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Monday, December 22, 2008

Can't Wrap This

$1 Million Pagani Zonda F Wrecked In Poland

According to WreckedExotics, the driver of this $1 million-plus Pagani Zonda F was speeding, lost control and slammed into a tree in reverse. What makes news worse? The engine caught fire after the crash.

Sorry PCH'ers, with the engine and the outer shell lost in this smash-up, we're not so sure there's much left to reconstruct, Eddie Griffin Enzo-style. But, that said, anyone want to try? [via WreckedExotics]

Methane Bubbling Up From Undersea Permafrost?

From June 15 (top) to July 27 (bottom), sea ice in the East Siberian Sea declined by as much as 81,081 square miles (210,000 square kilometers) a day, a rapid dip attributed to global warming.

The sea is also bubbling with methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, being released from underwater reserves, a Russian team announced during a December 2008 meeting.

The discovery could be a sign that global warming is thawing underwater permafrost, which is releasing methane that has been locked away for many thousands of years.

Images courtesy NASA

Mason Inman in San Francisco, California
for National Geographic News
December 19, 2008 The East Siberian Sea is bubbling with methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, being released from underwater reserves, according to a recent expedition by a Russian team.

This could be a sign that global warming is thawing underwater permafrost, which is releasing methane that has been locked away for many thousands of years.

If these methane emissions from the Arctic speed up, it could cause "really serious climate consequences," said study leader Igor Semiletov of the Pacific Oceanological Institute in Vladivostok, Russia.

(Related: "Global Warming Feedback Loop Caused by Methane, Scientists Say" [August 29, 2006].)

Semiletov and colleagues have traveled along the Siberian coast—this year they covered 13,000 miles (22,000 kilometers)—while monitoring methane concentrations in the air and observing the seas.

"According to our data, more than 50 percent of the Arctic Siberian shelf is serving as a source of methane to the atmosphere," Semiletov said.

This vast shelf is about 750,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers)—about the same size as Greenland or Mexico—and about 80 percent of it is covered with permafrost, Semiletov said.

He presented the findings from his group at an American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco this week.

Not-So-Permanent Permafrost

Permafrost is basically dirt that's been permanently frozen for hundreds or thousands of years, much of it since the last ice age.

Sea levels back then near the Siberian coast were about 325 feet (100 meters) lower than today, and the exposed ground froze solid down to 1,600 to 2,300 feet (500 to 700 meters) deep.

Over the past 10,000 years, sea levels rose to cover some of this permafrost, and in recent years those seas have seen increases in average temperatures.

"As a result, sub-sea permafrost has warmed up to minus 1 degree Celsius [30 degrees Fahrenheit]," Semiletov said. "It's very, very close to the thawing point."

Underneath the permafrost are stores of methane, the same as the natural gas people use for cooking and heating.

There are also methane hydrates, a solid that forms when methane and water mix in cold temperatures. The hydrates release gas as they warm.

"It was assumed that these stores of methane have not been leaking, because the sub-sea permafrost served as a lid keeping hydrates and natural gas in place," Semiletov said.

But now global warming may be starting to release these stores of methane into the atmosphere.

Drastic Increase

Regions farther from the Equator generally are experiencing more warming, and the Arctic is warming fastest of all.

"Springtime air temperatures on the East Siberian Arctic shelf [have] increased up to 5 degrees Celsius [9 degrees Fahrenheit]," Semiletov said. "It's a hot spot."

In comparison, the world as a whole has warmed about 1.25 degrees Fahrenheit (0.7 degrees Celsius) since pre-industrial times.

If abrupt methane release became widespread, it could create a feedback loop that would lead to even more drastic global warming.

"Our early observations in 1994 to 1999 didn't reveal a widespread enhanced dissolved methane concentration" along the Siberian coast, Semiletov said.

"With this newly obtained data, we suggest an increase of methane release from the East Siberian Arctic shelf," he said.

"We have obtained a drastic increase of air methane in some sites—sometimes up to four times higher than the background [global average]."

Vladimir Romanovsky, a permafrost expert at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, says the study is worrying.

"It has very serious implications for changes in greenhouse gases," Romanovsky said, and the releases described should be monitored more closely.

"It could be very important, but we still need some numbers to see how big [of a problem] it is."
© 1996-2008 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

Aces Wild: IT Exec Builds RFID-enabled Poker Table

This is an Update to my post last week.

By Jose Fermoso

The chairman of an Australian IT company has built an RFID enabled poker table that could bring the same level of detail seen in televised games to the weekly rounds with your buddies.

Hoping to find a way to enjoy his hobby even more, Andrew Milner placed wireless RFID chips at the bottom of a table, fit RFID tags on a few deck of cards, and fired up quality HD cameras to accurately track every move in a game.

Currently, most poker television programs show each hand through tiny cameras installed on the table, from an individual player's perspective. You follow the game through the feeds, and as cards are shown, drawing odds are automatically generated by a separate program. Basically, we're allowed to count the cards.

