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Versailles: Noble
Topic: Arts 1:55 am EDT, Aug 23, 2008

If you're into J-Pop, particularly Visual Kei, you might want to check out Versailles' first full-length album, Noble (the follow-up to the EP, Lyrical Sympathy). The linked video is a live performance of "The Revenant Choir," which is more on the pop side and not exactly my favorite track on the album, but it's the best live video I could find on YouTube.

I took a chance and bought a first press of Noble with the bonus DVD. Now that I've had a chance to listen to it for a while, it's starting to grow on me. I can hear influences from Judas Priest ("Antique in the Future") to Testament ("To the Chaos Inside" - the album's best track) to contemporaries like Moi dix Mois ("Aristocrat's Symphony"). Musically, the band is pretty solid, and they're able to straddle the fence between pop and metal without making either style seem out of place on the album. Oh, and their stage costumes are adorable!

Versailles: Noble

Jerry Seinfeld, Pitchman
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:59 am EDT, Aug 21, 2008

Microsoft Enlists Jerry Seinfeld In Its Ad Battle Against Apple
By Suzanne Vranica and Robert A. Guth

Microsoft Corp., weary of being cast as a stodgy oldster by Apple Inc.'s advertising, is turning for help to Jerry Seinfeld.

The software giant's new $300 million advertising campaign, devised by a newly hired ad agency, has been closely guarded. But Mr. Seinfeld will be one of the key celebrity pitchmen, say people close to the situation. He will appear with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in ads and receive about $10 million for the work, they say.

Jerry Seinfeld, Pitchman

Vince Offer, Pitchman
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:45 pm EDT, Aug 18, 2008

Offer, who appeared on infomericals for his movie and also sold kitchen utensils at a swap meet, appears as a spokesman in a commercial for Shamwow! absorbent towels that began airing in the spring of 2008. Offer's work on the ad received some comment in the media.'s Seth Stevenson praised Offer for his "impressive and subtle mastery of the pitchman's art" and wondered if Offer's "abrasive manner might also mark a unique, new strategy in the annals of pitchdom." Stevenson compared Offer to earlier, gentler television pitchmen like Billy Mays and the Home Shopping Network hosts and concluded that Offer's "smooth-talking condescension" was more suited to the present zeitgeist than the "earnest fervor" of spokesmen like Mays and Ron Popeil.

Stevenson noted that Offer's "hectoring tone... makes us feel like idiots for even entertaining the notion of not buying a Shamwow."

From Stevenson's article:

Offer's history includes lawsuits waged against the Farrelly brothers, Anna Nicole Smith, and the Church of Scientology. He also wrote and directed the 1999 film The Underground Comedy Movie. The New York Post review gave the film zero stars, said it "may be the least amusing comedy ever made," and asked, "How can the War Crimes Tribunal indict Slobodan Milosevic but let Vince Offer still walk the streets?"

Harsh! But hey, Vince is certainly not boring, and therein lies a significant component of his effectiveness. The guy's jerky, aggrieved attitude jumps off the screen—particularly when he berates his own crew, snapping, "You followin' me, camera guy?" Vince manages, in the course of a minute spent swiping counters and dabbing at carpets, to make us wonder, "Whoa, what's the deal with this freak?" That makes the ad an attention-grabber, and it helps the Shamwow stand out from a crowded field of useless doohickeys.

Vince Offer, Pitchman

New Linens-N-Shit Opens in Macon, GA
Topic: Business 9:42 am EDT, Jul 29, 2008

MACON, GA—Linens-N-Shit, the nation's largest retailer of bedsheets, tablecloths, and a wide assortment of other shit, will open its new location Tuesday morning at the Macon Mall.

"We've got all sorts of shit," Barlow added. "Bath shit, kitchen shit, shit for the bedroom, seasonal shit, and all the other shit you could possibly imagine, plus linens."

"Look at all this great shit!" said Macon resident Joy Anderson, who claims she usually spends an average of $500 a month on linens and other shit. "Whenever we wanted to buy a ton of shit before, we had to go all the way out to the Galleria Mall in Centerville. But now we've got all the shit we need right here."

