Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Night Videos - Eff Word Substitutions

'Love Song'




Once again, posted in the past, to show up in the future: I like this feature.

The theme this week: eff word substitutions.

(Or songs that I very much get, and wish I'd written.)

Both 'Love Song' and 'Creep' were stripped of the intensity and anger of the originals when the eff words were replaced with 'stupid' and 'very,' respectively. Indeed, I maintain they were rendered almost whimsical for the switcheroos, when they are meant to be scathing. Anyway, hunt down the albums and see if you don't agree.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Night Videos - Scartlett Really Does Sing!

I don't suppose I should tip my hand like this, but I'm posting this earlier in the week, using Blogger's new back-to-the-future feature, the very one I posted here. I realize that it doesn't make real-time blogging any easier, but it's a nice feature for regularly scheduled updates, and for those who are trying to draw repeat traffic, I should think very useful.

Anyway, the above is the live Yahoo version of Scarlett Johansson's cover of Tom Waits' 'Falling Down.' (There's another different live AOL Sessions version here.)

Alot of the reviews I've read have bagged on the quality of SJ's voice, for being over-processed, for being weak, and indeed, she does not possess the instrument of a Cecilia Bartoli or Gabriella Cilmi, but that's ok, she doesn't have to. This is rock and roll, remember? And anyway, as this vid shows, she can do a competent job singing with a net, as it were.

So to all the haters I say, cut her some slack. At least she didn't try to do some bouncy pop number that would have really sounded stupid. This suits her, methinks, and in fact, I actually rather like the Yahoo version alot, even more than the album version. (The AOL version isn't as good.)


Monday, May 19, 2008

Music Monday

From Blogizdat LJ:

(From September 30, 2004, reprising Blogizdat's first Music-Only post.)

Music-Only Post

I'm taking a quick break from the politics, although you gotta know I'll be back with some post-debate blogging before the weekend is here, maybe even yet tonight.

Every few months I put together a compilation of tunes from old CD's and recent iTunes Store downloads. I just made such a CD yesterday, and I might just give it to a friend or two. Here's the list of what's on it:

01 - The Ramones - I Just Want To Have Something To Do

This was one of the first Ramones tunes that really got my attention back in the late 70's. Their first couple of albums were not well-recorded, but by their third and fourth albums, the band was coming into its own. This is just a wild and wonderful slab of rock and roll.

02 - Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box

Kurt Cobain insisted on making his second national Big Label release a little more raw than 'Nevermind.' 'In Utero' didn't have the polish of its predecessor, but it had several gems on it, among them 'Heart Shaped Box,' didn't so much tell a story as string together images that are at once beautiful and disturbing

03 - Jimmy Eat World - Sweetness

I tend to make the mistake of thinking of this album as Jimmy's first. It isn't, but with it the lads were able to master the fine art of writing and recording great pop-rock tunes. Coupled with a strange but compelling video, this was one of several hits from the album.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Heh Heh

Napoleon Dynamite Soundboard

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

song chart memes
more song chart memes

Randy Pausch's 'Last Lecture'


Broadcast on Oprah
Oct 22, 2007

Watch it. Twice.
It made me think, and made me cry.

Reposting From May 2003 LJ

From Blogizdat LJ

(several separate posts, compiled from an old LJ, from May 2003)

Gawl-darned gone and done it

[15 May 2003 | 11:42pm]
[ mood | exhausted ]
[ music | House of Love - Shine On ]

I was walking out of work tonight - actually, I was more like bounding - when I stepped off the curb into a wide and deep crack in the street: yup, my left ankle gave way. In fact, my foot seemed to turn at about a right angle to my leg. I got up off the street and hobbled across the street, and somehow made it the three blocks to my car.

Within a matter of a couple of minutes I could feel the left side of my ankle swelling to something between the size of a golf ball and a baseball. It seemed obvious I had either broken it or sprained it something horrid. And it seemed prudent to head for the Urgent Care at Riverside.

When I got there I decided to risk a parking ticket and parked my car in a one-hour spot about a block away. I hobbled in - without an appointment - and was told I could be seen in about a half hour.

After a few minutes in the waiting room I was shown to an exam room. When the nurse took my blood pressure it was extremely high: 190/100. (I was told it was probably due to the injury to my ankle.)

The nurse also asked me a bunch of questions about the general state of my health, basically the same questions I had answered yesterday in the same Urgent Care.

