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Monday, February 25, 2008

Are you too pretty to fly?

I believe that we have just crossed the line from irritating to incredulous in the Southwest Airlines fashion police scandal.

As I'm sure everyone is now aware, last year, Kyla Ebberts raised a huge ruckus with Southwest when they asked her to change out of the skimpy clothing that she was wearing on a flight. She was perfectly warranted in her argument, mind you; as numerous images prove, she wasn't wearing anything more than a tight shirt and a really short skirt.

Now it seems like it's getting out of hand. In the most recent chapter of Skirtgate, two teens flying between Tampa and Los Angeles are crying foul because they were escorted off the plane by security officers (at the destination). Apparently they were causing a disruption on the plane because they couldn't get water when they wanted it and were knocking on the lavatory door while someone was inside.

Their side of the story is that the flight attendants were rude and discriminatory to them, saying,

"I think they were just discriminating against because we were young decent-looking girls. I mean, nobody else on the plane looked like us except us. [The flight attendants] were like older ladies. We were younger. Who knows, they could have been just jealous of us because we were younger."

Or maybe you were just being spoiled brats.

Details at Tampa Bay's 10 are still fuzzy, but I have a feeling I know how this is going to turn out.

Original here

Go! flight report finds no mechanical flaws

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report of its investigation into a go! airlines flight that flew past the Hilo airport on Feb. 13, apparently because the two pilots fell asleep.

A check of the plane after the flight showed no problems with its pressurization system or carbon monoxide in the plane, according to the report. The NTSB also says there were 40 passengers and three crewmembers on the flight, which left Honolulu at 9:16 a.m.

Flight 1002 was at 21,000 feet when air traffic controllers made several attempts to contact the pilots. Controllers contacted the plane at about 10 a.m., but by that time the plane had flown about 15 miles past the airport. It landed safely about 15 minutes later.

The preliminary report draws no conclusions about why the plane overshot the airport.

Mesa Air Group, which owns go!, has suspended the two pilots. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the NTSB and the FAA are conducting separate investigations into whether the captain and first officer fell asleep during the flight.

Flight logs obtained by the Star-Bulletin say both pilots finished their Feb. 12 shift at 2:47 p.m. and returned to duty at 5:40 a.m.

Original here

Sleep Jerk to Piss Shivers: 5 Body Mysteries Explained

The human body is one of the most incredible organisms in the known universe, but all that awesomeness carries some pretty weird and hard-to-explain baggage. We are here to help shed light on some of those body mysteries in the hopes you'll have something intelligent to say if you get stuck in an intense debate about the pee shakes or the white thing you just coughed up. Read on, get educated and help identify those unknown moments when it appears your body is rebelling against you. If you're lucky your questions will be answered here, if they aren't ... brain tumor.

Falling In Your Sleep (aka The Hypnic Jerk)

What's that?
This is that falling sensation and sudden jolt you sometimes feel just as you're falling asleep. Scientifically named hypnagogic myoclonic twitch, it's also the third leading cause for embarrassment on sleepovers, behind bed-wetting and sleep farting. The muscle spasm may be light enough to be misinterpreted as a dream or it can be so jarring it physically shakes you awake.

It's fairly common (studies say around 70 percent of you have experienced it). The likelihood is increased if a person is exhausted or is sleeping in an uncomfortable position. That means the working poor and the homeless are probably more likely to experience a hypnic jerk, though scientists would probably rather not bother asking them. As far as recognized members of society, the muscle twitch is a normal and well-documented event.

What causes it?
Like any good freakish event, the experts can't agree on what causes it. Most researchers feel that when muscles begin to slack while preparing for sleep the brain senses and misinterprets the relaxation signals, and assumes the body is falling. A little presumptuous on the brain's part to go around "assuming" you're falling while lying down. Then again it's nice to know the most important organ is on the lookout for trapped doors with mattresses on top.

If you want to experience this feeling at your desk just lean back in your chair, a little past the point of no return. Once gravity reminds you who's boss your body enters that frenzied states of "lost-balance/I hope that girl I like isn't watching." The sensations are so physically comparable that the brain analyzes them the same.

Pee Shivers (aka Post-Micturition Convulsion Syndrome)

What's that?
Commonly known as the "Pee Shakes" or if you're an adult, the "Piss Shivers." It's a tingling sensation down the spine which causes an involuntary twitch. Also it is the best excuse to use if you happen to piss on your urinal neighbor's shoes while drunk. The uncontrollable shaking is similar to the prolonged shivering someone experiences when very cold, however others have reported it feels like a miniature orgasm. Researchers have since decided to keep golden shower enthusiasts out of their surveys.

According to research, 83 percent of males say they've experienced this, but only 58 percent of females have gotten the shivers--probably the whole "standing vs. sitting" thing.

