Sunday, December 31, 2006
  Globe and Mail - Hong Kong butts out in 2007

This forces smokers out on to the sidewalks where ensuring second-hand smoke gets to the people who are using their lungs... Bastards

The ban covers restaurants, workplaces, schools and karaoke lounges, and even extends to outdoor places such as beaches, sports grounds, and large swaths of public parks.

The strict anti-smoking laws are extremely rare in Asia, home to some of the heaviest smoking populations in the world. Among the continent's major cities, Singapore is the only one with a similar law.

Anti-smoking groups pushed for the measure in Hong Kong, one of the most modern and affluent cities in Asia. Smoking is common here but not as popular as in other parts of the region.

Smoking bans have taken Europe and the United States by storm in recent years. By next summer, smoking will be outlawed in all British pubs, cafes, offices and public places. Several American states and cities, Ireland, Finland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden have already restricted smoking in similar locales, as have New Zealand and South Africa.

Hong Kong's ban does not yet include nightclubs, bars, mahjong parlours, bathhouses or massage establishments — such venues have until July 1, 2009, to implement the law.

  Parasite makes men dumb, women sexy
About 40 per cent of the world's population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii, including about eight million Australians.

Human infection generally occurs when people eat raw or undercooked meat that has cysts containing the parasite, or accidentally ingest some of the parasite's eggs excreted by an infected cat.

Until recently it was thought to be an insignificant disease in healthy people, Sydney University of Technology infectious disease researcher Nicky Boulter said, but new research has revealed its mind-altering properties.

"Interestingly, the effect of infection is different between men and women," Dr Boulter writes in the latest issue of Australasian Science magazine.

"Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women.

"On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.

"In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens".

  NYTimes - Wall St. Bonuses: So Much Money, Too Few Ferraris
Not everyone on Wall Street is getting multimillion-dollar bonuses. The average managing director — who stands at the top of Wall Street’s hierarchical food chain, but far from rock-star status — will be getting $1 million to $3 million, which will likely be stashed in savings as memories of the 2001 bear market remain fresh.

“I’m putting it in the bank because I know next year I could be out of a job,” said one managing director at a leading bank.

For hedge fund traders and managers, markets were rough in the spring and summer, and some did not make gains until stocks rallied this fall.

“It was a terrible year,” said one young hedge fund professional. “I am going to the movies with my bonus. By myself."

At cocktail parties, comparisons to 1999 abound. That year marked the height of the technology boom and the eve of a painful crash. “It feels a little bit like the top,” said another banker.

Friday, December 15, 2006
  More information on the PS3 problem with 480i games
Sony still sucks. Sony just doesn't get it. I'm not sure which is worse - Sony or Apple.

He contacted Sony again, and this time tech support told him the issue must be with his TV set and not the PS3. He explained to them that he'd tested the unit on six different sets. Getting nowhere, he asked for a refund but was told that Sony did not handle refunds and he should be take the PS3 back to the place of purchase - the only problem was that the serial number on the replacement unit didn't match that on the box and they wouldn’t give him a refund.

‘The-Sarge’ is not alone in not getting any help from Sony. Most of the forum members who have reported this issue have contacted Sony tech support, some more than once, only to be told that Sony is not aware of the problem. Either Sony tech support personnel aren't logging complaints, or customers are being deceived.

Friday, December 01, 2006
  Globe and Mail - Meet the A-Team of stem-cell science

More information came in 1963 from Robert Bruce, also at the Ontario Cancer Institute, who showed only 1 per cent to 4 per cent of mouse lymphoma cells could generate a solid growth. In 1973, Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch found that only one in 100 to one in 10,000 cells could generate myeloma in a lab dish.

“We put in 10 to the four, 10 to the five, 10 to the six, to the seven,” Dr. Dick recalled. “Only about one in a million cells had the ability to make the disease.

But there is now evidence that chemotherapy, which targets fast-growing cells, may have no effect on a cancer stem cell, which divides slowly.

At the same time, the experiments continued and in 1997 he was ready to report the detection of cancer stem cells at the root of three other forms of leukemia. But this time, Dr. Dick pulled no punches, presenting it as the cancer stem-cell hypothesis.

This model says not all cancer cells are created equal, that a pecking order exists in which a master cell, the abnormal stem cell, is the both the key to forming and feeding a cancer. Without an abnormal stem cell, cancers will not grow.

Dr. Dirks found that that 100,000 ordinary cancer cells cannot grow a brain tumour in a mouse. But as few as 100 to 1,000 cancer stem cells can reliably give rise to the disease.

In April 2003, Michael Clarke at the University of Michigan, who had worked with John Dick on a leukemia experiment, and Max Wicha reported that they had identified the breast cancer stem cell. Using mammary tissue taken from cosmetic breast surgery, they identified that only a tiny fraction of abnormal stem cells were the drivers of those breast tumours.

Dr. Rich said he himself was a skeptic. But after “the elegant work” of Dr. Dirks, he went to stem-cell biologists at Duke (who happen to be a group of Canadians) and began his own experiments. One of them showed brain cancer stem cells can resist radiation.

  MSDN Blog - Somasegar - What I learn from a hot air balloon story?

