News from you 10/8/07

It’s Monday, a holiday in both the US and Canada so light posting is definitely in order. I don’t know about the east coast but Columbus Day is politically charged in the Southwest. It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada so I’ve provided another edition of News From You. This is an eclection of news, the weird, the arcane and the downright useless of interest to F-I infovores. I welcome noncommercial submissions be they useful, quirky, weird and offbeat. I credit all sources, include your web address for link love. Lastly, if you want to remain anonymous, you’ll have to mention that. Send your submissions to News From You.
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An offer of a free trip to China for two designers for a PBS documentary.
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An heretofore unknown collection of arty fashion and textile books.
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Do you suffer from bad luck? I’ve always considered myself lucky.
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Some recent software links:

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Avatars consume as much electricity as Brazilians
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How to make a Ghostbusters costume


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It’s Nobel Season! Yes, it’s actually called that. On the flip side, it’s also time for the annual IgNoble Awards one of my favorite sources of humor after one researcher conclusively proved that Kansas is, literally, flatter than a pancake. An excerpt from Wiki explains more:

With the exception of three prizes in the first year… the Ig Nobel Prizes are for genuine achievements. The awards are sometimes veiled criticism, as in the two awards given for homeopathy research, prizes in “science education” to Kansas and Colorado state boards of education for their stance regarding the teaching of evolution, and the prize awarded to Social Text after the Sokal Affair. Most often, however, they draw attention to scientific articles that have some humorous or unexpected aspect. Examples range from the discovery that the presence of humans tends to sexually arouse ostriches, to the statement that black holes fulfill all the technical requirements to be the location of Hell, to research on the “five-second rule,” a tongue-in-cheek belief that food dropped on the floor won’t become contaminated if it is picked up within five seconds.

Some past winners:

  • Peace prize: The British Royal Navy, for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells, and to instead just shout “Bang!”
  • Economics: The Reverend Sun Myung Moon, for bringing efficiency and steady growth to the mass-marriage industry,
  • Engineering: Donald J. Smith and his father, the late Frank J. Smith, of Orlando Florida, USA, for patenting the combover (U.S. Patent #4,022,227).
  • Medicine: Steven Stack of Wayne State University, and James Gundlach of Auburn University, for their published report “The Effect of Country Music on Suicide.”

My all time favorite is the Psychology Ignoble awarded to David Dunning (Cornell) and Justin Kruger (U of IL) for their report, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.”

Some of the research that garnered this year’s winners:

  • Medicine: Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects
  • Physics: Geometry and Physics of Wrinkling and; Elements of Draping
  • Biology: Dust, Mites and Bedding (a census!)
  • Chemistry: Novel Production Method for Plant Polyphenol from Livestock Excrement Using Subcritical Water Reaction (extracting vanilla fragrance and flavoring from cow dung).
  • Linguistics: Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats (proved that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards).
  • Literature: A study of the word “the” and the many ways it causes problems putting things into alphabetical order.
  • Peace: Wright Patterson AFB Laboratory for the development of the so-called “gay bomb” that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.

If you are as easily amused as I am, see the complete list of past winners for the full effect.
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From the Wall Street Journal, the best Top Small Workplaces 2007. Of the fifteen companies listed, nearly half (six) are manufacturers.

…across the country, many small businesses and nonprofits have built workplace environments and cultures that rival — or even outshine — the big names… These small businesses tend to let employees at all levels make key decisions, and they groom their future leaders from within… And they constantly hunt for new ways to improve the employee experience or engage employees.

Again from the WSJ, it would appear the GOP is losing it’s traditional hold on business. While the article cites myriad factors from traditional business figures, I can’t help but think it’s due to the influx of young entrepreneurs.

New evidence suggests a potentially historic shift in the Republican Party’s identity — what strategists call its “brand.” The votes of many disgruntled fiscal conservatives and other lapsed Republicans are now up for grabs, which could alter U.S. politics in the 2008 elections and beyond. Some business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don’t share. In manufacturing sectors such as the auto industry, some Republicans want direct government help with soaring health-care costs, which Republicans in Washington have been reluctant to provide. And some business people want more government action on global warming, arguing that a bolder plan is not only inevitable, but could spur new industries.

Things get stranger and stranger based on this other article from the WSJ Republicans Grow Skeptical On Free Trade

By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president… Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush’s calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.

This surprises me. I’d suspected the recent republican defectors would be chasing the libertarian party but the article above would suggest otherwise.
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Malissa mentions a project runway type event in Austin TX. She says for the first staging, they had $25 to spend on supplies at the local grocery. Spanning thirteen weeks, you can find more details here.

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