What causes it?
Inadequate government funding toward piss-related mysteries has lead to several "educated guesses" as to why the shaking occurs. Some have offered a highly technical and uninteresting explanation involving changes in the nervous system when the bladder is relaxed.

The simplest explanation, though, is that the rapid release of warm fluid lowers the body's overall temperature leaving it to react the same way you would in a cold breeze. Why you don't shake when vomiting or giving blood was not answered, because those particular researchers apparently decided they had thought about it long enough.

Black Hairy Tongue (aka Black Hairy Tongue)

What's that?
Yes, this is a real thing and not a gross-out urban legend. It's the appearance of dark hair covering the surface of the tongue. It will look like a person lovingly cleaned the exhaust system of a decade-old 18 wheeler, with the gentle precision a mother cat applies to her own litter. This oral ashtray effect is nasty, although an attention getter. And everyone loves attention, right?

It could happen to you, too, if you're kind of a filthy person. If you'd like to give your mouth a warm fur coat for winter try these three steps: 1. Stop brushing your teeth. 2. Enjoy your coffee like Kim Kardashian enjoys her men. 3. Smoke; you're not getting any younger and it'll make you cool*.

If you follow this strict guideline your mouth may wind up with a coat that will keep it warm through the snowy months, and will block those drafty winds when opened for a make-out session.

*Coolness reports based off of 1950s studies and James Dean posters.

What causes it?
Your mouth is teeming with filth. It is a truly perfect swamp for the breeding and growth of bacteria and grime. The hairy tongue is an overgrowth of these bacteria, and sometimes yeasts that are present. Papilla, the finger-like projections from the surface of the tongue, become awash in this bacterial stew. In instances of hairy tongue the papilla often cease to shed normally, growing longer and creating more surface area for the bacteria to attach to. Thus, it grows into something that looks terrifyingly like hair.

To help combat such revolting disorder, a person can brush their tongue twice a day and rinse their mouth with diluted hydrogen peroxide (one part peroxide to five parts water). As astounding as it may seem this horrendous affliction offers no immediate threat to your health. If you're experiencing it, you may have bigger problems, since hairy tongue is common in those involved with intravenous drug use or those who are HIV positive. Put in the perspective of those problems a furry mouth seems kind of trivial.

Tonsil Stones (aka Tonsiloliths)

What's that?
Tonsil Stones are hard, yellowish-white globules that grow in the back of the throat and can become dislodged by coughing or sneezing. After expelling one of these disgusting lumps for the first time, a person may be worried. And if they happen to sniff one of these stones they may panic, because the scent leads one to assume their assholes are attempting to climb out their throats. These mouth-made stink bombs are repulsive, and worst still, oddly fascinating.

There's a good chance you'll wind up with these, if you haven't already, assuming you meet two qualifications; you've entered adulthood and you still have your tonsils. All the little brats out there who begged for tonsillectomies for a week of no school and ice cream are not cursed with this ailment, although they are spoiled bastards who will never know real love.

What causes it?
Tonsils are the gatekeepers to the esophagus. Maybe that's too dramatic; they are more like minimum wage bouncers, keeping out most nasty organisms but still letting a few fatties through the door. The organs' surfaces are dimpled, like that of a golf ball, and these indentations are known as tonsillar crypts. It's a fitting name because food dislodged from these crypts does indeed smell like a decomposing body. This is due to food particles becoming caught and then covered by saliva, dead white blood cells and anaerobic bacteria. Wait, we're sorry, were you eating?

Anyway, over time layers begin building on layers forming larger particles. These majestic throat pearls will remain until they become heavy enough to break free and swallowed or expelled from the mouth. The particles growth can cause discomfort and even mild pain, but that's about it. The sensation resembles a feeling of something lodged in the throat. That's mostly because there is something lodged in the throat, and we've been talking about it this whole time.

Permaboner (aka Priapism)

What's that?
This is what they're talking about on those Cialis commercials (" ... if your erection lasts more than four hours, consult a physician ... "). It is the dreaded prolonged male erection, keeping in mind that an educated man's dread is an imbecile's unanswered prayer. Priapism is not only a penis that is unable to return to a flaccid state, but it's also described as a very painful erection. And we're not talking about emotionally painful, either.

The medical community is divided on how much time should constitute a case of priapism, but most have settled on six hours, although a person should seek medical attention after four (as the commercials say). This all occurs in the absence of any sexual stimulus, however if you are in possession of enough material to keep it up for almost a quarter of a day's time you should look in to some new hobbies.

Thankfully episodes of priapism are not common in the real world; most incidents confined to the professionally edited fantasy realms of pornography. Unfortunately cases are more common in men who are suffering from other diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, that prevent blood from flowing back out of said boner.

