Saturday, 4 June 2011

Review: Red Faction: Armageddon

There are few things more satisfying than planting explosive charges around the base of a massive structure and then stepping back a safe distance, before detonating them. The resulting chaos -- the crumbling of steel and concrete, bathed in a cloud of smoke and ash -- is nothing short of orgasmic.

Voliton's Geo-Mod technology, used in 2009's Red Faction: Guerrilla was kind of like the Kama Sutra of in-game destruction. A sprawling open-world playground of pure destruction, Volition provided gamers with the tools (and the sandbox) to cause bedlam that few games had before (or since) been able to deliver.

With Red Faction: Armageddon, Volition attempts to control that chaos, delivering a more linear experience that drives players through a story wrought with near-relentless action. While the result is in many ways a more refined experience, Armageddon's restrictive nature may leave many gamers wondering: "When do I get to blow s**t up again?"

Red Faction: Armageddon (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed])
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ
Release date: June 7, 2011
Price: $59.99 (PS3, Xbox 360), $49.99 (PC)

Set 50 years after the events of Guerrilla, Armageddon picks up the story of Darius Mason, who's been tricked into awakening an army of Martian monsters. The game's relatively short campaign follows Mason through a series of underground caverns, as he's relentlessly harassed by nightmarish creatures hell bent on mauling him to death.

Fortunately, he has an assortment of weapons at his disposal, which is easily Armageddon's biggest strength. We're talking about 14 different weapons, ranging from standard assault rifles to classic explosives to more colorful alien technology like plasma beams to a rifle that evaporates anything you hit it with.

The star of the show may very well be Mason's Magnet Gun, a weapon capable of snapping together most any two targets in the game's environment. Let your mind wander with the possibilities, and you'll get the idea. Snap your first shot onto one enemy, the second to another -- watch them slam into one another like some kind of science-fiction-themed Three Stooges act. Or more satisfying, snap your first magnet to a large structure and your second to an unfortunate target. Sit back then and delight as part of (or all) of a building comes crashing into the maw of a slobbering alien menace.

Mason also has a number of "Nanoforge" abilities at his disposal, special powers that have various uses, both in battle and in defense. The reconstruction ability is particularly fun to see in action, rebuilding any damaged man-made item, from staircases to entire buildings. Another, called "Impact," sends out a pulse that tears through anything in its path, from walls to enemies.

The game's third-person shooting feels good, and Volition's generous "lock on" targeting (by pressing and holding the controller's left trigger) makes killing effortless. Once you're snapped on an target, you can adjust your reticule for more precise shots (to the head, for example), but it's mostly not even necessary.
On the game's default difficulty, I found I could just snap onto targets -- one after the other -- taking them out with relative ease. With no real cover system to speak, I spent more time out in the open raining fire on enemies and rolling about to avoid fire than carefully thinking about my attack. Yes, you can duck behind structures (and the game repeatedly reminds you that you can repair destroyed objects to use as cover with the Nanoforge), but it's probably not necessary. That kind of unabating action isn't the worst thing you could get from Armageddon, however, especially if you go into it hoping to turn your brain off and to make a mess of alien guts.

Despite the wild alien-vs-Mason skirmishes, it's hard not to feel like you're on a guided tour of the Mars underground throughout the entire adventure. Volition holds your hand every step of the way, pushing you through tiny corridors and confined spaces; it simply doesn't lend itself to the environment devastation most players will be looking for.
I almost always felt like my back was up against a wall, a few feet from a building or cavernous obstacle. So many of the game's areas are uncomfortably claustrophobic, with a ceiling a few inches from Mason's head or walls on all sides, forcing you straight ahead. My gamer instinct in these small areas was always "don't use the rockets, don't use the explosives," because you're bound to take damage. The game does open up into some larger spaces, and there are a few areas where you hop into wild vehicles and aimlessly destroy everything in sight. Still, those areas are too few for a game that should be priding itself on and highlighting its destruction tech.

With a laser focus on moment-to-moment action and linearity, Volition was also able to more tightly guide Armageddon's narrative. Unfortunately, it never elevates itself above the level of a low-budget science-fiction/action picture. Sure, the game's characters are well-acted and the cut-scenes (of which there are many) are mostly entertaining on a base level. But some of the game's dialogue will have you raising an eyebrow, with humor that falls flat or feels out of place.
There's also at least one key plot element (one that I can't mention without ruining the game's story) that's such nonsense that it nearly pulls the rug right out from under the entire production. But like the gameplay, it's just entertaining enough that it never really becomes offensive.

Folks banking on having a long relationship with the single-player campaign will be disappointed to hear that I completed it in just under six hours on normal difficulty (this according to an in-game timer). Finishing the game will unlock a "New Game+", though, and gaming's most ridiculous and powerful weapons: a unicorn that farts rainbows. While that alone may make the experience worth it, Volition has included a ton of unlockable cheats, as well.

There's also an extensive upgrade system for your in-game abilities that can be carried over into the game's multiplayer mode, of which there is one, called "Infestation." Volition has ditched the competitive action for a cooperative wave-based experience, leaving this in its place, which comes as a bit of a disappointment. To this mode's credit, there's a ton of content here, with eight missions featuring 30 waves a piece. Some have objectives that are simply surviving waves of enemies; others have you defending a critical area.

In all cases, what it really boils down to is killing aliens as they hop around a map. Fortunately, what this affords you is time (and in some cases, room) to really experiment with the game's expansive weapon set. The magnet gun, for instance, saw almost no use for me in the single-player campaign. While playing "Infestation," I was more comfortable using it, and had a blast screwing around. This also means opening up my arsenal to explosives, and using the Nanoforge more frequently to rebuild cover from rubble to survive waves of baddies.

Armageddon also features a destruction mode called "Ruin." These timed and scored challenges are literally all about causing as much destruction as possible in a given time frame. It's easily the best demonstration of what makes Red Faction and Volition's Geo-Mod tech so great. These one-off challenges are fun and a great way to blow off steam, it's just unfortunate Volition couldn't have woven this kind of chaos into the single-player campaign where it really belongs.

In many basic ways, Armageddon is a superior game to Guerrilla. It makes strides in a number of key areas that are hard to ignore, including more polished visuals and a broader range of spectacular weapons and abilities. But ultimately, it manages to miss the mark when it comes to the core elements that made the open world game so great: freedom and ample opportunities to simply trash the game's world. Armageddon isn't a terrible game by any stretch, it simply falls short of its potential.

Russellville to celebrate its own Ray Charles Singer

On June 6, at 12 Noon, the West Kentucky African American Heritage Museum in Russellville will kick off the Mary Ann Fisher Summer Concert Series and celebrate the acquisition of artifacts from friends of Miss Fisher.
Fisher, a blues singer, who recorded with such legends as Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye lived in Russellville, Kentucky for several years. In her memory, the West Kentucky African American
Heritage Museum created a series of summer blues concerts. This year’s festival will begin Saturday, June 11, 2011 with a performance by South Carolina blues singer, Miss Wanda Johnson, along with a band featuring harmonica legend, William Howse of Nashville.
Close associates of Miss Fisher will present evening gowns and jewelry to the museum for an exhibit which will open during the August 8th African American Emancipation Celebration.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Nutrition Plate Unveiled to Replace the Food Pyramid

First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday relegated the government’s well-known food pyramid to the sands of history, unveiling a new, simpler image of a plate divided into basic food groups.

The new design was conceived as a crucial part of Mrs. Obama’s campaign against obesity, by reminding consumers about the basics of a healthy diet.

The plate is split into four sections, for fruit, vegetables, grains and protein. A smaller circle sits beside it for dairy.

Mrs. Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin unveiled the new healthy eating icon at a press conference in Washington.

Officials said they planned to use the plate in a campaign to communicate essential dietary guidelines to consumers, emphasizing one message at a time for best effect.

The first part of the campaign will encourage people to make half their plate fruit and vegetables. Later phases of the campaign will instruct consumers to avoid oversize portions, enjoy their food but eat less of it and to drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Nutritionists often criticized the food pyramid, which was first released in 1992, for being either misleading or hard to understand. They gave the plate cautious praise.

“It’s better than the pyramid but that’s not saying a lot,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University.

