fresh stuff netted frequently

History of the Ampersand

This is interesting (found at

One of the first examples of an ampersand appears on a piece of papyrus from about 45 A.D. Written in the style of early Roman capital cursive (typical of the handwriting of the time), it shows the ligature ET. A sample of Pompeian graffiti from 79 A.D. also shows a combination of the capitals E and T, and is again written in early Roman script. Later documents display a more flowing, less formal Roman lowercase cursive, which evolved into our italic, and the appearance of a ligature et becomes more frequent...


clock Posted Fri Mar 31st, 2006 - 9:14am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Up With Grups*

He owns eleven pairs of sneakers, hasn’t worn anything but jeans in a year, and won’t shut up about the latest Death Cab for Cutie CD. But he is no kid. He is among the ascendant breed of grown-up who has redefined adulthood as we once knew it and killed off the generation gap.

By Adam Sternbergh | New York Magazine

* Also known as yupster (yuppie + hipster), yindie (yuppie + indie), and alterna-yuppie. Our preferred term, grup, is taken from an episode of Star Trek (keep reading) in which Captain Kirk et al. land on a planet of children who rule the world, with no adults in sight. The kids call Kirk and the crew “grups,” which they eventually figure out is a contraction of “grown-ups.” It turns out that all the grown-ups had died from a virus that greatly slows the aging process and kills anybody who grows up.

"Let’s start with a question. A few questions, actually: When did it become normal for your average 35-year-old New Yorker to (a) walk around with an iPod plugged into his ears at all times, listening to the latest from Bloc Party; (b) regularly buy his clothes at Urban Outfitters; (c) take her toddler to a Mommy’s Happy Hour at a Brooklyn bar; (d) stay out till 4 A.M. because he just can’t miss the latest New Pornographers show, because who knows when Neko Case will decide to stop touring with them, and everyone knows she’s the heart of the band; (e) spend $250 on a pair of jeans that are artfully shredded to look like they just fell through a wheat thresher and are designed, eventually, to artfully fall totally apart; (f) decide that Sufjan Stevens is the perfect music to play for her 2-year-old, because, let’s face it, 2-year-olds have lousy taste in music, and we will not listen to the Wiggles in this house; (g) wear sneakers as a fashion statement; (h) wear the same vintage New Balance sneakers that he wore on his first day of school in the seventh grade as a fashion statement; (i) wear said sneakers to the office; (j) quit the office job because—you know what?—screw the office and screw jockeying for that promotion to VP, because isn’t promotion just another word for “slavery”?; (k) and besides, now that she’s a freelancer, working on her own projects, on her own terms, it’s that much easier to kick off in the middle of the week for a quick snowboarding trip to Sugarbush, because she’s got to have some balance, right? And she can write it off, too, because who knows? She might bump into Spike Jonze on the slopes; (l) wear a Misfits T-shirt; (m) make his 2-year-old wear a Misfits T-shirt; (n) never shave; (o) take pride in never shaving; (p) take pride in never shaving while spending $200 on a bedhead haircut and $600 on a messenger bag, because, seriously, only his grandfather or some frat-boy Wall Street flunky still carries a briefcase; or (q) all of the above?

This is an obituary for the generation gap. It is a story about 40-year-old men and women who look, talk, act, and dress like people who are 22 years old. It’s not about a fad but about a phenomenon that looks to be permanent. It’s about the hedge-fund guy in Park Slope with the chunky square glasses, brown rock T-shirt, slight paunch, expensive jeans, Puma sneakers, and shoulder-slung messenger bag, with two kids squirming over his lap like itchy chimps at the Tea Lounge on Sunday morning. It’s about the mom in the low-slung Sevens and ankle boots and vaguely Berlin-art-scene blouse with the $800 stroller and the TV-screen-size Olsen-twins sunglasses perched on her head walking through Bryant Park listening to Death Cab for Cutie on her Nano...."