Vid2 Milner's tracking method brings a different dimension to the game. Instead of relying on visual evidence on each hand (plus the interpretation of the announcers), each card is tracked exactly to its placement on the table.

And because the RFID chips are thin, unnoticeable, and quite flexible, they can be used in the same way as regular cards.

The technical details are pretty impressive. Milner uses four color (CCD) cameras and plugs them in through USB to a video encoder to create the main game feed. Then, a piece of software that he wrote (see app below) takes the video streams and mixes them up with the RFID data coming off the cards to create a video presentation, in real-time.

This means that he can actually record every single one his games, down to the last detail, and then broadcast it over the internet.

040908_1033 The result isn't as sleek as something you’d see on a televised tournament of Hold' Em, but it's not like the networks are going to come down to your house and use their equipment to televise it either.

A cool application of RFID could be that we (in the audience) could know where every single card is at all times, even the placement in a vertical deck. This might remove the surprise element for the audience, but it might increase the tension in an anticipatory I-know-what's-gonna-happen-but-he-doesn't sort-of way.

In case you're thinking about pulling this off yourself, it took Milner three months to make the table and cost him almost $7,000.

According to a recent interview, he is also working on a system that uses RFID to track liquor usage. This is an omen, I think. The guy will probably be brought into the fold as a Bellagio executive and will figure out a way how to ruin the invention by making it harder to steal drinks and to win a hand or two.

Check out some pics of the process, all courtesy of Mr. Milner and his site,


The main app to set up the game.


Every single hand in the game has a video file! It's like Madden, almost.


RFID antennas placed inside each player's board.


The cards with the RFID attached.


One of the rail cameras leading down into the feed. Milner used a lamp neck to hold in the camera.

Best Places to Find Multi-Monitor Wallpaper

Last week we asked you where you found wallpaper to customize multiple monitor setups, you responded and we rounded up your favorite sites to help share the high resolution goodness! Read on for the dirt.

Most popular by a landslide, was Mandolux. The site has an extremely simple design, lacking even a search function. The newest wallpaper is displayed on the main page, all previous ones are available on the archive pages. The easiest way to browse the site, since there are no thumbnails on the archive pages, is to simply start at the very front or the very back and browse page by page from there. Not a very efficient way to search but the images are interesting and beautiful. The majority of the images are sized for dual monitors, with some for triple monitors. Depending on your resolution the dual monitor backgrounds can be sized for a triple monitor fairly easily.The site has RSS support to help you keep up on the new additions.

Second and still highly favored was InterfaceLIFT, an enormous respository of wallpapers. Where Mandolux lacks any search at all, InterfaceLIFT allows you to sort by resolution, date, downloads, ratings, personal favorites, and so on. If you're looking only for highly-rated triple-monitor wallpapers, finding them is a breeze. Many of the wallpapers are available in sizes all the way down to 320x240, so if you find a multi-monitor wallpaper you love for bank of monitors you may be able to find it for your cellphone too.

Although you wouldn't expect anything less from a website devoted to creativity and artwork, the wallpaper section of DeviantArt is packed with beautiful wallpaper. The link we've provided takes you to the most popular multi-monitor wallpaper, but straying into the regular wallpaper and widescreen wallpaper yields many gems. Adolescent Eyes, partially seen in the screenshot at right, was my triple monitor wallpaper of choice for several months.

Vlad Studios was another popular contender. Having seen Vlad's work featured elsewhere it was nice to see so much of it in a central location and put a name with the excellent work. While the site offers free wallpapers, the really stunning widescreen and multi-monitor wallpapers are available for paying members. Many readers felt that the $19.99 lifetime membership was more than worth it. The multi-monitor category alone has over 300 beautiful custom wallpapers.

Social Wallpapering take a Digg-like approach with users submitting and voting wallapers up and down in popularity. Unfortunately there isn't a category for triple monitors, but the larger dual monitor papers can be adjusted to fit some triple monitor setups. Wallpaper packs of the entire contents of the site can be grabbed as a multi-part torrent file if you'd like to browse the entire collection at your on or offline leisure.

No survey of swanky wallpaper would be complete without a stop at Digital Blasphemy. If you've been a computer user for any length of time you've likely come across some of the work of Ryan Bliss, the creative brains behind Digital Blasphemy. I know I've been using wallpapers from Digital Blasphemy for over 10 years now and find the quality just as high now as I did in 1997. Like previously mentioned Vlad Studios, Digital Blasphemy is a pay site with a nice selection of free wallpapers. The link above takes you to the free section to get a taste for his style. Memberships start at $15.

While not as wildly popular as the above sites, the following websites received praise from your fellow readers and are definitely worth an honorable mention:

Dual and Triple Monitor Wallpapers @ MintyWhite

For more reading about multi-monitor setups and help managing them, check out Make the Most of Your Dual Monitors and Customize Your Dual Monitors with Display Fusion. Finally, if you have any great sites for high resolution wallpapers, share the wealth in the comments below!

