Thoughts Gallery December 2005
December 1
Image of the Day
Buenos Aires' obelisk wears condom for World AIDS Day
BUENOS AIRES - The obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires was covered by a giant pink condom as the city marked World AIDS Day. The city's health secretary, Donato Spaccavent, said the condom was placed on the monument to show that "you cannot lower your guard" against AIDS, which affects more than 120,000 people in Argentina. In a radio interview, Spaccavent encouraged condom use to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases and slammed critics of the obelisk's symbolic condom. A record 40.3 million people live with HIV/AIDS in the world.
December 2
Image of the Day
Hello Kitty goes on euro
TOKYO - Hello Kitty, the mouthless cat turned global icon of cuteness, will make a foray into the currency market with gold and silver euro coins showing her having the time of her life in Paris. Order-taking will start Monday for a total of 4,000 coins in five different designs to be minted in Paris, according to Hello Kitty's maker Sanrio and Japanese firm Taisei Coins. The designs are drawn on "the dreams and admiration for Paris that Kitty has," Sanrio said. The most expensive one-ounce gold coin is priced at 168,000 yen (1,400 dollars, 1,200 euros) each, compared with a face value of 50 euros. The coin has a color image of Kitty in a ballroom gown dancing with her boyfriend Daniel in their "Versailles Debut." A smaller gold coin, priced at 52,500 yen, is titled "Kitty Becomes an Opera Singer" and shows the feline heroine in a black floor-length dress. Three types of silver coins, each priced at 8,400 yen, are also on sale, featuring Kittys taking in a Parisian cafe, flying over the city with an umbrella and shopping on the Champs-Elysees. The coins, each fit in a special miniature handbag, can be purchased at Taisei coin shops in Japan or through the two companies' websites. Hello Kitty, which started in 1974 in Japan as a moonfaced cartoon cat on a coin purse, has spread to 60 nations appearing on 50,000 different products.
December 3
Image of the Day
Graphic showing parts of the human body that can be transplanted. A French woman who received the world's first partial face transplant has thanked surgeons and is in good health, her medical team said following the pioneering operation.
December 4
Image of the Day
Wish I could be on a nice sandy beach right now, enjoying warm weather and the clear blue sea...
December 5
Image of the Day
Can you tell where I want to be yet?
December 6
Image of the Day
Last time I was here was almost three years ago...
December 7
Image of the Day
I had to think for a second, I think the plastisized body art look better that the live body art of the weightlifters

December 8
Image of the Day
Logging on - Internet follows Americans everywhere
WASHINGTON - Flushing out the secrets of America's websurfers, a new survey of Internet use has found that more and more people are logging on -- in the bathroom. The snapshot of how the Internet has changed American life, concluded that home wireless connections were allowing people to stay connected everywhere -- even in the smallest room in the house. "A significant number of Americans use the computer connection in the bathroom," said Jeffrey Cole, of the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future. Since people were unlikely to be surfing in the bath, or while brushing their teeth, Cole said he had concluded that many of them went off into cyberspace while on the throne. "Over half of those who used Wi-fi had used it in the bathroom," said Cole, remarking that he believed some people in busy homes retreated there for some privacy. "It wasn't for comic relief -- it was a genuine finding," he said, referring to the survey during an advance briefing to amused US congressional staffers on Friday. "We didn't use a specific question 'if you use it on the toilet, is it with the lid open, or closed?" he joked..
December 9
Image of the Day
Glowing Flowers Touted As Floral 'Bling'
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A Dutch company began selling "Glowing Flowers" — freshly cut glow-in-the-dark roses and chrysanthemums — on Friday in what it claimed was a first. The flowers appear white in regular light but emit an eerie green glow for several hours in the dark, FloraHolland BV said in a statement. They are sprayed with an invisible chemical that is not harmful to the flowers or people, the company said. "The market needs fresh ideas and innovation, and Glowing Flowers fit into the 'bling bling' trend," the company said, referring to a fad for wearing copious jewelry inspired by rap musicians. "The expectation is that the light-giving products will be primarily well-received in southern and eastern Europe," it said. Spokeswoman Lisa van den Eijk said the flowers were the invention of Frank de Koning, who runs his own flower company, De Koning BV. The first batches were sold in an auction at FloraHolland's headquarters in the Dutch town of Naaldwijk. Chrysanthemums went for $1.09 and roses were $2.93 per flower, about 50 percent more than normal.