What causes it?
Although not every facet of the disorder is known, scientists are sure all cases happen from injury or damage to the mechanism that produces detumescence of the penis. Detumescence is a fancy word for relaxation of the penis after orgasm, and is usually accompanied by greater clarity in reasoning and maybe remorse, depending on who or what you find it inside of when your penis finally relaxes.

This horrible situation sounded awesome to crotchety old men with erectile dysfunction, and a pill was invented to cater to their elderly lust. This created the second most common group to suffer from priapsm, and the easiest go-to joke for hacky stand up comics. "A four hour erection? I ain't callin' a doctor, I'm gonna call a hooker!" Other punch lines include "call the 6 o'clock news" and "call my old girlfriends." All of which you would never call in reality because you'd be frightened and in excruciating pain.

Aside from the aforementioned blood disease and Cialis overdose, priapism cam be caused by some sort of trauma-like spinal damage, drug/alcohol abuse, or even black widow spider bites. You've probably never heard that last one, we're guessing because the medical community doesn't want to drive a huge increase in black widow sales to men who just can't wrap their heads around the idea that a six-hour boner is actually a bad thing.

Original here

How to live with a birthmark

It inspires admiration and alarm in equal measure, but one writer loves her ‘nature’s tattoo’

There is something about myself that I am barely aware of, yet it is, I am reliably informed, the first thing that people take in about me. Not my charming personality, alas, nor my dancing green eyes, but my congenital melanocytic naevus, the flower-shaped birthmark that lurks to the right of my throat.

The congenital melanocytic naevus (a name that translates as “a blackish mole one was born with”), is sometimes known as the “giant hairy nevus”. But let’s scotch that myth from the start. My birthmark is hairless, despite my brothers’ periodic cries of: “Burn the witch!”

The worst that can be said of it is that it’s a bit knobbly. Once, during a health screening, I beheld a massively magnified image of it resembling some terrifying postapocalyptic landscape. In the flesh it is a good deal less sinister, cheery even: frilly, conker-coloured, a diminutive brown cloud.

Medically my birthmark is of no particular interest. It is slightly more sensitive than “normal” skin, to the extent that catching or scratching it is a rather sweary business.

Despite dinner party warnings from amateur dermatologists, specialists assure me that my mark is least likely of all my moles to become cancerous (a relief, as I once turned it moss green through overeager application of sun block). Ferreting about the internet, I learn that a select 1 per cent of the population is blessed with such cocoa smatterings.

I also discover that I have been short-changed on the name front. What hope congenital melanocytic naevus compared with the birthmark exotica that is stork bite, angel’s kiss, port-wine, strawberry or Mongolian blue spot?

Elvis Presley’s was diamond-shaped

Still, I am in good company. Richard Gere, Tina Turner, Christina Aguilera and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all reported to boast mottling of some sort. The diamond-shaped birthmark in Elvis Presley’s groin was seen by more excitable enthusiasts of The King as a sign that he was, in fact, our Lord, or a manifestation of the divine. Mikhail Gorbachev’s prominent port-wine stain was cited as a fulfilment of Nostradamus’s prophecy that the last czar would be one “Michael the Marked”, after which the end would be nigh.

Perhaps Gorby suffers from my own body dysmorphia regarding the location of his florid archipelago? Used to seeing my mark only in mirrors, I am never quite certain of its location, stage left or right. As an adult, I would not be able to answer without investigation.

As a child, I was more birthmark conscious, trusting it might indicate that I was heir to some minor European throne. About 2cm broad and 3cm high, it seemed larger in the days when I was smaller, when adults shook their heads and declared its presence a pity.

For there is still a good deal of superstition about birthmarks. Where science may not be certain of why some people get them, so folklore has filled the vacuum. The myths are legion. My personal favourite is that these splotches represent the site of death in a former life (my own must have been particularly agonising, resting, as it does, on my collarbone). And there is a great deal of loose talk about being touched by good or evil, the latter not least.

The most prolific superstitions hold the mother’s thoughts or actions during pregnancy responsible, known in the trade as “maternal impression” theory. These follow the same warped logic as the tale about Elephant Man Joseph Merrick’s mother being frightened by said animal during his gestation, thus causing his affliction.

In Italian, birthmarks are voglie, in Spanish antojos and in Arabic wiham, all meaning “wishes”. Port-wine marks are associated with cravings for the vino, strawberry birthmarks with berries, jam or beetroot. Hailing not far from Bournville, my mark was lent a parochial, Cadburyian meaning: “Your mother ate too much chocolate”, accompanied by much brandishing of choppy finger.

In parts of Eastern Europe and Thailand, it may be thought that touching a birthmark bearer brings good fortune. But, still, the prevailing view tends to be that voiced in Shakespeare’s King John, that it is an undesirable thing to be “Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains,/ . . .Patch’d with foul moles and eye-offending marks”. So while I may rather like my blot, the attention it brings can be unsettling.

