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January 9, 2010

Swimming atop Victoria Falls

The Devil's Pool (above) on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls is only accessible during the low season.

Swimming there is said to be "an experience you will never forget."

I won't argue.

[via The Kolb Report in Roger Ebert's Journal]

January 9, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gummy Taco Factory

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From the website:

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Gummy Taco Factory — Build Your Own Candy Mini Tacos

You can't sugar-coat your own peanuts to make M&Ms. You can't twist your own licorice to make Twizzlers. You can't even add your own drop of Retsin to your Certs. But there's one thing you CAN do — make your own Mini Candy Taco!

The Taco Factory provides you with everything you need to make deliciously fun miniature candy tacos. In each package you get... Gummy Tortilla Shells, Gummy Meat, Gummy Cheese, Gummy Lettuce, and Gummy Tomatoes.

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The Tortilla Shells are about 1-3/4" across — Just pick one up, fold it over, and stuff it with whatever suits your fancy. 

Each package contains 1.75 ounces of candy, which should be enough to make five little candy tacos. Not only are they tasty, but you'll be filled with satisfaction because you made them yourself. And if you ever apply for a job at Taco Bell, you can tell them you have experience!

Este es tan estúpido!

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$1.99.

January 9, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

When it comes to surveillance cameras, Chicago is the new London

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Long story (by William M. Bulkeley in the November 17, 2009 Wall Street Journal) short: "15,000 cameras have been connected in what the city [Chicago] calls Operation Virtual Shield, its fiber-optic video-network loop."

Pales beside London's estimated 500,000 (that was in 2005; no doubt the number is far higher today), but give Chicago time.

Excerpts follow.

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A giant web of video-surveillance cameras has spread across Chicago, aiding police in the pursuit of criminals but raising fears that the City of Big Shoulders is becoming the City of Big Brother.

While many police forces are boosting video monitoring, video-surveillance experts believe Chicago has gone further than any other U.S. city in merging computer and video technology to police the streets. The networked system is also unusual because of its scope and the integration of nonpolice cameras.

The city links the 1,500 cameras that police have placed in trouble spots with thousands more—police won't say how many—that have been installed by other government agencies and the private sector in city buses, businesses, public schools, subway stations, housing projects and elsewhere. Even home owners can contribute camera feeds.

Rajiv Shah, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has studied the issue, estimates that 15,000 cameras have been connected in what the city calls Operation Virtual Shield, its fiber-optic video-network loop.

The system is too vast for real-time monitoring by police staffers. But each time a citizen makes an emergency call, which happens about 15,000 times a day, the system identifies the caller's location and instantly puts a video feed from the nearest camera up on a screen to the left of the emergency operator's main terminal. The feeds, including ones that weren't viewed in real time, can be accessed for possible evidence in criminal cases.

Former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff has called Chicago's use of cameras "a model for the country."

That worries some Chicagoans. Charles Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said, "With the unbelievably rapid expansion of these systems, we'd like to know when enough is enough."

The ACLU has been calling, so far without success, for the city to disclose how many cameras are in the system and what the capabilities of the system are, as well as who is allowed to look at the video feeds and under what circumstances.

Mr. Yohnka said that he isn't aware of any abuses in the use of the video but that "political surveillance" of opponents could be tempting for office holders. In other cities there have been reports of male police staffers ogling and tracking women for extensive periods though they aren't doing anything suspicious.

Mr. Orozco [executive director responsible for the system] dismisses worries about privacy abuse. The department logs in all users and can monitor what they are doing, he said, assuring accountability. He also said access to the command center is tightly controlled. He declined to discuss specifics of who is allowed inside the center.

Chicago said that it only networks video cameras in public areas where people have an expectation they may be seen. None of the cameras record speech, because that would violate wire-tapping laws, although some can detect the sound of gunfire and breaking glass.

January 9, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Functional Tile

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A 1997 design by Peter van der Jagt, Erik-Jan Kwakkel and Arnout Visser for Droog.

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Why not have your tiles do something other than collect mildew?

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Perfect for the minimalist.

[via Crooked Brains and Design Crack]

January 9, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Futility Closet — 'An idler's miscellany of compendious amusements'

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I can feature that.

