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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In the News: July 13, 2011

9 things you shouldn't say to your child

There are explanations for each in the full article, but here is the list:

  1. 'Leave me alone!'
  2. 'You're so...'
  3. 'Don't cry'
  4. 'Why can't you be more like your sister?'
  5. 'You know better than that!'
  6. 'Stop or I'll give you something to cry about!'
  7. 'Wait till daddy gets home!'
  8. 'Hurry up!'
  9. 'Great job!" or "Good girl!'

I don't know about the rest of you, but "Stop or I'll give you something to cry about" might be the phrase I'm most looking forward to using

Owl leaves imprint on Kendal woman's window
There was a pigeon print like this at my old job. I wanted to take a picture, but cameras aren't allowed at defense contract companies for some reason. "National security" or some silly thing like that.

"A woman returned to her Cumbrian home to find a near perfect imprint of an owl on her window.

The bird had apparently crashed into the window of Sally Arnold's Kendal home, leaving the bizarre image - complete with eyes, beak and feathers.

Experts said the silhouette was left by the bird's "powder down" - a substance protecting growing feathers.

Mrs Arnold said she could find no sign of the owl, so assumed it had flown off without serious injury.

She said: "Our first concern was for the welfare of what we suspected was an owl and we opened up the window to check if it was still around.

"Fortunately, there was no sign of the bird and we can only assume that it had flown away probably suffering from a headache."


Speaking of defense/national security...
$2.7 Billion Later, the Army’s Intelligence-Sharing Computer System Still Doesn’t Work

"The idea is simple enough: Create a cloud-based software tool that can comb through the entire universe of military intelligence reports for a given region, group, or individual and come back with actionable intel that battlefield commanders can use on the ground, and do it in realtime. But a couple of analysts that have used the system, as well as documentation obtained by Politico, show that the tool is hurting more than it is helping because it doesn’t work properly. And that’s when it works at all.

The Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS-A as it’s known in milspeak, was conceived as a means of parsing the reams of intelligence reports, drone data, and other battlefield reportage and delivering to commanders the intelligence they need right when they need it--even during actual combat activities.

So, for instance, if a unit is tracking an insurgent the system would allow a commander to pull up all the recent intelligence reports generated about that individual, and plot his activities or known whereabouts on a map for simpler geographical tracking. The commander could also quickly draw connections between that subject and others in the region, helping him to connect the dots and perhaps close in on the subject through his or her associations.

But according to analysts familiar with DCGS-A, it suffers from very fundamental problems. The search function doesn’t work very well. The search program and mapping program aren’t compatible and cannot share data. The hardware is also buggy and full of problems, like frequent crashes or failure to boot properly.

"Says one former intelligence officer interviewed by Politico: “Almost any commercial solution out there would be better.”"

Atheists challenge ‘Heaven’ on New York City street sign
Usually I like to complain about and mock the nonsecular, but this time the atheists have gone off the deep end.

"A new street sign that reads “Seven in Heaven Way,” and that was recently unveiled in Brooklyn, New York, to commemorate seven local firefighters who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 attacks has drawn the ire of some atheists, who say they’re prepared to go to court to have the sign taken down.

New York City Atheists, a group that opposes the public use of religious references, is challenging the new sign, which was erected in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

“We’re supposed to be a secular nation - there really should not be any religious symbolism or signage in public places,” said Kenneth Bronstein, President of New York City Atheists. “We feel that any and all people who died in 9-11 should be remembered and honored. That’s not the problem.”

Bronstein calls the sign a violation of the separation of church and state, arguing that the word “heaven” is a clear reference to Christianity.

Bronstein has contacted the city with his complaint and has proposed an alternative street name: “We Remember the 7-911.”

Pick your battles guys...

Muslim woman sues Abercrombie & Fitch over hijab
I think my hatred for A&F overshadows my philosophical disagreements with Islam in this case.

"A former stockroom worker for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. sued the clothing retailer in federal court Monday, saying she was illegally fired after refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf while on the job.

Hani Khan said a manager at the company’s Hollister Co. store at the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo hired her while she was wearing her hijab. The manager said it was OK to wear it as long as it was in company colors, Khan said.

Four months later, the 20-year-old says a district manager and human resources manager asked if she could remove the hijab while working, and she was suspended and then fired for refusing to do so.

Snacking clue to obesity epidemic
I think the "eating more calories than you spend makes you fat" study was a bit unnecessary.

"Snacking and super sizing are two of the dieter's worst enemies, research suggests.

The average daily calorie intake in the US has increased by almost a third in 30 years, reaching 2,374 kilocalories.

The influence of bigger portion sizes and excessive snacking outweighs the shift towards high-calorie foods, say experts.

"A team from the University of North Carolina analysed data from food surveys carried out in the seventies, eighties, nineties and the last decade. The surveys record all food and drink a person consumes over a 24-hour period. The average daily energy intake of a US citizen increased from 1,803 kcal in 1977-78 to 2,374 kcal in 2003-06. In the last decade of the study alone, the average daily calorie intake went up by 229 kcal.

