The Cry Baby is on sabbatical ....

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Video: "Gimme Shelter" brought to you by "Playing for Change" - awesome

Playing for Change is a creation of Mark Johnson, who travels around the world filming local and street musicians and edits the video into one coherent and fascinating song. In 2008, he released a cover of "Stand by Me" which led to a PBS documentary and CD release and the creation of the Playing for Change foundation, which supports music education.
“There are many songs that can touch deep into the human heart, and sometimes we need songs that sincerely express the urgency of our situation as a planet,” Johnson said. “We have far too many starving children, warring nations and divided people. ‘Gimme Shelter’ is a song with such a purpose and can inspire us without preaching.”
Watch this great version of the classic Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Time lapse video shows earth rotating from viewpoint of the stars

Complete with a Star Trek-like soundtrack by Kevin Macleod, this very cool video by Stephane Guisard, Jose Francisco Salgado, and Nicolas Bustos, taken at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert, Chile, shows the Earth rotating from the perspective of the stars. Sit back, watch and feel like you are in an old fashioned planetarium, if you remember what those are.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Attention Trekies: Set course for Jordan - site of new Star Trek theme park

Let's set our phasers on stun and pick a site for a Star Trek themed resort .... the Rigel 5 star system ...  the planet Risa ... or perhaps even the holodeck. Just as unbelievable is Aqaba, Jordan, where a  $1 billion Star Trek-themed resort is soon to be built. The Rubicon Group, based in Amman, announced that it has reached an agreement with Paramount Recreation and CBS Consumer Products to build the resort, with a completion date of 2014.

Well beam me up Scotty! Who would have thought that a middle east dictatorship (OK monarchy) would have subjects with tricorders (or worse phasers) hidden beneath those robes and burkas. I suppose it might be like Kirk visiting one of those politically repressed planets, where he wrestles evil and leaves democracy and virtue in his wake. Then again, maybe it will be a spot filled with Japanese and Chinese tourists. Let's just see what happens when the Klingons, or would the be Jews,  drop in.

Aqaba, Jordan                      Credit: Tourism Jordan

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Best job in Europe: Spanish air traffic controller – earn $500,000+ a year

Artistic picture of Air Traffic ControlImage via Wikipedia
Want to know what one of the best jobs in Europe is? Air traffic controller in Spain. Granted, it's a high stress job that many of us would not want to do, but the remuneration is staggeringly good. The average pay is $500,000 a year. Ten controllers were paid between $1.1 and $1.3 million last year, while another 226 were paid between $630,000 and $770,000, largely because of lucrative overtime payments. The problem is, the virtually bankrupt Spanish government can no longer afford the astronomical payouts and are trying to cut their pay to just below  to just below $300,000, which is still 10 times Spain’s average salary. The air traffic controllers reaction was to stage wildcat strikes stranding thousands of passengers. The Spanish government had to put the military in charge of air traffic control to get planes flying again. 

Aside from the effects of the economic collapse, the Spanish have another reason to try and reign in the air traffic controllers. Even though borders were relaxed with the coming of the European Union, they remained intact for air traffic. Europe currently has 39 national agencies as well as Eurocontrol. The U.S. has one agency – the FAA. European air-traffic agencies' operating costs per flight are 75% above the FAA's, largely due to their high labour costs.

Europe is now trying to implement a "Single Sky" solution, that would unify air traffic control under one agency. Like most financial and labour related issues in Europe, they face and incredibly tough battle, that must be fought fiefdom by fiefdom, each of which is very deeply entrenched. The Single Sky kickoff is slated for next January. The Spanish controllers, working under the supervision of their military, did make some concessions, but there is still a lot of air miles to go to achieve any meaningful solution

Video: After the Rapture - what the world might have looked like for the rest of us

Howard Camping might have gotten the math wrong ... but what if all the believers did get squirted out of our universe like watermelon seeds on May 21? What would the world be like for the rest of us non-believers? You can wait to October to find out (if Howard has his slide rule properly calibrated this time)  or have a look at this video by  The Thinking Atheist:

How long do animals live? Infographic from the 1930s tells all

From Information is Beautiful comes this beautiful vintage graphic from the 1930s showing the lifespans of various animals.  I'm guessing lifespans haven't changed much in the animal kingdom, while the life expectancy of homo sapiens continues to grow longer, at least in the first world. Sadly, the lifespan difference between those living in first and third world countries is vast. According to the United Nations, the longest life expectancy is in Japan (82.6 years) and the shortest Swaziland (39.6 years). 