She praised the plate for being generally easy to understand, But she said that labeling a large section of the plate “protein” was confusing and unneccesary, since grains and dairy also are important sources of protein and most Americans get far more protein than they need.

But she said the emphasis on fruits and vegetables was a significant step.

“Americans aren’t used to eating this way so this is a big change,” Ms. Nestle said.

The plate was created by the Department of Agriculture with input from the first lady’s anti-obesity team and federal health officials. The agriculture department said that it conducted focus groups with about 4,500 people, including children, as they developed the new icon. Developing the icon and creating a website and other educational materials to go along with it cost about $2 million. That money will also help pay for an educational campaign centered on the plate icon over the next year, officials said.

10 Hidden Features in Windows 8

Editor's Note: Microsoft's Windows President, Steven Sinofsky, is speaking this week at the D9 Conference. It is rumored that he will show off the new tablet UI and the long-awaited cloud integration of Windows 8. We will update this article accordingly.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer finally confirmed what tech pundits knew all along: the next generation of Windows will be out in 2012. In the meantime, Microsoft is half-way done with Windows 8 -- it's in the Milestone 3 stage right now -- and is prepping up the first beta for this September's "Windows Developer Conference" in Anaheim, California.
But you don't have to wait until then to get a look at some of Windows 8's best new features. I've closely examined a pre-beta leak and dug up 10 great features and improvements you can look forward to. While these pre-beta builds have been covered left and right, I've chosen to focus on the lesser-known, but noteworthy improvements.

Windows 8 facial recognition moves closer to reality
Windows 8 portable workspace lets you take it with you
Looks pretty much like Windows 7: This early Windows 8 prototype hides many of its features. Some hidden gems are already accessible (via some registry tweaks and DLL hacks), others require a yet to be unearthed "Red Pill" from Microsoft. (Click here for a full-size image.)

1. Windows Store
Microsoft enters the lucrative app market, no surprise here. While "Windows Store" (which is the company's name for the online app shop) obviously doesn't work in this early build, the related DLLs and XML resources are already in place and ready to be examined by a variety of tools, such as PE Explorer or Resource Hacker.

Windows Store file details reveal feature set. (Click here for a full-size image.)
All the basic features of any app store are also present in Windows Store -- such as the ability to browse through categories, make in-app purchases, rate apps, download trials and so forth. New, however, is the ability to "stream" apps to your PC, which could lead to a couple of scenarios: 1) an app could be launched instantly after the purchase -- no need to wait until it is fully downloaded; 2) apps could be hosted in the cloud so that users stream only the part of the app they need at any given moment. That would be convenient for someone who'd like a larger product, say an Office suite, on a tablet with limited disk space, or who'd like to access the app from another machine.
Windows 8 collects all apps in its own "Application Explorer" and categorizes each app as either an "Immersive" or a traditional "Desktop" application (see below for more on that):

This ribbonized "Application Explorer" is a gathering place for all traditional applications and tablet apps. (Click here for a full-size image.)

2. Two-class society
Windows 8 will come in two separate interfaces flavors -- one traditional UI that resembles Windows 7's Aero and one touch-friendly UI specifically tailored to tablets dubbed "Immersive UI". The latter isn't fully implemented (or is too well hidden) in the early Milestone build, yet some specific tablet applications have already been unlocked:
Internet Explorer Immersive: A touch-centric version of Microsoft's IE browser that includes just an address bar (which auto-hides), a browser history and a tabbed view.

Modern Reader: Microsoft's own implementation of a (basic) PDF viewer that has only bare navigation and bookmarking support. (Still, Adobe likely won't be too happy about this.)
System Settings: A touch-optimized "Control Panel" that caters to mobile needs, such as connectivity, time zone settings or device management.

These few tablet apps are literally the tip of the iceberg -- the entire UI has yet to be revealed. While digging through Windows 8's various files, I found hints suggesting that users will be able to switch between the traditional Windows 8 UI and the tablet UI, through what's codenamed the "UIPicker". Also, we've found traces of a "Dock" that is supposed to hold built-in Windows features (such as a search box) and 3rd party apps.

3. Boot in under 20 seconds?
Windows 8 sports a new Hybrid Boot mode which drastically reduces (cold) boot time and will most likely be the default boot option going forward. In essence, it's a combination of "Log Off" and "Hibernate" -- the moment users click on the shutdown button, Windows closes all running applications, logs off and then goes into hibernation mode. Instead of booting up regularly, which usually involves loading hundreds of files and initializing services, drivers and so forth, Windows 8 simply loads the single hibernation file into memory and presents you with the log on screen. I've benchmarked the results on two machines and came away impressed:

On two of my test rigs, Hybrid Boot cut boot time in half
However, Hybrid Boot works only if users actually shut down their machines. If a user restarts his or her machine, it boots up cold.

4. Automatic Maintenance
Microsoft puts a heavy emphasis on optimizing and increasing overall stability of Windows 8: A new "Automatic Maintenance" regularly checks for solutions to problems (via Windows Error Report), runs the .NET Optimization Service and defrags all hard disks automatically -- all of this happens while the PC is on idle, of course.

Automatic Maintenance tries to fix Windows problems, runs a disk defrag and an optimization service for .NET applications.

5. Disk Defragmenter
Speaking of defragmentation, the new Disk Defragmenter is finally capable of handling SSD drives and allows users to perform the TRIM command much easier than in Windows 7.

Disk Defragmenter with SSD ("Trim") support
In addition, I've found a new Windows service called "Spot Verifier". According to its descriptions and its related DLL files, it checks for bad sectors in real-time and marks them as "bad" in order to avoid data loss or damage. I've also dug up traces of some underlying file system changes that I couldn't quite make sense of, such as an entirely new file system driver called "NT Protogon FS driver", which looks like a kernel mode driver for some sort of (yet unknown) file system called Protogon. It's unclear, whether this is a major new file system or just some minor subsystem.

6. Performance boost
In the performance department, Microsoft has also made some serious improvements: After four weeks of productive use (and even putting it under the load of dozens of applications), Windows 8 somehow manages to perform snappier than an identically configured Windows 7 installation. The log on/off process, launching applications, doing heavy multitasking and performing day-to-day tasks is just a tad quicker -- Microsoft managed to reduce any delay there was and improve responsiveness.

7. Usability goal: Click reduction
Neither the traditional nor the classic Windows UI are anywhere near finished. Yet, Microsoft's usability department is busy simplifying the user interface and reducing overall complexity.
For example, once you connect to a public Wi-Fi, Windows 8 offers a new dialog to enter the user name and password to get online access:

Windows 7 users would need to connect to the Wi-Fi, open up a browser and then wait for the online provider's landing page to pop up.

8. Windows Explorer
Windows Explorer is the next tool that received (quite) a UI overhaul and a perfect example of where Microsoft reduces the steps necessary to perform tasks: Like it or not, Windows 8 is likely to come with a ribbonized version of Windows Explorer, as first revealed by Windows experts Paul Thurott and Rafael Rivera. While actually working with this explorer for a couple of weeks we have to admit that, despite its hideous look, it's absolutely wonderful to work with. Day-to-day file tasks are simpler and the ribbon adapts to the file contents (for example, "Music Tools" below. Click here for a full-size image).

9. ISO mounting
Additionally, Windows 8 sports its own ISO mounting tool, thus eliminating the need to go and download 3rd party tools, which are often riddled with annoying toolbars and ads.

10: Windows Time Machine
Last but not least, Microsoft finally managed to give its "Restore Previous Versions" (Volume Shadow Copy) feature a usable and intuitive interface: History Vault lets you go back in time and restore earlier versions of a folder - just in case you accidentally made some unwanted changes or deleted some of its contents, which is pretty similar to Apples Time Machine in Mac OS X. Click here for a full-size image

This is the kind of stuff that'll make all the usability fanatics go wild: Technology that has been there before, but which is (for the first time ever) actually easy to use and accessible to beginners.
More to come?
Windows 8 won't be available next year, but even this early build looks promising and we believe there is still tons of hidden stuff to be discovered. We'll keep you posted on our findings and Sinofsky's predictions.