Asian men are especially solicitous: does it hurt, have I always had it, what does it mean? Children wince, recoil, until I soothe them by explaining that it is perfectly all right, and that they can touch it if they like (they don’t).

But, then, the admiration it draws can also be disarming. A Jamaican woman told me that I “must have some black” in me (perhaps, but I don’t believe this to be the sign).

More than one chap has taken a rather fetishistic fancy to it. A Valentine celebrated my “pied beauty” after the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem (“Glory be to God for dappled things/ For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow...” Er, cheers).

A friend famously reduced the leader department at The Times to silence (not a frequent occurrence, at least when I worked there), when she suggested that I tattoo petals around my corker to transform it into a sunflower. But, then, why would I bestow a tattoo on myself when nature has provided me with such a resplendent one? I would no more dream of having it removed. And I hope that, had my naevus been on my face, I would have felt similarly fond of it. After all, even the most flawless diamond boasts its birthmark.

Skin deep

The medical term for a birthmark is naevus. Birthmarks are formed before or shortly after birth when there is abnormal cell development in the skin. Many of the most common types are caused by abnormalities of the small blood vessels running through the skin, causing an accumulation of blood in localised areas. These are called vascular birthmarks and include stork marks (flat pink areas on the neck that disappear in months), strawberry naevi (raised red areas which fade by age 6, also known as infantile haemangiomas) and port-wine stains (permanent flat and purple marks).

The other type of birthmark is a melanocytic naevus, which is mole-like and caused when a large number of pigment-producing skin cells grow in one area.

Original here

Customize Your Car Horn with HornTones

Are you tired of the normal sound that your car makes when you push the horn? Then why not customize it with your own MP3 horn tones? This gadget from ThinkGeek allows you to customize your horn to play what you want.

HornTones plays 256 megabytes of MP3s and comes with a USB slot so you can add new ones. The device can store up to ten different tones, so you can find one for every occasion. ThinkGeek gives a few examples of how this gadget can be used:

Dixie at the demolition derby
The Empire Strikes Back theme when you pull up to the IRS office
A Godzilla roar when stuck behind a Toyota
The Back to the Future theme as you accelerate to 88 miles per hour
Road-Runner “Meep-Meep!” right before you floor it
The beginning of “Gimme More” if your name happens to be Britney

Off course you have to be careful. You can’t have sirens, bells, or whistles that emergency vehicles use.

It is pretty expensive at $300, but come on, that’s a small price to pay for the ability to blast whatever sound you want (almost) whenever you want.


UPDATE: Here is a video of HornTones via TechEBlog


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Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds

WASHINGTON — More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said. The United States Census does not track religious affiliation.

The report shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.” The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.”

Detailing the nature of religious affiliation — who has the numbers, the education, the money — signals who could hold sway over the country’s political and cultural life, said John Green, an author of the report who is a senior fellow on religion and American politics at Pew.

Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University, echoed that view. “Religion is the single most important factor that drives American belief attitudes and behaviors,” said Mr. Lindsay, who had read the Pew report. “It is a powerful indicator of where America will end up on politics, culture, family life. If you want to understand America, you have to understand religion in America.”

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.

The rise of the unaffiliated does not mean that Americans are becoming less religious, however. Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in particular.” Pew researchers said that later projects would delve more deeply into the beliefs and practices of the unaffiliated and would try to determine if they remain so as they age.

While the unaffiliated have been growing, Protestantism has been declining, the survey found. In the 1970s, Protestants accounted for about two-thirds of the population. The Pew survey found they now make up about 51 percent. Evangelical Christians account for a slim majority of Protestants, and those who leave one evangelical denomination usually move to another, rather than to mainline churches.

To Prof. Stephen Prothero, large numbers of Americans leaving organized religion and large numbers still embracing the fervor of evangelical Christianity point to the same desires.

“The trend is toward more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” said Mr. Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, who explained that evangelical churches tailor many of their activities for youth. “Those losing out are offering impersonal religion and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.”

The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found.

The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”

Immigration continues to influence American religion greatly, the survey found. The majority of immigrants are Christian, and almost half are Catholic. Muslims rival Mormons for having the largest families. And Hindus are the best-educated and among the richest religious groups, the survey found.

“I think politicians will be looking at this survey to see what groups they ought to target,” Professor Prothero said. “If the Hindu population is negligible, they won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

Experts said the wide-ranging variety of religious affiliation could set the stage for further conflicts over morality or politics, or new alliances on certain issues, as religious people have done on climate change or Jews and Hindus have done over relations between the United States, Israel and India.

“It sets up the potential for big arguments,” Mr. Green said, “but also for the possibility of all sorts of creative synthesis. Diversity cuts both ways.”

Original here

Whole Human

Recent design graduates Christopher Barrett, Edward Heal and Luke Taylor have setup as London design studio Us.

Original here