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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Easy, Do-It-Yourself Ghost

Today is a good time as any to scare your friends. And here’s a new trick on how to get a few good screams. You simply need the fence you would normally use around your house. This should be easy to shape and stand up on its own. Now simply follow the pictures, shaping is the easy part. Whenever on a picnic, fishing or hiking, you can place your ghost in the forest and wait for the effect!
Original here

Top 5 Botched Marriage Proposals

After we posted a video of a girl rejecting a guy at an NBA game on national tv, I've been on a kick watching all of these humilating marriage proposals gone wrong. Here are 5 in no particular order.

1.) This guy goes for the old, "Empire State Building" proposal. Why do people think that doing something otherwise normal, at an increased elevation, makes it special? I bet this was a long ride down.

2.) Apparently there was a four month waiting list for Letterman tickets, which means this guy would have had to make the plans 1 month before he started dating this girl. Better start planning for the next girlfriend now!

3.) Hey buddy, John Cusack is a movie star, and movies are not reality. John Cusack's reality is him sipping on a martini in malibu with a super model by his side. Your reality is that you have to hop in your Iroc in 4 hours to make it to your 6:00 am dry wall job.

4.) What's worse than getting your mariage proposal rejected on live television? Having to sit through a Washington Wizards basketball game. Tough day for this guy.

5.) This isn't a rejection, but I thought I would include it anyway. Chris Myers is such a tool. I mean this guy could even fuck up a cup of cofee.

Original here

Why I'll Never Make Digg Popular

Fuck it, I give up. digg / Popular, you win. The most diggs I've ever gotten on a story I've written is a paltry 26, and I haven't ever been successful at submitting a story. In fact, the only thing I've consistently succeeded at is failing to ever make digg / Popular. After giving it a lot of thought, I've realized why I will forever fail at impressing the masses:
  1. I don't masturbate to promo shots of the Nintendo Wii.
  2. I am the 59,752nd digger on digg, which means I have as much persuasive power as a gay Democrat in Alabama.
  3. The only thing I know how to hack is loogies (wait, that's hock...hawk?...damnit).
  4. I have better things to do than try to make digg / Popular. You know, like go to work, exercise, have a social life, etc. (See also Why I Don't Give a Shit About World of Warcraft)
  5. Even if I did find a cool story to submit to digg, there's always some asshole who's up at 4 in the morning in Gary, Indiana, who's beaten me to it and submitted it first. I hate that guy.
  6. If I did somehow manage to beat Asshole From Gary, Indiana Who's Up At Four AM, I lack the Mysterious Magic Digg Touch, so the story would get a sympathy digg from my landlord before getting buried in a sea of K-Fed/Spears sex tape stories.
  7. When I'd post a complaint about my story getting usurped by said K-Fed/Spears sex tape story, my comment would get dugg down, I'd get called a moron or R-tard by 100,000 other digg users, and I'd drop to being the 60,000th digger on digg and see the new 59,752nd digger make digg / Popular. And it's that Asshole from Gary, Indiana.
  8. At this point I'd be pretty effing frustrated, so I would start digging down every story I can point my cursor on until I eventually get banned from digg.
  9. Enraged, I'd create 100 more user accounts and digg everything THE FUCK DOWN until Kevin Rose himself emailed me to chill the fuck out, it's only a website.
  10. Only a website? Only a WEBSITE?!??! Spiraling into a drunken rampage, I would hack a loog at my monitor, throw my computer at the nearest child I see, then run to the top of my apartment building and start sniping every mother fucker who passes by, all the while laughing maniacally and screaming my frothy-mouthed head off, "WILL I MAKE DIGG / POPULAR NOW, YOU BASTARDS??!!??!!!!!??!?"
The story of my sniping spree would get enough diggs to almost make digg / popular until...

a How To Mod Your PS3 article gets that Asshole from Gary, Indiana. Well played, Asshole. Well played.

Original here

1 Male Who is Feeling Anything but Enhanced

"Smiling Bob" Verdict: Guilty

CINCINNATI -- A federal court jury on Friday found the owner of a company that sells "male enhancement" tablets and other herbal supplements guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Steve Warshak is founder and president of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, which distributes Enzyte and a number of products alleged to boost energy, manage weight, reduce memory loss and aid restful sleep.

