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The Cancer Project

Another opportunity to be a citizen scientist, and this time it's helping to isolate the DNA mutations that lead to cancer:

Compare & Contrast, L.A.

KPCC has put together an interactive online voter guide for the upcoming city election. It includes information about all (meaning, for every office) the candidates and their answers to the questions "What is the number 1 issue you hope to address in office and how would you do it?," "What prompted you to run for political office?," and "What experiences qualify you for this position?" Some of it is just so much political blah-blah-blah, but in some answers, you can begin to discern differences among them:

Who Wants To Go to Mars?

Onetime space tourist Dennis Tito is looking for someone to send up to Mars. But there are some requirements: This someone must be part of a couple, and the significant other must be willing to go, too. ("Married couples have occasionally flown in space before, on short flights, and it seemed to work well, so why not," says Lincoln University's Prof. Christopher Riley.) Both need to be middle-aged. ("The idea of sending older astronauts on longer duration missions, after they have had children, has been around for a while. The reasoning is that such a long duration mission, outside of the protective magnetosphere of the Earth, could leave them infertile," Riley said.) And they must be available for a year and a half starting January 2018 ~ and that's just for the flight (story and videos):

The Spin on Black Holes

There's a black hole out there whose mass is two million times that of our sun, and we're going to measure how fast it's spinning. We've not been able to do that before because, we thought, of gases that distort what we're able to see, but two X-ray space observatories working together are penetrating the clouds. As it turns out (pun intentional), it's not gases at all that are obscuring our view (story and slideshow):

Lifeless Life, Sleepless Sleep

We all feel bad after a sleepless night, so we know it's not particularly good for us. We've all heard, especially in the last couple of years, about just how not-good-for-us it is. But a new study conducted at the University of Surrey in England shows it's even worse than that. Getting less than six hours of sleep a night (and, of course, there are some people who can get by with less) actually alters more than 700 of our genes:

Gold Fringes

Scientists have successfully dyed hair with gold. Real gold, as in the element. And it wasn't really human hair (yet) ~ it was sheep's wool. It's not very expensive, as one would guess it would be. Just takes a lot of time and patience:
 Shirley Eaton played the unfortunate Jill Masterson in Goldfinger.
© 1964 Danjaq, LLC, and United Artists Corporation
All rights reserved.

Deadline Feb. 27

Ooops. Short notice, I know, but I only just saw this. Feb. 27 is the deadline to apply to be a tester for Google Glass. Of course, if you're picked, "Explorers will each need to pre-order a Glass Explorer Edition for $1500 plus tax and attend a special pick-up experience, in person, in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles." ... Just in case you're still interested:

Ceci N'est Pas un Pop-Up

Berlin's Pret-a-Diner, apparently, is "a dining experience" not to be missed. It blends fine dining with fine art and live entertainment, currently in a huge abandoned props factory. Also not to be missed is the restaurant's website's intro; click on the "Pret-a-Diner" link in the text:


Possibly, maybe, scientists have found bits of a bit of the land mass that once connected continents between 2,000 and 85 million years ago:

Hey, Barry, Nice Breach, Man!

This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about dolphins (one of the planet's coolest creatures, IMHO) ~ a recent study has found that they call each other by name. They are the only animals other than humans that we know of that do this:

Rhapsody on a Bohemian Queen

Elizabeth in 1642, by Gerrit von Honthorst
 Well, as so often happens, one mention, accidentally noted, leads me in a new direction from that originally embarked upon. In this case, to Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (1596-1662) ~ often called the Winter Queen for the season of her and her husband's short reign. As it turns out, this little-known woman, in addition to leading a remarkable (not always easy) life, was a remarkable individual. She spoke several languages fluently; she was a philosopher, corresponding with Descartes and, evidently, helped him hone his theories; after entering a convent, she eventually became the abbess, overseeing about 7,000 people and all their many holdings: and

Tunnel Vision

a tunnel-boring machine in Switzerland's Gotthard Base Tunnel Getty Images
Twenty of the more eye-catching tunnels in the world, including the tree-covered "Tunnel of Love" in Ukraine, the three-story-deep Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, and the 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland (slideshow):

