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Friday, March 13, 2009

How Not To Pull Your Jeep Out Of The Mud

There isn't much we can say here. Honestly, we're a little speechless. There is so much Fail in this video, it's a wonder nobody was seriously injured removing this Jeep from the mud.

Diesel lovers everywhere will love this clip, while Jeep lovers will shed a tear. We don't know the back story about how this Jeep sunk, but we're guessing it had to do with the Jeep pretending it was Artax in the Swamp of Sadness. Our favorite part of the clip is when Seth Rogen (sounds like him anyway) yells out, "Damn Dude, Holy Fuck!"

We think it's pretty obvious, but let's see if you can point out all the things wrong in this clip. Feel free to list them all in the comments below.

[via YouTube]

College kid shot in chest in dorm room during marijuana raid

by The Grand Rapids Press

UPDATE: Friends of Grand Valley student Derek Copp, shot by police in Campus View Apartments, accuse officers of overreacting

ALLENDALE -- Apartment neighbors of Grand Valley State University student Derek Copp say they cannot fathom what prompted police to shoot him late Wednesday in a drug-related raid.

Derek Copp

But they said they were aware of marijuana odors in the complex.

If you came down the hallway at the right time, you could smell the smoke," said Joe Putra, whose apartment door is in the same Campus View Apartments hallway as the shooting victim.

The 20-year-old student was in serious condition at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

Copp, a Spring Arbor native, has been at GVSU since 2007, the same year he graduated from Jackson Community College, according to his page on Facebook. He identifies himself as "a left-wing hippie peace-keeping liberal," who is seeking a film and video degree.

Copp plays the guitar and often volunteers at music festivals to see favorite bands for free, the social networking page states.

Putra described the wounded student as a "real nice guy" who was easy going. He said people would "come and go" to the apartment often, particularly last fall.

Still, he wondered why the student was shot.

"It must have been something more than just weed," he said.

Police said five officers with the West Michigan Enforcement Team, a regional drug unit, executed a search warrant on the apartment about 9 p.m. Wednesday.

An Ottawa County sheriff's detective assigned to WEMET fired one shot at the student, hitting him in the upper right chest. The student was unarmed, but police would not say whether they thought he posed a threat or what happened during the raid. The 12-year veteran deputy is on paid leave pending an investigation.

Michigan State police Lt. Cameron Henke also refused to disclose whether police found any drugs in the apartment.

Police discuss GVSU shooting

Brian Gardner, owner of Campus View Apartments, said such an incident has never happened in the complex's 42-year history. He described the complex as a quiet place where many of the university's more studious students live.

"This was just a once-in-a-blue-moon incident," he said.

He said students who live there sign a "no party" agreement that prohibits kegs and essentially classifies any gathering of more than eight people as a party.

"That's why it's so disappointing this happened," he said.

15 Free Downloads To Pep Up Your Old PC

Got an aging Windows laptop or desktop computer, but money's too tight to buy a new one? Here are some programs that will give it a quick system tuneup

read more | digg story

Norman Foster Unveils Twin Faceted Skyscrapers for Paris


by Mike Chino

norman foster and partners, hermitage plaza, sustainable architecture, green building, paris, BREEAM excellent, sustainable skyscraper, green high-rise

Norman Foster + Partners recently revealed the masterplan for a new sustainable community just outside of Paris complete with twin faceted skyscrapers that will be the tallest mixed-use towers in Western Europe. Dubbed Hermitage Plaza, the high-density development will create a a thriving community east of La Défense that is targeting a BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating - one of the world’s most widely used environmental assessment methods for architecture.

norman foster and partners, hermitage plaza, sustainable architecture, green building, paris, BREEAM excellent, sustainable skyscraper, green high-rise

Running alongside the Seine, Hermitage Plaza “will create a 24-hour community that will regenerate the riverfront and inject new life into a predominantly commercial part of the city.” The development will feature a hotel, spa, apartments, offices, and retail space in addition to a public piazza that runs all the way to the river’s edge. The twin triangle-faceted towers face each other at the ground level and twist as they rise to give stunning views of the city of light. Each tower features a high-performance glazed façade split into faceted panels that promote shading, and exterior vents can be opened for natural ventilation.

Paris has a history of vigorously fighting to preserve its skyline, so it will be interesting to see how the public receives this project. Hermitage Plaza is slated to break ground in 2010 and complete by the end of 2014.

+ Foster + Partners

Via Dezeen

norman foster and partners, hermitage plaza, sustainable architecture, green building, paris, BREEAM excellent, sustainable skyscraper, green high-rise

24 of the Strangest Diseases You’ve Ever Seen

Have you ever been dissatisfied with your life or perhaps have complained because of a disability condition that prevents you from doing things you’d like to do?Just be glad that you don’t have any of the rare conditions on this list. If you’re interested in weird phenomenon, take a look at this list of top 24 strange diseases.

read more | digg story

Jack White forms yet another new band, new CD

The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- No one can accuse Jack White of being lazy.

The rocker is already a member of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, and now White says he's formed a third band, The Dead Weather.

White announced the project Wednesday in Nashville and hosted a private party to hear the new CD and see a performance by the group. He says The Dead Weather's debut album, "Horehound," will be released in June on his Third Man record label.

Besides White, the new group includes Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes.

Both Fertita and Lawrence perform with White in The Raconteurs.

Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride and White's partner in the White Stripes, Meg White, were among more than 150 guests at the party.

Afterward, White said the group began as friends getting together to make music.

"The idea was to do a 7-inch single and be done with it, but we started writing songs and something happened," he said.

White says the band plans to tour this year.

Monkeys teach offspring to floss their teeth

Monkeys are able to teach their offspring how to floss their teeth, according to a new Japanese study.
Monkey flossing teeth in Bangkok: Monkeys teach offspring to floss their teeth
Thailand's long tailed macaque (L) displaying how to floss her teeth in fornt of her baby in LopBuri Photo: GETTY

Female monkeys living in a 250-strong colony were observed by scientists teaching their young how to use strands of hair to clean between their teeth.

The theory that primates are able to teach offspring how to use tools was confirmed by the discovery, according to Professor Nobuo Masataka of Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute, who conducted the study.

"I was surprised because teaching techniques on using tools properly to a third party are said to be an activity carried out only by humans," he said.

The study focused on the observation of seven female long-tailed macaques and interaction with their off spring at a colony of monkeys near Bangkok in Thailand.

The practice of teeth flossing doubled and became significantly more elaborate when they were in the presence of infant monkeys, suggesting that they were attempting to teach the technique to the young.

"The study is still at the hypothesis stage," said Professor Masataka.

"We would like to shift our focus to the baby monkeys to check whether the mothers' actions are effectively helping them learn how to clean their teeth."

First time on the course and golfer hits a hole-in-one

By Rodney Page, Times Staff Writer
Unni Haskell, 62, said she didn’t know a hole-in-one “was that big of a deal. I thought all golfers do this.”

Unni Haskell, 62, said she didn’t know a hole-in-one “was that big of a deal. I thought all golfers do this.

If you are a golfer who has played for any length of time, this story may make you want to quit the game. Or throw your morning coffee in disgust.

Unni Haskell, a 62-year-old native of Norway who moved to St. Petersburg last year from Stamford, Conn., took two months of golf lessons and decided she was ready to hit the course.

She stuck her tee in the ground, teed up a Top Flite range ball and took aim on the 100-yard first hole at Cypress Links, a nine-hole, par-3 course in St. Petersburg. Haskell swung as hard as she could with her purple Wilson ProStaff 12 degree driver. The shot went about 75 yards, avoided the bunker on the left, bounced onto the green and rolled in the hole.

First hole of her life. First swing on a course. Hole-in-one.

"I didn't know it was that big of a deal,'' she said. "I thought all golfers do this.''


It is not unprecedented. A golfer in England did it in October 2008 on a 140-yard hole. And in 2006, a junior golfer from Rockford, Ill., aced the first hole she played. Still, the odds of an amateur acing any par-3 hole are roughly 12,500 to one.

A late bloomer

Haskell has always been active. She has played tennis most of her life, but tried golf when she relocated with her husband, John. Mangrove Bay Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-72 facility, is down the street from her Venetian Isles home. She had a lesson with PGA teaching professional Rick Sopka and enjoyed it enough to sign up for eight half-hour sessions.

They took place mostly on the driving range. Sopka worked with her on iron shots, and every now and then they would tee up a driver.

Sopka had a different lesson planned for Haskell when she showed up on Feb. 25. She, however, talked Sopka into driving a golf cart to Cypress Links — the two city-owned courses are next to each other.

"We were going to do a putting lesson that day,'' Sopka said. "She said, no, she wanted to play. She didn't even hit a range ball. No warmup at all.''

Downhill from here

There is sand on the left of the first hole at Cypress Links, but the green is large. Haskell was hitting from the middle tee box, with the hole straight ahead in the center of the green.

"(Sopka) said you should find something to line the shot up,'' she said. "I saw a little leaf over there and I asked Rick if that was a good thing to line up with. He thought it looked good. Then I swung the club and Rick said it looked really good. He said it might go in the hole. Then he goes nuts. I couldn't believe it. I had to get Rick to take me up to the hole to prove it.''

The group on the second tee applauded. The golfers waiting behind Sopka and Haskell started shouting. The youngsters taking lessons on the putting green whooped it up.

"It's so crazy, it's one of those crazy things,'' Haskell said.

Sopka, a PGA member since 1998, has seen a lot as a teaching pro, but he has never seen this and probably never will again.

"She stood there and I could tell she was thinking about her grip and posture and everything,'' he said. "Then she makes her swing and hits it about 75 yards in the air. It kind of trundled up to the green and I'm like, 'Go in! Go in!' And then I go crazy, screaming and yelling. I give her a big hug. She didn't believe me.

"Then I said, 'Unni, here's the problem. There's nowhere to go from here but down.' ''

What's next?

Haskell followed her ace with 4 on the second hole and 6 on the third hole. She played six of the par-3 holes with Sopka by her side.

"I haven't played since, but I want to,'' Haskell said.

She received her hole-in-one certificate on Wednesday and plans to display it prominently in the house. And when people ask her about it, she can launch into the story about how it was her first swing ever on a golf course.

"I still can't believe it,'' she said.

Rodney Page can be reached at, or (727) 893-8810.

Solar panels in the Sahara 'could power the whole of Europe'

A solar power plant in the Mojave Desert

(Solar Systems/AP)

A solar power plant in the Mojave Desert

All of Europe’s energy needs could be supplied by building an array of solar panels in the Sahara, the climate change conference has been told.

