Sunday, 30 November 2014

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Bending Over Backwards

Travelling long-haul in economy has never been much fun. As you pass Business Class on your way to your meagre seat, it is impossible not to cast an envious glance at what you're about to miss out on. Squeezing into your scant space, you imagine premium passengers slumbering in their flat beds. In Economy the only "luxury" at your disposal is the ability to recline your seat. Recline too far though, and you risk retribution.

That question of how far to move your seat back is a serious one, as recent incidents of "recline rage" have shown.

Debate is still ongoing around the use of a plastic gadget called the Knee Defender which, when attached to the arms of a tray table, prevents the seat in front from reclining. One flier used it on a trip from Newark to Denver this summer, resulting in an argument that culminated with another passenger throwing water over the blocker.

The Knee Defender is usually not involved in incidents of recline rage, but what all episodes have in common is a lack of agreement about who has claim over those miserly few inches of space between rows. The argument from the passenger in front is simple: the airline gives me the seat and the button, so it is my inalienable right to press it. The argument behind is just as simple: the airline gives me this space and you are attempting to annex it, jeopardising the sovereignty of my kneecaps in the process.

Of course, both passengers are right. I've lost count of the number of times I've wanted to lunge over the headrest in front and throttle its occupant, who upon sitting down has thrust the seat back, oblivious to my wellbeing.

To fight this urge before it takes hold, I employ a variety of little tricks. If this is at the beginning of the flight, I just leave my knees stubbornly in place, ignoring the pain. If they challenge me I simply say: "I'm so sorry ... but I am 6ft 2in, and there is nowhere else for my legs to go. Do forgive me."

If a meal is being served, I tap the passenger in front and inquire, ever so politely, if they could just shift the seat a bit.

During sleep time, however, all bets are off. I will recline, gently, ensuring the knees of the person behind are not in the way. And I hope the passenger in front is as courteous.

In the era of low-cost airlines, where the carriers shove as many people as legally possible on to their aircraft, we must remember to treat each other as we wish to be treated.

Oh, and by the way, I'm writing this on board an easyJet flight. Like other low-cost carriers, easyJet has now installed slimline, no-recline seats, which safeguard your knees. To recline or not to recline? In Economy, the debate may soon be redundant.

The Wilhelm Scream



New Species Named After Pop Icons- 2

Jaggermeryx naida, a fossilized big-lipped hippo named after aging rocker

Jaggermeryx naida, a fossilized big-lipped hippo named after aging rocker
Sir Mick Jagger may be one of the most famous musicians on the planet, but now there's a new rock star that has been named in honor of him – a fossil of an extinct swamp-dwelling creature that lived 19 million years ago in Africa.

The hippo-like creature has been given its name because, like the Rolling Stones' front man, it too has super-sized lips.

Researchers uncovered the fossils, consisting of multiple jawbone fragments, amid the sand dunes and eroded rock of a remote site in the Egyptian desert.

Jaggermeryx, which translates to "Jagger's water nymph," is one of six species of anthracotheres found at the site, but what distinguished it from other members of this family was a series of tiny holes on either side of its jaw that held the nerves providing sensation to the chin and lower lip. (Source)

Yoda purpurata, named because of its resemblance to the Jedi Master

Yoda purpurata, named because of its resemblance to the Jedi Master
In 2012 researchers named a new species Yoda purpurata, due to the resemblance of Yoda's ears to the deep sea worms lips,

Yoda purpurata, along with three other new acorn worms species, was discovered 1.5 miles under the Atlantic Ocean during a recent survey of the mid-Atlantic Ridge. All of the species were discovered on or just slightly above the seafloor, photographed, and then collected by an underwater ROV for later description. The new species are described in the latest issue of Invertebrate Biology.

Yoda purpurata was named by Nick Holland, the world authorityon enteropneusts, due to its resemblance to Jedi Master Yoda. However the large appendages are not ears - they are lips. (Source)

Aegista diversifamilia, named after same-sex marriage

Aegista diversifamilia, named after same-sex marriage
Scientists have named new species after celebrities, fictional characters, but a new snail may be the first to be named after a global human rights movement: the on-going struggle for same-sex marriage. Scientists have named the new Taiwanese land snail,Aegista diversifamilia, meaning diverse human families. 

"When we were preparing the manuscript it was a period when Taiwan and many other countries and states were struggling for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights. It reminded us that Pulmonata land snails are hermaphrodite animals, which meansthey have both male and female reproductive organs in singleindividual," explained co-author Yen-Chang Lee. "They represent the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom. We decided that maybe this is a good occasion to name the snail to remember the struggle for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights." 

