Malaria Awareness Can Be Fun!

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If you don’t think that this post’s headline can be true, check out the video below. President George Bush gets seriously down tackling this serious issue at the White House lawn yesterday. Give the man some credit – he’s got to know people like me are just going to post a video of his routine to their blogs and he still got down and boogied. All of you wallflowers take note. Laura doesn’t want to be involved but sees George dancing so she has to get into the groove. I love how she gives him the universal “I’m so embarrassed/amused by this man at the same time” look that all women display from time to time.


Dumb Lyrics, Catchy Tunes

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Everyone has a pop song they love even though they hate it. I have two in my life right now and have decided to share my pain if you will because maybe these songs are inflicting you with delight and grief as well.
First off, I recently was in Reykjavik and heard for the first time Fergie’s “Glamorous” as I had a drink or two before departing into the night air. I then proceeded to hear it over and over again through my stay there. Now, over two weeks later I still can’t get that song out of my head. Yes, I’ve bought it from iTunes. In case you don’t know, Iceland is ridiculously expensive so the song’s chorus of “if you ain’t got no money take yo broke ass home!” is especially apt for a trip theme song. Just like how Ithaca is gorges or gorgeous to some (depending on your preferred spelling), Iceland is glamorous to me. Someone please make it stop – I hear Fergie in my head now at weird moments…
Second, I do not listen to the radio unless I’m driving – which only happens maybe one out of every two weekends these days – yet I’ve noticed that “This Is Why I’m Hot” by Mims seems to be on every channel seemingly all the time. Overall, I think the song is just plain awesome. For someone with a creative writing degree, who loves language, who loves semantics and the nuances of vocabulary, this song’s brazen straight ahead take on life is awesome in its ferocity. For instance, “I’m hot ’cause I’m fly/You ain’t ’cause you not.” is flat out brilliant. The nature in which this powerful message is compacted is akin to Einsteins E = M * C squared equation. Thankfully for me, the Village Voice has a great analysis of all the reasons why Mims is hot. I’ve read it and find much credence in its findings. Read for yourself and enjoy – it’s pretty damn funny – and yes, I bought that single as well from iTunes.


No More "Mind Your Beeswax?"

