Ripping Yarns...
Thrilling adventures at the frontiers of pop culture

"The very finest selections from Mr Berners-Lee's Electric Interweb, hand picked and presented for the more discerning browser."


Complaints and compliments to Stuart Houghton


Sunday, November 30, 2003

Self lighting Xmas tree

In 1999, a group of neurophysiology students at a university in Hertfordshire, masterminded the first self-lighting Douglas fir by infusing tree seedlings with a harmless bacterium carrying protein and enzymes from jellyfish and fireflies.

A chemical compound is added that ''activates'' the glow-base in the protein and enzyme. Voil! A tree that glows in the dark.

Posted by: Stuart / 6:28 pm ::link to this entry

Biotech Company claims technique to manufacture stem cells from blood cells

A small, London-based, company, Tri-Stem, claim to have a technique that causes white blood cells to revert to a state like that of a stem cell within a matter of hours. These calls can then be used to create any kind of human cell to be used in repairing the body.

If this is true, it will remove the ethical objection to stem-cell research based on removing stem-cells from embryos and could see amazing advances in medical techniques.

There seems to be some scepticism among other scientists, perhaps smelling a cold-fusion-like 'breakthrough', but the company has come up with some initial evidence. A bigger study is under way, with results due in March.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:02 pm ::link to this entry

Friday, November 28, 2003

Internet Library of Early Journals

Scans of journals from the 18th & 19th centuries, including The Gentleman's Magazine, and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society

Posted by: Stuart / 1:46 pm ::link to this entry

Richard Curtis's Britain: a brief guide

The Grauniad's Tim Dowling provides a helpful guide to Notting Hill and environs for the Curtis-impaired.

Most Britons appear to be rich and live in large town houses or cool flats, even though none seem to have proper jobs. Luckily, property prices in the famously bohemian Notting Hill area of London remain incredibly low. Prices are rising slowly, but it is still the perfect place for a person of modest means to buy a huge house and open a failing bookshop.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:34 pm ::link to this entry

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Venus has 'heavy metal mountains'

Best. Headline. Ever.

Ronnie James Dio unavailable for comment.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:59 pm ::link to this entry

Stroke gives woman British accent

A woman from Indiana had a stroke and found that her accent had changed to a mix of Cockney & West Country. Only a few cases of 'foreign accent syndrome' have been recorded.

Injury to their brain causes them to lengthen syllables, alter their pitch or mispronounce sounds. These changes make it sound like they have picked up an accent.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:58 pm ::link to this entry

Friday, November 21, 2003

Meet Paro, the therapeutic robot seal!

Surface tactile sensors beneath its fur and whiskers trigger Paro to move and respond to petting: eyes open and close, flippers move. Just holding and stroking the critter has a calming effect, as Comdex (Computer Dealer Expo) visitors who checked it out soon discovered.


Posted by: Stuart / 5:56 pm ::link to this entry

Fascinating Wired article on savants

The unusual timbre of his mind is immediately apparent. Scanning the menu, he exclaims, "Soy sauce on salmon, that's triple s!" After the salmon arrives, he asks me my birthday - December 23, 1957.

"Monday's child," he says, "fair of face."

Posted by: Stuart / 3:12 pm ::link to this entry

Hari Kunzru sticks it to the Mail

Hari Kunzru won the Daily Mail-sponsored John Llewellyn Rhys award for his debut novel The Impressionist. Unable to attend the ceremony in person he asked his agent to reject the prize because of the paper's "hostility towards black and Asian British people "hostility towards black and Asian British people".

He also asked for the £5000 prize money to be donated to the Refugee Council. Good lad!

Posted by: Stuart / 11:41 am ::link to this entry

Bands 'urged to cut album tracks'

It appears that the latest thinking among record company execs is that one of the reasons CD sales are down is (wait for it) there are too many songs on the average cd and consumers want CDs that contain less music!

Assuming that this isn't just some coke-addled CEO speaking in a semi-aware dreamlike state then where do they find the wingnuts who say things like this? I mean, if you think there are too many songs on a CD then just don't listen to them all. Better still, rip them to MP3 or OGG Vorbis and just listen to the tracks you want, in the order you want!