I have a Stye on my left eyelid that has been extremely swollen, so I had gone in yesterday evening to get some anti-biotics. If I'd known I'd be coming in today I could have saved the trip yesterday and gotten a too-fer tonight.

Anyway, after entering the data into the computer - the same info I'd given the nurse yesterday - I was told the doctor would see me shortly.

Read the rest here.

Illusions Of Greatness

From NYT:

Magicians Ask: What’s Up His Sleeve?

Published: May 18, 2008

Los Angeles

CHANCES are you’ve never heard of John Gaughan.

He doesn’t advertise. He doesn’t have a Web site. There is no street entrance to his workshop, a former 1930s aircraft school alongside railroad tracks on a dry, industrial stretch of road that straddles the city limits of Los Angeles and Glendale. Visitors must drive around back, past stacks of steel beams and cans of spray paint, toward a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

That Mr. Gaughan, 68, is not easily found befits an artisan who has spent most of his life creating large-scale illusions for many of the world’s most famous magicians and illusionists: Siegfried & Roy, David Blaine, Criss Angel, David Copperfield, Doug Henning, Mark Wilson, Ricky Jay.

He has also created stage illusions for enchanters of a different sort: Jim Morrison, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper, Barbra Streisand, Cher.

Yet while Mr. Gaughan’s artistry has, for instance, helped Mr. Angel seemingly jump through the body of another man, Mr. Gaughan doesn’t get the glory. In the world of legerdemain, his are vital but unseen hands.

“You know, in the old days of comedy there was a Charlie Chaplin and then there were the rest of the comedians,” said Milt Larsen, who in 1963 founded the Magic Castle in Hollywood, the clubhouse of the Academy of Magical Arts, which promotes the art and history of magic. “In music, there was Irving Berlin and then there were the rest of the composers. There’s always some king of the pack, and as far as I’m concerned, Johnny Gaughan is the king of the pack.”

In online forums, where science and magic buffs debate how illusionists seemingly defy the laws of physics, there are those in the know who succinctly answer: “All I have to say is John Gaughan.”

Read the rest here.

"The Other Bolyn Girl" Video Review


From NYT:

International Pressure on Myanmar Junta Builds

Published: May 18, 2008

YANGON, Myanmar — International pressure on the ruling military junta in Myanmar continued to grow over the weekend as a senior United Nations envoy was due to arrive in Yangon on Sunday to talk with government officials about what the United Nations has called a slow response to international aid offers after Cyclone Nargis.

John Holmes, under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, has talks scheduled with top members of the government, although diplomats in Yangon said it was unlikely that Mr. Holmes would be allowed to meet with the junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe. The general has remained in the remote capital of Naypyidaw, far from the storm-damaged delta in the south.

In the two weeks since the cyclone hit, the junta has allowed in a modest amount of supplies from a number of nations, but relief workers say it is far short of what they need to fend off starvation and disease. The United Nations says only 20 percent of the survivors have received even “rudimentary aid.”

In some of the harshest comments, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC on Saturday that a natural disaster “is being made into a man-made catastrophe by the negligence, the neglect and the inhuman treatment of the Burmese people by a regime that is failing to act and to allow the international community to do what it wants to do.”

The French ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, warned on Friday that the government’s refusal to allow aid to be delivered to people “could lead to a true crime against humanity,” according to The Associated Press.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations also called an emergency meeting of its foreign ministers for Monday in Singapore.

The association has asked to see a disaster report from the junta and wants to discuss the regime’s refusal to accept more aid and its refusal to allow foreign relief experts into the country. Traditionally, however, the bloc’s political clout with individual members has been weak; one of its founding principles is “non-interference in the internal affairs of one another.”

A French government statement said a navy ship was waiting about 15 miles outside Myanmar’s territorial waters on Saturday, hoping to go in and unload its cargo of 1,000 tons of food — enough to feed 100,000 people for 15 days. The aid also includes shelters for 15,000 people, according to the statement.

France is negotiating with Myanmar on delivering the aid, Rear Adm. Alain Hinden, the ship’s commander said, The A.P. reported.

India also sent 50 Army doctors and paramedics, along with medical supplies to set up emergency medical clinics, to Yangon on Saturday, although it is unclear if they had government approval to travel to affected areas.