Technological advances combined with falling costs have made it realistic to consider North Africa as Europe’s main source of imported energy. By harnessing the power of the Sun, possibly in tandem with wind farms along the North African coastline, Europe could easily meet its 2020 target of generating at least 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.

“It [North Africa] could supply Europe with all the energy it needs,” Anthony Patt, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, in Austria, told scientists. “The Sun is very strong there and it is very reliable.

“There is a growing number of cost estimates of both wind and concentrated solar power for North Africa that start to compare favourably with alternative technologies. The cost of moving \ long distances has really come down.”

Dr Patt said only a fraction of the Sahara, probably the size of a small country, needed to be covered to extract enough energy to supply the whole of Europe. He told the conference that calculations show that a £50 billion investment by governments over the next ten years would be enough to make Saharan solar power an attractive and viable prospect for private investors.

Solar power uses mirrors to focus the Sun’s rays at a thin pipe containing either water or salt. The rays boil the water or turn the salt molten and the energy is extracted by using the heat to power turbines.

Trials of concentrated solar power are being planned for Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Dubai. Libya and Tunisia could also be considered as sources of European electricity.

Receiving energy from North Africa would, the conference heard, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which drive climate change by emitting carbon dioxide. The renewable source of energy would also mean that Europe relied less on Russia and the Middle East for fuel.

Attractive as Saharan solar power is, Dr Patt said, there remained the challenge of overcoming political hurdles, such as opposition from residents across Europe to having transmission cables installed near their homes. Piecemeal transmission networks were a further problem.

However, he was enthusiastic about the “fantastic wind resource” and the potential of putting wind farms along the North African coast. Winds created by the Sun heating the air are especially strong during the summer, when European wind turbines, including those in Britain, are at their least productive.

I.T. always fun always challenging!!!

Sears Tower to be renamed Willis Tower

'WILLIS TOWER' | World's No. 3 insurance firm hoists its name onto nation's tallest building

March 13, 2009

Sears Tower is no more, made obsolete by a company with an edifice complex.

The 110-story Chicago giant will be renamed Willis Tower under a leasing deal announced Thursday. The New York-based owners signed a lease with Willis Group Holdings Ltd., an insurance broker, for 140,000 square feet plus the naming rights.

Willis is the third-biggest company in its field, but it's taking on No. 1, Chicago's Aon Corp., in its own backyard. Like Aon, Willis likes to plaster its name on big buildings.

Under Chairman Joseph Plumeri, Willis put its name on a new London office building that opened last July amid pomp featuring the duke of York.

In Chicago, Willis will have bragging rights with its name on the former Sears Tower, the nation's tallest building. Aon, whose founding chairman is the name-conscious Patrick Ryan, attached itself in 2001 to the former Amoco Building, the fifth-tallest building in the United States and No. 2 in Chicago.

While fighting each other for business accounts worldwide, the two companies now have competing architectural symbols in Chicago.

Willis said it will consolidate five Chicago area offices and move 500 employees into the tower. The company said it is paying $14.50 per square foot in rent and that the naming rights come with no additional cost.

But the Sears Tower owners immediately disputed that point. Also, many Chicagoans hit the Internet to criticize the renaming, with some doubting it would take hold in the public's mind. Some of the tower's tenants were mad, too.

The relocation is expected to be done by late summer.

"Having our name associated with Chicago's most iconic structure underscores our commitment to this great city and recognizes Chicago's importance as a major financial hub and international business center," Plumeri said in a press release.

Michael Kazmierczak, who negotiated the lease on behalf of the owners, insisted, "There is significant consideration for the naming rights." Kazmierczak, senior vice president of U.S. Equities Realty, said a renaming won't confuse people or limit the tower's appeal.

"The image of this building is known worldwide," he said. "Like anything else, it will take time for this move to take root."

A tenant at the tower, architect Daniel Coffey, said the renaming "is beyond the pale of stupid" because of Sears Tower's international prestige. "It's awful. No one knows who Willis is, even in Europe,'' said Coffey, principal of Daniel P. Coffey & Associates Ltd. He said he has two years left on his lease and that the renaming could lead him to move.

Since 2004, Sears Tower has been owned by a group led by New York investors Joseph Chetrit, Joseph Moinian and Steve Bederman and including Yisroel Gluck and John Huston of Skokie-based American Landmark Properties Ltd.

Real estate experts wondered why the owners handed naming rights to a tenant that will take only 3.5 percent of the 3.8 million-square-foot building. In 2005, naming rights were on the table in lease talks with computer seller CDW Corp., which was a potentially bigger tenant. CDW wound up at 120 S. Riverside.

For its own naming deal, Aon occupies about 25 percent of its namesake tower. Like Willis, it has no ownership share in the structure.

David Prosperi, a spokesman for Aon, said building names don't matter much, even though his company has spent an undisclosed sum to buy the rights on skyscrapers in Chicago and Los Angeles. "What matters to clients is the quality of services that you provide," he said.

Ryan could not be reached. He has stepped back from activities at Aon while he runs the Chicago 2016 Olympic campaign.

Sears Tower opened in 1973 as the corporate headquarters for Sears, Roebuck and Co., but the company left for Hoffman Estates in 1992. Kim Freely, a spokeswoman for Sears Holdings Corp., said the company never had naming rights after it left the building.

"We're sad to see this," she said, "but we believe the name will have a way of living on, just the way people keeping calling U.S. Cellular Field Comiskey Park."

