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February 28, 2005

Original, world-class art you can own — for free (Tomoko Takahashi is giving it away)

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No catches, no tricks, this is for real.

On Sunday, April 10 at the Serpentine Gallery in London, Turner Prize-nominated artist Tomoko Takahashi's show, entitled "My Play-Station," comes down (it opened last Tuesday, February 22).

Anyone who likes any of the more than 7,600 items that make up her installation can simply drop by between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. that day and take home the pieces they want as the artist dismantles her work.

I like it.

Surely one of my London readers will be awake in time to stumble over to the gallery and pick up something.

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Don't you think?

February 28, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kraft Trolli Road Kill Gummi Candy is Dead

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PETA takes another scalp — even though this one's in the inert, lifeless form of a gummi snack.

Kraft's Trolli Road Kill Gummi candy (above) — shaped like flattened snakes, chickens and squirrels, complete with tire treads — is no more.

New Jersey animal-rights activists said the candy encouraged children to be cruel to animals, and threatened petition drives, boycotts and letter-writing campaigns unless production was halted immediately.

Kraft complied and plans to stop production and then sell off its remaining inventory.

The candy hit store shelves across the U.S. last summer.

I'm reminded of something a Louisiana lawyer once told me, in passing: "You never see a dead animal on the road in Cajun country."

Think about it.

Full disclosure: no animal products were used in the creation of this post.

February 28, 2005 at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Copyscape.com — 'Defend your site with a banner'

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I just ran across this website.

It purports to search the web for sites that have plagiarized your work.

"Defend your site with a plagiarism warning banner to warn potential plagiarists against stealing your content."

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I tried it out and I must say it is impressive: the first page of results (which appeared in less than a second) showed my latest bookofjoe post, which only went up 32 minutes ago.

For comparison, Google takes a day to index my posts.

But what's this?

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In small print at the very bottom of the page it says, "© 2005 Indigo Stream Technologies, providers of Google Alert."

So this is yet another Google experiment/project, so far under the radar it's not even marked beta.

I really have no use for Copyscape nor do I care about people "stealing my content."

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Self-importance is the enemy of happiness, in my opinion.

Believing that what you have to say is so valuable that if others use it without attribution you must take action is simply another form of self-importance.

Please, steal my content.

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All of it.

Every minute of every day.

It's yours for not even a song.

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I guess I'm not really the target market for Copyscape, huh?

February 28, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The new second language of Mongolia is... English

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Mongolia, a landlocked expanse of open steppe sandwiched between Russia and China, has decided that the only way to move into the 21st century is to model itself after the Nordic nations and make its 15 million people bilingual within a generation.

Want to go somewhere exotic and be treated like a rock star but don't think it's possible?

You're wrong.

Puntsag Tsagaan, Mongolia's minister of education, culture, and science, told the New York Times, in James Brooke's eye-opening story of February 15, "I need 2,000 English teachers."

And he doesn't mean in years to come: he means now.

The pictures above and below accompanied the Times article; they're of children in Mongolia's schools, learning English.

bookofjoe received its first transmission from China just days ago; I now turn my eyes and mind and heart toward Mongolia: let the first Mongolian to visit bookofjoe leave her or his calling card, please.

Don't worry about spelling or grammer: just a word to let us know you're there — and here.

Here's the Times story.

    For Mongolians, E Is for English, F Is for Future

    As she searched for the English words to name the razor-tooth fish swimming around her stomach on her faded blue and white T-shirt, 10-year-old Urantsetseg hardly seemed to embody an urgent new national policy.

    "Father shark, mother shark, sister shark," she recited carefully as the winter light filled her classroom.

    Stumped by a smaller, worried-looking fish, she paused, frowning.

    Then she cried out, "Lunch!"

    Even here on the edge of the nation's capital, in this settlement of dirt tracks, plank shanties and the circular felt yurts of herdsmen, the sounds of English can be heard from the youngest of students - part of a nationwide drive to make it the primary foreign language learned in Mongolia, a landlocked expanse of open steppe sandwiched between Russia and China.

    "We are looking at Singapore as a model," Tsakhia Elbegdorj, Mongolia's prime minister, said in an interview, his own American English honed in graduate school at Harvard.

    "We see English not only as a way of communicating, but as a way of opening windows on the wider world."