Television ads for Enzyte feature "Smiling Bob," a goofy, grinning man whose life gets much better after he uses the product.

Warshak, 40, could face more than 20 years in prison and his company could have to forfeit tens of millions of dollars.

Messages seeking comment from Warshak's Boston attorney Martin Weinberg and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Porter were left at their offices Friday night.

Prosecutors claimed customers were bilked out of $100 million through a series of deceptive ads, manipulated credit card transactions and the company's refusal to accept returns or cancel orders. They said unauthorized credit card charges generated thousands of complaints over unordered products.

Warshak's mother, Harriett Warshak, also was convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering. Two other company employees were convicted on related charges.

Harriet Warshak said she would appeal.

"We don't believe it was a fair verdict," she said.

Several friends and relatives of the defendants wept as the verdicts were read.

"It's a sad day," said Bruce Whitman, an attorney who represented an employee who was acquitted. "I find it hard to believe the other defendants were convicted."

He said the accusations should have been made in a civil court, not a criminal court.

The government also alleged the defendants obstructed investigations by two federal agencies.

Some former employees, including relatives of Warshak, pleaded guilty to other charges and cooperated with prosecutors. They testified that the company created fictitious doctors to endorse the pills, fabricated a customer-satisfaction survey and made up numbers to back claims about Enzyte's effectiveness.

Defense lawyers characterized that testimony as tainted because it was forced by the threat of prosecution.

The defense contended in the trial that Berkeley suffered from customer service that didn't keep pace with the company's rapid growth from a one-person startup in 2001 to 1,500 employees in 2004.

Weinberg also had told jurors that Berkeley had been targeted by the government in "a relentless criminal investigation."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Original here

BBC faces row after reporter injects cannabis in controversial new TV show

Shall I Smoke Dope? The BBC3 program is to be broadcast this summer (picture posed by model)

The BBC has defended a new show in which a reporter takes drugs on camera to demonstrate its effects.

Should I Smoke Dope? will be broadcast later this year on channel BBC3, which is aimed at 16- to 34-year-olds.

Viewers will see journalist Nicky Taylor injected with THC - a chemical component of cannabis - in a lab at the Institute of Psychiatry. She is also seen taking drugs in Amsterdam.

The BBC said the programme aimed to highlight the risks of cannabis use - but added that Taylor had suffered no ill effects since filming ended.

A spokeswoman said: "In the film, Nicky takes a small amount of the drug over a very short period of time in Amsterdam and also takes part in a medical trial held by the Institute of Psychiatry involving THC injections, in order to fully understand the effects of drugs on her body and reflect on this for the benefits of the audience.

"Before taking part, Nicky fully researched the subject and undertook the trials under supervision, with medical advice.

"Nicky has not suffered any ill effects since filming finished. The film unequivocally highlights the risks of consuming the drug and will be scheduled post-watershed for a BBC3 audience."

The spokeswoman went on: "Nicky Taylor is a critically acclaimed journalist whose approach involves becoming fully immersed in her subject, in order to highlight the risks of potentially dangerous activities.

"Her previous films for BBC3 have included investigations into plastic surgery - in which she undertook surgery - and binge drinking, in which she drank large amounts of alcohol.

"Her approach has proved successful in highlighting important health risks with a younger audience."

Should I Smoke Dope "will investigate the most widely used and much debated illegal substance in Britain: cannabis.

"This is at a time when the Government considers re-classification and many young people don't understand the health risks of the drug, its legal status and are not aware of recent reports of its increase in strength."

But the programme has already attracted criticism.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, told the Daily Telegraph: "It is difficult to see what can be learnt from this experiment. Cannabis affects no two individuals in the same way.

"The majority of people may have little or no reaction, even to stronger forms of the drug. But for the 10-20 per cent of those who are considered to be vulnerable, taking it could lead to psychotic illness."

Original here

11 Neighbors from Hell

Thank god for zoning laws, covenants and deed restrictions.

