BitConnect

Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Monday, September 29, 2008

24-Karat Gold iPod Nano is a Violent Mugging Waiting to Happen

Quick question: How do you make one of the world's most stolen gadgets, well, more enticing? If we're talking about iPods, which we are, then you slap 24 and 18 karat white gold all over the newest models, and then send them out into the subways inside the pockets of the today's filthy rich. Of course, for a mere $644 for the Nano and $823 for the Touch, you too can slap this cutpurse bling beacon to your side and hope for the best. Good luck, and we hope the pickpockets of your community enjoy the playlist you've selected for them. [Goldstriker via Born Rich]

CNN Compares Tina Fey Parody to Real Palin Interview


Segment from CNN's Late Edition, September 28, 2008
"That was the first time I've ever heard the parody on SNL actually use exactly what was said... It was a rough week for her."

Star Wars Prequel Trilogy: Concept Art (PICS)


In the early stages of pre-production, filmmakers turn to artists to help shape and evolve what will become their final vision for their movie... Here's a sample of some of the fine art from the likes of Iain McCaig, Doug Chan, Warren Fu, Ryan Church, and much more, as they helped shaped the previsualization for Lucas' Star Wars Prequel Trilogy...

read more | digg story

5 Upcoming Remakes of 80s Movies (That Must be Stopped)



.Nothing from the 80s belongs in today's world. The themes we cared about then are sad reminders of how naive we once were, and the fashion trends that interested us are even sadder reminders of how idiotic we were.

read more | digg story

Hamann Aston Martin Vantage


LAUPHEIM, Germany — Hamann has created a kit for the V8 Vantage Coupe and Roadster, which adds Aston Martin to its list of tuned exotics.

A retuned ECU gives the 4.3-liter V8 23 extra horsepower and the 4.7-liter a 30-hp boost. Buyers can also opt for Hamann's sport exhaust system that supplies the already powerful Aston Martin with an additional 20 hp.

The Vantage's new appearance is the result of a unique front fascia with two-piece spoilers, side skirts, a three-piece rear diffuser and a custom rear spoiler. Other exterior modifications include a roof scoop and 21-inch alloys that combine with lowering springs to help finish off the look. Hamann notes that all the pieces are available in fiberglass or lightweight carbon fiber.

The interior features Hamann accoutrements like an aluminum pedal set and floor mats. The German tuning specialist has yet to release a price on its kit for the sporty Aston Martin.

What this means to you: Hamann keeps it clean and doesn't take away from the classy Aston Martin look. — Mike Lysaght, Correspondent

Top 10 Banned Books


Here is a list of the most challenged books of all time.

read more | digg story

Collection of Unusual Clock Designs


A unique collection of unusual clock designs. Tic Toc...Tic....Toc

read more | digg story

Plummer: 'My Sex Injury Made Shatner A Star'

| From wenn.com |

Veteran actor Christopher Plummer is livid an injury he suffered during from a one-night stand meant that William Shatner played his part in Henry V - because it made the Star Trek actor a star.

Plummer was lined up to perform in the Shakespeare play in 1956 - but an unplanned romp left him unable to take to the stage, according to New York gossip column PageSix.

He says in his autobiography In Spite Of Myself: "I woke up alone the next morning... (pain) all around my groin and lower abdomen... I started to whimper like a whipped dog. 'So this is what syphilis is like?' I thought. 'I suppose I deserve it, but Christ, how the hell was I to know?'

But instead of being struck down by the disease, Plummer had dislodged a kidney stone and had to undergo a medical procedure with a surgical wire to resolve the problem.

He adds, "It began to sink in... Shatner, my understudy, would have to go on... (It) instantly brought back the pain. I screamed for a nurse who jabbed me with more morphine.

"I knew then that the Sob (son of a b**ch) was going to be a 'star.'"

Man receives new leg after drink at his local pub

Not many people walk into a bar and walk out with a new leg.

But that’s what happened to David Huckvale, 42, who needed a £40,000 bionic leg to walk again.

The father-of-two popped down to his local pub on the same day surgeon Alistair Gibson, who specialises in fitting the computer-controlled limb, was there for a pint.

When the two happened to meet Mr Gibson mentioned he had a spare leg and could fit Mr Huckvale for free.

Mr Huckvale had his leg amputated when he was 29 after a benign tumour was removed.

Before the chance encounter, he had been limping around in a false leg, which didn’t fit properly and walked with the help of crutches and was sometimes in a wheelchair.

Mr Huckvale had read about the bionic leg available in the US and was saving for one – but had only managed to put away a fraction of the required £40,000.

He even bought a lottery ticket every week in the hope he might get a windfall.

Mr Huckvale told the Sunday Mirror: “I have been blessed by a miracle. I can now play in the garden with my two girls. Alistair has given me my life back.”

Mr Gibson said he was pleased to have been able to help.

Microsoft Launches Website for New Xbox Experience

Check out some videos showing what to expect from the 360 dashboard reboot.

By Kris Pigna, 09/28/2008
New Xbox 360 Dashboard image

Microsoft still hasn't given an exact release date for when the "New Xbox Experience" dashboard overhaul will be released, but if you want to get an early impression of what to expect (coated in a delicious glaze of Microsoft's promotional exaltations), then head over to their new website -- itself modeled on the new navigation method coming in the update -- that's filled with videos that do just that.

Among the promotional videos to watch are an overall recap of what the new features will include (hosted by none other than Xbox Live GM Marc Whitten and Xbox Live corporate vice president John Schappert), as well as videos specifically showing off the new friends features, and how the Avatars work. That Avatar video, by the way, has the tag-line "Dress yourself up, or go a little wild," which at least seems to indicate the ability for virtual streaking, but it's more likely just an unfortunate choice of words.

Again, there's still no release date, but a recent rumor indicated this overhaul would go live in November. We'll have more on the New Xbox Live Experience soon, so stay tuned.

Bailout Bill Fails, DOW Plunges 700 points

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The fate of the Bush administration's $700 billion financial bailout plan was abruptly thrown in doubt Monday as a House vote turned against the controversial measure.

The next steps were not immediately clear but supporters were scrambling to put it up for another vote.

What was supposed to be a 15-minute vote stretched past the half-hour mark as leadership scrambled for support. Investors who had been counting on the rescue plan sent the Dow Jones industrial average down as much as 700 points while watching the measure come up short of the necessary support, before rebounding slightly. The key stock reading was down more than 500 points.

