Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for December, 2012

Happy 2013!

Posted by Anonymous on December 31, 2012

Happy New Year. Have you made your resolutions? What will you do or do differently in 2013?

My short list of goals:

  1. Finish CD
  2. Maximize health
  3. Reduce stress
  4. Plan wedding
  5. Keep up with friends
  6. Update website and blog
  7. Write an iPhone App

20121231-160845.jpg

Posted in Blog | 3 Comments »

George H.W. Bush obituary mistakenly published

Posted by Anonymous on December 31, 2012

Germany’s respected news weekly Der Spiegel has mistakenly published an obituary for former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

The unfinished obituary appeared on Der Spiegel’s website for only a few minutes Sunday before it was spotted by Internet users and removed.

In it, the magazine’s New York correspondent Marc Pitzke describes Bush as “a colorless politician” whose image only improved when it was compared to the later presidency of his son, George W. Bush.

“All newsrooms prepare obituaries for selected figures,” the magazine said on its Twitter feed. “The fact that the one for Bush senior went live was a technical mistake. Sorry!”

Bush was hospitalized in Houston on Nov. 23 for treatment of a bronchitis-related cough. He was moved to intensive care on Dec. 23 after he developed a fever.

A family spokesman says the 88-year-old former president was moved out of intensive care into a regular hospital room again Saturday after his condition improved. …

via George H.W. Bush obituary mistakenly published by German magazine – thestar.com.

Posted in Politics, Strange | Leave a Comment »

Woman with flu-like symptoms dies on Vancouver-Toronto train

Posted by Anonymous on December 31, 2012

An elderly woman suffering flu-like symptoms was found dead on a Vancouver-Toronto Via Rail train early Saturday morning, according to a statement released by the company.A woman was found dead on a Via Rail passenger train early Saturday morning.

The company says the Vancouver-to-Toronto train stopped near Parry Sound, Ont., because four passengers were showing flu-like symptoms.

Emergency crews boarded the train and confirmed that a woman who Via Rail described in a news release as elderly had died.

The other three passengers were taken to hospital for treatment, according to the news release.

The train was about six hours late getting to Toronto, according to the release. The train had left Vancouver on Christmas Day night.

Via said a quarantine was placed on the two rooms the passengers were in, which is part of their standard procedures. It’s not believed anyone else was in those compartments, which will be sterilized.

Health officials say it’s not believed that other passengers or the train’s crew were exposed to those taken off the train, which had 200 passengers and 13 crew members on board.

The local coroner was trying to determine the cause of death and the Ontario Provincial Police say the woman’s identity was being withheld until all family members were notified. …

via Woman with flu-like symptoms dies on Vancouver-Toronto train – Canada – CBC News.

Posted in Strange | Leave a Comment »

Mammoth Boulder Crashes Into California Home

Posted by Anonymous on December 31, 2012

abc boulder home jp 121214 wblog Mammoth Boulder Crashes Into California Home

… because of a recent rainstorm in the area, Ja’Nielle Gendelman, 69, has a 12-ton boulder smack dab in the middle of her home.

The giant rock rolled onto her house in Poway, Calif., on Thursday and, in the process, wiped out her garage and crushed gas and electric lines, according to KSWB-TV.

Heavy rains had apparently dislodged the boulder from a nearby hill. It rolled several hundred feet before crashing in Gendelman’s home, according to the Associated Press.

“I opened the back kitchen door and I saw that the patio had fallen down and I turned to the right and I saw trees and the back fencing,” Gendelman, who has lived in the house for five years, told KGTV-TV.

When she opened her garage door, she was stunned to see the 5-foot boulder on the concrete, and a gaping hole in the side of the garage that faces the hillside, the station reported.

The rolling boulder also split open a propane gas line and knocked over garden chemicals, including malathion and a can of gasoline. The mixture prompted fire officials to shut off the propane tank and call for a hazardous materials crew, UTSanDiego.com reported.

