June 29, 2007

Beer Is Good. And Stuff:


Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
--Ernest Hemmingway

He was a wise man who invented beer. --

Time is never wasted when you're wasted all the time.
--Catherine Zandonella

If God hadn't intended us to drink beer, he wouldn't have given us stomachs.
--David Daye

When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
--Henny Youngman

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
--Benjamin Franklin

Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not gonearly as well with pizza.
--Dave Barry

The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.
--Humphrey Bogart

People who drink light "beer" don't like the taste of beer; they just like to pee a lot.
--Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.
--Dave Barry

I drink to make other people interesting.
--George Jean Nathan

They who drink beer will think beer.
--Washington Irving

An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.
--For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.
--Dean Martin

June 28, 2007

The G-Shot :

-- Is it the latest panacea to improve your love life?

Karen Roberts scheduled an appointment with her plastic surgeon at the end of a long day. The 22-year-old student at Solano Community College attended morning classes, caught up with homework and took her 4-year-old daughter to a matinee.

By 4 p.m. she sat inside Dr. Justin Salerno's office, readying to become the surgeon's first patient to receive an injection called a G-Shot, also known as G-spot Amplification. With a 3 1/2-inch needle, Salerno would pump a small dose of collagen into his patient's Grafenberg Spot and make it swell to the size of a quarter.

The G-spot has been the subject of lore and controversy since it was first identified in 1950 by the German gynecologist Ernst Gräfenberg. Some sexologists believe the small area behind the pubic bone and accessible through the anterior wall of the vagina is an erogenous zone that when stimulated leads to heightened sexual arousal and powerful orgasms. Others dispute the zone's very existence, arguing that studies have turned up no scientific evidence of the G-spot's location, or only highly questionable results.

In the case of Roberts (a pseudonym used at her request to protect her privacy), she was unsure whether the G-spot existed, and if it truly held the key to a vibrant sex life. But she was willing to find out.

"If I could come home like my husband, have sex and feel that release," Roberts said before her appointment, "I'd be one happy woman. But instead I come home, I spend all this time concentrating, hoping something will happen and I just end up frustrated."

The procedure, which has been performed on approximately 250 women nationally in the past two years at a cost of $1,850 each, appealed to Roberts because she felt life's rigmarole had left her fatigued by the end of the day, hardly in an amorous mood. Even when she felt the surge of excitement, reaching an orgasm was a time-consuming endeavor that took more effort and energy than she and her husband had to offer.

If the arrival of the G-Shot sounds like an easy fix to an age-old dilemma, it's also viewed by sexologists and academics as a reminder that in today's post-Viagra world, a dynamic sex life has become a cultural expectation. The focus on orgasms -- great, multiple, easily attainable -- has been in full swing since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, but it has reached a fevered pitch in recent years, sociologists and sex researchers say, now that billions of dollars are spent on medical and pharmaceutical remedies that promise sexual enlightenment in a single pill or, in the case of the G-Shot, a single injection.

In Vacaville, a bedroom community of 97,000, Roberts may have been the first to sign up for the new procedure, but she probably won't long be the only woman to have done so.

The G-Shot was invented and trademarked in 2005 by Dr. David Matlock, a Los Angeles gynecologist and plastic surgeon. Matlock had performed every G-Shot injection from his Sunset Boulevard office until early April, when he shipped his trademarked G-Shot kits to 35 associates, including Salerno, across the country. The package included a 30-minute instructional video, the FDA-approved collagen dosages and brochures that hail the procedure as a "revolutionary scientific breakthrough."

Within a week of placing the brochures on display at his office, six patients had scheduled consultations, Salerno said.

Roberts, who has also had work done on her lips and thighs, said the procedure offered her a chance to change her life. The failed attempts at satisfactory sex with her husband had diminished her sex drive overall, she said, and had triggered a deeper tension in the relationship.

"If you have more orgasms, you'll want more sex," Roberts said. "And if you're 22 and your sex drive is going down, then you better do something to bring it back up."

Salerno's office is located just across the street from an immaculate city park. The 52-year-old surgeon from Pennsylvania chose to set up shop in Vacaville two years ago because he saw it as the last affordable suburb in the Bay Area with a high potential for clientele growth.

An ob/gyn for 25 years, Salerno has delivered, by his count, 6,000 babies. But a little more than two years ago, while in bed watching a late-night episode of "Dr. Beverly Hills 90210," an E! Channel show that featured Matlock's plastic surgery, Salerno became intrigued. He was looking for a new career path; the artistry behind Matlock's "aesthetic gynecology" led him to what he now calls, "my true calling."

Within months, Salerno had visited Matlock's newly opened Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of America in Los Angeles, where the doctor, in addition to inventing the G-Shot, has become the most renowned practitioner in a small but incrementally growing field. In 2005, the first year the American Society of Plastic Surgeons kept statistics on vaginal alterations, 79 women had work performed on their genitals. Last year, the number rose to 1,030. Sandy Gart, 56, a Southern California nurse who was one of Matlock's first G-Shot recipients, said she got the injection to rekindle her sex drive. Gart said it worked so well, she's had three more injections; the collagen reabsorbs into the body within four months, and Matlock says 60 percent of his patients have returned at least once.

"It was good the first time, and it's kept on working," Gart said.

Matlock, from his home in Los Angeles, said he'd performed liposuction on women for 19 years while listening to hundreds complain about the appearance of their genitalia. One woman had asked if there was anything he could do to tighten the skin around the vagina; Matlock obliged, and six weeks later, the couple thanked him.