Tomorrow Is Today

Now, here's an interesting little theory ~ and it does have its critics (doesn't everything?). It goes something like this: Speakers of languages that grammatically differentiate between the present and future are, among other things, less likely to save (and more likely to save less) for their retirement:

The Joy of Junk (Food)

Lunchables, Dr. Pepper, Yoplait, Cheetos ... It's that delightful, mesmerizing combination of sugar and salt with a little fat thrown in that keeps us coming back for more ~ and marketers and food processors looking for new ways of making us feel less guilty about loving and consuming their products. This is an educational and fascinating overview of the junk-food industry:

It Never Happened

Speaking of fictionalizing history (see "A Filmmaker's Responsibility," Feb. 22, 2013), Nero never fiddled, Marie Antoinette never suggested that anyone eat cake, George Washington Carver didn't invent peanut butter ~ and a few other well-known things that never happened:

Setting the Stage

Derek McLane, who designed the stage for this year's Oscars, has done most of his work in the theater, including for the recent Anything Goes. "[Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron] referenced some of the more adventurous theatre designs that I had done and said they would love it if I riffed on some of those design ideas," he said:
   A full list of the nominees:

A Filmmaker's Responsibility

Several of this year's Oscar contenders claim to be based on true stories, and they do say "based on." But, somehow, that phrase is usually ignored or forgotten, and a film's ~ or a book's ~ version of history ends up being the version people remember and cite as fact. Does a filmmaker bear any responsibility for that? As one can imagine, there are competing answers to that question (video):

Bears on Ice

A lovely slideshow on polar bears, with interesting (albeit rather depressing) information about them and their habitat:

Isn't It Good, Norwegian Wood?

What gets Norwegians all riled up? Well, wood-stacking ~ duh! (with thanks to Lauryn):

'Just a Normal Person'

(CAUTION: Emotionally wrenching.) Imagine for a moment that following your conscience required you to do something you knew would lead to your arrest and execution. Would you do it? At the height of World War II, in Munich, the young members of the White Rose did and most were executed ~ but not before they managed to distribute leaflets and paint graffiti on buildings urging "Down With Hitler":

Whom Will They Thank?

Well, according to the statistics compiled from previous years' speeches, the chances are greatest that an Academy Award winner will thank his/her fellow nominees and, after that, the cast and crew. Three winners over the show's history have thanked "everybody I've ever met in my entire life," 24 mentioned their children (one dedicated the statuette to her unborn child), and 125, their moms:

Hidden Agenda

"Hiding in the City No. 51"                            Liu Bolin
Artist Liu Bolin is China's invisible man. And, yes, there's a political message there (video):


OK, first of all, this won't be happening anytime soon (the ubiquitous "they" tell us), but (and I can  say this only because I choose to believe "them" about that) how awesomely cool is this??!? Ever since detecting a Higgs boson-like particle in their collider, scientists have been theorizing about what it might mean in the bigger sense. One of these theories is that of the cyclical universe, and it goes like this, according to Dr. Joseph Lykken, a theoretician at the Fermi National Accelerator Lab: "What happens is you get just a quantum fluctuation that makes a tiny bubble of the vacuum the Universe really wants to be in. And because it's a lower-energy state, this bubble will then expand, basically at the speed of light, and sweep everything before it":

Let the Party Begin (With You)!

sugar cookies! from Bakerella

Hosting or going to an Oscar-watching bash this year? Party experts share their ideas for how to make the evening just that much more special:

Sexiness of the City

downtown L.A.                    my photo
Lately, my friends and I have been going on "field trips" to discover hidden little pockets of Los Angeles. I know lots of people have discovered them before us, but for some reason, we've all of a sudden felt a pull in the easterly direction and we've been checking out art galleries, bars, boutiques, cafes, parks ~ all sorts of wonderful places. Sure, we're having to ignore those inhuman, artistically challenged buildings that were thrown up (I chose that phrase carefully!) in the '60s and '70s and just not think about the gorgeous old homes and storefronts that must have been ruthlessly razed to make way for them. Maybe the monsters will be nuked one day. But for now, there are a surprising number of the well-crafted old buildings around, and little by little, they're being restored and repurposed.