10 Things You Should Never Say to Twins

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

New York City To Get LED Street Lighting

New York City To Get LED Street Lighting

New York City’s Department of Transportation has tapped the Office for Visual Interaction for testing LED street lighting around the Big Apple. If successful, all of the city’s 300,000 street lamps could one day be made up of LEDs.

Of course, LEDs are just plain awesome! Their power consumption is much lower than that of standard bulbs. Heck, even lower than that of CFLs.

But the OVI contract doesn’t only replace the current high-pressure sodium lighting, but also introduces a whole new lamp pole as well. While I am a fan of LEDs, I am quite fond of the Gotham-styled lamp poles. Keep your paws off, OVI!

Okay, maybe the new poles aren’t so bad. The poles will be between four to six feet, and have up to 100 LEDs each. They will have four light sources per pole, and can create different light patterns. The light footprints can be tailored for parks, street corners or mid-block.

The city will begin testing with a mere six poles, and the testing period will end by fall of 2009. But even if the city approves the highly-efficient lamps, it’s likely they won’t roll out 300-thousand new lamp poles all at once.

Image: dbox

Beer goggles last longer for women

For men, "beer goggles" wear off as quickly as the alcohol. But in women, the effect lasts much longer, a new study has revealed.

Beer goggles last longer for women
Women who drink develop a reduced ability to rate attractiveness in male faces Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY

Researchers found that women who drink even moderately develop a reduced ability to rate attractiveness in male faces, even when they are sober.

Those who drank were less able to detect male facial symmetry, a marker of attractiveness and good genes which is thought to play an important role in the choice of a partner.

In the research, young women classed as typical, non-alcoholic drinkers - who have up to 40 drinks a month - were put through a number of tests, including an exercise on facial symmetry.

In this test, the 45 women were presented with 60 pairs of male faces. One in each pair was more symmetrical than the other and the women had to identify it in each of the pairs.

Results show that the more alcohol the women had drunk during the previous six months, the lower her performance on the symmetry test.

Even women who had the equivalent of five drinks a month scored less in the test than those who had no drinks. Each additional drink led to a reduced score.

Dr Kirsten Oinonen, of Lakehead University, in Canada, said: "My study suggests that sober women who drink alcohol are less able to perceive facial symmetry when sober.

"When sober, these women are worse at judging facial symmetry, and therefore may find less attractive men more attractive. Given that symmetry is associated with attractiveness of faces, my study does suggest the possibility that alcohol intoxication may decrease facial symmetry perception, and make people look more attractive.

"This is the first study to look at this issue. It suggests that as typical alcohol consumption increases in young women, facial symmetry perception performance decreases."

The researchers say the results suggest alcohol has a long term effect on the brain. They believe it may effect the brain's structure in some way, reducing its visual perception abilities. But it is not known how long term the effects are or whether they are permanent.

"Whether or not any damage or deficits are permanent is hard to tell at this point," Dr Oinonen added.

Wynn opens new casino resort in Las Vegas

Owner of Wynn Resorts Steve Wynn inside the Wynn Las Vegas i...

His competitors face free falling stock prices and potential bankruptcies, but Steve Wynn's company is sitting pretty as it prepares to open the doors on Monday to its lavish new resort, Encore.

The 2.3 billion-dollar, 2,000-room hotel-casino, which is attached to the 3-year-old Wynn Las Vegas on the Strip, debuts at a moment when Las Vegas is gripped in its worst downturn in decades.

But Wynn is confident that he'll weather the storm.

"I don't owe a dime personally and the company's solid as a rock," said Wynn, 66, chief executive and president of Wynn Resorts Ltd. "That's why we were just named to the S&P 500. "We're not at risk here. We're very lucky."

Wynn Resorts, which also has the 600-room Wynn Macau in China and plans to open a 400-room expansion called Encore Macau by Christmas 2009, has certainly suffered in the downturn.

Yet whereas the company has lost about half of its stock value this year, rival MGM Mirage has lost more than 80 percent and Las Vegas Sands has dropped more than 90 percent.

Both of those companies have had to take aggressive measures to shore up their liquidity, as seen last week when MGM Mirage sold off for 775 million dollars the Treasure Island in Las Vegas, a hotel Wynn built and operated until he was bought out in 2000.

LVS has laid off 11,000 workers in Macau as it froze construction there and its majority shareholder, Sheldon Adelson, has shovelled one billion dollars of its own money into the company.

Wynn Explains ‘Recession’ Gamble on New Vegas ‘Encore’ Luxury Resort

"Wynn has the best balance sheet of all the casino operators right now," said Bill Lerner, a gaming industry analyst for Deutsche Bank, which has financed several Wynn projects in recent years. "That's really a function of the more judicious and more cautious about development than his peers and not building any more than he could afford to."