Back to the animals. Here's what Information is Beautiful has to say about this graphic:
"Then there’s ISOTYPE – the International System Of TYpographic Picture Education. It was an early infographical form, originated in the 1930s by Austrian philosopher and curator Otto Neurath “as a symbolic way of representing quantitative information via easily interpretable icons.” Again, it’s eye-popping how modern these images look. Despite being fashioned from woodcuts and hand-printing methods. Gorgeous."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New wisdom from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about women's rights

Since Iran is the centre of freedom and tolerance, it should come as no surprise that the country's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be a champion of women's rights! Of course, the wearing the  Hijab for women is mandatory. Not wearing one can result in punishments such as jail, flogging or any number of unspecified more brutal responses from authorities. And then there is the nasty business of women's testimony in court being worth half a man's, and women's right to inheritance is half of men's. We'll gloss over the executions and harassment of women for now and read the word's of wisdom  the fearless leader had this to say about women's role in the Iranian future in the Iranian press:

"The role played by women (in our society) is unique and exclusive and cannot be exchanged," Ahmadinejad said, addressing a conference dubbed 'Lady of Insightfulness' in Tehran on Monday, on the threshold of the national 'Women's (and Mothers') Day'.

He stressed the necessity for turning Iran into a role model in economic, social and cultural fields, and added that women play a significant role in Iran's move towards this goal.

"For this attainable dream to come true, the top role and responsibility once again lies on the shoulders of Iran's cultivated, courageous and courage-nurturing women," Ahmadinejad said.

He also blasted the West for mistreating women, saying that capitalist system is damaging the "reality and essence of women".

Also, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei yesterday lambasted the western countries for their instrumental use of women, describing the West's wrong view about woman as the root cause of the different problems existing in the western families.

The source for this is the Fars News Agency, which describes itself as "Iran's leading independent news agency, covering a wide variety of subjects in different, political, economic, cultural, social, legal, sports, military and other areas with the most up-to-date, independent, unbiased and reliable news and reports in Persian and English." 

Video: Best homeless begging sign ever

There's begging and there's begging with style. This gentleman has the style down with his very clever sign in downtown Miami. Have a look at this very short clip of this man and his sign made from liquour box dividers:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Video: Dazed and confused rapture author Robert Fitzpatrick reacts when end of world fails to occur

Rapture hour came and went and we're all still around to chuckle. Author of the self-published book, "The Doomsday Code: God Is Warning Us Through the Bible", Robert Fitzpatrick, was waiting in Times Square for the fatal moment that failed to occur. Fitzpatrick is perplexed as to why the prediction by 89-year-old radio host Harold Camping's rapture prediction failed to launch:
"I expected it to happen immediately before 6 p.m.," Fitzpatrick said shortly after 6 p.m. 
"I'm tired." 
"I was working hard trying to get the word out. I'm very surprised. I fully expected that something would happen." 
"I'm wrong," admits a baffled Fitzpatrick. 
"I just don't understand. Everything indicted this was the day and that was the time."

Watch the dazed and confused Fitzpatrick try and answer questions in the video.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Woman busted by the NASA undercover police for attemptig to sell moon rock for $1.7 million

Apollo 14 Commander Alan Shepard and the U.S. flag                   Credit: NASA
I'm not sure what surprises me more; that there is a thriving black market for moon rocks or that NASA has undercover police. I had always believed  moon rocks were under lock and key in government institutions and museums, but there appears to be quite a number of the rocks floating around out there. As to the NASA undercover police – who knew!

