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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Phelps ads prove a new cultural tolerance of marijuana

Michael Phelps
Graham Hughes / Canadian Press
Michael Phelps kept all but one of his endorsement deals after the bong scandal broke. Apparently, advertisers saw little downside to being associated with the 14-time Olympic gold medalist.
Dan Neil
July 7, 2009
Super-swimmer Michael Phelps returned to big-time advertising Sunday with a TV spot for Subway titled "Be Yourself." Oh, the irony.

Surely Phelps -- 14-time Olympic gold medalist and endorsement juggernaut -- was being only himself, only human, when he was photographed in November hitting a bong at a party at the University of South Carolina. That photograph, first published by the British tabloid News of the World in January, resulted in a three-month competition ban and cost Phelps a reported $500,000 deal with Kellogg. The swimmer promptly issued a sniveling apology, copping to "regrettable," "inappropriate" and "youthful" behavior (doesn't the latter want to excuse the former?). Phelps, 24, has more or less cheerfully dined on PR ashes ever since, in interviews with Matt Lauer, among others.

Interestingly, the apology from the world's fittest stoner infuriated proponents of legal weed, who saw the episode as a missed opportunity to advance the cause. After all, if Aqua-Man smokes bud, how bad can it be?

This is the greatest Olympian of all time, a man chandeliered with gold medals on the cover of Sports Illustrated. His achievements mock the moral hysteria that traditionally rains down on marijuana.

The Subway ad itself is nothing special. It's a compare-and-contrast between Phelps' glamorous life as a sports superstar and that of Jared Fogle, Subway's former-fatty mascot. Jared prefers the low-fat sweet-onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich, while metabolic dynamo Phelps dares to eat the foot-long Meatball Marinara with Jalapeño, containing 1,060 calories and more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium.

Eating these will not make you an Olympic swimmer. A floating island, maybe.

Culture deconstructionists will pick the spot apart for oblique references to the scandal. Phelps' chin whiskers are kind of bro-ish, for instance. He does look a trifle baked (could be the chlorine). AdWeek's Eleftheria Parpis wrote that "you can almost hear all the blunts lighting up in support as Sly & The Family Stone's 'Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)' kicks in."

And it really is too bad that the sandwich franchise's website is subwayfreshbuzz.com.

Even so, the Phelps-bong scandal seems to have been safely put to bed, and now that it has, it's worth asking, what have we learned? The consequences to Phelps -- actually, the lack of consequences -- suggest that something bigger than mere endorsement dollars is in play. It seems Phelps has moved the weed needle.

Yes, USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body, suspended Phelps for three months, time he used to whip himself into shape after his post-Olympic bacchanal. (The organization also withheld its monthly stipend, an amount that probably wouldn't put gas in Phelps' Bentley.)

Yes, Kellogg declined to re-up with Phelps, but tellingly, other endorsement deals remained intact: Speedo, Omega, Subway and Mazda China. Subway didn't hesitate to stand by its man (though it did postpone the current ad campaign six months to let the agita die down). Mazda required Phelps to record a minute-long mea culpa directed at the people of China -- mortifying but harmless. In June, Phelps inked a deal with H2O Audio, maker of high-end waterproof headphones.

In other words, there were no serious consequences. To the extent that endorsement opportunities are a rough metric of how well someone in public life is liked, admired, respected, the bong-heard-round-the-world scandal might as well never have happened. With the benefit of hindsight, Kellogg execs might well be kicking themselves.

You could ascribe the missing fallout to Phelps' incredible personal magnetism or -- far more likely -- to the fact that advertisers saw little downside to being associated with bong-meister Phelps.

Nor should they. Across the board, marijuana is being steadily decriminalized and de-stigmatized. In a Field Poll in May, 56% of Californians favored legalization, slightly ahead of the roughly half of Americans who favor such a move. Thirteen states have legalized medical marijuana, and three more are considering it. In a dozen states, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is not illegal. One hundred million Americans have smoked pot, and about 14 million use it regularly, according to federal government studies. U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder has said the federal government would no longer raid California medical marijuana dispensaries.

Ethan Nadelmann, of the legalization-advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance, told the Associated Press last month: "This is the first time I feel like the wind is at my back and not in my face."

I'm sure, given the choice, Phelps would prefer not to be a milestone on the road to the marijuana's mainstreaming. Still, what we're witnessing is the death of a certain kind of shame.