Poway Fire Division Chief Kevin Hitchcock told the website that chlorine bleach neutralized the spilled chemicals, but Gendelman will have to hire a private company for cleanup.

As far as removing the boulder? That’s the 12-ton question Gendelman is still asking. She said her insurance agent told her the damage may not be covered.

“This is really upsetting because this is my only home and I had to pay extra to insure against damage from natural disasters like earthquakes,” she told ABC News. “I mean, what will I do with this big rock in my garage? Can’t they at least seal the walls?” …

via HuffPost

Posted in Strange | 1 Comment »

Found: Whale thought extinct for 2 million years

Posted by Anonymous on December 31, 2012

Image: Pygmy whale

The pygmy right whale, a mysterious and elusive creature that rarely comes to shore, is the last living relative of an ancient group of whales long believed to be extinct, a new study suggests.

The findings, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, may help to explain why the enigmatic marine mammals look so different from any other living whale.

“The living pygmy right whale is, if you like, a remnant, almost like a living fossil,” said Felix Marx, a paleontologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand. “It’s the last survivor of quite an ancient lineage that until now no one thought was around.”

The relatively diminutive pygmy right whale, which grows to just 21 feet long, lives out in the open ocean. The elusive marine mammals inhabit the Southern Hemisphere and have only been spotted at sea a few dozen times. As a result, scientists know almost nothing about the species’ habits or social structure.

The strange creature’s arched, frownlike snout makes it look oddly different from other living whales. DNA analysis suggested pygmy right whales diverged from modern baleen whales such as the blue whale and the humpback whale between 17 million and 25 million years ago. However, the pygmy whales’ snouts suggested they were more closely related to the family of whales that includes the bowhead whale. Yet there were no studies of fossils showing how the pygmy whale had evolved, Marx said.

To understand how the pygmy whale fit into the lineage of whales, Marx and his colleagues carefully analyzed the skull bones and other fossil fragments from pygmy right whales and several other ancient cetaceans.

The pygmy whale’s skull most closely resembled that of an ancient family of whales called cetotheres that were thought to have gone extinct around 2 million years ago, the researchers found. Cetotheres emerged about 15 million years ago and once occupied oceans across the globe.

The findings help explain how pygmy whales evolved and may also help shed light on how these ancient “lost” whales lived. The new information is also a first step in reconstructing the ancient lineage all the way back to the point when all members of this group first diverged, he said. …

via Found: Whale thought extinct for 2 million years – Technology & science – Science – LiveScience | NBC News.

Posted in Biology, Cryptozoology | Leave a Comment »

Maps that reveal how our brain organises everything

Posted by Anonymous on December 30, 2012

This raises interesting possibilities for mind reading as well as programmed learning. Before we can make any changes, we might be able to identify things which are misplaced. (Hey, what is “murder”  doing there in your “fun” category, Mr. President?)

Scientists have put together the first ever map of how the brain organises the thousands of images that come flooding in through our eyes every day.

A team at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the brain is wired to put in order all the categories of objects and actions that we see.

To illustrate their findings, they have created the first map of how the brain organises these categories across the cortex.

The result — achieved through computational models of brain imaging data collected while test subjects watched hours of video clips — is what researchers call ‘a continuous semantic space’.

The UC Berkeley team have mapped this data across the human cortex to show which areas of the brain deal with which categories of objects we see in the world around us.

Some relationships between categories make sense – for example, that humans and animals share the same ‘semantic neighbourhood’ – while others – like the apparent link between hallways and buckets – seem less obvious.

Nevertheless, the researchers found that different people share a similar semantic layout. …

The Berkeley team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to record the brain activity of five researchers as they each watched two hours of film clips.

Researchers then analysed the readings to find correlations in data and build a model showing how each of 30,000 subdivisions in the cortex responded to the 1,700 categories of objects and actions shown.