Same sex marriage is currently not legal in Taiwan, and a bill in the government proposing to legalize same-sex marriage has been stalled by the Parliament's judiciary committee since October 2013. A recent rally in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in the country attracted thousands. (Source)

Ampulex dementor, the 'soul-sucking' wasp species named after 'Harry Potter' Dementors

<i>Ampulex dementor</i>, the 'soul-sucking' wasp species named after 'Harry Potter' Dementors
A newly discovered species of wasp in Southeast Asia that sucks the life out of cockroaches was appropriately named after the terrifying dementors from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series.

Ampulex dementor was so named as "an allusion to the wasps' behavior to selectively paralyze its cockroach prey," according to the report published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The Natural History Museum in Berlin let the public vote on a name for the wasp, known for its ability to turn cockroaches into zombies with one sting. The fictional, shadowy prison guards of Azkaban that are dementors, likewise, also literally suck the life out of their prey - only they use a kiss of death.

Native to Thailand, A. dementor has bright red and black coloring, and is one of over 200 species of wasp which reproduces using a host incubator - in the wasp's case, it uses the cockroach. (Source)

Eoperipatus totoros, the velvet worm named for Totoro

Eoperipatus totoros, the velvet worm named for Totoro
Velvet worms are adorable caterpillar-y looking things, silently plodding along on stumpy legs in tropical forests around the world. A recently discovered species was so cute, it got a name straight out of Studio Ghibli: Eoperipatus totoros. The species name is an homage to the CatBus in the film My Neighbor Totoro.

Velvet worms are curious slime-spewing enigmas. They are off on their own odd branch of the tree of crawly things called Onychophora. Not worms, not insects, millipedes, centipedes, or slugs. Genetic data suggests that velvet worms are a sister group to insects; that is, they are descended from a common ancestor, but not from each other. (Source)

New Species Named After Pop Icons- 1

Euglossa bazinga, named after Big Bang Theory character Sheldon Cooper's favorite word

Euglossa bazinga, named after Big Bang Theory character Sheldon Cooper's favorite word
In 2013, Big Bang Theory physicist Sheldon Cooper's favorite buzzword had a new claim to fame. The geeky TV character had a species of bee named after his favorite catch phrase - Bazinga!

On the TV show, Cooper, who counts Stephen Hawking as his online friend, uses the word to signal that he's just pulled a practical joke on somebody else.

Brazilian biologist Andre Nemesio said he named the species of Brazilian orchid bee Euglossa bazinga in honor of "the clever, funny, nerdy character Sheldon Cooper," because the bee had tricked scientists for some time with its similarity to other species. (Source)

Dendropsophus ozzyi, a newly discover frog named after Ozzy Osbourne

Dendropsophus ozzyi, a newly discover frog named after Ozzy Osbourne
"As soon as I heard its call, I knew it was a new species. I had never heard anything like it," Pedro Peloso, a doctoral student at the American Museum of Natural History, said of his new finding.

Peloso discovered the frog while researching amphibians in the Brazilian Amazon. National Geographic says that theDendropsophus ozzyi has a very large vocal sac that produces an unusual sound to summon females.

That mating call is reminiscent of a bat. During a concert in 1982, Ozzy Osbourne bit off the head of a live bat while on stage. This incident inspired Peloso and his colleagues to name the frog in his honor. (Source)

Aleiodes shakirae, the new wasp species named after pop icon Shakira for its dance inducing larvae

Aleiodes shakirae, the new wasp species named after pop icon Shakira for its dance inducing larvae
Colombian singer Shakira's belly dancing moves are so awesome, they're the reason why a new species of parasitic wasp was named after her. Aleiodes shakirae causes its host caterpillar to shake and wiggle like there's no tomorrow.

A. shakirae was one of 24 new species of Aleiodes wasps discovered by Dr. Eduardo Shimbori and Dr. Scott Shaw in the eastern Andes mountains of Ecuador. 

Aleiodes are very small wasps—only 4 to 9 millimeters long—that belong to a unique subfamily of wasps that mummify the caterpillars they feed on. 

The doctors named the wasp after the famous, hip-wiggling singer after they found that the wasp causes its host caterpillar to bend and twist in different ways as it dies, which reminds them of Shakira's dance moves.

Agra schwarzeneggeri, the beetle with developed "biceps" like Arnold Schwarzenegger

Agra schwarzeneggeri, the beetle with developed 'biceps' like Arnold Schwarzenegger
Agra schwarzeneggeri, discovered in 2002 by Erwin, is a species of carabid beetle named after the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in reference to the markedly developed (biceps-like) middle femora of the males of this species that are reminiscent of the actor's physique. The holotype was collected in Costa Rica and first described to science in 2002. (Source)

Bumba lennoni, named after John Lennon, helped “to make this world a gentler place”

Bumba lennoni, named after John Lennon, helped “to make this world a gentler place”
It's the perfect stereotype: an entomologist who can't get enough of the Beatles. 

