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The Post-PC Era April 30, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Science & Technology.
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The PC revolution is almost coming to an end, and everyone’s trying to work out a strategy for surviving the aftermath.

This is why there’s a stench of panic hanging over silicon valley. this is why Apple have turned into paranoid security Nazis, why HP have just ditched Microsoft from a forthcoming major platform and splurged a billion-plus on buying up a near-failure; it’s why everyone is terrified of Google:

via The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash – Charlie’s Diary.

The Virginity Industry April 29, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Lifestyle, Religion.
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Dr Abecassis performs a “hymenoplasty” as it’s called, at least two to three times a week. Re-connecting the tissue of the hymen takes about 30 minutes under local anaesthetic.

He says the average age of the patient is about 25, and they come from all social backgrounds. Although the surgery is performed in clinics around the world, Dr Abecassis is one of the few Arab surgeons who talks openly about it. Some of the women come to him because they need virginity certificates in order to marry.

With Chinese manufacturers leading the way, there are now non-surgical options on the market as well. One website sells artificial hymens for just £20 (23 euros). The Chinese hymen is made of elastic and filled with fake blood. Once inserted in the vagina, the woman can simulate virginity, the company claims.

via BBC News – The virginity industry.

Ex IMF Chief Economist Warns US April 26, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, News and politics.
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The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

via The Quiet Coup – Magazine – The Atlantic.

Avoid Aliens Warns Stephen Hawking April 25, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Religion, Science & Technology.
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He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Similarly, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, warned in a lecture earlier this year that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding.

“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” he said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”

via Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking – Times Online.

Behind the Ash Cloud Overeaction April 25, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, In The News.
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* Attempts to measure the ash’s density were hampered because the main aircraft used by the Meteorological Office for this purpose had been grounded as it was due to be repainted.

* Computers at the Met Office, which earlier forecast a ‘barbecue summer’ last year and a mild winter for this year, produced a stream of maps predicting the ash would cover a vast area, eventually stretching from Russia to Newfoundland. But across almost all of it, there was virtually no ash at all, and none visible to satellites.

* Though there was some ash over Britain at times during the ban, the maximum density measured by scientists was only about one twentieth of the limit that scientists, the Government, and aircraft and engine manufacturers have now decided is safe.

via The ash cloud that never was: How volcanic plume over UK was only a twentieth of safe-flying limit and blunders led to lock-down | Mail Online.

Yoga’s Revolt For Affordability April 25, 2010

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Our local Library had a free Saturday morning  Yoga class that always overflowed into the hallway. When it was threatened by budget cuts an anonymous donor not only saved the class, but was generous enough that a night class during the week has been added. This article delves into the anti-diva yoga movement…the problem wasn’t with the instructor, but with Mr. Gumucio himself. “You are your own teacher,” Mr. Gumucio said he was told. “You are responsible for your own experience.”

It was a revelatory moment for Mr. Gumucio. If the student was more important than the teacher, why was there such an emphasis placed on the individual instructors?

A second revelation occurred in class when he was struggling to keep his body in a difficult position. “I was sweating, my muscles shaking, in triangle pose, and Bikram was talking about how fast he was as a boy in Calcutta. How he could catch this dog.” The situation was almost more than Mr. Gumucio could bear. “In my mind,” he recalled, “I was thinking ‘What is wrong with you. Stop this stupid story!’ ”

Later, Mr. Choudhury again dismissed his complaints, telling Mr. Gumucio that distractions were everywhere: “Candle, incense, music, easy to meditate!” Mr. Gumucio recalls being told. “Try being calm and peaceful in your car when someone cuts you off.

via Yoga’s New Wave – NYTimes.com.

Burkas Prevent Earthquakes April 17, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Humor, Religion.
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The leader of Tehran’s Friday prayers has suggested that “women who do not have an appropriate appearance cause the spread of adultery in society which leads to an increase in earthquakes.”

According to Iran’s Student News Agency ISNA, during Friday prayers on 16 April, Kazem Sadighi said that reducing sins were necessary for preventing the occurrence of natural disasters.

via Leader of Friday prayer: ‘Adultery reason for increase in earthquakes’ | The Green Voice of Freedom.

Those Coveted Black Credit Cards April 13, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Lifestyle.
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Take American Express’ Centurion Card, for example. There’s an initiation fee on the Black Card of $5,000 — plus an annual fee of $2,500. Considered the cream of the crop, the top of heap and the most exclusive card in the world, this “Black Card” is by invitation only and has been around since 1999.

“Whenever you take a card that gives points, miles, whatever, the more perks a card offers its cardholders the more [the credit card company] charges the merchant for taking that card,” says Sherry Frankel, president of the Worth Avenue Association and owner of Sherry Frankel’s Melangerie.