NASA investigators and California's Riverside County sheriff's deputies detained a woman after she tried to sell a moon rock to an undercover NASA operative for $1.7 million. When the woman pulled out the rock to show the investigator, police swooped in. The woman, who was released, has potential charges pending.

It's illegal for a normal citizen to sell or own a moon rock in the United States, which are considered national treasures. These treasures were pretty widely distributed by then president Richard Nixon, who made gifts of the rocks to each U.S. state and 136 countries. There were about 2,200 samples of lunar rocks and other samples brought back by the various Apollo missions. Recently a survey showed that 10 states and 90 counties could not account for their moon rocks. No surprise that their is a thriving market for the rocks; both authentic and counterfeit.

Moon rock on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington  Credit: Alkivar/Wikipedia 

Most moon rocks offered for sale are bogus. In fact, a rock on display at the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, turned out to be a a fake and not an artifact collected by the Apollo 11 crew as previously believed.

Back to our rock seller. She faces one of two charges: either charges related to possessing and selling a moon rock, if the rock is real or fraud if it's not. "We don't know if it's lunar material," commented Gail Robinson, the deputy inspector general at NASA. The agency is now testing the rock to determine if it is authentic. Caveat emptor.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The blunders of Donald Trump - failures and bankruptcies

Donald Trump at a press conference announcing ...Image via Wikipedia
At least the Donald had the courtesy of fire himself from the Republican  presidential race without putting us through more of his birther wackiness. Now, Let's take a look at some of "billionaire" Donald's other mis-adventures: ,  the search engine you’ve never heard of, and will never hear of, was launched in 2006. No surprise: it was shut down a year later. 
• Trump Magazine,  a high-end magazine for the affluent and rich.  Low ad sales force the closure of the magazine  in 2009. 
Trump Vodka, which was marketed as a product that "demand[s] the same respect and inspire the same awe as the international legacy and brand of Donald Trump himself."  The vodka is no longer produced. 
• Trump Mortgage, was launched in 2006 and  Donald Trump Jr. boasted it would become the country's leading home loan company. It closed two years later. 
Trump Airlines, was launched in 1988 (when Trump purchased Eastern Air Shuttle)  and featured such amenities as applewood floors, chrome seatbelt latches and gold-colored bathroom fixtures. The company failed to show a profit and  Trump defaulted on his loans. In 1992 it merged with a new company and the Trump name was removed from the planes. 
And then there are the Trump bankruptcies: 
• Taj Mahal Casino, Atlantic City NJ – 1991 
• Trump Plaza Hotel – 1992 
• Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts – 2004 
• Trump Entertainment Resorts (Renamed from Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts — Trump bailed it out with $72 million of his own money) – 2009

And finally there is Trump's showdown with OPEC: "I’m going to look ‘em in the eye and say, ‘Fellas, you’ve had your fun. Your fun is over.'" Great negotiating strategy that would make John Wayne proud, except Wayne was pointing a gun at the bad guys and the Donald is firing blanks. 

Source: ThePBH Network

Video: Judgement Day is here! The world ends today - what's the plans for tomorrow?

It's Judgement Day today sinners! If history and a small dose of common sense have taught us one thing: The world will be here tomorrow. Christian talk radio personality Harold Camping, claims it will happen at 6 pm tonight, right during my cocktail hour. I suppose I will pause between sips and see if I can feel the earth trembling beneath my feet. The question for me is: What happens to all those people who believed and gave up everything in advance? There's even a company called Eternal Earth-bound Pets, run by atheists, (who won't be going to a better place at 6 pm), to look after the believer's pets when they are swept upstairs. But what about the disappointed believer that are staring up into the evening sky wondering what to do now that the world is intact. Have the believer's made any plans, just in case they are wrong? Probably not.