"That's when I modified my thoughts," Matlock recalled. "I knew then I could help people enhance their sex lives, and I said, 'Let's just come out and say it.' "

Matlock opened the institute and has continued his work, enlisting associates such as Salerno, who number 150 worldwide. He has also written two self-published books, "Sex by Design," and the forthcoming "Dr. Spot," which will promote his latest technique. Matlock said he has heard plenty from critics who say his work contributes to an artificial world, in which vanity and inauthentic beauty are promoted.

"Each procedure I've developed was based on the requests from women," Matlock said. "I didn't tell them what I wanted to do. I listened to what they wanted."

As Roberts sat in Salerno's examination room, she felt a pulse of nervous energy. Even though she'd undergone plastic surgery by Salerno's hands before, she knew this procedure called for client assistance. Since the G-spot is a sensitive tissue area, Roberts would need to manually locate it and give her doctor instructions. According to Dr. Beverly Whipple, a sexuality scholar at Rutgers University and perhaps the world's most prominent G-spot expert, the small area cannot be accessed unless the woman is in a state of arousal; when the woman is excited the tissue palpitates, making the G-spot accessible.

Matlock disputed that arousal was necessary to administer his product to patients. Rather, Matlock explained, they needed to be "in tune" with the area to verbally direct the doctor. Roberts said she was relieved when she didn't have to reach arousal; she was able to direct Salerno to the area by explaining where she felt a sensation.

After Salerno numbed the area with a rub-on agent, he administered the collagen injection.

"By the time I could say 'ouch' it was done," Roberts said. "It wasn't even worth the ouch."

Although patients may feel little discomfort from the procedure, some sexologists and researchers are concerned that the G-Shot could further change the cultural standard of what is good sex. They oppose the medical intervention being sold as a "scientific breakthrough" because it is aimed not at people with clinically diagnosed sexual dysfunctions, but those who want to enhance their sex life.

"The G-Shot capitalizes on this assumed reality," said Lenore Tiefer, a psychiatrist at the NYU School of Medicine. "In the post-Viagra world there are escalating expectations, based on false and pseudoscientific information. That in itself creates a cultural insecurity around sex."

Traditionally, Tiefer said, sexual enhancement, as the G-Shot is also advertised, has been the domain of sex stores, via such merchandise as pornography and sex toys. But now, as a glorified sex life has become something of a national obsession, the role has shifted from the sex store to the doctor's office. To gather opposition around the idea that sexuality can be enhanced through medical procedures and pharmacology, Tiefer co-founded a group of academics, medical clinicians and therapists in 2002 called the New View Campaign.

Instead of doctor intervention to promote sex, Tiefer's group advocates that couples open the lines of verbal communication, or turn to talk therapy.

Debby Herbenick, a researcher at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and a New View Campaign member who studies genital health and has performed studies on Viagra, said female sexual enhancers have not been scientifically proven.

"I am open to the thought women may be enhancing their sex lives through medicine, and even surgeries," Herbenick said. "But as of yet, the research to prove any of it works is just not there."

Tiefer and Herbenick question the efficacy of the G-Shot, noting the lack of a double-blind study, which would inject some patients with collagen and others with a water solution. In sex research, Tiefer said, placebo effects are not uncommon. If a doctor tells a client she's going to have great sex after taking a shot, without a double-blind study, it's hard to tell if it's true.

Matlock said he conducted a pilot study based on a 20-person sample. He asked patients, "Did it work or did it not?" and of those who responded, he reported 85 percent said the G-Shot was successful.

But Matlock refused to share the study or make the names of participants available. He also said a double-blind study would be ineffective for the G-Shot, as the client can feel the collagen bump, while a water-based injection would merely dissolve.

To date, Matlock has not published a peer-reviewed study of any kind. He said he's gathering data to offer to medical peers and will release the findings on his Web site in coming months.

Matlock is adamant that the G-Shot is not a cure for sexual dysfunction but only an enhancer. He said Viagra gets used as an enhancement now, and he believes there's a gender-based hypocrisy in the medical establishment's rush to market drugs for males but not push through similar drugs for females.

"Women have been left behind on this," he said. "If this were a male problem, they'd call it serious research, approve it and move on."

Like Matlock, Salerno is familiar with the critics of plastic surgery and expected his new offering to draw similar complaints.

"Is it right?" he asked. "I don't know. As long as you don't become a slave to it, until there's nothing left of you as a person, then why not? Why not give yourself the things you want to be happy?" In late March, Matlock embarked on a mini-European tour to promote the G-Shot to his international colleagues. He gave a talk at the World Congress on Anti Aging in Paris, at the Plastic Surgery Society in Milan the following week and at another conference in Amsterdam the first week of April.

"Everybody is already clamoring for it," Matlock said before he left. He said he was forced to prioritize the initial G-Shot kit shipments to his associates who are registered at his institute, such as Salerno, and resisted selling the product to plastic surgeons whom he doesn't know.

"If I did, it'd be a madhouse," he said.

Gart, the 56-year-old patient who has had multiple G-Shots, said her sex life has been at a "heightened state" for the past two years and she'll gladly get more. "It makes me horny," Gart said. "It makes me want to have sex, like I did when I was younger."

After Roberts returned home, she felt giddy. The healing time for a shot is only a couple hours, and she was eager to try out her "new" body. Roberts said she was mentally prepared to experience no difference from the procedure; she didn't want to get her hopes up.

Yet three days after her appointment with Salerno, Roberts reported that her passion had returned, and then some.

Just as she hoped, she could reach climax within a few minutes, and with little effort.

"Just like a man," she said.

E-mail Justin Berton at jberton@sf chronicle.com.