SilkRoad technology Named Finalist in 2011 American Business Awards

SilkRoad technology, inc., a leading provider of talent management solutions, announced today it was named a Finalist for the “Customer Service Department of the Year” in The 2011 American Business Awards, the nation's premier business awards program. This is the fifth consecutive year SilkRoad has been recognized by the American Business Awards for its customer service.
This year's Stevie Award winners will be announced during the annual gala on Monday, June 20 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. More than six-hundred executives from across the U.S.A. are expected to attend. The event will benefit Camfed (, which fights poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa by educating girls and empowering women to become leaders of change. The ceremonies will be broadcast on radio nationwide by the Business TalkRadio Network.
More than 2,800 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted this year for consideration in more than 40 categories.
“We pride ourselves on providing our customers with the best customer service around,” said Andrew J. “Flip” Filipowski, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SilkRoad technology. “Our team makes tireless efforts on behalf of our clients and it's a real honor to have the American Business Awards recognize our unparalleled service for the fifth year in a row.”    
Finalists were chosen by business professionals nationwide during preliminary judging in April and May. Stevie Award winners will be selected from among the Finalists in each category next week by members of 10 specialized final judging committees. More than 150 executives will have participated in judging this year.
Details about The American Business Awards and the list of Finalists in all categories are available at
About SilkRoad technology, inc.
SilkRoad technology, inc. provides software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that significantly improve the talent within its more than 2000 customers across the globe. Through SilkRoad's Life Suite™, an integrated talent management solution, companies are able to hire better employees, identify high and low performers, drive a pay-for-performance culture and improve employee tenure. The SilkRoad Life Suite™ solution set includes: OpenHire™, for recruiting management; RedCarpet™ for employee onboarding and life events; WingSpan™ for flexible employee performance management; GreenLight™ for learning management; Eprise™ for employee intranets and content management; and HeartBeat™ for core HR. SilkRoad is headquartered in Chicago, IL with offices in Winston-Salem, NC; Bedford, MA; Red Bank, NJ; Jacksonville, FL; San Francisco, CA; Edmonton, Canada; Singapore; Sydney, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; Hamburg, Germany; Paris, France; London, England; Hong Kong; and Tokyo, Japan. More information is available at or by phone: U.S. toll free at 866-329-3363 or internationally at +1-336-201-5100. Follow SilkRoad technology on Twitter at
About the Stevie Awards
Stevie Awards are conferred in four programs: The American Business Awards, The International Business Awards, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about The Stevie Awards at
Sponsors and partners of The 2011 American Business Awards include Infogroup, IBM Netezza, American Support, Citrix Online, Epic Media Group, High Performance Technologies Inc., iolo technologies, LifeLock, Merisel, PetRays, SDL, SoftPro, and Vérité, Inc.

Ricky Rubio to Join Minnesota Timberwolves for 2011-12 Season

Ricky Rubio declared for the NBA draft after spending four seasons playing for the DKV Joventut in the Spanish ACB League. Two months after making his announcement, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded for the fifth pick in the 2009 draft and chose the point guard, assuming that the dynamic player would lead the franchise as Kevin Garnett had earlier in the decade.
Fast forward to 2011 and Rubio has yet to play a single game for the T'Wolves due to monetary concerns regarding a potential buyout. According to Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, though, it appears that Rubio will finally be in uniform for Minnesota for the 2011-12 NBA season.
Rubio, who was under contract with Joventut when drafted, had a buyout clause worked into his DKV contract. Considering Rubios apparent desire to stay in Spain and the Timberwolves' legitimate inability to pay the buyout -- the buyout was rumored to be worth $6-8 million; the NBA prohibits teams from spending more than $500,000 on buyouts -- the young guard ultimately played with FC Barcelona, who could afford the buyout, from 2009-2011.
"The reason leading me to [stay in Spain] is to have a period of preparation to better take the challenge of the NBA in better conditions as a player," Rubio said at the time, "The Minnesota Timberwolves continue to be my first option and I wish to play with them in the near future."
"Of course there’s disappointment," Minnesota general manager David Kahn had said, "but I don't think that disappointment should overshadow the big picture, which is, he's still so young. It appears now we will have a two-year wait. But if you frame it as he'll be 20 years old and he'll have two more years to develop, I can think of a lot worse things to happen to us a franchise."
As Wojnarowski reported, there was a Tuesday deadline for Rubio to sign with Minnesota under the current rookie scale of the current CBA. It was not clear whether Rubio literally signed any contracts, but under the current CBA, Rubio will still be subject to a rookie salary.
"It's unclear whether Rubio signed agreement on Tuesday, or merely promised to exercise his Spanish buyout on July 1 and then sign with Minny," Wojnarowski said in a tweet, "Nevertheless, Ricky Rubio has committed to joining the NBA and playing for Minnesota in the 2011-12 season."
Rubio would join All-Star big man Kevin Love on a young, talented roster that also features former No. 2 pick Michael Beasley and No. 4 pick Wesley Johnson. Current starting point guard Jonny Flynn, who was taken by Minnesota one pick after Rubio in 2009, has been rumored to be on his way out.
Rubio, who turns 21 in October, averaged 6.5 points, 3.5 assists, and 1.6 steals in close to 23 minutes per game for Barcelona in the Euroleague this past season.

Shaquille O’Neal tweets retirement

In the same breath, Shaquille O’Neal’s announcement that he is retiring makes perfect sense — and it makes none.
According to NBA sources, while Shaq was telling everyone publicly that he was giving the Celtics [team stats] two years, he was saying at times to others that this was to be his last season in basketball.
Yesterday via Twitter, Shaq said “im retiring,” and included a link to a short video of him saying, “We did it; 19 years, baby. Thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first: I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.”
But the fact he bought in so heavily to the Celtics situation, in terms of both franchise history and the desire to win with the current veterans, makes it seem odd that he will leave before playing one last song with Paul Pierce [stats], Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
The Big Sentimental Journey cried real tears as the Celtics were in the process of being eliminated from the playoffs. When he tells you he was upset and that he believed his absence let a lot of people down, he’s not just speaking for show.
O’Neal wanted another championship, and he wanted it here. Badly.
While others have dived into the local scene, Shaquille O’Neal did a cannonball off the 10-meter platform. He enjoyed the hell out of Boston, and he wanted to give the area an even better reason than his personality to hug him back.
Accordingly, Shaq went through all manner of rehab treatments to make it back from, first, a bruised knee (kicked by Amare Stoudemire), then a strained Achilles tendon and, last but certainly not least, a torn calf muscle.
In his attempt to come back from the knee issue, he pounded down the anti-inflammatory medication to the point at which he began defecating blood and had to back off. In the last weeks of the Celtics run, O’Neal was receiving treatment at all hours.
That makes it a bit difficult to fathom why he would bid adieu on June 1, when training camp isn’t scheduled to start for four months and, in reality, is probably several months away because of the expected lockout.
Word is that while surgery would help his Achilles, it isn’t necessarily required. Rest is the best medicine for now, and Shaq could have all he wants. If there is a shortened season, he and his more veteran friends would be in a very good position to make one last run together on a team that figures to make a few changes.
But no one knows how any of that — his health, the collective bargaining negotiations, the Celtics’ trade and free agent chances — will work out. Shaq himself can’t be certain.
So while he may well be at peace with his decision to retire and even looking forward to stoking his myriad business interests, this may not be the last announcement regarding his basketball career.
Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge were certainly not caught off-guard by this latest news. The two had even said after the loss to the Heat they expected it. But neither will be unhappy in the least if Shaq has a change of his big heart before next season, whenever it may be. O’Neal brought a joy to the dressing room whose spirit had been waning. And in simple basketball terms, he made those around him better — Garnett and Rajon Rondo [stats], in particular.
If Shaq is able to get up and down the floor, he will remain an inside force on offense that the Celtics will embrace for however many or few minutes he can offer.
It can be hard to understand how a 39-year-old guy finishing his 19th season can be so important to a team with three other guaranteed Hall of Famers and a fourth on that road. But there isn’t anyone around the Celtics who doesn’t believe the team wouldn’t still be playing if Shaquille O’Neal could go 25 minutes a night.
That is, of course, asking a great deal from a man with his mileage, and the Celtics [team stats] were aware last summer when they signed him that he wouldn’t be playing wire to wire.
Shaquille clearly doesn’t have another NBA feature length film in him, but to leave the stage now before waiting to see how he feels in the fall is like saying goodbye to Hollywood after “Kazaam.” Better he should take his temperature a few months from now.
He owes us nothing. He owes that to himself.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