L.A. ~ building at right has been turned into lofts           my photo
Of course, this is happening all across the country. Here's an excerpt from The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, by Alan Ehrenhalt, on

In today's selection -- American downtowns, especially in those pedestrian friendly cities built before the advent of the automobile, are experiencing a renaissance. In the twentieth century, most notably after World War II, there was a decades-long escape of the affluent from the cities to the suburbs, leaving behind increasingly blighted inner cities. There is now instead a growing trend of the affluent moving back to the cities, and the resulting rise in prices is pushing the poor to the perimeters of these cities. Even immigrant populations are now more likely to establish suburban enclaves than urban ones:

"A little more than thirty years ago, the mayor of Chicago was unseated by a snowstorm. A blizzard in January 1979 dumped more than twenty inches of snow on the ground, leading, among other problems, to a curtailment of transit service. The few available trains coming downtown from the Northwest Side filled up with middle-class white riders near the far end of the line, leaving no room for poorer people trying to board on inner-city platforms. Blacks and Hispanics blamed this on Mayor Michael Bilandic, and he lost the Democratic primary to Jane Byrne a few weeks later.

Book It

DIY by Brenna, from
Although there are some really creative and lovely ideas in here for reusing old books, I have to admit to many an inadvertent shudder as I looked through the instructions. I mean, Sacrilege! Cut up a book? Cut apart those beautiful pages, those meaningful words? Cut away those painstakingly decorated covers? How many books are we losing to these crafts? That said, again, these are excellent ideas. (If I could find a book it wouldn't physically pain me to attack, I'd love to try a couple of them!):

Unintended Poetry

Many of the resulting lines are definitely intriguing, but is it poetry if it's mechanically compiled? Artist Ranjit Bhatnagar's Pentametron sifts through Twitters, finds those that happen to be in iambic pentameter, and couples them with others that rhyme (text and audio versions):

The Artful Debater

Burden of proof, circular logic, red herring, hasty generalization, begging the question, appeal to popular belief or to wishful thinking, and on and on. A clear and concise graphic delineating and categorizing all the misleading tactics that can (but shouldn't) be used in a debate. Who knew there were so many?:

'It's a Magical World, Hobbes, Ol' Buddy'

Who doesn't love Calvin & Hobbes? Oregon-based photographer Michael S. Den Beste ("nite4awk") created a series of pictures in which he places the characters of the beloved comic strip in real settings:
   Don't know about you, but this is just one of the many, many reasons I love Calvin so much:
© Universal Press Syndicate

Extreme Tag

Via one of my favorite radio shows, NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (to give credit where it's due), this story about a group of friends ~ including the chief marketing officer of Nordstrom, a high school teacher, a priest, and a lawyer (who drew up the official agreement) ~ who have been playing an ongoing game of tag every February since high school, which in this case, means for 23 years:
   But here's an update. The story ... wait for it ... is being turned into ... surprise! ... a movie. Well, it does have distinct possibilities, when you really think about it:

When I'm Sixty-Four

Nothing self-centered about my interest in this article about the need for more-senior-friendly (and more senior-friendly) communities and housing ~ no, not at all! But the really exciting part is noting how the concept of sustainability plays into the plans:
  Community leaders, including former HUD secretary and current executive chairman of CityView Henry Cisneros and executive VP of the AARP's state and national group Nancy LeaMond, discuss the realities of an aging population and ideas for how to make it more possible for seniors to "age in place," as we know most people would prefer to do:

Blast From the Past

With full props to my son for finding this ~ a wonderful collection of photographs of old L.A. (as in 1900-1925), along with full descriptions and explanations where possible:

Top photo, Spring Street looking north from Eighth Street. The man is driving a Waverley Electromobile ~ obviously well ahead of his time.

Bottom photo, the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena in 1902, the year of the first Rose Bowl game.