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Just what the world needs, another mysterious and potentially disastrous problem to deal with. The issue at hand is that tens of billions of bees are lost and can’t find their way home to their hives. Why should you care? Well, honeybees are arguably the insects that are most important to the human food chain as they are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts. No bees, no food.
While the volume of theories as to why this is happening is “totally mind-boggling” according to Diana Cox-Foster, an entomologiest at Penn State, the one thing that scientists agree on is that this is serious and that they have a name for it: colony collapse disorder. The three most likely suspects are a virus, a fungus or a pesticide. What else is new?
If you are into science, read more about it from the NY Times after the jump. Even if you aren’t into science, its a pretty interesting read about how all sorts of things we knew about the world are just going haywire.
Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons by Alexei Barrionuevo, April 24, 2007
Beltsville, Md., April 23 — What is happening to the bees?
More than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a national group that tracks beekeeping. So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.
As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed genetically modified crops, cellular phone towers and high-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances. Or was it a secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture? Or, as some blogs have asserted, the rapture of the bees, in which God recalled them to heaven? Researchers have heard it all.
The volume of theories “is totally mind-boggling,” said Diana Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University. With Jeffrey S. Pettis, an entomologist from the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Cox-Foster is leading a team of researchers who are trying to find answers to explain “colony collapse disorder,” the name given for the disappearing bee syndrome.
“Clearly there is an urgency to solve this,” Dr. Cox-Foster said. “We are trying to move as quickly as we can.”
Dr. Cox-Foster and fellow scientists who are here at a two-day meeting to discuss early findings and future plans with government officials have been focusing on the most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide.
About 60 researchers from North America sifted the possibilities at the meeting today. Some expressed concern about the speed at which adult bees are disappearing from their hives; some colonies have collapsed in as little as two days. Others noted that countries in Europe, as well as Guatemala and parts of Brazil, are also struggling for answers.
“There are losses around the world that may or not be linked,” Dr. Pettis said.
The investigation is now entering a critical phase. The researchers have collected samples in several states and have begun doing bee autopsies and genetic analysis.
So far, known enemies of the bee world, like the varroa mite, on their own at least, do not appear to be responsible for the unusually high losses.
Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system. The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.
“That is extremely unusual,” Dr. Cox-Foster said.
Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies. Concern has also mounted among public officials.
“There are so many of our crops that require pollinators,” said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state’s central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. “We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem.”
So far, colony collapse disorder has been found in 27 states, according to Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem. A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March.
Honeybees are arguably the insects that are most important to the human food chain. They are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts. The number of bee colonies has been declining since the 1940s, even as the crops that rely on them, such as California almonds, have grown. In October, at about the time that beekeepers were experiencing huge bee losses, a study by the National Academy of Sciences questioned whether American agriculture was relying too heavily on one type of pollinator, the honeybee.
Bee colonies have been under stress in recent years as more beekeepers have resorted to crisscrossing the country with 18-wheel trucks full of bees in search of pollination work. These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees’ natural forage areas.
So far, the researchers have discounted the possibility that poor diet alone could be responsible for the widespread losses. They have also set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding from a commonly used genetically modified crop, Bt corn, because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees. But researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.
The scientists say that definitive answers for the colony collapses could be months away. But recent advances in biology and genetic sequencing are speeding the search.
Computers can decipher information from DNA and match pieces of genetic code with particular organisms. Luckily, a project to sequence some 11,000 genes of the honeybee was completed late last year at Baylor University, giving scientists a huge head start on identifying any unknown pathogens in the bee tissue.
“Otherwise, we would be looking for the needle in the haystack,” Dr. Cox-Foster said.
Large bee losses are not unheard of. They have been reported at several points in the past century. But researchers think they are dealing with something new — or at least with something previously unidentified.
“There could be a number of factors that are weakening the bees or speeding up things that shorten their lives,” said Dr. W. Steve Sheppard, a professor of entomology at Washington State University. “The answer may already be with us.”
Scientists first learned of the bee disappearances in November, when David Hackenberg, a Pennsylvania beekeeper, told Dr. Cox-Foster that more than 50 percent of his bee colonies had collapsed in Florida, where he had taken them for the winter.
Dr. Cox-Foster, a 20-year veteran of studying bees, soon teamed with Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the Pennsylvania apiary inspector, to look into the losses.
In December, she approached W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University, about doing genetic sequencing of tissue from bees in the colonies that experienced losses. The laboratory uses a recently developed technique for reading and amplifying short sequences of DNA that has revolutionized the science. Dr. Lipkin, who typically works on human diseases, agreed to do the analysis, despite not knowing who would ultimately pay for it. His laboratory is known for its work in finding the West Nile disease in the United States.
Dr. Cox-Foster ultimately sent samples of bee tissue to researchers at Columbia, to the Agriculture Department laboratory in Maryland, and to Gene Robinson, an entomologist at the University of Illinois. Fortuitously, she had frozen bee samples from healthy colonies dating to 2004 to use for comparison.
After receiving the first bee samples from Dr. Cox-Foster on March 6, Dr. Lipkin’s team amplified the genetic material and started sequencing to separate virus, fungus and parasite DNA from bee DNA.
“This is like C.S.I. for agriculture,” Dr. Lipkin said. “It is painstaking, gumshoe detective work.”
Dr. Lipkin sent his first set of results to Dr. Cox-Foster, showing that several unknown micro-organisms were present in the bees from collapsing colonies. Meanwhile, Mr. vanEngelsdorp and researchers at the Agriculture Department lab here began an autopsy of bees from collapsing colonies in California, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania to search for any known bee pathogens.
At the University of Illinois, using knowledge gained from the sequencing of the bee genome, Dr. Robinson’s team will try to find which genes in the collapsing colonies are particularly active, perhaps indicating stress from exposure to a toxin or pathogen.
The national research team also quietly began a parallel study in January, financed in part by the National Honey Board, to further determine if something pathogenic could be causing colonies to collapse.
Mr. Hackenberg, the beekeeper, agreed to take his empty bee boxes and other equipment to Food Technology Service, a company in Mulberry, Fla., that uses gamma rays to kill bacteria on medical equipment and some fruits. In early results, the irradiated bee boxes seem to have shown a return to health for colonies repopulated with Australian bees.
“This supports the idea that there is a pathogen there,” Dr. Cox-Foster said. “It would be hard to explain the irradiation getting rid of a chemical.”
Still, some environmental substances remain suspicious.
Chris Mullin, a Pennsylvania State University professor and insect toxicologist, recently sent a set of samples to a federal laboratory in Raleigh, N.C., that will screen for 117 chemicals. Of greatest interest are the “systemic” chemicals that are able to pass through a plant’s circulatory system and move to the new leaves or the flowers, where they would come in contact with bees.
One such group of compounds is called neonicotinoids, commonly used pesticides that are used to treat corn and other seeds against pests. One of the neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, is commonly used in Europe and the United States to treat seeds, to protect residential foundations against termites and to help keep golf courses and home lawns green.
In the late 1990s, French beekeepers reported large losses of their bees and complained about the use of imidacloprid, sold under the brand name Gaucho. The chemical, while not killing the bees outright, was causing them to be disoriented and stay away from their hives, leading them to die of exposure to the cold, French researchers later found. The beekeepers labeled the syndrome “mad bee disease.”
The French government banned the pesticide in 1999 for use on sunflowers, and later for corn, despite protests by the German chemical giant Bayer, which has said its internal research showed the pesticide was not toxic to bees. Subsequent studies by independent French researchers have disagreed with Bayer. Alison Chalmers, an eco-toxicologist for Bayer CropScience, said at the meeting today that bee colonies had not recovered in France as beekeepers had expected. “These chemicals are not being used anymore,” she said of imidacloprid, “so they certainly were not the only cause.”
Among the pesticides being tested in the American bee investigation, the neonicotinoids group “is the number-one suspect,” Dr. Mullin said. He hoped results of the toxicology screening will be ready within a month.


