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Monday, August 10, 2009

Odd tricyle mapping Paris streets for Google

August 7th, 2009 By HELENE GOUPIL , Associated Press Writer Odd tricyle mapping Paris streets for Google (AP)


Google employee Arthur Poirier, on a camera-equiped tricycle, records images for Google's Street View Maps in front of the Grande Arche de la Defense, outside Paris, Friday, Aug. 7, 2009. The U.S. company has hired two young cyclists to ride through gardens, historical sites and other pedestrian-only areas on the three-wheeler to take thousands of digital photos. (AP Photos/Jacques Brinon)

(AP) -- Parisians and tourists, relax. That goofy looking tricycle equipped with loads of high-tech equipment roaming the streets is NOT some mad scientist's invention on the rampage.

The three-wheeler is a sight with its long pole holding nine cameras, a GPS, a computer and a generator. But the contraption tooling around the French capital needs all that gear to do its job - adding three-dimensional images to Google's Maps.

The U.S. company has hired two young cyclists to ride through gardens, historical sites and other pedestrian-only areas on the device to take thousands of digital photos.

"The idea is to be able to offer 360-degree images of places that were inaccessible before," Google spokesperson Anne-Gabrielle Dauba-Pantanacce said in an interview.

The riders, wearing Google tee-shirts and white helmets, are visiting well-known sites such as the Chateau de Versailles, west of Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg on the city's Left Bank or Les Halles, in the busy center of the French capital.

Google is to map Paris until Aug. 20, then head to the north of the country. In the fall, the tricycle goes south, said Dauba-Pantanacce.

The company plans to add new photos to their Street View option in all French cities with touristic areas that may be of interest to visitors.

Similar tricycles have already combed the streets of Britain and Italy in June and July, said Dauba-Pantanacce. Google plans to make 3-D maps of streets in other European countries, but the schedule has not yet been set, she said.

Spotted Friday at La Defense, the tricycle looked decidedly out of place at the modern high-rise business center on Paris' western edge.

A clunky white pole in the back holds an octagonal platform with eight cameras on the sides and one on top. Each minute, the cameras take bursts of high-definition photos to allow online users to get a virtual tour of the area.

"I rode two hours this morning," said 25-year-old Gregory Landais, who was taking a break after cruising through La Defense, France's touch of Manhattan. "For a site like this, it can take up to five hours."

To respect people's privacy, Google has installed software that recognizes license plates and people's faces and automatically blurs them, Dauba-Pantanacce said. Google will then choose the best photos among the thousands taken.

The blurring comes to meet privacy concerns.

Google recently acceded to German demands to erase the raw footage of faces, house numbers, license plates and individuals who have told authorities they do not want their information used in the service.

Greek officials rejected a bid to photograph the nation's streets until more privacy safeguards are provided. Residents of one English village formed a human chain to stop a camera van, and in Japan the company agreed to reshoot views taken by a camera high enough to peer over fences.

The photos of and other major French cities to follow were expected to be available online by the end of the year.

One curious sightseer was 46-year-old Jose Mountinho of Portugal.

"I've already seen Maps but I had no idea how they did it," Mountinho said.

--- )

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Beatles fans mark Abbey Road pic


People party at the Abbey Road site of the famous album photo

Hundreds of Beatles fans have gathered to mark the 40th anniversary of when the zebra crossing shot from the band's Abbey Road album cover was taken.

People crowded around the crossing and celebrated by singing Beatles songs, causing traffic chaos in the process.

Four Beatles lookalikes then strolled across the road for the picture reconstruction.

The event was organised by Richard Porter, a Beatles tour guide and owner of the nearby Beatles café.

"The picture is just so easy to copy - well normally it is easy to copy. It is simple and it's like a shrine to the Beatles," said Mr Porter.

Tony Bramwell, the band's former road manager, was present on the day the shot was taken.

"Other than Paul and Ringo, I'm the only person alive who was here on that day," he said.

"It's great to see that the whole thing carries on. Through the musical genres and revolutions of the last 40 years the Beatles are still number one."

The Beatles recorded much of their work at the Abbey Road studio in north London.

The photographer who took the famous original cover shot was the late Iain Macmillan.

How much do stores jack up ambient lighting to sell you HDTVs?

Posted by Sean Portnoy

Along with selling unknowing consumers $80 HDMI cables that they could buy online for a few bucks, HDTV retailers other longtime scam is to boost the brightness in their stores (including on the sets themselves) to entice buyers. Why? In part because bright screens can mask poor black-level performance on cheaper sets. But then some buyers are then surprised when sets that “pop” in a store appear far more muted when they are hooked up in the living room.