The measure needs 218 votes for passage, but it came up 13 votes short of that target, as the final vote was 228 to 205 against. About 60% of Democrats voted for the measure, but less than a third of Republicans backed the measure.

President Bush is "very disappointed" by the House vote, his spokesman Tony Fratto said Monday.

A four-hour debate included impassioned pleas for and against the measure from Democrats and Republicans alike. Even some of those arguing the legislation must be approved were quick to point out problems with it.

But in the end, the vote began with both Democratic and Republican leadership telling their members the only way to protect the economy from a spreading credit crunch was to vote for the difficult to swallow measure.

"Our time has run out," said Rep. Spencer Bachus, the ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee. "We're going make a decision. There are no other choices, no other alternatives."

The vote comes after lawmakers and the Bush administration finalized legislation following a weekend of high-stakes negotiations over the controversial measure, which is designed to get battered U.S. credit markets working normally again.

"Today is the decision day," said Barney Frank, D-Mass., on the House floor. "If we defeat this bill today, it will be a very bad day for the financial sector of the American economy and the people who will feel the pain are not the top bankers and top corporate executives but average Americans."

House Minority Leader John Boehner told his members, many of whom objected the measure, that the had accept something he and many of them found distasteful.

"If I didn't think we were on the brink of an economic disaster it would be the easiest thing to say no to this," Boehner said. But he said lawmakers needed to do what was in the best interest of the country.

Leading House Republicans signed on to the proposal on Sunday after expressing earlier reservations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he hoped for a vote in that chamber by Wednesday at the latest.

Earlier on Monday, President Bush and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke hailed the measure and urged Congress to move quickly to pass it.

Bush, speaking at the White House, called the proposed measure "an extraordinary agreement to deal with an extraordinary problem." He said he is confident the measure will win bipartisan support.

"With this strong and decisive legislation, we will help restart the flow of credit so American families can meet their daily needs and American businesses can make purchases, ship goods and meet their payrolls," Bush said.

Bush acknowledged that many voters were opposed to helping out Wall Street with tax dollars, but said there is little choice to move forward with the plan. He said most if not all of the tax money spent to buy distressed mortgage-backed securities should be recouped when the Treasury sells them in the coming years.

"Every member of Congress and every American should keep in mind - a vote for this bill is a vote to prevent economic damage to you and your community," Bush said.

Bernanke, who had spent hours before Congress last week testifying in favor of the measure, issued a brief statement promising that it would restore the flow of credit to households and businesses. "I look forward to swift passage of the legislation," he said.

Buying troubled assets

The core of the bill is based on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's request for authority to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions so banks can resume lending and so the credit markets, now virtually frozen, can begin to operate more normally.

But Democrats and Republicans - concerned about the potential cost - have added several conditions and restrictions to protect taxpayers on the down side and give them a chance at some of the potential upside if the companies benefit from the plan.

Key negotiators for the financial rescue plan were e busy trying to line up votes on Capitol Hill on Sunday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told CNN he believes a majority of representatives on both sides of the aisle can and will support the bill.

On Sunday evening, the House Republican working group, which stringently opposed earlier drafts of the plan and offered a counterproposal, indicated it would support the bill, and its members are encouraging other Republicans in the House to do the same.

"Nobody wants to have to support this bill, but it's a bill that we believe will avert the crisis that's out there," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.

But the bill did draw some opposition during the morning debate.

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said the measure would leave a huge burden on taxpayers. "This legislation is giving us a choice between bankrupting our children and bankrupting a few of these big financial institutions on Wall Street that made bad decisions," he said.

Other conservative Republicans argued the bill would be a blow against economic freedom.

Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., said the bill posed a choice between the loss of prosperity in the short term or economic freedom in the long term. He said once the federal government enters the financial market place, it will not leave. "The choice is stark," he said.

But there were also Democrats who opposed the bill for not doing enough to help those who taxpayers facing foreclosure or needing unemployment benefits extended, or taxing Wall Street to pay for the rescue package.

"Like the Iraq war and patriot act, this bill is fueled by fear and haste," said Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.

The crisis and a proposed fix

Banks and Wall Street firms, worried about both their own needs for cash and the condition of other institutions, essentially stopped loaning money to one another in recent weeks. That choked off the money being made available on Main Street in the form of mortgage loans, business loans and other consumer borrowing.

The crisis stems from problems in mortgage-backed securities, which saw their value plunge as home prices have gone into their worst slide since the Great Depression and foreclosures have soared to record levels. In turn, the market for trillion of dollars worth of those securities held by major firms evaporated, sending them down to fire sale prices and raising the risk of widespread failures among the nation's major financial firms.

Under the plan, Treasury will buy the mortgage backed securities, either directly from the firms or through an auction process. It may also arrange to provide guarantees for the securities up to their original values in return for premiums they would charge current holders of the securities.

To make the legislation more politically palatable, the bill calls for the government, as an owner of a large number of mortgage securities, to exert influence on loan servicers to modify more troubled loans to help prevent additional foreclosures. It also provides that the government will take equity in the firms that sell the securities to the government, and limits pay packages for top executives.

The legislation comes amid great upheaval in the nation's financial system. On Monday morning, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures deposits at failed banks, arranged for the sale of the banking assets of Wachovia (WB, Fortune 500), the nation's No. 4 bank holding company, to Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) for $2.2 billion in stock.

That follows three weeks of other shocks: the Treasury Department's seizure of mortgage finance firms Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500); Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing; rival Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) purchase by Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500).

In addition, the Fed bailed out insurance giant American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500), loaning it $85 billion in return for a nearly 80% stake. while Washington Mutual (WM, Fortune 500), the nation's largest savings and loan, became the largest bank failure in history.

Japanese Matrix Trilogy Blu-ray Collection Arrives in the Nebuchadnezzar

Japan, not content to be our betters with just internet service providers, is upping the ante again with this extravagant Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray limited edition set. Available only in the Land of the Rising Sun, this set includes a 7-disc collection, which can be stored inside a 2-foot model of the Nebuchadnezzar. The seven discs include Blu-ray versions of The Matrix trilogy and The Animatrix, as well as three standard-definition DVDs featuring "making-of" documentaries. The Ultimate Matrix Collection is currently slated for a Japan-only release on December 17 for about $375. [WHV via OhGizmo]

Diora Baird Sizzles In Maxim… and Star Trek!?



Diora Baird may be known for being a super busty hottie, but soon she’ll be known as the super busty green alien hottie from J. J. AbramsStar Trek. According to Maxim magazine, Diora will be playing one of the infamous green-skinned Orion slave girls in the upcoming Star Trek remake. Here’s the skinny:

Let’s hope you keep things together in the new Star Trek flick. Who are you playing?
I play the green girl. There you have it.