In Memorium: Liviu Librescu

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The sad, tragic and horrible irony of how a Holocaust survivor, a man who then survived Communism in Romania, died in America by a hand gun is not lost on me nor has it been lost on the rest of the world. Professor Librescu died after he threw his body in front of the door to his classroom to allow his students to escape through the windows when the VT gunman approached. At the memorial service, President Bush said, “We take strength from his example” and hundreds of blogs and news outlets are writing about him. I’m just one of them.
Jason Linkins’s post on DCist titled Requiem For a Heavyweight is an especially great post which I really suggest you read in its entirety. He details Prof. Librescu’s life and how “it is an extraordinary thing, then, that a man whose life was mainly defined through escape and survival faced the unfolding terror of yesterday’s killings in an altogether different way.”
The most touching point is at the end where he notes that “within hours of yesterday’s shootings, it is reported that the inbox of Liviu Librescu’s wife began to fill with email, all from thankful students whose lives he saved. In this small way, it can be said that Liviu Librescu has survived even this.” It has been reported that all of students wound up safely escaping. Who knows how many would have died if he did not act as he did.
In summation, Paul at Powerline puts it even more simply: “More than sixty years after his liberation, the rescued became the rescuer.”
Todah (thank you) Professor. Todah.


New Tolkien! New Tolkien!