This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

June 27, 2007

IT Geeks Wear Heavy Metal T-Shirts:

An oldie post, but a goodie...
IT people “twice as likely” to wear heavy metal t-shirt as other people

NEW YORK (September 13, 2006) - According to new research, IT staff are twice as likely to wear a heavy metal t-shirt as their non-IT counterparts. The study of 1000 office workers, by Intermedia, the leading Microsoft Exchange host, also found IT types 34% more likely to sport a ponytail. Other key findings:

* Black jeans are 63% more popular among IT types than other workers
* IT workers are 32% less likely to wear clean clothes every day of the week than business managers
* Business and IT people are equally likely to wear a cellphone belt clip

The survey also found that despite unhelpful stereotyping such as Apple’s ‘Mac and PC’ commercials, IT and business people are equally likely – at 5% each – to wear dated 1990s spectacles.

Confirming one stereotype, however, was the finding that IT workers were almost twice as likely to carry a Maglite and a Leatherman. Both businesspeople and IT people prefer a Leatherman over a MagLite, and are 20% more likely to carry one.

“Our research provides an interesting insight into the life of IT people,” said Rurik Bradbury, VP marketing for Intermedia. “Our large Microsoft Gold Certified team of engineers was comforted that IT people are twice as likely to wear Megadeth and similar t-shirts, and that black jeans and ponytails are still hot items. However, they were distraught to find that the cellphone belt clip has gone ‘mainstream’ and lost its identification with the IT subculture.”

June 25, 2007

Jelly Belly: A Diet Pill That Expands So You Don't

Nicole Martinelli

MILAN -- Italian scientists are testing a new diet pill that turns into a clear, gelatinous blob the size of a tennis ball that may help shrink waistlines by giving dieters a sense of satiety.

The pill, currently undergoing clinical trials at Rome's Policlinico Gemelli hospital, would be downed with two glasses of water at the first sign of a stomach rumble.

"The effect is like eating a nice plate of pasta," said Luigi Ambrosio, lead researcher on the project at the National Research Council's Institute for Composite and Biomedical Materials in Naples. "If you sit down for a meal with a stomach that already feels full, you'll end up eating less."

The unnamed pill is made from a cellulose compound of hydrogel, a material that's powdery when dry but plumps up to a cousin of Jell-O when wet. The gel can soak up to 1,000 times its weight. A gram in capsule form quickly balloons from the size of a spit wad to a ball that holds nearly a liter of liquid.

Growing waistlines are an increasingly hefty issue. The World Health Organization calls obesity (.pdf) "one of today's most blatantly visible -- yet most neglected -- public health problems." The WHO estimates that 1 billion adults worldwide are overweight, 300 million of them obese. Attendant illnesses include type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and certain forms of cancer.

Ambrosio and fellow researcher Luigi Nicolais, now minister for reform and innovation, noticed the burgeoning girth of Americans during a trip to the United States in the '90s.

The pair had been working with a team to develop super-absorbent materials for Swedish paper-product company Sca and wondered whether a hydrogel could produce an effect similar to gastric banding -- without the surgery.

Along the way, they discovered the spongelike material could be used to treat edemas, and are currently experimenting with it as a way to slow-water plants. The versions of the material for use in the diet pill is biocompatible, so the body just flushes it out, the scientist say.

Jelly belly: from about the size of a spit wad the compound grows to a tennis ball so dieters sit down feeling full.

Image: Courtesy of Prof. Luigi Ambrosio

But in a market glutted with miracle cures and trendy diets, some folks don't gel with the concept.

Lona Sandon, a dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, sighed slightly before commenting.

"I don't think we'll find the answer to obesity in a pill," said Sandon, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "The only long-term solution is cutting back calories and getting exercise."

Though it may not be a magic bullet, some experts think it could help those whose girth has already grown out of control.

"A pill like that one could be a valid aid when you've already got a serious problem," said professor Antonino De Lorenzo of Rome's Tor Vergata University, who has conducted extensive research on benefits of the classic Mediterranean diet. "The real challenge is teaching people to eat properly before they need it."

If trials are successful, researchers hope to put the gel pill within easy reach of calorie counters on both the EU and North American markets in about a year.

"Obesity is such an enormous problem," said Ambrosio. "If we managed to reduce it by even 10 percent with this pill, it would be a huge accomplishment."

Race Gives New Meaning To Beer Run:

SUAMICO, Wis. - Only in Wisconsin do beer and exercise mix. Several hundred people laced up Sunday morning for a two-mile charity race in which suds were the refresher of choice. Competitors in the 19th annual Beer Belly Two might not be considered athletes, but they know how to have a good time.

"My kids are running it, so hopefully they're already at the finish line and I'll see them in an hour or so," said racer Doug Burmeister. "You know, there's a lot of beer stops."

The race has raised more than $350,000 for local charities since its inception.

Beer Belly veteran Mike Marin said this is one workout he can really get into.

"This way the wife allows me to have a couple of beers because you're doing something," he said. "A little exercise, you kill two birds with one stone."

June 24, 2007

N.J. Dog Crowned World's Ugliest:

PETALUMA, Calif. - Elwood, a 2-year-old Chinese Crested and Chihuahua mix, was crowned the world's ugliest dog Friday, a distinction that delighted the New Jersey mutt's owners.
The Chinese Crested dog 'Elwood' appears at the 2007 World's Ugliest Dog Contest Friday, June 22, 2007, in Petaluma, Calif. Elwood, who weighs in at just 6 lbs and was rescued as the result of a New Jersey SPCA investigation, has won the title of World's ugliest dog of 2007. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

AP Photo:
The Chinese Crested dog 'Elwood' appears at the 2007 World's Ugliest Dog Contest Friday, June...

Elwood, dark colored and hairless — save for a mohawk-like puff of white fur on his head — is often referred to as "Yoda," or "ET," for his resemblance to those famous science fiction characters.