'Jets is a fine name,' Winnipeg franchise's co-owner says

MAKE that one vote -- one very big vote -- in the "Winnipeg Jets" corner.
David Thomson, Canada's richest man and newly minted co-owner of the new NHL franchise in town, weighed in on the moniker debate Tuesday.
"I think the Jets is a fine name," Thomson said. "(The team's name) is something we will have to think hard about. And swiftly."
Growing up in Toronto, Thomson said he played hockey and aspired to one day play in the NHL.
"I had dreams. It was always a deep connection, not just to the sport but to the country. My father (Ken) was a passionate hockey fan. I used to go to (Toronto) Maple Leafs games with him," he said.
Thomson's business relationship with True North Sports & Entertainment and its chairman Mark Chipman goes back to 2001, but he said he first started to connect with Manitoba more than three decades earlier.
"Our company acquired the Hudson's Bay Company on April 4, 1979. I moved through the business in 1980. It was a hardened baptism. I went all across the country and developed friendships throughout all the provinces, particularly in Manitoba," he said.
Thomson said buying the Atlanta Thrashers and moving them to Winnipeg was "the right thing to do."
"Who would have imagined such a confluence of circumstances? The opportunity makes sense. Mark and I share the same values. We've weathered some storms. When you do things for the right reasons, everything else seems to flow," he said.
"We felt there might a moment when the team might come back. It's felt right for a few years. You have to be patient."
Thomson said he didn't direct his energies to securing a particular franchise for Winnipeg.
"It's a tempestuous situation with the owners and the league," he said.
Even though Leafs stars such as Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Borje Salming got all the media attention in the 1970s and early '80s, Thomson said he was well aware of the Jets and their stars.
"(Dale) Hawerchuk was a great player in Winnipeg, and of course, Bobby Hull," he said.
It was the players, not the teams, with whom Thomson connected as a young hockey fan.
"When the Leafs traded Bobby Pulford to Los Angeles, I switched allegiances to the L.A. Kings (prior to the 1970-71 season), long before Wayne Gretzky arrived there," he said.
Other favourites from his youth included Bobby Orr, Wayne Cashman and Brad Park of the Boston Bruins, Dave Keon and George Armstrong of the Leafs and Vic Hadfield of the New York Rangers.
Thomson was coy about his role with Winnipeg's new team.
"Mark (Chipman) leads the organization. I'm just delighted to play a part," he said.
When asked to elaborate, he smiled and said: "I'll leave that up to you to imagine."

Hip hop fashion designer, 34, who founded multi-million dollar company found dead

A hip hop fashion designer who founded a multi-million dollar company when he was barely out of his teens has been found dead in California home aged 34
Jonas Bevacqua launched the popular street clothing brand LRG in 1999 and presided over its rapid rise as a major fashion force.
Orange County sheriff's officials said his body was found in his Laguna Beach home.
‘There were no obvious signs of the cause of death,’ said sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. He added that the county coroner would conduct an autopsy on Wednesday.
Mr Bevacqua and his business partner, Robert Wright, founded Lifted Research Group, known to customers as LRG, with start-up capital raised in part from friends of Mr Bevacqua's adoptive father.
By 2006, LRG had annual sales of $150 million and was named by Entrepreneur magazine as number five on its list of that year's 500 fastest growing companies.
Among its popular clothing lines are Luxirie, which targets 18- to 30-year-old women, offering clothing with Western and military themes, and items such as crystal-covered jeans.
Initially a clothing company, LRG has since branched out to include sales of electronic devices and music, releasing compilation CDs with artists such as Kanye West and Raekwon.
It described itself as a ‘creative lifestyle’ company that attempts to reflect its founders' interests, not only in fashion but also environmental causes and other activities.
‘The company is also involved in the promotion of underground recording artists and sponsors a skateboarding team,’ according to its website.
In a 2009 interview with the Orange County Register, Mr Bevacqua described a passionate but casual work ethic that he said drives LRG, whose headquarters includes a basketball court and skateboard half-bowl and ramp.
‘No one is really a suit-and-tie-guy,’ he said of LRG's employees. ‘If anybody wears a suit, it's because he wants to, not because he has to

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Danish cucumbers do not contain E. coli bacteria: health authorities

Danish cucumbers do not contain the harmful E. coli bacteria believed to be triggering an outbreak of severe intestinal infections in northern Europe, Danish health authorities said Tuesday.
Tests conducted over the weekend confirmed the cucumbers contained no traces of the bacteria, Denmark's Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) said in a statement.
"There is nothing to suggest Danish cucumbers as the source of the serious E. coli outbreak that has affected many patients in Germany, Denmark and Sweden among other countries," the DVFA said.
The DVFA said it analyzed samples from two Danish producers, after German authorities suspected their vegetables of being the source of the outbreak. But the recent tests confirm they are not responsible for the contamination.
However, the DVFA advises consumers not to eat raw tomato, lettuce and cucumber from Germany, and cucumber from Spain, and continues to monitor the situation.
According to Denmark's National Serum Institute, there are 14 confirmed cases, and up to 26 suspected cases in Denmark.

Endometriosis signs and symptoms

Endometriosis signs and symptoms: Endometriosis is a gynecological medical condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus appear and flourish outside the uterine cavity, most commonly on the ovaries. The uterine cavity is lined by endometrial cells, which are under the influence of female hormones. These endometrial-like cells in areas outside the uterus are influenced by hormonal changes and respond in a way that is similar to the cells found inside the uterus. Symptoms often worsen with the menstrual cycle.

signs and symptoms: The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with your menstrual period. Although many women experience cramping during their menstrual period, women with endometriosis typically describe menstrual pain that's far worse than usual. They also tend to report that the pain has increased over time.

Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis may include:
• Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before and extend several days into your period and may include lower back and abdominal pain.
• Pain with intercourse. Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
• Pain with bowel movements or urination. You're most likely to experience these symptoms during your period.
• Excessive bleeding. You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
• Infertility. Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
• Other symptoms. You may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods

Chula Vista WWII Veteran Describes D-Day Experience

SAN DIEGO -- Memorial Day has a special meaning for an 88-year-old Chula Vista man who was there when Allied forces stormed a beach in France on June 6, 1944 -- or what is known as D-Day.
"I'm proud of all them guys because they're sacrificing their lives … sacrificing their lives. To me, it's an honor," said Lauro Vega.
Vega knows about sacrifice. As a 21-year-old soldier, he had never been in combat until he was part of the thousands who stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy with the 197th Anti-Aircraft Battalion. He remembers heading toward shore that morning.
"One of my buddies said, ‘This is going to be history,'" Vega recalled.
As he landed, Vega prayed he would not get hit. People were being shot all around him.
"But the one that got me was Jack Ruland," he said. "I've never forgotten him. I dream about him today."
Ruland, who had never been in combat either, was killed on D-Day, right next to Vega, who didn't talk about that day at all for 20 years.
"I didn't want to say," Vega said. "I don't know why. I didn't want to talk about it."
Talking about it is easier now, with the passage of time.
"I've always felt proud because I made it. I made it and I figured, hey … I did something for my country when they needed it," said Vega.
Military records show 9,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded that day.
Vega has never been back to Normandy, but a friend visited there and brought Vega a vial of sand from Omaha Beach. He keeps it still.
"I've always loved it," he said. "It gives me a remembrance from over there."
All the other members of his squad on D-Day have died.
While many Americans hang flags outside their home on Memorial Day, Vega will proudly display his flag next Monday, June 6.