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The first new book in almost 30 years by J.R.R. Tolkien (since 1977’s Silmarillion) has been published and as George put it, “It’s like he’s Tupac!” I mean, Tolkien passed away in 1973 and while the Silmarillion was published posthumously, it was only 4 years after his death. Now comes The Children of Hurin, almost 35 years after died! Tupac indeed. Why it took his son this long to edit and publish it, I’ll never know. I hope against all hope that it’s not because it kind of sucks and Christopher just needs money.
Here is brief blurb courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

The book was completed by his son, Christopher Tolkien, and illustrated by renowned artist Alan Lee. The Children of Húrin takes readers to an area of Middle-earth that was to be drowned before Hobbits ever appeared, at a time when the great enemies were still the fallen Vala, Morgoth, and Sauren.
This is the epic tale of Húrin (the man who defied Morgoth’s force of evil), his family’s destiny, and his son Turin Turambar’s travails through the lost world of Beleriand. Fans will be reunited with Elves and Men, Dragons and Dwarves, and Eagles and Orcs in this stirring tale.

Here is a pic of the book:


New Meaning To "Bad Day At The Office "

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It’s definitely not elegant but all I have to say is “holy fuck”:
This copy is a direct lift: A crocodile at a zoo in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung holds the forearm of a zoo veterinarian in between its teeth, April 11, 2007. The crocodile bit off the arm of the zoo veterinarian treating it, an official reported. Picture taken April 11, 2007.
Via Phyl


Sad Kermit

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To start off, ever since video sites started to provide embed code that makes it super easy for someone to add video to their site, I have been adding video left and right to my site. I hope it has improved things at WGTCTIP2 – I think it has…
In keeping with my trend of adding video, the little video of Kermit singing “Hurt” by NIN (one of my favorite NIN songs) below is pretty damn funny. It’s not “ha ha” funny but if Johnny Cash can sing it (he did so on his ‘American IV’ album) why not Kermit? Unlike J-Cash, he curses! Johnny changed “crown of shit” to “crown of thorns” but Kermie had no problem dropping the S bomb which makes the entire video worth viewing. The person who does Kermie’s voice is okay – not great – but good enough.