Advertising -- and that's what celebrity-athlete endorsements are -- is a highly sensitive antenna of culture. Because it strives to reach, hold and please the greatest number of people, it represents a special threshold of cultural acceptance, the floorboards of the norm. The return of brand Phelps says more about us than it does about him.

dan.neil@latimes.com

Michael Jackson Funeral - CNN

'The best father you could ever imagine'

updated 7 minutes ago

'The best father you could ever imagine'

Michael Jackson's golden casket was placed in front of the stage at his memorial as millions of grieving fans said goodbye to the "King of Pop." After star-studded performances, family members took the stage for an emotional farewell. Jackson's daughter Paris fought tears as she said how much she loved him. developing story

A Virtual Tour of Michael Jackson’s Arcade Room

Jacksonvideogame

It was reported a few days ago that Michael Jackson spent insane amount of money on videogames. He was reported to had spent over $500,000 on video games alone. An inside scoop of his arcade room has been revealed!

HERE’S MY ADMISSION TICKET, LOAD THE VIRTUAL TOUR ALREADY

As you can see from the virtual tour and the screenshots there are enough arcades and Star Wars props to make any geeks drool. Lets all just hope that they will start letting the public play in there instead of just closing it up for good.

Disquieting Bedtime Stories with Mary-Louise Parker: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The first in a weekly series of readings from classic works, brought to you straight from the bedroom of a Woman We Love.

mary louise parker ass showing naked

Want More Mary-Louise Parker?

Pick up the August issue of Esquire, featuring helpful cooking advice and new photographs, on sale July 14. Oh, and Weeds is on Monday nights. Before milk and cookies.

350-year-old picture of dodo before it was extinct

A previously undiscovered 17th century picture of a dodo, drawn before the bird became extinct, is to be sold at auction by Christie’s.

Uncovered: 350-year-old picture of dodo before it was extinct
The inscription above the bird, 'Dronte', was the Dutch 17th-century name for the dodo

The drawing, which dates from the late 1600s, offers a rare insight into the appearance of the flightless bird that was the first recorded casualty of human interference in the habitat of other creatures.

Dodos were the main predators on Mauritius until settlers introduced bigger animals to Indian Ocean island, including pigs. Many were shipped to Europe as curiosities or had their nesting areas destroyed and the species was extinct by 1700.

The 350-year-old drawing, described by Christie's as “vibrant”, is one of a small number of images of the unfortunate bird whose demise was largely unnoticed until a dodo featured in Lewis Carroll’s popular 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Painted by an unknown artist of the 17th century Dutch school in about 1650, the unframed 10x8 inch picture is expected to fetch up to £6,000 when it is sold by Christie’s in London on July 9.

The auction house believes it differs from existing images, many of which were drawn from a small number of dodos that were put on display in Europe, some of which were later stuffed.

Little is known about the origin of the picture, which has never before been published.

The inscription above the bird, 'Dronte', was the Dutch 17th-century name for the dodo, although at this period it was also used in a number of other languages including French, German and Italian.

Julian Hume, a dodo expert and a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum, said the image was “very interesting but rather odd”.

“The lack of tail is anatomically correct - the ostrich-like plumes normally depicted are exaggerations - but this may be a fault by the artist,” he said. “The angle of the dodo is also novel, showing a 3D pose rather than the usual side view.”

He added that it was likely to have been copied from earlier drawings. “The image is somewhat based on Roelandt Savery's 1626 image of the dodo standing by a rock. We know so little about the number of transported live dodo specimens, and coupled with repeated plagiarism of images, factual determination is almost impossible to obtain.”

Another dodo expert, Anthony Cheke, said: “There is always a lot of interest in artefacts like these because the dodo is such a curiosity. This is certainly an unusual image although the drawing is, frankly, not very good even by contemporary standards."

New algorithm guesses SSNs using date and place of birth

Two researchers have found that a pair of antifraud methods intended to increase the chances of detecting bogus social security numbers has actually allowed the statistical reconstruction of the number using information that many people place on social networking sites.

New algorithm guesses SSNs using date and place of birth

For citizens of the US, the social security number (SSN) is the gateway to all things financial. It fills its government purpose of helping us pay our taxes and track our (in many cases, hypothetical) government benefits, and it has also been widely adopted as a means of verifying identity by a huge range of financial institutions. As a result, anytime you disclose an SSN you run a real risk of enabling identity theft. So far, most of the SSN-related ID theft problems have resulted from institutions that were careless with their record keeping, allowing SSNs to be harvested in bulk. But a pair of Carnegie Mellon researchers has now demonstrated a technique that uses publicly available information to reconstruct SSNs with a startling degree of accuracy.

The irony of their method is that it relies on two practices adopted by the federal government that were intended to reduce the ability of fraudsters to craft a bogus SSN. The first is that the government now maintains a publicly available database called a Death Master File, which indicates which SSNs were the property of individuals who are now deceased. This record provided the researchers with the raw material to perform a statistical analysis of how SSN assignments related to two other pieces of personal information: date and state of birth.

