Noted from the News
December 27th, 2008 (10:53 pm)
current mood: sleepy
current mood: sleepy
From the "We really need to do something about our infrastructure" Department:
Obama's Hawaii retreat loses power for 11 hours
HONOLULU – President-elect Barack Obama's Hawaiian vacation was darkened for 11 hours Friday night and early Saturday when a power outage enveloped the island of Oahu.
Obama, wife Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha are staying in a $9 million, five-bedroom oceanfront house near downtown Honolulu. Power to the compound went out around 7 p.m. Friday and was restored just before 6 a.m. Saturday, about the time as that of the neighbors, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
"The Obama family is grateful for the offers of assistance from local officials," LaBolt said.
From the "Now will you be quiet during the movie, dammit" Department:
Police: Pa. man shot for making noise during movie
PHILADELPHIA – A man enraged by a noisy family sitting near him in a movie theater on Christmas night shot the father of the family in the arm, police said.
James Joseph Cialella, 29, of Philadelphia, faces six charges that include attempted murder and aggravated assault. He remained in custody Saturday.
Police said Cialella told the man's family to be quiet, then threw popcorn at the man's son. The victim, whom television reports identified as Woffard Lomax, told police that Cialella was walking toward his family when he stood up and was shot.
Detectives called to the United Artists Riverview Stadium theater in South Philadelphia found Cialella carrying the weapon, a .380-caliber handgun, in his waistband, police said.
From the "EVERYTHING Must Go!" Department:
Cash-strapped states weigh selling roads, parks
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota is deep in the hole financially, but the state still owns a premier golf resort, a sprawling amateur sports complex, a big airport, a major zoo and land holdings the size of the Central American country of Belize.
Valuables like these are in for a closer look as 44 states cope with deficits.
Like families pawning the silver to get through a tight spot, states such as Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are thinking of selling or leasing toll roads, parks, lotteries and other assets to raise desperately needed cash.
From the "Confidence in the banks is not what it used to be" Department:
Calif. family finds $10,000 in box of crackers
IRVINE, Calif. – The box of crackers Debra Rogoff bought from the grocery store had some crackerjack in it — an envelope stuffed with $10,000.
Rather than go on a shopping spree, the family called police and was initially told the money could be part of a drug drop.
Police later heard from store managers at Whole Foods in Tustin that an elderly woman had come in a few days earlier, hysterical because she had mistakenly returned a box of crackers with her life savings inside. In a mix-up the store restocked the box rather than composting it.
From the "Moving toward the light" Department:
MP3 player lights rescuers' way to missing skiers
SAVOGNIN, Switzerland – Swiss rescue officials say they have found two missing skiers after spotting the light from their MP3 music player.
The Swiss air rescue association Rega says it received a distress call from the French tourists late Friday but the skiers' phone battery went dead before they could be reached.
Rega spokesman Gery Baumann says the two men were eventually found after midnight in steep, wooded terrain by a helicopter crew that spotted the light from their digital music player.
From the "Start your own biotech company on your kitchen table" Department:
(in collaboration with the "OK you can try this at home, but be realy, really careful" Department)
Hobbyists are trying genetic engineering at home
SAN FRANCISCO – The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself.
Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.
In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.
"People can really work on projects for the good of humanity while learning about something they want to learn about in the process," she said.
So far, no major gene-splicing discoveries have come out anybody's kitchen or garage.
A careful reading of the history of science and technological innovation will uncover plenty of examples of contributions by self-taught amateurs. Many Fortune 500 companies were started on someone's kitchen table or in someone's garage. There is a long history of amateur inventors, backyard tinkerers, hobbyists doing astronomical observations with telescopes set up on their decks, and many other examples of relatively ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
It is a great reminder that not all of human progress comes from people in white coats with university degrees working in well-funded offices or research labs. Sometimes, the extraordinary is discovered or invented by people who have little more than a good idea and a burning passion to push the limits of their own knowledge. Whether or not we end up with major biotech breakthroughs from these kitchen table labs, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake has value too.
The ingenuity and creativity of the human spirit is something that amazes me again and again. It's one of the things that gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, this world will be OK after all.