Hackers Attack PBS Website, Post Tupac Shakur Hoax

Days after Lockheed Martin's information systems network was breached, another hacker attack has come into spotlight.
The website of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has been hacked and hackers have posted a hoax story claiming that rapper Tupac Shakur was still alive and living in New Zealand. Shakur was gunned down in 1996 in Las Vegas.
However, the WikiLeaks documentary triggered a lot of criticism, especially from those who are sympathetic to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and led to the cyber attack on PBS website.
In addition, the timing of the attack deserves special mention as May 29 marked the one-year anniversary of the detention of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning for allegedly passing thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Meanwhile, the Virginia-based PBS said no personal information or email addresses were compromised in any way during the incident and erroneous information posted on the website has been corrected.
Hacking groups have really become a big headache not only for governments but also for corporate giants as well as media organizations. In December 2010, groups like Anonymous attacked the websites of MasterCard and Paypal in retaliation of their decision to freeze the account of WikiLeaks.
Sony's PlayStation Network was hacked in April and put offline due to a "compromise of personal information as a result of an illegal intrusion". At the time of the intrusion, the network consisted of "approximately 130 servers, 50 software programs and 77 million registered accounts. The attack is expected to cost Sony more than $170 million.
The lack of cyber security has emboldened serious institutional cyber criminals to hack companies like Google and Lockheed Martin.
In Google's case, the cyber attackers were able to gain access to personal information on Chinese political dissidents and presumably feed that information to the Chinese government.
Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest defense contractors, detected a significant and tenacious attack on its information systems network on May 21. However, the company said no customer, program or employee personal data has been compromised.
Such hack attacks show the pervasive lack of preparedness against cyber attacks, so much so that a loosely-organized group of enthusiasts can deface and embarrass the largest corporations and media organizations in the world.

Portable Air Conditioner

compact portable air conditioner has 3 modes of comfort; cool, dehumidify and fan. This capacity air conditioner is designed to a cool a 251-350 square feet area.
For smaller rooms up to 200 square feet in your office or home, the Haier Portable Air Conditioner is a compact cooling unit that delivers 8000 BTUs of cooling power. Like all air conditioners and dehumidifiers, this single-hose 3-speed portable air conditioner extracts water as it cools, and uses auto-evaporation to eject most of the extracted water out the exhaust hose. 3 separate modes allow you to use this model as a cooling unit, dehumidifier, or a fan to circulate air. It’s also eco-friendly, using R-410A refrigerant that won’t impact the ozone layer, and RoHS-compliant, which means the unit is free of lead, mercury, and other hazardous substances. The compact unit rides on casters that let you move it freely from room to room. It also fits double-hung, sliding, and casement windows; an installation kit with hose, hose adapters, window panel kit, and window panel adapter is included. The easy-to-use remote and 24-hour timer let you customize operation to fit your schedule. 900 watts and 115 volts. 24.4 x 17.9 x 13.1 inches. 56.1 pounds.
The KuulAire PACKA50 Portable Evaporative Cooling Unit is one of most efficient and environmentally friendly ways to keep cool, indoors or out! You can rely on the PACKA50 Portable Evaporative Cooler for all your cooling needs during those hot summer months. This unit is extremely powerful and cools with no harmful refrigerants! Its large airflow capacity allows for superior cooling that can cover up to 350-Square Ft. lowering the temperature 10 to 25 Degree. Super portable and easy to move with its heavy-duty casters, it comes complete with a one year manufacturer’s warranty for added peace of mind. What is Evaporative Cooling – Remember the chill of getting out of a swimming pool on a hot day? That’s evaporative cooling. Evaporative cooling units create this natural effect and provide a constant flow of cool, refreshing air into hot, uncomfortable environments. The heart of an evaporative cooling system is the evaporative pad. A pump pushes water over the pads and a fan pulls the air through the pads. The water evaporates within the pads and the air passing through the pads is cooled. Port-A-Cool products are manufactured in the USA by Port-A-Cool, LLC, in Center, Texas, and the company is recognized as an industry leader with Port-A-Cool products being respected in both the United States and international marketplaces. Why Buy – Cools using regular tap water and 115-Volt with no harmful refrigerants. No assembly required. Lowers temperature 15 to 25 Degree. Easy to maintain. An all-natural, effective cooling technique. You can use it in conjunction with an A/C to boost the cooling! Product Dimensions: 32-1/2-Inch High by 19-Inch Wide by 14-1/2-Inch Deep. Weight: 25-Pounds. Features: 3 speed settings, Automatic-swing louvers, Timer and remote control, 5-Gallon water capacity, Water adjustment control, Uses high-efficient rigid media. It is ETL Rated, cost efficient, and ready to operate, right out of the box!
SPT WA-9020E 9,000-BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Ideal for rooms up to 250 square feet, this portable air conditioner features a 9,000-BTU cooling capacity and an energy-efficiency rating of 10.31. The unit also functions as a dehumidifier, removing up to 50 pints of moisture from the air per day (the dehumidifier functions automatically in AC mode). During the cooling process, its self-evaporating system extracts water from the air into the unit. Most of this water then gets recycled and used to cool the cooling coils for more efficient operation. The air conditioner comes equipped with a 3-1/5-pint water tank and two fan speeds, as well as a digital thermostat, digital temperature display, and remote control, which makes it simple to use. Choose between continuous operation or the programmable timer, which can be preset up to 12 hours. The unit also provides a 62- to 90-degree F thermostat, a washable air filter, an activated carbon filter to help remove odor, a built-in water tank or extended water tube for continuous drainage, and casters for convenient mobility. Other highlights include an LCDI plug, fire-resistant PVC plastic housing, a rotary compressor, directional air discharge louvers, and an extendable exhaust hose (up to 5 feet). The unit requires exhaust hose installation, and all standard accessories come included. Weighing 63 pounds, the air conditioner measures 16 by 16 by 30 inches and carries a one-year limited warranty.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Bigfoot Bike and Skate stomps into Bay View

Bigfoot Bike and Skate relocated to Bay View under almost biblical conditions. Bigfoot owner Brian Curtiss and his wife, Maggie, had just put the last of their inventory on a truck when water rushed through the door of their old shop on Oakland Avenue during the heavy rain and flooding in July, 2010.
Working under a "strong feeling" about the approaching storms and because the intersection at Oakland and Edgewood Avenues filled with water the weekend before, Curtiss and his wife decided to pull everything out. The store flooded waist high.
They've been in the historic Avalon building, 2481 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., since September, 2010. The response from Bay View has been "phenomenal" according to Curtiss.
"A lot of people had already been asking if I'd move here to do a bike or board shop, and support from the bike and skate communities, as well as the neighborhood and the business association, has been overwhelming," he says.
Bigfoot Bike and Skate specializes in SE-brand bikes, derby, speed and "custom quad" roller skates for skate parks, longboards and retro boards. "Longboards" are skateboards that are over 36 inches long and have a special "truck," or chassis. Longboard wheels are kept on the ground and Curtiss says people use them for "downhill surfing" and as basic transportation.
Retro skateboards are wider, 1980s-style boards that can be "tricked out" and appeal to 40 year-olds like Curtiss, who grew up riding them.
Bigfoot has an extensive "quad skating" line – skates with four wheels – and does not carry inline skates. In addition to top-of-the-line Riedell skates, the custom quads and all safety gear, the shop carries tights, thigh-high socks, T-shirts and Derby Skinz brand pants.
Bigfoot Bike and Skate sponsors Brew City Bruisers roller derby and the newer men's derby club, Blitzdkrieg, and they outfit the "fresh meat" or the derby skaters who are in training.
The shop takes its name from Curtiss' roller derby handle. "Bigfoot" Curtiss has a big, hairy suit he dons for derby games, but the nickname actually started long before his sponsorship of local roller derby.
"I've had a size 15 shoe since I was 12 years old. People started calling me 'Bigfoot' long ago. And it stuck."
The SE bikes they specialize in have been a part of bike culture since the '70s. Bigfoot carries many of SE Bike's older model reissues and plus-size BMX or "Big BMX" bikes, which have 26 and 29 inch wheels. But Bigfoot will carry and repair all kinds of bikes.
"Some people call me a boutique, which I take to mean that I'm never going to become a full-blown sporting goods store. Stay true to what you're doing," says Curtiss.
Curtiss says most bikes at Bigfoot are economically priced between $300 and $500, but custom builds can run thousands of dollars. "People look for old Mongoose, Redline and Hutch bikes. We trick them out, give them custom paint and chrome," Curtiss says. "There is just as big a retro BMX culture as there is for classic cars, with swap meets, clubs, online museums."
Curtiss grew up a "local bike and skate kid" in Kenosha, where Jim and Carol Jake let him hang around their business, Ski and Sport Chalet, which is still operating after 38 years.
"I was there so much, they had me sweeping the floors just to be nice. After awhile they realized that I knew more about BMX bikes than they did," says Curtiss, who was employed by the Jakes throughout his teen and college years.
Although he repairs and custom builds everything, Curtiss prefers single speed bikes for himself. Curtiss says he has a small fleet of bikes, including a "giant BMX bike for a big boy," one of the SE bikes he specializes in.
"I keep it simple and focus on what I love," says Curtiss, who is in the shop seven days a week but keeps Mondays and Tuesdays appointment only to keep on top of repairs. "And I shoot for really high customer service."
Bigfoot Bike and Skate Shop will have a bike corral at the Bay View Neighborhood Association's "Chill on the Hill," every Tuesday from June 7 to August 20 near the Humboldt Park bandshell. Bigfoot will offer bike inspections, tune ups and "tweaks." People who stop by the corral will also get a coupon for a special rate on bike work at the Bay View shop.