Several factors are involved in energy intake - the number of calories (energy) in a specific amount of food (energy density), portion size and how many meals and snacks a day eaten. The researchers say that while all of these have gone up, increases in the number of eating occasions and portion size seem to account for most of the change.

They suggest efforts to prevent obesity should focus on reducing the number of snacks and meals a day as well as portion size.

Why do Americans die younger than Britons?
Answer: Snacking

"Living in the world's richest country comes at a price, and it's measured in life years.

Men in the US are on average aged 75 when they die. That is 1.5 years younger than men in the UK and 3.5 years younger than men in Australia, says a new study.

American women live on average to just under 81 - about three years younger than the average Australian woman.

While life expectancy in the US continues to improve, says the report by researchers at University of Washington in Seattle and Imperial College, London, it is not increasing as quickly as in other Western countries, so the gap is widening.

"The researchers suggest that the relatively low life expectancies in the US cannot be explained by the size of the nation, racial diversity, or economics," says the document, which ranks the US 38th in the world for life expectancy overall.

"Instead, the authors point to high rates of obesity, tobacco use and other preventable risk factors for an early death as the leading drivers of the gap between the US and other nations."

Human Belly Button Is Home to Hundreds of Never-Before-Seen Species
As gross as they are, maybe 'outies' are better in the case of bacterial accumulation.

"Call it a twist on the study of gut bacteria. Scientists sampling DNA strains from the navels of volunteer donors have found 662 microbes that are apparently new to science, showing that the human navel is apparently a ripe environment for bacteria.

The Belly Button Biodiversity Project, run by scientists at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, has been analyzing navel swabs from a host of volunteers, as New Scientist explains. So far, they’ve found 1,400 distinct bacterial strains, nearly half of which have never been seen before.

"The researchers have recorded a large number of new microbes, but most of them are found in small numbers, New Scientist reports. About 40 species account for around 80 percent of the bacterial populations of our belly buttons, Aldhous writes."

Dedicated to my Vietnamese friends:
How the Vietnamese became salon giants


Permissive parents: Curb your brats
I've been really enjoying LZ Granderson's last few posts.

"If you're the kind of parent who allows your 5-year-old to run rampant in public places like restaurants, I have what could be some rather disturbing news for you.

I do not love your child.

The rest of the country does not love your child either.

And the reason why we're staring at you every other bite is not because we're acknowledging some sort of mutual understanding that kids will be kids but rather we want to kill you for letting your brat ruin our dinner.

Or our plane ride.

Or trip to the grocery store.

"And we know you don't discipline them at home because you don't possess "the look." If you had "the look," you wouldn't need to say "sit down" a thousand times.

If you had "the look," you wouldn't need to say much of anything at all. But this nonverbal cue needs to be introduced early and reinforced diligently with consequences for transgressions, just like potty training. And whenever a kid throws a temper tantrum in the middle of the shopping mall it's just as bad as his soiling his pants to spite his parents, and it stinks just as much.

I have seen a small child slap her mother in the face with an open hand, only to be met with "Honey, don't hit Mommy." I have seen kids tell their parents "Shut up" and "Leave me alone" at the top of their lungs -- and they are not put in check. I shake my head knowing it's only going to get worse from here.

Read the rest:

Libya conflict: France air-dropped arms to rebels
Not that I don't think it should have been done, but I thought it was very hypocritical of them to do so.
Imagine what the French would have said if they US had dropped weapons to another country without international agreement.

"France has air-dropped weapons to rebels fighting Col Muammar Gaddafi's troops in Western Libya, the French military has confirmed.

Light arms and ammunition were sent to Berber tribal fighters in the Nafusa mountains in early June, it said.

Earlier, a report in Le Figaro newspaper said the arms included rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles.

France, a leading force in the Nato operation in Libya, did not inform its allies about the move, Le Figaro said.

"We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies," said Col Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French general staff.

"During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defence, mainly ammunition," he told AFP news agency.

He said the arms were "light infantry weapons of the rifle type", dropped over a period of several days "so that civilians would not be massacred".

And of course, a science article:

Weighted Ping-Pong Balls Fall Indefinitely Through a Granular Medium

"A team of Mexican and Cuban researchers have made a somewhat mind-bending discovery. They’ve shown that objects crashing through a granular medium don’t necessarily lose energy and come to a stop, as you might expect, but can attain a terminal velocity and continue sinking indefinitely into the material. It’s a property that has never been observed or, to the researchers’ knowledge, even predicted before.

Specifically, the team used a set of 18 weighted ping-pong balls ranging from 15 to 182 grams (that's not even a half-pound at the high end), and launched them into a large tube filled with polystyrene beads. One would imagine, normally correctly, that a ball would enter the polystyrene medium and begin to lose velocity via friction and the beads' resistance to the force of the ball, eventually coming to a stop depending on how heavy it is and its velocity upon impact.

But it turns out that this is not a universal rule. We know that objects falling through a fluid can reach a terminal velocity because molecules in fluid move aside easily under an applied force. Granular materials don’t share this property; their grains don’t move as easily under an applied stress. This is why bocce balls don’t sink straight into a sandy beach and why meteors that impact planets or moons covered in a granular crust rapidly still stop at a relatively shallow depth.

But in their study, the ping-pong balls that surpassed a certain critical mass--in the case of their granular polystyrene medium, this mass was about 82 grams--traveled all the way to the bottom of the tube. Moreover, their velocities leveled off, reaching a constant velocity just as they would if falling through a fluid.

Through simulations, the researchers showed that the heavier balls would fall indefinitely through the granular medium if they were allowed to. From a physics standpoint this actually makes some kind of sense, though it seems to run counter to intuition. We think of things losing energy in granular media because they usually do. In order to hit that terminal velocity, the upward drag force and the pull of gravity (dependent on the objects mass) have to balance. This is why mass is critical, and why we don’t tend to see this in the natural world.

For instance, in order for a weighted ping-pong ball to fall indefinitely through the sand of an average beach, it would need to weigh about 31 pounds. That requires a really dense material, denser than we find on this planet.

Maybe a bit sciency, but still very cool.

*edit* Forgot these two:

The science of toning shoes:
Can Shoes Really Tone the Body?

"New scientific experiments can be inspired by a simple question, and in the case of John Mercer, that question was, “So, John, do toning shoes work?”

Dr. Mercer, a professor of biomechanics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was talking with a friend who runs an athletic shoe store. The friend told him that customers were coming in and requesting toning shoes, which are soft sneakers, often with a rocker-shaped sole, that promise to exercise and tighten muscles in the calves, thighs and buttocks. (“Your boobs will be jealous,” a refined advertising campaign for one of the shoes declared.) Many manufacturers make them: Reebok, New Balance, MBT, FitFlops and Crocs, among others.

"But as it turned out, according to results presented in June at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, muscle activation and oxygen consumption were almost identical whether the women wore walking shoes or Shape-ups. The finding “was a little surprising,” Dr. Mercer said, since his volunteers commented that the toning shoes, with their bowed, unstable bottoms, felt different underfoot from the walking shoes. But that difference didn’t change how they moved in the various models, he said.

Dr. Mercer’s study joins a small but growing body of science about toning shoes, much of which does not support the makers’ claims. A study conducted last year by exercise physiologists at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, for instance, found that muscle activation and calorie burning did not change whether people wore ordinary athletic shoes or any of three different models of toning shoes. “There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone,” the authors concluded.

Other results have been a bit more equivocal. A 2009 study showed greater muscle activation when women wore the Reebok toning shoe, but it involved only five women and was financed by the shoe company, as my colleague Tara Parker-Pope reported at the time. A newer experiment presented in June at the sports medicine meeting showed that when someone walks in a rocker-style toning shoe, forces generated by the foot striking the ground move up the leg differently than if that person wears a walking shoe. But this shifting of forces had little discernible effect on muscle activation.

“We know that the force value changed,” said Heidi A. Orloff, a professor at the University of Puget Sound who oversaw the study. “We can’t say whether there are benefits to that or not.”
(NYTimes thanks to Nick)

And because it made the news:
Two-alarm fire extinguished at Kowloon

"Firefighters from several communities worked to extinguish a two-alarm fire that ignited at Kowloon Restaurant Tuesday afternoon.

Crews responded to the Route 1 North restaurant around 3:30 p.m. when a fire alarm sounded. Upon arrival they discovered smoke conditions on the second floor and ordered everyone to evacuate the building.

Using thermal imagers, firefighters traced the fire to a void space between the roof and a large freezer unit in the back of the restaurant, according to Fire Chief James Blanchard.

Three ladder companies scaled the roof and used saws to cut through the roof to get to the fire, Blanchard said. A second alarm was struck as a safety precaution given the fire’s location and the extreme heat conditions.

After the roof was opened up firefighters quickly extinguished the fire in the void space, Blanchard said.

“We pulled a large section of the roof down to put out the fire,” Blanchard said.

All customers and employees were evacuated from the Route 1 North restaurant while firefighters brought the blaze under control. No one was hurt.

"Roofers had been working in the vicinity of where the fire ignited but Blanchard said the cause has yet to be pinned down.

A rehab station was setup to rotate firefighters during the response and to keep them hydrated as temperatures soared into the 90s. Crews from Lynn, Lynnfield, Wakefield, Melrose and Revere assisted in extinguishing the fire.

Kowloon reopened after firefighters cleared the scene. Three hours after the call came in for the fire the parking lot was filling up with customers looking for spareribs and sweet and sour chicken.

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