Although naming a beetle after said favorite band would have been the ideal scenario, discovering a new species is not exactly an everyday occurrence, so scientist Fernando Pérez-Miles decided not to miss out on a rare opportunity. He named a previously unknowntarantula after one of his idols – John Lennon.

The tarantulaBumba lennoni, was discovered in a national forest in Pará, Brazil. It's a member of the Theraphosidae family which includes the largest spider species in the world: the Goliath birdeater. However, this species doesn't quite measure up to its dinner-plate-sized relative – it has a body size of only 1.3 inches.

The genus name, Bumba, was inspired by a popular Brazilian festival called Boi-bumbá (hit my bull), which replacedthe previous name, Maraca. According to the team, lennoni was chosen because John Lennon helped “to make this world a gentler place.” (Source)



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Stubbed Out

Smokers in China's capital are to be banned from lighting up in all indoor public spaces under plans being introduced by Beijing city officials, state media reported.
Cigarette advertising will also be hit, with a widespread prohibition covering public transport, film, magazines and newspapers.
There are an estimated 300 million smokers in China.
Previous attempts to ban the habit have ended in failure.
The rules, due to be enforced from June next year, will initially only cover the capital.
But they could be rolled out across the rest of the country of 1.3 billion people.
Under the proposals, smoking will not be allowed on the bus, at work or even outside near schools or hospitals.
More at the BBC


There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.

Bertrand Russell
 (1872 - 1970)

Über (vor) burger

As we strolled through the elegant old streets of Hamburg, with enchanting red-brick warehouses on one side of us and the striking, glass-topped Elbe Philharmonic Hall rising in the distance, native Helmut Moller talked about the city’s history. He oozed civic pride and self-confidence – particularly when he made his boldest claim of the evening: “The hamburger,” he said, “comes from Hamburg.”
It sounded like one of the most “well, duh” statements I’d ever heard. After all, the frankfurter really was born in Frankfurt. But as I was about to learn, the burger’s past is a little more – well, messy.
Hamburgers may be most associated with the United States, where these days, you can find a version on the menu of almost any upscale restaurant priced at more than $20 and stuffed with foie gras or topped with truffles. But Europe is going through its own burger obsession. A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed that a dedicated hamburger eater can now find a tasty burger in nearly every big European city.
Hamburg, restaurant, Portuguese Quarter
Dining alfresco in Hamburg. (Thomas Winz/Getty)
Could this mean the hamburger has finally come full circle – that after a grand culinary tour of the New World, this hot sandwich has returned home to Europeans, who are the rightful heirs to the hamburger throne?
I intended to find out – to do a little digging and learn once and for all where the hamburger began. What Moller, a friend of a friend, was referring to when he spoke of the burger’s origins was the local, centuries-old hot pork sandwich called the rundstück warm – which is a low-German translation of “round piece warm”, referring to the sandwich’s round bun-like bread. When Moller first said the words, they seeped from his mouth like goopy melted cheese. In fact, I didn’t understand him, and when I asked him to repeat them, he appeared to be losing patience with me. “Roondshtook vahrm,” he said very slowly, sounding it out. “It’s the ancestor of the hamburger. Go find it and you can decide.”
Hamburg is home to a handful of restaurants that serve this possible proto-burger. Moller scrawled a few names down for me. One is Krameramtstuben, which all the pilsners in the world won’t help you pronounce if you don’t speak German. The place has been open since 1718, but when I got there I found it was closed for the day.
Cheeseburgers, hamburgers, gourmet
An array of cheeseburgers. (Kyle Monk/Getty)
So I went to the next one on Moller’s list: Oberhafen Kantine, seven decades old, set in a leaning house on the port below elevated railroad tracks. I walked in to find a couple of bearded fellows chatting with an inked-up female server over pints of lager. She looked at me expectantly.
“Rundstück warm?” I said, trying my hardest to twist my tongue in a way that would have pleased Moller.
She nodded and barked something at the chef. A few minutes later, she placed it in front of me: the rundstück warm, which, depending on who you ask, could be the ur-burger, the modern’s hamburger’s forbearer whose DNA permeates every Big Mac and Whopper the world over. Before I could dig in, owner Sebastian Libbert wandered over. I couldn’t help but interrogate him.
“The rundstück warm has roots as a snack for dock workers,” he said. “But really it’s a leftover, something you eat on Monday as the remains from the usual Sunday pork roast.”
The rundstück warm consists of day-old pork topped with either beet root, pickles, tomato slices, or even chives. It’s sandwiched between two round buns and doused with pork gravy.
“It should normally only have a bottom bun,” Libbert said. “This is a modernized version.”
Just so I could try a variety of types – if such diversity existed – I’d been hoping to find a chef or restaurant in Hamburg that made an elevated version of the rundstück warm, perhaps with pork belly and topped with foie gras between a potato roll or ciabatta bread. My search proved fruitless. Apparently adding a top bun is about as “haute” as I was going to find in Hamburg.
But the question remained: Does the hamburger descend from the rundstück warm?
Maybe. According to some historians, the rundstück warm originated in the 17th Century, when Hamburg bakeries began making a round roll. Soon after, the roll began being served with leftover pork and gravy at lunchtime on Mondays – and with that, the rundstück warm was born.
If this culinary development had occurred anywhere else, the concoction probably wouldn’t have made the leap across the Atlantic. But Hamburg has long been an important port city connecting Europe to the United States. At some point in the 18th Century, German immigrants set up food stalls in New York City advertising “Steak Cooked in the Hamburg Style” to German sailors and newly arrived German immigrants. The stalls were mysteriously serving beef, not pork, placed between two halves of a round bun.
I picked up the rundstück warm and took a bite. It tasted exactly as I expected: a porky mouthful aided by gravy. The chives, sprinkled on top of the pork, added another flavor strata as well as a bit of a crunch. I could certainly see the connection.
I asked Libbert if he thought the rundstück warm was the original hamburger.
“Yes, probably,” he said with a shrug.
But food historians disagree on the modern burger’s origins. While some believe the hamburger does descend from the rundstück warm, others contend it originated elsewhere. Beef patties date as far back as Roman times. Investigate when beef patties were placed between slices of bread and you find some historians pointing not to German food stalls in New York but a county fair in Wisconsin.
In the late 1800s, Charles Nagreen was selling Hamburg steaks – essentially a burger minus the bun, which some trace back to Hamburg – at the Outagamie County Fair in Wisconsin. Sales were weak because eating a piece of meat on the go was a messy affair. But in 1885, he had an epiphany: If he put the meat between two pieces of bread, people could walk around holding it. And that development, some say, created the hamburger.
Similar tales from the same era credit burger innovators in Ohio, Texas, Connecticut and beyond. Unfortunately, there’s no conclusive evidence of exactly where or how the burger began. One thing is fairly certain, though: Nearly all stories begin with the protagonist using a “Hamburg steak,” which means the city of Hamburg has – and will always be – associated with the hot sandwich.
If the rundstück warm really is the precursor to the modern hamburger, it feels more like a great uncle than a grandfather. I think of the way musical historians draw a line from Chuck Berry through the Beatles to Foo Fighters. There’s not a direct A-to-B lineage but more of a zigzagging route with a couple of twists erased and lost to history.
Regardless, after sinking my teeth into the sandwich, I was sure of one thing: Whether it’s the grandfather of the contemporary hamburger or not, the rundstück warm is tasty enough to try when you find yourself hungry in Hamburg.

