Saw Drive a while back. It’s a tough film to process after only one viewing. The film’s sparse dialogue is unusual for a what is, plot-wise, a cookie-cutter heist movie; though that’s not to say Drive will bore you. If anything, it’s a film that demands your attention — it certainly commanded mine.
Here’s a fine example of how Drive pulls this off: During an early conversation between Carey Mulligan’s and Ryan Gosling’s characters, we’re shown with a reverse shot of Mulligan looking at Gosling. In the frame with her is a mirror which shows a silhouetted Gosling. Tucked into the mirror is a photo of her absentee (incarcerated) husband. This is the language of Drive: not dialogue, not really even acting (which is quite good but understated) but photography.
There’s a lot more to say about the movie — including heaping praise on the fantastic soundtrack — but the above should constitute something resembling a recommendation. The film comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today — I recommend giving it a spin.
Dr [Howard] Falcon-Lang, who is based in the department of earth sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, spotted some drawers in a cabinet marked “unregistered fossil plants”.
"Inside the drawer were hundreds of beautiful glass slides made by polishing fossil plants into thin translucent sheets," Dr Falcon-Lang explained.
"This process allows them to be studied under the microscope. Almost the first slide I picked up was labelled ‘C. Darwin Esq’."
The item turned out to be a piece of fossil wood collected by Darwin during his famous Voyage of the Beagle in 1834. This was the expedition on which he first started to develop his theory of evolution.
Totally crazy, but at the same time, not really that crazy at all. Universities and museums have huge collections of stuff that are often poorly sorted and catalogued, if at all.
A former Fall River dentist has pleaded guilty to charges that involved substituting paper clips for stainless steel posts while performing root canals, the attorney general’s office said.
Michael Clair, 53, of Maryland, allegedly billed Medicaid for the cost of the stainless steel posts he didn’t use and is facing Medicaid fraud charges. He also pleaded guilty Monday to charges of assault and battery, larceny over $250, tampering with evidence, intimidation of a witness, and illegally prescribing hydrocodone, Combunox, and Percocet.
Eric Pfeiffer, writing on Yahoo! News’s The Sideshow blog:
John Tyler was born in 1790. He became the 10th president of the United States in 1841 after William Henry Harrison died in office. Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1853, at age 63. Then, at the age of 71, Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and four years later at age 75, Harrison Ruffin Tyler. Both men are still alive today.
Nuts. Click through for a bunch more facts about Tyler — most of which I’m sure the well-read (and well-groomed) Nullary Sources already know.
British adventurer Felicity Aston became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica on Monday, hauling two sledges around crevasses and over mountains into nearly constant headwinds, past the South Pole and onward to the coastal ice shelf, persevering for 59 days in near-total solitude.
She made it to her destination ahead of schedule, using nothing but her own strength to cover 1,084 miles from her starting point on the Leverett Glacier on Nov. 25 to Hercules Inlet.
Ominous music plays as images appear on the screen: Muslim terrorists shoot Christians in the head, car bombs explode, executed children lie covered by sheets and a doctored photograph shows an Islamic flag flying over the White House.
"This is the true agenda of much of Islam in America," a narrator intones. "A strategy to infiltrate and dominate America. … This is the war you don’t know about."
This is the feature-length film titled “The Third Jihad,” paid for by a nonprofit group, which was shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training in the New York Police Department.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds for Popular Mechanics on a recent excellent Supreme Court decision:
Can police attach a GPS tracker to your car, or is that an invasion of your privacy? On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Jones, ruled unanimously that doing so is a search, meaning that it must pass muster under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This ruling may put a crimp in the use of this popular law-enforcement technique, but what’s really interesting is that it also may signal the court’s willingness to overhaul how it thinks about what constitutes a trespass on your privacy.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who joined the majority opinion, also wrote a separate opinion saying that future cases involving GPS data obtained, for example, from car manufacturers’ location services might raise Fourth Amendment issues. Fourth Amendment law bars unreasonable searches, and Sotomayor wrote that the notion of what constitutes an unreasonable search may change with technology. People may disclose a list of search terms to a search engine, but that doesn’t mean that tracking years of a person’s Web history can’t be construed as a search on the part of the government.