Adding a little bit of empirical evidence to back up this claim, HDGuru recently visited major retailers with an illuminance meter in hand to see just how much brighter their showrooms are compared to the average living room. While he measured 10 homes with light levels that ranged from 1.2 to 110.1 lux, the stores he visited measured: Best Buy, 180.3; Sears, 236.58; Target, 371.38; Walmart, 411.66; BJs, 412.13, and Costco, 742.77. You’ll notice that the stores that have sales people who specialize in home theater equipment (Best Buy and Sears) register far lower readings than the big-box and warehouse stores that don’t offer dedicated TV help. HDGuru theorizes that the amped-up levels at Target and Costco help the cheaper sets they sell look a lot better than their performance will be once you bring them home.

Of course, all stores will be more brightly lit than a typical home, but that doesn’t mean the TV department has to be as bright as the rest of the store. In fact, HDGuru’s measurement of the Magnolia Home Theater section of the Best Buy found a far more muted reading of 34.7 lux, like in a typical living room. Why the difference? The more expensive sets sold in the Magnolia showroom have superior black-level performance that can’t be properly displayed with the cheaper sets radiating in the other part of the store.

The morale: Don’t expect the HDTV you buy from a bricks-and-mortar retailer to have the same picture as it displayed in the store—and that’s necessarily a bad thing. Have you been disappointed with a new set after you’ve brought it home from a store? Let us know about your experience in the TalkBack section.

Luxury San Diego resort offers $19 room _ minus bed, lights or toilet paper

Bedless resort

SAN DIEGO (AP) —A luxury resort in San Diego is offering rooms for $19 a night — if you don't mind sleeping in a tent.

The Rancho Bernardo Inn boasts three pools, a spa and golf course. It typically charges more than $200 a room.

But business is down. So from Aug. 16 to 31, guests can get a "Survivor Package" that charges them less for each amenity they give up.

For $19, guests give up breakfast, air conditioning, lights, sheets and even the bed. Staff will remove the mattress and headboard and leave a small tent instead.

Oh, and bring your own toilet paper.

General manager John Gates says the hotel hopes people who try the promotion will return at full price.


Information from: The San Diego Union-Tribune,


The Weinstein Co has released the trailer for Nation’s Pride, a Nazi propaganda film-within-a-film which you’ll apparently get to see bits and pieces of during Inglourious Basterds. The Nation’s Pride trailer was actually directed by Eli Roth, who also contributed the Thanksgiving trailer (video below) that played in the middle of Grindhouse. I like Eli Roth because he emailed me once.

The Nation’s Pride trailer, which purports to tell the story of fictional Nazi hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), is a little odd in that it doesn’t really attempt to look like a German propaganda film at all. It’s also in English, and at one point has a title card that says “crowned in gloury” — a meta-joke about Tarantino’s inability to spell, I presume. Or maybe the entire film takes place in an alternate history, like Watchmen, only in Inglourious Basterds, pretty much everything is the same except that stuff is spelled differently. And Jews are all handsome and cool like Brad Pitt. Yes, those dyslexic Weinstein brothers are sure to love this one, Quentin whispered to his typewriter.

Iron Man 2 footage!

Source: JoBlo

Were you lucky enough to snag a peek at IRON MAN 2 during Comic Con this year? Me neither, which is why I’m pretty pumped that the footage has (at long last) leaked onto the internet for public consumption. No, the quality isn’t phenomenal as it’s a bit hard to hear at times, but it could be worse and it is well worth watching.

The five-minute clip runs through a number of scenes, including a meeting between Stark and Fury, a congressional hearing questioning Stark’s possession of the suit and an action montage where we get our first looks at Whiplash, Black Widow and even War Machine in motion.

Impressions? It looks pretty awesome to me. RDJ is in typical wisecracking form, and tone of the sequel seems like it's thankfully going to mimic that of the first. No need to go “dark” here. I’m still not sold on Whiplash (the suit, even with electric whips swinging is pretty awkward), but War Machine looks incredible. Your thoughts?


Extra Tidbit: Favreau not only knows about the leak, he actually wants to hear your feedback via Twitter. Release a clean copy Jon!

The Elusive Beauty of Lunar Rainbows

Moonbow, Yosemite Lower Falls, Photo: Meng Tang

When the moon is near its fullest, and barely a cloud veils its face, certain locations on earth treat observers to the scarcely seen light phenomenon known as the lunar rainbow, or moonbow. Like daytime-occurring rainbows, moonbows are formed when rays of light bounce off water droplets suspended in the air – the vapour of a raincloud, say, or the spray from a thundering waterfall – though of course they are caused not by the direct light of the sun but by that which is reflected by the moon.

