is absolutely devastated.

Read this opinion piece. It's not just someone who disagrees with President Obama about the details of health care reform. It reads like someone who is a conservative Republican activist. I'd highly suggest you share this article with your progressive friends who, like Joe and me, have for far too long been under the mistaken assumption that Whole Foods was a "good" company. Apparently they're one of the worst out there. Not just agnostic on doing good, but affirmatively trying to stop good from happening.

When you go to Whole Foods you are bankrolling the conservative Republican effort to kill health care reform and to label Democratic presidents and Democratic values "socialist." The CEO of Whole Foods thinks you're a socialist. It's time to stop giving him your money."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

9,000-year-old house reveals Stone Age lifestyle

Discovery on Isle of Man reveals use of stone tools, diet heavy in hazelnuts

Workers appear above the foundation of the hunter-gatherer house. This prehistoric abode predates Stonehenge by 4,000 years and offers archaeologists a glimpse of domestic life during the Mesolithic era.
By Jennifer Viegas
The remains of a 9,000-year-old hunter-gatherers' house, uncovered during construction at an airport, have been unearthed in Great Britain's Isle of Man. The house was surrounded by buried mounds of burnt hazelnut shells and stocked with stone tools, according to archaeologists working on the project and a report in the latest British Archaeology.

It is the earliest known complete house on the Isle of Man and one of Britain's oldest and best-preserved houses, according to the report. The find also offers a glimpse of domestic life 4,000 before Stonehenge.

Based on the many ancient shells found surrounding its exterior, the home's first inhabitants must have eaten a lot of hazelnuts.

"There were presumably so many hazelnuts near the house as a result of processing and consumption of these within the building," project manager Fraser Brown of Oxford Archaeology North told Discovery News.

"They may have been burnt because the shells were discarded into a fire after consumption of the fruit," he added. "When the hearth sweepings were cleaned from the building, the burnt nutshells and all else were cleaned to the periphery. Hazelnuts would have been an abundant and highly nutritious source of food that could easily be gathered in the autumn and stored for consumption through lean winter months."

A pit containing the structure's remains is about 23 feet wide and 12 inches deep. A ring of postholes around the edge, along with carbonized timbers, suggests the building's supports were about 6 inches thick.

In addition to the hazelnut shell mounds, the archaeologists also found a few hammer and anvil stones as well as approximately 14,000 flint artifacts that the researchers say once made up stone tools, such as fishing spears.

The hunter-gatherer residents "probably had a permanent base near the sea so that they could have easy access to marine resources, but given the small size of the Isle of Man, it would have been a simple matter to foray inland to exploit the different resources available there."

Once the residents arrived at the island by boat, they probably would have not strayed far from home since "they could obtain all that they needed locally," which could be the reason they set up a permanent home.

Remains of another hunter-gatherer home, found over two decades ago just 492 feet from this latest discovery, also contained a hearth, small stone tools and numerous hazelnut shells.

Mike Pitts, an archaeologist who is also the editor of British Archaeology, still wonders why burnt hazelnut shells would have been buried so prominently around the houses.

"Perhaps the smell of the burnt shells had some significance?" Pitts speculates. "Was it comforting, redolent of good meals, or could it have had a more complex, ritual meaning?"

Andrew Johnson, curator of Field Archaeology at Manx National Heritage in the Isle of Man, helped to monitor the recent excavation work.

Johnson told Discovery News, "I would regard the finds as being of national importance for the Isle of Man, and certainly of international significance in that they add to what at present is only a very small number of Mesolithic buildings found in Northwest Europe."

Lying low after a layoff

Some terminated employees work to keep up appearance of having a job
By Annie Gowen
WASHINGTON - For weeks after he was laid off, Clinton Cole would rise at the usual time, shower, shave, don one of his Jos. A. Bank suits and head out the door of his Vienna home -- to a job that no longer existed.

He was careful to stay away until 5 p.m., whiling away the hours at the library or on a park bench in a wireless Internet hot spot. If he had to stay home, he stashed the car in the garage.

When he lost his job as a business development manager with General DynamicsInformation Technology in February, Cole was too ashamed to tell anyone except his wife and family what had happened. It made no difference that 1,200 other workers were pink-slipped at the same time. He felt as if he had done something wrong, even though he knew he hadn't.

