Saturday, December 02, 2006

[better technology required] ufo crashes in siberia

An unidentified flying object has crashed in Krasnoyarsk Region, Siberia, causing a forest fire, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported on Friday.

The crash took place in the taiga between the towns of Yeniseisk and Lesosibirsk, the agency said, quoting the local Interior Ministry Directorate. The crash was reported by local villagers and traces of forest fire could be seen. Air traffic officials said that no aircraft were scheduled to fly in the region at the time of the crash and no air vessels were missing.

A group formed of police investigators, representatives of the Transport Prosecutors Service and representatives of the aircraft safety watchdog Rosavianadzor has started to the site of the crash from Krasnoyarsk. The Local Emergencies Directorate has sent a helicopter to the site.

This is not good enough.

This blog feels that 1] these alien life forms should be required to submit documentation, in triplicate, on air safety standards compliance and craft reliability before entering terrestrial airspace; 2] should cease attempted abductions of terrestrial lifeforms henceforth until approval is granted 3] as this is a clear case of threat from alien sources [hostile], all citizens should report to their local ARP shelter Monday morning for implantation of the bio-data ID verichip in their right forearms.

Friday, December 01, 2006

[grimm tale] little red riding hood

One afternoon a big wolf was waiting in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food.

'Are you carrying that basket to your grandmothers?' asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.

When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she could see that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on.

She approached no nearer than three metres from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother at all but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look the least like anybody's grandmother. So the little girl took an automatic pistol out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

Moral. It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.

James Thurber:Fables for Our Time [adapted]

[london olympics] just who should foot the bill

Lady Ellee asks: Should UK taxpayers pay towards the Olympics? Is it fair that London taxpayers should bear the full brunt of the astonomical costs for the 2012 Olympics, a national event that will benefit other parts of the country too?

Teri says: Here’s the sticking point Elle: It’s in London. If it had been somewhere like the Midlands or in the North then maybe a large number of people would agree that it’s fair to distribute the cost.

james higham says: It’s a good point about the dweller in the north. He’s hardly likely to get down and see them but on the other hand, he’ll bask in the national glory. I don’t know if it should be national or city. What about the expats too? Don’t they reap some of the radiated glory?

[food & wine] red wine, mediterranean diet, as we thought

New research from the William Harvey Research Institute and the University of Glasgow shows that red wines from areas of greater longevity in southwest France and Sardinia have higher levels of procyanidins - a type of flavonoid polyphenol with potent protective effects on blood vessels.

The team tested wines from two specific regions in southwest France and Sardinia, associated with increased longevity, to see if they differed to wines sourced from other countries across the world. The 'traditional' wines revealed surprisingly high levels of procyanidins, with often five to 10 times more than some new world wines.

Welshcakes Limoncello said… "Vino vecchio ed olio nuovo" = "old wine and new olive oil" - that's what they say the secret is here, James.

Forbes agrees: people who eat a "Mediterranean" diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, cereals and fish have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, U.S. researchers report. Another study finds that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements slows cognitive decline in some patients with very mild Alzheimer's disease.

"It seems that this diet is [health] protective," Scarmeas said. "Taking into account that this diet is protective for other conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, obesity and a series of cancers, it seems to make sense to follow this diet anyway, and the diet may also protect from Alzheimer's disease."

It all seems pretty clear to me.

[freedom of speech] assault on the blogosphere gains momentum

Chicken Yoghurt has an important post on the freedom to blog and that many bloggers can’t see how they can be shut down if their host is offshore. CY refers to the Prime Minister’s senior policy adviser, his former press secretary and the director of the Press Complaints Commission and their views on what they’d like to do to the blogosphere. Also, former US Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:

“This is a serious, long-term war,” Gingrich added, “and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country. It will lead us to learn how to close down every Web site that is dangerous.”

War? Yes, it is indeed a war and you can just see the wheels turning in their minds. At the moment they can’t touch the blogosphere so they’ll soon resort to the good ’ole Hegelian thesis-antithesis, translated into layman’s terms as: 1] create a crisis 2] raise cries from the populace to solve the crisis 3] step in with your pre-packaged solution which achieves your true aim.

The blogosphere is the only place left where the long term goals of these very dangerous people who purport to lead the country can be exposed. We still have the freedom for now but the Google shutdown last evening perfectly illustrated how tenuous is our ability to communicate with each other. The plug can be pulled at any time.

[space shuttle] haute cuisine out of this world

Space shuttle Discovery, meant to launch Dec. 7, will carry Thai chicken and two other dishes devised by Food Network star and TV talk show host Rachael Ray. She made the astonauts' meals in NASA's kitchens, the first from a food celebrity to fly on the shuttle. The meals will make "a nice … psychological twist for our crewmembers," says NASA food systems manager Vickie Kloeris.

Space station astronauts have already sampled Emeril Lagasse's jambalaya and mashed potatoes with bacon, devoured on the station in August. German station resident Thomas Reiter told Lagasse, famous for his New Orleans-style fare, that it was "perfect" for satisfying the crew's "longing … for spicy food."

Most of the shuttle food is freeze-dried or heat-treated and can last for months - freeze-dried shrimp cocktail and irradiated steak for example. Ray's dishes, which were cooked at NASA's kitchens, will get eaten despite the astronauts' tendency to skip meals because they'll go in the fresh-food tray, which holds perishables such as fruit and favorite snacks of the crew's choice.

Appearing on Ray's talk show in October, Discovery commander Mark Polansky, an avid cook, pronounced Ray's chicken "great." The crew can also dig into treats from crewmate Christer Fugelsang, the first Swede to fly in space: ginger cookies and moose pâté. More here.

[wishful thinking] the pope and the muslims

This business of the Pope praying with the Muslims - wonder if they’re praying to the same G-d? For what expected result?