The team used fMRI scans of patients to work out which how which regions of their brains process different categories of information (right). They were then able to show the regions on a virtual 3D brain (left)

Next, they used principal components analysis, a statistical method that can summarize large data sets, to find the ‘semantic space’ that was common to all the study subjects. The results are presented in multicoloured, multi-dimensional maps showing the more than 1,700 visual categories and their relationships to one another.

Categories that activate the same brain areas have similar colours. For example, humans are green, animals are yellow, vehicles are pink and violet and buildings are blue.

‘Our methods open a door that will quickly lead to a more complete and detailed understanding of how the brain is organised,’ said Alexander Huth, lead author of the study published yesterday in the journal Neuron. ‘Already, our online brain viewer appears to provide the most detailed look ever at the visual function and organisation of a single human brain.’

His and his colleagues findings show that the brain efficiently represents the diversity of categories in a compact space. Instead of having a distinct brain area devoted to each category, as previous work had identified, for some but not all types of stimuli, the researchers found brain activity is organised by the relationship between categories.

‘Humans can recognise thousands of categories. Given the limited size of the human brain, it seems unreasonable to expect that every category is represented in a distinct brain area,’ said Mr Huth.

A clearer understanding of how the brain organises visual input can help with the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders. The findings may also be used to create brain-machine interfaces, particularly for facial and other image recognition systems.

‘Our discovery suggests that brain scans could soon be used to label an image that someone is seeing, and may also help teach computers how to better recognise images,’ said Mr Huth. …

via DailyMail

Posted in Biology, Mind | Leave a Comment »

Top young scientist crafts system to purify water

Posted by Anonymous on December 30, 2012

Deepika Kurup, a 14-year-old high school student from Nashua, New Hampshire, has won this year’s Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her solar-powered device designed to kill bacteria in water. She now has the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” and a reward of $25,000 for her work. for students in fifth to eighth grade.
Kurup entered the prestigious-science competition before she was in high school. This was her second time entering; in an another year’s competition she had taken first place in her state. The advantages of her award-winning system are several. Its low-cost is just one benefit. In contrast to water purification methods using UV lamps that call for electricity or chemicals, Kurup’s method runs “off-grid,” yielding fresh-tasting water. Another advantage tied to her process is time; it can kill many types of bacteria in less time than other methods. Her judges saw her presentation as part of the competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The student’s system involves exposing titanium oxide and zinc oxide to sunlight. The chemical reaction that this initiates forms hydroxyl radicals to go after and destroy types of bacteria. She counted the levels of coliform bacteria before and after she applied her system, with 3M Petrifilms, a microbiological testing process. The Petrifilm E.coli/Coliform Count Plate identifies both E. coli and other coliforms. Her system reduced the amount of coliforms from 8,000 down to 50 and E. coli from more than 1,000 down to none in less than eight hours. In one hour, she degraded methane blue. She used her back yard as her testbed, trying out her system with contaminated water from the Nashua wastewater treatment facility. Kurup’s composite involved 3M Glass Bubbles, which the company describes as engineered hollow glass microspheres, intended as alternatives to conventional fillers and additives.
The low-density particles are used to reduce part weight and to cut costs. The idea for her winning project came to her when on vacation in India, she said. Witnessing children drinking dirty water from a stagnant pool triggered her resolve “to find a solution to the global water crisis.” Kurup worked on the project for three months, drawing on documentation including PhD papers about water purification methods. She also had contact with a 3M mentor, as scientists from 3M guide finalists through the translation from their concepts to prototypes. …

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-12-america-young-scientist-crafts-purify.html#jCp

Posted in Survival, Technology | Leave a Comment »

How the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy

Posted by Anonymous on December 30, 2012

– It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a “terrorist threat”:

“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”

Verheyden-Hilliard points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it “police-statism”:

“This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a “Bank Fraud Working Group” met in November 2011 – during the Occupy protests – to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its “domestic terrorism” unit. The Anchorage, Alaska “terrorism task force” was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan “joint terrorism task force” was issuing a “counterterrorism preparedness alert” about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the “Bank Security Group” – multiple private banks – met to discuss the reaction to “National Bad Bank Sit-in Day” (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state’s Occupy members’ details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its “joint terrorism task force” aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.