December 10
Image of the Day
Boeing unveils the full scale mockup of the X-45C during a news conference at the Boeing Developmental Center, in Seattle. The a 39-feet long, aircraft with a 49-foot wingspan, is a futuristic unmanned combat aircraft. Boeing began work on its unmanned combat aircraft program in 1998.
December 11
Image of the Day
Cut that out! Cardboard cop a British hit
LONDON - 'Ello, 'ello, 'ello, what's all this, then? Cardboard cut-outs of a British policeman are helping fight crime -- even if one of them was stolen, a newspaper reported. Britain's Daily Express said the 10 life-size replicas of Derbyshire Police officer Bob Molloy were such a hit that the central English force might print off some more. Inspector Tracy Harrison said: "They have been extremely effective. One was stolen but we searched a house with a warrant and found it with other stolen goods."
The cardboard copper is pictured in his trademark British policeman's hat, a reflective yellow jacket with his arms folded. The 100-pound (148-euro, 175-dollar) replicas can look like the real thing from afar and have been used at fuel stations in Derbyshire to deter thieves from speeding off without paying.
December 12
Image of the Day
Today we had a sonogram appointment and found out we are having a baby girl in a few months.  Now comes the process of finishing up the baby room.
'Fuzzy logic' explains secret of six-week sofa
LONDON - Six weeks will always be the delivery time given for your new sofa regardless of where it is made, according to findings by a team of British mathematicians. As part of research into logistics, academics at the University of Derby asked more than 70 furniture firms how long it would take to deliver a suite -- and every one gave the 42-day period.
Transportation, waiting for the right colour and a need to follow what competitors do were all reasons for the stock industry-wide answer, said Stuart Berry, a senior lecturer in mathematics.
"Furniture makers would each quote the same delivery time but this quote was made without taking any notice of workload," he said. "They all said it would be ready in six weeks. It was a standard answer." "No one wants to promise delivery inside six weeks as they cannot deliver but to quote any longer would risk losing custom to a rival."In the same study, about 100 glaziers -- or window fitters -- quoted an average of four weeks for an installation date. Berry and fellow academic Val Lowndes, who carried out the research as part of a post-doctoral study into logistics, believe the findings can be explained by a branch of maths called "fuzzy logic". "There is an element of fuzzy logic in the initial findings," said Berry. "In mathematics terms, a form of knowledge which cannot be defined precisely can be classed under such logic." The core concepts of fuzzy logic, said the academic, date back to the work of Polish mathematician Jan Lukasiewicz in the 1920s.
It enables computerised devices to reason more like humans and can help explain why such trends in industry exist, he said. Berry's team found that the average suite-making process involved one worker cutting the material, three others sewing and four more to assemble cushions. In the average window-fitting process, one worker cuts the material, three workers assemble the frame and two finish the product. The findings are to be followed up with further research which will involve a series of questionnaires being sent to firms to understand the time scale further.
December 13
Image of the Day
Saddam's bunker, a draw for tourists in Green Zone
BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein's underground bunker, surprisingly undamaged despite heavy US bombing in 2003, has become an informal tourist attraction for visitors and residents of Baghdad's downtown Green Zone area. US forces hurled two 900 kilo (2,000 pound) GBU-28 bunker-busting bombs at the building on the opening night of the US-led offensive to invade Iraq, March 19, 2003, according to the US military. Over the next four days at least six more bunker-busters were dropped on the building, and the holes they smashed in the roof are still visible. The blasts caused impressive damage to the six-story high steel and concrete structure, known as the Believers Palace, built atop the bunker.
US soldiers and visitors who tour the site today pose for pictures near giant craters in the palace, amid heaps of twisted steel rods, concrete blocks and charred marble slabs. Souvenir hunters can still find crystals from the giant chandelier that once hung in the main hall. Yet despite the whirlwind of destruction, most of the palace is still structurally sound. And the bunker, which lies under the rubble, is virtually intact -- more than 20 years after it was built for 66 million dollars by the German firm Boswau and Knauer (Walter Bau-AG building group). Deep inside, the only light comes from flashlights carried by visitors, and the only sounds are their footsteps and a steady drip, drip, drip of water from a broken water pipe.