Judicious and cautious were words few would have applied to Wynn a decade ago as he finished the 1.6-billion-dollar Bellagio, then the world's most expensive hotel.

In his follow-up to the landmark Mirage, which heralded the street's 1990s spree of themed mega resorts, Wynn spent so lavishly on luxurious details that Wall Street disapproved and the stock price fell to a point that enabled Kirk Kerokorian to buy him out.

But not even Wynn's biggest critics dispute he is gifted at creating places of entertainment.

After Kerkorian's buyout, he bought the failing Desert Inn and replaced it with the 2.7-billion-dollar Wynn Las Vegas, a bronze, curved resort that abandoned his own prior model of providing an eye-popping spectacle.

For the Wynn, he created a light and water show intended primarily for guests. And now, with Encore, Wynn says he's striving for as much intimacy and elegance as a 2,000-room tower can offer, cutting up the casino into smaller sections for cozier spaces and appointing the property with unusual adornments from red tiger eye tabletops to banana-fiber wall weavings.

The closest thing to Vegas razzle-dazzle is the restaurant Switch, where three different sets of walls alternate.

"Everywhere you go, there's this wonderful play on texture and quality," he said. "After Wynn, there was nothing left for us to do but the basics better."

During a tour of Encore last week, Wynn took a call from Clint Eastwood, praising the actor's work in the new film "Gran Torino" and asking about the cold Eastwood suffered on his last visit.

Still, commoners delight him, too.

Near the end of that resort tour, Wynn stopped a teen to check if the wheels on his trainers could harm the floor's tile mosaic.

"Who are you?" the boy's father asked.

"I just work here," Wynn answered with a toothy grin.

Others in the hall had none of it.

"Hey, man, that's the owner," one man said. "He's the only person who matters in Vegas."

Wynn blushed and posed for pictures.

"I gotta go, fellas," he said eventually. "I'm very busy. I've got a new hotel to open."

Copyright AFP 2008, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium

Tree Man's branches grow back

tree man

Tree Man Dede pictured last year. His condition has worsened

An Indonesian man dubbed the "tree man" because of the gnarled warts all over his body has said his condition had worsened again, although he still hopes to recover and find a job.

Dede, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, returned home from hospital in August after six kilos of warts were surgically removed from his body and has been treated as an out-patient since.

"Those (warts) that were removed are growing again and started to reappear after I returned home," he said, adding that for a time he could go fishing and use a cell phone but now needed assistance again for such activity.

An American doctor has previously said the warts were the result of severe Human Pappiloma Virus (HPV) infection, but the disease is not life-threatening. Doctors say his case is thought to be the worst of its type in the world.

The Discovery Channel recently made a documentary about Dede's affliction and his life.

Dede, 37, first noticed the warts on his body after cutting his knee as a teenager.

Over time, Dede was sacked from his job, deserted by his wife and shunned by neighbours as the horn-like extensions covered much of his body and stopped him working. He has two children.

"I'm not desperate but I want to recover," he added, speaking from his home in the remote West Java village of Tanjung Jaya.

An Indonesian doctor said he would have further operations at the end of December or early next year to remove and reduce warts.

"We have told him that his disease could not be 100 per cent cured. In the previous operation, we only tried to increase his quality of life," said Rachmat Dinata, one of a team of doctors treating him at the Hasan Sadikin hospital in Bandung, a city near his village.

Dinata said he would need at least two operations every year.

For a while, Dede was forced to take part in a circus act in Bandung in order to make ends meet.

But after his case received widespread publicity, donations from the public and government help allowed him to get treatment.

He has also been able to buy some land to grow rice and a second-hand car so his relatives can bring him to hospital.

Dan Osman - Speed Rock Climbing - No Harness & No Protection

Dan Osman (Bear's Reach 5.7, Lover's Leap, California, USA)

High Quality Video - Video Alta Calidad

Rock Climbing - Free Solo Speed Climb
Escalada - Solo libre velocidad de ascenso

Wall 5.7 of 122m in just 4:25 minutes
Pared 5.7 de 122m en tan solo 4:25 min

Master of Stone

Bowling fans try to save White House lane w/ high-tech offer

With the naming of 'the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history,' hoops madness is hitting Washington. But don't count out the bowling lobby.

[Rendering of refurbished White House bowling lane.] Bowlers' Proprietors Assoc. of America

A rendering of the bowling industry's proposed refurbishing of the White House lane.

Sharp elbows are already flying in the Obama camp. With Barack Obama the first avid basketball player to be elected president, political appointees, college coaches and NBA officials are all angling to get in on the game.

Mr. Obama -- whose jump shot earned him the nickname Barry O'Bomber at Hawaii's Punahou School -- has hired a team of cabinet members and aides with serious basketball backgrounds. Many of them are planning for regular court time with the president, according to Mr. Obama's transition press team.

