Thursday, March 30, 2006

News That Matters to YOU

Virgin Galactic, which has been selling $200,000 tickets to space (not including FAA surcharge and Federal 9/11 tax), has announced that women with breast implants will not be allowed to fly over concerns that the implants will explode. UPI describes such women as flat. out of luck.

UPDATE: This myth has since been debunked. With (un)related Richard Branson sex-romp video at Boingboing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Apple at 30

Wired has a week-long tribute to Steve and Steve's baby, Apple Computer. We knew Apple had left adolescence when it abandoned the rainbow-striped apple logo a few years ago, but 30? Sheesh! According to Jobs, btw, "Artists in their 30s and 40s rarely contribute anything really amazing." Ouch.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Candy from Around the World

Pics and brief descriptions of confections various and sundry, from dulce le leche to li hing candied fruits, from all around the world. We have a question: Does anyone else here appreciate strong black licorice? We hated the taste as kids, but it grew on us with age. (Same with mustard on hotdogs, which we regard as a sign of maturity--maybe even more indicative of having grown up than whether you own a couch.) Anyway, we'd love to get our hands on some of that brightly colored, strong and salted licorice they mention.

More about international candy at Candy Addict.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Happy Hour

We'd like to recommend one for the morning after. No, no a contraceptive, but a Bloody Mary. We know a place that makes 'em with a Cajun-spiced grilled shrimp for garnish, which somehow perfectly fits. Come spend the night, and we'll take you. (We're looking at you, Perc.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Harper's Magazine: HIV Does Not Cause AIDS

For the moment, put aside the fact that Harper's diagnosing AIDS is like The New Yorker repairing transmissions. Let's talk about how a generally well-edited magazine that has turned out good journalism for 150 years can piss it all away in 15 pages.

Celia Farber spent most of her career trying to convince readers of Spin magazine that HIV does not cause AIDS. Back in the 80s, there was a legitimate question as to the cause of AIDS, even if Spin seems like a strange place to debate the answer. By the early 90s, there was no longer any scientific doubt about the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS, so why did she keep teaching the controversy along with such luminaries in the field as Thabo Mbeki? Dunno. But Harper's bought her pitch of an article about her hero/cult leader and prime mover of the "HIV is benign and AIDS is due to toxins" universe, Peter Duesberg.

In the piece, Farber spins a web of half-truths about AIDS research. For example, in the late 90s, a trial of a then-experimental drug, nevirapine, was undertaken to see if it could reduce transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to their children. It did--substantially--but many of the women did not receive proper explanation of the study's purpose or give consent to participate, and a number of people taking nevirapine succumbed to liver failure, which is essentially fatal in third world places where nevirapine was tested. So, Boehringer Pharmaceuticals should be beaten within a inch of their lives for giving people medicine without explaining what the risks and benefits of the drug were. That being said, a few people with AIDS dying of liver failure might be an acceptable risk to take if you can prevent an enormous number of babies from being born with HIV, and the more important concept, now that we have safer drugs than nevirapine, is that treating HIV infection in pregnant mothers prevents HIV and AIDS in their children. Farber, though, says that Big Pharma tricked a few thousand people into taking a poison for the purpose of killing a few dozen. South Africa's Treatment Action Committee, with the help of such notables as Robert Gallo, the scientist who first isolated and described HIV, continues with a 37-page, point-by-point rebuttal of Farber's tripe here.

Farber's article would have been fine if she had presented the views of Duesberg and friends, perhaps mentioning how their "virusmythology" lets nutjob politicians like Mbeko get away with ignoring the suffering and death of AIDS patients every day. But she presents all this mumbo jumbo as if it is taken seriously among medical scientists, as if Harper's should convince the world of it. Disgusting.

For our part, we'd like to refer you to The Body for HIV/AIDS information, before we mislead you any further.

Monday, March 20, 2006

1000 Most Widely Held Library Books

According to the Online Computer Library Center library cooperative, which claims to be the largest consortium of libraries in the world, the Bible is the most widely held book in libraries the world over. What's more, Rushdie is not on the list, but Lord of the Rings makes the Top 10.

For comparison, we hoped that LibraryThing's 100 most widely owned books would be a better list, but, alas, Harry Potter is #1, #2, #3, and so on until Tolkien joins the party somewhere around #10. Rushdie isn't on the top 100 authors list, either--you are all morons.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Holy Pink Snow, Batman!

Pink snow fell in Russia this past weekend. The weathermen, who probably didn't correctly forecast it, say that storms in the deserts of Mongolia picked up sand there that colored the snow when the storms moved north.

They note that a blanket of yellow snow fell in Russia last April--this Technicolor snow is probably messing up Russian kids--but we all know that yellow snow isn't news. Heck, we had a dog who loved to make it when we were kids.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

We love Murray Perahia, especially his Bach. (Translation: Go get his Goldbergs, even if you have the Master's recording on your shelf.) Fine. Perahia plays good Bach.

Perahia also plays Chopin, and not poorly. And when we heard him playing the Revolutionary etude, we thought he might be doing something right. Jean-Ives Thibaudet (how the fk do you say that guy's first name, anyway?), though, blew us away with the same. Thibaubet, like Yo-yo Ma, is a prima donna whose recorded music relies heavily on the sound engineering to create a lot of atmosphere (like in his performances for the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack), but man, it sounds just right sometimes, you know?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Obnoxious Alarm Clocks

A week or so back, Ars featured the Puzzle Alarm Clock, which ejects 4 puzzle pieces into your room when it alarms. To silence the thing, you have to find and fit the pieces back together. We'd just unplug it, but we have to admit it's more creative than scattering several alarm clocks around your bedroom.

Now Uber-Review (didn't the bad habit of appending "uber" to everything get dumped back in the 90s?) has a round-up of 10 obnoxious clocks, including a Drill Sargeant that barks orders while playing Reveille and a bunch of things that bounce and fly around your room until you get up and silence them.

We are seriously addicted to the snooze button, but like we said, these damn things would be ripped from the wall in about 3 seconds. Glad to see someone had fun designing them, though.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Toscanini on DVD

So this is interesting: Toscanini's "Television Concerts," recorded with the NBC Orchestra in the late '40s and early 50s, have been cleaned up and re-released on DVD. The music is the stuffiest of the stuffy--Beethoven's 5th, Brahms's 1st, Ride of the Valkyries, Verdi's Aida--but we are willing to ignore that. After all, every cliche seemed like genius the first time around, and in many cases, it was Toscanini's genius, imitated poorly and often, that made this music into cliche. (A young Toscanini was in the orchestra the night of several Verdi premieres, for chrissakes, and Toscanini himself conducted the premieres of the cliche of cliches, Barber's Adagio for Strings, as well as now-played out classical "greatest hits" like La Boheme.)

We saw some of this footage on an earlier VHS release which was plagued by a poor synch of the audio and video tracks, but the WaPo and Amazon reviewers assure us that this has been fixed. Oddly, the introductory remarks and announcements are by Martin "Voice of the NY Philharmonic" Bookspan in the 80s and not original NBC announcer Ben Grauer. Worth a look.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Bill of Rights

They told us in school that America is great because Americans are free to criticize the government. "It is in the Constitution," they said, and they can't take that away. Thing is, when nobody gets punished for violating constitutional rights of Americans, that is the same as taking that away. Having lost elections to the right and having put our faith in an ineffective Democractic party, satire is the last defense of liberals like us.

-- EFF has printed the 4th amendment on stickers for you to put on your luggage for that nice person who's been leaving you after-the-fact notes telling you your papers and effects have been searched without a warrant.

-- Slate has a newly redacted Bill of Rights that we highly recommend you print out and display proudly.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Live Action Simpsons Intro Remix

This is so awesome we don't have words for it: Live action staging of the Simpson's intro, set to the authentic Simpson's theme music, complete with a couch gag.

What's on the Pope's iPod?

According to Catholic News Service, Vatican Radio presented the Pope with a personalized iPod nano full of Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky, along with Vatican radio podcasts. Exciting. The radio staffers bought the iPod for the Pope on the occassion of the radio's 75th birthday. Why is the Pope getting a present from the birthday kid?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

More Photography

This guy is apparently a pro photographer, but since his site is in French, I can't be sure. His panoramas of the Paris skyline rock.

SXSW Time!

Even if you won't be going to Austin, you can hear some of the bands that'll feature at SXSW with these torrents of mp3s representing nearly every performer.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Indian Mangoes Coming Soon?

King Alphonso mangoes from India are supposed to be far superior to the generic mangoes from South America available in US supermarkets. After Bush's visit to India, rumor has it that the trade ban on the Indian ones may be lifted. Question: Why is there a trade ban on mangoes in the first place?