Willis said it will consolidate offices at 10 S. LaSalle, 1 E. Wacker and 222 N. Riverside, along with locations in Oak Brook and Lombard. Cushman & Wakefield Inc. represented Willis in the leasing talks.

The Sun-Times has reported that the owners are considering another radical change to the tower, recoating it silver. The move could save energy as well as promote other changes the building is making in a bid to win new tenants.


Rentable space: 3.8 million square feet

Percent vacancy: 15.8

Typical floor size: 34,373 square feet

Quoted rents: $14 to $21 per square foot

No. of tenants: More than 90

The Work Pyramid

How are you allocating the hours of your workday? Well, since you might not even be aware of where your day goes, we thought we'd show you with the "Work Pyramid." (It's sort of like the "Food Pyramid" except it's...ya instead of food.)

Thor & The Avengers Delayed! NOOOOOOOOOO

By Kellvin Chavez

Paving the way for the production and release of "The Avengers," Marvel announced today an adjusted release pipeline for its self-produced feature film properties that reflects the first time individual super hero characters and story arcs will be inter-woven and culminate in a multi-character motion picture.

As per the revised schedule, the release date of the multi-character superhero film 'The Avengers' has been extended by about a year to May 4, 2012, from July 15, 2011.

'Thor', the big-screen adaptation of one of Marvel's popular comic book characters, will now release on June 17, 2011, instead of July 16, 2010, the company said.

"This new schedule strongly sequences Marvel's movie debut dates, big screen character introductions and momentum. It maximizes the visibility of our single character-focused films, leading to the highly anticipated release of the multi-character 'The Avengers' film in 2012," said David Maisel, Chairman, Marvel Studios.

The company now plans to release 'The First Avenger: Captain America' on July 22, 2011, instead of May 6, 2011.

However, 'Iron Man 2' will be released as scheduled on May 7, 2010, Marvel said.

Marvel also confirmed that Sony Pictures will release 'Spider-Man 4' on May 6, 2011. Marvel has licensed theatrical rights of Spider-Man, its most popular character, to the unit of Sony.


How Tony Hawk spends his family vacation to Japan...skating

While on a family vacation to Japan, we (Riley, my brother Steve and I) decided to break out and find the nearest skatepark. Kyoto is not an easy place to get around by train... especially when you don't read or speak Japanese.

iPhone OS 3.0 is coming, preview on March 17th

We just got the announcement, iPhone OS 3.0 is coming. Set your clocks, mark your calendars. It's going down March 17th. Apparently, we'll get a sneak peak at the new OS, as well as a look at a brand new version of the SDK. Exciting stuff indeed, and we'll be there live at 10am PST (1pm EST) with the liveblog. Apple's calling this an "advance preview of what we're building," so we're not expecting anything ready to go as of the 17th, but hopefully this will allow developers to start building toward future functionality (hey, how about some push notifications?), and presumably users won't have too many months to wait after that for the real deal.

Milwaukee Man Accidentally Buys Stolen Meterorite for $10

The 50-pound hunk of metal Tom Lynch had been using to hold up his grandson’s basketball hoop is actually a meteorite, by some estimates worth as much as $100,000.

This story begins not in a galaxy far away, but at a Milwaukee rummage sale a few years ago. Tom Lynch paid $10 for an odd hunk of metal he figured might be copper or bronze with potential salvage value.

He had no idea it had dropped from space into the Arizona desert some 50,000 years ago.

"For the last two years, it kept my grandson's basketball hoop from blowing over in the yard. It weighs 50 pounds," said Lynch, a retired foundry and General Motors worker who lives in South Milwaukee.

Recently, he saw a show about meteorites on the Travel Channel and realized that's probably what he had. It was curious, he thought, that the thing never oxidized in the weather. Following advice from the TV show, he held a magnet up to the object and it stuck.

He took his 4.6 billion-year-old find to the Milwaukee Public Museum and then to Chicago's Field Museum last month. The scientists got excited. Yes, they said, it's a meteorite.

He got one offer from a collector for $10,000, but soon had a sense from Internet research that a meteorite with this unique basket shape might fetch closer to $100,000.

Before he could get too excited, a call came from Jim DuFoe, a minerals expert he had consulted. Bad news, DuFoe said. The meteorite was stolen in 1968 from the Meteor Crater Visitor Center near Flagstaff. He had himself a hot rock.

DuFoe remembers Lynch's reply: "We can't sell what we don't own."

D.B. King photo
Tom Lynch’s rock traveled to Earth with the Canyon Diablo meteor, which created Meteor Crater in Arizona about 50,000 years ago.

So Lynch plans to toss the meteorite in the car and personally deliver it to the visitor center on the crater's edge.

"It was going along pretty good there for a while. I've been really lucky in my life, so this doesn't faze me," he said.

"I've got mixed emotions. I'm glad it's going back and a lot of people will be able to see it. And I'm feeling sorry I didn't get $100,000 for it."

Lynch, 62, is more of a car buff than a space nut, but he's getting a kick out of his meteoric leap into the geological realm.

Conversation piece

On Tuesday, he invited me to see the meteorite at Market Place Café, a restaurant he likes in Oak Creek. The deceivingly heavy chunk of mostly iron and nickel sat on a table in the basement banquet room, and a stream of customers and employees came to see and photograph it.