Read the whole article here  (thanks Dick!)


clock Posted Thu Mar 30th, 2006 - 10:50am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Fake Magazine Covers




The latest Photoshop contest at 1000 Words...






clock Posted Wed Mar 29th, 2006 - 6:02am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Crazy Cat Ambushes the Avon Lady

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) Residents of the neighborhood of Sunset Circle say they have been terrorized by a crazy cat named Lewis. Lewis for his part has been uniquely cited, personally issued a restraining order by the town's animal control officer.

"He looks like Felix the Cat and has six toes on each foot, each with a long claw," Janet Kettman, a neighbor said Monday. "They are formidable weapons."

The neighbors said those weapons, along with catlike stealth, have allowed Lewis to attack at least a half dozen people and ambush the Avon lady as she was getting out of her car.

Some of those who were bitten and scratched ended up seeking treatment at area hospitals.

Animal Control Officer Rachel Solveira placed a restraining order on him. It was the first time such an action was taken against a cat in Fairfield.

In effect, Lewis is under house arrest, forbidden to leave his home.

Solveira also arrested the cat's owner, Ruth Cisero, charging her with failing to comply with the restraining order and reckless endangerment.

Via the Connecticut Post

See also: My Cat Hates You


clock Posted Tue Mar 28th, 2006 - 11:01pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Building a Hippy Housetruck

Seeing is believing.  Build it, and they will come.


Check it out at Hoopty Rides


clock Posted Mon Mar 27th, 2006 - 6:42am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Learning to Love the Bomb

by William Greider | the Nation

At the risk of damaging his reputation, I want to say a few words in praise of a New York Times reporter. David Sanger had a very smart piece in Sunday's "Week in Review" section titled "Suppose We Just Let Iran Have the Bomb." The President and Vice President continue to hint darkly that "all options" remain on the table until Iran surrenders its nuclear ambitions. Sanger punctured the unilateral bluster and never raised his voice.

That bold article required a reporter with considerable self-confidence--a rare quality these days, when most Washington reporters act like nervous bunny rabbits, always jumping out of the way. Sanger has an advantage. He understands the diplomatic complexities of nuclear proliferation--deeply, soberly--because he has been covering this story for many years. I surmise he has reached that sublime point in a reporter's career where he knows the subject far better than the passing-through "government officials" he covers.

Despite the "crisis" rumblings, Sanger coolly observes: "Some experts in the United States--mostly outside the administration--have been thinking the unthinkable, or at least the un-discussable: If all other options are worse, could the world learn to live with a nuclear Iran?" ...

Read the rest at the Nation


clock Posted Sun Mar 26th, 2006 - 5:16pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


On Target

Recessed into a urinal is a pressure-sensitive display screen. When the guest uses it, he triggers an interactive game, producing images and sound. The reduced size of the “target” improves restroom hygiene and saves on cleanings costs (like the “fly in the urinal” at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport). It also makes a trip to the urinal “fun and games” – more than just a necessary nuisance. By projecting the game experience into the public space, viewers are treated to a new way of visualizing the abstract, and the entertainment value is boosted. The projection of the project into a museum space was conceived of as a critical-ironic measure, questioning the concept of art, but extending it at the same time. “On target” is an interactive installation with the functional purpose of improving hygiene.

Guys, you know that you want one.


Check it out here (@ Yanko Design)


clock Posted Sat Mar 25th, 2006  - 7:59am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Internet Back-bone Map of North America

It's been a good few years since I've seen an IB map (I used to follow such things when the internet was younger and thinner; no cracks please!). 

Check this out:

What is this ball of colors? It is [part of] the North American Internet, or more specifically a map of just about every router on the North American backbone, (there are 134,855 of them for those who are counting). The colors represent who each router is registered to. Red is Verizon; blue AT&T; yellow Qwest; green is major backbone players like Level 3 and Sprint Nextel; black is the entire cable industry put together; and gray is everyone else, from small telecommunications companies to large international players who only have a small presence in the U.S. If you click on the map it will take you to much bigger version complete with labels that tell you the address of many of the routers.

Link to CIO


clock Posted Fri Mar 24th, 2006  - 11:09pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Decline and fall

Kevin Phillips, no lefty, says that America -- addicted to oil, strangled by debt and maniacally religious -- is headed for doom.