"I think he's the cutest thing that ever lived," said Elwood's owner, Karen Quigley, a resident of Sewell, New Jersey.

Quigley brought Elwood out to compete for the second year at the annual ugly dog contest at the Marin-Sonoma County Fair. Elwood placed second last year.

Most of the competing canines were also Chinese Crested, a breed that features a mohawk, bug eyes and a long, wagging tongue.

Quigley said she rescued Elwood two years ago. "The breeder was going to euthanize him because she thought he was too ugly to sell," said Quigley.

"So ha ha, now Elwood's all over the Internet and people love him and adore him."

Beyond the regal title of ugliest dog, Elwood also earned a $1,000 reward for his owner.

June 21, 2007

Solar Beach Tote Charges Your Phone:

The Juice Bag is a beach tote with an integrated solar panel that will charge your phone, camera, laptop and MP3 player while you manufacture vitamin D.
(via Gizmodo)

posted by Cory Doctorow / Boing Boing

Sewage Flows Down Aisles Of Trans-Atlantic Flight:


"I was more nervous than I had ever been on a flight," said passenger Collin Brock.

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash.– Passengers on a Continental Airlines flight had to hold their noses for hours as sewage overflowed from toilets while they were high over the Atlantic.

"To be blatantly honest, I was more nervous than I had ever been on a flight," said Collin Brock. The University Place man was on board Continental Airlines flight 1970 from Amsterdam to Newark, New Jersey last week when things went bad.

"I've never felt so offended in all my life. I felt like I had been physically abused and neglected. I was forced to sit next to human excrement for seven hours," said Brock.

That's after lavatories - in the middle of a flight filled with passengers - started spewing sewage.  

"Sickening. It's a nauseating smell. It's very uncomfortable," said Brock.

It was last Wednesday afternoon when his flight left Amsterdam, but roughly two hours into it, the passengers were told the lavatories were out of commission. An unplanned landing in Shannon, Ireland was made to fix the problem.

A pit stop became an overnight stay. The next day, the same plane headed for its original destination of Newark, New Jersey, but just after takeoff, the sewage overflow began. This time, there was no turning around.

"I don't know how you can say a plane needs to be grounded one day for a problem that's not as major as a problem the next day, and it doesn't qualify for being grounded," said Brock.

He says was there was one partially-working restroom on the plane for the more than 200 people onboard.

He also says the flight attendants - who were serving meal service in a stinky, unappetizing cabin - told everyone to not eat or drink too much.

"To be told that we were supposed to monitor what comes out the other end of us was insulting," said Brock. "Shame on continental.  It was the worst flight experience I have ever had."

Continental gave Collin a $500 voucher for a future flight for the inconvenience. He says he's not sure he'll ever use it.

June 20, 2007

Firefighters Flush Cat From Storm Drain:

PARKERSBURG, West Virginia - It took two fire trucks, five firefighters, several animal rescuers and about 250 gallons of water to rescue a kitten that refused to come out of a West Virginia storm sewer drain.

Animal control officers tried coaxing the gray tabby with encouraging words and food Monday afternoon before giving up after about an hour and a half.

Parkersburg firefighters tried banging tools on one end of the pipe and flashing lights Monday night near the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge in hopes of driving him out the other end, but that failed.

Only when firefighters flushed about 250 gallons of water_ enough to wet the kitten's paws — through the pipe that the feline rushed into the hands of Firefighter Kevin Siers, who was standing inside a manhole.

"We had about an hour and a half of fun," Siers said Tuesday. "Everybody was pretty tickled" when the cat emerged.

After a very frightening day and night, the kitten seemed more relaxed on Tuesday and was warming up to humans, said Dan Hendrickson with the Humane Society of Parkersburg. A visitor to the shelter was signing adoption papers Tuesday afternoon.

Siers and state Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis said it is not uncommon for fire departments to attempt such rescues.

Firefighters have rescued iguanas off of telephone poles, snakes out of sewer pipes and cats out of trees, Siers said.

"Firefighters will go try to save anything," Lewis said.

Man Says Salad Stolen From Refrigerator:

SOMERSET, Pa. - Someone kicked in the door of a man's apartment, stuck a knife in the door and took a chilled salad from his refrigerator.

Somerset police said the man reported the bizarre burglary on Monday. He told investigators someone broke into his apartment while he went to a nearby tavern. Nothing but the salad was missing, police said.

Police said they have a suspect and expect to file charges once they finish their investigation.

Information from: The Tribune-Democrat, http://www.tribune-democrat.com

June 19, 2007

Court Camera Captures Strange Image:

Court camera captures strange image

SANTA FE, N.M. - A strange image captured by a surveillance camera at the First Judicial District courthouse downtown has left sheriff's deputies, lawyers, clerks and judges scratching their heads.

Some think it's a ghost. Others suggest it's a reflection from a passing car or possibly a piece of fluff from a cottonwood tree.

"I don't know what it is, but I think it's neat that it showed up on a Friday," said Sally Saunders, assistant to District Judge Stephen Pfeffer. "Now we have something to talk about."

Santa Fe County Deputy Alfred Arana first noticed the image when he arrived at the courthouse Friday morning and began reviewing surveillance video from the night before. Sgt. Vanessa Pacheco arrived a half hour later and was asked by Arana to watch the video.

"It's something unexplainable," Pacheco said. "I don't believe in ghosts so I don't think that's what it is."

The video shows a bright spot of light coming from either the roof or near the courthouse's back door. It moves toward the west across the front bumper of a parked police before leaving the frame.

Perhaps the most bizarre part is that the light appears to cast shadows.

Courthouse workers debated whether it might have been a reflection. But some said the angle of the sun wasn't right and a large tree shades most of the area.

Arana said the footage was clearer when he first watched it than when it was replayed over and over Friday. He said he had no idea what the camera captured.

Deputy Anthony Maes said it was a ghost. "What makes us think we're the only beings on this planet? It's too weird," he said.

Maes said he thought it might be the ghost of convicted murderer Andy Lopez, who took nine people hostage at the courthouse in February 1985 before being shot by a deputy as he peeked out the back door.

Candy Sisneros, a clerk, said her husband, a sheriff's deputy, used to work in the courthouse at night when the county's dispatch center was there, and he used to hear footsteps, doors opening and closing and elevators going up and down.

Jude Torres has worked at the court house as a janitor for four years and said he sometimes hears noises at night. He said the noises mainly originate from the same side of the building where the light was seen.

Earl Rhoads, a public defender, thinks the image is that of a drifting cottonwood seed.

"I'm not willing to say it's proof of paranormal activity," he said. "I think it's totally explainable."

On the Net:

Link to courthouse video: http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/63222.html

Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

June 18, 2007

Online Sales Lose Steam:

Online Sales Lose Steam

SAN FRANCISCO — Has online retailing entered the Dot Calm era?

Since the inception of the Web, online commerce has enjoyed hypergrowth, with annual sales increasing more than 25 percent over all, and far more rapidly in many categories. But in the last year, growth has slowed sharply in major sectors like books, tickets and office supplies.

Growth in online sales has also dropped dramatically in diverse categories like health and beauty products, computer peripherals and pet supplies. Analysts say it is a turning point and growth will continue to slow through the decade.

The reaction to the trend is apparent at Dell, which many had regarded as having mastered the science of selling computers online, but is now putting its PCs in Wal-Mart stores. Expedia has almost tripled the number of travel ticketing kiosks it puts in hotel lobbies and other places that attract tourists.

The slowdown is a result of several forces. Sales on the Internet are expected to reach $116 billion this year, or 5 percent of all retail sales, making it harder to maintain the same high growth rates. At the same time, consumers seem to be experiencing Internet fatigue and are changing their buying habits.

John Johnson, 53, who sells medical products to drug stores and lives in San Francisco, finds that retailers have livened up their stores to be more alluring.

“They’re working a lot harder,” he said as he shopped at Book Passage in downtown San Francisco. “They’re not as stuffy. The lighting is better. You don’t get someone behind the counter who’s been there 40 years. They’re younger and hipper and much more with it.”

He and his wife, Liz Hauer, 51, a Macy’s executive, also shop online, but mostly for gifts or items that need to be shipped. They said they found that the experience could be tedious at times. “Online, it’s much more of a task,” she said. Still, Internet commerce is growing at a pace that traditional merchants would envy. But online sales are not growing as fast as they were even 18 months ago.

Forrester Research, a market research company, projects that online book sales will rise 11 percent this year, compared with nearly 40 percent last year. Apparel sales, which increased 61 percent last year, are expected to slow to 21 percent. And sales of pet supplies are on pace to rise 30 percent this year after climbing 81 percent last year.

Growth rates for online sales are slowing down in numerous other segments as well, including appliances, sporting goods, auto parts, computer peripherals, and even music and videos. Forrester says that sales growth is pulling back in 18 of the 24 categories it measures.

Jupiter Research, another market research firm, says the growth rate has peaked. It projects that overall online sales growth will slow to 9 percent a year by the end of the decade from as much as 25 percent in 2004.

Early financial results from e-commerce companies bear out the trend. EBay reported that revenue from Web site sales increased by just 1 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. Bookings from Expedia’s North American Web sites rose by only 1 percent in the first quarter of this year. And Dell said that revenue in the Americas — United States, Canada and Latin America — for the three months ended May 4 was $8.9 billion, or nearly unchanged from the same period last year.

“There’s a recognition that some customers like a more interactive experience,” said Alex Gruzen, senior vice president for consumer products at Dell. “They like shopping and they want to go retail.”

The turning point comes as most adult Americans, and many of their children, are already shopping online.

Analysts project that by 2011, online sales will account for nearly 7 percent of overall retail sales, though categories like computer hardware and software generate more than 40 percent of their sales on the Internet.

There are other factors at work as well, including a push by companies like Apple, Starbucks and the big shopping malls to make the in-store experience more compelling.

Nancy F. Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies retailing and consumer habits, said that the leveling off of e-commerce reflected the practical and psychological limitations of shopping online. She said that as physical stores have made the in-person buying experience more pleasurable, online stores have continued to give shoppers a blasé experience. In addition, online shopping, because it involves a computer, feels like work.

“It’s not like you go onto Amazon and think: ‘I’m a little depressed. I’ll go onto this site and get transported,’ ” she said, noting that online shopping is more a chore than an escape.

But Ms. Koehn and others say that online shopping is running into practical problems, too. For one, Ms. Koehn noted, online sellers have been steadily raising their shipping fees to bolster profits or make up for their low prices.

In response, a so-called clicks-and-bricks hybrid model is emerging, said Dan Whaley, the founder of GetThere, which became one of the largest Internet travel businesses after it was acquired by Sabre Holdings.

The bookseller Borders, for example, recently revamped its Web site to allow users to reserve books online and pick them up in the store. Similar services were started by companies like Best Buy and Sears. Other retailers are working to follow suit.

“You don’t realize how powerful of a phenomenon this new strategy has become,” Mr. Whaley said. “Nearly every big box retailer is opening it up.”

