Archive for September, 2009

The trailer for the miniseries remake of the surreal classic, The Prisoner.

Some observations:

  • I can already tell Ian McKellen will steal the show.
  • A friend in the movie-trailer business once warned me that you see the best parts in any trailer.
  • Remakes always leave me wondering “If the original was so wonderful, why does it need a do-over?”
  • Like the gentlemen at Exurban League, let us hope this does not suck.

The site for the miniseries.

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The site is linked in the sidebar to the right, but I wanted to promote Megadungeon.net as something special: a collaborative, volunteer-based design of of a large, ruined monastery and dungeon in the tradition of the early days of roleplaying games, especially Dungeons and Dragons. Even if you don’t play D&D, the maps are quite nice and easily ported to other games. There are some nice new creatures, too.

Well done.

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Via Breitbart:

Insane killer escapes on field trip to county fair

A criminally insane killer from eastern Washington is on the run after escaping during a field trip to the county fair that his mental hospital organized.

Why such a dangerous person was out in public was a question many, including Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, were asking as authorities searched for Phillip Arnold Paul.

Authorities at Eastern State Hospital, where Paul is a patient, are being criticized for allowing him to visit the fair despite his violent criminal past and a history of trying to escape.

An insane killer? Escaped at the fair? You just know that, when he’s caught (and let’s hope it’s soon), he’ll be wearing a clown suit.

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Popular Mechanics has an article on the 10 Deadliest Plants in the World. My favorite? Oleander. So common, yet so fatal:

This extremely common evergreen shrub is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. “If I were a parent and covering every electrical outlet in the home to protect the kids, I would really have to ask myself why I had an oleander plant growing,” Stewart says. The leaves, flowers and fruit contain cardiac glycosides, which have therapeutic applications but are likely to send someone into cardiac arrest should he eat part of the plant. Stewart points out that there is a woman in California currently on death row for trying to poison her husband with the plant, and two young boys were found dead after ingesting oleander a few years back. “People tend to be blasé, because the flowers are bright and pretty, sort of candy-colored. But it is a very poisonous plant that will stop your heart.”

Happy gardening! 🙂

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Here’s a really fun video of a dog-trainer act in, I think, Germany. This guy is good, and the dogs are a crack-up:

(via Wag Reflex)

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I’m a lifelong dog-lover, and I’ve always felt they were much more intelligent than our “dumb dog” jokes make them out to be. In fact, we used to say around the house that, while our dogs couldn’t talk, they certainly knew how to communicate.

Anyway, Time Magazine has a really neat article on investigations into the evolution of canine intelligence. The whole piece is worth reading, but this especially caught my eye:

To understand how dogs evolved this skill, Hare traveled to Siberia. In the 1950s, Soviet scientists set up an experiment on a farm outside the city of Novosibirsk to understand how animals were domesticated. They decided to study foxes, which are closely related to wolves and dogs.

The Russians began by breeding a group of foxes according to one simple rule: they would walk up to a cage and put a hand on the bars. Foxes that slunk back in fear and snapped their teeth didn’t get to breed. Ones that came up to the scientists did. Meanwhile, the scientists also raised a separate group of foxes under identical conditions, except for one difference: they didn’t have to pass a test to mate.

More than 40 generations of foxes have now been bred in Novosibirsk, and the results speak for themselves. The foxes that the scientists bred selectively have become remarkably doglike. They will affectionately run up to people and even wag their tails. In 2003, Hare traveled to Novosibirsk and ran his pointing test on baby foxes. The ordinary ones failed miserably. As for the doglike ones, “they did just as well as puppies right out of the box,” Hare says. As the animals were bred for their affability, a new side of their social intelligence was apparently awakened.

The article also argues something I’ve long suspected: they train us nearly as much as we train them. 🙂

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Researchers in Israel claim to have developed a way to decipher previously unreadable ancient texts using technology similar to that of fingerprint readers:

The program uses a pattern recognition algorithm similar to those law enforcement agencies have adopted to identify and compare fingerprints.

But in this case, the program identifies letters, words and even handwriting styles, saving historians and liturgists hours of sitting and studying each manuscript.

By recognizing such patterns, the computer can recreate with high accuracy portions of texts that faded over time or even those written over by later scribes, said Itay Bar-Yosef, one of the researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“The more texts the program analyses, the smarter and more accurate it gets,” Bar-Yosef said.

I love history, and it always gives me a thrill when some lost ancient text is recovered. The possibility of a Google-like searchable database is fascinating. I can’t wait to see what this new technology uncovers.

Now watch. It will be some scribe’s shopping list. 😉

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