In a separate concurring opinion, four justices—Alito, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan—criticized the majority’s approach as unnecessarily limited by “18th century” views of property. Noting that there are many services such as cellphone tracking, toll-road records, and modern cars’ onboard data recorders that allow cars to be tracked without trespassing, these justices suggested the need for a broader focus on privacy issues. In this they, like Justice Sotomayor, seem sympathetic to the D.C. Circuit’s suggestion that when the government collects a lot of bits of data about you, it’s the aggregate of the data—the mosaic that it represents about you—that determines whether there is a search, regardless of the status of any particular bit.
For at least 400 years, botanists across the globe have relied on Latin as their lingua franca, but the ardor has cooled. Scientists say plants will keep their double-barreled Latin names, but they have decided to drop the requirement that new species be described in the classical language. Instead, they have agreed to allow botanists to use English (other languages need not apply). In their scientific papers, they can still describe a newly found species of plant — or algae or fungi — in Latin if they wish, but most probably won’t.
What exactly is being eliminated here? Apparently botanists had to publish a prose description of the species in Latin. And since most botanists don’t know Latin, they have to get help from scientist-translators to write these descriptions. Whole thing seems kinda nuts.
A Gwinnett schools investigation found former Beaver Ridge Elementary School teacher Luis Rivera was the author of a third-grade homework assignment that used slave beatings to teach math concepts.
In a statement to school officials obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday, Rivera, a teacher at the school since August 2008, apologized and said some of the questions he wrote were in “poor taste.”
Rivera’s 20-question homework assignment used slave beatings and picking cotton to link lessons about ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass to math computation. One of the problems read: “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”
In the new study, researchers led by [Michael Travisano of the University of Minnesota] and William Ratcliff grew brewer’s yeast, a common single-celled organism, in flasks of nutrient-rich broth.
Once per day they shook the flasks, removed yeast that most rapidly settled to the bottom, and used it to start new cultures. Free-floating yeast were left behind, while yeast that gathered in heavy, fast-falling clumps survived to reproduce.
Within just a few weeks, individual yeast cells still retained their singular identities, but clumped together easily. At the end of two months, the clumps were a permanent arrangement. Each strain had evolved to be truly multicellular, displaying all the tendencies associated with “higher” forms of life: a division of labor between specialized cells, juvenile and adult life stages, and multicellular offspring.
Really cool result. I hope the findings are replicated soon.
Hopefully by now you’ve heard about the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship that ran aground off the Italian coast. If not, Wikipedia has a decent roundup.
The captain, Francesco Schettino, has come under fire for allegedly taking the ship off course to get closer to the coast, causing the wreck, as well as abandoning the ship before the passengers were evacuated. His excuse for the latter, as reported by Phoebe Natanson and Lee Ferran for ABC News, must have come from The Onion:
"I had no intention of escaping," Francesco Schettino, 52, said during his first court hearing Tuesday, according to Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.
"I was helping some passengers put the life boat to sea. At a certain point the mechanism for lowering it, blocked. We had to force it. Suddenly the system unblocked itself and I tripped and I found myself inside the life boat with a number of passengers."
Once in the lifeboat that was lowered into the sea, Schettino insisted to the court that it was “impossible to go back onboard.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation discovered the shocking extent of petty and vindictive community reactions against 16 year old litigant Jessica Ahlquist when it attempted earlier this week to order a dozen roses to be delivered to the victorious state/church plaintiff in Cranson, R.I. FFRF is in the process of filing a complaint about one of the floral shops with Rhode Island’s human rights division over the civil rights violation.
They tried a bunch of different shops too and were rebuffed each time. Bonkers.