Barnes & Noble recently upgraded its site to include online book clubs, reader forums and interviews with authors. The company hopes the changes will make the online world feel more like the offline one, said Marie J. Toulantis, the chief executive of BarnesandNoble.com. “We emulate the in-store experience by having a book club online,” she said.

The retailers that have started in-store pickup programs, like Sears and REI, have found that customers who choose the hybrid model are more likely to buy additional products when they pick up their items, said Patti Freeman Evans, an analyst at Jupiter Research.

Consumers are generally not committed to one form of buying over the other. Maggie Hake, 21, a recent college graduate heading to Africa in the fall to join the Peace Corps, said that when she needs to buy something for her Macintosh computer, she prefers visiting a store. “I trust it more,” she said. “I want to be sure there’s a person there if something goes wrong.”

Ms. Hake, who lives in Kentfield, Calif., just north of San Francisco, does like shopping online for certain things, particularly shoes, which are hard to find in her size. “I’ve got big feet — size 12.5 in women’s,” she said. “I also buy textbooks online. They’re cheaper.”

John Morgan, an economics professor from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, said he expected online commerce to continue to increase, partly because it remains less than 1 percent of the overall economy. “There’s still a lot of head room for people to grow,” he said.

Matt Richtel reported from San Francisco. Bob Tedeschi reported from Guilford, Conn.

Mating Hares Block Milan Airport Runways:

Mating hares block Milan airport runways

MILAN, Italy - Wild hares at Milan's Linate airport seem to have only one thing on their mind, and their excessive mating and growing numbers have blocked takeoffs, landings and radar systems.

Officials on Sunday mounted a daylight raid to keep these furry creatures off the runways, part of a twice-annual capture to keep the airport population under control.

"There are always hares at the airport, the problem is that lately there were too many, and they cause problems with the radar and sensors that monitor the airport," said Nicoletta Angioni, spokeswoman for SEA, the company that operates Milan's airports.

Blowing whistles and waving their arms frantically, some 200 volunteers spooked the hares out of their holes and into waiting nets. The animals — 57 hares and four wild rabbits — were put in wooden crates and transferred to a wildlife preserve, officials said.

Usually the hare hunts takes place overnight, when the airport's runways aren't terribly busy, but because there were so many hares this season, officials mounted a daylight capture so volunteers could better catch their bounding prey.

The airport reopened after a hare delay of just a few hours.

June 16, 2007

Toddler Served Margarita In A Sippy Cup:

Toddler Served Margarita In A Sippy Cup:

ANTIOCH, Calif. - Kim Mayorga was confused when her 2-year-old started making funny faces and pushing away the apple juice he had ordered at Applebee's. The explanation came when she opened the lid of the sippy cup and was hit by the smell of tequila and Triple Sec.

The restaurant staff accidentally gave Julian Mayorga a margarita Monday. He grew drowsy and started vomiting a few hours later and was rushed to the hospital.

"I wasn't going to make a big deal about it," the mother told the Contra Costa Times on Thursday, "but then he got sick."

The apple juice and margarita mix were stored in identical plastic bottles, and the manager mistakenly grabbed the margarita container to pour the boy's drink, said Randy Tei, vice president for Apple Bay East Inc., which owns the franchise restaurant and nine other Applebee's in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Mayorgas will be reimbursed for their medical bills, and Tei said the franchise group's restaurants will no longer serve apple juice and margaritas in similar containers.

"We absolutely believe it was an honest mistake," Tei said.

The serving appeared to have been accidental, Antioch police Lt. Pat Welch said. Mayorga said her son is now doing fine.

She said the company has been very apologetic and offered free meals, but she added, "If they think I'm going back there, they're ridiculous."

June 14, 2007

Creepy, Interesting & Real:

Creepy, Interesting & Real:

Giant clothes-free pole dancer crop circle frightens prudish people on planes. Link.

  • Naked 19-year-old mobile blowjob receiver cited for "drinking and 'embracing' while driving." The pull quote: "'You are not supposed to be hugging or kissing while driving,' [officer] Merrill said. 'It’s so distracting.'" Link.

  • Extreme tax resisters in New Hampshire holed up in "Waco-like" situation. Link.

  • Scary lady rips off her ex-boyfriend's testicle, tries to eat it, then later -- can't remember it. Link.

  • A council in Texas ponders the "saggy pants ban." Link.

  • 50-ton whale killed in Alaska last month had 130-year-old weapon embedded in its blubber. Link.

  • Outgoing British PM Tony Blair wants new regulation, monitoring, enforcement, censorship system for online journalism -- hey, just like China. Link.

  • This rare and ancient purple frog is simultaneously icky and beautiful. (Image below, Kalyan Varma) Link to what may be some of the only photos ever taken of this little fella. The pull quote: "It feels like a big bag of jelly when you hold it in your hand and I must say, its a very strong frog."

    (thanks, kevin, jason, kevin, big fez, Noella)

    posted by Xeni Jardin

  • Pac-Man Skull:

    Pac-Man Skull

    From artist Le Gentil Garçon:

     Img Img Works Pacman Adv Pacman Adv 1"PacMan’s skeleton, conceived by Le Gentil Garçon, in collaboration with François Escuilié, palaeontologist, from the comparative observation of human and various predatory animal skulls. 2004, Resin, diameter: 65 cm."

    • Cartoon character skeletons Link

    • Artificial cartoon-character skeletons Link

    posted by David Pescovitz

    June 12, 2007

    Toilet Water Cleaner Than Water Fountain:

    NORTH BEND, Ore. - Middle School student Kyleray Katherman had a hunch something was amiss with the school's drinking fountain water. And right he was.

    For an English assignment, he tested the bacteria content at four water fountains and one toilet to challenge a ban on students from bringing bottled water to class. It seems some were using it to sneak in alcohol.

