Andrew Keh writing for The New York Times about Michele Roberts, who was recently elected executive director of the NBA players’ union, the National Basketball Players Association:
She said she was all too aware that if she was selected, she would represent several hundred male athletes in the N.B.A.; she would deal with league officials and agents who were nearly all men; she would negotiate with team owners who were almost all men; and she would stand before reporters who were predominantly men.
She did not flinch. “My past,” she told the room, “is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”
Reports of sharks biting the undersea cables that zip our data around the world date to at least 1987. That’s when the New York Times reported that “sharks have shown an inexplicable taste for the new fiber-optic cables that are being strung along the ocean floor linking the United States, Europe, and Japan.”
Now it seems Google is biting back. According to Network World’s Brandon Butler, a Google product manager explained at a recent event that the company has taken to wrapping its trans-Pacific underwater cables in Kevlar to guard against shark bites.
A new law in France will now allow first-trimester abortions without requiring women to prove a justification for needing the procedure.
The new law, proposed by the French Minister for Women’s Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was promulgated last Tuesday. It amends the country’s current law, which allows abortion only if a pregnant women can prove “distress.” The new law also bans any attempt to restrict women from getting information about abortion services.
The French National Assembly voted to approve the new law in January amid heated controversy. At that time, Vallaud-Belkacem defended the change to the current law, saying “Abortion is a right in itself and not something that is simply tolerated depending on the conditions.”
AP report on some food allergies apparently being spread by ticks in the United States:
The bugs harbor a sugar that humans don’t have, called alpha-gal. The sugar is also is found in red meat - beef, pork, venison, rabbit - and even some dairy products. It’s usually fine when people encounter it through food that gets digested.
But a tick bite triggers an immune system response, and in that high-alert state, the body perceives the sugar the tick transmitted to the victim’s bloodstream and skin as a foreign substance, and makes antibodies to it. That sets the stage for an allergic reaction the next time the person eats red meat and encounters the sugar.
Nearly four decades after hundreds of people were led to their deaths in a mass murder-suicide pact in a South American jungle, the cremated remains of nine of those victims have been found in a shuttered funeral home in Delaware.
The eerie find was made after the owner of the site of the former Minus Funeral Home in Dover contacted authorities about 38 small containers left behind on the property, authorities said.
David Gibson writing a guest post on the Library of Congress’s blog The Signal: Digital Preservation:
Several months ago, while performing an inventory of recently acquired video games, I happened upon a DVD-R labeled Duke Nukem: Critical Mass (PSP). My first assumption was that the disc, like so many others we have received, was a DVD-R of gameplay. However, a line of text on the Copyright database record for the item intrigued me. It reads: Authorship: Entire video game; computer code; artwork; and music. I placed the disc into my computer’s DVD drive to discover that the DVD-R did not contain video, but instead a file directory, including every asset used to make up the game in a wide variety of proprietary formats. Upon further research, I discovered that the Playstation Portable version of Duke Nukem: Critical Mass was never actually released commercially and was in fact a very different beast than the Nintendo DS version of the game which did see release. I realized then that in my computer was the source disc used to author the UMD for an unreleased PlayStation Portable game.
I immediately subscribed to this blog after reading this.
It took a serendipitous slug of toxins and the loss of drinking water for a half-million residents to bring home what scientists and government officials in this part of the country have been saying for years: Lake Erie is in trouble, and getting worse by the year.
Flooded by tides of phosphorus washed from fertilized farms, cattle feedlots and leaky septic systems, the most intensely developed of the Great Lakes is increasingly being choked each summer by thick mats of algae, much of it poisonous. What plagues Toledo and, experts say, potentially all 11 million lakeside residents, is increasingly a serious problem across the United States.
When Mayor D. Michael Collins told Toledo residents on Monday that it was again safe to use the city’s water, he was only replaying a scene from years past. Carroll Township, another lakefront Ohio community of 2,000 residents, suspended water use last September amid the second-largest algae bloom ever measured; the largest, which stretched 120 miles from Toledo to Cleveland, was in 2011. Summertime bans on swimming and other recreational activities are so routine that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency maintains a website on harmful algae bloom.
Note to our dear readers: please do not, under any circumstances, move to Toledo, Ohio.
The digital revolution is finally coming to the NFL—sort of. The league’s preseason kicks off Sunday, and the Hall of Fame Game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants will be the first game in which tablet computers are allowed on the sidelines. Thirteen Microsoft Surface tablets will be present on each sideline, and the coaches in each box will have access to another dozen.
But just as the NFL preseason is football in name only, the devices that the players will be using aren’t tablets in any normal sense of the word. The league reached a $400 million deal with Microsoft last spring to make its Surface tablets the exclusive computer of the NFL sideline, albeit with several conspicuous alterations made to the company’s standard tablets. The NFL’s Surface tablets have had their cameras disabled and can connect only to a private in-stadium wireless network. The devices can only run a single program, which allows people to browse through digital game photographs.
It’s not exactly a groundbreaking moment of innovation in football.
The NFL is comically serious about this sort of thing.
Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that “impossible” microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.
"Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma."