"We still cant find the water main," said Sergeant First Class Patrick McDonald, who works with a civil affairs unit and is the Green Zones de facto bunker expert. "Even to this day some of the rooms have an inch of putrid water with some type of biological life." Saddam's room is about the size of a small master bedroom in a suburban house and differs from the other rooms only by its tan wallpaper. One of the last images of him as president was televised footage of a meeting he held with top aides in the 30-square-meter (320-square-foot) bunker conference room just before the "shock and awe" phase of the war began.
Karl Bernd Esser, the bunker architect, told Germany's ZDF television when the war began that the structure he designed could survive anything short of a direct hit from a Hiroshima-style nuclear weapon. Overall, the three-level, sprawling bunker is large enough to house 250 people, say US officials. It has an air filtration system, a large kitchen and was fully prepared for an attack with biological or chemical weapons. It also has its own power supply. Its large generators, which are powerful enough to supply the whole Green Zone area with electricity, seem brand new.
"The only danger was that Saddam and his people would have been buried here," said McDonald. "But there are tunnels to get out that lead to the Tigris River," some 200 meters (yards) away, he said. Between the Believers Palace and the bunker was even more protection -- a two-floor "plug" -- a reinforced helmet of sorts to make up for one of the bunkers shortcomings: it was barely underground. A reinforced concrete box inside a box, the bunker was long ago stripped of any valuables, first by Iraqi looters as US troops entered Baghdad, and later by US troops seeking to furnish outside headquarters buildings. Some of the recovered valuables are in storage, said McDonald.
"The high water table in Baghdad makes it difficult to build anything deep underground," explained McDonald. The "plug" consisted of two 25 centimetres (10-inch) thick false floors separated by one meter (three feet) of empty space. "The false floors served to trick the smart bombs into thinking they have penetrated into the bunker," McDonald said. "As far as we know this is the most extensive bunker facility in the country," McDonald said.  "There are a number of small single, or three and four room bunkers under different palaces, but this is the biggest one, and the most extensive." According to locals, Saddam used the bunker less than eight times since it was built, McDonald said, although he kept a staff to maintain its elaborate water, cooling, air filtration and electrical system. Iraq's new government, which takes over in late December, will have to decide what to do with the site. The structure is so well built it would be difficult to demolish, and the massive palace above makes it impossible to bury.  "So its left there for people like myself to give tours when I have the time," said McDonald.
December 14
Image of the Day
Calif. Coalition Seeks Cigarette Tax Hike
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A coalition of health organizations wants to quadruple the tax on a pack of cigarettes in California to boost funding for a variety of health programs. The per-pack tax would jump by $2.60 under an initiative the coalition hopes to place on the November 2006 ballot, supporters said Tuesday. If voters approve the proposal, California's total tax on a pack of cigarettes would rise to $3.47, the highest in the nation. The initiative combines tobacco tax measures from the California Hospital Association and the American Cancer Society. The new campaign includes the American Lung Association of California, the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, among others.
Revenue from the higher tax would be directed to various health programs, including cancer screening, prevention and research, low-cost children's insurance, and tobacco education and cessation. Because the extra per-pack tax would be expected to curb sales, the proposal allots $159 million a year to offset any loss of revenue to programs supported by an initiative approved by voters last year. That measure added a tax of 50 cents a pack to fund early childhood education.
The initiative also would give money to local law enforcement to enforce tobacco control laws, which critics said would be needed to offset an expected rise in black-market cigarettes.
Raising the tax by such a large amount might lead some people to quit smoking, said Craig Fishel, spokesman for North Carolina-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. "But more likely what you have is people looking for other means to get their cigarettes, usually from other states or on Indian reservations where excise taxes aren't enforced," he said. The increased revenue that the initiative's supporters are touting also would be short-lived, said Larry McCarthy, president of the California Taxpayers Association, an anti-tax group. If people can't afford to smoke, they'll quit or buy illegal cigarettes, reducing the amount of taxes collected, he said. The tax is projected to raise $2.7 billion annually if cigarette sales remain at the current level, but the higher price is expected to cut sales by about 8 percent a year, supporters said.