    Guess which was cleaner? It wasn't the water fountains.

    He then asked students where they would prefer to get their water. That wasn't the fountains, either.

    Classmates, teachers, administrators and board members said they had no idea.

    Katherman attends the Oregon Coast Technology School that operates at North Bend Middle School with a focus on infusing technology into all areas of study.

    Katherman, 13, used Q-tips and petri dishes, swabbing the spigots of four fountains and sampling one toilet, dunking the cotton in the bowl's center and then dragging it around the rim for a complete sample.

    He took the results to the school lab put them under a light to speed up the bacteria's growth.

    The petri dishes with fountain water were swarming with bacteria. The sample from the toilet was clean, probably because the toilets are doused with cleansing chemicals daily.

    "I wanted to see the looks on their faces," Katherman said.

    Either allow water bottles back, Katherman urged, or install "down-pour" systems used in office water coolers.

    He took his results to the North Bend School Board with an eye-opening PowerPoint presentation.

    Administrators quickly replaced the spigots and casing at three of the water fountains and custodians gave them all a thorough cleaning.

    More teachers are providing water in classrooms now, but the ban on water bottles remains.

    "It was a great lesson. We don't always see things in and about the school that are in need of repair," said Scott Edmondson, the school's principal, adding, "You'd be surprised how clean the water is in a toilet."

    Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

    June 09, 2007

    Rejuvenile: Making Sense Of The New Kidulthood

    Rejuvenile: making sense of the new kidulthood

    I just finished Christopher Noxon's "Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up," a snappy little book about the perpetual childhood of Transformer toys, adult skateboarding, and "Playalong Parenting."

    Noxon wants to know why America's adults increasingly dress up as Klingons, collect dolls and action figures, participate in urban pillow fights, play RPGs (fantasy and massively multiplayer), participate in crafts, read comics, and hang out on the carpet with the kids and the legos instead of plopping the kids into a playpen and then settling in with a martooni.

    He tracks the early history of the "rejuvenile" movement back to Lord Baden-Powell's pitch to potential Scout-masters to become "boy-men" in the woods with their young charges, through boomer entitlement, and to a new generation who, driven by a mad housing market and a lunatic job-market, find themselves holding off on kids and marriage through their thirties.

    Written as a series of fun case-studies of grown-ups who won't grow up (a woman who attained brief fame by skipping everywhere she went, a man who tried unsuccessfully to get his son to play with his Star Wars action figures) in some way or another, Rejuvenile is a thoroughly affectionate look at the breaking down of the barriers between adulthood and kidhood.

    I was utterly charmed. Here was a book that pulled together a ton of diverse threads -- friends who spend their weekends at American Coaster Enthusiast events, haunting eBay auctions for access to the lost toys of my boyhood, and that floating D&D game I keep trying to squeeze into my schedule.

    Noxon's style is breezy and his touch is light, but he doesn't shrink from the harder questions of protracted adolescence. If your desk is covered in vinyl toys and Schoolhouse Rock nodders, this book will probably mean a lot to you.

    June 06, 2007

    Calls For Cthulhu, Episode 5:

    Calls For Cthulhu, Episode 5:

    Why am I posting this?

    Bad Boost For His Erection:

    Bad Boost For His Erection:
    NEW YORK - A man has sued the maker of the health drink Boost Plus, claiming the vitamin-enriched beverage gave him an erection that would not subside and caused him to be hospitalized.
    The lawsuit filed by Christopher Woods of New York said he bought the nutrition beverage made by the pharmaceutical company Novartis AG at a drugstore on June 5, 2004, and drank it.
    Woods' court papers say he woke up the next morning "with an erection that would not subside" and sought treatment that day for the condition, called severe priapism.
    They say Woods, 29, underwent surgery for implantation of a Winter shunt, which moves blood from one area to another.
    The lawsuit, filed late Monday, says Woods later had problems that required a hospital visit and penile artery embolization, a way of closing blood vessels. Closing off some blood flow prevents engorgement and lessens the likelihood of an erection.
    Woods' lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, names Novartis Consumer Health Inc. as a defendant. A spokeswoman for the company, Brandi Robinson, said Tuesday the company was aware of the lawsuit but does not comment on pending litigation.
    Woods' lawyer did not return telephone calls for comment Tuesday.
    Novartis' Boost Plus Web site describes the drink as "a great tasting, high calorie, nutritionally complete oral supplement for people who require extra energy and protein in a limited volume," in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

    June 03, 2007

    So...Your Friend Is a Witch?

    So...Your Friend Is a Witch?
    Author: Danjia Water Fae

    A Bare Bones Guide to Understanding Pagans and Witches –

    Consider that you’re spending time with a good friend over a nice meal, some good wine, and friendly conversation. Your friend tells you that she is Pagan. As a matter of fact, she says, she’s a practicing Witch. What does this mean to you? What’s the first thing that goes through your mind? It’s likely that on at least some level, you found the idea of someone in this day and age being a “Witch” to be laughable. It’s very possible that you conjured the image in your mind of her dressed all in black, riding a broom through the night sky – like some Halloween cartoon.

    It is also likely that some part of you was at least a little frightened by the word. As if, suddenly, this person whom you have trusted in your home, in your life, and with your friendship, has become some force of darkness. In truth all your friend has done is shared with you something which shouldn’t have to be a secret. Your friend has trusted you with information about her faith, her spirituality. If your friend were Baptist, would the announcement that she followed that path cause you any discomfort? Not likely. In the simplest of terms, your newly found (no matter how fleeting) doubt about your friend is the result of a centuries long media assault on the Pagan way of life. As you’re gathering your thoughts on this newly discovered facet of your friend, and wondering how it affects you and how you feel about her, try to keep an open mind. And try to keep in mind that your friend has trusted you with something very dear, and traditionally very dangerous. The truth about who she is. Remember, for centuries, Witches have been burned, and hanged for nothing more than their faith.