The second is that the government has centralized its handling of SSN assignments and provided documentation of the procedures. The first three digits are based on the state where the SSN was originally assigned, and the next two are what's termed a group number. The last four digits are ostensibly assigned at random. Since the late 1980s, the government has promoted an initiative termed "Enumeration at Birth" that seeks to ensure that SSNs are assigned shortly after birth, which should limit the circumstances under which individuals apply for them later in life (and hence, make fraudulent applications easier to detect).

That last program proved to be the key feature that allowed the new research, as it ensured that SSN assignments were more tightly correlated to date of birth. The researchers used the Death Master File to split out data from individual states (which determine the first three digits) then order them by date. At that point, they searched for statistical patterns within the resulting data.

Even from data before the 1990s, rough patterns were apparent in the assignment of region and group numbers but, by the mid-90s, it's obvious that, with a few exceptions, individual region and group numbers are used in a clear sequential order for most SSNs. The patterns are even easier to pick out in less populous states. Patterns in the final four digits were harder to detect, but the authors created an algorithm that predicted them with a lower degree of confidence.

The accuracy of these algorithms is positively disturbing. Using a separate pool of data from the Death Master File, the authors were able to get the first five digits right for seven percent of those with an SSN assigned before 1988; after that, the success rate goes up to a staggering 44 percent. For a smaller state, like Vermont, they could get it right over 90 percent of the time.

Getting the last four digits right was substantially harder. The authors used a standard of getting the whole SSN right within 10 tries, and could only manage that about 0.1 percent of the time even in the later period. Still, small states were somewhat easier—for Delaware in 1996, they had a five percent success rate.

That may still seem moderately secure if it weren't for some realities of the modern online world. The authors point out that many credit card verification services, recognizing the challenges of data entry from illegible forms, may allow up to two digits of the SSN to be wrong, provided the date and place of birth are accurate. They often allow several failed verification attempts per IP address before blacklisting it. Given these numbers, the authors estimate that even a moderate-sized botnet of 10,000 machines could successfully obtain identity verifications for younger residents of West Virginia at a rate of 47 a minute.

All of that requires that the botnet master have access to date and place of birth information, and a number of commercial services will happily provide that data for a price. But the authors also point out that it may not be necessary to pay; they cite a publication in progress that indicates it's easy to harvest a lot of that information from social networking sites like Facebook.

Citroen GT on the Streets of London (HD)



http://gtplanet.net - The stunning Citroen GT concept car, designed by Polyphony Digital, stops traffic as it cruises the streets of London.

Social Security Numbers Deduced From Public Data

By Hadley Leggett Email Author

socialsecurity

For years, government officials have urged people to protect their Social Security numbers by giving out the nine-digit codes only when absolutely necessary. Now it turns out that all the caution in the world may not be enough: New research shows that Social Security numbers can be predicted from publicly available birth information with a surprising degree of accuracy.

By analyzing a public data set called the “Death Master File,” which contains SSNs and birth information for people who have died, computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University discovered distinct patterns in how the numbers are assigned. In many cases, knowing the date and state of an individual’s birth was enough to predict a person’s SSN.

“We didn’t break any secret code or hack into an undisclosed data set,” said privacy expert Alessandro Acquisti, co-author of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We used only publicly available information, and that’s why our result is of value. It shows that you can take personal information that’s not sensitive, like birth date, and combine it with other publicly available data to come up with something very sensitive and confidential.”

With just two attempts, the researchers correctly guessed the first five digits of SSNs for 60 percent of deceased Americans born between 1989 and 2003. With fewer than 1,000 attempts, they could identify the entire nine digits for 8.5 percent of the group.

There’s only a few short steps between making a statistical prediction about a person’s SSN and verifying their actual number, Acquisti said. Through a process called “tumbling,” hackers can exploit instant online credit approval services — or even the Social Security Administration’s own verification database — to test multiple numbers until they find the right one. Although these services usually block users after several failed attempts, criminals can use networks of compromised computers called botnets to scan thousands of numbers at a time.

“A botnet can be programmed to try variations of a Social Security number to apply for an instant credit card,” Acquisti said. “In 60 seconds, these services tell you whether you are approved or not, so they can be abused to tell whether you’ve hit the right social security number.”

To keep identity thieves from exploiting their research, the scientists left a few key details about their method out of the paper, and they released the document to government agencies before making it public.

After developing an algorithm using the Death Master File, the researchers tested their results using information on birthday and hometown taken from a social networking site (the researchers declined to say which one). Again, they were able to predict Social Security numbers with a high degree of accuracy.