DuFoe was there, and so was Peter Sheehan, curator of geology at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Sheehan said he regularly is approached by people who think they have a meteorite. It's usually slag from the foundry process.

"I think in 30-some years I've identified one other, maybe two," he said.

At the Chicago museum, where they sawed off a little piece for analysis, they were similarly thrilled by Lynch's find. "It was like a 'Tom and Jerry' moment. Eyeballs bulged and jaws hit the floor," said DuFoe, who runs a business out of Rockton, Ill., called Geoscience Collections Services.

The 10-inch-tall meteorite is brownish with knobby protrusions and little caves and dents and what looks like a handle. It traveled here as part of the massive Canyon Diablo meteor, which strayed from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and said hello to Earth with a crater not quite a mile wide and 550 feet deep. Most of the meteor vaporized on impact.

More than 250,000 people a year visit the site, which opened as an attraction in 1942, said Brad Andes, president of Meteor Crater Enterprises.

The basket meteorite now held by Tom Lynch was found by a rancher three miles from the crater and permanently lent to the Meteor Crater facility. Because of its novel shape, it was a favorite piece, and in fact was featured on a postcard the museum used to sell (which now is peddled on eBay).

On Aug. 12, 1968, someone walked away with the meteorite, according to an article in the Yuma newspaper. At the time, the value was placed at $5,000, and the Coconino County sheriff issued a nationwide bulletin for its return.

About five years ago, Andes received a phone call from a lawyer who said he represented the family who had the piece. "He wouldn't give me his name. The people were really paranoid about the legal ramifications of having that in their possession," Andes said.

The lawyer hinted at a reward, but Andes said thieves don't deserve that. The man never called back. Lynch does not remember where the rummage sale was where he made the find.

Lynch said the visitor center is rewarding him with $1,000, which he is happily accepting. Andes said Lynch is doing the honest thing and the decent thing, which is no guarantee in the world of meteorite collectors. "That says a lot about his character," Andes said.

A tribute to Lynch will be posted at the museum, and the basket meteorite will once again be displayed. Under glass this time.

Call Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or e-mail at

Homes Of The Billionaires

Where the world's richest head at the end of the day... In today's tough economic climate, Warren Buffett is setting a good example. The world's second richest man lives in the same five-bedroom, gray stucco house he bought in 1958 for $31,500.

read more | digg story

Prague, Berlin & Amsterdam, From $1,999


This nine-night air/train/hotel package divides your time between three European capitals, each with its own flavor and sense of fun.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany (Jon Arnold/JAI/Corbis) [enlarge photo]
The Real Deal Round-trip international airfare (arriving in Prague and returning from Amsterdam), one-way rail transportation in second class between Prague and Berlin and Berlin and Amsterdam, daily buffet-style breakfasts, hotel taxes, service charges, and fuel surcharges, from $1,999 per person—plus estimated airport taxes and fees of $155.

When Apr. 1–May 31; Aug. 31–Oct. 25, 2009; add $300 for June 1–Aug. 30. Note that Apr. 10–13 and May 20–23 are closed-out dates for Hotel Victoria in Prague (prices will be higher if available); Apr. 9–14 are closed-out dates for Express by Holiday Inn Berlin City Centre (prices will be higher if available).

Gateways D.C., New York City; add $235 for Miami; $315 for Chicago; $355 for Houston; $365 for Denver; $385 for L.A.; $499 for Seattle; additional gateways are available.

The Fine Print Taxes are estimated at an additional $155 per person. You'll receive open-ended rail tickets that are valid for travel on any scheduled passenger train traveling between the stations listed on the ticket; you can look up possible train schedules here. Seat reservations are optional and are not required on most of the trains. Airport-hotel transfers are not included but can be purchased for an additional $69 per car each way in Prague; $231 per car each way in Berlin; and $155 per car each way in Amsterdam (limit three passengers per car). Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $549. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book By No deadline; based on availability. All bookings must be made at least 14 days prior to departure date.

Contact Austrian Airlines Vacation Center, 800/790-4682,

Why It's a Deal According to a recent search on Kayak, multicity flights from New York City—arriving in Prague and returning from Amsterdam—start at $627 with taxes for travel in early April (Northwest) and $825 in early September (multiple carriers). For an additional $1,329 or $1,527, depending on the time of year you go, the Train Trio package covers international airfare as well as two one-way rail tickets; nine nights' accommodations divided between Prague, Berlin, and Amsterdam; daily breakfast; hotel taxes; service fees; fuel surcharges; and airport taxes. You also get the convenience of booking all these elements at once through Austrian Airlines Vacation Center.

Itinerary Begin with three nights at the 42-room Hotel Victoria in Prague, only three stops by tram (or a 15-minute walk) from Wenceslas Square or Republic Square. A train ride brings you to Berlin, where you'll check into the 251-room Express by Holiday Inn Berlin City Centre, a short walk from Potsdamer Platz, for a three-night stay. Then catch the train to Amsterdam, for three nights at the 50-room Hotel Avenue or the 75-room Hotel Bellevue.

More No sightseeing tours are included; choose from a variety of optional activities, such as a three-hour walking tour of Prague from $26 per person or a two-hour bus tour of Berlin with 15 stops throughout the city for $40 per person. Choices in Holland range from a $30-per-person half-day historical tour on a bicycle to a half-day tour of The Hague and Delft from $57 per person. If you'd like to extend your stay, additional nights start at $70 per person for a double and $122 for a single room at Hotel Victoria in Prague, $90 per person for a double or $175 for a single room at Express by Holiday Inn City Centre in Berlin, and $122 per person for a double and $189 for a single room at Hotel Avenue or Hotel Bellevue in Amsterdam.