Nature's Best Magnifying Glass Views an Early Spiral Galaxy

Astronomers in Hawaii have plucked unprecedented details from the life of an early galaxy using an unusually lucid gravitational lens coupled with the powerful 10-meter Keck II Telescope on Mauna Kea.
Gravitational lenses are Nature's largest telescopes, created by colossally massive clusters of thousands of galaxies that bend and magnify the light of more distant objects behind them in a way similar to a glass lens. But gravitational lenses are far from perfect. Though they make very distant galaxies from the early universe visible to telescopes, they also put the images through a cosmic blender. As a result, the smeared and distorted images don't offer much in the way of direct information about what the earliest galaxies looked like.
But that is not the case for an elegant little spiral galaxy called Sp1149, located 9.3 billion light-years away. The galaxy's image has come through a gravitational lens magnified 22 times and fairly intact, as seen in a Hubble Space Telescope image that was first observed in detail by the University of Hawaii's Tiantian Yuan. The Hubble images were initially taken by Harald Ebeling from Hawaii and published by Graham P. Smith and colleagues in 2009. The giant cluster of galaxies that created the lens is located in the vast expanse of space between Sp1149 and Earth, and appears beside Sp1149 in the Hubble image.
The secret to Sp1149's successful magnification is that it is in a special position behind the cluster which allows its light to be bent equally in all directions, explained astronomer Lisa Kewley of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
"We're lucky that it's not being terribly distorted," said Kewley. "Something so far away that's not lensed would look like a blurred dot."
The fact that you can distinguish the galactic core and spiral arms of Sp1149, plus the fact that we are seeing the galaxy as it was when the universe was only a third of its current age, makes it a great specimen for testing different models of how galaxies are born and then grow up to be places like our own Milky Way Galaxy.
To that end, Yuan, Kewley, and their colleagues aimed the Keck II telescope at Sp1149. With the help of Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics (which cancels out much of the optical distortions caused by Earth's atmosphere) and the OSIRIS instrument (which filters out the noise created by hydroxyl molecules in Earth's atmosphere) the researchers were able to get an unprecedented look at the distributions of elements in Sp1149. Oxygen, in particular, is very revealing because the element accumulates more in the older stellar neighborhoods -- the parts of galaxies where stars have lived and died more. In the case of Sp1149, the oxygen distribution spoke volumes.
"The oxygen in the spiral galaxy was much more concentrated at the center," said Kewley. "They had a lot of star formation at the center."
This sharp oxygen gradient, from core to outer disk, suggests that stars in the cores of galaxies form first and create the oldest stellar neighborhoods in Sp1149, followed later by the disk and arms. That supports what's called the inside-out model of galactic evolution, she said.
"This is an idea that has been out there," said Kewley. "Some models predict the opposite. It's been an open question for a long time." What has been needed was something other than a local galaxy to study to see how the oxygen gradients looked much earlier in a galaxy's history. Without that, astronomers would have nothing but middle aged galaxies to judge from. They would be like a biologist studying the lives of frogs without ever having seen a tadpole.
"This is the first time anyone has done such a detailed and precise oxygen gradient that wasn't on a local galaxy," said Kewley. Yuan, Kewley and their colleagues published their discovery in the journal May 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters Now that the team has found one galactic tadpole, they are hunting for more, said Kewley. They also are hoping to study some galaxies that are midway between the ages of our local galaxies and Sp1149. With these samples from different ages, Kewley and her colleagues hope to piece together a much clearer life history of galaxies like our own.

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates two 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. The twin telescopes feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectroscopy and a world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics system which cancels out much of the interference caused by Earth's turbulent atmosphere. The Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

A promising lesson plan

For too long, the words “broken” and “promise” have been inextricably linked when civic concern turns to Overtown. The residents of this storied and once-vibrant African-American neighborhood now are struggling economically, socially and academically. Redevelopment plans have come about in fits and starts, and there has been no magic wand to wave to improve the quality of life there.
But an incipient partnership between the Miami-Dade County School District and the Community Redevelopment Agency could provide the key to reenergizing Overtown with safe affordable housing. The attraction would be a newly renovated K-12 school — specifically the now-dilapidated Frederick Douglass Elementary School on Northwest 12th Street and Third Avenue. Throw in stores and services that could fill the needs of new residents, school staffers and the students, and you’ve got a creative plan that can succeed in spite of tight public budgets.
The school district and the CRA have agreed to enter into negotiations to renovate Frederick Douglass, which is falling apart around the few students and employees left at the school.
That has fantastic potential — if it’s done right and the CRA money is used as a loan to the district.
There are about 400 students at Douglass, but it can handle 800, so it is woefully underutilized. Under initial plans, the school would be converted to a K-8 facility. It’s a popular approach that’s attractive to parents and students alike. It offers continuity for families; students don’t have to transfer to a middle school. In addition, the new and improved Frederick Douglass, a magnet school, would have what’s called a STEM curriculum, emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math, which should excite downtown Miami workers nearby who might consider enrolling their children at Douglass.
The project is in keeping with the missions of both partners: The CRA collects taxes in the downtown/Overtown area to keep it spruced up, encourage economic development there, expand the tax base, create jobs and improve the quality of life. The school district is in the business of providing students a quality education. But plummeting property values have taken a toll on the district’s construction fund. Plus, the state has stopped giving it money for construction or maintenance.
The CRA would be able to cover the cost of renovating this elementary school — at about $20 million — now that construction costs are low. However, this money should not necessarily be a gift, especially at the risk of taxing some property owners twice for education: once through property taxes collected by the county, then again in the CRA’s tax-increment district. Both the CRA and the school district should commit to a loan that would eventually be repaid to the CRA to use for other economic development projects.
There is precedent for this community-building partnership: In 2000, another quasi-independent Miami agency, the Downtown Development Authority, contributed $100,000 to help create the K-6 Downtown Miami Charter School — again part of a strategy to make the area more appealing to families to live in; the city of Sunny Isles Beach gave the district resources for a K-8 school.
In 2002, when the CRA, under different leadership, failed to help ailing businesses remodel; and in 2007, a high-stakes megaplan to redevelop downtown risked breaking yet another promise to Overtown areas.
Enough. Renovating Douglass Elementary — and revitalizing a neighborhood — should be a promise kept.