Book Review by Michelle Goldberg  |

In 1984, the renowned historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Barbara Tuchman published "The March of Folly," a book about how, over and over again, great powers undermine and sabotage themselves. She documented the perverse self-destructiveness of empires that clung to deceptive ideologies in the face of contrary evidence, that spent carelessly and profligately, and that obstinately refused to change course even when impending disaster was obvious to those willing to see it. Such recurrent self-deception, she wrote, "is epitomized in a historian's statement about Philip II of Spain, the surpassing wooden-head of all sovereigns: 'No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.'"

Though the last case study in "The March of Folly" was about America's war in Vietnam, Tuchman argued that the brilliance of the United States Constitution had thus far protected the country from the traumatic upheavals faced by most other nations. "For two centuries, the American arrangement has always managed to right itself under pressure without discarding the system and trying another after every crisis, as have Italy and Germany, France and Spain," she wrote. Then she suggested such protection could soon give way: "Under accelerating incompetence in America, this may change. Social systems can survive a good deal of folly when circumstances are historically favorable, or when bungling is cushioned by large resources or absorbed by sheer size as in the United States during its period of expansion. Today, when there are no more cushions, folly is less affordable." ...


Read the rest here

See also, a review at the NYT


clock Posted Thu Mar 23rd, 2006  - 6:22pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Athanasius Kircher Society

I have yet to find a blog entry here that is not fascinating in some way. Recent entries include "Cleaning the Paris Sewers" (used to involve a giant ball), "the Drost Effect" (about chocolate, but probably not what you would think), and the "Zadar Sea Organ".  Father Athanasius has definitely made my list of people (dead or alive) that I'd like to have a long chat with.

The Athanasius Kircher Society was chartered to perpetuate the sensibilities and pursuits of the late Athanasius Kircher, SJ. Our interests extend to the wondrous, the singular, the esoteric, the obsessive, the arcane, and the sometimes hazy frontier between the plausible and the implausible — anything that Father Kircher might find cool if he were alive today. Records of our proceedings are maintained for the public’s edification.

Waste some time here

see previous entry: Hall of Mirrors for Cats


clock Posted Wed Mar 22nd, 2006  - 6:48am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Is Another 9/11 in the Works?

by Paul Craig Roberts |

If you were President George W. Bush with all available US troops tied down by the Iraqi resistance, and you were unable to control Iraq or political developments in the country, would you also start a war with Iran?

Yes, you would.

Bush’s determination to spread Middle East conflict by striking at Iran does not make sense.

First of all, Bush lacks the troops to do the job. If the US military cannot successfully occupy Iraq, there is no way that the US can occupy Iran, a country approximately three times the size in area and population.

Second, Iran can respond to a conventional air attack with missiles targeted on American ships and bases, and on oil facilities located throughout the Middle East.

Third, Iran has human assets, including the Shi'ite majority population in Iraq, that it can activate to cause chaos throughout the Middle East.

Fourth, polls of US troops in Iraq indicate that a vast majority do not believe in their mission and wish to be withdrawn. Unlike the yellow ribbon folks at home, the troops are unlikely to be enthusiastic about being trapped in an Iranian quagmire in addition to the Iraqi quagmire.

Fifth, Bush’s polls are down to 34 percent, with a majority of Americans believing that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

If you were being whipped in one fight, would you start a second fight with a bigger and stronger person?

That’s what Bush is doing. ..


Check out the rest of this article here


clock Posted Tue Mar 21st, 2006  - 8:10am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Dutch come up with tolerance test 

Amsterdam — The camera focuses on two gay men kissing in a park. Later, a topless woman emerges from the sea and walks onto a crowded beach. For would-be immigrants to the Netherlands, this film is a test of their readiness to participate in the liberal Dutch culture.

If they can't stomach it, they need not apply.

Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands' new entrance examination.

The test – the first of its kind in the world – became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies.

Taking the exam costs €350 (about $488 Canadian). The price for a preparation package that includes the film, a CD ROM and a picture album of famous Dutch people is about $86.50...