All foreigners have been expelled and banned from the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta, even humanitarian aid workers with long experience in Myanmar. Impromptu aid convoys by local groups and private citizens — often with supplies donated by Burmese companies — have been turned back at military checkpoints.

“These guys are xenophobic,” Shari Villarosa, the senior diplomat at the United States Embassy in Yangon, said in a recent interview, referring to the military leadership.

The government said that almost 78,000 people have died and nearly 56,000 more are missing. The Red Cross put the possible death toll at 128,000.

Read the rest here.

One More: On The Stone Arch Bridge

I went out for a walk yesterday evening after work, parked over in SE Minneapolis by the river and walked out onto the Stone Arch Bridge. I took the following pics as a storm was rolling in from over downtown. It really was almost that dark, and I did get rained on. What we suffer for our art!

Trying Out Photoshop Express Online

I've been playing around with the free Photoshop Express online service, and have found it quite easy to use, can be linked to other services like Flickr, Facebook, etc.

As a test, I uploaded some photos I took this past week on a trip to the Saint Paul Conservatory with LK, placed them in an album and copied the code to embed a photo album slideshow below. (Needs Flash 9)

I must say, I'm not sure I like the fact that the pics cycle thru so fast, but there is a link in the lower left hand corner of the viewer that takes the user to my online gallery, where the album with the full-size photos can be viewed:

Scarlett Sings

From Uncut:

Scarlett Johansson

As a rule, we’re as suspicious of actors making records as we are of, well, rock stars appearing in movies. But Scarlett Johansson’s previous, if brief, forays into music have at least demonstrated both flashes of talent and an unnerring grasp of cool. There’s an abiding memory of her in a pink wig singing karaoke to The Pretenders’ “Bass In Pocket” in Lost In Translation, or seen in fuzzy Youtube clips providing backing vocals for “Just Like Honey” at the Jesus & Mary Chain’s comeback show at last year’s Coachella festival. She also recorded the Geshwin standard “Summertime” for a US compilation and even starred in a Bob Dylan video, “When The Deal Goes Down…”, to support his Modern Times album.

Now she’s recorded her debut, an album of Tom Waits’ covers (and one self-penned track), produced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek and featuring guest spots by Yeah Yeah Yeah’s guitarist Nick Zinner and, on two songs, David Bowie, with whom she co-starred in Christopher Nolan’s movie, The Prestige. Although the songs here run as far back as 1976, most of them actually come from the later part of Waits’ career; only one song pre-dating 1983’s Swordfishtrombones.

Here, then, is our track by track preview at what you can expect…

TRACK BY TRACK: Scarlett Johansson: Anywhere I Lay My Head

1. “Fawn”

(Taken from Tom Waits’ 2002 album, Alice)

A bit of a cheat, this, as it’s an instrumental track. But, it does efficiently set out the album’s sonic template – loosely, late period Cocteau Twins, with touches of Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs and Marianne Faithfull. A gentle organ intro before a wave of brass comes crashing in, then straight into…

2. “Town With No Cheer”

(Swordfishtrombones, 1983)

Scarlett privileges the storytelling aspect of Waits’ original, recalling here Marianne Faithfull as she half-sings, half-speaks the lyrics. Waits’ version is pretty sparse – just his voice recounting the lyrics accompanied by keyboard and accordion. Initially, this version doesn’t stray too much from that: the backing is organ, and keyboards with the occasional burst of guitar, but gradually Sitek layers on sax and drums and pushes the organ further up in the mix.

3. “Falling Down”

(Big Time, 1988)

This was the only studio cut on Waits’ ’88 live album. Here, Scarlett sounds very like Liz Frazer, which is effectively the vocal setting she operates in for much of the album. Her voice is perhaps deeper and less sharp than Frazer, but it works convincingly in the musical context, which Sitek describes as a “cough medicine tinker bell vibe.” And, yes, her voice sits surprisingly well with Bowie’s harmonies. There’s sleigh bells and a xylophone, while a haunting guitar motif towards the end recalls Mercury Rev’s “Endlessly”.

Read the rest here.


I got to hear an advance copy of the album - the 'Falling Down' vid is on this week's Friday Night Videos - and I'm still not sure what I think. I mean, there are flashes of brilliance, but honestly? The girl just isn't a good singer. On the other hand, there's singing, and then there's singing, and alot of it is attitude, not vocal ability. One of my favorite albums of all time is Neil Young's 'Tonight's The Night,' recorded mostly live, drunk, off-key and out-of-tune. Anyway, I think it's going to take a few listens to really sink in, but I have the feeling Scarlett The Singer is going to grow on me. The album is out on May 20th.

Mac The Knife

From ZDNet:

Running Mac OS X on standard PCs

Kai Schmerer
ZDNet Germany

Published: 14 May 2008

Apple's MacBook Air, iPhone and iPod may be all the rage, but the company's desktop computers are still relative rarities: although analysts' figures vary, Apple desktops certainly comprise less than 10 per cent of the worldwide market.

This low market share is often attributed to the relatively high prices of Apple computers. However, another reason could be the fact that users rarely have an opportunity to experience Mac OS before buying a computer. This would require a visit to one of the Apple retail stores or an accommodating Mac-owning friend. But there is another way: for some time, various different images of Mac OS X have been available on the internet that have been modified to circumvent its tight coupling to Apple's hardware. These allow the operating system to be installed on a standard PC. To date, Apple has taken no action against such activities, which perhaps indicates that the 'buzz' around its OS is not entirely unwelcome.

However, Apple's licence agreement does state that Mac OS X should only be installed on Apple hardware, so this is a controversial subject. The versions available for download that we discuss in this article are unauthorised. You might feel morally justified in using one of these after you've bought a legitimate copy of Mac OS X Leopard, but you will still be breaking copyright law. Combine that with the dangers of downloading software from unofficial sources, and it's clear that taking this route is only for the adventurous, on securely isolated test computers. We certainly don't recommend you do this — however interesting the results may be.

Read the rest here.

Gabriella Cilmi Review

From BBC News:


Picture of: Lessons To Be Learned

Gabriella Cilmi

Lessons To Be Learned


Artist: Gabriella Cilmi

Released: 05 May 2008

Catalogue number: 1763307


by Chris Jones
18 April 2008

Gabriella Cilmi is a 16-year-old Australian who's already made a considerable mark with her appearance on Later... with Jools and the single Sweet About Me, where she tramps all over her own 'nice girl' image. Add to this support slots with Rufus Wainwright and Nouvelle Vague and various soundtrack appearances and it seems that Island records are saying they've found yet another 'soul' diva with a voice that's experienced way beyond her tender years. Doesn't it all sound a little too familiar?

But it really seems unfair to deny the talent on display here. The writing (usually shared between Gabriella and her production team) is sound and varied enough to keep you listening. The persona projected is suitably feisty, which suits her delivery. Only her attempt at the Martha and the Muffins classic, Echo Beach (recorded as the theme tune to the tv soap, and included here as a bonus) is best glossed over. In fact that's the best way to describe it, coming as it does with a gloss so high that it ceases to exist. Or maybe it's just uptempo numbers that she can't yet deal with. Terrifying is also a little hamfisted. She's best on the sultry 'classic soul'-styled numbers like Sanctuary or Safer. The production by Xenomania (Girls Aloud, Sugababes etc) is bright and bolshy - leaving plenty of space to let the impressive voice do its stuff. Cigarettes And Lies in particular is pitched just right with its scratchy blues-driven hooks.

The trouble may be in the timing. The voice is undoubtedly phenomenal. But blindfold someone and play them this back to back with Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Duffy and even Anastacia and they'll start to be a little confused. As is the way with a creative arena that's also an industry, labels are unimaginative in trying to force feed us too much of something a little too formulaic. This is a shame, for you sense that somewhere inside all this is a true talent and identity longing to escape, but being generically groomed to the point of extinction. If her management and record company could leave her alone for two or three years (and a real band of her own) this teenager may well become a force to reckon with.

Creative Commons Licence Icon

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. If you choose to use this review on your site please link back to this page.

Read the rest here.

I got ahold of the album this week on a tip from someone whose impeccable musical tastes are beyond reproach, and have been listening over and over, just blown away by what I've heard. (And kriky, I still can't get over the fact that she's not even yet 17!)

Anyway, I considered writing a review of my own, but found this Creative Commons one on the BBC, and decided to take the lazy man's approach and just reprint.