Posted by: Stuart / 11:18 am ::link to this entry

Thursday, November 20, 2003 interview with Bobby Kennedy Jnr
(requires clicking through Salon's 'free day-pass' pages)

JFK's son is now an environmental campaigner with some interesting things to say about the way the US (and the Republican government in particular) is neglecting its environmental responsibilities.

"We're not protecting the environment for the sake of the fishes and the birds; we're doing it because it enriches us. It's the basis of our economy, and we ignore that at our peril. The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of our environment."

"When I was growing up, I was taught that communism leads to dictatorship and capitalism leads inevitably to democracy. And I think that's the assumption of most Americans. Certainly if you listen to people like Sean Hannity or any other voices of the right, there's an assumption that capitalism in any form is beneficial for democracy. But that's not always true. Free market capitalism certainly democratizes a nation and a people. But corporate capitalism has the opposite effect. The control of the capitalist system by large corporations leads to the elimination of markets and ultimately to the elimination of democracy. And we desperately need to understand that point in our country -- that the domination of our country by large corporations is absolutely catastrophic for our democratic process."

Posted by: Stuart / 4:22 pm ::link to this entry

Dropload - useful file transfer site

If you need to send a large file to someone, but their mailbox can't handle it - upload it to and they will receive an email telling them how to download it at their leisure. Files stay on the server for 48 hours or until downloaded, whichever comes first.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:02 am ::link to this entry

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

What Brand Are You?

Need a new corporate brand? Fed up with paying consultants millions of pounds to come up with meaningless words like 'Consignia' and 'Accenture'? Why not let The Design Conspiracy do it for free?

I am now known as 'repedo' - not sure if the lower case thing is a requirement.

Posted by: Stuart / 2:26 pm ::link to this entry

Steve Martin to play Clouseau in Pink Panther prequel

This could suck mightily unless they remember to get the good, funny, Man With Two Brains Steve Martin to do it and use his powers for good, not evil.

According to Hollywood rumour, the cartoon panther will appear on screen in the prequel, mingling freely with the flesh-and-blood characters.

Oh for goodness' sake - why not just rename it Gigli II - Smokey is The Bandit and be done with it?

Posted by: Stuart / 10:27 am ::link to this entry

Monday, November 17, 2003

A Soldier's Viewpoint on Surviving Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Attacks

"Drill Sergeants exaggerate how terrible this stuff was to keep the recruits awake in class (I know this because I was a Drill Sergeant too). Forget everything you've ever seen on TV, in the movies, or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (read this sentence again out loud!). These weapons are about terror, if you remain calm, you will probably not die. This is far less scary than the media and their "Experts," make it sound."

Interesting to learn that the battlefields 'antidotes' to many biochemical weapons aren't antidotes at all - they are stimulants designed to keep you alive until you can get away from the contaminant.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:37 am ::link to this entry

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Myths Over Miami

The street children of Miami have devloped a complex cosmology and pantheon of demons and spirits. I read this online a couple of years ago and it has haunted me ever since.

The homeless children's chief ally is a beautiful angel they have nicknamed the Blue Lady. She has pale blue skin and lives in the ocean, but she is hobbled by a spell. "The demons made it so she only has power if you know her secret name," says Andre, whose mother has been through three rehabilitation programs for crack addiction. "If you and your friends on a corner on a street when a car comes shooting bullets and only one child yells out her true name, all will be safe. Even if bullets tearing your skin, the Blue Lady makes them fall on the ground. She can talk to us, even without her name. She says: 'Hold on.'"