Horse-drawn caravans ply roads to famous horse fair

Motorists in Cumbria have been warned to watch out for slow horse-drawn caravans as gypsies and travellers make their annual pilgrimage to Appleby for its famous annual horse fair.
Cumbria police issued the warning ahead of the long weekend, noting the extra traffic that would be on the road, including bikers, who enjoy the winding rural roads and views around Cumbria.
"Riders who are familiar with our rural roads regularly enjoy quiet and relatively traffic-free routes," Inspector Andy Wilkinson said.
"However, they may get a shock ... when they see so many vehicles and slow horse-drawn caravans using fast A-roads as they make their way to Appleby Horse Fair."
Vehicles travelling to Appleby Horse Fair, which runs from June 3, use popular biking routes, he added.
"Horse-drawn vehicles travel at walking speed and if a biker comes around a bend travelling at 40-60mph and sees a horse drawn vehicle in front of them, they will be forced to slow down extremely quickly."
Meanwhile, the group that undertakes the operation planning for the fair each year says it will set up a daily forum involving gypsies, travellers and the local settled community so any issues that may arise during the fair can be discussed.
Police officers working as part of the Multi-Agency Strategic Coordination Group (MASCG) say the forum will take place at 7pm throughout the course of the fair.
It will be an opportunity for those involved to provide feedback on what is going well and highlight any issues.
Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Graham, in charge of policing of the fair, said: "Our top priority during Appleby Fair is making sure that it is as safe and enjoyable as possible for everybody.
"This means that we have the difficult job of balancing the needs of local communities, who have their neighbourhood temporarily transformed, and gypsies and travellers who travel far and wide to honour the ancient traditions of their family event.
"After listening to feedback from last year, we have decided to personally invite key members from both local settled communities and the different gypsy and traveller sites in Appleby to a daily forum.
"Here, they will be given the opportunity to ask questions, highlight things that are working well or discuss any issues that they, or their neighbours, may have.
"We hope that this will be a new way of giving each community a voice and an opportunity to provide instant feedback to the Multi-Agency Group that works to co-ordinate the fair."
Around 20 people from the local community and gypsy and traveller groups have been approached by the MASCG and invited to attend the Community Advisory Group, which will be closed to the general public.
The MASCG consists of representatives from Eden District Council, Cumbria Constabulary, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, Cumbria NHS, North West Ambulance Service, RSPCA, Environment Agency, South Lakeland District Council, Highways Agency and HMRC.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Kelley Blue Book has a new look

A Kleenex, a Band-Aid, a Thermos. Sometimes, one product in a segment becomes so ubiquitous that it becomes a brand-name ambassador for the entire genre. Say "pass me a Kleenex" and you will receive a tissue, regardless of what the side of the box it's plucked from reads. If you need a Band-Aid, someone will find you an adhesive dressing. Thermos? Same deal.

Kelley Blue Book is one such brand name.

In 1926, Les Kelley published his first Blue Book. Originally a packet of pages filled with his valuations for used cars, the Blue Book expanded to include new cars in 1966. As our world became increasingly digital, Kelley Blue Book extended its footprint to the Internet in 1993, and the Kelley Blue Book soon began to enter the lexicon of the car buying consumer in a new way.

Now, in 2011, KBB stands as the largest automotive valuation company. That's 85 years in business and 18 years on the web, and now, like the Orange County neighbors that surround KBB HQ, the brand is ready for a facelift.

People come to Kelley Blue Book for one of two reasons: to get a value on the car they want to sell, or to price the car they want to buy. Once a user gets his or her value, they ride off into the virtual sunset. Kelley wants a deeper interaction than that, and it's looking to revamp the way you use their website.

kelley blue book year make model page

In the past, you would enter through one of two main doors. One read "New" and the other "Used." The new KBB offers a more organic approach to finding the information that you're looking for, and the singular entry point begins by asking you "How Can Kelley Blue Book Help You?" In plain English, it asks you four questions and from there you are filtered down the path that makes the most sense.

The entire website can be viewed as an information funnel. Moving through the old funnel certainly wasn't a hard process. This shiny new funnel, however, is filled with a wealth of information that's presented in a timely manner as you move from the wide ("What am I looking for?") to the narrow ("What's this car worth?"). As you progress towards your goal, you're presented with a multitude of tools. Specs, photos, consumer and staff vehicle reviews, for example, are offered up before you reach pricing information. Here, Kelley Blue Book is looking to arm both buyers and sellers with a greater breadth of knowledge. This information was there before, but now it's more visible without intruding on your computer screen. You can select how much or how little is shown.

One thing we wish we could see less of is advertising, which occupies a sizable share of the screen. We understand that KBB is a website offering its services for exactly free-ninety-nine, but seven ads on one page (including one that hovers over the content), seems a bit much. It's certainly nice to see advertising related to the content on the page, we just wish there was a little bit less of it.

total cost of ownershipBeyond the specs, reviews and advertising, however, lies the meat and potatoes of the Kelley Blue Book website. The value of a vehicle, new or used, is that meat, and KBB's Five-Year Total Cost of Ownership Tool is the juicy au gratin potato sitting just alongside. Kelley has punched up the visual flavor of each item in a way that allows consumers to quickly grab a deeper level of information than numerical figures. A tool called Reality Check displays the fair price of a vehicle. This figure is based on average transaction prices that other in-market shoppers are paying, and allows consumers to see what others are paying for the same vehicle. Any incentives can be added to the mix, and it's all shown on a graph against the MSRP. The Five-Year Total Cost of Ownership Tool displays that fair purchase price right on top of the ownership costs, and a visual dose of reality also compares a given vehicle to others in its segment.

Those tools are helpful to folks who are on the hunt for a new vehicle. KBB knows that the flip side of buying new is disposing of old vehicles, and the same valuation process applies, but in this brand-new wrapper. Since this is the refreshed Kelley, however, the tools and information have been kicked up a few levels to make the process easier and more rewarding. A major part of determining value is deciding on your heap's condition. In the past, you selected from Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor. This is still the case, but the team at KBB did research and found that most people view their vehicles through rose-colored glasses. A Condition Quiz helps eliminate some of that confusion by walking users through a series of questions. A more accurate conditional assessment will provide a value that is closer to reality, which means people will have a better understanding of what their vehicle is worth.

kelley blue book reality check

It's often considered a bold move for a brand-name company to shake things up with a new design (New Coke, anyone?), but Kelley Blue Book has been planning this move for two years. KBB started by examining the vast amount of data at its disposal, and then went looking for a better way to utilize that information. The actual redesign phase of KBB's transformation began to come to life 12 months ago. Now it's ready for public consumption, and the goal is to show that Kelley Blue Book is more than just values. Can it become the home for car shoppers through all stages of the sale and acquisition cycle of a vehicle, new or used? That's certainly an expensive gamble for a brand-name to take, seeing as KBB's network of users are familiar with the old product.

That old product lives on if you know where to look. Our very own parent company, AOL, offers Kelley Blue Book values on its AOL Autos website. Should you desire that familiar KBB feel, it's just a click away. The AOL Autos information isn't served up as visually as the info on the new Kelley Blue Book, but this bit of meat is attached to the same bones. Likewise, you'll find KBB-backed values dotted around AOL Autos when researching prospective buys.

This new information was available on Kelley Blue Book in the past, it's just easier to find now. We think the actual "reality check" will come as KBB sees just how deeply users interact with the new site. At the same time, the more visual approach will likely appeal to many users, which suggests the organizations gamble could pay off nicely.