1. So that's where the bodies are buried.

(Photo by DistortedSmile).

The full-size image is even scarier.

2. Is it a pool or a baptistry?

(Photo by Digital_Freak).

3. And you thought one gnome was one gnome too many.

(Photo by Morgan).

4. Who needs sod when you've got asphalt.

(Photo by Eastrocker).

5. Trespassers should be the least of his worries.

(Photo by Matt Daniels).

6. Art? Eyesore?

(Photo by Henry Delgado).

7. When obsessive-compulsives decorate.

(Photo by Alison G.).

(Photo by Kim Ripley).

(Photo by MoniMania).

8. Just because you have the extra paint doesn't mean you should use it.

(Photo by Sean Cadzow).

9. America, Fuck Yeah!

(Photo by Steveningen).

Courtesy of the America, Fuck Yeah Flickr group.

10. Is Jame 'Buffalo Bill' Gumb home?

(Photo by Images That Surround Me).

11. His and her pig sculptures?

(Photo by LizardGal).

Original here

Close the door, we're trying to sleep: The woman who keeps 75 hibernating tortoises in her fridges

In most refrigerators, you don't come across living things. Except maybe some yoghurt or a spot of mould.

But open up Shirley Neely's two fridges and you'll find them teeming with life.

On every shelf, wrapped in tea towels, are slumbering tortoises. The smaller ones are snuggled up in a biscuit tin, but the bigger fellows are laid out side-by-side in their makeshift sleeping bags.

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Shelf life: Some of the 75 tortoises tucked up inside Mrs Neely's fridges for their winter sleep

Mrs Neely who runs the Jersey-based Tortoise Sanctuary, had to set up the fridges because of the particularly mild winter.

Her tortoises hibernate for up to three months between December and March, and need steady temperatures between 3c and 8c.

They are in danger of waking early if it heats up - and then do not have enough body weight to keep themselves warm and not enough energy to eat or drink.

But fridges, at a steady 4c to 6c, are the perfect environment.

Mrs Neely said: "It's much easier to maintain a constantly cool temperature with a fridge than it is with our ever-warming climate."

Scroll down for more...

I'm awake: Shirley Neely with Wilma, 70, who isn't hibernating

The 75 tortoises were given three weeks without food, allowed to complete their toilet needs (tortoises must empty their digestive system before hibernating), then bathed, weighed, wrapped and put to bed - with the odd bottle-of wine or jar of mayonnaise for company.

The towels were removed for these photographs, which gave Mrs Neely an opportunity to check all was well.

She opens the doors each day to waft fresh air inside. As tortoises breathe only once a minute during hibernation, this is sufficient to keep them healthy.

Mrs Neely used to keep her animals in boxes in an outhouse and not all her visitors are used to this new method.

On Saturday night a guest said she would get a bottle of wine and was stunned when she opened the fridge.

Mrs Neely said: "I do sometimes keep a bottle of wine inside because it helps stabilise the temperature."

Most of the tortoises in her care were confiscated at airports by customs officials. Several are not hibernating, as they have been ill.

Next month, she will begin to wake them up in stages. They will eventually move into heated greenhouses.

Original here

Runaway lawnmower kills Buddhist monk

A Buddhist monk was killed when he was run over by a lawnmower as he cut the grass at his temple, an inquest has been told.

Ten years before his death the Rev Seiji Handa had suffered another accident with a lawnmower, in which he lost three of his fingers, the inquest was told.

A witness told the jury that she had found the body of Mr Handa in pieces after he fell beneath the sharp blades of the tractor-driven mower at the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes. Venita Slater said that moments before his death she had seen him running after the driverless machine as it pulled away from him while he was out mowing lawns in the 12-acre grounds of the peace centre that he had set up nearly 30 years ago.

The monk had been dragged under the blades as he tried to get into the cab and regain control of the machine, she said. His remains were found on the slope after the vehicle ran over his entire body, killing him instantly.

The jury at the inquest, held in Milton Keynes on Friday, was told that Mrs Slater had been walking with her two children last August when she saw Mr Handa in the grounds, running after the mower. “The tractor was running away and he was chasing it to stop it. But unfortunately he didn’t. I looked up but he had disappeared. I ran over to see if he was OK, but unfortunately he was not.” Emergency services were called and a crane was used to lift the grass-cutter off his body.

A postmortem examination disclosed that Mr Handa had died of multiple injuries.

The inquest was told that it was not known why Mr Handa had got out of the tractor while it was still moving. It was thought that he slipped on the wet grass when he was trying to leap back in the cab, and that he became caught under the three sets of blades.

Taran Hewitt, of the Health and Safety Executive, said that officials had inspected the diesel vehicle and found that it should not have been in service. The ratchet on the handbrake was not working and the brakes were not able to hold the tractor steady.

The footbrake also did not work and Mr Hewitt said: “The only way you could get the tractor to stay stationary was to turn the engine off and leave it in gear. It should not have been used.”

Mr Handa, who was aged 50, was in charge of maintenance of the tractor and was responsible for cutting the grass in the grounds of the temple.

Born in Japan, he had become a Buddhist monk at the age of 21 and was ordained at a peace pagoda in Sri Lanka. He travelled the world, promoting peace and building peace pagodas. He had arrived in Milton Keynes in the winter of 1978 and built the city’s peace pagoda, helped by nuns and volunteers. The temple was later built next to the pagoda.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death. Rodney Corner, the Milton Keynes Coroner, said: “It is not wholly clear what happened. Nobody actually saw what happened. Blood and other parts of his body were dragged behind the tractor. He had got out of the cab and desperately tried to get back into the cab. We don’t know why � perhaps there was a cutter malfunction in some way.

“What must have happened was that he tried to get back in but he slipped. He must have slipped on wet grass. It was just an unfortunate accident which was such a great shame.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said that 6,500 people in Britain needed hospital treatment last year after being injured by lawnmowers.

Original here

Pioneering midwife touts 'orgasmic birth'

Some women can experience a sort of birth ecstasy, says Ina May Gaskin

Ina May Gaskin, 69, a midwife who never formally studied nursing, has helped to bring back home birth and lay midwifery from the brink of extinction in America. Here, Gaskin measures the growth of Cayla Whitehead's abdomen while teaching a class in midwifery at The Farm in Summertown, Tenn.

SUMMERTOWN, Tenn. - Despite living on a commune in rural Tennessee, Ina May Gaskin has had the kind of career success most people only dream about.

A midwife who never formally studied nursing, Gaskin has helped to bring home birth and lay midwifery back from the brink of extinction in the U.S. An obstetrical maneuver she learned from the indigenous Mayans of Guatemala has made it into scientific journals and medical textbooks, and her insistence on the rights of a birthing mother empowered a generation of women to demand changes from doctors and hospitals.

With a lifetime of accomplishment, the 67-year-old Gaskin has earned the right to slow down. But that is the farthest thing from her mind.

“At the time we began, I couldn’t have dreamed that in 25 years’ time women would be actively seeking Caesareans,” she said.

Gaskin largely blames the nation’s rising maternal death rate on the increase in Caesarean section births and the drugs sometimes used to induce labor.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported last month that the maternal death rate for 2005 has risen to about 15 women per 100,000 live births, more than double the 1998 rate of 7.

At least part of that increase is due to better reporting, but researchers say Caesareans also may be a factor.

Promoting natural birth
Gaskin passionately believes natural childbirth is the answer. The number of women giving birth with a midwife has doubled over the last decade and accounts for about 8 percent of births today — the vast majority in hospitals. Still, she says it’s a challenge to promote natural birth to a generation that favors comfort and convenience.

Promoting home births is an even tougher sell. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has continuously warned against home births as too risky.

Image: Ina May Gaskin, Jen Mayer
Ina May Gaskin watches as Jen Mayer, left, listens for a baby's heartbeat during a class in midwifery at The Farm in Summertown, Tenn., on June 26, 2007.

In 1975, Gaskin published “Spiritual Midwifery,” which included birth stories and a primer on delivering babies. Her book has sold around 750,000 copies, has been translated into four languages and has inspired a generation of women to become midwives.

Part of Gaskin’s success has been that she combines an analytical mind with an instinctual understanding of birth.

She promoted the idea that a woman’s state of mind will influence how easy her birth is and encouraged unorthodox ways to improve the woman’s experience, like encouraging her to make out with her husband during labor.

At the same time, she kept detailed records of each birth, providing her commune, The Farm, with statistics that would prove important in the debate over the safety of out-of-hospital births.

She has tried to widen the reach of her message by airing natural birth videos from The Farm on television. “The women are so beautiful giving birth,” she said.

TV stations rarely have run them, calling them too graphic.

“I started to think I should put them on YouTube,” Gaskin said.

High C-section rate
But the high rate of Caesarean sections in the U.S. may help Gaskin’s message gain some traction. Former talk show host Ricki Lake produced and starred in a recent documentary that features Gaskin and is critical of hospital births and their high rate of C-sections.

The U.S. now has a Caesarean section rate of 31 percent, a figure the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees is troubling.

At the same time, this group of doctors who perform the C-sections also reiterates its “long-standing opposition to home births.” In a recent statement, the organization said childbirth decisions “should not be dictated by what’s fashionable, trendy, or the latest cause celebre.”

Home births are not safe, their statement warns, because “a seemingly normal labor and delivery can quickly become life-threatening.”

Over the years, studies on the safety of home births have conflicted. The doctors’ group says research comparing the safety of home and hospital births has been limited and is not scientifically rigorous.

Their organization approves of the assistance of hospital midwives certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives. These midwives have nursing degrees or comparable training. The college of obstetricians warns against lay midwives like Gaskin, who have no formal medical training and who aid in home births.

Even so, the College of Nurse Midwives says home births can be safe, and they are fans of Gaskin’s. “She’s quite a remarkable woman and an icon of midwifery,” said Mairi Breen Rothman, a nurse midwife and consultant to the midwives college. Rothman herself was inspired by Gaskin’s book.

‘The Orgasmic Birth’
Gaskin began her practice as one of about 250 hippies who pooled their money in 1971 to buy rural land south of Nashville to form a commune. Soon she and a few other women on The Farm were delivering 25 to 30 babies each month.

Image: Ina May Gaskin
Ina May Gaskin teaches a class in midwifery at The Farm in Summertown, Tenn.

While training herself, Gaskin sought out doctors and other midwives and devoured medical texts. But she never sought a medical degree, instead helping to create an alternative certification so lay midwives could prove their competency.

Not all obstetricians think home births are inherently unsafe. New York obstetrician Heidi Rinehart spent a few weeks at The Farm while a medical student. Although her husband also is an obstetrician, when they were having a baby, they asked Gaskin to be their midwife.

But even doctors who’ve never heard of Gaskin have felt her influence because of patients who have read her books, seen her birth videos or heard her speak.

“They request or demand or vote with their feet to have the kind of birth they want,” Rinehart said.

Now, Gaskin has a film in the works that is in keeping with her anti-establishment, freewheeling nature.

“We’re doing a movie called ‘The Orgasmic Birth,’ ” she said.

That’s not a metaphor. Gaskin says that under the right circumstances women experience a sort of birth ecstasy.

“I mean, it’s not a guarantee,” she said, shrugging her shoulders and smiling, “but it’s a possibility.

“It’s the only way I can think to market it to (this) generation.”

Original here

Jumbo jet pilot sacked for ‘fly-by’ at 28 feet

A British pilot has been dismissed for “buzzing” a control tower in a Top Gun-style stunt during the maiden flight of a Boeing jumbo jet.

Captain Ian Wilkinson astonished passengers by taking the 230-tonne Cathay Pacific jet to within 28ft (8.5m) of the ground shortly after take-off from Boeing’s US manufacturing plant.

The 322mph fly-by was cheered by onlookers, and the pilot, who is said to be one of the most senior aviators with the airline, later toasted the flight with champagne.

Footage of the stunt on January 30 was leaked on to the internet, however, and Mr Wilkinson was suspended. Cathay Pacific executives took a dim view of his actions, which were carried out without authorisation, and he was dismissed after a disciplinary meeting last week.

Ray Middleton, his British co-pilot, who had been unaware that the fly-by was performed without official permission, was suspended from training duties for six months.

Chris Pratt, the chairman of Cathay Pacific, is said to have been among the VIP passengers who were on board the £100 million plane, a 777-300ER that had taken off from the plant in Everett, Washington, en route for Hong Kong, where the airline is based.

Mr Wilkinson, who is in his mid-fifties and has lived in Hong Kong for more than 15 years, earned more than £250,000 a year.

Cathay Pacific is conducting an internal investigation and will submit a report to aviation authorities.

A spokesman said: “The pilot in command of the flight was dismissed as he had neither sought nor obtained the necessary company approval to undertake such a fly-by.”

The airline had a well-established approval process for such manoeuvres and had conducted them in the past at air shows but only “with proper approval in place”.

A Cathay Pacific pilot has claimed that Mr Wilkinson’s job was put in jeopardy only after footage of the incident appeared on the internet.

He said: “Wilkinson was very much one of the elite in Cathay Pacific and would have been very chummy with the airline executives he was flying that day. If no one else had found out about it the incident would probably have gone no further, but once it began circulating on the internet and Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Authority got hold of it, that was the end of him.”

Mr Wilkinson is thought to be considering an appeal against his dismissal.

The swoop has become a hot topic on internet forums for pilots, with some praising the stunt but others criticising it as dangerous. Cathay Pacific has issued a notice to all crew reminding them of the company’s policy.

Original here

Tennessee Helpless Against New Basement Tornadoes

MEMPHIS, TN—Officials from the National Weather Service issued a severe weather alert for all basements in Tennessee Tuesday after a deadly new weather phenomenon ravaged scores of residential downstairs areas, leaving every other part of the houses completely untouched. The recently discovered targeted cyclones, known as basement tornadoes, tore through cellars all over the state, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.

Calling the recent devastation the worst indoor weather event in U.S. history, weather service director Dr. John L. Hayes said that millions of residents who have for years been taught to seek shelter from twisters by taking refuge in their homes will have to drastically adjust long-held assumptions about tornado safety and preparedness.

Enlarge Image Homeowner Searches

A homeowner searches in vain for a moving box full of old halloween costumes.

"If there is a violently rotating column of air in your basement, do not go downstairs," Hayes said. "Wait in an attic or at the top of a stairwell. If possible, find shelter in a structure lacking any kind of subterranean open space at all, such as a mobile home."

"Unless, of course, regular tornadoes are sighted in the area, in which case you should immediately get to your basement, provided you have one," Hayes added.

Meteorologists have measured the spiraling basement winds at speeds of up to 200 mph—powerful enough in some cases to drive a box of dryer sheets six inches into solid concrete. In all, the cyclones have caused hundreds of dollars in property damage by toppling artificial Christmas trees, smashing jars of fruit preserves, and overturning ping-pong tables.

"Some people lost their entire basements," said Knoxville-area relief worker Dan Weiss, who personally observed a dozen rec rooms that were completely destroyed, and a half-dozen more that might have been destroyed, though it was difficult to say for sure. "Everything they had ever stored was suddenly lost. So much extra stuff gone to waste."

Using Doppler radar, interior satellites, and computer models, researchers have determined that basement tornadoes form when warm dank air collides with a cool dry draft, creating a significant drop in pressure, and causing wind velocity to increase and whirl in a vortex of dust, debris, and cobwebs. Predicting where and when a basement tornado will strike is challenging, however, because they seem to jump from cellar to cellar by traveling through sump pumps.

"All we can say for certain is that unfinished basements are twice as likely to develop tornadoes," said Allan Boyer, a controlled meteorogist at the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK. "Also, when residents leave their washing machines and dryers running it creates the ideal environment for tornadoes, because of the extra spinningness it causes in the air."

Enlarge Image Tornado Layout

Doppler radar shows how basement tornadoes form just over the foosball table in this Knoxville-area cellar.

The NSPC has developed a scale for ranking the intensity of basement tornadoes with the lowest rating, B0, only causing mild shag-carpet disturbances, and the highest, B5, capable of destroying workbenches and water heaters. According to NSPC statistics, independent-minded siblings between the ages of 16 and 19 who always want to be alone are most likely to be injured by basement tornadoes. The second highest at-risk group is families huddling in basements waiting for normal tornadoes to pass.

The outbreak of basement tornadoes has also raised a slew of privacy issues, pitting so-called storm hunters against homeowners, since those who study the deadly new phenomenon say they must gain access to private residences to be able to set up their equipment and observe the storms. Angry residents have already forced dozens of researchers camping in their cellars out of their homes, and at least two have been shot at or violently assaulted for peering through basement windows.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the NWS have been working together to develop new nationwide evacuation guidelines, officials say it is a complicated process.

"Even if a storm warning goes into effect hours before a tornado strikes, we caution citizens against attempting to flee the area in automobiles, since this will dramatically increase their chances of being severely injured or killed by car tornadoes," FEMA administrator R. David Paulison said. "This could shape up to be the worst development in natural disasters since the 2003 spate of earthquakes that struck directly under doorways and large desks."

Original here

Man dies in cake-eating contest

An inquest is to be held on a man who died during a contest to see who could eat the most fairy cakes.

The man, thought to be from Birmingham, collapsed at a Swansea nightclub during the event at the end of a party to raise funds for an art exhibition.

Police say there are no suspicious circumstances following the incident at the city's Monkey Cafe and Bar early on Friday.

The coroner has been informed and the family have been told.

It is believed attempts were made by staff and customers at the nightclub to revive the man.

In a statement, club owners Amanda Davey and Paul Dyke said: "We are all devastated by this tragic accident.

"We are all in shock.

"It was a tragic accident and very sad and should serve as a cautionary tale.

"Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family."

A South Wales Police spokesman said: "There are no suspicious circumstances and a file is being prepared for the coroner."

Original here

Mobile Desktop

For our latest mission, three agents entered a Starbucks one by one with their own giant desktop computer and CRT monitor. They bought coffee and worked at their computers as if they were laptops. One computer even had a Wi-Fi card installed, enabling our agent to surf the web. Enjoy the videos first and then go behind the scenes with our photo report below.

(also available on YouTube)
edited by Matt Adams / song by Tyler Walker

(also available on YouTube)
edited by Matt Adams

Featuring: Agents Casey, Plaza, Wengert
Digital Video: Agents Adams, Shafer, Todd
Digital Photography: Agent Sokoler
Mission inspired by: Agents Casey, Plaza

Agents Casey and Plaza approached me with this idea at the UCB Theatre office in New York. Agent Casey is the IT guy for UCB, and had access to a whole closet full of old, barely working desktop computers and CRT monitors. Naturally we needed to use these dinosaurs in a Starbucks.

We met on a Saturday afternoon at the office and dug through the graveyard of old machines trying to find the ones that would still boot.

Agent Shafer works on the computers

Some of the machines were so old they were still running Windows 95. Agent Casey was able to install a Wi-Fi card in one of the slightly more modern ones. This would allow him to access the wireless network at Starbucks.

Whenever we film inside a place of business, we have to hide all of our cameras. Most places will kick you out pretty quickly if they see you filming. We had three cameras, each using different concealment methods:

Agent Adams’ camera was hidden in a Starbucks bag

Agent Shafer’s camera was sticking out of his duffel bag

And I used the hidden camera glasses loaned to me by the UCB’s Matt Besser

We used three enormous pieces of black rolling luggage as our “laptop cases.” As large as our cases were, they still couldn’t hold the CRT monitors, so those had to be rested on top. We had all forgotten how heavy this type of equipment would be. It was no easy task getting these rigs down to Starbucks.

Agent Wengert struggles to get out of the building

Agent Casey on 7th Avenue

We had a nice selection of Starbucks to chose from. There are about 4 within a 2-minute walking distance from the UCB office, one in every direction. We picked one that had plenty of window seats (for street filming) and an upstairs (to get the overhead camera angle.) We sent Agent Toledo and Agent Sokoler down to the Starbucks first to secure good window seats. They would reserve the seats until the computer users arrived.

The video camera agents entered next, buying a coffee and finding a good spot to covertly film.