Nerds in Paradise

I must be a wanna-be DIYer, because every time I spot a story about people fixing or making things themselves, I feel like I have to share it (see "With a Little Help From New Friends," Jan. 9, 2013). This one's about electronica and how you don't have to know everything about computers/TVs/circuit boards/etc. to be able to build one, or so contends Dominic Morrow co-founder of NottingHack, a friendly DIY workshop in England. "Don't put obstacles in your way," says he. Good advice for life in general, don't you think?:
   P.S., Morrow is full of worthwhile advice. His T-shirt reads "Rule Zero: Do Not Be on Fire." We could all learn from this man.

Body Count

I'm not a huge fan of violence in movies (or anywhere else, for that matter), so ~ no surprise ~ I'm not a fan of Quentin Tarantino. Nevertheless, here, for your edification, is a rather fascinating (like a car wreck) graphic detailing the number and methods of deaths in each of his movies to date:

The Politics of Risk

The side of the brain people use when making risky decisions predicts to which political party they belong ~ with 82.9% accuracy. Specifically, "Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, a region associated with social and self-awareness. Meanwhile Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala, a region involved in the body's fight-or-flight system":

Driving Miss Chastely

Chandni Gautam is one of Delhi's new cab drivers.  Bhamati Sivapalan
Tired of dealing with the everyday harassment and very real dangers of life among misogynistic men, the female drivers of Cabs for Women by Women earn a living, some for the first time, by helping other women. "Our work is supporting the women of Delhi. We're giving them safety," says cabbie Shanti Sharma. Still, it's not an easy job. Many had to first learn to drive, and all were given lessons in self-defense (story and video):

Drone in the Wind

Well, I honestly don't know what to say about this. Just felt it was important enough to be passed along:
   Update: The FAA, apparently, has estimated that there could be 10,000 drones in our skies by the year 2020. "If the LAPD bought drones, [LAPD deputy chief for counter-terrorism and special operations Michael] Downing said, it initially would use them at major public events such as the Oscars or large protests. In time, drones could be flown to track fleeing suspects and assist in investigations. Tiny drones could even be used to fly inside buildings to shoot video if a suspect has barricaded himself within." ... Need I draw the inevitable, chilling comparisons to Oceania?:,0,3374671.story

Great Backyard Bird Count: Feb. 15-18

Brown-headed Nuthatch in Georgia  Marlene Koslowsky
Be a citizen scientist! Led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada, this is the 16th annual Bird Count. You're asked to help scientists by counting and/or photographing the birds in your area. They use the information to get an overview of what is happening to our bird populations over the years. In 2012, for example, they found that the Arctic-dwelling Snowy Owl seemed to be hugely expanding its habitat, to the Great Plains and the West. The Blue Jay also was showing atypical patterns:

The ♥ Next Time

Dang! Just found these Valentine's Day cards ~ for your favorite activist! ~ that would have nicely rounded out the list of cards for scientists, lawyers, etc., I found earlier (see "Professionally Yours, ♡," Feb. 13, 2013). Well, there's always next year:

Come Together

At the Sangham, where the Ganges, Yamuna, and mythic Saraswati converge Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images
Photos from India's Kumbh Mela, a huge religious festival that takes place every 12 years (see "2's Company, 100 Million's a ...," Jan. 16, 2013) (slideshow):

Ancient Modern Art

The curator of the British Museum's new exhibit "Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind" shows the similarities between ancient and modern art and, by extension, how our way of looking at the world and ourselves hasn't changed all that much: (video):

Death and Dying in America

Based on statistics from NASA and the National Safety Council, among others, a graphic showing the odds of dying in different ways in the United States compared with the odds of being hit by the asteroid that is set to fly by Earth on Feb. 15:
   Said asteroid will be pretty fast and can't be see with the naked eye, but here's the path it will be traveling:

We ♥ Nature

Heart-shaped lichen       Richard Hum
Only from BBC ~ beautiful pix of the heart of nature (slideshow):

Timeline of Lewwwve

In the 1940s, there was The Marriage Bureau.        Getty Images
Yeah, yeah, it's a Hallmark holiday, but what the heck. This is still interesting: an interactive timeline starting with the first known "lonely hearts" ad ~ in 1695!! ~ all the way to today (minus any mention of Millionaire Matchmaker, which has got to be one of the most demeaning and vulgar shows on TV these days, though it does have a lot of competition in that category):
   P.S., My honey and I met on the only blind date I'd ever been on ~ a group outing to a disco called Big Daddy's ~ yes, I admit it! (The couple that introduced us divorced about two years later.)