December 15
Image of the Day
An Israeli archaeologist displays an ancient Byzantine coin from around the year 1000 at an archeological site in Tiberias. The coin bears the face of Jesus on one side and an inscription on the other that reads, 'Jesus the king of Messiahs'. Thought to have belonged to an ancient pilgrim, the coin was unearthed at the site of a Byzantine-era palace in Tiberias, on the banks of the biblical Sea of Galilee.
December 16
Image of the Day
An artist's rendition shows a cut-away view of a recently excavated Maya tomb in San Bartolo, Guatemala, in this handout. A 30-foot (9-meter) by 3-foot (90-cm) western wall of an underground room depicts the creation myth and the coronation of a Mayan king, with more colors and elaborate brush work than has ever been seen. Anthropologist William Saturno, of the University of New Hampshire, first discovered the sacred mural in the ruins in 2001 but this year excavated the 'crown jewel' of the painting.
December 17
Image of the Day
Battles rage in US over celebrating holidays
NEW YORK - Ebenezer Scrooge would enjoy Christmas in America this year. Drowning out the sounds of sleigh bells ringing and children singing are the sounds of arguing. At issue is how to greet people, how to decorate main street and how to sell gifts -- all without offending someone. Religious conservatives are threatening lawsuits and boycotts to insist that store clerks and advertisements say "Merry Christmas." Countering are those who argue they are being inclusive and inoffensive with the secular "Happy Holidays." In the middle seem to be most Americans, who not only aren't offended but find the whole spat rather ridiculous.
"You'd think there might be some Christmas spirit around Christmas time around the issue of Christmas," said Paul Cantor, a popular culture expert and professor at the University of Virginia. "It's one time you really wish people really could live and let live." Alas, that's not what this Christmas is all about. Sparks flew when U.S. President George W. Bush sent out cards referring to the "holiday season," a leading Republican declared the decorated tree on the Capitol lawn a "Christmas Tree" and not a "Holiday Tree" and the logger who cut down the tree for the Boston Common was so upset when officials called it a "Holiday Tree" that he said he'd rather see it fed into a wood chipper.
Conservative groups have marshaled the forces of lawyers volunteering to help anyone fighting for Christmas displays and launched boycotts of retailers whose advertisements fail to say "Merry Christmas." A school system in Texas found itself in court after teachers asked children to bring white -- rather than red and green -- napkins to a party, while Annapolis, Maryland raised hackles by calling its evergreen boughs and ribbons on public buildings the "Hanging of the Greens" rather than "Christmas decorations."
Fanning the flames are conservative talk show personalities bemoaning the secularization of Christmas. Fox News anchor John Gibson chimed in with a book "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse than You Thought." "'Happy Holidays' and 'Season's Greetings' are not a substitute for 'Merry Christmas,"' said Manuel Zamorano, head of the Sacramento, California-based Committee to Save Merry Christmas, which organizes store boycotts over holiday advertising. "Christmas is the holiday and 'Merry Christmas' is what we want to hear," he said. "It's political correctness gone amok."
Bah humbug, said radio talk show host Bill Press, author of "How the Republicans Stole Christmas." "People have been saying 'Happy Holidays' for a hundred years at least," he said. "This is nothing new. It just celebrates the diversity of America." He blames politics. "It is all by design," he said. "The more people are talking about who's saying 'Happy Holidays' and who's saying 'Merry Christmas,' the less people are talking about Karl Rove, torture, Tom DeLay, the war in Iraq and other hot issues. "And the more they stir up their evangelical Christian base over this issue, the more likely they are to get out and vote Republican in 2006," he said. The debate has become comic grist.
"Every time you say 'Happy Holidays,' an angel gets AIDS," warned television comedian Jon Stewart.  The satirical newspaper The Onion wrote a spoof about a judge who declared Christmas unconstitutional, with a photograph purporting to be workers dismantling the famed tree at Rockefeller Center to comply with the judge's ruling. Making the rounds on the Internet is a series of mock memos from a fake company inviting employees to a Christmas Party, complete with open bar, gift exchange and tree lighting. By the last of the memos, the increasingly beleaguered company is forced to apologize to its Jewish employees, the office alcoholics, Muslims, dieters, pregnant women, gays and lesbians, union members, management, cross-dressers, diabetics and vegetarians. In the end, the party is canceled.