Choi Song Min for the South Korean online newspaper The Daily NK:
The North Korean authorities have completed the criticism sessions which began after the mourning period for Kim Jong Il and begun to punish those who transgressed during the highly orchestrated mourning events.
Daily NK learned from a source from North Hamkyung Province on January 10th, “The authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn’t cry and didn’t seem genuine.”
I just finished reading The Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway’s first book. Colin pimped it heavily to me for quite a while, and I even read the first chapter of his copy last year, but I only now got my own copy.
It’s sort of a sci-fi book about the apocalypse and war and hazmat truckers and identity and reality and pancakes, but it’s really hard to describe when you try it like that, so instead I’m just going to quote the narrator’s discourse on sheep from chapter five:
A war zone is a bad place to be a sheep. It’s not a good place to be anything, but sheep generally are a bit stupid and devoid of tactical acumen and individual reasoning, and they approach problem-solving in a trial-and-error kind of a way. Sheep wander, and wandering is not a survival trait where there are landmines. After the first member of the flock is blown up, the rest of the sheep automatically scatter in order to confuse the predator, and this, naturally, takes more than one of them onto yet another mine, and there’s another woolly BOOM-splatterpitterslee-eutch, which is the noise of an average-sized sheep being propelled into the air by an anti-personnel mine and partially dispersed, the largest single piece falling to earth as a semi-liquidised blob. This sound of its concomitant reality upsets the remaining sheep even more, and not until quite a few of them have been showered over the neighborhood do they get the notion that the only safe course is the reverse course. By this time, alas, they have forgotten where that is, and the whole thing begins again. BOOM.
The first corollary of this is that sheep are a nightmare if you’re trying to construct a perimeter defence, because they can end up cutting a path right through it and leaving themselves in pieces as markers showing the cleared route to all comers. For this reason, many military officers now order a mass execution of unsecured sheep when fortifying a position, incidentally incurring the deep displeasure of local shepherds and creating yet another group of grumpy, armed persons who will shoot at anything in a uniform. Knowing this, George Copsen has taken a pro-sheep position, in the vague hope that Baptiste Vasille or Ruth Kemner will begin the ovicide (which may or may not be the official word for a killing of sheep) and suffer the consequences. So far, it hasn’t happened, and a kind of steely cold war of livestock has developed in which we drive sheep toward the other forces in the hope of triggering a slaughter, and they drive them at us with very much the same in mind. An unofficial book is being made on which area commander will snap first, and the betting heavily favours Ruth Kemner, who is apparently something of a scary lady.
The second corollary, which is more interesting in an academic sense, but utterly irrelevant in the real world, is that sheep surviving for a prolonged period in a heavily mined area will gradually evolve, and left long enough would develop into more intelligent, combat-hardened sheep, possibly with sonar for probing the earth in front of them, extremely long legs for stepping over suspect objects and large flat feet to distribute pressure evenly and avoid activating the fuse. A warsheep would be a cross between a dolphin and a small, limber elephant.
The sheep currently surrounding us have not yet had time to evolve physically, and in the meantime have evolved behaviours and coping strategies instead. They follow humans quite precisely, walk slowly and the flock unit has been replaced by a loose-knit affiliation of individual sheep carefully watching each other for signs of suddenly flying into the air and getting spread all over the place. Some have started walking in single file. Loud bangs no longer scare them, or possibly they have gone deaf, and there is a sharp, alert feeling about them which suggests they know exactly where they have just stepped and can retreat along their own hoofprints quite readily. The march of progress has reached even unto the sheep of Addeh Katir.
The Obama administration has told a federal judge that Baltimore police officers violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments by seizing a man’s cell phone and deleting its contents. The deletions were allegedly in retaliation for the man’s use of the phone to record the officers’ arrest of his friend. According to the Maryland ACLU, this is the first time the Obama Justice Department has weighed in on whether the Constitution protects citizens’ right to record the actions of police with their cell phones.