Pure-Food App

We all know that mass consumer feedback is one of the best ways to get a business to change its m.o., and that includes becoming more sustainable. There's a free app (which must be fairly new, because it's still lacking a lot of information ~ the site says it's "rooted in the San Francisco Bay Area and sprouting up nationwide with your support") that will help you find restaurants that are sustainable/organic/vegan/etc. It has good reviews, though some suggest that it may be just more greenwashing. I don't know; you'll have to decide for yourself (company website with video):

Bugs in the Kitchen

screen shot from company video
A rather ambitious company is trying to get us all to join our fellow citizens of the planet and take to eating insects ~ and they have a deviously clever marketing plan that just might do it. Here's the buzz (website with video):

Golden Years, Gold

(whop whop wha) ... Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere, angel.
   Nominations are being accepted for the 2013 Encore Prize, awarded to people over age 60 who are choosing to use their time and accumulated wisdom to do good in the world:
   And, to get you going, a truly fine performance by David Bowie of his "Golden Years" (video):

Shiny and Bright

my photo
Maybe every neighborhood has a tiled house, like the one above in Santa Monica. If so, how lucky we all are! Here's the story of one owner who decided to share her artistic side with passers-by (story and video):

Professionally Yours, ♡

A callous (but honest!) card ca. 1870s     Collectors Weekly
 Even scientists need love. Here are some Valentine's Day cards appropriate for that special nerd (from the wonderful Mental Floss, of course!):
   Build some love with an architect:
   Herewith, several and sundry cards for journalists and other word-, social media-, and computer-related types:
   Enter into or augment a contract with a lawyer: and
   And, finally, some surprisingly savage cards of yore:

Earth Hour 2013

The world's first Earth Hour forest, in Uganda!
Get ready to join the world at 8:30 p.m. (your local time) on Saturday, March 23, 2013, for what is becoming the largest meeting of the minds in support of sustainability and the preservation of the planet (official website):
   One of the most interesting parts of this site is the "I Will If You Will" page. You can accept one of the many challenges offered by people from all over the world or post one yourself.

Whoooo Are You?

Apparently, I'm a Clouded Leopard. I had not been aware of this fact, but then I took this little World Wildlife Fund quiz. You, too, can find out who you really are:

Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est

Speaking of dead languages (see "Dead No More," Feb. 12, 2013), the story of the reporter who broke the news of the pope's resignation is but one example of the benefits of having paid attention in Latin class (video):

Dead No More

A new software can recreate languages that have not been spoken in millennia by working backwards from their current versions. Of course, linguists won't be out of a job, as the software can't explain why changes took place (story and audio):

Mardi Graaaaaaaas!

Waiting for the Krewe of Bacchus parade  Sean Gardner / Reuters
It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans ~ and, increasingly, a few other places ~ and you know what that means! (slideshow):
   But, seriously now, what does it really mean?:


Performers from the Mangueira samba school AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
It's Carnaval (or Carnival) time in Brazil, and you know what that means! (videos, slideshows):
   But, seriously now, what does it really mean?:

Lightning Strikes

A new study finds that lightning can trigger headaches and migraines, but the exact way in which it does so is not yet known:

Snakes on a Reign

Happy Lunar New Year! For this Chinese Year of the Snake, a few myths and facts about the reptile in question:

Building Up, Building Down

A Japanese company has devised a way of demolishing high-rises that doesn't involve deafening noise, clouds of dust, or piles of wreckage (video):

Eat That Stamp!