Popperfoto/Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt rides a horse and holds a rifle during a 1908 hunting holiday in Colorado. See the slideshow for sports favored by past commanders in chief.

"I think we are putting together the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history," the president-elect said at a news conference earlier this week.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama said he planned to replace the White House bowling alley -- installed by Richard Nixon in 1969 -- with an indoor basketball court. (There is a tiny outdoor court at the White House adjacent to the tennis court on the southwest side.) National Basketball Association officials have reached out to members of the transition team to offer their services in installing a regulation court at the White House.

If "there is an upgrading of the basketball facilities at the White House, you can be assured that the NBA and the players will be there," says NBA Commissioner David Stern.

Not everyone is excited about basketball's arrival as the semiofficial sport of the White House. The bowling lobby is concerned that talk of removing the White House lane -- which was built under the north driveway -- will have a negative impact on their sport. In an effort to change the president's mind, top bowling associations have offered to refurbish the lane with a state-of-the-art scoring system, high-tech bowling balls designed to grip the lane and a digital surround-sound system.

[Barack Obama in April at Maple Crest Middle School, Kokomo, Ind.] NBAE/Getty Images

President-elect Barack Obama in April at Maple Crest Middle School, Kokomo, Ind.

"It would be a sad, sad day" if Mr. Obama scrapped the bowling lane, says Jim Sturm, president of the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America and owner of two bowling centers in Charleston, W.Va. "I think his political analysts ought to take a long look at removing [it]. It could have a long-term impact on his political prospects."

There are signs of hope for the bowling lobby's full-court press: In a November interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, Mr. Obama tempered his earlier remarks and said he might leave the bowling alley alone.

Whether bowling stays or goes, it is clearly basketball's moment. Basketball fans outside the president-elect's inner circle are clamoring for the chance to join a White House game. "The big buzz is pickup," says Gil Jackson, head basketball coach at Howard University. "People are already posturing as to how they'll get in on those games. Myself included."

Requests for pickup games are expected to go through White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel's office. Mr. Emanuel, or someone on his staff, would screen the requests, with Mr. Obama getting the chance to assemble his own weekly games.

Leon Panetta, former White House chief-of-staff to Bill Clinton, says he received phone calls and letters every day requesting a game of golf with the president. He would make a list of everyone vying for time and let Mr. Clinton make the final decision. There were many rejections. "With the president, you've always got an easy excuse to say no," Mr. Panetta says. "I'd just say he doesn't have time."

[Barack Obama, 1977 basketball team] Associated Press

Barack Obama, left in middle row, and the 1977 Punahou School junior varsity basketball team.

Mr. Obama typically spends some time on the basketball court ahead of big events, including elections. He is expected to play a game of three-on-three with his Hyde Park friends before delivering his Inaugural Address Jan. 20.

Abe Pollin, owner of the NBA's Washington Wizards, has extended an open invitation to Mr. Obama to sit in on team practices, attend Wizards games in the owner's box and play pickup ball at the Verizon Center with Mr. Obama's circle of regulars or with team members. "Our players would love to shoot around a little bit with him," says Wizards spokesman Matt Williams.

At the YMCA on Rhode Island Avenue, just blocks from the White House, players in the locker room are already joking that Mr. Obama will have to adjust to Washington's in-your-face style of defense and adhere to the gym's one-towel policy, says YMCA representative Carol Gregory. "We've got a court all ready for him," she says.

Many presidents have found it politically expedient to bring along a favored sport to the White House. Teddy Roosevelt boxed and practiced jujitsu. Before the 1908 election, he gave his heavy-set successor, William Howard Taft, some words of advice, according to presidential historian Douglas Brinkley: "Photographs on horseback, yes. Tennis, no. And golf is fatal."

John F. Kennedy favored touch football. George H.W. Bush hosted high-powered tennis matches. George W. Bush has gone mountain biking with power brokers, including Gen. David Petraeus and Jim Zorn, coach of the Washington Redskins. President Bush calls his regular group "Peloton One," White House press secretary Scott Stanzel says.

Mr. Nixon embraced bowling as a means of connecting with working-class voters. "He wasn't a great athlete but this is something he could do in a Rotary Club kind of way," says Nixon historian David Greenberg.

Bowling isn't one of Mr. Obama's strengths, however. On an outing before the Pennsylvania primary, he bowled a 37 with repeated gutter balls.

[Susan Rice on the National Cathedral School team.] National Cathedral School

Susan Rice on the National Cathedral School team.

While basketball may not have helped the chances of several of Mr. Obama's recent White House picks, it probably didn't hurt. Arne Duncan, the 6-foot-5 chief of Chicago schools whom Mr. Obama has named his secretary of education, played regularly with Mr. Obama. Mr. Duncan was co-captain of Harvard University's basketball team and later played professionally in Australia. Retired Gen. James Jones, the six-foot-four nominee for national security advisor, was a star forward for Georgetown University in the 1960s; Susan Rice, nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was a point guard for the National Cathedral School in Washington.