1] to convert the Muslims to Christianity or vice versa?
2] to reach understanding so all that nasty terrorism will stop?
3] to prevent the mistreatment of the Christian minority by establishing dialogue and therefore some sort of negotiating position?

Pope Benedict XVI stood Thursday in silent prayer, facing Mecca, beside Mustafa Cagrici, the chief of religious affairs for Istanbul — under the ornate domes of the Blue Mosque. He stated his desire to reconcile Christians and Muslims and then referred to the “Christian roots of Europe” and then, in a joint declaration with Bartholomew, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, referred to the Christian roots of Turkey — the Byzantine church based there for more than a millennium.

He must fail on N1 for obvious reasons, he’ll fail on N2 for a less obvious reason – namely that the unrest and killing is done by crazies funded by the 4th player and so reason N3 appears to be the one he’s running with.

On Thursday he endorsed Turkey’s entry to the European Union but linked it to specific progress in respecting the rights of minorities e.g. the officially harrassed Orthodox Christians. Finally, he repeated a theme from that speech in Regensburg, Germany, about violence in the cause of religion, though this time without mentioning any religion by name.

The Pope’s real purpose, though, was to heal the rift with the Orthodox Church. How? There are several doctrinal differences and the East will never accept the pontiff as anything more than first among equals so this blog asks, yet again, for what expected result?

UPDATE: Melanie Phillips' take on this.

[the snow] signs of winter out there

You can’t use the term ‘bucketing down’ for snow, as you can for rain and sleet or even ‘p---ing down’. ‘Fluttering down fast’? ‘Driving downwards like a fast hit shuttlecock’? Whichever you choose, that’s what’s happening now outside and the sky is full of it. The temperature is hovering around minus 3 and that’s not good.

It’s not good because it doesn’t kill off all the little bugs and nasties, doesn’t help the plant life and gives rise to epidemics of flu and the like. It’s not mere bravado that has us wishing for low temperatures like minus 25 or so, every so often. It’s absolutely necessary. And it’s deceptive. After the initial onslaught, the body gets used to it and that’s where the danger lies – in over-confidence. Then the chills come and you’re off for a week.

There’s a contrast between men’s and women’s approaches. A young woman will often go without hat but will always wear gloves – a young man the other way around. Same for the fur coats [increasingly acrylic nowadays]. The men generally have the fur inside, the women outside. Women go for long scarves, the men for functional items.

The traditional Russian hat still can’t be beaten but there aren’t many of the under 40s who’d wear one. The black, woollen, knitted cap is the way to go. I myself choose that way, with the fur-lined hood up if the wind’s up outside. I also have fur mittens of a thick variety for when it dips to minus 30 or so. This is much rarer than you might think and generally, it’s around a nice ambient minus 10 and this is not being facetious.

Being a continental climate, minus 10 here is about plus 3 or 4 in Britain in terms of body effect. I recall one day at Hadrian’s Wall, at 06:00 in November when I almost literally froze to death. I wasn’t that cold again until I tried to work on my car in the carpark in minus 37 one morning here.

Which brings me to the car. If it kicks over in the morning, you offer a silent prayer if you’re that way inclined and things go smoothly and safely for the day. Trouble is, when you have a car, you’re generally dressed more lightly and if something goes wrong, such as leaving your keys in it and the doors automatically locking after you, then you’re in real trouble. You’d have about 25 minutes before hypothermia began its inexorable setting in. Always, always, there’s the possibility of such things lurking at the back of the mind.

It happened that way on the road to the airport and there was no choice but to abandon the car, engine still running and catch another car back home for the spare keys. But that’s another story.

[body builders] beware the dreaded chromium-6

Researchers at Sydney's Garvan Institute say they are concerned some people could be exposing themselves to toxic levels of Chromium-6, made famous in the Hollywood movie Erin Brockovich.

The naturally-occurring Chromium-3, a supposedly harmless substance found in small quantities in beer and other yeast products is often taken as a nutritional supplement by diabetics, to improve insulin action, and in much larger quantities by body builders to help lose weight.

A research team led by Lindsay Wu was the first to observe that Chromium-3 transforms into cancer-causing Chromium-6 in human fat cells. The substance was at the centre of a movie based on the real story of a community made sick by water contaminated by Chromium-6. Most humans will consume about 25 micrograms of Chromium-3 a day - a tiny but vital amount - but body-builders will take up to 400 micrograms.

Most would have started taken the supplements in the early 1990s, but any cancer would take 20 to 30 years to develop, Mr Wu said. Professor Chris Winder, a toxicology expert at the University of NSW, said it was possible that Chromium-3 could reduce to Chromium-6 in the body but the process would be slow and therefore unlikely to be hazardous in people. It would also need to be in large quantities.

[warning – non story] is your city competitive

What makes for a competitive city in today's global economy? That's what an OPEC report released Thursday set to find out. The report stresses that, while there is no ‘one size fits all' policy for cities, there are ideas that can be tailored to meet specific needs. These include:

• a flexible vision that fosters competitiveness with information and transportation links between universities, researchers, technicians, and manufacturers

• “livable” cities with high-quality infrastructure, green spaces, and inner city residential areas and public projects, which contribute to economic success by attracting foreign investors as well as professionals and tourists

• leadership from the national government to encourage reform, government at the metro level and local networks that include non-governmental actors and businesses which can deal with social tensions and market realities

• cities can diversify tax revenues with ‘smart taxes' such as congestion charges and use public-private partnerships to raise money for public projects. Equalization payments between metropolitan regions can also sometimes be effective

Are you feeling the same sense of disappointment as me? Seems to me they’re stating the bleeding obvious here and where’s the list of cities? Also, I wonder how much the OPEC report cost in terms of money and free lunches or is that just being cynical?