The charge for using a Centurion Card can be as high as 4 percent but is determined by the amount of business a merchant does within a year. The average rate charged for using it today is reportedly around 3.75 percent.

via Black credit cards come with cachet, price.

Saudis Look To The East, While The West Covers Her Back April 10, 2010

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“The Saudis are particularly concerned about the shape of the global market where all the growth comes from the east and all the security comes from the west,” Mr. Alterman said.

China’s oil demand is set to grow by 900,000 barrels a day in the next two years. Chinese oil consumption reached 8.5 million barrels a day last year, compared with 4.8 million in 2000. It will account for a third of the world’s total consumption growth this year.

While China is by far the fastest-growing oil market in the world, the United States is still the top consumer: despite the slump, Americans consumed 18.5 million barrels a day in 2009. That amounts to 22 barrels of oil a year for each American, compared with 2.4 barrels for each Chinese.

via More Saudi Oil Goes to China Than to U.S. – NYTimes.com.

Companies Predict Your Behaviour April 9, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Lifestyle.
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Predicting people’s behavior is becoming big business—and increasingly feasible in an era defined by accessible information. Data crunching by Canadian Tire, for instance, recently enabled the retailer’s credit card business to create psychological profiles of its cardholders that were built upon alarmingly precise correlations. Their findings: Cardholders who purchased carbon-monoxide detectors, premium birdseed, and felt pads for the bottoms of their chair legs rarely missed a payment. On the other hand, those who bought cheap motor oil and visited a Montreal pool bar called “Sharx” were a higher risk. “If you show us what you buy, we can tell you who you are, maybe even better than you know yourself,” a former Canadian Tire exec said.

And with its “Total Rewards” card, Harrah’s casinos track everything that players win and lose, in real time, and then analyze their demographic information to calculate their “pain point”—the maximum amount of money they’re likely to be willing to lose and still come back to the casino in the future. Players who get too close to their pain point are likely to be offered a free dinner that gets them off the casino floor.

via How Visa Predicts Divorce – The Daily Beast.

Video: 24 Hours of Air Traffic April 9, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Video.
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Natural Gas Replacing Oil Has Big Geopoltical Implications April 8, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Enviroment, Geopolitics.
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The coal industry will not surrender the power sector without a fight. The gasification of transport, if it happens, could also take a less direct form, with cars fuelled by electricity generated from gas.

A gasified American economy would have profound effects on both international politics and the battle against climate change. Displacement of oil by natural gas would strengthen a trend away from crude in rich countries, where the IEA believes demand has already peaked as a result of the recent spike in oil prices. Another consequence of the energy market’s bull run, the unearthing of vast new supplies of gas, could bring further upheaval. If the past decade was characterised by the energy-security concerns of consumers, the coming years could give even the world’s powerful oil producers reason to worry, as a subterranean revolution shifts the geopolitics of global energy supply again.

via Natural gas: An unconventional glut | The Economist.

How The French Fry Came To India April 7, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Food.
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INDIA is the third-biggest producer of potatoes in the world. The humble spud finds itself stuffed into flatbread, encrusted in cumin seeds or tucked into pancakes. But the truckloads of large, oblong potatoes that arrive at the McCain Foods plant in the Mehsana district of Gujarat face a more exacting ordeal. Ferried by a conveyor belt and propelled by water, they are sized, steam-peeled, sliced, diced, blanched, dried, fried (for precisely 42 seconds in vegetable oil at 199ºC), chilled, frozen, bagged and then boxed.

The 15kg boxes of fries that emerge at the other end of this pipeline supply the growing chain of McDonald’s restaurants in India. When McDonald’s first entered India in 1996, the food-processing industry was confined largely to ice cream and ketchup. Even importing frozen fries was complicated by the fact that such an exotic item did not appear on India’s schedule of tariffs and quotas. It took McDonald’s roughly six years and $100m to weld a reliable supply chain together.

via Agribusiness in India: Green shoots | The Economist.

A Food Fight for Hugo Chavez April 7, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics.
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El Presidente’s efforts to transform his country into a Cuban-style socialist state are sputtering. With its vast oil wealth, Venezuela shouldn’t suffer from shortages, yet inefficient farms, government takeovers of supermarkets, and a 50% currency devaluation in January have thrown the food supply into disarray. Chávez’s approval rating among Venezuelans has dropped to about 45% from 70% three years ago.

Supplying low-cost food to the poor has been a centerpiece of Chávez’s presidency. He has expropriated food processors, stores, and more than 6 million acres of farms and ranches, convinced that the government can feed Venezuela better than the private sector does. Under state ownership, though, production has suffered. From 1999 to 2008, per capita, sugar cane was off by 8%, fruit declined by 25%, and beef production dropped by 38%, according to Carlos Machado, an expert in agriculture at the Institute of Higher Administrative Studies, a business school in Caracas. “The cooperatives have failed and our cattle ranching has been decimated,” Machado says.

In a poll by researcher DATOS 86% don’t think Cuba is an appropriate model for Venezuela. Chávez “is moving in the opposite direction from what people say they want for their country,” says DATOS director Joseph Saade. “People look at everything the government has taken over and they’re seeing that the companies have become dysfunctional.”

via A Food Fight for Hugo Chavez – BusinessWeek.

Extreme Custom Cycles April 7, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Cool photos, Lifestyle, Sports.
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Thanks to Carlton Palmer - Vincent Motor Head

Vehicle Tank: And you thought your bike was special…the crazy customs.

Relax, We’ll Be Fine April 6, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, philosophy & politics.
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The U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival, built on its historic strengths. The U.S. has always been good at disruptive change. It’s always excelled at decentralized community-building. It’s always had that moral materialism that creates meaning-rich products. Surely a country with this much going for it is not going to wait around passively and let a rotten political culture drag it down.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Relax, We’ll Be Fine – NYTimes.com. (more…)

Video: The Orangutan and the Hound April 6, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Humor, Video.
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We can always use one of those warm and fuzzy animal stories. Hat Tip to Valerie Sanders, animal lover extraordinaire.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Orangutan and the Hound“, posted with vodpod

Who Is Behind SNOPES? April 5, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Cool Sites, Web Site.
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David and Barbara Mikkelson are among those trying to clean the cesspool. The unassuming California couple run Snopes, one of the most popular fact-checking destinations on the Web. After 14 years, they seem to have concluded that people are rather cavalier about the facts. “Rumors are a great source of comfort for people,” Mrs. Mikkelson said.

The enduring articles are the ones about everyday fears: computer viruses, scams, missing children. Some e-mail chain letters, like the one offering users $245 for forwarding the message, never fade away.

“People keep falling for the same kind of things over and over again,” Mr. Mikkelson said. Some readers always seem to think, for instance, that the government is trying to poison them: Mrs. Mikkelson said rumors about AIDS have been recycled into rumors about swine flu vaccines.

For the Mikkelsons, the site affirms what cultural critics have bemoaned for years: the rejection of nuance and facts that run contrary to one’s point of view. “Especially in politics, most everything has infinite shades of gray to it, but people just want things to be true or false,” Mr. Mikkelson said. “In the larger sense, it’s people wanting confirmation of their world view.”

In a given week, Snopes tries to set the record straight on everything from political smears to old wives’ tales. No, Kenya did not erect a sign welcoming people to the “birthplace of Barack Obama.” No, Wal-Mart did not authorize illegal immigration raids at its stores. No, the Olive Garden restaurant chain did not hand out $500 gift cards to online fans.

via At Snopes, a Quest to Debunk Misinformation Online – NYTimes.com. (more…)

The Coming VAT Tax Exemptions Quagmire April 5, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Food, Politics.
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“Food of the kind used for human consumption,” to a British bureaucrat, is something “the average person, knowing what it is and how it is used, would consider it to be food or drink; and it is fit for human consumption. . . . The term includes . . . products like flour, which, although not eaten by themselves, are generally recognized food ingredients . . . [but] would not usually include . . . dietary supplements, food additives and similar products, which, although edible, are not generally regarded as food.”And so, in the United Kingdom, according to the regulations of Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue Service, crackers made from tapioca starch carry no tax; prawn crackers made from cereals do. Frozen yogurt that needs to be thawed before eating is zero rated, frozen yogurt bears the tax. Get it? If you don’t, too bad—Her Majesty’s tax collectors are not in the habit of offering an explanation for their regulations.

This process of writing regulations for the VAT man when he cometh is more than merely amusing. For one thing, it confers enormous power on faceless bureaucrats.

They can hand a competing product the advantage in the U.K. of a price 17.5% lower (in Sweden it’s 25%) than a close substitute. That invites both lobbying and corruption and sheer, inexplicable arbitrariness. Get your “sweetened dried fruit” deemed to be “held out for sale as snacking and home baking” and your product will bear a tax and have to compete on grocers’ shelves with zero-rated “sweetened dried fruit held out for sale as confectionary/snacking.” Peddle your sandwiches “as a general grocery item” and consumers pay no tax, but offer them as “part of a buffet service” and the VAT man wants his 17.5%.

via Irwin Stelzer: Small Bras and the Value-Added Tax – WSJ.com.

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