Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Northern Light of Norway

You still have 2 more months to visit the northern country to experience the most intense Northern Light in 50 years. More pictures here.

Tough Guy Race

The Atlantic has more pictures of this competition in Perton, England. It looks fun and dirty.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Poisoned European Economic Policy

How could the economy thrive when unemployment was already high, and government policies were directly reducing employment even further? Confidence! “I firmly believe,” declared Jean-Claude Trichet — at the time the president of the European Central Bank, and a strong advocate of the doctrine of expansionary austerity — “that in the current circumstances confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery, because confidence is the key factor today.” (Krugman)
 Krugman draws blood.

The Economist piles on
The McKinsey analysts carefully avoid suggesting this means Europe’s austerity is misguided. Circumstances today are different, they argue: European governments began with higher debt and deficits, leaving them with less room for manoeuvre. But the message is clear: America is closer to Sweden’s successful template than Europe is. Debt reduction is very difficult without economic growth, and the scale of Europe’s austerity makes it hard to see where that growth will come from.
If business sector is shrinking due to loss of consumer demands and governments aren't spending, where the fuck will the growth come from? All these leaders are out of their collective timid mind.

Eating Poisoned Cat is bad for your health

A Chinese billionaire’s love of cat meat may have cost him his life. Chinese police are investigating whether local billionaire tycoon Long Liyuan was killed by a poison-spiked batch of cat stew in the southern province of Guangdong. The 49-year-old Long died suddenly on Dec. 23 of cardiac arrest after diving into a dish of cat meat stew, a local delicacy. Long was having a business lunch with two other men at the time who also became ill but survived. (ABC News)

Spaced Repetition Learning

First, think about how you attack a pile of study material. “People tend to try to learn in blocks,” says Bjork, “mastering one thing before moving on to the next.” But instead he recommends interleaving, a strategy in which, for example, instead of spending an hour working on your tennis serve, you mix in a range of skills like backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork. “This creates a sense of difficulty,” says Bjork, “and people tend not to notice the immediate effects of learning.”

Instead of making an appreciable leap forward with your serving ability after a session of focused practice, interleaving forces you to make nearly imperceptible steps forward with many skills. But over time, the sum of these small steps is much greater than the sum of the leaps you would have taken if you’d spent the same amount of time mastering each skill in its turn.
Bjork explains that successful interleaving allows you to “seat” each skill among the others: “If information is studied so that it can be interpreted in relation to other things in memory, learning is much more powerful,” he says.
There’s one caveat: Make sure the mini skills you interleave are related in some higher-order way. If you’re trying to learn tennis, you’d want to interleave serves, backhands, volleys, smashes, and footwork — not serves, synchronized swimming, European capitals, and programming in Java.(Wired)
The brain is an amazing thing. This software, Anki, is one of the best tool to memorize things based on its spaced repetition algorithm (plus it's free).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The secret war against Iran

This past July, a motorcyclist ambushed Darioush Rezaei Nejad, a nuclear physicist and a researcher for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, as he sat in his car outside his house. The biker drew a pistol and shot the scientist dead through the car window.
Four months later, in November, a huge explosion occurred at a Revolutionary Guards base 30 miles west of Tehran. The cloud of smoke was visible from the city, where residents could feel the ground shake and hear their windows rattle, and satellite photos showed that almost the entire base was obliterated. Brig. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ missile-development division, was killed, as were 16 of his personnel. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader, paid respect by coming to the funeral service for the general and visiting the widow at her home, where he called Moghaddam a martyr.
Just this month, on Jan. 11, two years after his colleague and friend Massoud Ali Mohammadi was killed, a deputy director at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility named Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan left his home and headed for a laboratory in downtown Tehran. A few months earlier, a photograph of him accompanying Ahmadinejad on a tour of nuclear installations appeared in newspapers across the globe. Two motorcyclists drove up to his car and attached a limpet mine that killed him on the spot. (NY Times)
 The Middle East is a rough neighborhood. If there's an Israel air strike against Iran, it's time to evacuate UAE.

NY Private Primary Schools cost more than Harvard

They start charging 40,000 USD per year for tuition.

Radio Lab covers Lucid Dream

It's crazy and amazing at the same time.