My advice:  Head to the beach. Paddy's Beach Restaurant looks like as good a place to start as any.I've never been there, (or even heard of it before) but it looks like a party, and lord knows, you will be in need of a party (with lots of alcohol).

The ad is from Paddy's. "The world didn't end party" was added by Cry Baby

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Catholic church to pray for Osama bin Laden

A still of 2004 Osama bin Laden videoImage via Wikipedia
Oscar Wilde said, "Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much." The Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach in Florida seems to have this advice to heart. A parishioner, Henry Borga, paid ten dollars to have Osama bin Laden's name added to the service."I'm asking for forgiveness, mercy and compassion for that miserable criminal," he said. The pastor is honouring the request, to the dismay of many church members.

"Their hearts are troubled because they're thinking emotionally about what he has done, and he has done a lot of evil," Father Gavin Badway, the church's pastor told WPTV. "Nevertheless, Jesus tells us, love and forgive."

"I just don't think it's right, I really don't," Louis Pizzano Sr. told MSNBC. "I think what's happened to the American people, what he's done, what he was planning to do and because we killed him, it doesn't stop there."

The Osama prayer appears to have some support in the prayer circle. Parishioner Vince Stankey was somewhat forgiving: "The way he was trying to prove his god to do killing, I can't approve of that, but I have mercy on his soul and I have to pray for him."
Borga admits to being worried about his family's safety since he made the prayer request.

Failed "end of the world" predictions

The world is ending this Saturday, so if you don't have plans Friday night, make some. This grim news is brought to you by Christian talk radio personality Harold Camping. Camping claims the Bible predicts that the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011, and any left behind be out of luck because the complete end of the world will happen on October 21, 2011. This would be funny if there wasn't a small horde of people giving up their jobs and worldly goods to spread the word. This is not the first time the end of the world has been predicted and it certainly won't be the last. Here's a list of some of the more memorable failed predictions, throughout history, compiled by ReligiousTolerance:

1919: Meteorologist Albert Porta predicted that the conjunction of 6 planets would generate a magnetic current that would cause the sun to explode and engulf the earth on DEC-17.

1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994, etc. were other dates that the Watchtower Society (WTS) or its members predicted.
•Since late in the 19th century, they had taught that the "battle of the Great Day of God Almighty" (Armageddon) would happen in 1914 CE. It didn't.
•The next major estimate was 1925. Watchtower magazine predicted: "The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914; but it would be presumptuous on the part of any faithful follower of the Lord to assume just what the Lord is going to do during that year." 
•The Watchtower Society selected 1975 as its next main prediction. This was based on the estimate "according to reliable Bible chronology Adam was created in the year 4026 BCE, likely in the autumn of the year, at the end of the sixth day of creation." They believed that the year 1975 a promising date for the end of the world, as it was the 6,000th anniversary of Adam's creation. Exactly 1,000 years was to pass for each day of the creation week. This prophecy also failed.
•The current estimate is that the end of the world as we know it will happen precisely 6000 years after the creation of Eve.  There is no way of knowing when this happened.

1891 or before: On 1835-FEB-14, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, attended a meeting of church leaders. He said that the meeting had been called because God had commanded it. He announced that Jesus would return within 56 years -- i.e. before 1891-FEB-15.

1850: Ellen White, founder of the Seven Day Adventists movement, made many predictions of the timing of the end of the world. All failed. On 1850-JUN-27 she prophesied that only a few months remained before the end. She wrote: "My accompanying angel said, 'Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.' time is almost finished...and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months."

1844-OCT-22: When Jesus did not return [see next item on list] , Miller predicted this new date. In an event which is now called "The Great Disappointment," many Christians sold their property and possessions, quit their jobs and prepared themselves for the second coming. Nothing happened; the day came and went without incident.

1843-MAR-21: William Miller, founder of the Millerite movement, predicted that Jesus would come on this date.

