July 27, 2007

LinkNews Digest [07/27/2007]

Can You Hear Me NOW??!?!?

MELBOURNE, Australia (Reuters) -- A man appeared in court in Sydney on Saturday after taking an armored personnel carrier on a rampage through the city's western suburbs in which he destroyed six mobile phone towers, Australian media reported.

Suburban Mt Druitt police Chief Inspector Guy Haberley said the 45-year-old man had been arrested on his way to damaging a seventh tower, according to News Ltd. "He continued to destroy mobile tower communications sheds by crashing through the perimeter fence and colliding with structures, causing significant damage," Haberley was quoted as saying.

The charges included malicious damage, break and enter, predatory driving and driving in a dangerous manner.(LINK Video)

UK Boy Buys PS2 from Ebay, Gets $90,000

Police are trying to trace the owner of 65,400 euros (~$90,000) mistakenly sent to a 16-year-old boy who bought a Playstation Two for [$195] on eBay.

The cash arrived in a box at the house in Aylsham, Norfolk, with the games console, but minus two games. Police are holding the money under the Proceeds of Crime Act while the matter is investigated.

An eBay spokesman said the parcel's contents were "somewhat unusual" and it would help police with their inquiries. The boy's parents, who are not commenting, alerted police when the parcel arrived on 20 March.

Magistrates have given Norfolk Police until September to hold on to the money before the case comes up in court again. But, if the money remains unclaimed the family could potentially apply for it to be returned to them under the Police Property Act. (LINK )

"Dr. CATvorkian" Predicts Dying Patients

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means the patient has less than four hours to live.

"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.(LINK )

NASA:DUI Astronauts Driving Space Shuttle

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - At least twice, astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so drunk they posed a flight-safety risk, an aviation weekly reported Thursday, citing a special panel studying astronaut health.

The independent panel also found "heavy use of alcohol" before launch that was within the standard 12-hour "bottle-to-throttle" rule, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology, which reported the finding on its Web site.

A NASA official confirmed that the health report contains claims of alcohol use by astronauts before launch, but said the information is based on anonymous interviews and is unsubstantiated. The official didn't want to be named because NASA plans a news conference Friday to discuss the panel's findings.

The panel was created following the arrest in February of former space shuttle flier Lisa Nowak, who was implicated in a love triangle.(LINK )

July 26, 2007

A Case for Just 49 States

While some good has come out of Texas (My friends Jim, Joni and Troy, ZZ Top, the Fajita) the state is in desperate need of some good press. Besides providing us with our self-serving, sharp-as-a-bowling-ball President, they just churned out this little gem:

Texas Appoints Creationist Head of Board of Edjoocation

From Bad Astronomy:
Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller noted that in 2003, Dr. McLeroy was one of four board members who voted against proposed high school biology textbooks because he felt their coverage of evolution was "too dogmatic" and did not include possible flaws in Charles Darwin’s theory of how life on Earth evolved from lower forms.

Here is a letter McLeroy sent out to his fellow State Board of Education members:
My Personal Confession:

Given all the time in the world, I don’t think I could make a spider out of a rock. However, most of the books we are considering adopting, claim that Nothing made a spider out of a rock.

I don’t think I share a common ancestor with a tree. However, most of the books we are considering adopting, claim as a fact that we all share a common ancestor with a tree.

Brilliant! This guy doesn’t understand the most basic principles of biology, and he’s going to chair the State Board of Education. And hey, if he doesn’t understand something, why should it be taught at all?

Here is Don McLeroy’s own website, from the Favorite Quotations section:
The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that scepticism.

Think that one through for a moment, folks. The new head of the Texas State Board of Education is an anti-intellectual. Note: he didn’t say this himself, he is quoting someone else; but it’s clearly a quotation he agrees with.(LINK )

July 20, 2007

Of Noses and Grindstones

We thought that this would be a quiet summer, with little going on.

We thought wrong.

We've been swamped with work and housework and swimming lessons for Matthew and everything else under the sun. The main task is cleaning and fixing up our house, which, although it is only 9 years old and in good shape, is no simple task. Mainly it's not simple because I am a complete dolt when it comes to tools.

Luckily, Melissa's parents are skilled. Ron can build (or destroy) anything in a house or on a car, and Brenda can paint, decorate and cook anything you can think of. My in-laws are effectively Tim Allen and Martha Stewart. As I said, I am useless with tools, but I always want to help. Mostly I end up hovering over Ron, squinting at whatever he's doing, and keeping an assortment of tools ready for him.

With this big push for home improvement, however, I was determined to do most of it myself. So I've replaced four lighting fixtures in the house with only brief consultation as to the wiring (See earlier post about Ron's electrician skills), and installed new blinds in the Den and Matthew's room. It feels pretty good to have done all of it myself. And I now have new respect for people who work with their arms above their head all day. (Construction workers, Boom operators, chapel ceiling painters, etc.)

UPDATE:Forgot to mention that even my Geek skills were proven this week. Melissa reported a smell of burning rubber coming from the computer desk, and I traced it to the computer's power supply. Dusting and cleaning the fans didn't fix it, and we started to get the Blue Screen of Death, so I knew we had a failure on our hands. One quick trip to Fry's Electronics later, I had a very nice ANTEC PS (one of the top brands) that was on sale, and had it installed in under an hour. *GRINNNNNN* I *CAN* fix things after all!

In other news, Tonight is the release of the final Harry Potter book. I know the general public still largely considers this a children's book, but they have NOT read the past few novels, which feature heavy on dark subjects and political intrigue. Melissa and I will be joining some friends tonight and helping out the Borders at Perimeter Mall in their pre-release festivities. I asked my manager if I could clock out an hour early for this, and her response was:
Absolutely! Have a wonderful time.

I’m so excited – went online and changed my shipping address to my grandmother’s house since that’s where we will be this weekend :-) I’m having a hard time staying away from the spoilers online.
And I just received some bad news about my friend Justin this morning. Just pray for him.

July 15, 2007

Great Ideas

Melissa and I have a little window into our son's mind. I know that soon, the time will come when Matthew keeps all his thoughts and opinions to himself. But for this brief, magical time, he shares them with us freely.

"Mommy, Daddy, I have a great Idea!" It always opens. I don't know how this started, but I'd like to slip whomever it was a $50 for the amount of insight and amusement this one phrase has unlocked for Melissa and I. I'll list some of the more notable ones here from time to time.

Today's Great Idea, provided on the way to church this morning:
"MommyDaddy, I have a Great Idea! What if we took the Aquarium... and put it next to our house? And then we'd take the whole world, and put them on ANOTHER world, except for Matthew, Mommy, Daddy, Grommy & Grandaddy, and Kaleb and Jacob and Brandon and Phillip. They'd all stay at our house and we'd go to the Aquarium EVERY DAY. Isn't that a great idea?

He doesn't want much, just his own alternate Earth populated with all his friends, us and "Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies" magically transported from Gatlinburg, TN to Flowery Branch. And he means that specific one, because he's sort of an Aquarium aficionado now. We've been to Ripley's, the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga and the Georgia Aquarium, but he only talks about that one. He even makes me read him the brochure for the place as a bedtime story at least once a week.

July 13, 2007

LinkNews Digest [07/13/2007]

Student knits her own Ferrari

Art graduate Lauren Porter knitted a Ferrari sportscar for her honors degree at Bath Spa University.

Art student Lauren Porter, 22, with life size Ferrari she knitted out of wool for her degree show at Bath Spa University.

The classic red bodywork consists of 250 squares of garter stitch made by Lauren and 20 family members and friends. The windows are V-shaped stocking stitch, while the details are crochet and the badge is embroidered. It's all supported by a steel frame which Lauren, 22, of Greatham, Hants, welded herself.(LINK )

Cash in Japan Toilets Triggers Treasure Hunt

TOKYO - Envelopes containing 10,000 yen ($82) bills and well-wishing notes have been discovered in municipal toilets across Japan, media reports said, baffling civil servants and triggering a nationwide hunt.

Local media have estimated that over two million yen ($16,400) worth of bills were found at men's rooms in city halls in at least 15 prefectures (states) in recent weeks.

Each package of 10,000-yen bills, some wrapped in traditional Japanese washi paper, was accompanied by handwritten letters that read "Please make use of this money for your self-enrichment," and "One per person," according to reports.

Officials are baffled over the identity of the benefactor or any motives, the reports said. Packages turned over to police were to be kept for some time in case someone claimed them.(LINK )

ESPN to Air Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament

Not so long ago, ESPN could startle viewers with hot dog gorgers, dogs jumping off docks and extreme TV close-ups of poker hands.

That seems so 20th-century. So ESPN will push the edge of the envelope in prime time Saturday with its debut coverage of the USA Rock Paper Scissors Championship.

Trey Wingo, who hosted coverage taped in May in Las Vegas, says the "unbelievable spectacle" went far beyond the technical aspects of the sport — in which rock crushes scissors, scissors cuts paper and paper covers rock. Some competitors wore "throwing gloves."

Wingo says he was "shocked" by an event that ran "the gamut of human interactions" even as Vegas sports books took bets on its results and its winner received $50,000. Some competitors, he says, brought posses as they were led by ring-card girls onto a stage set up like a boxing ring. One entrant, he says, “walked about in a robe and oven mitts. He said his hands were on fire and he didn't want to burn anybody. It was ridiculous.”

Wingo doesn't duck the troubling question of whether performance-enhancing drugs affected the action: "There was testing. If a guy shows up with Popeye forearms, you know that can't just come from spinach."(LINK )

July 06, 2007

LinkNews Digest [07/06/2007]

Cash-Strapped Police Sell Ad Space on Cars

The Toledo, Ohio police department needs to replace about 100 of its 140-car fleet at a time when money's tight. When budget deficits are forecast, getting funds can be a challenge, and that's what led the Toldeo department to offer cruiser sponsorships. In exchange for $15,000, the cars will have a 3 by 1 foot ad placed on the rear quarter panels. Four businesses have signed on so far, which means that two cars have been paid for.

Toledo PD Chief Mike Navarre has received more negative feedback than good comments, but the bottom line is that it's going to offset the considerable annual cost of replacing all those cars. The influx of cash means the fleet gets replenished sooner while still leaving money for the many other things a police department needs. Innovative thinking in tough times is a consistent theme in America, and Toledo's not the first department to put ads on their cars. The Fire Department is keeping an eye on how the sponsorships unfold, and could roll out its own effort. (LINK )
Remind anyone else of the current Reno 911! storyline about the force being sponsored by "Hotties Hot Wings"?

5 Year-old Pins Rabid Fox to Protect Family

KINGSTOWN, N.C. - A 5-year-old boy grabbed a rabid fox by the neck and pinned it to the ground during a family cookout, protecting six other children before his stepfather could kill the animal.

"I wanted to protect my little brother," said Rayshun McDowell, who battled the fox in the front yard of his home Sunday in Kingstown, a town about 50 miles west of Charlotte.

The fox bit Rayshun in the leg, but the 61-pound-boy held the animal down for more than a minute. Animal control officials said Tuesday that test results confirmed the fox had rabies, which is fatal unless treated before symptoms appear. Rayshun is undergoing treatment.

"I looked out the window and Rayshun had the fox by the neck and was pushing it into the ground," said his mother, Shinda Linder. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Rayshun's stepfather, Ryan Thompson, pulled the boy off the animal and kicked it. A neighbor fired a handgun three times but the fox continued to advance.

Thompson, wearing a cast because of a broken leg, said he used a stick and his crutch to beat the fox to death. Rayshun, meanwhile, asked only for a Band-Aid and didn't complain of any pain.(LINK )

Possibly Best Job Ever?

Illegal city brothels will proliferate in Melbourne's city centre, according to the owners of legal brothels, unless the State Government cracks down on their operators.

The warning came after the Melbourne City Council last night decided against resuming its former policy of paying private investigators to have sex in illegal brothels, to gather evidence of a breach of planning rules.

Instead, Lord Mayor John So will join with the Municipal Association of Victoria to put pressure on the State Government's Consumer Affairs Department to do more about illegal brothels. Planners say illegal brothels in the city centre are growing.

Under the 1994 Prostitution Control Act, which legalised prostitution in Victoria, Consumer Affairs Victoria is charged with enforcement action against illegal operators. But critics say the department never takes action against illegal brothels.

Municipal Association of Victoria president Dick Gross wrote to Premier Steve Bracks earlier this year complaining that the department had never taken "successful enforcement action against an illegal brothel".

Cr Gross said last night he was pleased the Lord Mayor was taking up the issue. But the Australian Adult Entertainment Industry, the group representing legal brothels and escort agencies, dismissed the Lord Mayor's response as "half-baked".(LINK )
Also, why would a man CHOOSE to go by the name "Dick Gross"? Come on.

Crappy Luck Strikes Back

We had a fun discovery this past weekend. While a much-needed rainstorm hit the Atlanta Metro area on Friday, Mel, Matthew, Shawn and I were hitting the new Steak & Shake at the Mall of Georgia. (Mmmmmm, Strawberry) Save for a drenching on the way home, all appeared to be well, until we tried to check our email later in the evening. After some troubleshooting on my work PC, I found the DSL modem wasn't connecting, so I figured lightning must have struck some telephone lines down the road.

We expected the service to be restored in the morning, but no dice. So I picked up the phone to call BellSou- I mean AT+T, and found no dialtone. Same story in my office: No dialtone on that one either. We figured we must have had a lightning strike at the house, wouldn't be the first time. The phone in the kitchen worked oddly enough, but I figured it was better-made than the others.

Nope. Ends up that the phones in my office and the bedroom were protected through surge protectors that heroically gave their lives to defend our computers from the lightning. The phones still worked, and we now have them plugged through brand new surge protectors. I even bought one for the entertainment center, since we ALSO lost our pre-cambrian DVD player to the storm. I thought it was on a surge protector already, but reading the fine print it was for some insanely low amount of protection, which was blown through instantly.

Then I noticed something outside: One of the fenceposts near the house was splintered, and the 12" long splinters were a few feet away. Right behind it, our air conditioner was making a sickly rattling noise all the sudden. And later, in the backyard, I noticed a line of exposed wood running down the trunk of one of our biggest trees. Looks like we had a lightning strike (or two) IN OUR YARD.

Lightning Post I Think Lightning Hit The Tree Lightning Damage

Ron says that the tree will die in a few weeks, since a lightning strike usually VAPORIZES the sap in the tree, killing it. Great, another chunk of yardwork to add to the load this summer. Fun Fun.

I said it wasn't the first time we've had a lightning strike. It happened back in '99 or 2000 when we were in our apartment, and it blew our TV and VCR. The TV was--honest to god---out of warranty THAT VERY DAY. Luckily Circuit City cut us a break and fixed it. And in a similar bit of niceness this time, Shawn gave us an old DVD player that he wasn't using for a loaner, which was... uncharacteristically NICE of someone who claims to be so evil. ;)

I just hope we don't have to replace our air conditioner, we'd have to make a claim against our homeowner's insurance to pay for that, and State Farm has been dropping people like flies for actually...oh I don't know...asking them to hold up their end of the insurance bargain and pay BACK some of the money we've been giving them for years.