“It worked a little worse in the online social test for obvious reasons,” Acquisti said. “Some people may not reveal the right date of birth, or they may call hometown where they went to high school, not where they were born. There’s more noise in online social networking, but nevertheless the two studies confirmed each other.”

It also turns out that some SSNs are easier to predict than others. Because of the way numbers are assigned, younger people and those born in less populated states are more at risk, Acquisti said. Before 1988, many people didn’t apply for an SSN until they left for college or got their first job. But thanks to an anti-fraud effort in 1988 called the “Enumeration at Birth” initiative, parents started applying for their child’s number at birth, making it much easier to predict based on a person’s birthday.

The new findings remind consumers that they should use caution when sharing data online, even when the information itself doesn’t seem particularly sensitive. But Acquisti said his real message is for policymakers.

“We really wanted to come public with this result because the issue goes way beyond individual response,” he said. “It’s not just about remembering to shred your documents or to remove personal identification off your mail. As much as you try to protect your personal info, the info is already out there.”

According to information privacy experts, Social Security numbers were never meant to be used for authentication purposes, and using them as passwords puts all consumers at risk for identity theft.

“I have long argued that Congress or the Federal Trade Commission should prohibit companies from using SSNs as a means to verify identity,” Daniel J. Solove, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, wrote in an e-mail. “Merely protecting against their disclosure is insufficient since Acquisti and Gross demonstrate that they can readily be predicted.”

As a first step, the researchers suggest that the Social Security Administration start randomizing the assignment of SSNs. But randomization is only a Band-Aid, Acquisti said.

“It can buy us more time, but it isn’t going to change the underlying problem,” he said. “These numbers are supposed to be secret, but your bank has it, your insurance company has it, even your doctor has it. As long as we rely on numbers that are used as both identifiers and authenticators, then we are a system that remains insecure.”

Privacy law expert Chris Hoofnagle of the University of California, Berkeley, says the response must be drastic. “Their paper points to a radical solution: Perhaps we should stop trying to protect the secrecy of the SSN, and just publish all of them to prevent their use as passwords.”

10 Amateur Masters of Beatboxing

Beatboxing is a musical art form that many try and very few truly master. There have been some great beatboxers over the years and many are still going strong to this day but I did not include the known masters of beatboxing like Rahzel, Biz etc.

There are just as many amazing amateur beatboxers you may not have seen or heard, this is a small collection of some of the best amateur beatboxers I have seen on video, I hope you enjoy!

Joseph Poolpo

Joel Turner

Eklips

Mr Scratch

Dj eFFeX

Beatboxing and a Flute -- Inspector Gadget

Estonian Beatboxer

Serbian Beatboxer

Naturally 7 on a NYC Train doing Phil Collins

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Megan Fox Devours Male Scenery in Red-Band Jennifer's Body Trailer

fox_jb_2mv.jpgAnybody who’s followed the aftermath of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen knows that inside Megan Fox’s lithe, photogenic frame, there’s the soul of a serious actress waiting to captivate Hollywood. And this morning, with the red-band trailer for her horror comedy Jennifer’s Body debuting online, we know that we’ll have to wait at least one more film for that takeover to occur.

That said, this is a big step up from submitting to Michael Bay’s lecherous camera and leg-humping robots. Fox has her first leading role as the title character, a smoking-hot high-school cheerleader who can’t keep the guys away — which is a good thing, because the hungry demons who possess her require a strict diet of young men. “You’re killing people!” protests her geeky confidante Needy (Amanda Seyfried). “No, I’m killing boys,” Jennifer replies. Got it. Either way, Needy appears to hide Jennifer’s secret until — surprise! — she herself faces devouring. Brilliant young actor Johnny Simmons closes the triangle as Seyfried’s boyfriend/prey-to-be, and Adam Brody drops in as the preening, guylinered rock vocalist whose jilting got Jennifer all hot, bothered and hemo-craving in the first place.

The trailer also bears the teeth marks of fellow cultural scavengers Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, the latter of whom has tweaked Juno’s quote-friendly patois for the R-rated set (“It smells like Thai food in here,” Fox purrs. “Have you guys been fucking?”). Director Karyn Kusama gets all the vintage teen-horror benchmarks in here as well: woodsy slaughters, shadow sex, high-school caste wars, and more. All seem to have acquitted themselves admirably, though spraying blood and mangled flesh aside, the grossest thing here might be the soundtrack listing preceding the actual credits. Any time Panic at the Disco and Dashboard Confessional get top billing over those responsible for the film, trouble can’t be far behind. Still, admit it: They had you at the Fox logo.

VERDICT: Sold!