I must say, I agreed with the reviewer, for the most part, but I think that all the comparisons to the other 'Big Voice' female artists out there is a bit unfair. I like all the women cited in the review but Gabriella far exceeds Amy in vocal prowess and stage presence, her tunes are hookier than Duffy's, more up-tempo than Joss', and she can go toe-to-toe with Anastacia any day of the week, IMHO.

But that's just it, she's not any of them, and I think people should judge her on her considerable merits and talent, and stop with all the comparisons. Check her various live and official vids on YouTube and judge for yourself.

From Blogger Buzz

Blogger now schedules future-dated posts

May 1, 2008permalink
Scheduled post publishing, which we talked about testing on Blogger in draft last month, is now live for everyone. If you set a post’s date into the future, Blogger will wait to publish until that time comes.

Have you ever wanted to announce something on a certain date but knew you wouldn’t be at a computer to make a post? Or you wanted to keep posting regularly but knew you’d be on vacation for a few weeks? Scheduled post publishing is here to help you out.

Scheduling a post is easy to do: on the post editor page, click the “Post Options” toggle to show the “Post date and time” fields. Then, type a post date and time that’s in the future. When you click the “Publish” button, your post will become “scheduled.” When the date and time of the post arrive, it will be automatically published to your blog.

“Scheduled” posts appear in your Edit Posts list alongside your drafts and published posts. To un-schedule a post, simply save it as a draft any time before it gets published.

One quick note: If you want to give a post a date in the future but have it appear on your blog now, you’ll need to add in an extra step. First, publish your post with the current date and time. This will make it appear on your blog. Then, edit the post to change the date into the future and publish it again.

We don’t re-schedule posts that are already published, so the post will stay on your blog but sort to the very top. The same is true of future dated posts you’ve already made, so there’s no need to worry about your existing posts disappearing, or having your blog assaulted by unplanned entries in, say, 2027.

P.S.: Thanks to everyone who tested this out on Blogger in draft and posted comments! We appreciate your time and effort.
— Nick
Get more news from the Blogger team at the Blogger Buzz blog

I Know, I Shouldn't Laugh - But I Did

The Magic Elevator

An Amish boy and his father were in a shopping mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny silver walls that could move apart and slide back together again.

The boy asked, "What is this, father?"

The father, never having seen an elevator, responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life. I don't know what it is."

While the boy and his father were watching in amazement, a fat old lady in a wheelchair rolled her way up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady rolled between them into a small chamber. The walls closed, and the boy and his father watched the small circular numbers above the walls light up sequentially. They continued to watch until the last number was reached; then the numbers began to light in reverse order.

Finally the walls opened again, and a gorgeous 24-year-old blonde stepped out.

The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, said quietly to his son…
"Go get your mother!"

Sigh: There Goes Friday Night Videos

From Valleywag:

How YouTube's sucking up to Modest Mouse (and other giants of media)

An eagle-eyed Valleywag tipster with a taste for Modest Mouse spotted an interesting new feature on YouTube. Uploads of music videos from the band by non-official sources now carry a link reading "Contains content from Sony BMG," which leads users to the official Modest Mouse page on the site. The unofficial version of the video "Float On" has over a million views — the official version only 235,000. Also, both the official and unofficial versions have had the embed codes which allow users to post the video on third-party sites removed. My question? Whether this is automated by YouTube or if Sony BMG is flagging their videos by hand.

YouTube has argued that under the DMCA, it's not responsible for policing user uploads beyond responding promptly to takedown requests, which has resulted in a cottage industry of contractors who provide flagging services for content providers. If Sony/BMG is flagging the videos, but asking for a link back to the official channel, that certainly represents an evolution in the practice — and presumably by cataloging unofficial uploads, it gives the content holder the ability to track "wildcat" views on their content across the YouTube site.

Read the rest here.

Poor Kid


Forgotten Tot Left Behind at Vancouver

By The Associated Press
14 May 2008 4:10 p.m. ET

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — An immigrant family left a 23-month-old boy in the Vancouver airport and learned he was missing only when contacted during the next leg of the trip.

Jun Parreno, the boy's father, told The Vancouver Sun the mix-up occurred Monday as he, his wife and two grandparents of the child, J.M., were scrambling between their arrival in Canada and a connecting flight to Winnipeg on Air Canada.

Running late after having to unpack and repack all their luggage, "We had 10 minutes before boarding," said Parreno, who was emigrating with his family from the Philippines. "We were running for the gate."