So you’re an alien?
Um, I would assume so—unless I was born with a skin disease. In the original series, there were these infamous green women that Captain Kirk would hit on, and so without giving too much away, I’m one of those green girls.

Now if you have clue as to what I’m talking about, check out this video of an Orion slave girl in action, and if you don’t know who Diora Baird is, check out these sizzling photos from the latest issue of Maxim magazine.



South African Beauty


21.09.2008 | 15:16

Megan Fox Is Wet in a Dress in Her Next Movie of the Day

You all love Megan Fox. You think she’s so fucking hot and so fucking cool, but I am convinced that it’s all smoke and mirrors. Sure, she looks like a porn star, but she was some wholesome family programming chick and I am convinced her agents and executives wanted to turn her into a product by giving her that bad girl vibe. I have a feeling her shitty prison tattoos are all part of the bullshit scheme, along with the plastic surgery she’s had to make her look more like Angelina Jolie, and quotes from GQ saying she’s so into Jenna Jameson right now, like some bi-curious bad girl, when everyone knows that real bi-curious bad girls, have no interest in washed up, pregnant porn stars. It’s all like a really bad episode written from the cushy executive offices of the guys who came up with the take the ugly loser girl’s glasses off and let down her ugly loser girl hair and trick the popular boy who teases her that she’s a hot girl into falling in love with her or of the producer of Full House or, I’m just waiting for the cheesy music to chime in, so that we can all come to an agreement and understand each other’s point of view, but I am hoping before that music chimes in, Brian Austin Green from 90210 gets hit by a bus, because you always need a casualty to get a point across….

Either way, she is hot, she is lame, and her nipples are hard in her new movie. These are the stills, that I am allowed to post, so the paparazzi can’t sue me for this one. Fuckers.

Here’s the video, the movie looks stupid and I hate MGM for sending them to every site, here I was thinking I had an exclusive, before realizing that I never have an exclusive.



compliments of http://www.drunkenstepfather.com

Karolina Kurkova Does DT-magazine



Karolina Kurkova is a model from the Czech Republic and she can come wake me up any day of the week, make me breakfast and give me a good morning BJ. Yes, I am that romantic. Anyhow, she is appearing nude in DT Magazine.

Guitar Hero: The Spectator Version


People not smart enough to learn how to play a real guitar play Guitar Hero. GH enables any store clerk from Winnipeg to become Slash, Kirk Hammett or Angus Young.


Nikki Whelan Does Sweaty Breasts



Nikki Whelan used to play a part in Australian soap Neighbours. And if she is going to borrow a cup of sugar every morning dressed like this she can move in next to me right now.

Janet Jackson Sexually Assault A Fan


Not all that many years ago Janet Jackson caused the world to come to a virtual standstill when she popped out a star covered tit during the Superbowl half-time show. If her new stage show is anything to go by she is planning to make the world self-destruct this time with her sexy new stage show. Man, you’d almost go out and buy a ticket, forget about the crap music and leave the wife at home.



Detect Epidemics Before They Start

Photo: Bruce Gilden

Back in May 1993, as a medical resident at the University of Arizona, Mark Smolinski volunteered for a shift with the state's Department of Health. Right after he started, Arizona and neighboring states were struck by a deadly outbreak of an unidentified respiratory illness. The young doctor found himself face-to-face with an emerging epidemic, part of a team that spent sleepless months struggling to contain the outbreak. "I was going from hospital to hospital trying to determine the patients' exposures," he recalls of his harrowing first assignment. "Almost all the cases were under the age of 30, and it had a very high mortality rate."

The researchers finally identified the culprit — which eventually infected 53 people, 60 percent of whom died — as a new strain of hantavirus. They pinned the outbreak on a confluence of ecological and social factors: Wet weather during an El Niño year spawned heavier-than-normal vegetation. That in turn fueled an unusually large population of deer mice, which harbor the virus. The victims were exposed when they rummaged through closets or gardened, inhaling dust laced with mouse droppings, urine, or saliva. The disease soon receded, but Smolinski was hooked on the rush he got from investigating outbreaks. "It seemed like a career that would never be dull," he says. "That has certainly proven true."

These days, Smolinski's business card at Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the Mountain View behemoth, identifies him simply as "threat detective." He's director of the organization's Predict and Prevent Initiative, a global health program. The 46-year-old's job is to channel money — one insider estimates up to $150 million — into projects and technologies that will help catch outbreaks like hantavirus wherever they crop up. What's even more ambitious is Smolinski's desire to push disease surveillance "two steps to the left of the epidemic curve." The strategy: Draw on Google's search acumen to predict hot spots before the first case of some imminent calamity hits the hospital.

Smolinski faces a daunting landscape. More than 300 new diseases have emerged since 1940, many the result of jumps from wild animal to human. Outbreaks are expected to increase as environmental degradation thrusts humans into ever-closer contact with wildlife and as climate change alters the life cycles of disease vectors — like El Niño did to the deer mouse. Meanwhile, older diseases are rapidly crisscrossing the planet. "West Nile, which has been around in Africa since antiquity, appeared in 1999 in New York, and in three years it spread throughout the country," Smolinski says. "Now it is one of our endemic diseases."

Yet even though the next West Nile or HIV is just a plane flight away, the global public health system remains focused on responding to diseases after they've spread. That needs to change, Smolinski says. And he's hardly alone in his thinking. "The government and organizations that care about the health of the country and world need to think very carefully about whether our current approaches to controlling disease are sufficient," says Nathan Wolfe, a UCLA epidemiologist who specializes in identifying and studying new diseases. "If they do, they'll find that we are like the cardiologists of the 1950s, waiting for heart attacks to occur." A major study in Nature this year found that, despite the SARS and H5N1 avian flu scares, the areas most likely to harbor some new outbreak — like Malaysia, hit by the Nipah virus, or Kenya, which recently had a Rift Valley Fever outbreak — were least likely to have the kind of disease surveillance systems that let health pros monitor clusters of symptoms or animal die-offs.

Number of emerging infectious diseases reported worldwide.

To change that, Smolinski plans to lend Google's in-house technology expertise to companies and nongovernmental organizations already at work in the developing world. One effort involves extending traditional surveillance closer to the source of epidemics, beginning in outbreak-prone regions of Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. With the right network in place, Smolinski says, a farmer in Vietnam might send an SMS when chickens start dying or a kid has an unexplained fever. That information alone, of course, means little — "chickens die all the time from Newcastle disease," Smolinski says. "It doesn't have to be avian flu." That's where the search company comes in. Google.org partnered with HealthMap, a Web crawler that Smolinski says can reveal outbreak patterns hidden in vast amounts of public data. (The Global Public Health Intelligence Network, a Canadian project, used similar Web-scanning software to help detect the first signs of the SARS outbreak.)

Google.org is also looking at for-profit companies inventing and manufacturing low-cost medical diagnostic tools. "Molecular sequencing methods have gotten less expensive in the developed world," Smolinski says — cheap enough to be used to identify viruses in the field. Combine that genetic knowledge with open source information — farmers' SMSes, hospital reports, climate data, and satellite imagery — and Smolinski thinks researchers can begin not only to find early outbreak patterns but also understand the conditions most likely to create the next interspecies leap.

Despite Predict and Prevent's numerous resources — several multimillion-dollar, multiyear grants, plus 1 percent of Google equity — turning emerging disease research into a predictive science in some of the poorest health care systems in the world remains a long shot at best. But the man who once served as an epidemic intelligence officer at the Centers for Disease Control and was director of a landmark National Academy of Science study on future microbial threats has a record of achieving the unthinkable in public health. As vice president of biological programs for the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative, Smolinski led the formation of a disease surveillance program in the Middle East, somehow coaxing Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority into sharing outbreak data and lab results. This collaboration has already succeeded in containing cross-border flare-ups of mumps and other infections. "One thing that became clear is that health was a great tool to get people to work together, because they are in the same boat when it comes to infectious diseases," Smolinski says. "And if you can do it there, you can do it anywhere."

Teaching Robots New Tricks


Watch and learn: Researchers at Stanford University taught autonomous helicopters, such as the one shown above, how to perform tricks using an approach called ‘apprenticeship learning’. An ideal flight path was created for each trick using software that automatically analyzed video clips of the maneuver.
Credit: Ben Tse
Multimedia
video Watch an autonomous helicopter perform several complicated stunts.

Programming instructions for robots can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive task. Many roboticists believe that training robots by demonstrating new skills could speed up the process and enable the machines to perform more difficult tasks. Now researchers have created such a system for robotic helicopters. With their approach, the team can train a robotic helicopter to perform a complicated aerial maneuver in less than 30 minutes simply by analyzing video footage of the trick. The work could one day be applied to a wide variety of robots on land and sea, as well as in the air.

For very basic aerial maneuvers, researchers can program specific commands based on the way a human operator would use the controls. But aerial acrobatics, such as flying upside down, require a more robust and adaptive approach. A gust of wind or a small variation in the helicopter's starting position can send the vehicle completely off course if adjustments aren't made immediately to the flight plan. "It's not sufficient to just replay the same sequence of controls as a human pilot," says Pieter Abbeel, who worked as a researcher on the project while completing his PhD at Stanford University. With the apprenticeship approach, the robot can make changes mid-flight because it's not tied to a specific series of commands. This could help autonomous helicopters deal with real-world challenges, such as landing on slanted terrain or coping with sudden changes in weather conditions, ultimately resulting in more stable flight.

Training begins with a human expert demonstrating a new trick on a remote-controlled helicopter. As the expert repeats the maneuver, one of the researchers presses a button to indicate the start and end time of each attempt. The expert needs to perform each trick approximately 10 times, so that subtle deviations can be eliminated and the software can calculate the ideal path. The software carefully warps the timing of each video clip so that it can compare the attempts. Small blips in the data, known as noise, are also eliminated. Ultimately, the software creates a highly accurate aerodynamic model of the trick that the autonomous helicopter uses as a flight guide.

Once in the air, the robotic helicopter wirelessly relays information from its onboard sensors to a computer on the ground. "We place a number of instruments on the helicopters--gyroscopes, accelerometers, and a magnetic compass--to figure out the position and orientation," says Andrew Ng, an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University, who also worked on the project. "We wirelessly send the instrument readings down to a desktop computer on the ground, which computes the appropriate control commands." These commands are sent back to the helicopter 20 times per second. Video cameras on the ground also help to keep track of the helicopter.

With each attempt, the robot learns how to perfect the trick. "The first time, it might take a turn a bit too wide. It will then use its knowledge of its own dynamics to learn to adjust the way it takes a turn," Ng says.

Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Eric Feron, a professor of aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was not involved in the Stanford project but is impressed by the performance of the autonomous helicopters trained using the approach. He also appreciates the underlying methodology. "When I was involved in similar research back in early 2000," he says, "there was definitely what I would call human intervention in figuring out what the online control systems should be doing in order to repeat the maneuvers. We had to program the computers ourselves." Feron says the Stanford work represents a significant gain in efficiency, by cutting down the learning time to half an hour. "At the end of our research, we were able to maybe do a new maneuver in one day," he says.

Abbeel notes that while the autonomous helicopters have achieved a new level of reliability, there is room for improvement, and safety will be a key concern if such robots are ever flown over populated areas. The machines have to be able to fly at least as well as an expert human pilot, even while doing complicated maneuvers, he says, and simple back-and-forth flight won't be good enough for search-and-rescue missions. "I like to imagine a future in which someday, if there is an accident out on the ocean, a fleet of a dozen autonomous helicopters can be instantaneously deployed to search for survivors," he says. This could help offset the lack of human pilots qualified to perform such a task and increase the chance of locating survivors.

The learning system could be used on other kinds of robots as well, Ng says, such as those that do housework or work in factories. "It could also allow for the very precise control of cars, motorcycles, fixed-wing aircraft, and even sea-based vehicles," he says.

In the future, the team hopes to make their system more flexible. "When we as humans learn, there are many things that speed up the process besides demonstrations. An expert pilot might give advice in other forms," says Abbeel, such as verbal or written tips. Ideally, the team hopes to design a system that can incorporate such advice.

Psst, behind you...some good FAILS....




click below for more...

Lots of Good FAILS here

Stocks down 300 on Euro Bailout, Wachovia Buyout

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks skidded Monday morning - with the Dow industrials down more than 300 points - as investors eyed a series of bank failures in Europe and worried that the government's $700 billion bank bailout plan won't be sufficient to loosen up nearly frozen credit markets.

Investors also considered the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s announcement that Citigroup will be Wachovia's banking assets. Meanwhile, credit markets remained jammed up with banks refusing to lend to each other. Treasury bond prices rallied, sending yields lower, as investors sought safety in government debt.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), fell 300 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) index and the Nasdaq composite (COMP) also both tumbled in the early going.

The FDIC announced that Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) was taking over Wachovia's (WB, Fortune 500) deposit network and debt, as well as more than $300 billion worth of the company's loan portfolio. The government brokered the deal, and the FDIC noted that Wachovia did not fail as a bank.

Wachovia's stock plunged 90% in pre-market trading to penny stock status and has of yet not opened for regular-hours trading. Citigroup gained 2% in the morning.

The House of Representatives was meeting to vote on the bailout Monday morning. The Senate is expected to vote on the plan on Wednesday.

Congress unveiled its long-awaited $700 billion bailout plan Sunday. The core of the bill is based on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's request to purchase troubled, and mortgage-related, assets from banks so they can resume lending, in order to free up the frozen credit market.

On Monday at the White House, President Bush once again announced his support for the bill "to help keep the crisis in our financial system from spreading throughout the economy" and he urged House members to support it as well.

Meanwhile, international markets were in turmoil after three major banking bailouts were announced in Europe.

The Dutch-Belgian bank and insurance giant Fortis failed and was provided with a $16.4 billion lifeline by the governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The British government nationalized the battered $91 billion mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley. Germany's regulators and banks bailed out Hypo Real Estate Holding AG, in a deal worth billions of dollars.

In the last session, on Friday, the Dow jumped more than 1%, but the Nasdaq slipped.

Economy: The Commerce Department said that personal income was up 0.5% in August but spending was unchanged. In July, income fell 0.7% and spending rose 0.2%.

Markets: The U.S. isn't the only nation to suffer from market malaise over the ongoing bailout plan. European markets were down in Monday trading, and the Asian markets closed lower. The dollar slipped versus the yen, but rose against the euro and the British pound. Oil prices fell $5.74 a barrel in electronic trading to $101.15, on concerns over the international market slowdown. To top of page

McCain camp is savvy owning Voteforthemilf.com

Shame on Blasster for not realizing owning the domain means you can preempt the partisan hacks

Purifying Water with Nanoparticles


Under pressure: The membrane developed by NanoH2O allows more water to filter through under for the same amount of pressure. This reduces energy requirements by around 20 percent, says CEO Jeff Green.
Credit: NanoH2O

Adding nanoparticles to a water purifying membrane can double its efficiency, according to a startup company based in Los Angeles. With global water usage on the increase and fresh water in limited supply, the company, NanoH2O, says its novel approach could make such purification technology a viable solution to a growing problem.

Reverse osmosis--feeding water through a semipermeable membrane to filter out impurities--is widely considered to be the most effective way to desalinate water. But it is very energy-intensive, and therefore expensive, because water has to be forced through the membrane under pressure. A key way to reduce the costs involved is to increase the water throughput for the same pressure. But for many years, improvements in membrane technology have been incremental at best, says Jeff Green, NanoH2O founder and CEO.

NanoH2O has found that adding porous nanoparticles to membranes can dramatically increase the efficiency with which water can be filtered. "Under similar pressure, twice as much water goes through," says Green. In a desalination plant, this increased permeability would reduce energy requirements by 20 percent, or increase water productivity by 70 percent for the same cost, he adds.

"The concept is good," says Benito Mariñas, an environmental engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Membrane-based desalination is usually considered only when freshwater supplies fail to meet demand. But with demand on the increase and only 1 percent of global freshwater available for human use, Mariñas says such technologies will become more important. "Right now we are not using membranes for sea water desalination as much as we could," he says, largely due to the amount of energy required.

The material used for reverse osmosis is usually an organic thin-film membrane, typically a polymide material perforated with tiny holes. These holes are small enough to let water pass through, but they block salt and other contaminants. NanoH2O's approach, based on research carried out by Eric Hoek, an environmental engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, is to embed cage-like nanoparticles made out of aluminosilicate minerals, called zeolites, into the membrane. These particles have a diameter of no more than 200 nanometres--roughly equivalent to the thickness of the membrane.

Embedding the nanoparticles changes the properties of the membrane, making it hydrophilic, or water-attracting, so that water passes through more easily. Crucially, however, the membrane retains its ability to filter out contaminants, Green says.

NanoH2O has been in a research phase since the company was set up in 2005. But earlier this month, it secured $15 million in funding to commercialize its technology. According to Green, the company will now scale up production with the aim of bringing its technology to market by 2010.

Mariñas says there's been plenty of interest in using inorganic hydrophilic materials for reverse osmosis, but no other design has been commercialized. One reason for this, he says, is that most hydrophilic materials tend to be bad at filtering out impurities. "The fact that this company is producing a hybrid that's not made exclusively out of hydrophilic material is very interesting," he says.

Another key advantage, says Green, is that the nanoparticles developed by NanoH2O have a three-dimensional porous structure. This means that unlike some other porous hydrophilic materials being investigated, there is no need to worry about how they are oriented within the membrane in order to pass water.

NanoH2O's embedded approach is also compatible with existing manufacturing processes, Green says, adding just 5 percent to production costs.

John McCain Owns VoteForTheMILF.com

Owned through GoDaddy. Talk about sexist... what is the Campaign thinking?

read more | digg story

The world's biggest cruise ship squeezes out of dock and sets sail

By Eddie Wrenn

It might be time for the phrase: 'We're gonna need a bigger boat' to enter retirement.

For this mighty vessel, the largest ever passenger ship, dwarfs all that stands next to it, making the thousands of spectators which came to see it's launch look little more than ants as they waved the graceful ship out of the port.

The 315m-long ship is so wide it barely squeezed out of the Papenberg watergates, but ably helped by two tug-boats it escaped on it's to the North sea, where it will head to Denmark.

People watch the cruiser 'Celebrity Solstice' dragged through the watergate of the Meyer Dockyard in Papenburg

People watch the cruiser 'Celebrity Solstice' dragged through the watergate of the Meyer Dockyard in Papenburg

She is one of five Solstice ships launching between now and 2012, and can carry nearly 3,000 passengers.

And, after thousands of years, landlubbers might be able to escape their phobia of the sea... This cruiser is the first one to boast an authentic grass lawn on its top deck.

Celebrity Solstice is the most widely heralded ship to enter the cruise industry this year

Celebrity Solstice is the most widely heralded ship to enter the cruise industry this year

The ship is 'virtually complete' - 98 per cent, to be exact - and is on track for it's November debut, when it will begin life as a U.S. cruise ship.

The ship dwarfs the dock as it is tugged out to sea

Giant: The ship dwarfs the dock as it is tugged out to sea

ECO NIGHTLIGHT: Moon Jar Solar Powered Lamp

by Jill Fehrenbacher

Eco nighlight, green nightlight, energy efficient nightlight, sustainable night light, Moon Jar, Sun Jar, Solar Lamp, Solar power, solar power lamp, tobias wong, solar jar, sun lamp

As the proud mama of a nightowl newborn, I’ve suddenly found myself spending more time awake during the night than the day. Nightlights weren’t on my baby gear list, but they should have been. Not only do new moms need a guiding light for all those late-night feedings, but older toddlers and older children like to sleep with nightlights as well to keep the boogeyman at bay.

So what’s an eco-minded mom to do? Seek out solar power and energy-efficient LED lamps of course! Fortunately the two green technologies go hand-in-hand in one cute little package in this Moon Jar solar powered LED lamp.

Eco nighlight, green nightlight, energy efficient nightlight, sustainable night light, Moon Jar, Sun Jar, Solar Lamp, Solar power, solar power lamp, tobias wong, solar jar, sun lamplamp

If you’ve ever wished you could bottle moonlight to illuminate your room at night, the Moon Jar is your answer. A spin-off of the extremely popular ‘Sun Jar’ lamp by Tobias Wong, the Moon Jar is a frosted mason jar with a solar panel and an LED light inside. Put it on your windowsill to soak up the sun rays during the day, and at night the Moon Jar will illuminate your room with a soft cool glow — no cords or electricity required! If you aren’t a fan of blue light, try out the Sun Jar, which is exactly the same design, except with a warm yellow LED light instead of blue.

I just ordered a Moon Jar for my new baby’s room and I can’t wait to check it out!


$39.99 from PerpetualKid
and Target

Eco nighlight, green nightlight, energy efficient nightlight, sustainable night light, Moon Jar, Sun Jar, Solar Lamp, Solar power, solar power lamp, tobias wong, solar jar, sun lamp

Eco nighlight, green nightlight, energy efficient nightlight, sustainable night light, Moon Jar, Sun Jar, Solar Lamp, Solar power, solar power lamp, tobias wong, solar jar, sun lamp

Eco nighlight, green nightlight, energy efficient nightlight, sustainable night light, Moon Jar, Sun Jar, Solar Lamp, Solar power, solar power lamp, tobias wong, solar jar, sun lamp

Now THAT’S what I call multitasking!

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

This lady is a triple threat. She can talk on the phone, surf the web on her PowerBook, AND double-pump breast milk at the same time! (Or are her breasts actually powering the laptop?).

PowerBook Nursing Bra
Behold “PowerBoobs Pro“. Click to enlarge (You know you want to make this your desktop wallpaper)

For the record, I’ve never been able to make a woman that happy.

Thanks to faithful German Macenstein reader Martin for the photo. (And don’t worry Martin, we won’t ask why you were searching for nursing bras).

Hands on with some surprising $80 night vision goggles

By Ben Kuchera |

There are some things that every citizen should have a right to: quality health care, a job that contributes to society, and night vision goggles. Before now, the ability to see in the dark was kept only for survivalists, hunters, and, of course, the armed forces. Luckily, Jakks Pacific has finally given the country what it needs: affordable night vision for the entire family.

It seems there are two types of people on the planet: those that wonder why children would want a toy that lets them see in the dark and those that buy night vision goggles from toy stores because they're under a hundred dollars. I will admit to drooling over the Eye Clops Night Vision goggles every time I've been in a toy store for the past few months, but I couldn't bring myself to spend the $79.99 on a product that was most likely a gimmick. However, when the company offered to send Ars a review sample...

The goggles are technically a toy and aimed for children, but I found it easy to adjust the straps to fit my larger noggin. The battery pack sits behind your head, and the goggles take five AA batteries to operate. Since I received my unit in the middle of the day, I went to the only place that's pitch black in a suburban home: the bathroom. Putting in the batteries, sliding the goggles over my eyes, and then turning them on, I was excited to finally see what sub-$100 night vision looked like. I turned the power switch to "on" ...


You may look like a dork, but you can see in the dark. Fair trade
Unfortunately, we weren't able to get good pictures of the display while in use

... and I was right; it was a gimmick. A little LCD screen turns on inside the goggles, and in the ghostly green glow of the mirror, I saw a bright light on the goggles. That's it? An LCD screen and a flashlight? Lame. Then I took the goggles off, and saw that I was standing in complete darkness, a perfect black. The light I saw was from the array of infrared lights on the goggles, and it was invisible to the naked eye. I put them on again and looked around. I could see everything!


The look and feel of the goggles are surprisingly high-quality

You can flip a switch on the side of the goggles to turn on a barely-noticeable red glow on the top of the unit, and this looks like a floodlight when viewed through the goggles. That night, I grabbed a friend and explored the back yard in the middle of the night. Since there is only one screen, you lose depth perception, and the image is slightly magnified so it's hard to judge distances, but the unit does what's advertised. It provides real, working night vision. It was time for Nerf-gun wars in my jet-black basement.


With the goggles, you'd see three ninjas in this picture

If you become disoriented when walking around with the goggles—and with the smallish screen and lack of depth perception, it takes practice to move around effectively—you can flip up the plastic piece above your left eye to see things normally, though I did have problems with that flap falling off now and again. My other minor complaint is that while you can switch the view to a green mode from the standard black-and-white display, it doesn't do anything except mimic what you're used to seeing in movies when people wear night vision goggles. Unlike more expensive sets, this doesn't amplify light as much as it simply picks up on infrared light, which gives the goggles some neat properties: on the highest setting, everyone's eyes look like hollow pools of light, and your television's remote control lights up the room like a strobe light. In normal light, you see everything in full color, at regular brightness.

Despite the issues with the eye cover and the heavy strain on normal batteries, this is a very high-quality toy that can satisfy some serious geek lust. Who doesn't want to see in the dark? Testing the goggles, we turned all the lights in the room, and had my friend's wife stand ten feet away holding up differing numbers of fingers. She stood out in the goggles like a flare, and it was fun to tell her what she was doing when she couldn't see us at all. The possibilities for shenanigans are nearly infinite.

Only Pic of Ocean Boiling from Oozing Lava You'll See Today

Citigroup buys Wachovia Assets for $2.2Billion

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Citigroup will acquire the banking operations of Wachovia for $2.2 billion in an all-stock deal, following much speculation over the weekend about the fate of the nation's fourth-largest bank.

Citigroup, the nation's largest bank based on assets, also announced it would raise $10 billion through a sale of common stock and that it would slash its quarterly dividend yet again, cutting it in half to 16 cents a share to preserve capital.

As part of the deal, Citigroup will acquire Wachovia's massive deposit network, about $53 billion in the company's debt, as well as more than $300 billion of Wachovia's loan portfolio.

Following completion of the acquisition, Citigroup will have more than $600 billion in deposits in the U.S., about a 9.8% market share. Total deposits worldwide will be $1.3 trillion.

Citigroup said it will absorb up to $42 billion of losses on those loans, while the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will be on the hook for anything beyond that.

The FDIC noted that Wachovia did not qualify as a failed bank, unlike Washington Mutual, which collapsed last Thursday, only to be subsequently purchased by JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500).

Regulators also stressed that consumers who bank with Wachovia would not experience any interruption in service and that their deposits remained protected.

"Today's action will ensure seamless continuity of service from their bank and full protection for all of their deposits," said FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair.

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit called the transaction "extremely attractive" from a strategic perspective, saying it would augment the company's access to funding and liquidity.

Banking regulators, who helped broker the deal following consultations with President Bush, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, viewed the deal as necessary to avoid what could have been a painful fallout for both the economy and the already fragile financial system.

"A failure of Wachovia would have posed a systemic risk," Paulson said in a statement.

Wachovia plunges but company isn't completely disappearing

Shares of Wachovia (WB, Fortune 500) were halted when the stock market opened Monday. The stock plunged more than 90% in pre-market trading, to 94 cents a share. Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) shares edged higher in morning trading.

However, Wachovia will remain a publicly traded company -- albeit in much smaller form.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based firm will hold onto its massive brokerage business, which grew substantially following its $6.7 billion acquisition of A.G. Edwards last year. Wachovia also owns the Evergreen investment management division, which had more than $245 billion in assets as of June 30.

Heading into the weekend there was rampant speculation that the Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia would be sold to either Citigroup or Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500). Even Spain's Banco Santander (STD) had been mentioned as a possible bidder. By Sunday evening, a bidding war between the two banking giants was underway, The New York Times reported.

There had also been talk in recent weeks that Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500), which recently converted itself into a commercial bank from a stand-alone investment bank, was discussing a possible merger with Wachovia.

Following a string of high-profile collapses of banks in recent weeks including WaMu and the demise of Lehman Brothers, there has been increasing speculation that Wachovia could be the next one to go.

Like many of its peers, Wachovia bet big on the U.S. mortgage market, which prompted it to suffer losses over the past two quarters.

Some analysts have blamed the company's ill-timed 2006 acquisition of the California mortgage lender Golden West Financial Corp. for the company's woes.

Risky move for Citi

At the same time, Citigroup has been no picture of health. The New York City-based financial services giant has posted close to $18 billion in losses over the past three quarters, while taking nearly $50 billion in writedowns on its diverse loan portfolio.

The deal for Wachovia also comes as somewhat of a surprise given recent efforts by Citi's leadership to shrink the company.

Citigroup's Pandit, who was installed as the company's chief executive last December, unveiled plans in May to unload more than $400 billion in assets over the next few years in the hopes of turning the company around.

The deal, which comes ahead of a Congressional vote on a proposed $700 billion bailout for the financial system, marks yet another big shake-up of the nation's banking industry.

In the past two weeks, the sector has undergone a dramatic transformation, including Lehman's bankruptcy, the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and the government takeover of insurer AIG (AIG, Fortune 500)

60 Inspiring Concert Posters From 10 Amazing Artists


So many shining examples of this exist in the art community, and in this episode of Monday Inspiration we present 60 inspiring concert poster designs from 10 amazing artists.

clcik here for the pics | digg story

Slow Motion Face Punches


SpaceX Did It -- Falcon 1 Made it to Space

By Aaron Rowe Email

Orbit

SpaceX has made history. Its privately developed rocket has made it into space.

After three failed launches, the company founded by Elon Musk worked all of the bugs out of their Falcon 1 launch vehicles.

The entire spectacle was broadcast live from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. Cameras mounted on the spacecraft showed our planet shrinking in the distance and the empty first stage engine falling back to Earth.

As the rocket ascended, cheers rang out during every crucial step of the launch sequence, and at the final stage their headquarters in Hawthorne, California erupted in excitement. (Wired.com viewed the launch over the Internet on SpaceX's live webcast.)

The tensest moment came just before stage separation. At that critical juncture, the third launch attempt had failed. This time, it worked out perfectly.

Eight minutes after leaving the ground, Falcon 1 reached a speed of 5200 meters per second and passed above the International Space Station.

"I don't know what to say... because my mind is just blown," said Musk, during a brief address to his staff after the successful launch. "This is just the first step of many."

The feat is a giant leap forward for privately-funded space ventures, and follows the spectacular 2004 suborbital flight of SpaceShipOne. (See related Wired Science story: "Space Visionaries Prove Naysayers Wrong - Again".)

Musk seemed almost overcome with emotion. In the coming years, his company will try to make space transportation ten times cheaper and more reliable.

After making a fortune as the co-founder of PayPal, he recruited some of the best aerospace engineers in the world and challenged them to build a launch vehicle from scratch.

SpaceX had scrubbed its fourth launch attempt just a week earlier to swap out a liquid oxygen feed line, signaling the extreme caution of the group after three failed tries.

Falcon 1's first flight in 2006 lasted less than a minute, the second flight in 2007 fired for 7.5 minutes, and the third flight last month encountered a staging separation anomaly just shy of three minutes.

The team's analysis of Flight 3 suggested they didn't wait long enough after the first-stage engine was done firing to separate it from the second stage.

The recently beefed-up, first-stage Merlin engine had more kick in it than the previous version of the engine, and after separation still had enough energy to run into the second stage above it, sending it tumbling off course.

The solution: add more of a delay after the first-stage engine stops firing before separation to ensure a clean break.

With Flight 4 under its belt, SpaceX is gearing up for additional launches in 2009. Flight 5 could fly as soon as January, Flight 6 parts are on order and Flight 7 production will begin in early 2009.

Falcon 1 is a two stage rocket powered by liquid oxygen enriched rocket-grade kerosene, using two engines designed by SpaceX itself.

The first stage is powered by a single Merlin 1C engine, based partly on the engine used in the Apollo lunar lander. The engine uses a so-called open cycle system, in which some of the propellant is used to power the engine pumps and then exhausted separately, while the rest of the propellant flows through the main combustion chamber.

The first stage carries a parachute and is designed to be recoverable, although this has not yet worked out in practice.

The second stage uses a single SpaceX-designed Kestrel engine, also fueled by a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene, but with a simpler design and significantly less power. It is not recoverable.

In addition to Falcon 1, SpaceX is planning a second model two-stage, Merlin-powered rocket known as Falcon 9. It is expected to cost $35 million USD, and is designed to boost 9,900 kg to low earth orbit, and 4,900 kg to geostationary transfer orbit. SpaceX is also planning a Falcon 9 Heavy model capable of carrying bigger payloads, and also a space craft with a pressurized cabin unit known as Dragon.

"We're going to get Falcon 9 to orbit next year," said Musk. "The future of SpaceX is really great."

On the Net:

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com

What does this mean for the future of Space Exploration? Tell us what you think.
Image courtesy of SpaceX
Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides contributed to this report.

Wrigley throws a curve in Cubs sale



Price tag for renovations likely to affect negotiations

Wrigley Field casts a long shadow as prospective buyers review the Cubs' confidential financial records and prepare the next round of bids for the stadium and team.

At issue is not whether the Cubs will remain at the beloved, 94-year-old ballpark, but how much it will cost to preserve and enhance Wrigley. The price that the franchise and stadium fetch will depend largely on how much more revenue can be wrung out of Wrigley.

"The franchise value is a guess on what future profits will be," said Phillip Miller, an associate professor of economics at Minnesota State University-Mankato, who has studied baseball economics. "If you have to gut the place in the extreme case, that would affect the value."

Bidders aren't publicly discussing their plans for the stadium because the sales process is ongoing. But their concerns go beyond maintaining the stadium in a safe condition. Fans and players have expressed the desire for more modern amenities, such as a larger clubhouse and more space for concessions and bathrooms, without losing the vibe and charm of the old ballpark. If a new owner has to privately finance such improvements, fans could see higher ticket and food prices, and even the stadium's sacrosanct name replaced with a corporate sponsor.

The costs of such extensive renovations could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, an amount that could be a factor in negotiations if a new owner has to spend more than $1 billion, as some experts have estimated, to buy the package of the team, Wrigley Field and related broadcast properties.

But sources close to the bidders acknowledge that without a major ballpark restoration, new sources of revenue for the team are limited. In recent years, Tribune Co. has taken steps to generate more revenue by adding 1,800 bleacher seats, installing a lounge in the bleachers and putting advertising on the outfield doors.

"You can maintain Wrigley Field as is for a period of time," said one source close to a bidder who did not want to be identified. "But the big question isn't maintaining it. Whoever buys the team will have to make a gut check on what do you want the stadium to look like. The fact is there are revenue streams you can add to the stadium, but you got to build them first before you can charge for them."

Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney said any improvements to Wrigley Field and their price tag "depends on how ambitious you are, how much you want to accomplish." Otherwise, he added, "if you just maintain the place, you can play in Wrigley Field certainly though my lifetime, and I'm 46."

Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell tried to remove some of the uncertainty about Wrigley Field by entertaining discussions with city and state officials about selling the ballpark to a state agency that owns the White Sox's home. In the proposed deal, the Illinois Sports Finance Authority would have financed extensive renovations that would have included adding concessions and washrooms, building luxury suites and a club lounge. The estimated price tag: $300 million to $400 million.

Zell told prospective buyers that such a deal made good sense because it would have unloaded the burden of fixing Wrigley Field on the state. The deal also made sense for Zell. By selling the stadium separately, he hoped to get top dollar for the assets. Wringing the highest possible price is crucial for Tribune Co., which is weighed down by about $12 billion in debt, largely from Zell's December deal to take the company private.

While the talks between Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, and the state broke down in June, the idea of public stewardship of a landmark such as Wrigley Field is not out of the question. People familiar with past discussions don't discount the possibility of a new team owner reopening negotiations with the state over how to finance a Wrigley face-lift. The state has an incentive to participate because Wrigley is one of Illinois' biggest tourist attractions and the hub of a thriving North Side neighborhood.

Even with an antiquated facility, the Cubs are one of the most valuable franchises in Major League Baseball. Wrigley Field is a big reason for that. Even when the team is performing poorly, people pay for the ambience of watching a game in one of baseball's oldest parks, with its ivy-covered walls and vintage scoreboard.

Tribune Co. does not publicly disclose the revenue and expenses generated by the ballpark. But the Chicago Tribune obtained a private appraisal of the stadium done in 2006, before recent improvements, that gives a peek inside the Wrigley cash cow. The Cubs also generate revenue outside of Wrigley, such as television contracts. A Tribune Co. spokesman declined to comment on the numbers.

In 2005, gross revenue from the sale of tickets reached $90.5 million, up from $62.4 million in 2003, an increase of 45 percent. In 2005, the Cubs sold 3.1 million tickets. Since then the team has increased seating capacity to about 42,000 from 39,538. Attendance broke 3.3 million this season.

The average concession revenue per capita has nearly doubled between 1995 and 2005, from $7.56 to $14.56.

Luxury suites are another source of revenue. Rental rates range from $110,000 to $167,000 a year for the 12-seat suites and $145,000 to $182,000 a year for the 15-seat suites. Wrigley has 67 original suites, according to the documents.

There's no hiding the fact the park requires extensive upkeep. In 2005, the Cubs spent $4.9 million in major structural improvements and nearly $2 million more on operating expenses for regular maintenance and repairs at Wrigley. The $6.9 million outlay was more than double the $3.1 million the team spent on renovations and routine maintenance in 2003.

Maintenance expenses increased in 2005 after chunks of concrete fell from upper-deck panels on three occasions during the 2004 season. Based on recommendations of engineers, protective netting was installed to ensure the safety of the fans.

The engineering report found that "the upper-deck precast members should not require replacement in the near term (certainly not in the next 10 years)."

Three years after that report, Kenney said the stadium poses no safety risk. To maintain the structural soundness of the ballpark will not require a "very big capital outlay over the next 10 to 15 years," he said, declining to disclose exact numbers.

Bidders, though, have hired their own engineers to inspect Wrigley Field and draw their own conclusions.

In presentations to prospective buyers, Cubs management has offered ideas to increase revenue from the existing real estate footprint. One possible new source of revenue that has been on the drawing board for a few years is a triangular-shaped building to be constructed on the player parking lot. The building would include parking, restaurants, player facilities and team offices.

"I see everything remaining to be done here as an opportunity," Kenney said.

asachdev@tribune.com

FeedM8 - Go Mobile