links for 2009-01-30

  • Director Ridley Scott has signed up to produce the big screen remake of 1980s TV show The A-Team, according to industry paper Variety.

    The film, due out in 2010, will be updated so that the army veterans will have fought in the Middle East and not in Vietnam, Variety adds.

    (tags: movies film a-team ridleyscott)

  • Herbal medicine is NOT homeopathy.

    Herbal medicine and the use of pure chemical constituents from plants still subscribe to dose-response pharmacology: that the biological response varies in direct proportion to the dose or concentration of the remedy. While some medicinal plants are used as a source for homeopathic treatments, the rationale for dosing in medicine vs. homeopathy are diametrically opposed. Lumping together herbal medicine with homeopathy gives the former practice the same air of impossibility and detracts from the demonstrated benefits and future promise of using plants as a source of novel therapeutic molecules.

    (tags: science medicine skeptic homeopathy herbs herbalmedicine CAM)

  • An alternative proposal to dark energy in which the Earth sits near the center of a large void is undergoing scrutiny, and the results show that void models fit poorly with observed data. Nevertheless, scientists say that more research will be needed to determine if void models, dark energy, or something else can accurately explain how the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.

    (tags: science astronomy darkenergy void darkmatter universe cosmology)

  • After a Lutheran school expelled two 16-year-old girls for having “a bond of intimacy” that was “characteristic of a lesbian relationship,” the girls sued, contending the school had violated a state anti-discrimination law.

    In response to that suit, an appeals court decided this week that the private religious school was not a business and therefore did not have to comply with a state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating.

    (tags: law religion california lgbt education discrimination religiousschools)

  • A budding restaurateur is planning to spend £1m on turning a block of toilets into a bistro in Nottingham.

    Uman Jaspel bought the former public toilets on Carrington Street for about £500,000 and intends to spend a further £500,000 renovating the building.

    (tags: toilets toilet nottingham restaurant)

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Once again with the theme changes

I can’t help myself. I just can’t stop messing with the theme for this blog.

Expect things to change around a bit over the next week or so. I quite like this Firebug theme but I’ll need to personalise it a bit with bigger fonts and some other changes here and there.

I’ll try not to break it…

There are no Ikea Pixies

We moved house (again, again) towards the end of last year and we’ve been in need of a wardrobe in our bedroom. So far we’ve managed with some cheapo clothes rails from Argos, but as one of those collapsed during the middle of the night recently we’ve decided to push on with a purchase.

We’d looked all over the place for decent, cheap wardrobes, trying our hardest not to buy one from our local Swedish furniture seller. It’s not that we don’t like Ikea stuff – we do – but it’s good to shop around and see what else is about. However, we tried everywhere and couldn’t find anything that suited our needs that came anywhere near as cheap as Ikea.

OK, I’m going to have to build this myself, but I’ve had a lot of practice with Ikea furniture in the past and you can’t know savings of several hundred pounds compared to the competition.

Ikea Wardrobe planner

We’ve gone for a Pax Lomen combination with shiny white doors. They look nice and have a lot of internal features for storage. We’d printed off a list from after using their useful wardrobe planning tool and I headed off to Ikea to buy it.

The wardrobe is 236cm tall and wouldn’t fit into our car (or, really, anyone’s car) so we decided to have it delivered. I thought that the purchase would go like this:

Arrive at Ikea. Struggle to find anywhere to park. Get annoyed at multiple pedestrians wandering all over the place getting in my way. Eventually find a parking space, park and wander aimlessly in front of car drivers trying to find that elusive parking space. Enter Ikea. Find that the Wardrobe department is at the furthest part of the store. Try and get there in good time but become immensely frustrated by lots of people walking very, very slowly. Arrive, eventually, at the wardrobe department. A nice lady, or gentleman, will order all the parts for me on their little computer. They will arrange delivery and I will pay. The Ikea Pixies will then find all the bits required for my purchase and load them onto a van. They will arrive the next day. I will eat meatballs.

Sadly, there are no Ikea Pixies. Clearly I failed to anticipate the low-cost nature of my wardrobe purchase. Ikea can keep their prices low by not employing pixies to carry out these little jobs for you. You have to do it yourself.

So, once I spoke to the nice Ikea lady (she was very helpful) she handed me a sheet of paper with all the aisle details and instructions for my next steps. I could not call on the pixies – there are none in Ikea. I had to collect a trolley and find all the bits on my own.

I don’t know why I didn’t think that I’d have to do this. I’m an idiot.

I found all my parts. The Pax wardrobe section boxes weighed 65kgs each. 65kgs! That’s over ten stones in weight – nearly as much as me! There were two of those boxes, along with four doors and multiple other bits.

I hurt my finger.

I somehow managed to manhandle the trolley around to the tills to pay before heading to the delivery desk, where another nice lady took my details and £30 payment for the delivery. They come tomorrow, which I think is pretty good service.

I would have preferred Ikea Pixies. But there were none.

links for 2009-01-29

  • …the UN (that beacon of hope for human rights – NOT) voted on a resolution demanding basic civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered (lgbt) people. Some 66 countries supported the resolution, and not unexpectedly, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, Old European countries with their respect for civil rights feature prominently on the list. No surprise, unfortunately, that thuggish places like Saudia Arabia, Russia, Jamaica and others are missing in action. No surprise either that the USA and the Vatican cannot be found on the list of supporters of the human rights of lgbt people.

    (tags: ethics humanrights un unitednations lgbt)

  • The right to criticise religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we “respect” religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian of free speech has had his job rewritten – to put him on the side of the religious censors.

    (tags: law religion atheism humanrights secularism un)

  • Centaurus A is a nearby galaxy — at 13 million light years distant, only a handful of big galaxies are closer to us. And it’s weird: it’s an elliptical galaxy eating a spiral! They’re in the last stages of merging into one bigger and messier galaxy. Dust from the spiral forms a huge ring around the center of the galaxy, with the gas and dust from both galaxies being dumped into the core.

    But at that core is a supermassive black hole, gobbling down the matter as fast as it can… and even that’s not fast enough. The material piles up around the black hole, forming a superheated disk which helps channel all the vast forces in play around it. The end result is two corridors, twin tunnels leading up and away from the poles of the disk. Material heated to millions of degrees blasts through these paths, creating beams of matter and energy screaming out from the black hole.

    And we have a front row seat.

    (tags: science astronomy badastronomy centaurusa galxies galaxy blackhole)

links for 2009-01-28

  • The UK’s Intellectual Property minister David Lammy has said the government will not force internet service providers to pursue file sharers.

    There had been mounting speculation about government legislation on the issue as the music industry steps up its fight against the pirates.

    Other countries, such as France, have supported tough action on file-sharers, who cost the industry millions.

    But Mr Lammy said legislation would be too complex.

    (tags: internet law isp government piracy)

  • While church numbers have been falling for years, these days the trend is for spirituality with no links to organised religion. Now the Church is on a mission to convert the so-called spiritual-but-not-religious, reports Jolyon Jenkins.

    At the Mind Body Spirit Fair, held in Telford last autumn, you could consult a clairvoyant, purchase psychic healing, or stock up on healing crystals. You could also, if you wanted, talk to Mark Berry.

    Mark is a Christian missionary – although he doesn’t like the word much – to Telford, sent there by the Church of England and the Church Mission Society, because Telford has one of the lowest church-going populations in Britain.

    (tags: religion spirituality missionary telford)

  • The number of men having breast reduction operations in the UK is rising dramatically, but is this really the result of the media spotlighting the physical flaws of male celebrities?

    (tags: health media uk moobs dadderies)

  • Wireless access points could be used by hi-tech criminals to spread viruses and worms, warn US researchers.

    Security holes and the popularity of the devices in cities makes them ideal for spreading malware, they found.

    Using modelling methods from real diseases the team showed how a worm could gradually infect all access points in urban areas.

    (tags: technology wi-fi news security)

  • Having followed the cash-for-influence scandal over the past couple of days, I find myself hoping that we’ll now see House of Lords reform move back up the political agenda. Once again we’re reminded of just how unaccountable the Lords are, especially given the fact that, as was famously the case with Jeffrey Archer, the accused Lords will in all likelihood keep their titles even if they are found to have broken the law.

    In my own view this scandal demonstrates the need for a fully elected and accountable second chamber (after all, MPs are subject far stricter rules than Lords), and at the very least it shows that previous reform hasn’t gone far enough.

    (tags: scandal government lords houseoflords reform)

  • Yesterday as I was leaving the DLD Conference in Munich, Germany someone walked up to me and quite deliberately spat in my face. Before I even understood what was happening, he veered off into the crowd, just another dark head in a dark suit. People around me stared, then looked away and continued their conversation.

    (tags: technology blog security techcrunch arseholes arrington)

  • This is a genuine letter of complaint sent to Sir Richard Branson. We know that because we checked with Virgin. Polly in the press office confirmed that Branson phoned the man back because “he always likes to hear feedback”.

    But she wouldn’t confirm rumours that the Virgin boss thought this was the funniest letter of complaint he’d ever received.

    (tags: virgin humor airlines food letter complaint)

  • The administration area of a Web application is a favorite target of hackers and thus particularly well protected. The same goes for WordPress: when creating a blog, the system creates an administrative user with a perfectly secure password and blocks public access to the settings area with a log-in page. This is the cornerstone of its protection. Let’s dig deeper!

    (tags: wordpress security tips tutorial admin tutorials wp)

  • A top doctor has admitted her part in hoodwinking a leading medical journal after inventing a medical condition called “cello scrotum”.

    Elaine Murphy – now Baroness Murphy – dreamt up the painful complaint in the 1970s, sending a report to the British Medical Journal.

    (tags: medicine cello scrotum celloscrotum hoax)

links for 2009-01-27

  • Sir David Attenborough has revealed that he receives hate mail from viewers for failing to credit God in his documentaries. In an interview with this week’s Radio Times about his latest documentary, on Charles Darwin and natural selection, the broadcaster said: “They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance.”

    Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give “credit” to God, Attenborough added: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

    (tags: religion science darwin creation evolution hatespeech)

  • Cleverly designed site with lots of good information about vaccinations etc

    (tags: science health vaccinations vaccination immunisation)

  • A new study from Italy adds to a mountain of evidence that a mercury-based preservative once used in many vaccines doesn’t hurt children, offering more reassurance to parents.

    (tags: science italy autism thimerosal vaccines)

  • The way Donnell Herrington tells it, there was no warning. One second he was trudging through the heat. The next he was lying prostrate on the pavement, his life spilling out of a hole in his throat, his body racked with pain, his vision blurred and distorted.

    It was September 1, 2005, some three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans, and somebody had just blasted Herrington, who is African-American, with a shotgun.

    (tags: politics crime usa racism neworleans katrina)