Vice President-elect Joseph Biden was manager of the freshman basketball team at Archmere Academy in Claymont, Del.; classmates say his preferred game is football.

Eric Holder, the attorney general nominee, played on the freshman team at Columbia University and was co-captain of the team at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. He led the Stuyvesant Peglegs to a season of two wins and 12 losses. "In a school of short academic nerds, he was a tall academic nerd," says Paul Grayson, a New York accountant who played on the team with Mr. Holder.

[Reggie Love] Getty Images

Reggie Love, Mr. Obama's campaign 'body man.'

Mr. Obama's regular basketball buddies include Reggie Love, the candidate's "body man" from the campaign trail who played basketball at Duke University in 2001, the year the Blue Devils won the NCAA championship. There's also Marvin Nicholson, the campaign's national trip director; Martin Nesbitt, treasurer of the Obama campaign; Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and physician Eric Whitaker, one of Mr. Obama's closest friends. Among those who aren't relocating to Washington to work in the administration, many say they'll hop on a plane to continue their regular three-on-three games.

John Rogers, a Chicago businessman and co-chairman of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, is another one of Mr. Obama's regulars; he played basketball at Princeton University with Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson, one of the highest scorers in Princeton basketball history and now the head men's basketball coach at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Mr. Rogers was one of those who shot hoops with Mr. Obama on Election Day in Chicago. No one gave the future president-elect any slack, he recalls. "We treat him like any other player and we'll do the same when he's president. He's tough," Mr. Rogers says. "And I was always impressed with Barack because he was Craig's brother-in-law."

Write to Amy Chozick at

The Top 10 Movie Badasses

Simon Crook
explains his choices...

You can wear the leather. You can chain the fags. You can even attempt the sunglasses. But badass (or, if you insist, bad/arse/) is an essence, not a wardrobe requirement, and a quality owned by a chest-beating elite. Just ask Jean-Claude Van Damme, who seems to think the height of toughness is an ability to "do" the splits. That's way too try-hard. Badasses don't "try". They simply are.

Click here for the rest and the results: The Top 10 Movie Badasses

See the original image at — Al Capone Gets an Autographed Ball for His Son (PIC)

Gangster Al Capone and his son having baseball autographed by player Gabby Hartnett (Charles Leo Hartnett) from Capone's front row seat at Cominsky Park stadium. Photographed on September 10, 1931.

Lenovo's new ThinkPad has 2 LCD screens

We've all done it — had two tabs or screens open, wishing we could have two screens on our laptop so we didn't have to keep switching back and forth between windows. Enter Lenovo Group Ltd. The company's next ThinkPad laptop is more of a "desktop replacement" than ever. ThinkPad W700ds (a follow-on to the standard W700 model we evaluated for you here) will have a 17-inch main screen and a 10.6-inch secondary. The former is a bit larger than the a mainstream 15.4" laptop and the latter about the same size as the average netbook today.

It's far heavier than the norm, too — 11 pounds — and will be a bit pricier than we've come to expect from laptops — starting $3,600 when it goes up for sale in January. But check out its specs, according to ComputerWorld:
The souped-up "mobile workstation," as Lenovo calls it, also comes with customers' choice of quad-core Intel Core 2 processors and Nvidia Quadro mobile graphics CPU with as many as 128 cores. It also comes with as much as 8GB of DDR3 memory and a pair of hard drive/solid-state drive bays for up to 960GB of storage.
And know how you always reach for the separate numeric keyboard when you sit down with your laptop, then curse its non-existence? This one has it.

More tidbits:
• The secondary screen can be tiled up to 30 degrees.
• The main screen is rated at 400 nits of brightness.
• The ThinkPad has dual fans and dual heat-reduction systems.
• The whole thing measures 16 by 12 inches and is 2.1 inches thick.

Aurora Borealis: In Pictures — Pictures of the aurora borealis from around the world.

Click here for the Gallery: Aurora Borealis: In Pictures

Surfers, Rejoice: Some Extreme Waves Getting Bigger

By Alexis Madrigal Email


SAN FRANCISCO — The largest waves in the Pacific Northwest are getting higher by seven centimeters a year, posing an increasing threat to property close to the shore. And the strange part is: Scientists aren't sure why.

Oregon State researchers found that the danger to property from these larger extreme waves will outweigh the impacts of rising sea levels caused by global warming over the next several decades.

"Over a decadal scale, the increases in wave height ... have significant impacts on both erosion hazards and coastal flooding hazards and those currently exceed the influences of sea level rise," said Peter Ruggiero, "And they probably will over the next decade or two unless something drastic happens."

The world's oceans are in serious turmoil. Fisheries have collapsed across the globe and scientists predict that rising global temperatures — particularly nearer the poles — will melt the polar ice caps and cause sea levels to rise. Waves, however, are the bringers of this bad oceanic news onto human-inhabited shores and evidence that extreme wave heights are increasing in some regions has remained relatively under the radar.