Before You Go For up-to-date travel information, visit the official tourism websites of the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands.


The Nicolas Cage Movie Plot Generator


1. Nicolas Cage is an Oscar winning Hollywood movie star who abruptly quit acting at the height of his abilities.

2. He has starred in dozens of films since that time.

3. Cage is one of the youngest actors ever to enter the "Seriously, I Don't Give a Shit" stage of his career. And while actors like Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro have perfected the art of phoning-in a performance, nobody has quite matched Cage's ability to make us wonder if he's fucking with us.

4. Post giving a shit, Cage films are plotted in much the way burritos are ordered at Chipotle. By choosing different combinations from a small, fixed menu, Cage has been able to release an endless variety of barely different films.

The Nicolas Cage Movie Plot Generator:

The Post Giving-a-Fuck Nicolas Cage Movie Generator


While Mr. Cage's hair is always atrocious, he has been known to switch ridiculous hair styles from one film to the next. This is done so that audiences can tell his movies apart. For instance: Bizarre lack of sideburns=National Treasure, Long hair combined with absurdly big forhead =Next

However, sometimes Cage fails to make his hair uniquely weird enough from one film to the next, as in these two screen grabs taken from two seperate movies:

Or these three:

for the full Cracked here:

Medical Marijuana Passes MN House Civil Justice Committee!

Minnesota Cares logo

MARCH 11, 2009

Medical Marijuana Passes House Civil Justice Committee Without Dissent

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)......................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The House version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill passed the House Civil Justice Committee this morning in a voice vote with no dissenting votes. The vote came after powerful testimony from Joni Whiting, whose adult daughter's suffering was relieved by medical marijuana while she was undergoing treatment for the melanoma that eventually took her life.

"It really feels like the momentum is building and this is the year we're going to get this done," said Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. "One-quarter of the country now protects medical marijuana patients from arrest, and there is simply no reason to use Minnesota's police resources to arrest the sick for trying to relieve their suffering."

A previous version of the bill passed the Senate and every House committee in the 2007-2008 session, but was never brought up for a vote on the House floor.

Thirteen states, comprising approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population, now permit medical use of marijuana under state law if a physician has recommended it. The newest such law was enacted by Michigan voters last November, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reaffirmed on Feb. 25 that the Obama administration intends to pursue a policy of non-interference with these state laws. A number of other states are considering medical marijuana legislation this year, including New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Man survives plunge over Niagara Falls

By Gary Bender

(CNN) -- A man went over Niagara Falls and survived Wednesday afternoon, one of the few people to ever survive the plunge unprotected, authorities said.

It is unclear whether the man chose not to aid in his rescue or was physically unable to do so, officials say.

It is unclear whether the man chose not to aid in his rescue or was physically unable to do so, officials say.

The man was seen entering the icy water just above Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side, and apparently jumped in about 2:15 p.m, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Fire Chief Lee Smith said.

Smith said the unidentified man was in the near-freezing water for "40-plus" minutes before he was rescued by Niagara Parks Police and Niagara Falls firefighter Todd Brunning.

Brunning, who was tethered to shore, swam about 60 meters (nearly 200 feet) into the river and was able to get hold of the man and bring him to shore.

Niagara Parks Police initially used a helicopter from a private company, Niagara Falls Helicopters, to attempt a rescue of the man. When that failed, they used the wind from the chopper's rotors to push the man closer to shore, Smith said.

Video Watch chopper hover over man in icy water »

He said the man was "being rotated in a cyclic fashion" by the river's very strong currents.

The man did not aid in his rescue, officials said, though it was not immediately clear whether he was physically unable to or he did not want to do so.

Niagara Falls Fire Capt. Dave Belme said the man was not wearing any clothes when he was rescued, but he added that it's not unexpected for a person to lose things while being washed down the falls.

The man's "chances of survival without the quick response would be lessened," Smith said.

All of the agencies train for situations like this, he said, and they are put to the test about a dozen times a year. Still, he called Wednesday's rescue "amazing."

Holi: The Art of Coloring People

Holi, also called the Festival of Colors, is a popular Hindu spring festival observed in India, and many other countries around the world. Holi, is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and colored water at each other. Bonfires are lit the day before, also known as Holika Dahan (death of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). Holi is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalugna which usually falls in the later part of February or March. In 2009, Holi (Dhulandi) is on 11th March. [30 PICS]

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The 10 Most Overlooked Band Members

We all know that being in a band is a team effort. It’s never a one-man show. So it’s unfortunate sometimes when fans just assume the lead singer writes all the lyrics and the guitarist is the only one composing the music. This is why we need to give a few shout-outs to some of the most talented musicians in the industry who rarely get respect...

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The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist

In February 2003, Leonardo Notarbartolo was arrested for heading a ring of Italian thieves. They were accused of breaking into a vault two floors beneath the Antwerp Diamond Center and making off with at least $100 million worth of loose diamonds, gold, jewelry, and other spoils. The loot was never found...

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HoloTV Images Jump off the Screen, into Tomorrow's Homes (w/Video)

March 12th, 2009 By Lisa Zyga HoloTV Images Jump off the Screen, into Tomorrow's Homes


A holoTV image of a man walking appears in front of a transparent screen. Excerpt from video below. Credit: José J. Lunazzi, et al.