Read the rest at the Globe and Mail


clock Posted Mon Mar 20th, 2006  - 6:12am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Crunchy Conservatives

by Rod Dreher | NPR

At a time when the Republican Party seems to be fracturing from within, commentator Rod Dreher says it's time for the GOP to return to its roots. And he thinks conservatives could find inspiration from fellow Republicans who embrace a counter-cultural yet traditional conservative lifestyle -- what Dreher dubs "Crunchy Cons."

"Crunchy cons prefer old houses and mom-and-pop shops to McMansions and strip malls.... Many of us homeschool our kids, and cheerfully embrace nonconformity. I read Edmund Burke and wear Birkenstock sandals. Go figure."


Read a book excerpt here


clock Posted Sun Mar 19th, 2006  - 7:52pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Shape of Robots to Come


A segmented tower on a metal and plastic base swiveled around. Two glowing segments, suggesting a head, tilted forward and spoke: "Hello. My name is Scoty. Let me explain a few things about myself."

In a vaguely female synthesized voice — but always in plain English — Scoty, the latest robot from the robotic-toy maker WowWee, demonstrated its functions for a visitor recently.

Chief among them are managing a personal computer's communication and entertainment abilities, finding and playing songs by voice request, recording television shows, telling users when they have e-mail and, again by voice request, reading the e-mail aloud. It takes and then sends voice-to-text e-mail dictation. It takes pictures, and gives the time when asked.

Scoty, pronounced Scotty, has no keyboard and does not require mastery of any specialized computer languages to nudge it to perform and reply in a likeable human manner, its makers said.

While its name stands for smart companion operating technology, "Scoty is more of a companion than operating technologies," said Richard Yanofsky, president of WowWee, which is based in Hong Kong. For lack of a better term, he said, Scoty, which is 24 inches tall, is a "digital maid."

As robots increasingly migrate from heavy industrial tasks, like welding automobile chassis on assembly lines, to home uses as restless toys and venturesome vacuum cleaners, a fetching personality and appealing appearance become critically important. A flashy show called "Robots: The Interactive Exhibition" is touring museums and science centers in the United States through 2012 with the aim of demystifying robotics, especially their harder edges...


Read the rest at the NYT


clock Posted Sat Mar 18th, 2006  - 7:22am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Erin Go Bragh


See previous entry: Patrick



clock Posted Fri Mar 17th, 2006  - 11:06pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Fun with DNA

by Nell Boyce | NPR's All Things Considered


Imagine a yellow smiley face. Now imagine 50 billion smiley faces floating in a single drop of water. That's what scientists have made using a new technique for building super-tiny shapes using the familiar double helix of DNA.

DNA holds our genetic code, and geneticists have studied it for decades. They have developed all kinds of tools to synthesize and manipulate this molecule. About 20 years ago, a researcher named Ned Seeman at New York University realized that scientists should be able to use all that's known about DNA to help them build nano-scale shapes that normally would be hard to engineer.

Since then, Seeman and other chemists have shown that they can use DNA to build really simple shapes such as cubes or octahedrons that are 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. They've done it by laboriously designing small snippets of DNA that will hook themselves up into the desired form...


Go see and hear the rest at NPR


clock Posted Thu Mar 16th, 2006  - 9:33pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Beware the Ides of March (and Caesar's Breath)

Commemorate Caesar: Take a Deep Breath!

by Robert Krulwich | NPR

Though you may not have noticed, today is the 2050th anniversary of Julius Caesar's assassination.

Most of us have a vague sense of what happened that day. Caesar was, of course, a great conqueror. He was very popular with the ordinary folks in Rome, but not so popular with a small group of senators who feared that at any moment he would make himself an absolute dictator.

The senators, including his friend Brutus ("Et tu?"), conspired, invited him to the Senate, gathered round and stabbed him over and over. Caesar, mortally wounded, exhaled and died.

And it's not like Caesar hadn't been warned. Soothsayers had told him to "Beware the Ides Of March" -- "ides" meaning the middle of the month. But he paid no heed.

That's what most people know.

Here's what chemistry students know: For some reason, Caesar's dying breath, his last exhalation, has become a classic teaching tool in high school and college. When Caesar exhaled, he released an enormous number of "breath" molecules, mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It's a very, very big number says Dan Nocera, chemistry professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). By Nocera's calculation: .05 x 6 x 10 to the 23rd.