This last line implies that the drive may work by pushing against the ghostly cloud of particles and anti-particles that are constantly popping into being and disappearing again in empty space. But the Nasa team has avoided trying to explain its results in favour of simply reporting what it found: “This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster, but instead will describe the test integration, test operations, and the results obtained from the test campaign.”
Nicole Perlman’s interest in space started early — and with the help of real-life rocket scientists. When she was growing up in Boulder, Colo., in what she calls “a very nerdy family,” her father would host a science-fiction book club that counted among its members many employees of the aeronautics companies based in the area. The rocket scientists would come to her house and discuss their favorite books; noticing her interest, her father bought the 15-year-old Perlman copies of physicist Richard Feynman’s two autobiographies.
That fateful gift started Perlman, now 33, on a path that led to her writing Guardians of the Galaxy, in theaters Aug. 1. The movie is Marvel’s big leap away from its more established superhero properties into the depths of outer space. It’s also the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have a woman as a credited writer — but getting there wasn’t exactly easy.
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.
The ESA’s Gaia satellite begins its mission today:
The satellite was launched on 19 December 2013, and is orbiting a virtual location in space 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.
Gaia’s goal is to create the most accurate map yet of the Milky Way. It will make extremely accurate measurements of the positions and motions of about 1% of the total population of roughly 100 billion stars in our home Galaxy to help answer questions about its origin and evolution.
Repeatedly scanning the sky, Gaia will observe each of its billion stars an average of 70 times each over five years. Small apparent motions in the positions of the stars will allow astronomers to determine their distances and movements through the Milky Way.
Salon has an excerpt from Melissa Mohr’s 2013 book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing:
Maria Edgeworth has her hero exclaim of another man, “Sir Philip writes a bloody bad hand,” in 1801’s “Belinda.” If Miss Edgeworth — who wrote novels about young women finding love and good marriages for a largely female readership, as well as morally improving children’s literature (six volumes of “Moral Tales for Young People”) — had her young hero say “bloody,” it can’t have been that bad a word. Miss Edgeworth gets her “bloody” in at almost the last moment it is possible, however. At around this time, the word starts to get more offensive: It begins to be printed as b——y or b—— and falls out of polite use, where it continues through the Victorian era. When George Bernard Shaw wanted to create a scandal, but not too big a scandal, in his 1914 “Pygmalion,” he had Eliza Doolittle exclaim in her newly perfect posh accent, “Walk! Not bloody likely! I am going in a taxi.” The first night’s audience greeted the word with “a few seconds of stunned disbelieving silence and then hysterical laughter for at least a minute and a quarter,” and there were some protests from various decency leagues, but on the whole a scandal never materialized. Bloody became “the catchword of the season” and pygmalion became a popular oath itself, as in “not pygmalion likely.”
"Pygmalion" might possibly be the most preposterous swear word yet.
Compared with most organisms, slime molds have been on the planet for a very long time—they first evolved at least 600 million years ago and perhaps as long as one billion years ago. At the time, no organisms had yet evolved brains or even simple nervous systems. Yet slime molds do not blindly ooze from one place to another—they carefully explore their environments, seeking the most efficient routes between resources. They do not accept whatever circumstances they find themselves in, but rather choose conditions most amenable to their survival. They remember, anticipate and decide. By doing so much with so little, slime molds represent a successful and admirable alternative to convoluted brain-based intelligence.
Shane Tourtellotte writing for The Hardball Times about the July 22, 1986, baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets:
What did this game have that was so bonkers? All will be revealed in good time, but I can offer a few teasers. It had one of the most serious brawls baseball has seen in the last half-century, one that spelled the beginning of the end of the career of a well-known player … who wasn’t even in it! It had two ejections in two separate incidents even before the brawl. It boasted protests lodged by both managers. And most notably, it had a lineup manipulation so astonishing, it got several paragraphs of analysis in The Book.
This is incredibly long, but it’s also one of the best baseball stories I’ve ever read in my life.
Here are Colin’s live reactions as he was reading it:
From a 2009 episode of All Things Considered, wherein two audio historians re-evaluate a phonautograph recording dated to 1860:
We’ve decided that instead of playing back the voice of a young girl, possibly the daughter of the inventor, that now we’re actually hearing the voice of the inventor himself. We played it back at the wrong speed.
Christie D’Zurilla writing for the Los Angeles Times's Ministry of Gossip blog:
Casey Kasem’s body is no longer at the Washington state funeral home that had been keeping it, a rep for the radio icon’s eldest daughter said Friday.
A judge awarded daughter Kerri Kasem a temporary restraining order Wednesday preventing her dad’s second wife, Jean Kasem, from cremating or removing the remains from the funeral home pending a decision about who could conduct a possible autopsy, the Associated Press reported Friday.
However, Jean Kasem had already filled out a death certificate indicating that the body should be transferred to a funeral home in Montreal, the AP reported, noting that on Friday the Canadian funeral home said the radio host’s body was not there, nor was his name in its system.