( -- Unlike today’s biggest and most realistic LCD and plasma TVs, 3D TV screens can project images that seem to float in mid-air beyond the screen. That means, for instance, that viewers could watch basketball players dribble in front of, next to, or behind the TV screen as they go for a lay-up.

In a recent study, a team of researchers has developed a type of 3D called “holoTV,” which works a bit differently than a standard system. The holoTV system projects a or animation onto a white-light screen, creating an image that appears to float in front of the screen. Viewers don’t need to wear special to view the floating images, which have the appearance of , although the system is not volumetric. The scientists, from the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the High Polytechnic Institute José Antonio Echeverría in Havana, Cuba, have published their study in a recent issue of Optics Letters.

“3D TV is a general term, which can be applied to all systems where depth is perceived, but usually requires goggles,” lead author José Lunazzi, a professor at the University of Campinas, explained to “Only holoTV and holography have continuous parallax, which means that when the observer moves his head, he can see different views without discontinuities.”

As Lunazzi explained, holography is academically defined as an object’s light wave interfering with a reference wave. One proposed technique for holographic TV involves using a laser to render the images, as in conventional holography, but registering electronically. However, this scheme requires the detection to have 10 times more resolution than is currently available, even to produce very small images, making holographic TV impractical for now.

In contrast, Lunazzi and his colleagues refer to their technique as holoTV, a term they adopted in 1990. Unlike holographic TV, holoTV doesn’t involve a reference wave. Instead, as in the researchers’ current holoTV system, holographic images are created from projection in a diffractive screen made by the splitting and subsequent interference of a light beam on a holographic film.

“3D images are impressive when they appear in front of a support, like ghosts which your hand goes through,” Lunazzi said. “These images are often named ‘floating images,’ which don’t require goggles. The support may be so transparent that it is not perceived. Other systems show images on transparent screens which are 2D, and to be more impressive they say ‘holographic images’ when they are actually ‘ghost images.’ These can be of large size, as seen in shows, but viewers who are close can notice the lack of depth.”

In the researchers’ set-up to make the screen, a laser emits a beam that is divided in two by a beam splitter. One of the beams is reflected by a mirror and then reaches a spatial filter, which causes the beam to diverge. The second beam travels through a cylindrical lens that causes that beam to diverge in only one direction, and then passes through a diffuser.

Then the two wide beams intersect at a 45° angle, and their interference is recorded on a holographic film, which becomes the 60cm x 30cm screen. When projecting on the screen, each wavelength of the white-light beam converges at a different position beyond the screen, so that a viewer’s left and right eyes receive light at different wavelengths (different colors), each composed of many beams converging toward the eyes. The projection makes each eye receive a different view to compose the scene as a natural one.

Using a diffraction grating, the researchers demonstrated how to project the image in front, behind, or next to the screen. The diffraction causes a blur on the screen, and the wider the blur, the greater the distance between the image and the diffraction grating - and the greater the depth of the image. One example the researchers demonstrated is an image of a man walking, which is projected 27cm in front of the screen. When sitting 140cm from the screen, a viewer would have a narrow field of view of 24cm (or 11°), enough to accommodate small head movements.

“Two or three persons can watch, in fact, if seated along a line,” Lunazzi said. “To achieve a larger angle, greater diffractive power is needed and could be obtained by larger interference angles on the recording of the screen. New materials should in fact be used to obtain higher diffraction efficiency to reduce the effect of the ambient light.” The researchers have already constructed improved screens, and plan to publish the results in upcoming papers.

Many other recent studies have been investigating 3D TV technology, which is already commercially available in Japan, although viewers must wear goggles. There is still limited viewing content, since only specially recorded shows can be viewed on 3D TVs: a scene must be filmed from many sides and then incorporated into a single image to be projected in 3D. Ideally, a holoTV would produce floating images that can be viewed at any angle, be updated quick enough to allow for smooth TV viewing, and be affordable. Whether hung flat on a wall or set like a checkerboard on a coffee table, holographic and holoTV displays could bring TV action into the living room.

Besides TV, other applications could include 3D advertisements in department store windows, as well as medical uses. For example, surgeons currently need to take multiple 2D scans to view organs from different angles, but 3D imaging could give them a fuller, more realistic view.

More information: José J. Lunazzi; Daniel S. F. Magalhães; Noemí I. R. Rivera; and Rolando L. Serra. “Holo-television system with a single plane.” February 15, 2009 / Vol. 34, No. 4 / Optics Letters.

Copyright 2009
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of

Lithium breakthrough could charge batteries in 10 seconds

A new version of lithium battery technology can either provide a higher storage density than current batteries, or can charge and discharge as fast as a supercapacitor, emptying its entire charge in under 10 seconds.

By John Timmer
Lithium breakthrough could charge batteries in 10 seconds
Lithium-iron-phosphate particles.

It's getting difficult to overstate the importance of battery technology. Compact, high-capacity batteries are an essential part of portable electronics already, but improved batteries are likely to play a key role in the auto industry, and may eventually appear throughout the electric grid, smoothing over interruptions in renewable power sources. Unfortunately, battery technology often involves a series of tradeoffs among factors like capacity, charging time, and usable cycles. Today's issue of Nature reports on a new version of lithium battery technology that may just be a game-changer.