Mass. native teaches Shakespeare to inmates

Hamilton native Jonathan Shailor said the prisoners he taught at Racine Correctional Institution in Wisconsin were in some ways like any group of college students he teaches.
But in one particular way, they were unlike any other class he has ever taught.
"There was a deep sense of need always from the men -- even if they had trouble focusing, or trouble getting along -- they deeply needed me to come to class," said Shailor, 54. "It was a real escape for them, in a good way."
Shailor, a professor of communications at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, said he used drama exercises in the class "to help men resolve conflict in their lives."
Between 15 and 20 prisoners, whose offenses ranged from drug charges and parole violations to homicide and sexual assault, attended twice a week.
In 2004, the class evolved into a production of a single play by Shakespeare, "King Lear."
It was a project Shailor had been considering after he re-discovered his love of Shakespeare by appearing in a production of "The Tempest" with his brother Christopher's company in Topsfield, The Sleepy Lion Theatre.
In addition, he spoke to a woman, Agnes Wilcox, who had done a Shakespeare production with prisoners in Missouri and encouraged him to try it.
For nine months, Shailor's class at Racine was involved in all aspects of production, in addition to studying the play and learning their parts.
They eventually held eight performances in the prison gym, which were attended by 100 prisoners each night and 50 members of the public, including prisoners' family members.
Shailor chose "King Lear" for the men because he "personally found it so enthralling," and also because it made a natural point of departure for addressing conflict.
"One of the things it's about is family conflict," he said. "This family's falling apart."
Lessons learned from the process of putting on the play, in addition to discussing its messages, also made the experience a valuable vehicle for instruction.
"I think it gave the men the opportunity to be their better selves," Shailor said. "They could express a range of their humanity, exercise imagination, build self-confidence. It allowed them to work with others on a creative project where they were responsible -- and accountable."
Where most actors find the payoff to performing is an audience's reaction, for Shailor's students at Racine there were bigger stakes involved.
Participating in the Shakespeare project, Shailor believes, provided inmates with the social, problem-solving and team-building skills they will need to get a handle on the job market.
"There's a big emphasis in corrections on re-entry," he said. "Getting that first job is rough" for former convicts, he said.
After performing "Lear," the project continued for three more years with productions of "Othello," "The Tempest" and "Julius Caesar."
The prisoners ranged in age from 19 to 60, and came from a wide mix of ethnic and educational backgrounds. Some of them participated in all four productions while they were incarcerated at medium-security Racine.
They kept journals as part of the class, and Shailor drew on their entries in writing a book about the project.
The prisoners' journals reflect on "the meaning of the text, which character they felt they were most like, and they question characters' choices," Shailor said. It's his second book on the topic of theater and corrections.
A prisoner who appeared in all four of the Shakespeare plays at Racine, Megale Taylor, attended one of Shailor's book appearances to describe the boost in self-confidence he gained from the experience.
"Now he's out of prison taking college classes," Shailor said. "You could say he's succeeded and doing well."
Shailor is establishing a website connected to his book on the Shakespeare project, which will be published later this year.

BUZZ: Facebook boss kills his own food; Google "wallet"; physics of Angry Birds; digital photo caution

Facebook boss takes to killing his own food; paying via your mobile phone might be happening soon; analyzing Angry Birds from a physics perspective; and how much do online digital photos reveal about you? Read on...

Mark Zuckerberg, the man behind Facebook, is known for many things: creating the most popular social networking site on the planet, being the subject of a critically-acclaimed movie, and generating controversy over privacy issues. But here's something most people don't know: Zuckerberg is now only eating meat from animals that he has killed, reports Forbes:
"The only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself," says the Facebook founder and CEO. "It's easy to take the food we eat for granted when we can eat good things every day." Zuckerberg's new goal came to light, not surprisingly, on Facebook. On May 4, Zuckerberg posted a note to the 847 friends on his private page: "I just killed a pig and a goat."

>>> Wondering how long it will be until you can use your mobile phone as a digital wallet and pay for things on the go? Your wait just got shorter, according to CBSNews:
Search giant Google announced Google Wallet today. With the slogan, "make your phone your wallet," the new mobile technology similar to Sqaure, enables consumers to tap, pay and save. Sounds so easy, right? Here are the terms: in order to use the service (once it launches, that is), you have to have a Citi MasterCard, Google Prepaid Card or gift cards at participating stores.

>>> Angry Birds has become one of the most popular video games of all time - for mobile phones and touch-screen devices, that is. It's been downloaded more than 200 million times (in various formats), and it requires players to launch wingless birds via slingshot at green pigs that have stolen the birds' eggs. OK, so it may not be the most realistic video game ever - but do the slingshot-fired birds follow the rules of physics? Rhett Alain offers some detailed (OK, complicated) analysis over at Wired, including this:
If the bird is indeed shot from an elastic cord, then technically the bird should go faster when shot horizontally than when it is shot straight up. Why? Physics. Let me draw a diagram for a bird that is shot straight up. Also, let me assume that this sling shot is just a spring. Let me assume a spring with a spring constant k and a bird mass of m. How do I find an expression for how fast it will be when it leaves the sling shot? Yes, use the work-energy principle. Why? Because I know the starting and ending positions, but I don't know the time. Since work-energy doesn't use time, it is a perfect fit. I will let the Earth + bird + slingshot be my system and it will start at y1 = 0 meters and end at y2 = s. Since I have the Earth and the slingshot both in my system, I can have both gravitational potential energy and spring potential energy.

>>> On "The Early Show" Thursday, CBS News Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen discussed one aspect of sharing digital photos online that most people don't know about. Such pictures may reveal information you don't necessarily want to share - like the exact location of where you live, work, play and go on vacation  Here's how:
Most smartphones have a GPS chip built into them. So when you're taking a picture, it actually takes your location and stores it on that photo...and the same technology that helps people see real-time traffic updates and find directions on their phones also leads to GPS coordinates being attached to pictures. Koeppen decided to see just how easy it really is. A producer took pictures of just her face at several locations around Los Angeles. They posted them on my Koeppen's Twitter account, and asked Rettinger to figure out where she was. Within seconds, Rettinger told Koeppen she was shopping on Rodeo Drive, at Griffith Park and Grauman's Chinese Theater. Just by right-clicking on all of the photos, Rettinger was able to pinpoint her exact locations using GPS coordinates

Friday, 27 May 2011

AT&T Customers Get More Mobile Broadband Coverage in Eastern Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA, May 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of its continuing network investment to support growing demand for advanced mobile devices and applications, AT&T* today announced the activation of more than 20 new mobile broadband cell sites in eastern Pennsylvania that will enhance coverage for area residents and businesses. With mobile broadband speeds, AT&T customers can surf the Web, download files faster, and enjoy the very latest interactive mobile applications.

Areas of enhancement include:

    Downtown Philadelphia
    Reinholds, Mertztown, Alburtis, and Wernersville in Berks County
    Coatesville in Chester County
    Mechanicsburg in Cumberland County
    Kirkwood in Lancaster County
    Williamsport in Lycoming County
    Airville and Wellsville in York County

The new cell sites are one part of AT&T's ongoing efforts to drive investment and innovation to deliver the nation's best, most advanced mobile broadband experience for customers. With the nation's fastest mobile broadband network, AT&T provides accelerated mobile data speeds and simultaneous voice and data capabilities.

"Delivering the fastest mobile broadband coverage for consumers and businesses that need to stay connected is our ultimate objective," said J. Michael Schweder, president, AT&T Mid Atlantic. "Our ongoing investments in eastern Pennsylvania will help ensure that our customers have access to mobile broadband services that help drive continued economic growth."

"Our goal is for our customers to have an extraordinary experience. As part of the eastern Pennsylvania community, we're always looking for new opportunities to provide enhanced coverage, and our investment in the local wireless network is just one way we're accomplishing that," said Tiffany Baehman, vice president and general manager, AT&T greater Philadelphia. "In addition, our recently announced agreement to acquire T-Mobile USA will strengthen and expand our network in the state. If approved, this deal means that we'll be able to expand the next generation of mobile broadband – 4G LTE – from our current plan of 80 percent of the U.S. population to more than 97 percent."

AT&T's mobile broadband network is based on the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) family of technologies that includes GSM and UMTS, the most widely used wireless network platforms in the world. AT&T has the broadest international coverage of any U.S. wireless provider, providing access to voice service in more than 220 countries and data service in more than 200 countries. AT&T also offers voice and data roaming coverage on more than 135 major cruise ships, as well as mobile broadband services in more than 130 countries.

AT&T also operates the nation's largest Wi-Fi network** with more than 24,000 hotspots in the U.S. and provides access to more than 135,000 hotspots globally through roaming agreements. Most AT&T smartphone customers get access to our entire national Wi-Fi network at no additional cost, and Wi-Fi usage doesn't count against customers' monthly wireless data plans.

For more information about AT&T's coverage in Pennsylvania or anywhere in the United States, consumers can visit the AT&T Coverage Viewer. Using the online tool, AT&T customers can measure quality of coverage from a street address, intersection, ZIP code or even a landmark.

For updates on the AT&T wireless network, please visit the AT&T network news page.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

** Largest based on company branded and operated hotspots. Access includes AT&T Wi-Fi Basic.  A Wi-Fi enabled device required. Other restrictions apply. See for details and locations.

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is a premier communications holding company. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation's fastest mobile broadband network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile broadband and emerging 4G capabilities, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T | DIRECTV brands. The company's suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In domestic markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising.

Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at This AT&T news release and other announcements are available at and as part of an RSS feed at Or follow our news on Twitter at @ATT.

© 2011 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. Mobile broadband not available in all areas. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies.