Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Tea

Another Friday has come, and so we retire to the warmth and coziness of the cafeteria for more Tea.

This week AZ will not be joining us, as she's gallivanting somewhere.

The cheese plate, however, will be joining us, though somewhat reduced in solidarity with the economic climate.

Analog TV Crushed!

Wednesday. the House (of Representatives) crushed the hopes of literally thousands by turning thumbs down on a pitiful plan to extend analog TV broadcasts. As Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.) put it: "the DTV transition is neither stuck nor broke."

On February 17th, broadcast analog TV will be a not-so-fond memory.

Viva la revolución digital!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blago Bye Bye

You put up the good fight, just like Mandela.
The governor said he would like to apologize, but couldn't because he didn't do anything wrong.
Ghandi would have been proud of your passive resistance to the Illinois Senate's prosecution of you.
"You haven't proved a crime, and you can't because it didn't happen," Blagojevich said at his Senate impeachment trial.
Dr. King, we're sure, will smile on your future endeavors.
"It's painful and it's lonely, but I want you to know I never, ever intended to commit a criminal act," Blagojevich said.
Godspeed, Mr. Blagojevitch, Godspeed.

Gigapixel Panoramic Inauguration View

A Gigapixel Panoramic Inauguration View is available here.

WASHINGTON, DC (January 24, 2009) – A 1.47 gigapixel panoramic view of President Barack Obama's inauguration address that's 194 degrees wide and 80 degrees tall, made up of 220 images by photographer David Bergman, is now posted on Gigapan.

Bergman shot it with a Canon G10 and a Gigapan imager clamped to a front rail on the north media platform. He says it took the Gigapan software more than six and a half hours to stitch the scene together on a MacBook Pro and the final TIF file was almost 2GB in size.

Using the viewer a reader can zoom in and pan around the photograph, and double click to get even closer.

Photographers on the south stand facing Bergman's camera and those on the center stand will be able to clearly see themselves at work during the President's speech. The photographer challenges viewers to find within the picture musician Yo-Yo Ma, who is in the process of taking a picture using his iPhone.

Did you know?

Did you know that there's a group on Flickr devoted to "People looking like porn stars from the 70s or 80s"

New Flash

Our correspondent reports that RD has "has made some good points"...

Please take note.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy New Year, 4706!

Today marks the beginning of the year of the Ox. (This year is also known as the year of the Brown Cow, which we can only take as an auspicious sign.

We've also discovered why cats and rats have such enmity:

The story behind the legend is that the Buddha of the sky decided to hold a competition for the animals' places in the zodiac sequence. What would happen is that the first animal who reported to the Buddha would be placed first in the sequence and so on. Originally, the rat and the cat were friends, and agreed that they would wake each other up on the day of the competition so that they would have a head start ahead of the other animals. However, the rat was rather conniving, and decided to sleep in the ear of the ox. The rat knew that the ox was accustomed to waking up early. The next morning, the ox woke up very early, traveled across ponds and charged through valleys and just before they arrived in front of the Buddha, the rat jumped out of the tired ox's ear and gained first place in the sequence. The other animals followed, and you can see that the laziest animal, the pig, won the last spot in the sequence. The reason that there is no cat in the zodiac sequence is because the cat never woke up. This is the reason the cat and rat are enemies to this day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Scientists are having trouble...

Scientists are having trouble getting rid of noise in their latest experiment, and we all know what the means, don't we? Yep - another serendipitous discovery that could revolutionize our knowledge of the universe. What's the shorthand for the result?

The universe may be a giant hologram...

New Scientist, January 15, 2009

DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.

For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We're suspicious of wikipedia's tinnitus piece

We posted about electronic regeneration and human hearing a while back. At the time, it sounded just a bit too good to be true. While we haven't completely disproved the idea, we did run across this snippet from, which offers no support - but is pretty amazing:

Stereocilia are stimulated by shear force from the moving endolymph. The cell creates an electrical response to sound vibrations that in turn causes the organ of Corti to sway and the stereocilia to tilt. Tilting movements of the stereocilia affects the tension on the filaments in the tip link which opens and closes the gated ion channels. When tension increases, the flow of ions across the membrane into the hair cell rises as well. Such influx of ions causes a depolarization of the cell resulting in an electrical potential that ultimately leads to a signal for the auditory nerve and the brain. The gate of the ion channel swings a distance of about 4 nm each time it opens. The filaments in-between the stereocilia are extremely sensitive and stretch about .04 nm with even the faintest sound humans can detect, which is a little under the radius of a hydrogen atom.
In this context, 30nm really is an enormous amount!