New Linens-N-Shit Opens in Macon, GA

China 'sets up Olympic sex determination lab'
Topic: Society 2:03 pm EDT, Jul 28, 2008

Olympic host Beijing has set up a sex determination lab to test female Olympic athletes suspected to be males, state media reported Sunday. Experts at the lab, located at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, will evaluate dubious cases based on their external appearance and take blood samples testing sex hormones, genes and chromosomes, Xinhua news agency said.

Sex testing has been routine at the Olympics and other sports events for decades, triggered by fears that male athletes sought to cheat by posing as women. Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan was stripped of an Asian Games silver medal in 2006 after failing a gender verification test.

I'm trying to imagine walking through a hospital and seeing a big "Olympic Sex Determination Lab" sign over a door. The Futurama episode Bend Her comes to mind.

Per Wikipedia:

Sex determination tests typically involve evaluation by gynecologists, endocrinologists, psychologists, and internal medicine specialist.

The practice has come under fire from those that feel that the testing is humiliating, socially insensitive, and not entirely accurate or effective anyway. The testing is especially difficult and problematic in the case of people who could be considered intersexual. The genetic tests provide potentially inaccurate results and discriminate against women with disorders of sexual development. Genetic anomalies can allow a person to have a male genetic make-up but be physiologically female.

Current status:
Sex testing has been done as recently as the Atlanta Olympic games in 1996, but is no longer practiced, having been officially stopped by the International Olympic Committee in 1999. This followed a resolution passed at the 1996 International Olympic Committee (IOC) World Conference on Women and Health "to discontinue the current process of gender verification during the Olympic Games."

The International Association of Athletics Federations too stopped conducting the tests in 1991. However the Olympic Council of Asia continues the practice.

New rules permit transsexual athletes to compete in the Olympics after having completed sex reassignment surgery, being legally recognized as a member of the target sex, and having undergone two years of hormonal therapy.

China 'sets up Olympic sex determination lab'

Ex-Google worker makes run at search engine giant
Topic: Technology 11:46 am EDT, Jul 28, 2008

The last time Anna Patterson invented a search engine, Google bought it. The search engine leader needed her creation to upgrade its system. Patterson's at it again. But this time, she's not selling. The former Google employee's starting a search engine, and word is that it might be three-times more robust than Google.

Cuil Search Engine

Ex-Google worker makes run at search engine giant

Breitbart: "Hackers get hold of critical Internet flaw" (DNS cache poisoning)
Topic: Technology 11:04 am EDT, Jul 25, 2008

Internet security researchers on Thursday warned that hackers have caught on to a "critical" flaw that lets them control traffic on the Internet.

An elite squad of computer industry engineers that labored in secret to solve the problem released a software "patch" two weeks ago and sought to keep details of the vulnerability hidden at least a month to give people time to protect computers from attacks.

"We are in a lot of trouble," said IOActive security specialist Dan Kaminsky, who stumbled upon the Domain Name System (DNS) vulnerability about six months ago and reached out to industry giants to collaborate on a solution.

"This attack is very good. This attack is being weaponized out in the field. Everyone needs to patch, please. This is a big deal."

DNS is used by every computer that links to the Internet and works similar to a telephone system routing calls to proper numbers, in this case the online numerical addresses of websites.

The vulnerability allows "cache poisoning" attacks that tinker with data stored in computer memory caches that relay Internet traffic to destinations.

"I am not behind the times!"

Breitbart: "Hackers get hold of critical Internet flaw" (DNS cache poisoning)

Jason Whitlock: 'Don't make Mahorn the bad boy in WNBA scuffle.'
Topic: Society 5:06 pm EDT, Jul 23, 2008

Calling it a brawl is inaccurate and stupid. Saying Rick Mahorn shoved Lisa Leslie to the floor is dishonest and mean-spirited. Tuesday night's nationally televised Sparks-Shock shoving match was a portrait of equality.