"In this area, in the shadow of our nation's capital, so much is about appearances," said Cole, a carefully spoken man of medium height with thinning brown hair and tortoise-shell glasses, which he removes for photographs. "There was fear that other kids wouldn't play with your kids. You won't be invited to parties or be ostracized. Or that others would distance themselves from you because you might need help they won't be able to provide. All those thoughts race through your mind."

After about two months, Cole tired of the charade, and now he thinks that talking about it publicly could help him find employment and inspire others. He realized that those he once thought would shun him often reached out to help. Perhaps they saw a bit of themselves in his anxious eyes -- just one severance check away from disaster.

Even as the ranks of unemployed and underemployed have grown, career counselors, therapists and other experts say a certain segment is determined to suffer in silence, keeping details of job losses and financial pressure secret from all but close family and friends. The problem is particularly acute in affluent neighborhoods in the Washington region, experts say, where the self-worth of high-achieving professionals is deeply intertwined with their jobs. There might be 14 million unemployed people in this country, but in this town -- with its A-types and status seekers -- failure still is not an option.

Current at the club
"I have people who are not working and laid off who still pay their country club memberships. Then they're not sleeping at night and fighting with their spouses or children," said Cynthia Turner, a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Loudoun and Fairfax counties. "Still, there's shame. What I see is people willing to talk about the stock market but not willing to talk about . . . losing a job, being furloughed or laid off."

Feelings of disgrace and fear are natural for laid-off workers, experts say, but going to extremes to mask the truth is more prevalent in other cultures, such as some in Asia. During the recession of the 1990s, some Japanese "salarymen" committed suicide rather that admit to their families that they had lost their jobs; an online poll this spring of 440 dismissed Korean workers showed that one in five hid the news from their families. Stories such as Cole's are becoming more common here in this recession, because the downturn has hit more middle-class and affluent families than usual.

When Henry Brinton, the pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church, set up a support group for unemployed executives this year, he modeled it on anonymous self-help groups. With those rules, a dozen congregants have felt free to tell their stories.

"I didn't want anyone to come to this group feeling as though they were going to be embarrassed or gossiped about," Brinton said.

And so a District lawyer recently bumped from equity partner to counsel says little but worries about how he's going to pay the mortgage on his freshly built dream home. And in Silver Spring, a 39-year-old journalist who can't find a TV job still goes out for dinner with friends who don't know how poor she is, pretending all the while that she's doing just fine. She orders water and a $4 side salad, then drives her (paid-for) Jaguar to whichever grocery store has Lean Cuisine on sale. (These two and others interviewed did not want their names used for the same reason that they are keeping the information from their friends.)

The number of college-educated workers who are unemployed is rising; in the Washington area, those collecting unemployment benefits who have college or postgraduate degrees more than doubled from July 2008 to last month, up to 6,227 from 2,652. But for some, the sheer numbers of unemployed in this "jobless recovery" provide little comfort and do not lessen the stigma.

One woman who has attended Brinton's group said no one but her children knows that she and her husband are jobless, their savings shot. When she walks her dog around her neighborhood of $600,000 homes, she'll tell neighbors she is telecommuting for the day. She and her husband use fictitious commitments to put off friends' invitations for dinner out or weekends away.

"I don't want people to know. They feel sorry for you, and that's a bittersweet thing," she said. "It's just easier to fib about it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Breadfruit to the Rescue

Chartreuse with spikes, the breadfruit measures about the size of a football. It tastes as bland as it sounds—kind of like a raw potato. It's also got a historical taint: the fruit was used to feed British slaves in Caribbean colonies and spurred the notorious mutiny aboard the Bounty. But it grows quickly and is high in fiber, carbs, and protein, making it ideal for the world's malnourished, who now total 1 billion, according to the U.N. World Food Program.

For centuries botanists were unable to reproduce and ship the plant, which is native to the Pacific Islands. But a team of researchers led by Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawaii, has discovered how to propagate it en masse to ship to regions in Central America and Africa where it would grow best (and where hunger rates are highest). Now Ragone has 40 requests from governments, NGOs, nonprofits, and farmers across the globe to integrate the fruit.