UPDATE: Well, could be...

There is a descending efferent auditory pathway that parallels the afferent pathway and is influenced by ascending fibers via multiple feedback loops. The specific function of this system in audition is not well understood, but clearly modulates central processing and regulates the input from peripheral receptors in a fashion similar to the role played by the efferent vestibular system.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today's Advice

KC advises that the new Blackberry Storm should be avoided, as it is not suitable for texting while driving.

HSI advises stay away from KC while she's driving.

We wonder if JM has a BB Storm, too?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Did you know?

Blogging has been light this week, but we think this post will make up for it!

Did you know that the ear (and brain) constitute a regenerative detector? [At least if Wikipedia can be trusted on this point].

From Teh Great Wiki:

The inner ear contains thousands of minute hairs, called stereocilia, which vibrate in response to sound waves and cells which convert neural signals back into acoustical vibrations. The sensing cells are connected with the vibratory cells through a neural feedback loop, whose gain is regulated by the brain. This loop is normally adjusted just below onset of self-oscillation, which gives the ear spectacular sensitivity and selectivity. [One does wonder just how many of these loops there are...]
Edwin Armstrong invented this system for Radio back in 1914.
A regenerative radio receiver is unsurpassed in comparable simplicity, weak signal reception, inherent noise-limiting and agc action and, freedom from overloading and spurious responses. The regenerative radio receiver or, even super-regenerative radio receiver or, "regen" if you prefer, are basically oscillating detector receivers. They are simple detectors which may be used for cw or ssb when adjusted for oscillation or a-m phone when set just below point of oscillation. In contrast direct conversion receivers use a separate hetrodyne oscillator to produce a signal.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that somebody agrees with RD that:

...mathematics is the only true science - and you can't twist it, no matter how hard you try.
Unfortunately, that same somebody is reporting that "N" (monetary velocity) has dipped below 1. Apparently (and if sustained) that means that Ben Bernanke's helicopters are grounded...

Oh, and the 'Bama plan seems to be a bit, shall we say, optimistic:
We considered multipliers for the case where the federal funds rate remains constant, rather than the usual case where the Federal Reserve raises the funds rate in response to fiscal expansion, on the grounds that the funds rate is likely to be at or near its lower bound of zero for the foreseeable future.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Tea

This has been quite a week.

Among the news is that MP has become a Grandmother for the first time! Congratulations, MP!

Of course, VS became an American citizen yesterday - score one for the USA!

JU showed up to work - score one for US!

Luckily for us, LM has favored us with a bottle of Bierão to celebrate with. Bierão has an interesting taste, and an interesting history:

The liqueur was produced in the 19th century as a medicinal product for stomach aches by a pharmacy in Lousã. In the late 19th century alcoholic beverages were no longer qualified as medicinal but the liqueur was kept in production in a small factory owned by the son-in-law of the original producer. In 1929 the liqueur entered a contest on the 2nd Beirão Congress where it earned a gold medal and its name of Beirão. In 1940 the factory was bought by José Carranca Redondo (1921-2005). In the 1960s Redondo drove Beirão to a nationwide success. He understood the importance of advertising - he used to say that after laying an egg, the hen clucks - so he launched the first Portuguese advertising campaign using billboards.

Things are tough all over

The WWE has announced that it is reducing its staff by 10% across the board

STAMFORD, CT– January 9, 2009 – World Wrestling Entertainment® today announced a 10% reduction of its staff across all areas of its global operations. This reduction will result in annual savings of approximately $8 Million in compensation and benefit costs. Additionally, the Company will incur an approximate $3 Million one-time restructuring charge in the first quarter of 2009.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

US Opinion on Dual Citizenship

Direct from the State Department:

U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another.
Via the US Embassy in New Delhi we have:
The Indian government recently launched a program called "Overseas Citizens of India" or "OCI". This program often has been mischaracterized as "dual nationality" or "dual citizenship." However, a person who holds an OCI Card in reality is granted an Indian visa, not Indian citizenship. Thus, an American citizen who obtains OCI status remains a citizen only of the United States.

And from the Indian Government's POV:

The Constitution of India does not allow holding Indian citizenship and citizenship of a foreign country simultaneously. Based on the recommendation of the High Level committee on Indian Diaspora, the Government of India decided to grant Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) commonly known as ‘Dual Citizenship’. Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain category, as has been specified in the Brochure on overseas citizenship of India who migrated from India and acquired citizenship of a foreign country other than Pakistan and Bangladesh, are eligible for grant of OCI as long as their home countries allow dual citizenship in some form or the other under their local laws.

Technicalities via teh Great Wiki: Indian nationality law

An Overseas Citizen of India will enjoy all rights and privileges available to Non-Resident Indians excluding the right to invest in agriculture and plantation properties. There is no visa requirement for travel to India. The person has to carry his existing foreign passport along with Registration Certificate. Alternatively, the Overseas Citizen of India can apply for a new type of visa called ‘U’ visa which is a multi-purpose, multiple-entry, life-long visa for those that wish to acquire it. It will entitle the Overseas Citizen of India to visit the country at any time for any length of time and for any purpose.

An Overseas Citizen of India will not enjoy the following rights even if resident in India: (i) the right to vote, (ii) the right to hold the offices of President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court and High Court, Member of Lok sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly or Council, (iii) appointment to Public Services (Government Service). Also Overseas Citizens of India are not eligible for an inner line permit, they have to apply for a Protected area permit if they want to visit certain areas in India.

An interesting question is whether a person registered as an Overseas Citizen of India will lose the right of diplomatic protection by their home country while in India. Article 4 of the Hague Convention on Certain Questions relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws of 1930 provides that "a State may not afford diplomatic protection to one of its nationals against a state whose nationality such person also possesses". The case depends on two things: first, does the Indian government itself recognize Overseas Citizenship of India as a true citizenship and on that basis refuse the right of diplomatic protection by the other country; and second, does the person's home country recognize it and accept India's refusal. Both points are doubtful. India does not give Overseas Citizens an independent travel document but instead puts a visa in the other country's passport. If a person is eligible to have only another country's passport but not any form of Indian travel document, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the person is a sole citizen of the other country for the purposes of diplomatic protection.

VS: Brand New American

Congratulations on your new citizenship, VS.

Welcome to the firm embrace of the IRS, DHS, and the Department of Voter Registration.

On the plus side, now you can slack off with the rest of us.

(When do we stop the marketing effort - tomorrow? All the effort we've put in to make the US seem desirable was worth it, but, honestly, it is a lot of work).

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Can anyone interpret this?

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 29, 2008 — Microsoft Corp. today provided the first look at the next version of its developer tools and platform, which will be named Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4.0. Microsoft described the next release through the following five focus areas: riding the next-generation platform wave, inspiring developer delight, powering breakthrough departmental applications, enabling emerging trends such as cloud computing, and democratizing application life-cycle management (ALM).

What not to do

Man melting snow with blowtorch ignites home

He wanted to clear back porch, instead he's got $30,000 in damage

AP, December 23

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - Fire officials in New Bedford, Mass., say a man using a blowtorch to melt ice on his back porch ended up setting his house on fire, causing up to $30,000 in damage.


It took 25 firefighters to subdue the blaze that damaged bedrooms in the upstairs units, and caused damage to the structure and wiring.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Did you know?

Did you know that the Unification Church was founded in 1954?

Did you know that we're investigating a Grand Unified Recipe theory?

Did you know that the Recipe ID is 1954?

You do now.

Chuck Norris, The Book

The website has expanded into a book. See NT for details.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Friday Tea

The first Tea of 2009 will see AZ returning to catch up with the crowd.

She's been to NOLA and has returned, mostly unscathed by her contact with the dogs, and is looking forward to taking the time out of her busy unemployed schedule to chew the fat (metaphorically, and possibly literally) with the Friday crowd.

Updates to follow as warranted.

VS, Touched by Celebrity

There were 124 passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 59 when it left the Netherlands. There were 125 when it landed in Boston.
That's how the AP put it the day that VS accompanied newly-born, newly-famous, newly-Canadian Sasha on her maiden flight to Massachusetts. The new Canadian hasn't specified how long she'll be staying in the US before returning to Canada with her Ugandan mother.