1794: Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, thought Doomsday would be in in this year

968 CE: An eclipse was interpreted as a prelude to the end of the world by the army of the German emperor Otto III.

365 CE: A man by the name of Hilary of Poitiers, announced that the end would happen that year. It didn't.

About 30 CE: The Christian Scriptures (New Testament), when interpreted literally, appear to record many predictions by Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) that God's Kingdom would arrive within a very short period, or was actually in the process of arriving. For example, Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 16:28: "... there shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." In Matthew 24:34, Yeshua is recorded as saying: "... This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Since the life expectancy in those days was little over 30 years, Jesus appears to have predicted his second coming sometime during the 1st century CE. It didn't happen.

Source: ReligiousTolerance

Book: "Area 51" was all about Cold War nuclear and aircraft testing - and fake UFOs from Stalin

The mysterious Area 51, the ultra-secret tract of land seventy-five miles north of Las Vegas, has been UFO central for many years, with reports of captured aliens and their ships being hidden there. It sits right next to the now abandoned Nevada Test and Training Range, where over 100 atmospheric bomb tests were conducted in the 1950s. The U.S. government has never officially acknowledged the existence of Area 51, which only helped to encourage tales of UFOs.

Area 51

The myth is finally broken. Journalist Annie Jacobsen reports that the government once used the site for secret nuclear testing and weapons development. In her book "In Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base",  Jacobsen provides details on how several government agencies, including the CIA, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense and the CIA – used Area 51 to conduct secret research on aircraft, including one that traveled three times the speed of sound and a nuclear-propelled missile launching system to be space based. Jacobson also contends that the area was used for "dirty bomb" testing.

This is where it gets really weird and the credibility of the book is stretched thin. The author also reveals that the famous UFO crash at Roswell was actually Josef Stalin trying to create mass panic by using German "flying discs" carrying deformed child pilots engineered to look like aliens, by Nazi mad doctor Josef Mengele. This "War of the Worlds" scenario is a little difficult to swallow, but she goes even further claiming the U.S. was also conducting similar gruesome medical experiments.

From NPR: "In the summer and fall of 1957, a series of atmospheric nuclear tests — called Operation Plumbbob — were conducted above ground at the Nevada testing and training range, located just outside of Area 51. Twenty-nine explosions were set off while tests were conducted on troop readiness, accidental detonations and the effects of flying debris on living targets, according to documents declassified by the Department of Energy that Jacobsen details in her book."
"During the explosions, security officer Richard Mingus stood guard outside many of the weapons-testing sites, including one with the largest atmospheric bomb that has ever exploded in the United States."
""The bomb goes off. Richard Mingus is at ground zero, safe away in a bunker somewhere, and suddenly someone realizes, 'My God, Area 51 is unsecured,' " Jacobsen says. "And so they send Richard Mingus through ground zero, 45 minutes to an hour after this nuclear bomb has exploded, so that he can get to Area 51 to guard the gate.""
"Mingus survived, as did many other atomic veterans who stood close to ground zero during other Plumbbob tests."
There's more. The Department of Defense wondered what would happen if a plane carrying nuclear material crashed, so they simulated the disaster, spreading plutonium on the ground, creating their own "dirty bomb". The resulting fallout made much of the land uninhabitable, which was not cleaned up until the 1980s, when they sent in men in hazmat suits to scrape the earth.

Read more from NPR here.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Video: Watermelons in China are exploding!

Watermelons grown from Japanese seeds are exploding in eastern China. No one seems to no why. End of the world? Nuclear seeds? Change in weather?  Twenty farmers in a village in Jiangsu province planted seeds that were imported from Japan and ten of those farmers reported exploding watermelons, according to the Xinhua news agency. Well, it turns out it could just be the growth chemicals they were using ....

Farmer Liu Mingsuo tells his tale here. They blowed up real good!