Still Rumbling On

More allegations of corruption during the bidding process to stage the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 have been made.

The House of Commons Culture Media and Sport select committee has published previously unseen material submitted to it by the Sunday Times newspaper.

It draws on claims by senior sources that officials connected to England's bid for the 2018 World Cup ran an intelligence-gathering operation against rival nations.

Russia and Qatar won the bids.

This submission by the Sunday Times outlines how England 2018 executives compiled a database of rumours and intelligence - gathered by private companies and, significantly, British embassies.

There is, however, no clear evidence supplied by the paper.

Instead, its submission provides detailed accounts of how votes were allegedly bought and sold in the build-up to the December 2010 poll - and how Fifa's opaque rules for bidding nations were exploited.

The paper claims Russia's President Vladimir Putin played a major role in his country's winning bid, even, it says, enlisting Fifa's president Sepp Blatter to help lobby for votes.

Another claim suggests the Russia bid had lobbied for the support of Michel Platini - the Uefa president and voter - by giving him a painting believed to have been a Picasso.

There are also allegations about Qatar, and how its dominance in the natural gas industry helped it secure votes through bilateral trade deals.

Russia, the 2018 World Cup hosts, and Qatar, who will hold the 2022 tournament, have always denied any wrongdoing, and a recent, albeit disputed, summary of a Fifa inquiry cleared them.

The Football Association said in a statement: "The FA can confirm the England 2018 bid engaged with a number of parties around the world to provide general and background information on the progress of the bidding process within different countries and perspectives.

"These were media and corporate affairs consultants engaged on a confidential basis to gather intelligence.

"The fact the bid team had taken advice on intelligence gathering was referenced to Mr Garcia [Michael Garcia conducted a two-year inquiry into alleged corruption within Fifa] as part of the investigative process.

"The FA reiterates that it has fully complied with all disclosure requests made by Mr Garcia."

Culture Media and Sport select committee chairman John Whittingdale MP has told BBC Sport that, in light of the Sunday Times submission, he would like to hear from FA executives to ascertain if the 'database' exists and, if so, for them to outline its contents.



Current Table

3Man City1224
4Man Utd1322
5West Ham1321
14Crystal Palace1313
15West Brom1313
16Aston Villa1313