Friday, January 30, 2009

Go, Wen, Go!


TAMS student advances in contest

08:30 AM CST on Friday, January 30, 2009
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

(see my earlier post here)

ALSO ONLINE Scholarship awarded to Chyan

Intel Corp. this week chose Wen Chyan, a student at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at the University of North Texas, as one of 40 finalists nationwide for its Science Talent Search.

Wen Chyan Competing for the top prize — a $100,000 college scholarship — the second-year student is the lone finalist from Texas invited to Washington, D.C., in March to present a project he’s re­searched that may help hospital patients avoid bacterial infections resulting from treatment.

Annually, infections af­fect more than 2 million hospital patients and kill about 100,000, officials say. Chyan, 17, said he’s developed a polymer coat­ing for medical de­vices that he believes could help prevent those infections.

The 40 national finalists hail from 17 states and 35 schools. Intel reports that within the last 67 years, seven Science Talent Search finalists have gone on to win prestigious awards such as the Nobel Prize, the Fields Medal, the National Medal of Science and the MacArthur Foun­dation Fellowship.

In December, Chyan’s project earned him the grand prize and a $100,000 scholarship in the country’s premier high school research contest, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Tech­nology.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Worst Video Ever

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher's I Pledge Video

You almost expect them to break into a chorus of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me":

The best comments on The Worst Video Ever: Hey, Hollywood Movie Stars, Obama Thinks You All SUCK (Warning: Many of the comments are vulgar.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Send In The Geek Squad!

Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009; A01

If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past.

Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.

What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.

"It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs.

In many ways, the move into the White House resembled a first day at school: Advisers wandered the halls, looking for their offices. Aides spent hours in orientation, learning such things as government ethics rules as well as how their paychecks will be delivered. And everyone filled out a seemingly endless pile of paperwork.

There were plenty of first-day glitches, too, as calls to many lines in the West Wing were met with a busy signal all morning and those to the main White House switchboard were greeted by a recording, redirecting callers to the presidential Web site. A number of reporters were also shut out of the White House because of lost security clearance lists.

By late evening, the vaunted new White House Web site did not offer any updated posts about President Obama's busy first day on the job, which included an inaugural prayer service, an open house with the public, and meetings with his economic and national security teams.

Nor did the site reflect the transparency Obama promised to deliver. "The President has not yet issued any executive orders," it stated hours after Obama issued executive orders to tighten ethics rules, enhance Freedom of Information Act rules and freeze the salaries of White House officials who earn more than $100,000.

The site was updated for the first time last night, when information on the executive orders was added. But there were still no pool reports or blog entries.

No one could quite explain the problem -- but they swore it would be fixed.

One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.

Senior advisers chafed at the new arrangements, which severely limit mobility -- partly by tradition but also for security reasons and to ensure that all official work is preserved under the Presidential Records Act.

"It is what it is," said a White House staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Nobody is being a blockade right now. It's just the system we need to go through."

The system has daunted past White House employees. David Almacy, who became President George W. Bush's Internet director in 2005, recalled having a week-long delay between his arrival at the White House and getting set up with a computer and a BlackBerry.

"The White House itself is an institution that transitions regardless of who the president is," he said. "The White House is not starting from scratch. Processes are already in place."

One White House official, who arrived breathless yesterday after being held up at the exterior gate, found he had no computer or telephone number. Recently called back from overseas duty, he ended up using his foreign cellphone.

Another White House official whose transition cellphone was disconnected left a message temporarily referring callers to his wife's phone.

Several people tried to route their e-mails through personal accounts.

But there were no missing letters from the computer keyboards, as Bush officials had complained of during their transition in 2001.

And officials in the press office were prepared: In addition to having their own cellphones, they set up Gmail accounts, with approval from the White House counsel, so they could send information in more than one way.

Staff writers Jose Antonio Vargas and Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Sign of the Cross (1932)

This 1932 film by Cecil B. DeMille, which you've probably never heard of (let alone seen), may be one of the most entertaining Christian movies to come out of Hollywood, even though it includes some things that might raise some Christian eyebrows (e.g., barely-hidden nudity, gratuitous violence and gruesome scenes, etc.). From the synopsis at The Internet Movie Database:
After burning Rome, Emperor Nero decides to blame the Christians, and issues the edict that they are all to be caught and sent to the arena. Two old Christians are caught, and about to be hauled off, when Marcus, the highest military official in Rome, comes upon them. When he sees their stepdaughter Mercia, he instantly falls in love with her and frees them. Marcus pursues Mercia, which gets him into trouble with Emperor (for being easy on Christians) and with the Empress, who loves him and is jealous.
Look for a young John Carradine at 1:53:34 as one of the Christians being led into the arena to be devoured by lions.

It's been nicely restored on DVD by Universal Studios to its original length, including all the "sinful" and gruesome scenes that were cut by the Hays Code. It's available through Netflix.