No one ever said equality was always perfect and gentle and positive. Equality was contaminated by the same forbidden fruit as everything else. There is no reason to act surprised that a bunch of women would lose their temper on a basketball court and resort to the same kind of emotional stupidity that afflicts men. The WNBA has been calling for next for at least a decade, and this is what goes along with running with the big dogs. You occasionally get bitten.

Leslie and all the other women on the court signed up for basketball equality. Leslie was treated like an athlete at The Palace. Not a mommy or role model. Just a basketball player.

This was bad publicity that will lead to a bunch of Don Imus jokes. Let's hope the league doesn't overreact and treat Mahorn in a way that signals the WNBA has no real understanding of true equality.

Jason Whitlock: 'Don't make Mahorn the bad boy in WNBA scuffle.'

DDG 1000 program will end at two ships
Topic: Technology 4:43 pm EDT, Jul 23, 2008

The once-vaunted Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 advanced destroyer program — projected in the late 1990s to produce 32 new ships and subsequently downscaled to a seven-ship class — will instead turn out only two ships, according to highly-placed sources in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

Instead of more 1000s, the Navy will continue to build more Arleigh Burke-class DDG 51 destroyers, construction of which had been slated to end in 2012.

Top Navy and Pentagon brass met Tuesday to make the decision, which means the service will ask Congress to drop the request for the third ship in the 2009 defense budget and forego plans to ask for the remaining four ships.

Each of the two ships now under contract will be built, according to the new decision. That means the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine will build the Zumwalt, DDG 1000, and Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls yard in Pascagoula, Miss., will construct the yet-to-be-named DDG 1001.

According to sources, the Navy also considered canceling the second DDG 1000 and building just one, but potentially high cancellation costs led to the decision to keep the ship.

Northrop Grumman DDG 1000 Website

DDG 1000 program will end at two ships

Makemake: Fourth Dwarf Planet Named For Polynesian God
Topic: Science 10:45 am EDT, Jul 22, 2008

There's been a lot of astronomy news lately. Anyway, 2005 FY9 is now Makemake. It's a shame... "2005 FY9" had such a nice ring to it.

A dwarf planet circling the sun out beyond the orbit of Neptune has been rechristened Makemake after a Polynesian god and designated the third of the solar system's new class of plutoids, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced Saturday.

Makemake is a small, red-tinged world that ranks among the largest objects in the outer solar system. But it is still smaller and dimmer than the already demoted dwarf planet Pluto, which astronomers reclassified as a plutoid last month.

EDIT 1: I had assumed that last part (my bold) was a typo, as Pluto is still listed as a dwarf planet, going back to 2006. Apparently, that's not a typo: Pluto's Identity Crisis Hits Classrooms and Bookstores . Geez... I can't even keep up.

The Makemake article itself is rather matter-of-fact, but the comments below the article are amusing. There's still a lot of fighting over the reclassification of Pluto.

Current IAU definitions (Wikipedia):

A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.

A dwarf planet is a celestial body orbiting the Sun that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity but which has not cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals and is not a satellite. The body has to have sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces in order to assume a hydrostatic equilibrium and acquire a near-spherical shape.

All other objects orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as Small Solar System Bodies. These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, comets, the centaurs and Neptune Trojans, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), and other small bodies. It is not presently clear whether a lower size bound will be established as part of the definition of Small Solar System Bodies in the future, or if it will encompass all material down to the level of meteoroids.

A natural satellite or moon is a celestial body that orbits a planet or smaller body, which is called the primary.

A meteoroid is a small sand to boulder-sized particle of debris in the Solar System.

EDIT 2: A plutoid is a trans-Neptunian dwarf planet. The IAU developed this category of astronomical objects as a consequence of its 2006 resolution defining the word "planet". The IAU's formal definition of 'plutoid,' announced 11 June 2008, is:

Plutoids are celestial bodies in orbit around the Sun at a semimajor axis greater than that of Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (near-spherical) shape, and that have not cleared the neighbourhood around their orbit. Satellites of plutoids are not plutoids themselves.

Makemake: Fourth Dwarf Planet Named For Polynesian God

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