 Then one year, Steve started working on a book about topics at the edge of science, and along the way he stumbled into lucid dreaming. Pretty soon, Steve was reading through old sleep studies conducted by a scientist named Stephen LaBerge, and he was starting to wonder if lucid dreaming might not be so fringe-y after all. So he called up LaBerge's assistant and began training himself on a set of techniques that would eventually help him put his inner demon to bed. (Radio Lab)

Child Labor in Ivory Coast Coco Plantation

Your guilty pleasure just got a lot guiltier.
Child labor is a significant part of a lot of the production of the world's cocoa, the essential ingredient in chocolate.
About 600,000 children in Ivory Coast work on cocoa farms, out of about 2 million farmers, according to UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund. (Global Post)

Egypt's death masks

Between 1887 and 1889, the British archaeologist W.M. Flinders Petrie turned his attention to the Fayum, a sprawling oasis region 150 miles south of Alexandria. Excavating a vast cemetery from the first and second centuries A.D., when imperial Rome ruled Egypt, he found scores of exquisite portraits executed on wood panels by anonymous artists, each one associated with a mummified body. Petrie eventually uncovered 150. (Smithsonian)

These paintings are almost 2 centuries old and yet they still look vivid.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mexican Army Drug Offensive

Faced with the risk of losing half of Mexico to a network of marauding drug traffickers, the Mexican army is digging in for a major new offensive into the heart of Zeta country.
According to Excelsior, the Mexican army is building a string of new bases across the Zeta cartel’s stomping grounds of Tamaulipas to support some 13,000 soldiers currently patrolling the state. This means nearly 30 percent of the Mexican army’s counter-cartel troops are fortifying directly in the Zetas’ homeland (more are fighting the Zetas elsewhere), and it’s a sign Mexico’s cartel strategy has finally found its main enemy. (Danger Room)
 Uh uh, expect more bloody news out of Mexico. Good luck.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The perfect water filter

Researchers from the home of graphene, the University of Manchester in England, have discovered — seemingly by chance — one of the most important properties of graphene yet: It’s impermeable to everything but water. It is the perfect water filter. 
In an experiment, the University of Manchester researchers filled a metal container with a variety of liquids and gases and then covered it with a film of graphene oxide. Their most sensitive equipment was unable to register any molecules leaving the container, except water vapor. The graphene oxide filter even prevented helium gas from escaping, which is notoriously finicky. (Extreme Tech)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coup deta in Papua New Guinea

Rebel soldiers have seized Papua New Guinea's military headquarters, deposing the country's top defence official and demanding the reinstatement of the ousted prime minister, Sir Michael Somare.

The self-proclaimed new leader of the country's defence forces, retired Colonel Yaura Sasa, insisted he was not mounting a coup. But he warned that the military would take unspecified action unless Peter O'Neill stood down within a week and Somare was reinstated, as ordered by the supreme court last month.(Guardian)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Good Fat

It is brown fat, actually brown in color, and its great appeal is that it burns calories like a furnace. A new study finds that one form of it, which is turned on when people get cold, sucks fat out of the rest of the body to fuel itself. Another new study finds that a second form of brown fat can be created from ordinary white fat by exercise.(NY Times)
What we can derived from these results is: exercise, especially in Winter and take cold shower. 

Tahrir on Jan 25

The marches were the largest I have seen and this picture showed that this is the largest gathering in Tahrir since Jan 25 last year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Totally Drug Resistant TB

Indian doctors have reported the country's first cases of "totally drug-resistant tuberculosis," a long-feared and virtually untreatable form of the killer lung disease.
It's not the first time highly resistant cases like this have been seen. Since 2003, patients have been documented in Italy and Iran. It has mostly been limited to impoverished areas, and has not spread widely. But experts believe there could be many undocumented cases.
No one expects the Indian TB strains to rapidly spread elsewhere. The airborne disease is mainly transmitted through close personal contact and isn't nearly as contagious as the flu. Indeed, most of the cases of this kind of TB were not from person-to-person infection but were mutations that occurred in poorly treated patients.
What's more, there's a debate within the public health community about whether to even label TB infections as totally drug resistant. The World Health Organization hasn't accepted the term and still considers the cases to be what's now called extensively drug-resistant TB, or XDR. However, Dr. Paul Nunn, a coordinator at the WHO's Stop TB Department in Geneva, said there is ample proof that these virtually untreatable cases do exist.(MSNBC)
Fuck, this is really bad news.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gay Green vs Red Pig in Finnish runoff election

Sauli Niinisto, a former finance minister, won 37 percent of the vote, well ahead of the other candidates but short of the majority needed to avoid a second round, official preliminary results showed.

With all votes counted, Pekka Haavisto, of the Greens party, was second with 18.8 percent, securing his place in the Feb. 5 runoff. (ABC News)

Welcome to the Year of the Water Dragon

A billion-plus Asians welcomed the Year of the Dragon on Monday with a cacophony of fireworks, hoping the mightiest sign in the Chinese zodiac will usher in the wealth and power it represents.(Economic Times)

The year of the Dragon is thought to be the best year to have a son. This year is the turn of the Water Dragon.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Strait of Hormuz smugglers

The small Omani town of Khasab sits at the tip of the Musandam Peninsula, which sticks out like a thumb into the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow sea passage separating Iran and the Arabian coast. Since increasingly stringent sanctions have been imposed on trade with Iran, the town has grown to become an important hub for smuggling goods across the strait to Iran. Here, commercial and fishing ships can be seen off the shores of Khasab. (Spiegel)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

European Central Banks take a page from the US Fed

Less than two weeks later, on Dec. 21, the bank announced the results of its technical maneuver: the banks had taken $630 billion as part of the program. In the weeks that followed, the banks appear to have used a sizable share of the cash to buy the European bonds so desperately in need of customers. It was as if the European Central Bank had injected lenders with steroids, then asked them to do the heavy lifting. The strategy appears to be paying off. Even in the face of recession warnings and the agency’s downgrades, the European debt market keeps improving.

Financial experts say the central bank’s intervention seems to have catalyzed a virtuous circle: As new governments come in and promise to deliver spending cuts, tax increases and balanced budgets, once gun-shy banks have an added incentive to tap new financing from the central bank and jump back into bond markets that they were running from just a few months ago.(NY Times)

Self immolation in the Arab world

More than a year after a young Tunisian set himself on fire and touched off revolutions throughout the Arab world, self-immolation, symbolic of systemic frustration and helplessness, has become increasingly common across the region.
On Wednesday, five young men self-immolated in Morocco, adding to the grim tally for a month in which others have set themselves on fire in Tunisia, Jordan and Bahrain. (New York Times)

This 'tradition' of self immolation comes from East Asia and finally it reached the Arab countries.

This Buddhist monk was protesting the South Vietnamese government's oppression of Buddhism in 1963.   

It is quite interesting to see the action the begins from the Buddhist/Hindu traditions transfers to Muslim majority society.

But by God, don't do it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Extinct monkey discovered in Indonesia

Scientists working in the jungles of Indonesia have “rediscovered” a large, gray monkey that was previously thought to be extinct, the Associated Press reports.  (TPM)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jerry Yang, the founder of Yahoo, quits

He stepped down from Yahoo Board yesterday. It's a sad day :( The guy was a pioneer in the heyday of the world wide web.

Today is SOPA blackout day

Wikipedia is going black today along with boingboing and other notable and large sites to protests against the proposed SOPA legislation that pretend to "end piracy" on the Internet but pretty much allow draconian measures taken against sites on the Internet.

http://protestsopa.com/ collects screenshots of sites participating on the blackout today. Here are a few samples I took from choice sites. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Will Scotland separate from UK?

Wheels were put in motion this week to give Scottish citizens the chance to vote on independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by the fall of 2014.(Global Post)

 This guy thinks so.

Nigeria to cut petrol price

“AFTER due consideration and consultations with state governors and the leadership of the National Assembly, government has approved the reduction of the pump price of petrol to N97 per litre,” President Goodluck Jonathan said this morning. 
He disclosed this in his second address to the nation in two weeks on the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.
The measure which led to the removal of the contentious fuel subsidy and engendered a rise of the pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS) or petrol from N65 to more than N140 precipitated, since last Monday, a disruption of economic activities nationwide following a strike and protests called by Labour and its civil society allies.(NGR Guardian)

 A subsidy, once in place, is bloody hard to remove.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Paris - Dakar: Latin America Edition

The Atlantic has more breathtaking pictures from the race. Usually the rally happens in Africa but due to security concerns in the past several years, they move it to Latin America.

Taiwan Election Result

President Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected by a comfortable margin on Saturday, fending off a challenge from his main rival, Tsai Ing-wen, who criticized his handling of the economy but also sought to exploit fears among voters that Mr. Ma’s conciliatory approach toward China was eroding the island’s sovereignty. (NY Times)

This is not how it's supposed to be



This second picture really shows how near this cruise liner is to the shore. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

IoS's advantages over other mobile platforms

Negotiations with the carriers:

Android handset makers: Here are our phones. How would you like us to change them so that you will sell them?
Microsoft: Here’s $200 million. Please sell our phones.
Apple: Here is our new phone. It comes in black or white. We will let you sell it.
(Daring Fireball)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Political Islam without Oil: Friedman's rare form

With the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the even more puritanical Salafist Al Nour Party having stunned both themselves and Egyptians by garnering more than 60 percent of the seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, we’re about to see a unique lab test for the Middle East: What happens when political Islam has to wrestle with modernity and globalization without oil? (Tom Friedman)
 He is in rare form where his analysis is straightforward and making sense.

Awesome Sale signs

The killing of Iran's Scientist continues

Iranian media reported Wednesday that a university professor and nuclear scientist was killed by a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist in Tehran. (Haaretz)
There is already a war undergoing against Iran. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An interview with Czech Foreign Minister

SPIEGEL: Do you understand the German fear of becoming the main financial contributor to a so-called transfer union, where the richer members of the euro zone would subsidize the poorer ones?  
Schwarzenberg: Of course I understand it. The only thing is, the German recovery and Germany's export performance are based on the fact that the countries that are now in debt went shopping on credit in Germany. Who benefited the most from all the reckless debt policies? You did! The Germans should keep that in mind. 
SPIEGEL: And what is your opinion of the chancellor? Schwarzenberg: Ms. Merkel is a very tough politician. She knows when it is best to wait until one's opponent destroys himself. This is a great art, which I acknowledge. Does she have a vision for Europe? Perhaps. But I for one am not aware of it. (Spiegel)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Lovely travel video

End of injustice in Malaysia

Ending a politically charged two-year trial, Malaysia’s High Court acquitted the country’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, of sodomy charges on Monday. 
The courtroom erupted in cheers after the verdict, as did thousands of Mr. Anwar’s supporters gathered outside. Mr. Anwar, appearing surprised by the outcome, hugged his family and told reporters, “Thank God justice has prevailed.” (NY Times)
 The case had no merit since the beginning. It was used by Malaysian government against their once promising candidate who turned against them.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Real Life Pirate Drama

Fifteen Somali pirates were also on board Al Mulahi, crouched and cornered on the very vessel they had seized in November to use as their mother ship. They had knives, a pistol and four assault rifles. But they did not speak Urdu. For a moment, the captors depended on their captives. They asked their Iranian hostages what the American sailors had just said.
One of the hostages, Khaled Abdulkhaled, answered without pause: “They said they are about to blow this ship up.” (NY Times)

Real to life awesome good ending story. 

Saturday, January 07, 2012


The decision by South Korea and Japan to try to accommodate Washington’s demands follows reports that China has already reduced its purchase of Iranian crude in the past month in a pricing dispute with Tehran. Whatever the motives, the combined loss of sales threatens an economy already reeling, where the currency has plummeted in value, inflation has surged and the general public has expressed growing anxiety about the prospect of war. (NY Times)
Iran is being squeezed left and right by various forms of sanctions. I hope they avoid a new war.  

Friday, January 06, 2012

Suicide bombers hit Damascus


25 people killed so far. Are we looking at Iraq 2.0 ?

Bolivia's dangerous mountain road

Thursday, January 05, 2012

127 percent increase in Buenos Aries Subway far

It will be 2.50 pesos starting this Friday. The current price is 1.1 pesos.

2.50 pesos is 0.58 USD.

An interview with a Calabrian Mafia

The 'Ndrangheta were responsible for a 2007 massacre in the German city of Duisburg. Such incidents are rare; the Calabrian mafia likes to keep a low profile.

"Our customers in Germany are mostly pimps and a large biker gang," says Carlo. "We deliver in units of 50 to 70 kilograms (110 to 154 pounds), often to brothels." He says that he doesn't know what happens to the cocaine there. The 'Ndrangheta are careful not to take risks by committing ordinary crimes. "We don't deal drugs on German streets," says Carlo.  (Spiegel)

China buys the most Rolls-Royce in 2011

When it comes to mapping the world’s changing plutocracy, the Rolls-Royce Index is among the more useful tools.
Simply put, it measures which country is buying the most Rolls-Royces. The index not only gives us a sense of the country’s with the most excess wealth to burn (a base model Rolls will set you back at least $245,000), but also the citizens who are most anxious to display it. For ages, America has topped the list.
But in 2011, China beat out the U.S. to top the index for the first time. (wsj)

Whale Wars Season return

Paul Watson's ship the Steve Irwin is guiding the crippled Brigitte Bardot - another Sea Shepherd vessel - into the WA port of Fremantle where it will be repaired. 
Both ships should dock in Fremantle around 9pm AEST. 
But hot on their heels is the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru No. 2, which this morning was still tailing both ships. 
Captain Watson told The Daily Telegraph Online there were men on the Japanese ship were dressed in black, "like a bunch of ninjas". (news.au)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sandal Campaign in Indonesia

For want of a sandal: National Commission for Child Protection advisory board chief Seto Mulyadi counts sandals in front of the commission’s headquarters in Jakarta on Tuesday. Sandals have been collected as part of a protest against the trial of a 15-year-old boy in Palu, Central Sulawesi, allegedly for stealing a police officer’s sandals. (JP/Jerry Adiguna) 
From The Jakarta Post.

It's great to see that grass root movement in Indonesia is going strong. We still have tons of stupid stuff going on that need to be challenged publicly. 

Military satellite rescue

The details of AEHF-1′s rescue, completed in October this year, are only now becoming clear as members of the Air Force team speak out. Saving the pricey, long-in-development comms satellite — one of a planned six-craft constellation meant to relay data between military forces scattered across the globe — involved some bold decision-making, a lot of creative engineering, not a little bit of luck and, last but not least, a steady supply of pizzas delivered to the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, where military and contract space operators worked around the clock to plan the satellite’s recovery. (Danger Room)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

There's going to be a round 2.

Finland's secret sauce

Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."  
This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D. 
The irony of Sahlberg's making this comment during a talk at the Dwight School seemed obvious. Like many of America's best schools, Dwight is a private institution that costs high-school students upward of $35,000 a year to attend -- not to mention that Dwight, in particular, is run for profit, an increasing trend in the U.S. Yet no one in the room commented on Sahlberg's statement. I found this surprising. Sahlberg himself did not. (The Atlantic)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Krugman's treatise on government debt

First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don’t — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.  
Second — and this is the point almost nobody seems to get — an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves. (Krugman)
Bottom line, a country's finance is not similar to a household finance. It behaves differently and it is subjected to different external forces. Therefore it is wise to treat them differently.

Chinese Tomb Raiders

Workers excavate a 1,700-year old brick tomb in China's Jiangsu province. But often thieves get there first, sometimes just bulldozing their way in. Photograph: AP

Tomb theft is a global problem that has gone on for centuries. But the sheer scope of China's heritage – with thousands of sites, many of them in remote locations – poses a particular challenge. 
"Before, China had a large number of valuable ancient tombs and although it was really depressing to see a tomb raided, it was still possible to run into a similar one in the future," said Professor Wei Zheng, an archaeologist at Peking University. "Nowadays too many have been destroyed. Once one is raided, it is really difficult to find a similar one." 
His colleague, Professor Lei Xingshan, said: "We used to say nine out of 10 tombs were empty because of tomb-raiding, but now it has become 9.5 out of 10." 
Their team found more than 900 tombs in one part of Shanxi they researched and almost every one had been raided. (Guardian)
There is little that a country can do in preventing tomb raiding. This problem has existed for thousands of years.