Driving through a night time archway: Moonbow on Fraser Island, Australia
Photo: G a r r y

Like their diurnal counterparts, moonbows always appear in the part of the sky opposite the celestial body that provides their light source, with the moon thus positioned behind the viewer. Except for those lunar bows whose medium is the mist of waterfalls, a rare combination of a low moon and a dark sky are needed to create this spectacular sight – not to mention rainfall up ahead.

Gold at the end of the moonbow: Captured over the Pacific Ocean in Tahiti
Photo: Pierre Lessage

Even with the moon at its brightest, moonbows are faint compared to typical rainbows due to the low quantity of light shone down by our only satellite. The glow is too weak to stimulate the colour receptors of the naked eye – meaning moonbows are often seen as being white – so it’s lucky long-exposure photography has stepped in, enabling us to see all the colours of the moonbow.

Misty moonbow: Dark and drizzly but notice the glowing grass in the foreground
Photo: Jo Bradford

Photographers have written reams about how best to capture this singular phenomenon. Tips include the use of a tripod, switching to manual focus, and bracketing exposure time to avoid a white blur, with looking for your shadow, and starting with a fresh roll of film and batteries among other pointers mentioned.

African moonbow: Lunar rainbow taken from the Zambian side of Victoria Falls
Photo: Calvin Bradshaw

Of course, you’ve also got to know where to find moonbows, since there are only a small number of places in the world where they regularly materialise. Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Cumberland Falls in Kentucky, Yosemite Falls in California, and Waimea on Hawaii are some of the best known.

Perfect arc: A stunning arched moonbow formed over Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Preparatory Observatory

Harvest moonbow: A beautiful curve of colours over Cumberland Falls, USA
Photo: Bryce Fields

Dreamy scene: Water spray from Yosemite Falls brightly coloured by a moonbow
Photo: satosphere

Yosemite is such a hotspot for viewing moonbows that a team of astronomers at Texas State University were inspired to develop a computer programme which can reliably predict when moonbows are likely to appear at the falls of America’s famous national park – other factors such as a clear sky permitting.

Wash of colour: Another moonbow forming beneath Lower Yosemite Falls
Photo: Ambitious Wench

People have been watching moonbows since Aristotle’s day – and doubtless long before – but this research is the first time anyone has calculated precise dates and times for their appearance. Now it is hoped we may better appreciate this incredible yet elusive natural wonder.

Picture this: Star trails get in on the act in our final glorious shot from Yosemite
Photo: SocalJC

Let’s leave with the words of naturalist and pioneering environmentalist John Muir in an extract from his 1912 book, The Yosemite, which describes the great man’s experience of a moonbow: “This grand arc of color, glowing in mild, shapely beauty in so weird and huge a chamber of night shadows, and amid the rush and roar and tumultuous dashing of this thunder-voiced fall, is one of the most impressive and most cheering of all the blessed mountain evangels.”

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Obese Texas inmate hides gun in his flabs of fat

© 2009 The Associated Press


This image provided by the Houston Police Department shows George Vera, 25, booking photo. Vera is charged with possession of a firearm in a correctional facility. The 500-pound man was searched during his arrest and again at a city jail and the county jail, but officers never found the weapon in his rolls of skin. Vera admitted having the gun during a shower break at the county jail. (AP Photo/Houston Police Department)

HOUSTON — An obese inmate in Texas has been charged after officials learned he had a gun hidden under flabs of his own flesh.

Twenty-five-year-old George Vera was charged with possession of a firearm in a correctional facility after he told a guard at the Harris County Jail about the unloaded 9mm pistol. The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday that Vera was originally arrested on charges of selling illegal copies of compact discs.

The 500-pound man was searched during his arrest and again at a city jail and the county jail, but officers never found the weapon in his rolls of skin. Vera admitted having the gun during a shower break at the county jail.


Information from: Houston Chronicle,

Using Old Soap To Save Lives

Clean the World Foundation

MYFOXNY.COM - You've probably seen those tiny bars of soap in hotel rooms. After you wash your hands a few times and check out of the hotel, what happens to that soap? Some people are using them to save lives.

Clean the World Foundation, Inc. was founded in February 2009 by Shawn Seipler and Paul Till. They got the idea in Orlando, where millions of people use hotels to visit theme parks.

Through the collection, recycling and distribution of soap and shampoo products discarded by hotels every day, Clean the World is dedicated to preventing millions of deaths caused by acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease.