Facebook "Dislike" button really, really does not exist (as much as we would like it to)

Here's an example of what you might see /  Courtesy of online security firm Sophos.
Facebook does not have a "dislike" button. Really. A nasty scam has been tricking people with messages, like this one: "Facebook now has a dislike button! Click 'Enable Dislike Button' to turn on the new feature!" These messages  have been popping up all over Facebook in the last week and activate some nasty, malicious code if you follow the instructions. Online security firm Sophos sent out a warning ballon on Monday about this latest honey trap. We've all dreamed about this button, but hey, it's only a dream!
Courtesy of Sophos
When you click on the link, not only will it be forwarded to your too numerous Facebook friends, but it will unleash the Javascript from hell onto your computer. Just stay clear amigos.

Related articles

Photos: Vintage TV remote controls

What would life be like without the TV remote control? Imagine having to actually get up from the couch every time you wanted to change a channel or adjust the volume. Then again, maybe eliminating them would make us all healthier, slimmer people – or not. Here are some of the earlier entries into the field, courtesy of oobject:

See the complete list here.

Barnes & Noble and Borders censor magazine with photo of topless man

I have to admit, he does indeed look a lot like a woman, but censoring this material is just ridiculous. Barnes & Noble and Border have both censored the lastest cover of Dossier Journal. The cover features a topless photo of male model Andrej Pejic. The book stores apparently ordered employees to place the magazine into ""opaque poly bags" because he looked too much like a woman.
Dossier Co-Founder and Creative Director Skye Parrot told the Huffington Post:
"It's a naked man on the cover of a magazine, which is done all of the time without being covered up, so I definitely don't think it merits this, but I understand what it is."
"It's not a coincidence that it's only the giant U.S. chain stores that are asking us to do this....It's only the American copies that are being censored. It seems that it probably made people uncomfortable. But that's part of what's interesting about the cover, I think, is that it's playing with those ideas of gender roles. He's topless, you can see that he's a man, but if you look at his face, he looks like a woman and he's so beautiful, he's both in that picture, in a way. I think that's what's interesting about it."

Arnold - "The Inseminator" - Schwarzenegger fathered love child with member of household staff

Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to the LA Times that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff ten years ago. Well, this certainly explains the breakup of his 25-year-marriage to Maria Shriver and her fleeing their mansion earlier this year.

The Terminator issued this statement:
"After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago. I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry."
“I ask that the media respect my wife and children through this extremely difficult time,” the statement concluded. While I deserve your attention and criticism, my family does not.”

I don't think Shriver will be back.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marijuana found growing at bin Laden compound

MarijuanaImage by warrantedarrest via Flickr
We have all heard about the diverse items found at the Osama bin Laden compound, including the extensive collection of electronic pornography, leaving many to wonder what bin Laden's personal life was like. Now,CNN's Nic Robertson reports, there was a crop of marijuana plants just yards from the home. What sort of party life was going on behind that barbed wire? Add this to the mix: Also found in the compound was Avena syrup - often called "nature's Viagra". Did Osama and the boys need a little libido booster? Maybe. Avena Sativa syrup, also called "wild oats", actually has two known uses: increasing sexual desire and as an artificial sweetener used for a troubled tummy.

Bin Laden's other vice: Coca Cola. Apparently he had quite and appetite for the stuff – "death to America" but keep the Coke coming.

The Osama bin Laden compound

Video: Bus driver using TWO cell phones while steering bus with his elbows on a busy street

I have a great BlueAnt bluetooth handsfree kit in my car, so I can talk on my phone while driving. I don't text or email while driving – it just isn't safe. But if you're an Italian bus driver ... seems to be a different set of rules, or I suppose, way of breaking the rules. Have a look at this video.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Smoke the Donkey becomes an American after traveling 7,000 miles from Iraq

War certainly makes for strange friends.  A group of U.S. Marines living in Iraq's Anbar Province three years ago, befriended a  donkey who wandered into their camp.  They named him "Smoke the Donkey" and made him their mascot. When the marines departed in 2009 they left Smoke in the care of a local sheik. 