He said he thought his son was with the three other adults, who were running to the gate ahead of him, and they thought the little boy was with him.

Instead, in a scenario similar to the movie "Home Alone," the toddler was wandering alone between a security checkpoint and the flight gates, said Angela Mah, an Air Canada representative.

"We were called by (security) who told us one of the security people had a toddler in tow," Mah said. "He doesn't speak English, so we found a Tagalog-speaking agent who has been looking after him."

Read the rest here.

Holy Hacker!

From Wired:

Air Force Aims for 'Full Control' of 'Any and All' Computers

By Noah Shachtman
May 13, 2008 | 3:54:00 PM

The Air Force wants a suite of hacker tools, to give it "access" to -- and "full control" of -- any kind of computer there is. And once the info warriors are in, the Air Force wants them to keep tabs on their "adversaries' information infrastructure completely undetected."

The government is growing increasingly interested in waging war online. The Air Force recently put together a "Cyberspace Command," with a charter to rule networks the way its fighter jets rule the skies. The Department of Homeland Security, Darpa, and other agencies are teaming up for a five-year, $30 billion "national cybersecurity initiative." That includes an electronic test range, where federally-funded hackers can test out the latest electronic attacks. "You used to need an army to wage a war," a recent Air Force commercial notes. "Now, all you need is an Internet connection."

Read the rest here.

David Loves Chumby

From IHT:

Please, do squeeze the Chumby

By David Pogue
Published: May 15, 2008

First of all, what's up with the name Chumby? It seems deliberately calculated to make this $180 appliance sound endearing, as though it's the spiritual descendant of Gumby, the sweet but simple-minded cartoon character, and the Furby, a homely, gremlin-looking toy that kind of grew on you.

The Chumby looks endearing, too: It's small, cute and - to use the technical term - squishy. Except for the 3.5-inch touch screen on the front, the Chumby's vinyl skin (in black, gray or tan) is padded like a beanbag.

Next questions: What is the Chumby? What's it for? That's harder to answer, because this weird little invention is amorphous, flexible and freaky. But here's the basic idea. The Chumby sits on your desk, bedside table or kitchen counter, connected to a power outlet and to your wireless home network. Every 30 seconds or so, its screen changes to reveal another widget.

Widgets on the Chumby are precisely the same thing as widgets on the Mac, in Windows Vista or on the iPhone: small, simple, single-purpose on-screen programs. Inevitably, the starter widgets include local weather, stock statistics, sports scores and news headlines.

Because Chumby widgets are relatively easy for programmers to create, they're proliferating like rabbits. So far, there are 700 of them; about 25 new ones sprout up on each week. They vary in sophistication and polish, as you'd expect, but there are flashes of brilliance.

There's a YouTube widget that lets you kill time by paging through the most popular videos. Video looks especially good on this 320-by-240-pixel color screen, and the sound is clear and loud enough from the stereo speakers on the back. You can also connect the Chumby to bigger speakers.

The Email Viewer widget lists your incoming e-mail or Gmail; tap a subject line to read the full message. No, you can't reply on the Chumby. Still, it's kind of cool, as you sit there eating your breakfast, to gird yourself for the day ahead by reading about the incoming crises before you get to work.

Read the rest here.

Well, I Suppose It Was Inevitable

From BBC News:

'$100 laptop' embraces Windows XP

By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

Thursday, 15 May 2008 00:07 UK

Microsoft has joined forces with the developers of the "$100 laptop" to make Windows available on the machines.

The move was prompted by countries which demanded the operating system before placing an order.

Trials of laptops loaded with Windows will begin in "four to five" countries from June, the organisations said.

The founder of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which developed the machines, denied the move was a "desperate new measure" to secure more orders.

"While it is certainly true that it has not taken off as fast as I would have hoped and publicly stated, certain countries around the world... have always been very, very insistent that they want Windows as an option," Nicholas Negroponte told BBC News.

Until now, the XO machines, as they are known, have only been offered with an open-source Linux operating system.

Read the rest here.

What Me Worry?

From Science Daily:

Are Anxiety Disorders All In The Mind?

ScienceDaily (May 12, 2008) — Using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), researchers in The Netherlands were able to detect biochemical differences in the brains of individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia), providing evidence of a long-suspected biological cause for the dysfunction.