Stuck in the middle of the debate are retailers, whose seasonal selling campaigns seem to raise particular wrath. "When someone says 'Happy Holidays,' they're saying something very nice to you. There's no ill intent behind any of this," said Dan Butler of the National Retail Federation. "When you're dealing with the public you'll get positive comments and negative comments about everything in the world." Perhaps, added Peter Steinfels of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University, there isn't a war on Christmas after all but a more sensitive religious right. Conservatives are using the super-fast Internet and e-mail to publicize what they see as extreme examples of "super politically correct conduct," he said. "It gives the impression that there's a great deal of political correctness ... when in fact it may not really be so different from the way it's always been."
December 18
Image of the Day
MIT Picks Maker of $100 Laptop
Taiwan's Quanta, the world's largest maker of notebook computers, will manufacture an ultra-low-cost laptop developed by Nicholas Negroponte, the chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab. Negroponte, who is also chairman of the One Laptop Per Child non-profit group, has said he expects the laptops to be available to governments next year at a price of $100 each. A prototype of the laptop was unveiled at the recent U.N.-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis. Under terms of an agreement with One Laptop Per Child, Quanta will devote engineering resources to develop the $100 notebook design during the first half of the year, according to a statement issued by the group. At the same time, Quanta and the non-profit organization will explore the production of a commercial version of the laptop.
The first notebooks are expected to hit the market during the fourth quarter of next year, according to the organization. Representatives say they expect initial orders for the machines to range from 5 million to 15 million units. Pricing of the Linux-based notebooks is expected to start "near $100" and decrease over time.
One Laptop Per Child said trials of the notebook are planned for China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand, with 1 million notebooks to be shipped to each of these countries. In addition, the group expects "an additional modest allocation" of the notebooks to be shipped to developers in other countries. The group did not offer an explanation for the numerical difference between this forecast, which would involve shipments of at least 7 million notebooks, with the forecast that initial shipments could number 5 million units.
December 19
Image of the Day
Here's a recent picture of Noah admiring the ducks next to the Houston Zoo over thanksgiving.
Nicotine patches for 12-year-old smokers
LONDON - Schoolchildren as young as 12 are to be offered nicotine patches to help them kick the habit, according to health officials. "It does not take long for young people to be addicted to nicotine," Iain Miller, a smoking cessation adviser with local healthcare provider Derwentside Primary Care Trust (PCT) in northeast England, said. The PCT has teamed up with the Government's Sure Start scheme -- which aims to improve the health of the nation's children -- to provide patches to 12- to 17-year-olds at six schools.
The nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is to be used alongside advice and support from school nurses and young people's workers. Derwentside, a former industrial area built on the steel and coal industry, reflects the trend in the northeast with higher than average levels of smokers, according to Sure Start officials. Seven percent of boys and 10 percent of girls aged 11 to 15 smoke, national statistics suggest. Almost a quarter of 16- to 19-year-olds smoke, figures show.
Miller said NRT may not be appropriate for all young people but following a course could double their chances of quitting, with the success rate rising four-fold if coupled with support and advice. "By the time they have overcome the spluttering start to smoking and learned to smoke three full cigarettes, inhaling the smoke properly, they can be displaying the key signs of addiction," he added. "Young people deserve the same opportunities to break their addiction as older people do."
December 20
Image of the Day
Noah's love for bouncing toys extends to even the oddest ones...
More Watching Sports, Rather Than Playing
WASHINGTON - Americans are playing fewer sports but watching more.Participation in almost every recreational sport, from golf and tennis to bowling and snow skiing, was down in 2004, while attendance at professional sporting events was up. Television viewing also increased, continuing an eight-year trend. Those and many other facts were included in this year's Statistical Abstract, a 1,023-page book of numbers quantifying just about every aspect of American life. The Census Bureau assembles the statistics from a myriad of government and private sources, so researchers, academics and businesses can find them in one place.