I pretended to read a paper while filming with my glasses

Agent Shafer films through the window

Agent Casey was the first to enter. He bought a coffee and then quietly set up his computer at a table by the window.

Agent Casey

His computer had a Wi-Fi card which allowed him to get onto the wireless network. He opted not to pay for the T-Mobile access, and instead visited the only site he could browse for free,

We didn’t know how people would react to the computers. The most common reaction surprised us: people assumed that they were public machines put there by Starbucks. As Agent Casey went to pick up his coffee order, a man sat down at his computer.

Agent Casey had to repeat, “this is mine,” several times before the guy understood what he meant. He got up, and then proceeded to ask a nearby woman if he could use her laptop.

Agent Plaza entered next

She set up right next to a girl using a laptop, which provided the perfect contrast. People in the Starbucks started really reacting after she arrived. One weirdo on a big computer was one thing, but now there’s another one?

Customers react to a second desktop

Agent Plaza had a newer monitor, but her computer was ancient. She booted up Windows 95 and got to work on Word 95.

She took the joke a step further by actually putting her keyboard and monitor ON HER LAP.

Agent Wengert was the last to enter. He found a spot by the window in between the other two agents. This created a real computer lab feel with three desktops (and one customer’s laptop) in a row.

I sat facing the window for a few minutes, and it was really fun to watch the reactions of people on the street as they would walk by. You’d see them notice each computer as they passed, and by the third, everyone would do a double-take. Most people would keep on walking, but every now and then someone would stop and take a closer look.

The Starbucks staff never gave us any trouble at all. In fact, it didn’t seem like it occurred to them that the three computer users might have known each other. One employee walked by me and laughed. I asked him what was going on and he pointed at the three computer users and declared, “They mean BUSINESS.” That seemed to be the going theory, that they were just very serious about getting their work done. Our agents did seem entirely serious– everyone was excellent at keeping a straight face.

The manager told me that it must be “midterms” and that they were probably students from FIT, a college across the street. At one point the manager caught Agent Adams filming, but even then he didn’t put together that we were all part of a prank. He simply explained that, “They are paying customers and you can’t film them.” Agent Adams claimed to be a student who just happened to have a camera on him and wanted to film this unusual thing. The manager admitted, “It’s amazing. I’ve never seen it before, and I’ve been with the company for four years.”

The man pictured above was in the Starbucks almost the entire time. He couldn’t believe what was going on and was eager to talk to anyone else who noticed it too. “What’s the benefit?” he kept repeating. It made no sense that anyone would go to all the trouble to bring their desktop from home. As he exited Agent Adams caught him on the street and asked him what was going on. His answer is in the main video above, but here’s a longer transcription:

“This is the most insane fucking thing I’ve ever seen. What is the benefit? What’s the most that could happen? You’re saving electricity, but that’s like minuscule. Everybody in the place is looking. Does every Starbucks do this? The strangest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Have you seen that in another Starbucks? Is it like a new trend or what? What’s the benefit? Do you know what the benefit is? If they’ve got a computer they must have a roof over their head. They must have electricity. Strange. This is very weird man. Today is the 9th of February, the day of a new trend. Is that the strangest thing you’ve ever seen? Is that not the wildest thing? I thought maybe I was behind the times and it was like a fad, but I’m glad that this is something that you haven’t seen either. That’s the strangest thing ever. That is so strange.”

We got another great reaction from the blonde woman pictured above (with the “benefit” guy.) She entered the Starbucks and actually stood in line behind Agent Wengert waiting to use his machine. There’s no telling how long she would have waited had he not started packing up and leaving after a couple of minutes. The reaction she gives when she realizes what’s going on is priceless (you can see it in the Agent Interview video above.) She, first tries to figure out why this guy is unplugging the Starbucks public computer, and then begins laughing when she realizes it’s his personal computer she had been waiting in line for.

Our agents left the Starbucks one by one and met back up at the UCB office. Despite all the heavy lifting, we had a really fun time, and it seemed like everyone who saw us had fun as well. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly five years since our last mission in a Starbucks. It was good to be back.

Mission Accomplished

Original here