"10 to the 23rd" all by itself looks ridiculously large. It's 10 followed by 22 zeros: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Over the years, a number of scholars have tried to figure out what typically would happen to all those molecules. They figured some were absorbed by plants, some by animals, some by water -- and a large portion would float free and spread themselves all around the globe in a pattern so predictable that (this is the fun part) if you take a deep breath right now, at least one of the molecules entering your lungs literally came from Caesar's last breath.

That's what they say.

If you look around the Internet, you will find professors who say we take in three of Caesar's molecules per breath, or eight, or 10. It all depends on your assumptions about the size of a breath, the size of the atmosphere, the location of the breather (on a mountain, or at sea level?)

But bottom line?

Even though these calculations apply to any breath exhaled long ago -- Shakespeare's, Cleopatra's, Lincoln's, your great-great-grandma's -- you may still want to take a moment today to share with Caesar. Just breathe in and share his molecule.


Check it out here


clock Posted Wed Mar 15th, 2006  - 8:01am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Finding Noah's Ark via CNN

High on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, there is a baffling mountainside "anomaly," a feature that one researcher claims may be something of biblical proportions.

Images taken by aircraft, intelligence-gathering satellites and commercial remote-sensing spacecraft are fueling an intensive study of the intriguing oddity. But whether the anomaly is some geological quirk of nature, playful shadows, a human-made structure of some sort, or simply nothing at all remains to be seen.

Whatever it is, the anomaly of interest rests at 15,300 feet (4,663 meters) on the northwest corner of Mount Ararat, and is nearly submerged in glacial ice. It would be easy to call it merely a strange rock formation....

Read the rest here


clock Posted Tue Mar 14th, 2006  - 12:39pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Inside the empire of the world's largest company

An excerpt of Tony Bianco's new book, The Bully of Bentonville (via the Willamette Week online).


H. Lee Scott Jr. looks every inch the chief executive of America's biggest and most powerful corporation as he strides through the lobby of the Omni Los Angeles Hotel on his way to make the most important speech of his career. Wearing an expensive, well-tailored suit on his stocky frame, his hair carefully coiffed, and his corporate game face on, Scott shows no sign of his natural fear of public speaking. To the contrary, the 54-year-old executive appears eager for the chance to justify his company, Wal-Mart Stores, to the 500 business and community leaders who await him in the Omni's ballroom.

The Omni—a luxury high-rise located in a solidly pro-union, politically liberal city—is an unlikely venue for the chief executive of an Arkansas-based corporation that is famously frugal, deeply conservative, and Southern-fried to the core. Wal-Mart already has 180 stores in California, but its ambitious expansion plans call for it to quadruple this total while moving from the outskirts into the heart of Los Angeles and the state's other big cities. In many Golden State locales, Wal-Mart was being denied the zoning and other clearances it needed, and so Scott has flown out on this February day in 2005 to make the case for himself and his company in person at a luncheon sponsored by Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonpartisan group that immodestly but not inaccurately bills itself as a forum "for the most important thinkers and leaders on Earth."

Scott takes the stage to polite applause and opens with an aw-shucks flourish reminiscent of the late Sam Walton, the disarmingly folksy "Mr. Sam," who founded Wal-Mart in the remote Ozarks hill town of Bentonville in 1962. "I know that Town Hall Los Angeles has a national reputation for hosting conversations on the issues that matter—talks that feature prominent figures from the worlds of government, business, the nonprofit sector, and the arts," Scott says. "It's a little humbling for a shopkeeper from Arkansas to follow such folks to Town Hall's distinguished podium."

Scott soon discards the faux humility to offer a ringing defense of the embattled company where he has worked for 26 years. By selling vast quantities of goods at its trademark "Every Day Low Prices," Wal-Mart has single-handedly raised America's standard of living, saving consumers about $100 billion a year, he contends. "These savings are a lifeline for millions of middle- and lower-income families who live from payday to payday," he says. "In effect, it gives them a raise every time they shop with us." As Scott tells it, Wal-Mart also provides good jobs for hundreds of thousands of equally deserving employees, offers even part-time workers generous health insurance and other benefits, and contributes hefty tax payments to thousands of towns and cities from sea to shining sea. "I believe that if you look at the facts with an open mind," he says, "you'll agree that Wal-Mart is good for America."

Hold it right there. When America's largest corporation conflates its self-interest with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, alarm bells should go off in every city hall, statehouse and union hall in the land. Scott likes to call Wal-Mart an "agent" of the consumer, but this seems far too mild a description of a company of such size, power and righteous zeal. In the name of the shopper, Wal-Mart systematically bullies its workers, its suppliers, and the residents of towns and cities disinclined to submit to the expansion imperative of a company currently opening new stores at the rate of 1.45 as day. ...


Read the rest here

See also the Bully of Bentonville @ Working Life


clock Posted Mon Mar 13th, 2006  - 6:43am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Bush's Fake Aid

The president's $5 billion program does more for foreign banks than the needy


In March 2002, with one war raging in Afghanistan and another looming in Iraq, President Bush announced that he intended to undercut terrorism by attacking poverty overseas. "I'm here today to announce a major new commitment by the United States to bring hope and opportunity to the world's poorest," Bush declared. Under his watch, the president said, America would increase its annual foreign aid to $5 billion. And instead of giving handouts, he added, the program would employ an entirely new model: investing in countries to spark their economic growth and holding them accountable for their policies. "I carry this commitment in my soul," Bush said, concluding his speech with a trademark religious touch. "We will make the world not only safer but better." The president's plan looked revolutionary. U.S. aid efforts, long hampered by an ossified bureaucracy, often fail to ensure that recipient nations spend the money wisely. Bush's plan, by contrast, recognized that poverty cannot be conquered without economic development, and that countries should continue to receive aid only if they use it effectively. "It seemed a bold, exciting new experiment in development policy," says Mary McClymont, the former head of InterAction, the largest alliance of aid organizations in the U.S.

In a pattern that has become a hallmark of the administration, however, Bush's aid initiative -- the Millennium Challenge Corporation -- has become an object lesson in dramatic ideas followed by disastrous action. Over the past three months, Rolling Stone has reviewed the MCC's "compacts" with foreign countries, compared the work of similar agencies and spoken with a wide range of supporters and critics -- including many of the conservative insiders responsible for creating the program. Instead of hiring aid experts, the administration at first staffed the MCC with conservative ideologues. Rather than partnering with other countries, the White House operated on its own, disconnected from the rest of the world. And when experts criticized the new agency, the administration responded with a bunker mentality, refusing to talk to detractors and learn from its mistakes. ..

Read the rest of the article here


clock Posted Sun Mar 12th, 2006  - 11:16pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Conspicuous Little Consumers

by Kelly Sharp | the Texas Observer

Juliet Schor’s latest book, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture, represents the culmination of many things: her training as an economist and sociologist, her ongoing analysis of consumer culture in previous books (The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure and The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting and the New Consumer), and her own experience as a mother. Born to Buy examines the increased involvement of children in consumer culture, specifically as targets of advertising, and the resulting effect on their well-being. Schor balances her well-researched presentation of rather alarming data with a voice that is not alarmist, but practical, informative, and readable.

In many ways her conclusion comes as no surprise. Readers may be surprised, however, by her data—namely, the sheer volume of marketing to which children are exposed. According to Schor, the advertising industry spent $100 million on marketing to children in 1983; by 2004 that amount had increased to $15 billion. Advertisements saturate television, radio, and print media. More disturbing, however, is the extent to which marketers have infiltrated schools, the Internet, airplanes, restrooms, and essentially every other public space available. These ads are the product of some of the finest anthropological research and creative thinking in the marketing business. Techniques such as anti-adultism, which pits children against adults in the struggle for marketed goods, and age compression, which targets children of younger and younger ages, combine with all the traditionally manipulative advertising techniques to create a culture in which children do not merely consume, but also find their identity in consumption...