Still, USAID, the federal arm that administers development funds, sees holes in the plan. "The problem of putting something like breadfruit in other parts of the world is that people don't often get support when the crop doesn't do well," says Josette Lewis, USAID director of agriculture. Ragone and her team, aware of this issue, are applying for funding to help assemble teams of botanists and aid employees in each region.

But Zach Lea, an agriculture specialist with the aid group Roots of Peace, spent a decade working with breadfruit in Haiti and thinks Haitians would be amenable to expanding the small number of breadfruit plants that already exist there. "The people eating it probably haven't read Mutiny on the Bounty," he says. And they've given the breadfruit a promising name of their own, which, in the local languages of French and Haitian Creole, translates to "veritable tree."

Judge sentences man to 6 months in jail for yawning

6-month term given by judge who has doled out the most charges of contempt in Will County

By Steve Schmadeke
Tribune reporter
August 10, 2009

Clifton Williams arrived at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet and sat in the fourth-floor courtroom where his cousin was pleading guilty to a felony drug charge.

As Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak handed down the cousin's sentence -- 2 years' probation -- Williams, 33, stretched and let out a very ill-timed yawn.

Williams' sentence? Six months in jail -- the maximum penalty for criminal contempt without a jury trial. The Richton Park man was locked up July 23 and will serve at least 21 days.

"I was flabbergasted because I didn't realize a judge could do that," said Williams' father, Clifton Williams Sr. "It seems to me like a yawn is an involuntary action."

Chuck Pelkie, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, said the prosecutor in the courtroom that day told him that "it was not a simple yawn -- it was a loud and boisterous attempt to disrupt the proceedings."

Jason Mayfield, the cousin of Williams who was pleading guilty at the time, said it was "not an outrageous yawn."

A Tribune review of a decade's worth of contempt-of-court charges reveals that Rozak jails people -- typically spectators whose cell phones go off or who scream or shout profanity during sentencing -- at a far higher rate than any other judge in the county. There are now 30 judges in the 12th Judicial Circuit, but since 1999, Rozak has brought more than a third of all the contempt charges, records show.

And while it is not uncommon for judges to jail people for ignoring subpoenas or court orders or appearing in court drunk or under the influence of drugs, Rozak's charges tend to involve behavior that would not otherwise be criminal.

Judges have broad discretion under the law, which defines contempt as acts that embarrass, hinder or obstruct the court in its administration of justice or lessen its authority or dignity. As long as the sentence is not longer than 6 months, there is no review of the case -- unless the offender appeals to the judge or a higher court.

"We want judges to be able to manage the courtroom ... but we have some concern that when the contempt is personal, judges might react too harshly," said University of Chicago law professor Adam Samaha. "Contempt that happens right in the judge's face is likely to trigger an emotional reaction."

Observers describe Rozak as running the type of strict courtroom that was common a few decades ago. Defense attorneys say Rozak is "tough but fair" and runs particularly well-managed trials. Rozak has been elected in 2000 and 2006, both times with recommendations from the state bar association.

"I think he's terrific -- he understands how the world works," said Joliet defense attorney David Carlson. "Some of the most serious felonies we have are handled in his courtroom, so I think there should be a level of seriousness and decorum."

So far this year, five criminal contempt charges have been brought by Will County judges. Four of them were brought by Rozak, including the case of Derrick Lee, a Joliet man who "resisted" sitting where sheriff's deputies directed him, talked in a "very loud" voice during court and referred to Rozak as "boss," according to the judge's contempt order. Lee, who also was wanted on an outstanding warrant, was sentenced to 30 days but was released two days later after apologizing.

Chief Judge Gerald Kinney said he couldn't comment on the propriety of Williams' case, but said he would have liked a more detailed order from Rozak in imposing the maximum penalty. He was not aware that Rozak brings a high percentage of contempt charges and said he has not received a significant number of complaints about the judge.

Rozak could not be reached for comment.

Rozak's order sentencing Williams to 6 months in jail found that he "raised his hands while at the same time making a loud yawning sound" that caused the judge to "break from the proceedings."

"I really can't believe I'm in jail," Williams wrote his family in a letter. "I done set (sic) in this [expletive] a week so far for nothing."

People in other Will County courtrooms have received less severe sentences for seemingly more flagrant offenses. In Judge Richard Schoenstedt's court last year, a woman was disruptive during closing arguments of a trial; shouted, "This is bull ..." as she was led away; was held to the floor by a deputy; and "continued to be disruptive" after later being brought back before the judge. She received a 7-day sentence for contempt, records show.

Rozak has sentenced more spectators to jail for infractions involving cell phones than any other judge in Will County in the last decade. In 2003, a man who called the judge an "ass" after Rozak ordered him to turn over the phone when it rang in court was sentenced to 10 days but did just 24 hours after apologizing to the judge.

Three years later, a man twice refused to turn over his ringing cell phone to a deputy and then, his phone ringing before the bench, refused to hand it to Rozak. He also received a 6-month sentence, but it was reduced to 18 days after the man apologized, records show.

In the two-story brick home where Williams had been living with his aunt Cheryl Mayfield and caring for his 79-year-old grandmother, family members said they were in shock over the sentence but were unable to afford an attorney to appeal.

"This is ridiculous -- you've got all these people shooting up kids, and here this boy yawns in court [and gets 6 months]. It's crazy," she said. "This could happen to any one of us."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Scrap yards get busy crushing clunkers

Auto recyclers hope to make profit; effects on market uncertain
Jim Biggs, yard supervisor at B&F Towing Co. in New Castle, Del., is getting ready to destroy a 1997 green Nissan Pathfinder SUV that looks in pretty good shape except for some wear and tear.

“They’re nicer than what we’re used to crushing,” said Biggs. He climbed into a front-end loader and drove over to the Pathfinder to take it on its final journey to a giant compactor known as a “car crusher.”

The government’s hugely popular “Cash for Clunkers” program is keeping B&F and other scrap yards across the country busy crushing roadworthy vehicles and sending them on for shredding.

Not everybody is happy with the program, which was extended for at least a few weeks when President Obama Friday signed into law a $2 billion extension.

Some auto recyclers are particularly incensed with provisions that limit the ability of the yards to recycle parts from the vehicle.

“There’s a mixed feeling out there among auto recyclers,” said Jennifer Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Automotive Recyclers Association. Under the law, the engine of each "clunker" must be destroyed by a process that involves pouring sodium silicate, known as liquid glass, into it until it ceases to operate.

In addition the drive train cannot be sold without being disassembled. Those two parts typically yield 60 percent of the profit from a recycled vehicle.

Barb Moran, president of Moran Industries, one of the largest automotive aftermarket repair center franchise operations in the country, also said crushing the old vehicles means fewer components that could be used to repair existing cars. “If a customer has a problem, you’re not going to be able to go and find those parts to repair the vehicle,” she said.

But Henry Fenimore, owner of B&F, said he hopes to make at least a small profit from the vehicles he crushes. But he added that he is racing the clock to get the scrap to the salvage yard. “With the market for scrap liable to be flooded with vehicles, the price can come down," he said.

B&F is one of thousands of disposal operations across the country authorized to destroy the gas-guzzlers.

B&F bought the Pathfinder from Union Park Automotive Group in Wilmington, Del., last week and made it a priority to scrap it right away even though he has 180 days to do so under the program. The federal program requires both firms to certify in writing that the SUV was scrapped, leaving an extensive paper trail.

The government wants to ensure that the vehicles and their engines do not end up back on the road after a trade in.

“Once I get possession of them I have to certify that they won’t get back on the highway,” said Fenimore.

That's because one person’s clunker can be another person’s awesome ride; and clearly many of these vehicles are still roadworthy. One of the provisions of the clunker law is that the vehicles have to be driven in to dealerships for consumers to qualify for a government rebate of up to $4,500.

So far, Fenimore has gotten 20 vehicles from dealers around the state to crush as part of the program. He expects 200 more to be heading his way soon.

He typically pays about $200 a vehicle and expects to make a profit from the scrap metal and whatever parts he can sell and recycle. When and how much he’ll make he can’t speculate. “It depends on how fast I can do all this to keep up with the market” for scrap metal prices, he said.

The vehicles that are part of the program are not like others he’s bought before, and he expects slimmer margins.

First off, with cars he hauls from the street, there may be some money in the ashtray, or a wrench or jumper cables in the trunk. By contrast, the vehicles he’s getting through the clunker program are usually cleaned out pretty well by their owners.

Indeed, the only thing left in the Nissan Pathfinder was a pen, half a bottle of washer fluid and a jack kit.

And he can’t resell the most lucrative part of almost every vehicle, the engine.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Hiroshima Bombed 64 Years Ago Today August 6th, marks 64 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan by the United States at the end of World War II. Targeted for military reasons and for its terrain (flat for easier assessment of the aftermath), Hiroshima was home to approximately 250,000 people at the time of the bombing. The U.S. B-29 Superfortress bomber "Enola Gay" took off from Tinian Island very early on the morning of August 6th, carrying a single 4,000 kg (8,900 lb) uranium bomb codenamed "Little Boy".

At 8:15 am, Little Boy was dropped from 9,400 m (31,000 ft) above the city, freefalling for 57 seconds while a complicated series of fuse triggers looked for a target height of 600 m (2,000 ft) above the ground. At the moment of detonation, a small explosive initiated a super-critical mass in 64 kg (141 lbs) of uranium. Of that 64 kg, only .7 kg (1.5 lbs) underwent fission, and of that mass, only 600 milligrams was converted into energy — an explosive energy that seared everything within a few miles, flattened the city below with a massive shockwave, set off a raging firestorm and bathed every living thing in deadly radiation... read more

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

TED Talk: Aquatic Ape theory

Elaine Morgan is a tenacious proponent of the aquatic ape hypothesis: the idea that humans evolved from primate ancestors who dwelt in watery habitats. Hear her spirited defense of the idea -- and her theory on why mainstream science doesn't take it seriously.

Finally, the idea is getting talked about by more people than just mojo!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Apple, labels stir up deluxe digital Cocktail

Format will bundle photos, videos, lyrics, other assets with album's music

Downloadable music didn't kill the album cover. The CD did.

By shrinking the size and visual impact of the recording industry's mainstay product — and then encasing it in plastic security packaging — the shiny aluminum disc marginalized the LP to a nostalgic memory. By the time the MP3 format came along, consumers shrugged off the absence of album art and liner notes.

"We were living for so long with the CD cover art space after vinyl went away that we lost that feel of a great tactile, creative experience," says Livia Tortella, Atlantic Records general manager/executive VP of marketing and creative media. "Something got lost when you had to crack open the plastic CD with all the marketing stickers on it."

Enter Cocktail: a new digital music format that Apple is developing with record labels. The format will go beyond a simple PDF file of liner notes, and instead bundle photos, videos, lyrics and other assets with an album's music. Details remain slim, but label sources confirming the effort's existence point to it as the digital version of the record sleeves of yore.

The Cocktail format would enable fans to play an album without having to open their iTunes music management software. Supported devices haven't yet been confirmed, but industry sources expect them to be limited to the more advanced iPods, such as the iPhone and the iPod Touch. There have also been rumors of a yet-to-be-announced multimedia tablet computer from Apple that would fall somewhere between an iPhone and a laptop in terms of size and functionality.

More revenue, not more sales
Will the Cocktail format drive greater digital album sales? Probably not, but that's not what the music industry is expecting from it. Instead, label sources position it as a way to further monetize existing digital album purchases. While pricing information isn't available, Cocktail-formatted albums will almost certainly cost more than the standard album available on iTunes.

One major-label source notes that when a digital album is released as both a standard music-only download and a deluxe download with extra content, the deluxe version typically outsells the standard one by 85 percent to 90 percent in the first few weeks after its release, even though it usually costs $2 to $5 more.

"It's not about selling more albums," a label source says about Cocktail. "It's about selling more unique kinds of content. We as an industry have found that when you offer more content, there's an appetite for it. So why not continue to offer more?"

Cocktail wouldn't be the first effort by the majors to push more interactive versions of digital albums. For instance, Atlantic's Fanbase application, which it has bundled with the CDs of such artists as Rob Thomas and T.I., aggregates photos, videos and news specific to an individual artist from various online sources. Tortella says Fanbase has been downloaded more than 200,000 times and is viewed up to 4 million times per month.

Cocktail-formatted albums would include only content selected and bundled by the label, but the broader goal would be the same — to offer fans a more immersive digital music experience than they have had with MP3s and CDs.