Discover magazine’s Seriously, Science? blog has discovered a study from 2013 about, well, uh:
AIM OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study was to describe an individual’s 3-dimensional buttocks response to sitting. Within that exploration, we specifically considered tissue (i.e., fat and muscle) deformations, including tissue displacements that have not been identified by research published to date.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The buttocks anatomy of an able-bodied female during sitting was collected in a FONAR Upright MRI.
Another mystery of the universe solved. Presumably.
Richard Goldstein reporting for The New York Times:
Alice Coachman, who became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal when she captured the high jump for the United States at the 1948 London Games, died on Monday in Albany, Ga. She was 90.
Her daughter, Evelyn Jones, said she had been treated at a nursing home for a stroke in recent months and went into cardiac arrest after being transferred to a hospital on Monday with breathing difficulties.
Wonder if I should make an “I’m sad because I never heard of this person until they died” tag.
Michael Doino approached the late hours of October 1, 1999, with a lingering sense of dread. It was finally time, after 11 years, to pull the plug on Prodigy Classic, a commercial online service he had helped shepherd from a plucky upstart into a nationwide giant.
"It was very bittersweet, very sad," recalls Doino, a veteran project manager at the company. "I had been there before the Prodigy service went live."
Some time before midnight, Doino logged into the main Prodigy Classic server and, as instructed, uploaded a file to redirect Prodigy Classic users to the company’s newer Prodigy Internet service. At that moment, the written record of a massive, unique online culture, including millions of messages and tens of thousands of hand-drawn pieces of digital art, seemingly vanished into thin air
Both Colin and I used the old Prodigy service (my user ID was KNCT87D), so reading anything about it is a guaranteed way to get me nostalgic about grade school and dial-up modems and Mac Color Classics.
The piece is mostly concerned with the quest of one man to reverse engineer information from old Prodigy clients and cache files. I’ve mentioned it before here, but I get kind of worked up when I think about things made by people being lost forever, and an internet service and all the data on it certainly qualifies.
What I’m saying is that reading this piece gave me some Feelings.
Lena H. Sun and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post:
Federal government laboratories in Atlanta improperly sent potentially deadly pathogens, including anthrax, botulism bacteria and a virulent bird flu virus, to other laboratories in five separate incidents over the past decade, officials said Friday.
Florida judge ruled the state’s congressional district map invalid Thursday night, saying it violates constitutional provisions that require fair districts and instead favors Republicans.
In a scathing opinion, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis ruled in Tallahassee that the Legislature’s Republican political consultants had “made a mockery” of the redistricting process, tainting it with “partisan intent.”
Lewis said that the districts, drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2010 census, flouted voter-passed constitutional amendments intended to eliminate gerrymandering - that is, often-bizarre and irregular lines that make a district safe for one party or the other.
In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Vieth v. Jubelirer that gerrymandering based on political party is more or less okay. The key to this ruling was those amendments to Florida’s constitution mentioned in the third paragraph.
Police have arrested a 26-year-old high-priced call girl from Georgia who is suspected of injecting heroin into a Santa Cruz tech executive on his yacht and then fleeing when he overdosed
Alix Catherine Tichelman and 51-year-old Forrest Timothy Hayes found each other online and had met a few times before their Nov. 26 encounter on Hayes’ 50-foot yacht, Escape, at the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, said Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
Tichelman provided heroin for Hayes, a Google executive, while they were inside the yacht, police said. A surveillance video from the boat shows that Hayes was “suffering medical complications” and lost consciousness, Clark said. She made no effort to help him, and instead gathered her belongings and even gulped a glass of wine before she drew a window blind and left, the video shows.
Didn’t hear about the death when it happened, nor had I heard of Hayes to begin with. This’d be super messed up no matter who it happened to though.
Goro Miyazaki (Tales from Earthsea, From Up On Poppy Hill) will direct a television anime adaptation of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s Ronia the Robber’s Daughter (Ronja Rövardotter) children’s fantasy book. The series, titled Sanzoku no Musume Ronia in Japan, will air on NHK and BS Premium this fall. POLYGON PICTURES (Knights of Sidonia, The Sky Crawlers) is animating the 3D CG series in collaboration with Studio Ghibli. The show will mark the first time that Miyazaki is directing a television anime series.
It’s also Ghibli’s first television series at all, so that’s cool.
Giancarlo Valdes interviewed a few game developers on their experiences in working on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games for GamesBeat, which is kind of cool. It’s not terribly deep on technical content, but I thought it had some good moments.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 also changed over the years: Sony and Microsoft continue to update their machines with software patches, and both added optional peripherals that developers could use for their games. Sometimes, these changes brought new hurdles, like when Microsoft released the Kinect motion-tracking camera in 2010.
"That didn’t exist when the 360 first launched. … And then you kind of have to deal with Kinect as a part of getting approved [by Microsoft], even if you weren’t really using Kinect that much," said Urquhart. "You now have to reserve some memory just because the Kinect uses some memory, even if you’re not using it. … During the console generation, as you’re getting more comfortable and know how everything works, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and whoever are still kind of evolving and moving forward and changing how things work. You have to make your game work that way."
Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students.
Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”
I’m kind of surprised that this hasn’t been challenged until now.