Jason Leopold, at Truthout.org, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own FOIA requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: if you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the “longterm plans” of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.

There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society – people’s income streams and financial records – is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.

Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed – because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one’s personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a “terrorist organization” and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing. …

via Guardian

Posted in human rights, Money, Politics | Leave a Comment »

The FBI’s secret file on Marilyn Monroe: intimate details kept

Posted by Anonymous on December 30, 2012

A classified file released by the FBI shows how the agency tracked Marilyn Monroe’s suspected ties to communism in 1956.

The agency documented an anonymous phone call to the New York Daily News that year warning that playwright Arthur Miller was a communist and Monroe had ‘drifted into the communist orbit’ after her marriage to him earlier that year.

The file is just one piece of the puzzle about what the FBI knew about the actress when she died in August 1962.

The Associated Press waging an ongoing campaign to have more of the FBI documents released by the agency, coinciding with the 50th anniversary Monroe’s death.

The redacted document reveals that on July 11, 1956, the agency got a tip that an anonymous male caller phoned the Daily News to report that the actress’s company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, was ‘filled with communists’ and that money from the company was being used to finance communist activities.

The caller said Miller’s marriage to Monroe during a Jewish ceremony less than a months earlier was a ‘coverup.’

Miller, the man said, ‘was still a member of the CP (communist party) and was their cultural front man.’

The FBI has long made portions of its documents about Monroe public, but most of them are heavily redacted. Surveillance: This FBI file documented an anonymous call to the New York Daily News. It's unknown how the agency found out about it

However, the FBI claims it has lost its files on the actress and cannot release them.

Finding out precisely when the records were moved – as the FBI says has happened – required the filing of yet another, still-pending Freedom of Information Act request.

The most recent version of the files is publicly available on the bureau’s website, The Vault, which periodically posts FBI records on celebrities, government officials, spies and criminals.

The AP appealed the FBI’s continued censorship of its Monroe files, noting the agency has not given ‘any legal or factual analysis of the foreseeable harm that might result from the release of the full records.’ …

via DailyMail

Posted in History, Politics, Popular Culture | Leave a Comment »

Top 100 Life Lessons (A work in progress…)

Posted by Anonymous on December 27, 2012

During a quantum jump a more successful me in a parallel universe told me to make my personal list of most useful life lessons. Here, in no order yet, is a first draft. I plan to revise this over time. Feel free to post your own favorite life lessons in the comments.