Via Phyll


The Best Worst Sports Songt

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“One Shining Moment,” the uber-cheesy song that CBS plays at the conclusion of the NCAA men’s basketball championship, known to all now as “March Madness,” has finally taken a life of its own and not just because it has its own website. If you are not aware that this song exists, at the very end of the championship game broadcast, this song is played while highlights of the entire tournament – all the highs, all the lows, the buzzer beaters, the cheerleaders, the fans, the champions, everything that can be considered a recap – are shown. For a while it was a “underground” hit – it was so bad and so cheesy 80’s no one that I know could understand why CBS continued to play it but at the same time, like a good episode of “Knight Rider,” it always left you wanting more.
CBS has realized this fact and is now openly advertising “One Shining Moment” as part of the whole championship process. Greg Gumbo mentions it in his broadcast as he is wont to say, “We’ll see who is on top when ‘One Shining Moment’ plays.” Players long to hear it because it means that they are the best – a former star called it the “best 3 minutes in basketball.” CBS even spoofed it in previews for some of its sitcoms: the stars of “All About My Mother” enjoy a bar snack (a slo-mo dip of a nacho is shown) while the song plays.
The NYT today had an article about the history of the song which I found sort of interesting so I posted it after the jump. While G-Town won’t be listening to it this year, Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green are only juniors so if they stay one more year, there is always next year.
Cheering Section: Guy Walks Into a Bar, Leaves With a Song by Peter Hyman on April 1, 2007
The short video montage that CBS uses to recap the agony and the ecstasy of March Madness is an N.C.A.A. tournament hallmark. Millions of college basketball fans are familiar with its musical accompaniment, but few are aware that the song originated as an effort to impress a pretty waitress.
The composer, David Barrett, was once a struggling folk singer. Having finished a show in late March 1986 at the Varsity Inn in East Lansing, Mich., he was watching a Boston Celtics game at the bar when an attractive woman sat beside him after her shift.
“She was the most beautiful waitress on the planet,” Barrett said. “The kind of woman who is so good looking that you don’t even bother talking to her.”
But the soft-spoken Barrett, then 31, tried to break the ice with an exposition on the poetic majesty of Larry Bird’s talents.
“I looked up at the TV to watch a fast break and when I turned back around, she had left without saying a word,” he said.
Barrett was determined to overcome the snub by making the woman understand how it felt to play basketball “in the zone” — by writing a song. He left the bar with the beginnings of a melody and what he hoped would be a good working title, “One Shining Moment.” The next morning, Barrett said, he wrote lyrics for the 3-minute-45-second tune in 20 minutes on a paper napkin.
Tomorrow night, that song will be the musical endnote to the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament for the 20th consecutive year. “One Shining Moment” has become “the anthem of college basketball,” the CBS announcer Jim Nantz said.
“It’s the official coronation now, more so than the hardware,” Nantz added, speaking by phone Thursday from Atlanta, site of the Final Four this weekend.
In 1986, Barrett received an assist from his high school friend Armen Keteyian, then a staff writer for Sports Illustrated, who passed a demo tape of his music to the television networks. CBS acquired “One Shining Moment” to accompany the highlights after Super Bowl XXI in January 1987, but the postgame interviews ran long and the package was never broadcast.
“David was crestfallen,” Doug Towey, the creative director of CBS Sports, said. “But a few months later I got back in touch and told him we wanted to use it for the Final Four. At this point, nobody can conceive of the tournament without it.”
“One Shining Moment,” with vocals by Barrett, made its Final Four debut on March 30, 1987, after Keith Smart hit a baseline jumper in the final seconds to give Indiana a 74-73 victory over Syracuse.
“I was sitting in a bar thinking, ‘Wow, what a game,’ like everybody else,” said Barrett, now married with two children and living in Ann Arbor, Mich. “I had no idea whether they were going to use the songs.”
Barrett had also composed a piano-and-strings piece, “Golden Street,” which was also unveiled that night. It is played as the national champions cut down the nets, as a prelude to the montage.
Barrett, who owns the rights to the songs, said he receives a generous “synchronization fee” from CBS each year and has a separate arrangement with the National Collegiate Athletic Association for their use during the tournament.
“One Shining Moment,” written with basketball in mind, has found its rightful home. After all, the 6-foot-3 Barrett was a standout shooting guard at his suburban Detroit high school and earned a basketball scholarship to Albion College. When an ankle injury ended his playing career, music became his sole focus.
Barrett’s most famous song has a cult following. Mateen Cleaves, who won a national title with Michigan State in 2000, has described “One Shining Moment” as “the best three minutes of March.” But it also has detractors.
“Taken on purely musical terms, it’s not a great song,” Evan Serpick, an editor at Rolling Stone, said. “The lyrics are melodramatic, and in any other context it would seem silly. Yet, somehow, juxtaposed with the emotional footage, it has a gravitas that works.”
Despite regime changes at CBS and the introduction of vocals by Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross, “One Shining Moment” is a mainstay. (The Vandross version — his last recording before he died in 2005 — will be played tomorrow night.)
The song opened doors for Barrett and allowed him to make a living by pursuing music he is passionate about. He has since written the scores for professional golf, tennis and Olympic broadcasts, and for a half-dozen television shows.
A few years ago, Barrett said, he had an accidental reunion with the East Lansing waitress after he played a show there. She had brought along her two children and looked “just as beautiful as she was the night I tried to explain Larry Bird to her,” he said.
Barrett reintroduced himself and thanked her for the song. She laughed, having heard for years that she had been his inspiration.
“I owe you one,” he told her, wisely deciding to say no more.
The song had said it all.
E-mail: cheers@nytimes.com