Acute respiratory illness is the number three killer worldwide. Diarrheal illness is the number five killer worldwide. The illnesses kill five million children every year.

While soap is a basic necessity in the United States, it's too expensive for the impoverished in the third world. A left-over hotel bar can last a week for one family.

Bars of soap from Florida hotel rooms are prepared for travel to Haiti.

The foundation is only working with Florida hotels right now but hopes to expand across the country. For more details on the foundation go to: .

I Want to Trip With this Wondrous 3D Etch-a-Sketch

  • I love me Wacoms as much as I love me bacons, but this Sketch3D--which you can use to draw in three dimensions using three dials and two-color eyeglasses--has got my heart:

    Sketch-3D is an interactive, integrated software/hardware system that enables users to create their own anaglyphic 3D drawings. By using a ubiquitous interface metaphor (the "Etch-A-Sketch "), Sketch-3D allows anyone to participate in generating stereoscopic imagery in a way that is simple and engaging. In addition to the personal experience, Sketch-3D can be scaled to work with any output device from large scale projection to plasma displays to an integrated LCD. This versatility allows for Sketch-3D to be tailored to fit a wide array of installation environments.

    It runs two applications over a Pico-ITX x86 SBC, a Windows Embedded Standard device. The first one is a service to connect the sensor interface--the three dials--with the main application. The main software is built using the Unity game development environment, with two software cameras that simulate the human eyes. Each camera then displays the Etch-a-Sketch line using red or cyan, which get masked by the classic funky 3D bicolor glasses. [Thisandagain]

    Link to this image:
    Click here to find out more!

Up, up and away: hot air balloon festival takes off in Bristol

Enthusiasts take to the skies during the International Balloon Fiesta near Bristol in western England

It was perfect flying conditions as balloon enthusiasts from across the world gathered in Bristol

Picture: PA
Enthusiasts take to the skies during the International Balloon Fiesta near Bristol in western England Enthusiasts take to the skies during the International Balloon Fiesta near Bristol in western England Enthusiasts take to the skies during the International Balloon Fiesta near Bristol in western England Enthusiasts take to the skies during the International Balloon Fiesta near Bristol in western England

Click here for the entire gallery..............

Eat This, Not That - The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution From Men's Health

Eat This, Not That - The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution From Men's Health

Shared via AddThis

Carhenge: Scrap Vehicles Replicate Prehistoric Monument

by Moe Beitiks

carhenge, scrap cars, jim reinders, recycled art, eco art, recycled sculpture, scrap cars sculpture, scrap metal

When Stonehedge was created, its builders used stones — making the space all about stone and light. Cycles and spirits. Seasons and sacrifice. Today, the “beings” that dominate our physical and energetic landscape are (arguably) cars. So it is no surprise that artist Jim Reinders has re-invented Stonehenge with scrap vehicles. The sculpture of sorts, which is fittingly called Carhenge, attracts thousands of worshippers — ahem, tourists — every year to its home in Alliance, Nebraska.

carhenge, scrap cars, jim reinders, recycled art, eco art, recycled sculpture, scrap cars sculpture, scrap metal

Created in tribute to Reinders’ father, Carhenge features an ambulance and a pick-up truck amongst its 38 spiritualized cars. Each vehicle is placed in a position that mirrors an actual boulder of the real Stonehenge. The original Stonehenge is hypothesized to have been associated with cremation rituals and burial grounds. So perhaps this incarnation og the prehistoric monument will be the death of the car?

+ Jim Reinders

Via Atlas Obscura

New Michael Jackson songs on missing hard drives


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Another thriller is developing in the complex afterlife of Michael Jackson.

His sister LaToya has taken possession of computer hard drives that contain a trove of unreleased songs he recorded with A-list singers such as Ne-Yo, Akon, and of the Black Eyed Peas, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

The drives were in the "Thriller" singer's rented Holmby Hills, Calif., mansion when he died suddenly in June. Hours afterward, the family descended on the house to claim all its contents, and LaToya grabbed the drives, Rolling Stone said, quoting the late singer's manager, Frank DiLeo.

"They backed up trucks, removing everything," DiLeo was quoted as telling the magazine in its issue that hits newsstands on Friday. "They thought Michael owned it all, so they took even the rented furniture. That's who's going to run his estate?"

Jackson's will gave 40 percent of his estate to his 79-year-old mother, Katherine, who wants more control and has raised doubts about the pair of high-powered executors currently overseeing his business affairs.

In a follow-up interview with Reuters, DiLeo said he was "pretty sure" the hard drives were at the family's Hayvenhurst compound in Encino, Calif.