Read the entire review here


clock Posted Sat Mar 11th, 2006  - 11:05pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Hall of Mirrors for Cats

The folks at the Athanasius Kircher Society, who showed us to the twisted 17th century cat piano, point us to another of Kircher's strange/bizarre inventions. This time around, it's a hall of mirrors -- that would almost certainly drive cats friends insane if it was ever to be built.   Hrrmmm...

From a text by Gaspar Schott:

“You will exhibit the most delightful trick if you impose one of these appearances on a live cat, as Fr. Kircher has done. While the cat sees himself to be surrounded by an innumerable multitude of catoptric cats, some of them standing close to him and others spread very far away from him, it can hardly be said how many capers will be exhibited in that theatre, while he sometimes tries to follow the other cats, sometimes to entice them with his tail, sometimes attempts a kiss, and indeed tries to break through the obstacles in every way with his claws so that he can be united with the other cats, until finally, with various noises, and miserable whines he declares his various affectations of indignation, rage, jealousy, love and desire. Similar spectacles can be exhibited with other animals.”


Via Boing Boing


clock Posted Fri Mar 10th, 2006  - 6:33pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Gallup: More Than Half of Americans Reject Evolution, Back Bible

By E&P Staff | Editor and Publisher

NEW YORK A Gallup report released today reveals that more than half of all Americans, rejecting evolution theory and scientific evidence, agree with the statement, "God created man exactly how Bible describes it."

Another 31% says that man did evolve, but "God guided." Only 12% back evolution and say "God had no part."

Gallup summarized it this way: "Surveys repeatedly show that a substantial portion of Americans do not believe that the theory of evolution best explains where life came from." They are "not so quick to agree with the preponderance of scientific evidence."

The report was written by the director of the The Gallup Poll, Frank Newport.

Breaking down the numbers, Gallup finds that Republican backing for what it calls "God created human beings in present form" stands at 57% with Democrats at 44%.

Support for this Bible view rises steadily with age: from 43% for those 18 to 29, to 59% for those 65 and older. It declines steadily with education, dropping from 58% for those with high school degrees to a still-substantial 25% with postgraduate degrees.

Newport wraps it up: "Several characteristics correlate with belief in the biblical explanation for the origin of humans. Those with lower levels of education, those who attend church regularly, those who are 65 and older, and those who identify with the Republican Party are more likely to believe that God created humans 'as is,' than are those who do not share these characteristics."

Gallup has asked this question, in different forms, going back to 1982, but has consistently shown support at 45% or higher for the notion that "God created man in present form."

The most recent poll, last September, posed the question this way: "Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings." This produced the 53% who chose "God created man exactly how Bible describes it," the 31% who said man did evolve but "God guided," and the 12% who backed evolution with God playing "no part."

See the article at Editor and Publisher


Note: Thanks to Dick for forwarding the above...

Also forwarded the following on Mar 10th: Why I Am a Christian (Sort Of)


clock Posted Thu Mar 9th, 2006  - 7:12am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign

I usually follow the Wal-Mart war with some interest -- and came across the following article in yesterday's NYT:



Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. "All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills," he wrote.

It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.

Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell's Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart's public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.

Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.

But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.

But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from. ..


Read the rest of the article at the NYT


clock Posted Wed Mar 8th, 2006  - 7:44am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Top Ten Accidental Discoveries

1. Viagra Men being treated for erectile dysfunction should salute the working stiffs of Merthyr Tydfil, the Welsh hamlet where, in 1992 trials, the gravity-defying side effects of a new angina drug first popped up. Previously, the blue-collar town was known for producing a different kind of iron.

2. LSD Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann took the world's first acid hit in 1943, when he touched a smidge of lysergic acid diethylamide, a chemical he had researched for inducing childbirth. He later tried a bigger dose and made another discovery: the bad trip.

3. X-rays Several 19th-century scientists toyed with the penetrating rays emitted when electrons strike a metal target. But the x-ray wasn't discovered until 1895, when German egghead Wilhelm Röntgen tried sticking various objects in front of the radiation - and saw the bones of his hand projected on a wall.