Belgium has released a postage stamp that tastes and smells like one of the country's most popular exports ~ chocolate. Please, someone in Belgium, email me some! (story and video):

Eloquent Entropy in a Bell Jar

She swallowed sleeping pills at about 10 o'clock, but prattled on for an hour or more about people I didn't know as if they were mutual friends.
   She seemed to be rambling, and I thought it was because she was growing sleepy.
   Then her tone changed, and she talked emotionally and energetically about [poet] Ted [Hughes] and Assia Wevill, the woman he had left her for.
   Writer Jillian Becker recalls February 1963, when poet Sylvia Plath and her children came to live with her and her family for a time, just days before Plath ended her life:
   A few well-chosen quotes (slideshow):
   Watching a poet grow through her works:

A Dog Is Their Copilot

Pancho, one lucky dog               from Follow the Frontier
This is the story of Pancho, a rescue dog from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and the amazing men he's met. Of course, no one really knows how Pancho's life began or what it was like before he was found starving on the streets and taken in by a local animal rescue group. What we do know is that, one day, he was adopted by a free-thinking, free-wheeling Brit named Tom Fremantle, and that is where this particular chapter of his life begins. Together with his new friend, Pancho walked 1,000 miles along the Mexico-U.S. border to raise money for charities and to show that the area is safer than many think:
   Nov. 23, 2012 ~ Agua Prieta, Sonora: Pancho is faring better than all of us, especially me. After two weeks on the road he has a glistening coat like something out of a Winalot advert, while I have ruined soles, smarting shins and three cacti thorns in my left buttock. He is still prancing along like a Springbok in love while my gait is more Quasimodo on Red Bull.
   The rest of Tom's journal:
    Their journey over, Tom returned to England while Pancho remained in Mexico. One can only guess how painful that parting must have been. But fear not: Pancho has already embarked on his next chapter, this one with Richard Kiy, president of International Community Foundation, and his family. He will be working with Kiy to raise awareness of and donations for border charities:

The Pope Resigns

Just who is this man who became the first pope to resign in 600 years? (video):

But What Does It All Mean?

Academics think they may be on the verge of finally understanding the world's oldest known undeciphered writing system, proto-Elamite ~ and it's mostly thanks to the Reflectance Transformation Imaging System:

Just Because: 'Watt'

While rearranging some books (books? what are those?!?) this morning, I came across my copy of Watt, by Samuel Beckett. I had apparently read it for a college class, and on the first page, I had written "language is too limited to express thoughts or infinite possibilities." Whether this pronouncement was my own or the professor's is now lost to time. The book, fortunately, is not.


   Mr Hackett turned the corner and saw, in the failing light, at some little distance, his seat. It seemed to be occupied. This seat, the property very likely of the municipality, or of the public, was of course not his, but he thought of it as his. This was Mr Hackett's attitude towards things that pleased him. He knew they were not his, but he thought of them as his. He knew they were not his, because they pleased him.
   Halting, he looked at the seat with greater care. Yes, it was not vacant. Hr Hackett saw things a little more clearly when he was still. His walk was a very agitated walk.

All the News That's Fit for Kids?

Screen shot from the ad
A new app that, when hovered over a newspaper article, translates it into a "kid-friendly" version is being touted by Japan's Tokyo Shimbun (story and video ad):

Malala Update

Remember Malala Yousafzai, the little girl who was shot four months ago by a Taliban hitman (see "We Are All Malala," Oct. 15, 2012; "The Girl Who Lived," Nov. 12, 2012; "Malala, the Militants, & the Media," Dec. 28, 2012) for espousing a girl's right to an education? She is recovering and continues to speak out. Which of us would have so much courage? (video):

Home Alone in China

This is footage taken surreptitiously by Chinese activists who were able to get in to visit Liu Xia. She has been under house arrest for more than two years. Liu is the wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is in jail for having written a manifesto calling for peaceful reform and respect for human rights (video):

The Skin I'm In

CAUTION: THIS STORY IS DISTURBING. There's a reason I'm starting this post with a warning. Usually, I'll put a little caution note in parentheses at the end of a post, but you deserve to be warned right off. In fact, I hesitated quite a bit before deciding to share this one, and the reason I'm doing so is that, unpleasant and weird as it is, it's also kind of notable for its audacity and many disquieting associations and implications (story and video):