"It reflects the changing nature of the country," said Lars Johanson, a statistician at the Census Bureau. Norman Chad said he didn't need a government report to tell him that people are watching more TV and playing fewer sports. "We all have televisions. They are relatively inexpensive," said Chad, who writes a syndicated sports column called "Couch Slouch" about the sports he watches on TV. "We all have microwave ovens. Why do we need to go out?" Chad also does color commentary for the World Series of Poker on ESPN. Card playing increased slightly in 2004, but was still down from five years earlier. Skiing, tennis and other recreational activities enjoyed increased popularity until 2004, when participation slipped. Andrew Yiannakis, a sports sociologist at the University Of Connecticut, said there are several potential reasons for the decline.
"During times of security and abundance, people feel more inclined to spend money and enjoy themselves," said Yiannakis, who teaches a course called, "Defining Leisure: A Sociological Perspective." "During times of, say, political unrest, insecurity, economic downturns, people feel insecure, and their mood shifts into a negative state," Yiannakis said. "People don't feel as good, so they shrink away from spending money and engaging in activities." Yiannakis also said children are taught, intentionally or not, that they shouldn't play sports if they are not good at them. It happens when kids get cut from sports teams, or when coaches bench them for poor play.
"It is an elitist system that encourages the best to play and in a sense teaches the rest to be fans and spectators," Yiannakis said.Among professional sports, baseball is still the national pasttime when it comes to attendance, in part because there are 162 games in the regular season. Nearly 75 million people attended Major League baseball games in 2004, compared with 23 million who went to National Basketball Association games and the 22 million people who attended National Football League games. The National Hockey League's 2004-2005 season was canceled because of a labor dispute.  Among those who play, exercise walking was the number-one sports activity, followed by camping and exercising with equipment. The number-one leisure activity was dining out, followed by entertaining friends and family at home and reading books.
December 21
Image of the Day
The Buchanan Clan in Austin's latest family photo...
December 22
Image of the Day
Smugglers Selling Sick Puppies From Mexico
SAN DIEGO - Smugglers are buying puppies at rock-bottom prices in Mexico and selling them in the United States for up to $1,000, often to owners who later discover the canines are too sick or too young to survive on their own, authorities said. The Border Puppy Task Force — a group of 18 animal control and health agencies and animal protection groups — said a two-week operation at San Diego's two border crossings confirmed what they long suspected: Mexico is a breeding ground for unscrupulous puppy peddlers.
"It's a profit-driven practice, it's a disturbing practice," said Capt. Aaron Reyes, director of operations at the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Los Angeles County. From Dec. 5 through Sunday, agents at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings ordered vehicles carrying anything with "feathers, fleas, fur or fangs" to a separate area for more thorough inspections, Reyes said. The searches turned up 362 puppies under 3 months old, 155 between 3 and 6 months and 1,061 adult dogs. Canines were found in trunks and under seats. It's unclear exactly how many of those dogs were smuggled — it's legal to ferry dogs if they are declared at the border and they have rabies shots and health records — but Reyes said the "vast majority" of those under 3 months were probably contraband. About half the puppies between 3 and 6 months old were likely smuggled, he said.
The puppies — typically small breeds like poodles and Chihuahuas — are believed to be purchased in Mexico for between $50 and $150, then sold at street corners, parking lots and flea markets in Southern California for between $300 and $1,000 each. On Nov. 15, federal agents searching a Honda CR-V at the Otay Mesa crossing found 16 undeclared puppies in three cages that were covered by blankets and boxes of laundry detergent. The suspect, a Mexican woman with an animal cruelty record, allegedly told investigators she needed the money and had lots of orders to fill.
The Border Puppy Task Force formed last year after a spate of complaints from brokenhearted owners who reported their dogs were turning sick and often dying. They were getting socked with thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills. Common diseases include distemper, rabies, parvovirus and ringworm. No arrests were made during the inspections at the San Diego border crossings. Authorities described the operation as a "census" to measure how many dogs were being smuggled across the border. We confirmed there is a problem," Reyes said. "We're not going to sit on our hands and let these puppies be brought over in the condition that they are, and to be sold sick, and to end up dying."
December 23
Image of the Day
Relaxed in Houston to the warm 76* weather, looking everywhere for some nice cold wind or a cond front.
December 24
Image of the Day
Today was Christmas #1 for the Buchanan family in Houston .  All my sisters were together for the first time in over 3 years, along with Bonnie and Archie Stanger from Snowflake, AZ.  We opened up christmas gifts and them took off on a road trip to Galveston and Kema.  We drove back to Austin in the evening to enjoy the warm comforts of home.