    So, What Does It All Mean?

    Let’s start at the beginning. Paganism is not a single religion. It is an umbrella term generally used to cover all those religions, which are not considered to be “main world religions”, i.e. Christianity, Judaism and Islam. A person who follows one of the “other” faiths is considered to be a Pagan. Many Witches, and other Neo-Pagans simply identify themselves as "Pagan" in order to simplify the conversation when talking with someone (like, perhaps you) who may or may not be familiar with the different belief systems. This, rather unintentionally, often makes it sound as though "Paganism" is a religion – as opposed to a collection of religions. Just for the record, Neo-Paganism is not the same as the "New Age" movement. Generally, Pagans are involved in a distinctive religion. The New Age movement draws its spirituality from varied sources, as almost a supplement to the religion already practiced by that person.

    A What? A Witch?

    A Witch is a practitioner of a nature-based, nature-revering or “folk” belief system. Witches believe that our planet should be revered, and respected, as the manifestation of Deity. Not all Witches follow the same belief system. There are many different belief systems, only some of which will be discussed here – for the sake of brevity. Some Witches practice what is often referred to as the "Old Religion". This system is rooted in beliefs, which pre-date the monotheistic belief systems, and it follows the agricultural seasonal cycles. The Earth is a living thing and therefore a gift, for us, from the God and Goddess. Many Witches believe in a polytheistic deity structure usually based upon the local gods and goddesses of their area of origin. Most Witches feel that a monotheistic belief structure is only half of the whole. If based upon only one all-powerful male God, and often presided over by only male clergy, it is unbalanced and only half-effective. Worship, for Witches, is centered on both the male and female personifications of Deity. The most widely known sects of witchcraft are Wicca and Druidism. “Wiccan” is often used, by the misinformed, as a description for all Witches. This tendency is likely due to the increased exposure of Wicca, thanks to many movies and TV shows of recent years. All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. Think of it this way – All Baptists are Christians, but not all Christians are Baptist. Make sense now?

    So, you’re sitting at the table, listening to your friend, and wondering what this is supposed to mean for you? How does this affect your friendship? Is she trying to recruit you into her cult? Is she going to try to make you participate in some scary rituals? Is she going to have to leave your birthday party early because it’s a full moon, and she’s “gotta fly”? Is there some room in her home, where she keeps snakes and shrunken heads, and all manner of frightening and evil accoutrements? Does she worship the devil? Make sacrifices? Curse those who make her angry?

    Chances are that your friend told you this, because she trusts you and trusts your friendship to be strong enough to handle something out of the ordinary. She will likely have things in her home, which you may not understand – although you may never see them, even when they’re in plain sight. Your friend wants to be able to welcome you into her home, without the worry that you’ll see something “odd” and make a snap judgment based on misinformation. Your best source for information, when dealing with anything surprising or confusing, as it relates to your friend, is to go straight to her. If you see something in her home that you simply don’t understand, particularly if it has some negative connotation for you, ask your friend. She has shared her path with you, and as such, has invited you to ask her questions about anything you don’t understand. There’s a good chance that she uses herbs, incense, and oils to express her faith – and that the biggest danger from that is that she may set off her smoke detector!

    Witches do not “recruit” new members. They revere their faith as a very personal choice, and a personal path. Witches also believe that no one path is right for everyone, and that everyone’s path, be it Christian, Wiccan, Hindu, etc., is a valid path. You should know that, as a Witch, your friend does not believe in the Devil. There is no “Lord of Evil” in her faith, lurking around every corner, waiting to trick a human into relenting their soul through some list of sins. She does not worship something in which she does not believe…so please put the devil-worship scenario to rest. Your friend believes in the Earth…the changing of the seasons…and the cycles of Life. There is good and bad in most things, and we – as people – know the difference. Witches believe that we, as humans, are responsible for our own actions. When we do something wrong, and something happens to us, we must accept the blame and try to learn the lessons being handed to us by the universe. When we have done right, and something good happens, we are entitled to pat ourselves on the back. And there are lessons to learn from the good things, as well.

    Witches live by many rules, but perhaps the most concise and encompassing rule is – ‘And it harm none, do what ye will’. Your friend is, in a sense, prohibited from “cursing” someone who has made her angry. Witches live by the rules of Karma – the law of threefold return. Whatever we do comes back to us threefold. If your friend were to wish someone ill, she would be in line for a threefold return on those ill wishes. This is something taken very seriously by a Witch. Bear in mind that the good wishes are also returned threefold. So, it’s very possible that your friend just happens to be a fairly positive person, who wishes the best for most people. Your friend is also prohibited from making blood sacrifices. Quite obviously, that goes against the “harm none” principle. Now, before we go any further, take a good look at your friend and remember – NOT all Witches are old hags, riding around on broomsticks. Some of them are bright, attractive, outgoing people!

    So, What’s Different Now?

    Now that your friend has told you about her faith, what’s different now? Nothing. Chances are, that if you have an open mind, and really think about it, you’ll see that nothing has changed. Your friend has simply put a label on some of the things that likely drew you to her, from the beginning. She is telling you that she is an independent thinker, and a bit of a free spirit. She holds nature in a very high regard. She is probably the friend who reminds you to stop occasionally and smell the flowers!

    So, ask your friend questions, look into her faith; research the things you don’t understand. And embrace the knowledge that your friend trusts you with such a wonderful gift.