[via Milena]

January 9, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Stem cells used to restore sight in blind eye

Here's Clive Cookson's December 22, 2009 Financial Times story about an apparent extraordinary advance in the field of ophthalmology.

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Stem cells help cure blindness

A stem cell treatment developed in Newcastle has restored good vision to eight people who had lost sight in one eye.

“This has transformed my life,” said one of the patients, Russell Turnbull, whose right eye was burned and scarred in an ammonia attack after intervening in a fight on a Newcastle bus 15 years ago. “I’m working, I can go jet skiing and also ride horses.”

The new technique – developed at the North East England Stem Cell Institute – involves taking a small biopsy from the cornea of the patient’s good eye and multiplying its stem cells several hundredfold in the lab with a special culture system. When the cells are transplanted back into the damaged eye, they restore the damaged cornea.

“The operation has improved the sight in my right eye from 10 per cent to 90 per cent,” said Mr Russell, 38, “and best of all it has removed the constant pain and light sensitivity in the eye.”

The technique could help thousands of people who suffer severely impaired vision through a condition known as Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency. This is caused by damage to the surface of the cornea, caused by disease, chemical burning or physical injury.

Sajjad Ahmad, the scientist who developed the Newcastle method, said its success showed the scope for using the patient’s own stem cells to treat the eye. Details are published in the journal Stem Cells.

But the technique depends at present on having one healthy eye from which to extract stem cells. And, while it might be extended to treat other disorders of the cornea, it is not suitable for retinal problems such as blindness caused by macular degeneration. Scientists elsewhere are planning clinical trials of stem cells derived from early human embryos to treat retinal disease.

The Medical Research Council has given the Newcastle team a £1.5m grant to extend the trial to 25 more patients over the next three years, said Francisco Figueiredo, consultant eye surgeon at the city’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

“We want to take this from a research-based technique to one that could be used in eye departments throughout the NHS,” said Dr Ahmad. “It would save a lot of money as well as preventing suffering, because patients with LSCD currently have to see an eye specialist every six weeks or so.”

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Here's the abstract of the Stem Cells paper, published online on December 10, 2009.

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Successful Clinical Implementation of Corneal Epithelial Stem Cell Therapy for Treatment of Unilateral Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency

The corneal epithelium is maintained by a population of stem cells known as limbal stem cells [LSCs] due to their location in the basal layer of the outer border of the cornea known as the limbus. Treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency [LSCD] has been achieved with transplantation of ex vivo expanded LSCs taken from a small biopsy of limbus. This is a relatively new technique and as such, specific national or international guidance has yet to be established. Due to the lack of such specific guidance, our group has sought to minimise any risk to the patient by adopting certain modifications to the research methodologies in use at present. These include the replacement of all non-human animal products from the culture system and the production of all reagents and cultures under Good Manufacturing Practice [GMP] conditions. In addition, for the first time, a strictly defined uniform group of patients with total unilateral LSCD and no other significant ocular conditions has been used to allow the success or failure of treating LSCD to be attributable directly to the proposed stem cell therapy. A prospectively designed study with strict inclusion and exclusion criteria was used to enrol patients from our database of patients with unilateral LSCD. Eight eyes of 8 consecutive patients with unilateral total LSCD treated with ex vivo expanded on human amniotic membrane (HAM) autologous LSC transplant with a mean follow up of 19 (RANGE) months were included in the study. Postoperatively, satisfactory ocular surface reconstruction with a stable corneal epithelium was obtained in all eyes [100%]. At last examination, best corrected visual acuity improved in 5 eyes and remained unchanged in 3 eyes. Vision impairment and pain scores improved in all patients [p<0.05]. This study demonstrates that transplantation of autologous limbal epithelial stem cells cultured on HAM without the use of non-human animal cells or products is a safe and effective method of reconstructing the corneal surface and restoring useful vision in patients with unilateral total LSCD.

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[via Engadget]

January 9, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mini Icebag

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6" across, holds 16 oz.

$16.50.

January 9, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Digital Pocket Scale

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Pop-out backlit LCD screen; 0.1 to 500g; removable top to protect weighing surface; tare function; 3.5" square x 0.75"H.

$15.26.

January 9, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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