· Exclusive! The Red Band Trailer for Jennifer’s Body! [STYD via First Showing]



10 Piping-Hot Peppers

Get the Scoville scoop on 10 popular chiles used in cooking

By Brynn Mannino

Posted July 06, 2009 from WomansDay.com

Depending on how much of the compound capsaicin they contain, peppers can range from sweet to spicy—making them a welcome addition to a variety of cuisines. Interestingly, the same chemical responsible for their heat also accounts for their valued health benefits—including triggering endorphins, lowering cholesterol and preventing blood clots. Below, in hot to not-so-hot order according to the Scoville scale, we’ve rounded up the more popular peppers in the pack. From Havana’s fiery habañero to the mild banana pepper, browse through our guide to cooking with peppers.


Habañero

Fruity (even citrusy) undertones complement the fiery kick of the popular habañero chile—one of the most intensely spicy species in the pepper family. Of Cuban descent, named after the city La Habana (a.k.a. Havana), the pepper is cultivated in Mexico and often makes an appearance in the country’s cuisine. Though occasionally used in its pre-ripened form, the pepper is more often prepped for cooking during its various stages of maturation—which are indicated by the colors yellow, orange and red. Scoville rating: 200,000–300,000


Santaka

Uniquely grown standing upright on a white flowering plant, the santaka chile pepper is about two to two-and–a-half inches long, and its intensely spicy flavor is encased in a thin red or green wall. Typically grown in Japan, santaka chiles are usually thinly sliced (or dried) when included in Asian dishes like stir-fry or sautéed eggplant. Sometimes they are also used in hot salsas. Scoville rating: 50,000–100,000


Cayenne

Boasting a spicy taste (though very little aroma), the bright red cayenne chile is a popular cooking ingredient and garnish. Often the crushed red pepper used to complement many Italian dishes, cayenne pepper can also be tossed in the pot to spice up soups and sauces. Fun fact: It is also the active ingredient in mace or pepper spray. Scoville rating: 30,000 –50,000


Arbol

Chile de arbol, as the arbol pepper is known, means “tree-like pepper”—referring to its woody stem. Its slightly smoky flavor is a favored addition to guacamole, sauces, soups and stews. Slim in form and bright red in color (like its cayenne cousin), the pepper retains its ruby tone even when dried and is often used in homemade crafts for a festive touch. Scoville rating: 15,000–30,000


Serrano

Though they can certainly hold their own on the spicy scale, serrano peppers are most loved for their colorful presentation (originally green, they ripen to red, brown, orange or yellow) and low-labor preparation; difficult to dry due to their meaty texture, they are most commonly used in their unpeeled, unsteamed form or sometimes roasted whole. Additionally, they blend in easily, which makes them well suited for spreads, guacamole, relishes, sauces and seasonings. Scoville rating: 10,000–35,000


Jalapeño

Though cultivated in Mexico, the jalapeño is a popularly used ingredient throughout the world. Alternately referred to as cuaresmeño, huachinango and chile gordo, the jalapeño is most often picked in late summer, while still green; it turns red if left to ripen into the fall. Whether thinly sliced and served atop a piece of a yellowtail sashimi or smoked and scattered over a cheesy nacho platter, jalapenos have a warm lingering sensation that’s always refreshing. Scoville rating: 2,500–5,000


Cascabel

Deep red-brown in color, the cascabel chile (also known as chile bola) gets its name from the Spanish word for rattle—referring to its shape and musical inclination when shaken. Moderately spicy, the pepper boasts a unique nutty flavor, serving a heat-sensitive but flavor-welcoming palate well. It is traditionally used in sauces, soups, stews and salsas (it’s also the base for most chile pastes) and is available dried whole or in powdered form. Scoville rating: 1,500–2,500


Poblano

One of the most popular mild chile peppers is the poblano—a word meaning “an inhabitant of Puebla (Mexico).” In their dried state, poblanos are called ancho or mulato. Commonly cooked within Mexico and throughout the United States, most are roasted and peeled before being used for recipes, which is said to improve the texture and flavor of the pepper. Scoville rating: 2,000


Cherry

The cherry pepper—also called the pimiento pepper—gained its name from its size and appearance. Often pickled or brined, its sweet, succulent skin lends a great garnishing touch to salads, pastas and cheese-based dishes. Like jalapeños, cherry peppers can also be stuffed with cheese and deep-fried. (They’re also the familiar red stuffing found in Spanish green olives.) Though they’re not very spicy, removing the seeds will significantly reduce the cherry peppers’ temperature even more. Scoville rating: 100–500


Banana

The banana pepper is notably sweet—though, when served whole with the seeds and juice, it can certainly bring a sting. Long, tapered and banana-shaped—which is where it gets its name—the pepper is typically yellow, though it does morph into a deeper shade of orange as it matures. Favored fried or sautéed, banana peppers also make a welcome addition to salads, relishes and sandwiches. Scoville rating: 0–500

5 Theme Park Rides That Pushed the Limits of Common Sense

Thrill rides are designed to trick our bodies and brains into thinking we are in mortal danger. And usually it is just that—a trick that causes an exhilarating surge in our adrenaline levels. But in the quest for bigger and better thrills, some rides attempt to betray the laws of physics. And while these rides are usually well-designed, safe attractions—just so big and awe-inspiring that they are frightening—some of them are simply dangerous. Here are five of the biggest, baddest and scariest rides of all time.

1. Loopiest Water Slide

Cannonball Loop (aka the Looping Water Slide), Action Park
Cannonball Loop aka the Looping Water Slide, Action Park

Action Park was a place of legends. A spectacular orgy of thrills and danger that, due to pesky things such as insurance companies and basic common sense, will likely never be recreated.

The park, which was open from 1978 to 1996, was loaded with rides that seemed intent on pushing the limits of physics. At least six people died at the hands of the parks attractions, and countless more were injured (earning the park the affectionate nicknames "Accident Park," "Traction Park" and "Class-Action Park"). But nothing quite symbolized the park's flirtation with danger like the Cannonball Loop—a ride that is better known simply as the Looping Water Slide.

We first came face to face with the monstrous tubular blue circle as children visiting the park in the late 1980s. The loop wasn't open to the public at that point, but we distinctly remember park employees taking turns on the inertia-driven ride. In fact, in the years that it stood taunting the park's thrill seekers, it was barely open to the public at all. But its imposing presence earned it countless unverified rumors: As a child, we heard that they had to close it because some kid got stuck at the top, that crash test dummies they sent down the ride came out dismembered and that the park staff were given cash to act as human guinea pigs. As adults, we were unable to verify these rumors, but many are repeated on Wikipedia.

And then there's the fact that the ride's radical design seems to betray a lack of an understanding of basic physics. To wit: The ride runs through a perfect circle. Early-roller coaster engineers toyed with this design, with disastrous results. The high g-forces that are exerted when entering and exiting the inversion of a perfect circular loop are enough to break a person's neck (this is why all roller-coaster loops are elliptical or corkscrew-shaped). If the slide's few passengers were injured, this could partly have been to blame.

Action Park closed in 1996 and with it, the Cannonball Loop was dismantled. Since then, at least one other looping water slide has popped up, this time, in Germany. From the looks of it, it's far more professional, with elliptical-shaped loops.



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She Did It! Simona Halep’s Breasts Are Gone!

simona-halep-breast-reduction-1

Total Pro Sports - Well the fantasy is officially over. The tennis world has lost two of its brightest upcoming stars. The left and right breasts of Simona Halep.

After the big breasted 17-year-old Romanian tennis player was discovered earlier this year within the sports blogging world, she would soon state her plans to reduce her 34DD breasts. Even after pleas from many fans and another big-breasted athlete, Alena Schurkova, Halep set her date to take her chest size down a couple of notches in hopes of improving her already solid tennis game.

Now Simona is left to hope that her decision goes as planned. She was already headed towards stardom dur to her breasts. Now that she has abandoned that route, she will have only her game to rely on now.

Pics have been revealed of the young star following her surgery, or at least the pics have been claimed as such. It was originally stated that she would undergo the procedure in the fall and there is still no official word that she has actually had the surgery. These pics may just be from her pre-big-breast-growth days, but for now we will assume that the dream is dead.

Simona Halep Breasts

Simona Halep Breasts

Simona Halep Breast reduction

Simona Halep Breast reduction

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

More Simona Halep Photos

TomTom for iPhone en route

Among the third-party products demonstrated during June’s WWDC keynote, the one that may have generated the most anticipation was TomTom’s TomTom for iPhone. This combination of an iPhone app providing turn-by-turn driving directions and a hardware accessory, the Car Kit for iPhone, that enhances the app will enable the iPhone to take the place of a standalone GPS unit for many users. Unfortunately, TomTom CTO Peter-Frans Pauwels didn’t provide many details during that demonstration other than to say that TomTom for iPhone would be available “later this summer.”

Macworld recently had a chance to talk with with Tom Murray, Vice President of Market Development for TomTom, and while the company hasn’t yet announced a release date or final pricing information, Murray was able to expand on some of the information presented at WWDC. (You can see a video teaser of TomTom for iPhone on YouTube.)

iPhone challenges

While other vendors have announced, and in some cases already released, navigation apps for the iPhone (AT&T’s Navigator and Sygic’s Mobile Maps are a couple of the latter), Murray noted that TomTom for iPhone is unique because it’s a two-part solution. By combining software and hardware, the company says it can provide an experience that’s much more comparable to that of a standalone navigation unit than an app on its own.

According to Murray, the biggest challenge presented by an iPhone-based navigation solution is that dedicated navigation devices have better GPS reception than an unassisted iPhone. In addition, the iPhone doesn’t include any of the special technologies TomTom implements in its own navigation units; for example, gyroscopes and other hardware that allow a unit to better approximate its position when it loses the GPS signal in, say, a tunnel. The size of the iPhone is also an issue—4.3-inch screens are becoming the standard for standalone devices, while the iPhone’s screen is only 3.5 inches in size. And few iPhone owners have car mounts for positioning the phone safely while driving.

There are also logistical issues. For example, because the iPhone doesn’t support background processes, any navigation app must shut down during phone calls, making real-time tracking difficult—something that doesn’t happen on a dedicated GPS unit, even one that includes telephony features. And while the iPhone offers far more space for data storage than do most GPS units, the company recognizes that iPhone owners will want to use much of that space for apps and media, so navigation apps need to avoid abusing the opportunity.

Car Kit not required, but recommended

iPhone owners will be able to purchase and use the TomTom software and maps without the Car Kit hardware accessory; however, the Car Kit for iPhone was designed to enhance the software by addressing several of the limitations mentioned above. For starters, the Car Kit includes a separate GPS receiver that performs better than the one built into the iPhone; Murray said this receiver is closer to what you’d find in a dedicated GPS unit. The TomTom app uses this receiver when your iPhone is docked in the Car Kit, allowing for improved real-time navigation, especially in cities with large buildings or in locations with lots of trees or other natural obstacles. The Car Kit also includes a built-in speaker that provides better audio quality and considerably louder output, making it easier to hear spoken directions.

The Car Kit is also a car mount for placing your iPhone in a safe location for driving. The unit includes the same EasyPort mount as TomTom’s recent standalone GPS units, letting you adjust the cradle’s angle, rotation, and relative position (you can position the cradle sitting on or hanging from the mount). The mount locks in place when in use, and folds flat for easier storage. The Kit's power cable plugs into your car’s accessory jack or any USB power source and charges your iPhone while docked.

Finally, the Car Kit includes several additional audio features. For example, it includes a 1/8-inch audio-output jack for connecting the iPhone and Car Kit to any car stereo with an auxiliary-input jack; this lets you listen to both navigation directions and iPhone audio—including music—through your car stereo. You also get a microphone that lets you use the Car Kit as a Bluetooth speakerphone. (Yes, even though the iPhone physically connects to the Car Kit, it uses a Bluetooth connection for phone calls.)

We asked TomTom how the company will promote the TomTom for iPhone package, given that the software and hardware will necessarily be sold and distributed separately—the app through the App Store, the hardware through other outlets. The company says it intends to sell each separately, as well to bundle the two, but that making people aware of the hardware if they purchase the software first will be the biggest challenge.

TomTom features, iPhone UI

While the iPhone’s hardware can’t match that of a standalone GPS unit, Murray noted that TomTom is taking advantage of the iPhone’s own unique features to enhance the app. For example, unlike TomTom’s dedicated GPS devices, the TomTom app’s interface has portrait and landscape modes depending, of course, on how the phone is oriented. You can also use the iPhone’s multi-touch gestures—tap, swipe, pinch, and zoom—to navigate the interface and zoom in and out of maps. You’ll also be able to access your iPhone contacts from within the TomTom app, letting you quickly choose a destination or starting point from a contact’s information. (Integration with other apps has not yet been announced.)

Mapping and navigation will apparently work much as they do on the company’s standalone units, with a similar interface, most of the same core features, and similar voice-guided navigation. The app will include TomTom’s IQ Routes feature, which takes advantage of other TomTom GPS owners’ driving experiences to determine the actual speeds driven on particular routes at particular times of day. Murray said the “trillions of bits of data” lets IQ Routes provide accurate information about historical drive-speed norms, generating more accurate drive times and letting the software choose the actual fastest route, which may not be the same as the shortest route.

One feature Murray couldn’t yet confirm or deny is Map Share, which lets users make route corrections—for example, road closures or incorrect street information—on their devices and then sync those changes with TomTom’s servers to share them with other users.

(When asked which TomTom GPS unit the iPhone will most-closely compare with, Murray said there is none—the iPhone’s screen size makes it similar to the older, 3.5-inch-screen models, but features such as IQ Routes make its software more similar to that of newer models.)

Pricing and availability haven’t yet arrived

Unfortunately, TomTom wasn’t able to provide concrete information about pricing and availability—the company is still saying simply “later this summer.” However, Murray did tell us that the company is leaning towards a set price for the application and maps, rather than taking the subscription approach of AT&T. The application you purchase through the App Store will include the TomTom navigation software and the latest TeleAtlas maps for your area; North America and Europe will be the initial areas offered.

Due to the size of the maps, the download will be quite large for an iPhone app—close to 1GB. (TomTom doesn’t yet know if the download will be restricted to WiFi connections.) iPhone users will be able to update their maps, although the policy and process for updating—for example, via in-app purchasing, App Store updates, or using software similar to TomTom Home—has yet to be determined.

Those interested in more information on TomTom for iPhone can sign up for status updates at the TomTom site.

A New Sheriff in Town

Legoland Cancels Plans for Michael Jackson Lego Figure


legolandphoto.jpg

Legoland intended to honor the late King of Pop by putting his four-inch Lego likeness on display at its Miniland U.S.A. park in Carlsbad, California. But today officials announced the plan had been abandoned due to "unresolved legal issues."

"We were looking forward to installing a small tribute to Michael Jackson in Miniland," said the park's general manager Peter Ronchetti. "However, legal matters have come to light that prevent us from displaying the model in the park."

Calls to the Legoland press office have not yet been returned, and no information about the specifics of the legal issues has been released.

The mini-MJ would have become one of several Lego celebrities inhabiting Legoland parks, including a mini-Obama, a mini-Elvis and mini-Aretha Franklin. The lego figurine was set to be stepping out of a mini-limo in front of a Miniland's Grauman's Chinese Theatre, surrounded by mini paparazzi and mini fans.

Photo: Legoland California

PANETTIERE TO GO GAY IN HEROES

Hayden Panettiere
Caption: Hayden Panettiere (Picture) LG Mobile Phones and Hayden Panettiere host the LG Xenon Splash pool party at the W Hotel Los Angeles, California ....


HAYDEN PANETTIERE is preparing for girl-on-girl love scenes in the next series of HEROES - her character will reportedly enjoy a smooch with her college roommate.
The 19-year-old actress plays cheerleader Claire Bennet in the hit U.S. show and TV bosses are considering working a lesbian storyline into the upcoming fourth season.
A source tells British newspaper the Daily Star, "It's just girlie fun at first. But it might progress into something more serious. It depends on how viewers respond."


HAYDEN PANETTIERE PHOTOS
Hayden Panettiere David Letterman picture 2494935 Hayden Panettiere David Letterman picture 2494937
HAYDEN PANETTIERE Gallery


Top 10: Horniest Countries


Top 10: Horniest Countries

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Tiger born with no stripes

A snow white Bengal tiger born without stripes is believed to be the only such animal living in the wild.


Tiger born with no stripes
Keepers at the ranch were delighted when Fareeda and her siblings were born on Christmas Day last year, but even more surprised to see Fareeda's rare lack of markings. Photo: CATERS

The six-month-old cub is so rare it is thought there are fewer than 20 others like it - all in captivity.

The female tiger, which has been named Fareeda, was born to two white Bengal tigers. Fareeda's brother Shahir and sister Sitarah both bear the typical black tiger stripes in common with 99 per cent of their species.

Fareeda, who was hand-reared by keepers at Cango Wildlife Ranch, near Cape Town, South Africa, is part of a unique breeding programme to keep the White Bengal species alive.

Keepers at the ranch were delighted when Fareeda and its siblings were born on Christmas Day last year, but even more surprised to see Fareeda's rare lack of markings.

Odette Claassen, 52, from Cango Wildlife Ranch, said the keepers had to wait six months before they could be sure Fareeda definitely did not have stripes.

She said: "Some cubs develop stripes in their first few months but after six months it's clear that Fareeda is truly one of the rarest of her kind.

"When she was born Fareeda had noticeably pale colour it did cause a stir of excitement amongst the staff.

"But we knew there was the possibility of the cub's very light black and ginger stripes darkening over time existed.

"Most white Bengal tigers are bred in the US from a single male captured in the 1950s, but Fareeda is the first to be born in Africa, which is very special.

"She has a lovely nature and loves playing with her brothers and sisters, although she has nipped me a few times when she wants a feed.

"White Bengal tigers are not albino, they have distinctive blue eyes, and they used to be found in Northern India before they died out.

"My hope is that one day Fareeda and her kind can be returned to their native habitat and that is why it is so important to educate people about tigers and keeping the breeding programmes going."

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