"The estate lawyers will send out letters" to recover the drives so that the contents can be logged, DiLeo added.

An email sent to a representative for LaToya Jackson was not answered, and a family spokesman was not immediately available.

A spokeswoman for said the singer did not have duplicates of his work with Jackson. Representatives for Akon and Ne-Yo either could not be reached or had no information.

DiLeo told Rolling Stone that there were at least 100 songs -- including many recorded at Jackson's 1980s peak -- that were never released, including a few "sensational" tracks that were left off "Bad," the 1987 follow-up to his blockbuster "Thriller."

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Patrick Swayze smokes dope to ease pain, according to reports

Patrick Swayze

Source: Reuters

AFTER finding it hard to eat and feeling so weak, Patrick Swayze is using marijuana as he battles aggressive pancreatic cancer, it has been claimed.

According to the National Enquirer, the Dirty Dancing star, 56, has found that smoking pot helps ease his nausea, insomnia and anxiety.

Gallery - Swayze and his Dirty Dancing days

"He’s recently gained a little weight and feels more normal than he has in months," a source told the tabloid.

"Patrick was rapidly losing weight because he couldn’t keep food down.

"He was so weak, he needed help getting around."

Friends persuaded Patrick to try marijuana, disclosed the insider, and it seems to have helped.

"Patrick and his brother Donnie get together almost every day and smoke a joint," the source added. "They have been seen smoking weed on the roof of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center while Patrick was getting a treatment."

"Marijuana works extremely well" for many cancer patients, said Dr. Ron Kennedy, a physician in Santa Rosa, Calif., who provides medicinal marijuana. “It helps fight nausea from chemotherapy treatments and may alleviate anorexia or lack of appetite."

New York's Pier 57 Will Become a Park on Shipping Containers

by Alex Pasternack, New York, NY


LOT-EK, YoungWoo Chosen For Lively Pier Renewal Plan
Not far from the High Line, another decaying piece of New York infrastructure is bound for a green revival: Pier 57, the decaying concrete hulk on New York's Hudson's River will be transformed into a rooftop park and open-air market sitting above a warren of art studios -- all of it made, appropriately for the port site, out of shipping containers.


As Architect's Newspaper reports, the Hudson River Park board and community advocates chose the plan -- designed by container enthusiasts LOT-EK with art-focused developer YoungWoo -- over competing designs from the Related Companies and the Durst Organization.


The community was wooed by the plan's provision for green space and a reduction in vehicular trips, and for its respect of the pier's history, adding transparency and greenery to the site without hiding its industrial past.


The board also admired the plan’s financial feasibility: YoungWoo’s proposal cost $191 million, compared to Durst’s $330 million and Related’s $353 million. Cost has been kept low, says LOT-EK, because of its dependence on pre-fab units.


The LOT-EK plan faced considerable scrutiny however over its inclusion of shipping containers. Would the containers adhere to building code, and provide a suitable environment? (As I wrote last year, similar concerns may have led one developer to abandon shipping containers, if not their aesthetic, at a LOT-EK-designed project in Beijing's Sanlitun neighborhood.)

But Puma City, LOT-EK's awesome portable, mixed-use structure made from 24 shipping containers that recently landed in Boston — helped convince the Hudson River Park community of the idea's feasibility.

Shipping containers, which can pile up on our shores given the high cost of sending them back to their destination, have come to be seen as a clever component in architectural circles. They have found their way into prefab homes, offices and public spaces.

It's not yet clear how Pier 57's containers will be sourced. But drive through Newark and it's clear there are plenty available just across the river in New Jersey.


Artist-Centric Program Fosters Vitality
Also on the design team is Urban Space Management (USM), the company that helped YoungWoo develop London’s Camden Lock, a large urban market in a post-industrial setting. As in London, YoungWoo hopes to rent out many work-sell spaces as incubators for local artisans, a tactic that not only brings in revenue, but keeps the area active during off-hours, and imports urban activity to the pier.


A broad service ramp will connect to indoor educational space -- including a proposed 90,000-square-foot “Underwater Discovery Center” -- and an outdoor seating area in the rooftop park, where the Tribeca Film Festival will host screenings.


Though the project may not be completed for another two years -- pending approvals and an environmental review -- the disused Pier 57 is due for a makeover. It gained notoriety in 2004 when it served as a detention center for protesters rounded up during the Republican National Convention. Lawsuits later complained of prolonged exposure at the site to motor oil, asbestos, and other contaminants.

Renderings courtesy LOT-EK