Thursday, July 30, 2009

Turning dumpsters into swimming pools

Brooklyn artivists help take back the city by using plastic lining to turn construction dumpsters into urban swimming pools for the public.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

National debt as a percentage of GDP world map

This is a map of national debt shown as a percentage of GDP. I guess GDP includes yearly interest from loans these countries have loaned to others, but not the full expected return, which would change the accuracy a lot, but I could be wrong.

It looks like the idea of borrowing your way into a prosperous country in a competitive international economy seems to be a popular way of getting a leg-up as lots of "richer" countries carry a 60% or so debt.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The wonders of coffee never cease to amaze

I love coffee. Luckily for me, it not only tastes like choco-late but is also a wonderful healthy beverage as well as a mood altering energy booster.

Not only does coffee improve short-term memory (anything helps!), but apparently now they are finding out it can reverse some of the effects of Alzheimers disease in the elderly. It can also help protect the brain against the dopamine-deficiency related Parkinsons disease. Contrary to popular belief it does not raise blood pressure. Most recently, coffee drinking has been found to be protective of the liver, helping keep cirrhosis at bay.

It goes on and on having more anti-oxidants than tea apparently. It also halves the risk for gallstones, reduces the risk of colon cancer by 25%, manages asthma, boosts mood, reduces headaches and has antibacterial qualities which keep cavities at bay (if you don't put in sugar I assume).

Of course, the dark side is the cultivation of coffee beans in countries in the global 'South', for export purposes. Like environmental destruction by plantations and scandalously low pay to local farmers given the value of the product.
Some have said that coffee is the second largest $$ commodity traded internationally, second only to oil. Perhaps buying fair trade coffee is a baby step in the right direction here? Although fair trade is far from perfect, and corruption gets in everywhere... it certainly has its critics.

American Apparel firing employees for being ugly

Apparently Montreal's own Dov Charney is now firing employees for being too unattractive for his company's aesthetic. Ouch. Too much after so many sketchy issues and how can we forget this awful quote from an interview..
“Women initiate most domestic violence, yet out of a thousand cases of domestic violence, maybe one is involving a man. And this has made a victim of culture out of women.”

Obviously this dude won't get fired! Hottie!

Subway iPhone augmented reality app

Finally we are starting to see applications for the iphone which overlay digital information onto the 'real world', now easily possible with the integrated camera, gps, digital compass and internet in such convergent devices as the infamous and scandalous iPhone 3GS.

There is also this app which allows you to find 'family' members who are also running the app via gps.

iPhone 3GS Augmented Reality from Chris Hughes on Vimeo.

Prove you're human

Known health effects of ketamine

Dr. 8 reports:

Ketamine is known to produce pretty hallucinations and a feeling of ego-decentralization as well as unfortunate loss of motor control. But other than the uncomfortable feeling of 'brain freeze' what is known about the long-term effects of using this relatively unstudied drug? Well in the interests of harm-reduction, the results are coming in...

K-pains, which were anecdotal evidence of severe pain in the abdomen for chronic users is now known to be damage to the renal-urinary system. Ulceritive cystitis is a scarring of the nephrons in the kidneys and renal tubes from accumulation of the sharp blade-like crystals. Also thickening of the bladder wall can cause urination to be more frequent.
See the recent article "Cystitis due to the use of ketamine"

Chronic use is associated with a wide-range of memory and perceptual deficits, but long-term use can cause lasting impairments, particularly in episodic-memory (memory for events) and problems with attentional control.
See the article "Beyond the K-hole: A 3-year longitudinal investigation..."

Ketamine is seen as the currently most accurate pharmaceutical way of inducing a schizophrenia like state and is being used to understand how schizophrenia works and possible new treatments for it:
ketamine leads to the impairments in brain circuitry observed in both drug abusers and schizophrenic patients by causing increased production of a toxic free radical called “superoxide.”
Which is no wonder such legendary K-heads like John Lilly started believing in delusions like he regularly communicated with space aliens, as it has been found that too much usage can make one superstitiously believe that there are meaningful connections between random events.

Ketamine was originally produced by Parke-Davis pharmaceuticals to replace the usage of the highly neurotoxic drug PCP. Black market buyers of 'ketamine' also have to be aware of the varieties of the equivalent of moonshine: bathtub-K, of which cheap and easily available dissociatives are substituted, like powdered DXM (Robitussen) and a wide variety of PCP variants.

All in all, good arguments for at least limiting any use of K to 'occasionally' I would think? My brain hurts....

Crows can recognize human faces

NPR has a video and audio story on how wild crows can recognize human faces. Apparently they can follow the same person around for years and hold grudges.

...Also cute is this video on crows using cars to crack their nuts.