"This is the first time I've seen a comparison between wave height and sea level," said Sultan Hameed, an atmospheric scientist at Stony Brook University, who organized the American Geophysical Union annual meeting session at which Ruggiero presented. "That was excellent analysis."

Unlike sea level, the current data suggests that wave heights are not increasing uniformly across the globe. However, many regions lack the right data to do proper analysis. Bigger wave heights off the coast of Oregon were first discovered just a few years ago by other OSU scientists. They had the advantage of working with the unique dataset created by the Pacific coast's longest-floating buoy; it's been gathering data on wave heights for over 30 years.

"This is high quality data and you didn't have enough data to do this kind of analysis until very recently," Ruggiero said.

Despite the clear wave-height increase in the data, particularly of the largest waves, Ruggiero and his colleagues still can't explain it.

"I don't think we do know exactly why wave heights are rising," Ruggiero said. "Some people have linked it to global warming and changes in the storm tracks. Others have linked it to dust from China. I don't have a great answer."

If it is linked with global climate change, rising sea levels could combine with increasingly big waves to wreak havoc on coastal areas around the middle-latitudes where the wave height effect seems to be strongest.

That's why it's become imperative to figure out what has driven the changes in the wave patterns along the northwest coast of North America over the last thirty years.

Hameed said that linking the wave height increases to wind velocity changes in the global climate could give the work international impact — particularly in places where detailed wave data isn't available.

"Wind data are available over a much larger domain," he said. "If you find coherence between changes in wind speed or direction and wave height, you can extend the analysis [to other areas]."

Image: dennis/Flickr. A surfer at Mavericks, where the waves are already plenty big.

Legend of Zelda "We are the Champions" Music Video Tribute — Link channels the singing power of Freddie Mercury and Queen into an animated tribute to 20+ years of Zelda set to "We are the Champions".

Burglar hits Paris Hilton's home, takes $2 million in jewelry

Television personality Paris Hilton attends the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel grand opening party on Friday, Nov. 14, 2008 in Miami Beach, Fla. An estimated $2 million worth of jewelry and other belongings was stolen from the home of Paris Hilton, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The incident occurred at 5 a.m. at Hilton's Hollywood Hills home on Clarendon Street. The burglar, or burglars, got into the house through an unlocked door, according to LAPD sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

According to detectives, a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and gloves ransacked Hilton's bedroom, took unknown property and fled, said Officer April Harding.

LAPD sources said they do not believe at this time that the incident is connected to infamous burglaries that have beset the Westside and Hollywood Hills and cost many celebrities hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry and other valuables.

In those cases, the two –- and possibly three –- men, clad in black and wearing ski masks and gloves, hit more than 70 homes in areas such as Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and the hills above Encino, usually at night and often on weekends. The victims in those burglaries included former Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing and her Oscar-winning director husband, William Friedkin, Clippers basketball star Cuttino Mobley, Duran Duran guitarist John Taylor and his wife, Juicy Couture President Gela Nash-Taylor, and country music stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Detectives from the LAPD's Van Nuys division were at the Hilton home this morning conducting interviews. The sources told The Times that Hilton was not home at the time of the burglary and that the house is equipped with security video equipment.

Harding said a security guard reported a forced entry at 5 a.m. at the Sherman Oaks home. The guard described the burglar as a man in a hooded sweatshirt and gloves.

Hilton recently told Esquire magazine: "The best thing I've ever bought with money is my house. Having a nightclub in your house really helps for having a party."

-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Paris Hilton attends the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel grand opening party on Nov. 14 in Miami Beach, Fla. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press

Panasonic to acquire Sanyo Electric

Posted by Dawn Kawamoto

Panasonic announced Friday it plans to acquire Sanyo Electric in a deal valued at 800 million yen ($8.9 billion), giving the electronics giant a leg up in the rechargeable-battery business.

The deal, which earlier this week reportedly had edged closer to coming together, aims to leverage their operations in light of a weakening economy.

In outlining the deal, the companies stated:

Panasonic and Sanyo recognize that existing strategies must not only be accelerated, but also that drastic action is now required for further strengthening initiatives to achieve potential revenue and profit growth in the global economic recession stemming from the financial crisis as well as in the midst of intensified global competition.

With the deal, Panasonic is aiming to increase its share of the rechargeable-battery business and solar-battery market, as well as strengthen its bottom line through consolidating the businesses.

Sanyo is a dominant player in the rechargeable-battery market with its lithium ion batteries. With the merger, Panasonic expects to gain access to Sanyo's production technology and hopes to invest heavily in batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles.

Panasonic is also banking on riding on the growing demand for solar batteries, and with the merger expects to expand into the area of solar photovoltaic cells and batteries.

Under the deal, Panasonic will pay 131 yen for every share of Sanyo's common stock.

Sanyo's shares closed at 136 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, down 3.5 percent from the previous day's close.