December 25
Image of the Day
After Christmas #2 in the early morning hours, we drove up to Georgetown for Christmas #3. After a lively round of chistmas gift unwrapping we wandered to a restaurant open for free lunch with donations.
December 26
Image of the Day
Royal press officials admitted that this holiday photograph of Spain's king and queen surrounded by their seven grandchildren published by the Zarzuela Palace, was a montage pieced together
December 27
Image of the Day
Can they do that?
NEW YORK - The time-honored office tradition of whining at the water cooler just might get you fired, according to a newly compiled list of workplace horrors around the world. Two workers who exceeded the official limit of two moans per employee at one unnamed German firm were fired this year. Several colleagues quit before their moans could be counted. Their employer's strict policy tops a list compiled by Challenger, Gray and Christmas. The Chicago-based outplacement firm gave nine notable examples from hundreds of cases. Most involve petty rules.
Workers at a DaimlerChrysler plant in Kokomo, Indiana, should drive a Chrysler model or they may find their car in Indianapolis, 50 miles away. That's because a rule limits parking space for non-Chrysler cars. Violators will be towed."These are things that make you go hmmm," Challenger spokesman James Pedderson said. Such stories pour in throughout the year and Challenger plans to make the list an annual tradition, he said. The point is to encourage managers and their staff to communicate better. Some of the worst stories involve discrimination against a worker's religion, ethnicity, or, less seriously, squirrels. A librarian lost her job for devoting too much time to saving a squirrel stuck in a ceiling. "I think reason has to prevail in some of these instances," Pedderson said.

iRobot, the company that gave us the button-cute Roomba robotic floor vacuum has now unleashed Scooba ($399), a smart mop that further shortens the list of domestic duties to perform.
December 28
Image of the Day
A handful of scorpions...A live scorpion found in a Greek hospital operating room just weeks after a rat tail surfaced in the soup of another establishment has revived a long debate in Greece about the quality of public health services on offer.
December 29
Image of the Day
Would-be Israeli brides leave intimate offering for rabbi
JERUSALEM - Hundreds of young Israeli women hoping to find themselves a husband have been placing their underwear on the tomb of a venerated rabbi in the hopes that their marriage prayers will be answered. Around 400 pairs of knickers and bras have been collected from the grilles of the tomb's window or on the branches of nearby trees by the authorities charged with preserving the final resting place of Rabbi Yenothan Ben Uziel in the Amuka region of northern Israel, the Maariv daily reported. According to Jewish tradition, anyone who is unmarried will meet their soulmate and marry within a year if they visit his tomb. However Rabbi Israel Deri, in charge of protecting holy sites in the north, told the paper that the women's prayers would go unanswered. "Having consulted with the chief rabbis, I can say with certainty that not only are these women guilty of a profanity but they will also never gain benediction," he said.
December 30
Image of the Day
Japanese students won't forget ID -- it's on their phone
TOKYO - A cellphone is the last thing a typical student would forget to take to class, so a Japanese university said it would incorporate identification cards into mobile handsets. From next April, all new students at Kanagawa Institute of Technology near Tokyo will carry an ID on their phone that lets them register for classes, open locked doors and surf the Internet for school-related information. Students can also use it to buy from the cafeteria, shops and vending machines. "No student forgets to take a cellphone with him, even if he forgets his textbook," university president Kosei Oguchi said. Students can also show their mobile ID for discounts at some movie theaters and shops.
December 31
Image of the Day
The flimsiest clock in the world
TOKYO - A Japanese watchmaker said it had created the world's first flexible digital clock which is as thin as camera film and can be bent around the curve of a wall. The clock is only three millimeters (0.12 inches) thick and offers better visibility from sharp angles and in poor visibility or high sunlight than existing models, Citizen Watch said. "It can be set along the walls of a building or on round pillars of train stations or offices, letting people check the time from widely different positions," said a spokesman for the company.
The clock, measuring 53 by 130 centimeters (21.2 by 52 inches), displays time in black numbers using technology developed by E Ink of the United States. It consumes less power than conventional digital clocks, with its battery life 20 times longer. Citizen will start production of the clock early next year upon receiving orders with a price tag at 500,000-600,000 yen (4,200-5,000 dollars) each.