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    Its camel herders may not yet be referring to one another as "dude," but this Central Asian nation, thousands of miles from the nearest English-speaking country, is a reflection of the steady march of English as a world language.

    Fueled by the Internet, the growing dominance of American culture and the financial realities of globalization, English is taking hold in Asia, and elsewhere, just as it has in many European countries.

    In South Korea, six private "English villages" are being established where paying students can have their passports stamped for intensive weeks of English-language immersion, taught by native speakers from all over the English-speaking world.

    The most ambitious village, an $85 million English town near Seoul, will have Western architecture and signs, and a resident population of English-speaking foreigners.

    In Iraq, where Arabic and Kurdish are to be the official languages, a movement is growing to add English, a neutral link for a nation split along ethnic lines.

    Iraqi Kurdistan has had an explosion in English-language studies, fueled partly by an affinity for Britain and the United States, and partly by the knowledge that neighboring Turkey may soon join the European Union, a group where English is emerging as the dominant language.

    In Chile, the government has embarked on a national program to teach English in all elementary and high schools.

    The goal is to make the nation of 15 million people bilingual within a generation.

    The models are the Netherlands and the Nordic nations, which have achieved proficiency in English since World War II.

    The rush toward English in Mongolia has not been without its bumps.

    After taking office after elections here last June, Mr. Elbegdorj shocked Mongolians by announcing that the nation of 2.8 million would become bilingual, with English as the second language.

    For Mongolians still debating whether to jettison the Cyrillic alphabet imposed by Stalin in 1941, that was too much, too fast.

    Later, on his bilingual English-Mongolian Web site, the prime minister lowered his sights and fine-tuned his program, developing a national curriculum devised to make English replace Russian in September as the primary foreign language taught here.

    Still, as fast as Mr. Elbegdorj wants the Mongolian government to proceed, the state is merely catching up with the private sector.

    "This building is three times the size of our old building," Doloonjin Orgilmaa, director general of Santis Educational Services, said, showing a visitor around her three-story English school that opened here in November near Mongolia's Sports Palace.

    This Mongolian-American venture, which was the first private English school when it started in 1999, now faces competition from all sides.

    With schools easing the way, English is penetrating Ulan Bator through the electronic media: bilingual Mongolian Web sites, cellphones with bilingual text messaging, cable television packages with English-language news and movie channels, and radio stations that broadcast Voice of America and the BBC on FM frequencies.

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    At Mongolian International University, all classes are in English.

    English is so popular that Mormon missionaries here offer free lessons to attract potential converts.

    Increased international tourism and a growing number of resident foreigners explain some developments, like the two English-language newspapers here and the growing numbers of bilingual store signs and restaurant menus.

    During the first eight months of 2004, international tourist arrivals here were up 54 percent; visits by Americans doubled to nearly 9,000, helped by popular Mongolian movies like "The Story of the Weeping Camel."

    Foreign arrivals increased across the board, with the exception of Russians, whose visits declined by 9.5 percent.

    That reflects a wider decline here of Russia's influence and the Russian language.

    Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian was universally taught in Mongolia and was required for admission to universities.

    "Russia is going downhill very fast," said Tom Dyer, 28, an Australian teacher at the Lotus Children's Center, the orphanage where Urantsetseg was describing the shark family.

    Russia, leery of immigration from Asia, has imposed visa requirements on Mongolians.

    China has not.

    Today, it is hard to find a Mongolian under 40 who speaks better than broken Russian.

    Within a decade, Mongolia is expected to convert its written language to the Roman alphabet from Cyrillic characters.

    "Everyone knows that Russian was the official foreign language here," T. Layton Croft, Mongolia's representative for The Asia Foundation, said in an interview.

    "So by announcing that English is the official foreign language, it is yet another step in a way of consolidating Mongolia's independence, autonomy and identity."

    So far, Beijing has adopted a laissez-faire stance toward Mongolia's flirtation with English, even though China is now the country's leading source of foreign investment, trade and tourism.

    Such a stance is easy to maintain because Chinese-language studies also are undergoing a boom here.

    For a trading people known for straddling the East-West Silk Road, Mongolians have long been linguists, often learning multiple languages.

    But for many of Mongolia's young people, English is viewed as hip and universal.

    "Chinese is very boring," Anuudari Batzaya, a fashionably dressed 10-year-old, said in the Santis language lab, pausing an interactive computer program that intoned in crisp British vowels: "When he lands in London, he'll claim his baggage, and go through customs."