The new work involves well-understood technology, relying on lithium ions as charge carriers within the battery. But the lithium resides in a material that was designed specifically to allow it to move through the battery quickly, which means charges can be shifted in and out of storage much more rapidly than in traditional formulations of lithium batteries. The net result is a battery that, given the proper electrodes, can perform a complete discharge in under 10 seconds—the sort of performance previously confined to the realm of supercapacitors.

This appears to be one of those cases where applications badly lagged theory. Since lithium ions are the primary charge carriers in most batteries, the rates of charging and discharging the batteries wind up proportional to the speed at which lithium ions can move within the battery material. Real-world battery experience would suggest that lithium moves fairly slowly through most types of batteries, but theoretical calculations suggested that there was no real reason that should be the case—lithium should be able to move quite briskly.

A number of recent papers suggested that, in at least one lithium battery class (based on LiFePO4), the problem wasn't the speed at which lithium moved—instead, it could only enter and exit crystals of this salt at specific locations. This, in turn, indicated that figuring a way to speed up this process would increase the overall performance of the battery.

To accomplish this, the authors developed a process that created a disorganized lithium phosphate coating on the surfaces of LiFePO4 crystals. By tweaking the ratio of iron to phosphorous in the starting mix and heating the material to 600°C under argon for ten hours, the authors created a material that has a glass-like coating that's less than 5nm thick, which covers the surface of pellets that are approximately 50nm across. That outer coating has very high lithium mobility, which allows charge to rapidly move into and out of storage in the LiFePO4 of the core of these pellets. In short, because lithium can move quickly through this outer coating, it can rapidly locate and enter the appropriate space on the LiFePO4 crystals.

The results are pretty astonishing. At low discharge rates, a cell prepared from this material discharges completely to its theoretical limit (~166mAh/g). As the authors put it, "Capacity retention of the material is superior." Running it through 50 charge/discharge cycles revealed no significant change in the total capacity of the battery.

But the truly surprising features of the cell came when the authors tweaked the cathode to allow higher currents to be run into the cell. Increasing the rate by a factor of 100 dropped the total capacity down to about 110mAh/g, but increased the power rate by two orders of magnitude (that's a hundred-fold increase) compared to traditional lithium batteries. Amazingly, under these conditions, the charge capacity of the battery actually increased as it underwent more charge/discharge cycles. Doubling the charge transport from there cut the capacity in half, but again doubled the power rate. At this top rate, the entire battery would discharge in as little as nine seconds. That sort of performance had previously only been achieved using supercapacitors.

At this point, the authors calculate, the primary limiting factor is no longer storing lithium in the battery; instead, getting the lithium in contact with an electrode is what slows things down. The electrodes also become a problem because they need to occupy more of the volume of the battery in order to maintain this rate of charge, which lowers the charge density. That's a major contributor to the halving of the battery's capacity mentioned in the previous paragraph.

A more significant problem is that these batteries may wind up facing an electric grid that was never meant to deal with them. A 1Wh cell phone battery could charge in 10 seconds, but would pull a hefty 360W in the process. A battery that's sufficient to run an electric vehicle could be fully charged in five minutes—which would make electric vehicles incredibly practical—but doing so would pull 180kW, which is most certainly not practical.

Nature, 2009. DOI: 10.1038/nature07853

London Restaurant Uses Touchpads for Orders, Projectors for Mood Alteration

By Jose Fermoso Email


The Inamo restaurant in London's fashionable SoHo district isn't known for its splendid food or outstandingly accommodating waitresses.

Instead, the new Asian fusion eatery is getting raves for its use of a touch pad-projection system that allows diners to send food orders directly to the chefs and makes the dining experience fully interactive.

Every table at Inamo has its own image projector above (see pic at right), meaning every person essentially gets to eat off a giant computer screen. This allows the restaurant to offer several interesting experiences, like selecting the mood of the table by choosing between different 'place mat' images and videos. According to a recent diner, the rig is based on a flash/actionscript system.

Blackcod_fish When you're waiting for your meal to arrive, you can click on a kitchen camera that let's you see your food being prepared, play different types of computer board games (like Battleship), and when you're done, you can separate bills and boot up a map to figure out your next move around town.

But for me, the best part seems to be that when you're choosing through potential dining options, a picture of the food appears on the plate where you'll be eating it. I'm not sure if the size of the picture approximates the size of the actual meal, but I think this is better than just the syrupy, dramatized meal explanation one usually gets.

As for the circular touch pad, it seems pretty basic, though I do worry about whether the restaurant changes its surface once in awhile to clean it. Otherwise, you have to rely on other people's hand-washing abilities or dip your hand in a tub of Purella before taking a bite.

Even though your ordering experience is pretty much automated, every table does have a waiter that brings over the meal and answers questions about the system.

Check out a few more pictures of the Inamo restaurant after the jump.


The projectors at a standstill before the diners come in. Dan.Pan.*/flickr


You can check out the Kitchen cam from your own table. Phillie Casablanca/Flickr




This is how you choose the different color moods. Phil Hawksworth/flickr


Finding out the subway routes on the table. Phil Hawksworth/flickr



Playing Battleship and drinking now go together. Phillie Casablanca/Flickr





Actual food, looks too much like tapas' 'small plate' dining for my taste. Dan.Pan.*/flickr

Insert Photo: lauronsky/Flickr

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