See the original image at You sprayed your Ferrari F60 Enzo WHAT colour now?

3D gaming, HD video coming to netbooks in 2009

By Jon Stokes

Netbook users rejoice: NVIDIA has announced plans to pair Intel's Atom processor with a real mobile GPU, the 9400M. It's no secret that Intel's integrated graphics processors stink across the board, and they're the biggest weakness in the company's ultramobile platform. But by pairing the Atom processor with a 9400M, NVIDIA will be able to offer users a mobile x86 platform that supports 1080p video decoding, dual-link DVI out, DirectX 10 graphics, CUDA, and OpenCL.

The entire platform should draw about 18W of power, which is in the same ballpark as the current Intel Atom platform (12 watts). Note that Ion will cut the number of chips in the Atom platform down from Intel's three-chip design (Atom + 945GSE + I/O hub) to just two chips (Atom + 9400M), but the 9400M is substantially more powerful as GPU and you can't get something for nothing.

Ion reference motherboard

At right is a picture of the PicoITX reference board that NVIDIA has been showing off to reviewers and the press. It's remarkable that such a small board can support a full Windows Vista install, 1080p playback, and 3D gaming. Indeed, this platform will make a killer foundation for a small, power-efficient HTPC.

Ion is supposed to be available sometime in the first half of 2009.

AMD and VIA also in the game

NVIDIA's and Intel's competition is by no means sitting still. AMD announced its Yukon ultramobile platform last month, and it combines a mobile Radeon GPU with a forthcoming AMD processor. Due out in 2009, the platform will support HD video decoding, but it will have a slightly higher power draw than any Atom-based offerings just based on the CPU alone. (AMD doesn't yet have an Atom or Nano equivalent.)

More recently VIA announced its Trinity platform, which combines the VIA Nano processor, the VX800 northbridge (plus IGP), and a discrete GPU from S3. Like the Ion and Yukon platforms, Trinity will support Windows Vista, DirectX 10, and HD video decoding in a very small form factor.

VIA's Trinity platform

I can't find any details on the power draw for this platform, but I'd estimate that it's in the same 12 to 18 watt range as Intel's and NVIDIA's Atom-based platforms. This could make Trinity a very viable alternative for the increasingly popular netbook segment. But the main problem that VIA faces here is vendor uptake—they just don't seem to be able to generate the same level of interest from netbook makers as Intel does, despite the fact that the Nano seems to be a very capable CPU. Still, Trinity could change that equation in their favor.


National Geographic News
December 19, 2008

Lost cities, baffling pyramids, and ancient graveyards are just some of the mysteries covered in National Geographic News's most viewed archaeology stories of 2008.

Top ten stories picture 10. Inca Skull Surgeons Were "Highly Skilled"
Dangerous skull surgery was commonly and successfully performed among the Inca, likely as a treatment for head injuries suffered during combat, a May study found.

Top ten stories picture 9. Ancient "Lost City" Discovered in Peru?
Stone ruins discovered in Peru this past January could be the ancient "lost city" of Paititi, according to claims that sparked serious but cautious responses from experts.

Top ten stories picture 8. New Pyramid Found in Egypt: 4,300-Year-Old Queen's Tomb
Long buried by deep sands, the once five-story-tall pyramid is a testament to a pharaoh's reverence for his mother, experts said in November.

Top ten stories picture 7. Alexander the Great's "Crown," Shield Discovered?
An ancient Greek tomb once thought to have been that of Alexander's father is more recent than thought and may contain treasures belonging to Alexander himself, experts said in April.

Top ten stories picture 6. Mystery Pyramid Built by Newfound Ancient Culture?
The Huapalcalco pyramid in central Mexico may be the work of a previously unknown culture of ancient people, the Huajomulco, archaeologists said in December.

Top ten stories picture 5. Rare Egyptian "Warrior" Tomb Found
Feathered arrows lying near a well-preserved coffin suggest that the mummy inside, when alive, may have been a mercenary for an Egyptian king, experts said in February.

Top ten stories picture 4. Stonehenge Was Cemetery First and Foremost
From the start 5,000 years ago, the site was a burial ground—perhaps for prehistoric rulers—and it remained so for centuries, a May study said. ALSO SEE: related photos and maps.

Top ten stories picture 3. Maya May Have Caused Civilization-Ending Climate Change
A satellite program designed to improve environmental policies in Central America found evidence of ancient, self-induced climate change—offering lessons on how to combat today's warming.

Top ten stories picture 2. Great Pyramid Mystery to Be Solved by Hidden Room?
A sealed space in Egypt's Great Pyramid may help solve a centuries-old mystery: How did the ancient Egyptians move two million 2.5-ton blocks to build the ancient wonder?

Top ten stories picture 1. Portal to Maya Underworld Found in Mexico?
An underground labyrinth filled with stone temples and pyramids, found in August, likely relates to Maya myths of the afterlife, archaeologists said.