    Stopped on a sidewalk on a snowy afternoon here, Amarsanaa Bazargarid, a 20-year-old management student at Mongolian Technical University, said optimistically: "I'd like English be our official second language. Mongolians would be comfortable in any country. Russian was our second official language, but it wasn't very useful."

    With official encouragement, the American Embassy, the British Embassy, and a private Swiss group have all opened English-language reading rooms here in the past 18 months.

    "If there is a shortcut to development, it is English; parents understand that, kids understand that," Munh-Orgil Tsend, Mongolia's foreign minister, said in an interview, speaking American English, also honed at Harvard.

    "We want to come up with solid, workable, financially backable plan to introduce English from early level all the way up to highest level."

    After trying in the 1990's to retrain about half of Mongolia's 1,400 Russian-language teachers to teach English, Mongolia now is embarking on a program to attract hundreds of qualified teachers from around the world to teach here.

    "I need 2,000 English teachers," said Puntsag Tsagaan, Mongolia's minister of education, culture and science.

    Mr. Tsagaan, a graduate of a Soviet university, laboriously explained in English that Mongolia hoped to attract English teachers, not only from Britain and North America, but from India, Singapore and Malaysia.

    Getting visas for teachers, a cumbersome process, will be streamlined, he said.

    Mr. Tsagaan spins an optimistic vision of Mongolia's bilingual future if he can lure English teachers.

    Mongolia650

    "If we combine our academic knowledge with the English language, we can do outsourcing here, just like Bangalore," he said.

February 28, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Patioflame® Stainless–Steel Campfire

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I know how much you're enjoying your stainless–steel fireplace logs.

So now it's time to take your affinity for faux fire, as it were, outside.

Patioflame® comes complete with a "realistic cement–and–stainless steel Glocast log set."

Approved for use on wood, concrete, stone and brick surfaces.

Uses liquid propane or natural gas.

David Coulson, the national advertising manager for Napoleon, the manufacturer, told USA Today, "There aren't chunks of wood flying everywhere."

Robert Neale of the U.S Fire Administration said in the same story, "It's a very romantic idea. It's nice to flip a switch and have an instant, great ambiance."

This guy works for the federal government?

Sounds like the sales manager for Napoleon. But I digress.

$279 at dealers everywhere.

February 28, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Crash-Test Dummy Inventor Dies

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Samuel W. Alderson (above), inventor of the crash-test dummy, died at 90 on February 11 at his home in Los Angeles as a result of complications from pneumonia.

Margalit Fox wrote a superb obituary of Alderson for the February 18 New York Times.

It follows.

    Samuel Alderson, Crash-Test Dummy Inventor, Dies at 90

    Samuel W. Alderson, a physicist and engineer who was a pioneer in developing the long-suffering, curiously beautiful human surrogates known as automotive crash-test dummies, died Feb. 11 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 90.

    The cause was complications of myelofibrosis and pneumonia, his grandson Matthew Alderson said.

    The dummy that is the current industry standard for frontal crash testing in the United States is a lineal descendant of one Mr. Alderson began manufacturing for the aerospace industry in the early 1950's.

    It is used today by automakers and government agencies to test safety features like seat belts.

    Seat belts, air bags and other safety features are estimated to have saved nearly 329,000 lives since 1960, according to a study released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    "You have to consider that a test dummy basically motivates all restraint design, whether belts or air bags," Rolf Eppinger, chief of the National Transportation Biomechanics Research Center at the safety administration, said in a telephone interview.

    Formally known as an A.T.D., for anthropomorphic test device, the crash-test dummy, with its graceful form and inscrutable face, has also become an artifact of contemporary culture.

    Samuel W. Alderson was born in Cleveland on Oct. 21, 1914, and reared in California.

    He graduated from high school at 15 and attended several colleges - Reed; California Institute of Technology the University of California, Berkeley; and Columbia - interrupting his education frequently to help his father run the family sheet metal business.

    Returning to Berkeley, he began working toward a Ph.D. under the physicists J. Robert Oppenheimer and Ernest O. Lawrence, but he left without completing his dissertation.

    During World War II, Mr. Alderson helped develop missile guidance systems that used tiny electric motors.

    After the war, he worked for I.B.M. in an early effort to develop a prosthetic arm powered by a similar motor.