The study compared densities of elements of the serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitter systems in the brains of 12 people diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, but who had not taken medication to treat it, and a control group of 12 healthy people who were matched by sex and age.

Both groups were injected with a radioactive compound that binds with elements of the brain's serotonin and dopamine systems. Once administered, the radiotracer revealed functional alterations in these systems by measuring the radioactive binding in the thalamus, midbrain and pons (known to be acted upon by serotonin) and in the striatum (known to be acted upon by dopamine). The altered uptake activity in these regions indicated a greater level of disordered function.

"Our study provides direct evidence for the involvement of the brain's dopaminergic system in social anxiety disorder in patients who had no prior exposure to medication," said Dr. van der Wee, M.D., Ph.D., at the department of psychiatry and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition at the Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden (and previously at the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center in Utrecht, The Netherlands). "It demonstrates that social anxiety has a physical, brain dependent component."

Read the rest here.

Computer Bug

From Yahoo News:

Ants swarm over Houston area, fouling electronics

By LINDA STEWART BALL, Associated Press Writer Wed May 14, 3:16 PM ET

DALLAS - In what sounds like a really low-budget horror film, voracious swarming ants that apparently arrived in Texas aboard a cargo ship are invading homes and yards across the Houston area, shorting out electrical boxes and messing up computers.

The hairy, reddish-brown creatures are known as "crazy rasberry ants" — crazy, because they wander erratically instead of marching in regimented lines, and "rasberry" after Tom Rasberry, an exterminator who did battle against them early on.

"They're itty-bitty things about the size of fleas, and they're just running everywhere," said Patsy Morphew of Pearland, who is constantly sweeping them off her patio and scooping them out of her pool by the cupful. "There's just thousands and thousands of them. If you've seen a car racing, that's how they are. They're going fast, fast, fast. They're crazy."

The ants — formally known as "paratrenicha species near pubens" — have spread to five Houston-area counties since they were first spotted in Texas in 2002.

The newly recognized species is believed to have arrived in a cargo shipment through the port of Houston. Scientists are not sure exactly where the ants came from, but their cousins, commonly called crazy ants, are found in the Southeast and the Caribbean.

"At this point, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate the ant because it is so widely dispersed," said Roger Gold, a Texas A&M University entomologist.

The good news? They eat fire ants, the stinging red terrors of Texas summers.

But the ants also like to suck the sweet juices from plants, feed on such beneficial insects as ladybugs, and eat the hatchlings of a small, endangered type of grouse known as the Attwater prairie chicken.

They also bite humans, though not with a stinger like fire ants.

Worse, they, like some other species of ants, are attracted to electrical equipment, for reasons that are not well understood by scientists.

They have ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner's gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction. They have been spotted at NASA's Johnson Space Center and close to Hobby Airport, though they haven't caused any major problems there yet.

Read the rest here.

Interesting Site

Odd and quirky map of the Twin Cities.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Night Videos - Ladies Night

'Falling Down'
Scarlett Johansson


'Save The Lies' (live)
Gabriella Cilmi


'Warwick Avenue'


'Sprout And Bean'
Joanna Newsom


Laura Viers



From Blogizdat LJ:

Yeah, I know, I haven't written here in a bit.

Part of it is that I've been really busy. I don't know quite why it is, but there are times when the very living of life just feels like it's all closing in, like in one of those rooms in the movies, where the walls are somehow inexorably pushed in towards the subject. MacGyver could have figured out how to stop it with string and some tape, but I never can, and instead, my response to it all is often to just disappear mentally, and not engage any more of my faculties than necessary.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 02, 2008

YAMUM (Yet Another Made Up Meme)

From Blogizdat LJ:

Five Books

01) – A Book That You Are Looking Forward To Reading:

Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

02) – A Book That You’ve Started Several Times But Never Actually Read All The Way Thru:

A Brief History Of Time – Steven Hawking

03) – A Book (Actually A Short Story) That You Read As Nine Year-Old Child That Was Probably Too Old For You:

The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allen Poe

04) – A Book That You Want To Re-Read All The Way Thru Someday:

Emma – Jane Austen

05) – A Book That Made You Think:

God And The New Physics – Paul Davies

Read the rest here.

Friday Night Videos - Brooke White

'I Am I Said'
Brooke White


'Love Is A Battlefield'
Brooke White


Elimination Night
April 30th, 2008


I"m gonna miss Brooke.