A blond six-year-old with a bruise above his eye, swollen huge as a ruby egg and laced with black stitches, nods his head in affirmation. "I've seen her," he murmurs. A rustle of whispered Me toos ripples through the small circle of initiates.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:16 pm ::link to this entry

Bush wants ban on protests & massive security clampdown for London visit

It's interesting that the last person who demanded something like this for a state visit was Jiang Zemin in 1999 - depressingly enough, we agreed to that as well

Posted by: Stuart / 11:14 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, November 10, 2003

KILL BILL really good. Not as dialogue-heavy as other Tarantino films (volume two has more yakkin' apparently) but really well done action scenes and oceans of fake blood. The only downside is that some really cool characters bit the big one in Volume 1 - I'm hoping that Tarantino's trademark chronological mussin' will mean Lucy Liu's character gets some more screen time in Vol 2, although I fear Chiaki Kuriyama may have swung her last saw-bladed ball and chain.

Good to see Michael Parks semi-reprising his role as 'gruff sheriff' from Dusk Til Dawn - apparently he will be back in a completely different role in Vol 2.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:36 pm ::link to this entry

When you prise it from my cold, dead DVD player...

This is the place for information about Magnum Research firearms in movies, television and video games. The Desert Eagle Pistol, with its large size and distinctive barrel, has been a popular prop ever since the pistol's introduction in the 1980s. Straight from the factory or customized almost beyond recognition, the Desert Eagle Pistol has some serious star quality.

This really is one of those 'don't know whether to laugh or cry' sites. Can you imagine if Phillip Morris had a site to catalogue appearances of their tobacco products in 'movies, television and video games'?

In related Crazy Gun Nut news, I was amused to see this, but only in a Jospeh Heller kind of way.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:48 pm ::link to this entry

Friday, November 07, 2003

Neil Gaiman on the Prince Charles Mystery Scandal

Not only are the allegations untrue but:

a) the goat was not, in fact, Spanish, but Portuguese, and is currently living safely in a wildlife preserve in East Molesey.

b) The Tango is a dance made famous in Argentina. "Erotic licking" plays no part in the Tango. Neither, of course, do balloons.

c) only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel.

Posted by: Stuart / 7:58 pm ::link to this entry

Thursday, November 06, 2003

the sibl project : : songs inspired by literature

Did you know that Bowie's Diamond Dogs is based on Dhalgren by Samual R Delany? Or that both Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones and Pilate by Pearl Jam are based on The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov?

You did? Oh.

Posted by: Stuart / 6:54 pm ::link to this entry

WIlliam H Macy interview

Hollywood Bitchslap has a great interview with the little chap from Fargo - he seems eerily like the characters he usually plays.

Q: What are you listening to right now?
Macy: Jim Beloft. Im crazed for ukulele. I started playing ukulele about four years ago, and matter of fact when we get home, on Monday night Im doing a breast cancer benefit and Im playing a song that Jim wrote and, oh God... Oh God, I still dont know the words...

Posted by: Stuart / 6:16 pm ::link to this entry

Grauniad Grey Goo?

Nice little summary of current nanotech issues in today's Guardian.

Posted by: Stuart / 3:51 pm ::link to this entry

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Let the PSP droolfest begin!

The Register has an early (prototype) photo of Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) device. It looks great, and Sony have hinted a possible mobile phone tech being added before release/ As long as they don't make sidetalkin' compulsory, a la the N-Gage, then it should be pretty cool.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:28 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, November 03, 2003

Lip Balm Anonymous: Is Lip Balm Addictive?

I used to know someone in university who claimed to be addicted to lip balm - I always mentally filed him with the friend-of-a-friend who was allergic to her own teeth, but this site claims to back up this claim with hard facts.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:13 pm ::link to this entry

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Earworms are the product of a 'Cognitive Itch'

Researchers in Cincinnati have been looking at 'Earworms' - songs that get lodged in our heads.

"A cognitive itch is a kind of metaphor that explains how these songs get stuck in our head," Professor Kellaris told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"Certain songs have properties that are analogous to histamines that make our brain itch.

"The only way to scratch a cognitive itch is to repeat the offending melody in our minds."

Posted by: Stuart / 4:57 pm ::link to this entry

Saturday, November 01, 2003

British Library to archive websites

The British Library is to be able to archive websites and various emails. No word on whether they have to ask first. I fear the Ghost of USENET Postings Past will soon stalk the land.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:31 am ::link to this entry

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