Bang Bang, Shoot Shoot

All sorts of information and statistics ~ impartially presented, I think ~ about guns in the United States (and the rest of the world):

Painfully Delicious

Last night, I followed a really good recipe I found in the L.A. Times (,0,3638941.story). It's for lentils with kale and butternut squash. Like many of my favorite recipes, this one calls for diced onion. ... Herewith, some promising ideas for how to avoid those onion fumes that sting and make us cry ~ and even though this is one of them, the rest are much easier than the questionable cutting-it-underwater trick (slideshow):

Sweet Spirits

Apparently, mixed drinks that are more sugary have the extra benefit (besides tasting pretty darn good) of cutting the impact of the alcohol on your system:

Forward on Climate

A rally to "encourage" the president and Congress to take some meaningful action in the fight against climate change:
   Whether you believe that climate change is real, whether you believe that it's mostly human-caused, you must (I think) realize that the steps being suggested are beneficial to us as a species anyway, as they concern issues such as air and water pollution, hunger, disease, and more.

Ping Pong ... POWWW!

How to launch a ping pong ball at supersonic speed ~ only don't! Just watch (video):

It's a Wiki, Wiki Universe

Well, I suppose it's better ~ and certainly more memorable ~ than being called 274301. The main-belt asteroid that previously went by that numerary name has been officially renamed "Wikipedia":

We Have a Nation. Now What?

 South Sudan became an independent state on July 9, 2011 (see "Birth of a Nation," April 10, 2011). Filmmakers Florence Martin-Kessler and Anne Poiret have been following its progress, as it goes through the steps of becoming a full-fledged country (video):
   You can also watch it on YouTube:

What's going on, Facebook?

In the "ummm, yeah, and?" department, a recent Pew study found that Facebook is becoming increasingly irrelevant for many. Of those who responded and said they had taken breaks from the site, 21 percent said it was because they were too busy or didn't have time for it, 10 percent said they weren't interested or didn't like it, and another 10 percent said it was a waste of time or irrelevant to them:

Face Off

"A clever marketing game is played in every skincare and cosmetics aisle in drug, department and health stores," says Nadine Artemis, "aromacologist," author, and creator of Living Libations. "Phrases like 'Active Ingredients,' 'Key Ingredients' and 'Natural' are emblazoned across labels in bold print to distract us from investigating the small print of what is really in the product."
   Here, an interview with Artemis on the ingredients commonly found in skin-care products that it's best to avoid ~ and why:

The Head That Wore the Crown

After confirming that the remains found under a parking lot in Leicester (see "A Lot Over the King's Head," Jan. 2) are indeed those of King Richard III (aka Dick the Bad), experts have reconstructed his face. "It doesn't look like the face of a tyrant," said Richard III Society member Philippa Langley. "I'm sorry, but it doesn't":

Kingdom of Kush

Fish in the City    Vladimir Kush

Over the weekend, I met a friend in Laguna Beach. After lunch and a walk on the beach, we walked around the town, and one of the shops we entered was the art gallery of one Vladimir Kush. (When you see his art, you'll find that his last name is rather appropriate!):

California, Here I Come

Photographs chronicling the construction of San Francisco's beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, 1933-1937:

Secret Messages

Can we look to quantum mechanics to maybe one day give us back our email privacy?:

FBI Ooops.