"You must be in business," says the man.

"I am," says the balloonist, "How did you know?"

"Well," says the man, "You don't know where you are, you don't know where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were before we met, but now it's my fault."

  Microsoft gives away licenses for Office 2007 user interface
except for:

What's the catch?

For almost everyone, there's no catch at all. Just sign up for the license, and follow the guidelines. That's all there is to it.

You can use the UI in open source projects as long as the license terms are consistent with our license. You can use it on any platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. If you're an ISV, you can build and sell a set of controls based on the new Office UI.

There's only one limitation: if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can't obtain the royalty-free license.

  WSJ - How a Grad-School Thesis Theory Evolved Into a PlayStation 3 Game

What makes flOw addictive is its intuitiveness. The Flash version eschews navigation menus and how-to-play instructions, instead forcing players right into the action. Adrift in a blue expanse, players meet their unusual avatar: an abstract sea creature with an oversized U-shaped mouth and short tail.

The intuitive controls and design simplicity are among Mr. Chen's mandate: build immersive games for people who don't consider themselves gamers. "My parents and grandparents don't play games. My girlfriend, she doesn't play either," he says. "I want to make games that those people can appreciate."

  NYTimes - Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

  NYTimes - Starting a Revolution in the Pay Structure for Hedge Fund Managers

Many academics and certainly the managers themselves promote the “2 and 20” compensation arrangement as a positive alignment of interests: the manager makes money if investors make money. Investors, after all, get 80 percent of the profits. The promise of great riches is great motivation.

But there are flaws to this compensation structure. If managers want to get paid every year, they might be encouraged to take risks to have those profits and take their 20 percent. But what if the manager believes that a stock has value that the market is not recognizing? Should he sell and bet on something hoping to get a short-term pop, or hold that investment because it could be worth a lot more?

Getting paid annually does not always jibe with some styles of managing money like value investing — the art of buying undervalued companies and waiting for them to be properly valued. If managers show poor returns, impatient investors might yank their money before the market recognizes the stock as undervalued. In investing parlance, that is called being dead before you are right.

Lisa Rapuano, a longtime value investor, grappled with these issues and came up with a compensation structure based on the radical notion of delayed gratification. In January, she will start a value-oriented hedge fund that pays her a hefty incentive fee, but only every three years.

Lane Five Capital Management charges a 1.5 percent management fee and takes 40 percent of any profits that exceed her hurdle rate (the Standard & Poor’s 1,500 index) every three years. If the fund has negative returns, she gets nothing — a fact her husband finds very perplexing, according to Ms. Rapuano’s presentation at the Value Investing Congress in New York last week.

  NYTimes - Showing a New Style, Department Stores Surge

That is not just boasting. In a remarkable reversal of fortune, the performance of department stores has quietly overtaken that of specialty clothing retailers like Gap and Limited — scrappy, mall-based stores whose emergence over the last 30 years forced many regional department stores, like Marshall Field’s in Chicago and B. Altman in New York, to shut or be sold to competitors.

Over the last 12 months, sales at department stores open at least a year, a widely used measure of a retailer’s health, have grown 4.1 percent, compared with a 1.3 percent increase at specialty apparel chains, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group. This holiday season, the gap is expected to grow even wider. At the same time, profits are surging and executives accustomed to cutting back are dusting off old plans for new stores.

Executives attribute the resurgence of the department store to well-laid plans, drawn up several years ago, at chains like Kohl’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Saks to develop stronger store clothing brands, carry higher fashions and to tidy up cluttered aisles and grimy restrooms.

In the midst of all that, consumer tastes evolved away from basic apparel at chains like Old Navy toward name-brand clothing and accessories, the very merchandise department stores have sold for years.

The most popular apparel categories over the last five years — premium denim and handbags — have been dominated by labels like Diesel and Coach that, for the most part, cannot be found at the specialty clothing chains that line the corridors of the mall.

Relying on national brands, a hallmark of the department store, was once considered a disadvantage, saddling chains like Macy’s and Kohl’s with the same piles of Liz Claiborne woven shirts and Dockers pants.

But now, department store executives say, it is the specialty clothing stores, which design most if not all of their own clothing, who are struggling to stand out, their aisles chock full of roughly the same fur-lined puffer jackets and hooded sweaters.

  Apple iMac - your grandma's computer

I think my byline is better than CNet's. I don't have to worry about pissing away Steve Job'sApple's goodwill and money though. Steve JobsApple has very thin skin from what I've read. Microsoft's Brad Silverberg may have extolled his minions to make Windows95 easy enough so that his mom could use it, but it seems Steve JobsApple has been succeeding at winning over the AARP crowd. Baby Boomers, one of the more influential demographics in history, are now joining this group. Of course one would wonder about Steve Jobs'sApple's advertising campaign - if it looks like it's aimed at teens/gen-Y but ends up suckering your grandma/grandpa/older uncle/aunt into buying the style-over-function box, I think their aim is way off.

According to a report from industry watchers MetaFacts, nearly half of Mac owners are 55 and older--almost double the share for average home PC users.

For the digital youth, high-street box shifter Gateway is the brand of choice, taking the No. 1 slot among PC buyers between ages 18 and 25.

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