    Though the arm was not practical at the time, it was a harbinger of Mr. Alderson's long career in making simulacra.

    In 1952, he started his own company, Alderson Research Laboratories, originally based in New York.

    Soon afterward, he was awarded a contract to develop an anthropomorphic dummy for testing jet ejection seats.

    Mr. Alderson's early dummies and those of his competitors were fairly primitive, with no pelvic structure and little spinal articulation.

    At the time, automakers were seeking a dummy for their own use.

    In the 1930's, with traffic fatalities becoming a growing public health concern, manufacturers began to explore the design of safer cars.

    But the new science of crash testing raised a seemingly intractable problem: to study the effect of a crash on the human body, researchers would have to equip the test car with a live human being.

    Volunteers were few.

    As a result, the first crash-test dummies were cadavers.

    While useful in collecting basic data, they lacked the durability required for repeated trials.

    And because no two cadavers were exactly the same size and shape, no two tests were strictly comparable.

    What automakers needed was an army of identical humanlike figures that could be tested and retested, were easy to repair and yielded a broad spectrum of data.

    By the 1950's, the industry was looking into adapting aerospace dummies.

    With the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966, the search for an anatomically faithful dummy intensified.

    In 1968, Mr. Alderson produced the first dummy, called the V.I.P., built specifically for automotive testing.

    With the dimensions of an average adult man, the dummy had a steel rib cage, articulated joints and a flexible neck and lumbar spine.

    Cavities held instruments for collecting data.

    "The things that the test dummies had to do, they had to accelerate and had to have weight distribution like a human," Mr. Alderson's son Jeremy said in an interview.

    "They had to take impact like a human."

    In the early 1970's, researchers at General Motors built a new dummy, Hybrid I, combining parts from Mr. Alderson's dummy with those of a rival, Sierra Engineering.

    An improved model, Hybrid II, developed in collaboration with the traffic safety administration, quickly followed.

    Hybrid III, released in 1977, remains the industry standard.

    Today, Mr. Alderson's average-man dummy has a family:

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    dummy women, children and infants.

    Mr. Alderson was widowed once and divorced three times.

    Besides his grandson Matthew, he is survived by a sister, Esther Lustig of San Diego; two sons from his second marriage, William, of St. Augustine, Fla., and Jeremy, of Hector, N.Y.; and three other grandchildren.

    His cultural legacy includes Vince and Larry, the ubiquitous dummy stars of highway safety advertisements in the 1980's and 90's; the television cartoon "Incredible Crash Dummies"; and the pop group Crash Test Dummies.

    Mr. Alderson's other work included manufacturing humanlike figures called medical phantoms that were used to measure exposure to radiation, and synthetic wounds that oozed mock blood and were worn by soldiers during training exercises.

    "Those things were coming home all the time," Jeremy Alderson recalled.

    "And they'd be out in the foyer until finally my mom said, 'Don't bring those things into the house!'"

February 28, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Rioters Pelt Police With Molotov Cocktails'

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No, this headline isn't datelined Gaza or the West Bank; nor is it from Darfur, or Kabul, or Kathmandu, each the site of previous or continuing civil disturbances.

No, the headline that leads this post, along with the photo, are from Sydney, Australia: to be precise, today's Sydney Morning Herald.

The photo was captioned "A Molotov cocktail lands near police."

Last night marked the third consecutive evening of increasing violence in Australia's largest city, the result of a police chase gone bad which ended in the deaths of two Sydney teenagers.

I find it incredible that this news has not appeared in any of the major American dailies to date.

I guess if it's in the Southern Hemisphere, it just doesn't really exist in the eyes of the Northern-centric major U.S. media.

Here's the full story, by Justin Norrie, Natasha Wallace and Gerard Noonan.

    Rioters Pelt Police With Molotov Cocktails

    Dozens of youths hurled petrol bombs at riot police in a third night of violence last night over the death of two teenagers in a police pursuit.

    In wild scenes near Eucalyptus Drive, Macquarie Fields - where their friends died on Friday night - teenagers and young men screamed at about 100 police: "You killed our mates, you f---ing pigs. You deserve to die too."

    Residents of Rosewood Drive clapped and cheered as a policeman was knocked down and could not get up, as a youth hit him with a heavy plank of wood.

    By 1am today, the protest had grown to about 200 young people confronting police. Police decided to act when a car was set alight in Eucalyptus Drive, just before 11pm.