  1. Everything you think of has already been thought of and acted upon. Use that.
  2. Do your own research. Experts are sometimes wrong.
  3. Be curious and collect all the “facts” with an open mind. There are different sides to every story.
  4. Understand and don’t fall for logical fallacies.
  5. Decide slowly, and know the types and strengths of evidence behind your decisions.
  6. Stay calm and carefully review the details to find the answer.
  7. Know and admit when you don’t yet have enough information to answer the question.
  8. Exercise frequently. Break a sweat.
  9. Eat the good stuff.
  10. Get enough sleep.
  11. Learn to meditate. Do it daily.
  12. Find and know your mission in life.
  13. Align your intentions, words and actions.
  14. Nobody cares about you as much as they care about themselves.
  15. Forgive yourself and move on.
  16. It’s OK to be different. You’re not as different as you think.
  17. Somebody will always tell you your ideas suck. Take action anyway.
  18. You will make mistakes. So what? Make more.
  19. Make failure your friend. Harvest failures. Know outcomes and lessons.
  20. Don’t make the same mistake twice. If you do, don’t make it a third time.
  21. Ask for what you want. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.
  22. Define your own rules for success. It’s a lot easier to rule your world than someone else’s world.
  23. People will rationalize and justify anything and everything to be right.
  24. The people who really care will still care whether they agree with you or not.
  25. You don’t need anybody’s support to make things happen.
  26. Figure out how to tell someone they’re wrong and also make them feel good.
  27. Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. You’ll be a mile away, and you’ll have their shoes.
  28. Religions and superstitions cause a lot of problems.
  29. Just because a billion people do something doesn’t mean it’s right.
  30. Everybody lies. Trust people anyway.
  31. Show gratitude. Acknowledge those who have helped you.
  32. Don’t think of cost. Think of value.
  33. Give away something you love. You’ll learn a) detachment and b) it feels great.
  34. Low calorie does not mean healthy. Stop fooling yourself.
  35. Fluoride is a neurotoxin and a byproduct of atomic bomb production. Don’t ingest it.
  36. If you don’t feel good you probably don’t need a doctor. Examine your diet.
  37. It’s OK if you don’t want to travel the world. There are lots of things to explore in your own backyard.
  38. Most TV is a waste of time.
  39. Keep a daily blog or journal.
  40. It’s OK to complain sometimes.
  41. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
  42. You might think you’re not good enough, but you’ll surprise yourself when you try.
  43. It’s OK to feel sad.
  44. Passion can go a long way.
  45. Whether you hear it or not, a falling tree always makes a sound.
  46. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Compare yourself to yourself.
  47. Love someone with your whole heart, honestly.
  48. Do what you love even if you don’t get paid for it.
  49. There is always more you can do. But that doesn’t mean you should.
  50. Humans are the only mammals that drink milk after they’ve grown. They’re also the only mammals that drink another mammal’s milk.
  51. People want you to do what they say and follow their rules. Don’t be a pushover.
  52. Most people won’t agree with you.
  53. You never have to settle. Not in a relationship, not in a job, not ever.
  54. It’s OK if you don’t like something. Just don’t pretend that you do.
  55. Don’t chase money and recognition.
  56. Try something different every day.
  57. Learn something interesting, exciting and surprising every day.
  58. Earn your own respect, then respect yourself.
  59. Fill your life with quality people and ask their opinions.
  60. Keep your environment clean.
  61. Be organized. Know what you have and where it is.
  62. Don’t have unsecured debt. Avoid debt unless it will move you forward.
  63. An education is always worth it, even if you have to pay off loans.
  64. Anger is part of your immune system. Have clear boundaries.
  65. You don’t need as much money as you think.
  66. There will always be somebody more than you
  67. Practice Happiness, compassion and contentment.
  68. Learn and practice lucid dreaming.
  69. Learn a martial art.
  70. Dance.
  71. Take yourself on dates to the movies, dinner, concerts, travel. Enjoy alone time.
  72. Plan for success. Be prepared, but trust yourself to “wing it”.
  73. When your fears are irrational, do what scares you.
  74. If you help people get what they want, you will get what you want.
  75. Don’t blame anybody for your problems. They’re yours. Establish this and work on them.
  76. Maintain your personal hygiene.
  77. Improve your appearance (style, grooming, fitness, etc.)
  78. Friendships require attention. Feed and water your friends.
  79. Find people you admire and imitate them… your way.
  80. Push your boundaries, challenge yourself.
  81. Know your limitations.
  82. Consult your death to know what matters.
  83. Learn to let go.
  84. Play a musical instrument and/or sing.
  85. Pay yourself first. Save 10% of what you earn.
  86. Become an expert at something.
  87. Cultivate your emotional intelligence.
  88. Learn to take criticism.
  89. Learn to take compliments.
  90. Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are of your own.
  91. Keep a first aid kit in your house and in your car.
  92. Have enough food and water to survive for at least 2 weeks.
  93. Be a loyal and reliable friend.
  94. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  95. Set aside time for planning.
  96. Develop your listening skills.
  97. Choose your battles wisely.
  98. Find work you love.
  99. Be practical, punctual and proactive.
  100. Have fun, schedule playtime/downtime, and also be spontaneous.

I keep thinking of more. Perhaps this will become my top 1,000 life lessons.

Posted in Mind | 10 Comments »

 
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