See the entire list here @ Wired


clock Posted Tue Mar 7th, 2006  - 6:05am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Bird flu now bigger challenge than AIDS, says WHO

CBC News

The H5N1 strain of avian flu surpasses AIDS in terms of the challenge it poses to worldwide health systems, an official with the World Health Organization warned Monday...


Read the rest of the article here


clock Posted Mon Mar 6th, 2006  - 7:23pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Kircher’s Cat Piano

Found at

Athanasius Kircher first described the cat piano in his landmark 1650 work Musurgia Universalis.

In order to raise the spirits of an Italian prince burdened by the cares of his position, a musician created for him a cat piano. The musician selected cats whose natural voices were at different pitches and arranged them in cages side by side, so that when a key on the piano was depressed, a mechanism drove a sharp spike into the appropriate cat’s tail. The result was a melody of meows that became more vigorous as the cats became more desperate. Who could not help but laugh at such music? Thus was the prince raised from his melancholy.

(From a book by Thomas Hankins and Robert Silverman, with several chapters on Kircher’s inventions, Instruments and the Imagination.)


clock Posted Sun Mar 5th, 2006  - 8:27pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


PalmPilot Creator Models Computer on Brain


Jeff Hawkins created the PalmPilot and Treo smart phone. His new company, Numenta, is developing a type of computer memory system modeled after the human neocortex, what he calls the "the big wrinkly thing" at the top of the brain. He's also the co-author of the book On Intelligence, which details his vision of how the brain processes information.

See (and listen to) the interview here


I blindly trust that it won't be obsolete six months after it comes on the market.


clock Posted Sat Mar 4th, 2006  - 8:04am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Study: More Americans Know More About 'The Simpsons' Than the U.S. Constitution

Americans apparently know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment.

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey.

The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

Joe Madeira, director of exhibitions at the museum, said he was surprised by the results.

"Part of the survey really shows there are misconceptions, and part of our mission is to clear up these misconceptions," said Madeira, whose museum will be dedicated to helping visitors understand the First Amendment when it opens in April. "It means we have our job cut out for us."

The survey found more people could name the three "American Idol" judges than identify three First Amendment rights. They were also more likely to remember popular advertising slogans. ...


Read the article here


clock Posted Fri Mar 3rd, 2006  - 7:22am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


'H.R. Pufnstuf' actor dead at 53

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Actor Jack Wild, best known for playing the Artful Dodger as a teenager in the 1968 film "Oliver!", has died from cancer aged 53.

Nominated for an Oscar for that role aged just 16, he went on to star in the U.S. television series "H.R. Pufnstuf" and in several films before his career began to derail, in part because of excessive drinking from an early age.

"Jack died peacefully at midnight last night after a long battle with oral cancer," his agent Alex Jay said on Thursday.

"He always said he was an entertainer. He wanted 'The Entertainer' to be played at his funeral," Jay added, referring to the Scott Joplin tune used for the film "The Sting".

Wild, also a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and underwent an operation in 2004 to remove part of his tongue and several vocal cords. As a result he lost his speech, but appeared on stage after the surgery miming his part in a pantomime...

Read the rest here

see previous entry: the Return of H.R. Pufnstuf


clock Posted Thu Mar 2nd, 2006  - 9:38pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Ash Wednesday

Like last year, I'm off to have ashes marked on my forehead at our Ash Wednesday service this evening.  Afterwards, I'll be taking myself on a walk along Ste. Catherine street.  This year, I will be leading the worship music part of the service, as it coincides with the Outpouring that we have twice per month.


"Some Christians treat Ash Wednesday as a day for remembering one's mortality. Masses are traditionally held on this day at which attendees are blessed with ashes by the priest ministering the ceremony. The minister marks the forehead of each celebrant with black ashes, leaving a mark that the worshipper traditionally leaves on his or her forehead until sundown, before washing it off. This symbolism recalls the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ash over one's head signifying repentance before God (as related numerous times in the Bible). Often these Ash Wednesday ashes are made by burning Palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations and mixing them with olive oil as a fixative. In Roman Catholicism Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence. The penitential psalms are read."


clock Posted Wed Mar 1st, 2006  - 1:30pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



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