    They marched up Rosewood Drive and into Eucalyptus Drive chanting "move, move, move".

    Youths used rocks, golf balls, wheelie bins, bricks and other projectiles to resist them.

    A car drove quickly through the police line and shopping trolleys were used as battering rams.

    At one stage four youths used a burning mattress to threaten officers.

    By 11.30pm the group had been driven about 100 metres up the road, but the police line was sporadically broken by charges from the retreating youths.

    After a confrontation in the street on Saturday night, police said yesterday a taskforce would be set up to review media footage of attacks on police.

    Task Force Loudon was established following rioting after the deaths of Dyllan Raywood, 17, and Matthew Robertson, 19, about 11pm on Friday.

    They were passengers in a stolen car that hit a tree in Eucalyptus Drive with an unmarked police vehicle in pursuit.

    The driver of the stolen car fled.

    One 26-year-old resident of Rosewood Drive said of the rioters: "These blokes have been planning this all day. They've been going down to the petrol stations to buy petrol and scouring the neighbourhood for bricks and shit to throw.

    "They've been taunting the cops all day long to come and they've succeeded and the pigs are f---ing stupid, man. If only they knew that the only way to prevent this happening is if they didn't take the bait. My mates wanted me to help them hurt a couple of pigs, but there's no way. I don't want to go back to jail.

    "For the past 12 years the cops have been coming here throwing blokes into the back of paddy wagons and taking them on joy rides where they beat the shit out of them. It's no wonder everyone who lives around here hates the f---ing cops."

    The State Opposition has called on the Government to create a specific offence for fleeing police and endangering lives.

    The Opposition Leader, John Brogden, said a Parliamentary Staysafe Committee had recommended more than 10 years ago that a specific offence for evading police should be included in legislation, after a fatal accident involving a police chase in 1994.

    The law now provided penalties for dangerous driving and failing to comply with a police direction but there was still no specific offence for trying to evade police in a vehicle, he said.

    The Police Minister, Carl Scully, said last night there were already offences under the Crimes Act for resisting arrest and obstructing a police investigation but he was examining whether further clarification of these powers was needed.

    "The officers who handled the [pursuit] have my support and gratitude," Mr Scully said.

    He told 2GB radio police involved in the chase were interested in "more than just dealing with a stolen vehicle".

    Jamie Rayward, the father of Dyllan, blamed police for unnecessarily chasing his son, but said he did not blame the driver of the car who survived and ran off.

    "I can't blame him because they knew what they were doing," he said.

    "They all were in the stolen car. If they wanted to, they could have said no 'I'm not going to'."

    Early this morning, the battle had broken into two fronts on Eucalyptus Drive.

    Up to 200 rioters were attacking about 50 police at each end of the area.

    A large brick wall in the street had been painted with the message: "Cops Will Die".

    Police had ordered residents into their houses.

    Just before 1am a very large fire bomb was hurled from a house.

    It struck a policeman on the shoulder before exploding spectacularly.

    Shortly after that police charged and a police dog attacked a youth who was taunting the police line.

    He was taken away with blooding gushing from his shoulder and leg.

    Early yesterday morning people pelted rocks and bricks at Operational Support Group officers in a street near the crash site, leaving some with minor injuries.

    Police had been responding to a call that rocks were being thrown at cars.

    The attacks were reminiscent of those after the death of the Aboriginal teenager Thomas "TJ" Hickey in Redfern last year.

    In that incident local residents hurled petrol bombs and bricks at police.

    Yesterday, the acting greater metropolitan region commander, Denis Clifford, urged calm.

    He said police were "attacked by a core group of up to 15 males and females who threw rocks, bricks and other missiles at the officers".

    A 21-year-old male and a 21-year-old female were charged with riot and affray and other matters.

February 28, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sushi Pen Set

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You loved the Sushi Desk Set I featured on February 19.

Now you can show even more affection by adding this set of sushi pens to your stylish desktop.

For $15 you get a pair of 7"-long plastic ballpoint pens, each with a distinctive piece of nigiri–zushi sculpted at the top.

"Clean lines and a stylish, slender shape for gripping."

Just what you need sometimes, something nice to hold that's all yours.

"The realistic sushi shapes weight the writing implement for pleasurable penning."

Note to file: find out who's writing this company's copy and hire her/him. But I digress.

February 28, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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