One of the marines,  retired Col. John Folsom, couldn't forget about Smoke. He used to walk Smoke daily and it didn't seem right to him that the donkey was left behind in Iraq. He decided to bring Smoke to the U.S., which proved to be a difficult task. First, the sheik who was looking after Smoke demanded $30,000 for the donkey, but later drop his demand. Then there was the predictable bureaucracy, paperwork and logistics involved with transporting a donkey 7,000 miles. Next there was the cost. Bringing Smoke to the U.S. cost between $30,000 to $40,000, which was covered by donations.  
After 37 days, Smoke finally arrived in the United States, where he will begin his new job as a therapy animal. Folsom met Smoke in New York, to transport him to his new life in Omaha. "He's an American donkey now," Folsom said.

Here's an except from the Smoke the Donkey Facebook page:

Operation Smoke – Day 1Date: Tuesday - April 5, 2011Time: 9:46 a.m. (Iraqi time)Location: Erbil, Kurdistan 
We are about an hour away from beginning our journey with Smoke to Istanbul, Turkey. It poured rain all night so we have our fingers crossed the truck that we hired to transport Smoke to the border will not get stuck in the mud leading to the farm. If we decide it is too risky we will walk Smoke to where we can load him. This is tricky since the truck does not have a ramp. 
The drive to Zakho, which is where we will cross into Turkey, is about a three hour drive from Erbil. We have been told once we get there to prepare to spend up to 5 hours actually getting processed to cross. Hopefully, it will not take this long because that extends Smoke’s trip in the back of a truck for even longer. We are hoping to have no delays, but in this part of the world you have to prepare for that. As far as we can tell though we have all the documents in order to satisfy the Turkey agriculture officials. This week we got Smoke tested for a number of things by the main Veterinary Lab in Erbil and the blood work came back negative, which was a relief – yet what we expected. This morning we got the Kurdistan Ministry of Agriculture to sign off on all the necessary documents too, so I think we are good to good – hopefully!  
Smoke has been taking it easy the last few days in preparation for his journey to his forever home. Attached is a photo taken of him playing with one of the puppies at the farm. I also attached pictures of him getting his blood work done. Not a fun thing for Smoke, but he was fairly cooperative. Will send more pictures that we’ll take throughout the day.


First Twitter posts by celebrities

Twitter was launched in July 2006 by Jack Dorsey and asked one very simple question: “What are you doing?” Since then, virtually every celebrity has felt compelled to answer that question. Who can forget Charlie Sheen's record breaking entry into the Twitter universe, setting a world record for reaching one million followers in 25 hours and 17 minutes, only to become a Twitter train wreck. News about the death of Osama bin Laden was broken on Twitter, demonstrating the communications powerhouse Twitter has become.  

Here's a roundup, compiled by Mashable, of some of the more notable first tweets by celebs.

Visualization of how the Urbahn tweet – which broke the news of Osama's death – spread on Twitter

Most people know the story about Keith Urbahn, the former chief of staff to Donald Rumsfeld, being the very first person in the world to break the news about the U.S. had killing Osama Bin Laden. He did this with via Twitter, starting a cascading flow of information. The tweet instantly went  viral, causing the one of the largest traffic flows that Twitter has ever seen.

Social Flow, a social media optimization company, created this visualization of how the Urbahn tweet spread. From SocialFlow:
"At SocialFlow we’ve analyzed the effects of timing and topicality within social streams. In this study we looked at 14.8 million tweets and bitly links with the goal of reaching an understanding on how timing, along with other core dynamics can amplify the reach of a single tweet to a massive scale. Below is a visualization of the network graph showing the spread of Keith Urbahn’s single speculative tweet across users on Twitter."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The world's most expensive photo sells for $3,890,500

All I can say about this is "wow".  A self-portait by American photographer Cindy Sherman, has sold for an amazing $3,890,500.

Cindy Sherman/Courtesy of Christie's
Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 1981

From NPR: "The 1981 self-portrait taken by celebrated photographer Cindy Sherman was sold at a Christie's auction Wednesday. The sale surpassed Christie's estimates of $1.5-2 million ringing in at a final price of $3,890,500. That's not only a record for the photographer, but also the "highest price ever realized for a photograph," says Daniel Kunitz, editor in chief of Modern Painters."
The previous record was set in 2007 when Andreas Gursky's, 99 Cent II Diptychon fetched $3,346,456. Here's a list of the top five most expensive photos according to Wikipedia :
1. Cindy Sherman, Untitled #96 (1981), $3,890,500, May 2011, Christie's New York 
2. Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent II Diptychon (2001), $3,346,456, February 2007, Sotheby's London auction. A second print of 99 Cent II Diptychon sold for $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery, and a third print sold for $2.25 million at Sotheby's in May 2006 
3. Edward Steichen, The Pond-Moonlight (1904), $2,928,000, February 2006, Sotheby's New York auction 
4. Dmitry Medvedev, Kremlin of Tobolsk (2009), $1,750,000, January 2010, Christmas Yarmarka, Saint Petersburg 
5.Edward Weston, Nude (1925), $1,609,000, April 2008, Sotheby's New York auction
You can read a complete list of the most expensive photographs here.

Ugandan parliament gives up on "death sentence for gays" bill for the moment

While we debate such controversial topics  as gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia in the Western world, it's important to note that much more basic human rights issues, which we take for granted, are still being debated in democratic countries in other parts of the world. One of the more vile issues, currently being proposed by a government, is the anti-gay bill that has been kicking around the Ugandan parliament since 2009. The bill would mandate the death sentence for gays in some instances, and imprisonment in others. For the moment, parliament has adjourned without voting on the bill, largely due to pressure from the U.S. and other Western countries.

This doesn't mean the issue is dead. The author of the bill, David Bahati, has said he would try to move the legislation forward next session.

As you would expect, life in Uganda is not easy for gays. Last year, a tabloid newspaper printing names and photos of men it claimed were gay, with a front page headline "Hang Them". Not long after, gay rights activist David Kato, whose photo appeare in the paper, was murdered. Police denied any connection between his sexual orientation and murder.

Politics in Uganda might be better than in the days of dictator Idi Amin , but they obviously have a long way to go. Uganda's opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, has been repeatedly beaten by police during protests over the recent election results. He eventually had to flee the country for medical treatment and was initially barred from returning. The government eventually relented and allowed his return, for fear of embarrassment in front of visiting African leaders, in the country to attend the forth-term inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni.

Here's the video of his return.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rand Paul equates universal healthcare to slavery

Senator Rand Paul, son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, has some good ideas going for him, as does his dad. But equating universal health care to slavery in just wacko.
Rand: "With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It's not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery."
Huh? I'm at a loss to explain the comparison. I do understand the problems and complexity of implementing health care for the masses, but this is plain dumb. Watch for yourself.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Facebook de-friends the "other" Mark Zuckerberg

If you're the right Mark Zuckerberg you are a lucky man, sitting on the Facebook empire worth billions. If you're Mark Zuckerberg the Indianapolis lawyer, you are not so lucky, at least with Facebook. Bankruptcy attorney Mark S. Zuckerberg has had his Facebook account pulled citing identity fraud, according to The Indianapolis Star.

The "lucky" Zuckerberg's Facebook page

"I hope it's all just a misunderstanding on their part," Zuckerberg said.

"All my friends are upset with me because they think I de-friended them," Zuckerberg told the Star,  "I've had to do a lot of explaining."

The Star reported that Zuckerberg "receives about 500 Facebook friend requests a day, almost all of them mistaking him for the "other" Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook," and that his law office continually fields calls from people with Facebook complaints.

Zuckerberg had to prove his identity by providing copies of his driver's license, birth certificate, and Indianapolis Bar Association license after Facebook initially denied his attempt to create his account two years ago. I suppose this time they'll require a DNA test.