This is a huge deal. Not just in Baltimore but all over the country police have been seizing cameras and phones of people recording misconduct or even just regular arrests. Here’s one such example from Miami. Extremely encouraging to see the Obama administration1 weighing in on the side of common sense and sanity.
And other judges too, as linked in the Ars piece. ↩
A Russian spacecraft that became stranded in orbit on the way to Mars last year is expected to fall back to Earth next week.
The 13.5 tonne Phobos-Grunt has been circling Earth since November when rocket boosters failed to ignite and send the spaceship on its journey to the Martian moon of Phobos. The spacecraft suffered a computer malfunction after launch and when repeated attempts to contact the rocket failed, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, had to abandon the mission.
Risk assessments by the Russian, German and US space agencies have focused on whether the highly toxic fuel, known as unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and dinitrogen tetroxide (DTO), could contaminate the debris site.
According to the agencies’ reports, the spacecraft’s aluminium fuel tanks are likely to rupture and leak at an altitude of about 100km and burn up, perhaps completely, on re-entry. The fuel will either ignite or be dispersed in the atmosphere.
Colin: Yeah but they “expected” it to go to Mars too.
Two different approaches to linking the kilogram to a fundamental constant are in the works, but both have proven far more complicated than in the case of the meter. Borrowing tricks from quantum mechanics and techniques used to manufacture atomic bombs, the competing initiatives are finally on the verge of delivering the kind of precision necessary to displace Le Grand K.
Really great profile of the teams working on the two approaches; highly recommend taking 15 minutes to read all 4,000 words.
Now, a coalition of advocacy groups — backed by an outspoken champion in Congress — is ratcheting up a campaign to press for review and possible repeal of criminal statutes specifically targeting HIV-positive people.
Well, surely it can’t be that ba–
A man in Texas is serving a 35-year prison sentence for spitting at a police officer — because he has the virus that causes AIDS and his saliva was deemed a deadly weapon. In Michigan, an HIV-positive man who allegedly bit a neighbor during an argument faced a bioterrorism charge.
HIV is not spread by saliva, tears or sweat, and there are no documented cases of it being transmitted by spitting, according to the CDC. As for biting, the CDC says there is no transmission risk if the skin is not broken; in a “very small number of cases,” transmission did occur when a bite drew blood and caused severe tissue damage.
I would strongly recommend against clicking through to this full article by Roger Yu for USA Today, as it has two enormous facepalm triggers: (1) USA Today reporting and (2) mainstream tech reporting. Unfortunately, I try to be a good sourcer, so there it is.
Anyway, the article itself has this one amazing quote which I wanted to share:
Many tablets are simply overpriced, says Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. Apple can afford to charge $499 for an entry-level iPad given the large app market and the brand appeal. But other manufacturers should be more realistic, Entner says. “BlackBerry and Sony have cut their price point from ridiculous to mildly amusing.”
J. Robert Connor in the October 1956 issue of Mechanix Illustrated on the benefits of growing a beard:
But beard growing isn’t all agony. The number of women who affect distaste for the beard is more than compensated for by those who go for it as cats go for catnip. Two out of five women are unable to contain their enthusiasm. They stare at a beard in joyous fascination; if allowed to they will stroke it as the minutes fly by.
A prominent example of the modern beard-loving woman is Jet MacDonald, wife of William Johnson who appears in the Broadway musical Pipe Dream.” Johnson sports a growth about which Jet says, “It’s soft and warm, like kissing a precious little cocker spaniel.”
Two out of five women: it’s real science!
Also gold from Connor’s piece are his travails in growing a beard (“On the road unknown motorists will pull up alongside your car and give you a savage glare.”), sketches of people with facial hair in the shape of letters from the English alphabet, and manipulated photos of former President Harry Truman with various styles of facial hair. A must-read.
For your chill, groovin’ enjoyment today is “Gate 99 (last call)” by Erik “Zodiak” Stridell. This cut is off the album audiophonik - music for the scene generation, a collection of original tunes by some prominent demoscene composers. The album is available to download for free, so check the whole thing out. It’s full of quality jams.