In today's selection -- though television shows such as CSI seem to promise an age of advanced, scientific law enforcement, in reality, law enforcement organizations are often slow to embrace these techniques and resistant to change:

   "In 2010, and for the previous nine years running, CSI: Crime Scene Investi­gation ranked among the most popular shows on television in the United States. ... Watching these programs, the viewer knows that policing has changed. For every member of the CSI team using a gun, more wield test tubes, DNA sampling equipment, and all manner of futuristic gizmos designed to track down witnesses and catch the bad guys. The show signals a break with the past, because it revolves around the way police use modern science to find the guilty and bring them to justice. ... But this all-too-common view of modern police work using science to move into a gleaming, high-tech future turns out to be a myth. ...
   "Brandon Mayfield's case makes a striking example. In March of 2004, terrorists bombed four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wound­ing approximately eighteen hundred. Spanish police soon found a partial fingerprint on a plastic bag in a car containing materials from the attack. Using a digital copy of the fingerprint sent by the Spanish police, a senior FBI fingerprint examiner made 'a 100% identification' of Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon attorney, whose prints appeared in government databases

Shake It Up

The obituary of André Cassagnes, inventor of the Etch-a-Sketch:

Ice Capped

Drilling through 800 meters (about 2,600 feet) of ice, a research team has found the first signs of life in a subglacial lake. The oxygen-using microbes have been isolated under the Antarctic ice for at least 100,000 years:

Welcome to the Jungle

A review of Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan's autobiography, which, like so many rock sagas, tells of poverty, success and excess, and the seemingly inevitable painful downfall. And while each of those phases was spectacular in its own way, so, too, was McKagan's resurrection ~ the man owns a money management company whose clients are mostly musicians (text and audio versions):

Car Bowl

Interesting facts with which to impress your mates about all those Super Bowl car ads (slideshow):

Hendrix Lived Here

Hendrix and his band in 1967
Jimi Hendrix's original Foxy Lady (and the "Mary" in The Wind Cries Mary) recalls how they met and their romantic, bumpy life together:

Don't Dance and Drive

A recent study resulted in a list of the 10 most dangerous and the 10 safest songs to listen to while driving. Oddly, classical music did not always make for a safer driver. No mention was made of books on CD ... :

Warming Up a Cold Case

Steve Hodel, who suspects that his father was the murderer in the famous, unsolved Black Dahlia case, returns to the scene with a search dog (CAUTION: This could be disturbing for more sensitive souls.) (story and video):

Safety in the Workplace

The Smoking Gun (in this particular case, a more than apt moniker) has shared a five-page memorandum from the Social Security Administration reprimanding an employee for "conduct unbecoming a federal employee." What could cause such a stink? You might well ask:

Memories of War

One of the most decisive battles of World War II took place seventy years ago. It was the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd), in which the Russians, aided by their bitter winter weather, defeated the Nazi invaders after months and months of fighting (slideshow):

Hide 'n Chic

He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them. With all their cleverness they had never mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was thinking. Perhaps that was less true when you were actually in their hands.
~ 1984, by George Orwell (published 1949)
Harvey's "anti-drone" scarf
    CCTVs, drones, hacking. 2013 seems not too much different from 1984. But, as in the novel, people are fighting back. One Adam Harvey has developed a "countersurveillance" line of clothing:

Verily, Verily I Say Unto You

Yesss! This may cut into Jon Stewart's routine a bit, but I think even he will agree that it's totally worth it. The Washington Post's Truth Teller, now in the prototype stage, will use speech-to-text and fact-checking technology to inform viewers of the truth behind politicians' more questionable statements ~ get this ~ in. real. time! (story and video):

Perchance To Dream

I once had a heated conversation with an elderly physician who was trying to tell me there's nothing wrong with medical students and interns being on duty for hours on end or getting only a few hours of sleep between long shifts. It was like a badge of honor for him. He said their bodies get used to it. Yeah, right:

The Eyes Have It

My only question about this factoid from is, I wonder whether, in the first, oh, about 150 years of this country's life, when most of our immigrants came from Europe, there were more blue eyes in the general population. Still, an interesting statistic:

Eye color might be a factor in the success of a US presidential candidate. Less than 17% of people in the United States have blue eyes, but all but six of the first 44 presidents are believed to have had blue or gray eyes. Only five — Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Andrew Johnson and John Quincy Adams — had brown eyes. Nobody is quite sure as to why this is, although some people have suggested that blue eyes might be considered more attractive than brown, black or hazel eyes. It is important to note that there is a wide range of eye colors, and when it comes to presidents who served before color photography, their exact eye colors are not easy to determine.

More on eye color: