Friday, September 28, 2007

Bat for Lashes is the doppelgänger band ego of one of the leading millennial lights in British music, Natasha Khan. Caroline Weeks, Abi Fry and Lizzy Carey comprise the aurora borealis that backs this haunting, shimmering zither and glockenspiel peacock, and the only complaint coming from the audience at the Bowery Ballroom last Tuesday was that they could not camp out all night underneath these celestial bodies.

We live in the age of the lazy tendency to categorize the work of one artist against another, and Khan has had endless exultations as the next Björk and Kate Bush; Sixousie Sioux, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, the list goes on until it is almost meaningless as comparison does little justice to the sound and vision of the band. “I think Bat For Lashes are beyond a trend or fashion band,” said Jefferson Hack, publisher of Dazed & Confused magazine. “[Khan] has an ancient power…she is in part shamanic.” She describes her aesthetic as “powerful women with a cosmic edge” as seen in Jane Birkin, Nico and Cleopatra. And these women are being heard. “I love the harpsichord and the sexual ghost voices and bowed saws,” said Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke of the track Horse and I. “This song seems to come from the world of Grimm’s fairytales.”

Bat’s debut album, Fur And Gold, was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Prize, and they were seen as the dark horse favorite until it was announced Klaxons had won. Even Ladbrokes, the largest gambling company in the United Kingdom, had put their money on Bat for Lashes. “It was a surprise that Klaxons won,” said Khan, “but I think everyone up for the award is brilliant and would have deserved to win.”

Natasha recently spoke with David Shankbone about art, transvestism and drug use in the music business.


DS: Do you have any favorite books?

NK: [Laughs] I’m not the best about finishing books. What I usually do is I will get into a book for a period of time, and then I will dip into it and get the inspiration and transformation in my mind that I need, and then put it away and come back to it. But I have a select rotation of cool books, like Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Little Birds by Anaïs Nin. Recently, Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch.

DS: Lynch just came out with a movie last year called Inland Empire. I interviewed John Vanderslice last night at the Bowery Ballroom and he raved about it!

NK: I haven’t seen it yet!

DS: Do you notice a difference between playing in front of British and American audiences?

NK: The U.S. audiences are much more full of expression and noises and jubilation. They are like, “Welcome to New York, Baby!” “You’re Awesome!” and stuff like that. Whereas in England they tend to be a lot more reserved. Well, the English are, but it is such a diverse culture you will get the Spanish and Italian gay guys at the front who are going crazy. I definitely think in America they are much more open and there is more excitement, which is really cool.

DS: How many instruments do you play and, please, include the glockenspiel in that number.

NK: [Laughs] I think the number is limitless, hopefully. I try my hand at anything I can contribute; I only just picked up the bass, really—

DS: –I have a great photo of you playing the bass.

NK: I don’t think I’m very good…

DS: You look cool with it!

NK: [Laughs] Fine. The glockenspiel…piano, mainly, and also the harp. Guitar, I like playing percussion and drumming. I usually speak with all my drummers so that I write my songs with them in mind, and we’ll have bass sounds, choir sounds, and then you can multi-task with all these orchestral sounds. Through the magic medium of technology I can play all kinds of sounds, double bass and stuff.

DS: Do you design your own clothes?

NK: All four of us girls love vintage shopping and charity shops. We don’t have a stylist who tells us what to wear, it’s all very much our own natural styles coming through. And for me, personally, I like to wear jewelery. On the night of the New York show that top I was wearing was made especially for me as a gift by these New York designers called Pepper + Pistol. And there’s also my boyfriend, who is an amazing musician—

DS: —that’s Will Lemon from Moon and Moon, right? There is such good buzz about them here in New York.

NK: Yes! They have an album coming out in February and it will fucking blow your mind! I think you would love it, it’s an incredible masterpiece. It’s really exciting, I’m hoping we can do a crazy double unfolding caravan show, the Bat for Lashes album and the new Moon and Moon album: that would be really theatrical and amazing! Will prints a lot of my T-shirts because he does amazing tapestries and silkscreen printing on clothes. When we play there’s a velvety kind of tapestry on the keyboard table that he made. So I wear a lot of his things, thrift store stuff, old bits of jewelry and antique pieces.

DS: You are often compared to Björk and Kate Bush; do those constant comparisons tend to bother you as an artist who is trying to define herself on her own terms?

NK: No, I mean, I guess that in the past it bothered me, but now I just feel really confident and sure that as time goes on my musical style and my writing is taking a pace of its own, and I think in time the music will speak for itself and people will see that I’m obviously doing something different. Those women are fantastic, strong, risk-taking artists—

DS: —as are you—

NK: —thank you, and that’s a great tradition to be part of, and when I look at artists like Björk and Kate Bush, I think of them as being like older sisters that have come before; they are kind of like an amazing support network that comes with me.

DS: I’d imagine it’s preferable to be considered the next Björk or Kate Bush instead of the next Britney.

NK: [Laughs] Totally! Exactly! I mean, could you imagine—oh, no I’m not going to try to offend anyone now! [Laughs] Let’s leave it there.

DS: Does music feed your artwork, or does you artwork feed your music more? Or is the relationship completely symbiotic?

NK: I think it’s pretty back-and-forth. I think when I have blocks in either of those area, I tend to emphasize the other. If I’m finding it really difficult to write something I know that I need to go investigate it in a more visual way, and I’ll start to gather images and take photographs and make notes and make collages and start looking to photographers and filmmakers to give me a more grounded sense of the place that I’m writing about, whether it’s in my imagination or in the characters. Whenever I’m writing music it’s a very visual place in my mind. It has a location full of characters and colors and landscapes, so those two things really compliment each other, and they help the other one to blossom and support the other. They are like brother and sister.

DS: When you are composing music, do you see notes and words as colors and images in your mind, and then you put those down on paper?

NK: Yes. When I’m writing songs, especially lately because I think the next album has a fairly strong concept behind it and I’m writing the songs, really imagining them, so I’m very immersed into the concept of the album and the story that is there through the album. It’s the same as when I’m playing live, I will imagine I see a forest of pine trees and sky all around me and the audience, and it really helps me. Or I’ll just imagine midnight blue and emerald green, those kind of Eighties colors, and they help me.

DS: Is it always pine trees that you see?

NK: Yes, pine trees and sky, I guess.

DS: What things in nature inspire you?

NK: I feel drained thematically if I’m in the city too long. I think that when I’m in nature—for example, I went to Big Sur last year on a road trip and just looking up and seeing dark shadows of trees and starry skies really gets me and makes me feel happy. I would sit right by the sea, and any time I have been a bit stuck I will go for a long walk along the ocean and it’s just really good to see vast horizons, I think, and epic, huge, all-encompassing visions of nature really humble you and give you a good sense of perspective and the fact that you are just a small particle of energy that is vibrating along with everything else. That really helps.

DS: Are there man-made things that inspire you?

NK: Things that are more cultural, like open air cinemas, old Peruvian flats and the Chelsea Hotel. Funny old drag queen karaoke bars…

DS: I photographed some of the famous drag queens here in New York. They are just such great creatures to photograph; they will do just about anything for the camera. I photographed a famous drag queen named Miss Understood who is the emcee at a drag queen restaurant here named Lucky Cheng’s. We were out in front of Lucky Cheng’s taking photographs and a bus was coming down First Avenue, and I said, “Go out and stop that bus!” and she did! It’s an amazing shot.

NK: Oh. My. God.

DS: If you go on her Wikipedia article it’s there.

NK: That’s so cool. I’m really getting into that whole psychedelic sixties and seventies Paris Is Burning and Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis. Things like The Cockettes. There seems to be a bit of a revolution coming through that kind of psychedelic drag queen theater.

DS: There are just so few areas left where there is natural edge and art that is not contrived. It’s taking a contrived thing like changing your gender, but in the backdrop of how that is still so socially unacceptable.

NK: Yeah, the theatrics and creativity that go into that really get me. I’m thinking about The Fisher King…do you know that drag queen in The Fisher King? There’s this really bad and amazing drag queen guy in it who is so vulnerable and sensitive. He sings these amazing songs but he has this really terrible drug problem, I think, or maybe it’s a drink problem. It’s so bordering on the line between fabulous and those people you see who are so in love with the idea of beauty and elevation and the glitz and the glamor of love and beauty, but then there’s this really dark, tragic side. It’s presented together in this confusing and bewildering way, and it always just gets to me. I find it really intriguing.

DS: How are you received in the Pakistani community?

NK: [Laughs] I have absolutely no idea! You should probably ask another question, because I have no idea. I don’t have contact with that side of my family anymore.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on these suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and with their music?

NK: It’s difficult. The drugs thing was never important to me, it was the music and expression and the way he delivered his music, and I think there’s a strange kind of romantic delusion in the media, and the music media especially, where they are obsessed with people who have terrible drug problems. I think that’s always been the way, though, since Billie Holiday. The thing that I’m questioning now is that it seems now the celebrity angle means that the lifestyle takes over from the actual music. In the past people who had musical genius, unfortunately their personal lives came into play, but maybe that added a level of romance, which I think is pretty uncool, but, whatever. I think that as long as the lifestyle doesn’t precede the talent and the music, that’s okay, but it always feels uncomfortable for me when people’s music goes really far and if you took away the hysteria and propaganda of it, would the music still stand up? That’s my question. Just for me, I’m just glad I don’t do heavy drugs and I don’t have that kind of problem, thank God. I feel that’s a responsibility you have, to present that there’s a power in integrity and strength and in the lifestyle that comes from self-love and assuredness and positivity. I think there’s a real big place for that, but it doesn’t really get as much of that “Rock n’ Roll” play or whatever.

DS: Is it difficult to come to the United States to play considering all the wars we start?

NK: As an English person I feel equally as responsible for that kind of shit. I think it is a collective consciousness that allows violence and those kinds of things to continue, and I think that our governments should be ashamed of themselves. But at the same time, it’s a responsibility of all of our countries, no matter where you are in the world to promote a peaceful lifestyle and not to consciously allow these conflicts to continue. At the same time, I find it difficult to judge because I think that the world is full of shades of light and dark, from spectrums of pure light and pure darkness, and that’s the way human nature and nature itself has always been. It’s difficult, but it’s just a process, and it’s the big creature that’s the world; humankind is a big creature that is learning all the time. And we have to go through these processes of learning to see what is right.

Friday, July 3, 2009

On Friday, a new generation solar powered cargo vessel, the Auriga Leader has docked in North America for the first time. Toyota Motor Corp will employ this car carrier for automobile shipments to Europe and North America from Japan. The vessel will be operated by the Japanese-based NYK Line.

Auriga Leader has 328 solar panels to provide 40 kilowatts, about 10% of the ship’s power while sitting idling in dock. This amount of energy is the equivalent to the power used by ten average homes.

“This is the first ship to direct the solar power into the ship’s main electrical grid. It’s helping all of the time, and its helping with everything, like the ship’s thrusters and the hydraulics for the steering gear,” said Brian Mason, national manager of marine logistics and export for Toyota.

The panels are installed on the ship’s car-carrier, and then connected to the onboard 440 volt electrical network. Nippon Yusen K.K. and Nippon Oil Corp created the Auriga Leader’s US$ 1.6 million innovative green technology solar power grid. The cargo ship has a length of 200 meters (656 ft) and gross tonnage of 60,000 GT, which is capable of carrying 6,400 automobiles.

Richard Steinke, executive director of the Port of Long Beach said of the joint demonstration project, “From our standpoint, it’s another positive step,” to reduce diesel emissions and the release of greenhouse gas.

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This week saw the English-language version of Wikipedia, the collaboratively written online encyclopedia, reach 2,000 featured articles with the inclusion of the article El Señor Presidente. Featured articles (FAs) meet Wikipedia’s highest standards for quality, accuracy, neutrality, completeness, and style, and thus are considered the best articles on Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia team that carries out the assessment and quality control before conferring the status of featured articles promoted five articles to FA status at the same time: Walter de Coventre, Maximian, El Señor Presidente, Lord of the Universe, and Red-billed Chough. With five promoted at the same time, conferring the status of 2,000th on one is an arbitrary decision and in some respects any of these articles could actually make a claim to the honour.

The article El Señor Presidente was created and developed by a University of British Columbia class, “Murder, Madness, and Mayhem: Latin American Literature in Translation“. While an important milestone, the 2,000th featured article is also symbolic of Wikipedia’s growing role in the 21st century learning arena.

The professor of the class, Jon Beasley-Murray, began using Wikipedia as a collaborative space where his students could both do coursework and provide a type of virtual public service. Thus, he created a Wikipedia project, Murder Madness and Mayhem, that focussed on creating articles relating to the Latin American literature covered in his class. Not surprisingly, El Señor Presidente is considered one of the most important books in Latin American literature, written by Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan writer, Miguel Ángel Asturias.

The Wikinews team contacted Prof. Beasley-Murray, who agreed to be interviewed for this story. His responses can be found below. Included are sections soliciting responses from three students who took the class and helped create and bring El Señor Presidente to Feature Article status. Thus far the project has created seven good articles in addition to the 2,000th featured article.

Professor Beasley-Murray, thank you for giving us some of your valuable time and agreeing to talk to us. Can you give some background on what prompted you to start this project?

  • Prof. Jon Beasley-Murray: I should say first that I’ve written some reflections at the project on Wikipedia itself, as an essay I entitled “Madness”.
In short, however, I’d done some editing on Wikipedia a year ago. I’d got into that rather by accident–after finding to some surprise that some of my academic work had been written up at the site. I then spent some time trying to organize and expand articles and categories relating to Latin America, particularly Latin American culture, which is my area of expertise. I discovered that Wikipedia’s coverage of this area was uneven at best. It was while I was involved in this that it came to me that students could usefully participate on the site. They use Wikipedia anyway; why not find ways in which they could also participate? And I’d come to realize that it’s only by participating and contributing that you can really understand the Encyclopedia, both its strengths and its weaknesses but above all the way it comes to be how it is.
And I’ve always been interested in using technology in teaching: mailing lists, websites, blogs, and so on. But I’ve never much liked “educational technology”: programs such as WebCT that students only ever use as part of a course they are taking. By creating something of an educational ghetto, educational technology seems to me to miss out on the most interesting and exciting possibilities of the Internet: precisely the fact that it opens up to the world outside the classroom, and can reconfigure or perhaps even break down the rather limited relationship between teacher (supposed to be the expert and source of all authority) and the student (too often treated as the passive recipient of knowledge).
Overall, a Wikipedia assignment offered lots of possibilities, including:
  • teaching students about Wikipedia, an important site that they use (and too often misuse) often
  • improving Wikipedia itself, by generating new content on topics where its coverage is lacking
  • encouraging students to produce something that had relevance outside the classroom, in the public sphere
  • giving them tangible goals that were measured by something other than my own professorial judgement
  • changing their views about writing, by stressing the importance of ongoing revision
  • teaching them about research and about how to use and evaluate sources
… we did get one “speedy deletion” tag. It was placed, within less than a minute, on an article that I created in front of all the students, during class time. For one horrible moment, in front of the whole class, I had a feeling that things might go terribly wrong.

((WN)) Did you consult with fellow academics or students prior to launching this project?

  • JBM: No, not really. Perhaps I should have! But off and on last summer I did discuss the idea with a friend who works in educational technology at UBC, who had helped me with the implementation of blogs in my courses. And this friend, Brian Lamb, was as always very encouraging and supportive of this kind of experimentation. He looked into the possibility of helping me apply for a grant for the project, but it seems there aren’t any for this kind of thing. I decided to go ahead anyway, essentially on my own.
And in January, as the project was getting underway, I signed up with Wikipedia:School and university projects. There were plenty of other previous and ongoing educational projects listed there, so I presumed I wasn’t so alone and that what I was doing wasn’t so innovative. It was only much later that I realized just how different and how ambitious this project was: we were aiming to create featured articles, ideally twelve of them, and no other educational project had ever set out to do that!

((WN)) I would assume the Wikipedia community was in favour of your project, did anyone outwith that community make notably critical comments about your idea?

  • JBM: No, but then as I say I hardly talked to anyone about it!
I should mention, however, that it’s not necessarily a given that the Wikipedia community was in favour. I’ve noticed that with some other educational projects, the initial reaction from Wikipedians has not always been so favourable. In part that’s because students are encouraged to write a new article on anything they can come up with, and these are swiftly marked for deletion. In part that’s because they write essays offline, then upload them, and naturally enough they are not in Wikipedia format or do not follow Wikipedia conventions (about “original research,” for instance). Those articles are soon laden with tags, and their talk pages filled with warnings or reproaches. We managed to avoid that on the whole… mostly by accident! But we also avoided those problems, I think, because I’d spent a fair amount of time on Wikipedia already and was aware of some (but far from all) the habits of the site. And more importantly because we had quite definite aims: students weren’t editing Wikipedia for the sake of it.
Even so, we did get one “speedy deletion” tag. It was placed, within less than a minute, on an article that I created in front of all the students, during class time. For one horrible moment, in front of the whole class, I had a feeling that things might go terribly wrong. The article tagged for speedy deletion was El Señor Presidente… which is now, as you know, Wikipedia’s Feature Article number 2,000.

((WN)) How significant a percentage of the mark you were giving for the class came from Wikipedia contributions?

  • JBM: Originally, the Wikipedia assignment was to have represented 30% of the total grade for the course. Just over half-way through the semester, progress had still been relatively slow, and I was getting worried. So I proposed to the class that we change the course assessment, and that we scrap the planned final essay or term paper. This would mean that the other elements (a mid-term, blogs and participation, and Wikipedia) would all come to be worth more. We talked about the proposal, and I gave them some time to think about it. We then had a secret ballot, and I said in advance that we would only go ahead with the change if two thirds (66%) were in favour. In the end, 85% of the class voted for increasing the significance of the Wikipedia project to 40% of the overall course grade.

((WN)) As a member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s communications committee I (Brian McNeil) frequently see both sides of the conflict over how relevant or reliable Wikipedia is. This ranges from queries coming in from students working on their school paper who want a response to their librarian and teachers effectively banning use of Wikipedia, to the other extreme such as a recent case where a teaching surgeon in the UK asking for permission to quote extensively from Wikipedia for a paper on the site’s relevance and potential use for undergraduates in medicine. I have a stock answer detailing how to check Wikipedia sources; that Wikipedia is a great starting point for research, and that if you disallow Wikipedia you should disallow Britannica. Is this something you would agree with?

  • JBM: Over the course of this semester, I’ve come up with a response of my own to this question. If a Wikipedia article is a good one, then you won’t need to quote it, as it will have links to all the relevant sources. And if it doesn’t have those links, then it isn’t a good article, and shouldn’t be quoted in any case.
Before this semester, I explicitly banned students from quoting Wikipedia articles in their essays. And I will continue to do so. I also look askance at them citing dictionary definitions. And though they don’t quote Britannica (I think Wikipedia has now for all intents and purposes replaced Britannica), I would likewise be unimpressed if they were to do so.
On the other hand, of course, as you say, Wikipedia can be an excellent starting point for research. I personally use it often precisely for that reason.

((WN)) Was the experience of using a wiki for collaboration something you would repeat? There have been suggestions for something you might call “EduWiki” for the collaborative development of course material. Would you get involved with something like that? Do you see potential for use of the MediaWiki software in other areas of education? Such a project could be hosted under Wikimedia Foundation projects such as Wikibooks or Wikiversity. Would you favour that over a closed project within academia where contributors’ credentials could be verified?

  • JBM: I’m not sure. As is perhaps already obvious, I’m horribly suspicious of almost anything that has “edu” in the title. And I say that with all due respect to my friends who are in “EduTech”–though I should add that they are often equally suspicious, if not more so! I’ve had a couple of other experiences with wikis, in relatively closed environments, and they weren’t particularly successful. I think that was because there was never a critical mass. The one thing that Wikipedia really has going for it is critical mass. (Even then, of course, only a tiny fraction of the people who read Wikipedia ever edit it.)
The other thing is that too many academics still don’t get the wiki ethos. It’s hard for them (us) not to be possessive about our work. This I think is what causes most of the antagonism and frustration when academics do get involved in Wikipedia. The issue is seldom “expertise,” and much more often ownership. I realize I’m talking in broad strokes here, but for instance a wiki was set up in my faculty, and it proved impossible to edit anyone else’s texts. We might as well have been putting up .pdfs. It was an exercise in presenting position papers, rather than in collaborative writing.
Meanwhile, as for the topic of credentials, which I know has been much debated on Wikipedia, I think that’s a real canard. I don’t think credentials matter much. My students don’t have much in the way of credentials, but they’ve done superior work.

((WN)) Would you describe your students as receptive to the idea of doing coursework where the general public could view their works in progress?

  • JBM: I’d often asked students to write blogs in previous courses, which are also of course visible to the general public. But not too many people bump into such student blogs, except on rare occasions. Here, the point wasn’t so much that the Wikipedia articles were public, but that they were editing one of the Internet’s top ten sites. So one day I’d poked around and found out how many people had visited particular pages that we’re editing. (I compiled and later updated these numbers here.) And the next class we played two little guessing games. One involved what percentage of Wikipedia’s articles they thought were classified as “Good Articles”; they started at 30%, and it took them a while to get down to 0.15%. This was just after El Señor Presidente had made Good Article status, so it gave them a sense of the achievement, I think.
The other little guessing game concerned how many page views they thought their articles attracted per month. I can’t remember exactly the figure they started off with in this case, but I can tell you it was a lot lower than the 50,000 plus that Gabriel García Márquez actually receives. When we figured out that that article must have something over 600,000 visits a year (I now reckon it’s almost three-quarters of a million), the team who were editing that page were somewhat shocked. But my sense is that the realization was also rather exciting. And I know that the students who will shortly find their article on the mainpage of the English Wikipedia (it’ll be there on May 5th) are absolutely thrilled. Though frankly I think they (and the other students) are less interested in the fact that the “general public” can see what they’ve done, than in telling their friends and family to take a look at their work.

((WN)) Did any students fail to fit in and find themselves unable to work with Wikipedia?

  • JBM: Yes. There was a wide range of responses. Some were very enthusiastic. Others took a while to get into it. And there were a few who never really found themselves at home editing Wikipedia. I’m not sure of the reasons in each case. For some the technology stayed too intimidating, or rather (I suspect) they just didn’t put in enough time to get past that first hurdle. As this was group work, however, some of the effects could be worrisome at times. So it’s something I’d have to think over before trying a similar experiment again.

((WN)) Do you feel that doing this part of the course in such a radically open way encouraged any of the students to work to a higher standard than the might otherwise have?

  • JBM: Absolutely. No question of it. The most active students, at least, have helped produce articles of c. 4,000-8,000 words that are comprehensively researched, repeatedly revised, and with a meticulous attention to detail. The standard of every single article is far better than any term paper that they would have written otherwise. Of course, some students have been more actively engaged, and so have both learned more and been pushed more than others. But the constant reminders and questions from other Wikipedia editors, particularly the members of the FA-Team who have done much of the copy-editing, has forced them consistently to reflect upon what they are saying, how they are saying it, and what their sources are.

((WN)) In reflecting on the project, is there anything you would have done differently?

  • JBM: There were aspects of the groupwork that didn’t work out as they could have. And we did get off to a rather slow start: I’d have to think about how to remedy that. Moreover, once the project is over, the FA-Team and I (plus, of course, any students who are interested) plan to have a post-mortem on all aspects of the collaboration. So there are certainly things that could be improved. I know I’ve also learned a lot on this project, and next time would hope to benefit from what I’ve learned.

((WN)) You’ve hit about 6,000 edits personally, have you caught the “wiki bug”? Will you keep editing?

  • JBM: 7,000 now! I’ll need to stop editing for a while once the project is over: it has been very time-consuming. But I plan to be back in the Fall.

((WN)) In light of the apparent success of your project what would you say to other academics to try and persuade them to try similar experiments?

  • JBM: Absolutely. I don’t want to come across as too much of a Wikipedia booster. I can understand exactly why many academics’ engagement on the encyclopedia has proven to be disappointing or frustrating or worse. But I think that, especially if academics take some time to understand aspects of Wikipedia’s culture, there are forms of engagement that can be very rewarding. We were rather fortunate to run into the FA-Team, a group of experienced Wikipedia editors that had recently been established in order to help others promote articles to Featured Article status. Their involvement has been an absolute Godsend. But I see no reason why something similar (or even unpredictably different, and perhaps better) might not emerge in other circumstances.

((WN)) Before moving on to bringing your students into the discussion, I’d like to close with your thoughts on making this a regular part of the curriculum. Do you intend to do so? Do you feel other institutions should examine your project with a view to emulating it?

  • JBM: I certainly intend to repeat the experiment. The one downside for an instructor is that, if it is to be done right, it is very labour-intensive. On the other hand, in terms of capital resources it is essentially free. My university (and many others) pays millions of dollars per year for site licences for educational software such as WebCT. That’s a massive waste of money, as far as I’m concerned; though it’s a lucrative racket for the people selling the software. It’s also, I’d say, an abdication of an important aspect of the university’s mission: to invest in the Commons. The trend in contemporary academia is too often towards privatization and enclosure. (Though I should note that there are valiant exceptions, and my former colleague John Willinsky‘s work on open access is exemplary.) The more universities engage with Wikipedia, and the more they realize that they can do so without necessarily dropping the high standards of research and academic rigour that it is also their duty to safeguard, the more they benefit not only their own students, but also the public good.

In addition to the one featured article, seven made “Good Article” status. How much of an encouragement was that to those of you involved in the project?

  • Monica Freudenreich: I honestly cannot speak for the rest of the class but I think that everyone involved was a little bit weary (Ed: wary?) of this project. None of us had ever embarked on this sort of thing in our undergraduate careers before and to say the least, were unsure of how this would all turn out. Being students, we are prone to leave things to the last minute and with this project that was definitely not a possibility. So, despite a slow start in general, I think the status most of the articles in our project achieved is really impressive and that is a huge encouragement in itself
  • Katy Konyk: I can’t speak for the rest of the class but I think seeing so many articles achieve good status proved that he goal was very achievable. I think the only downside was that in class people are going to work at their own speeds so having others reach good article status, if you are not there yet, sometimes added to the pressure.
  • Elyse Economides: I think it was a form of encouragement, but also made the task seem a bit daunting. It was exciting to see that so many of the groups could attain the goal of “Good Article” status at the end of four months, but it also spoke to the amount of time and effort needed to reach that point. Hopefully seeing their classmates achieve “Good Article” status encouraged the individual groups that the same achievement was also possible.

((WN)) How long were you involved with Wikipedia before you really felt Good or Featured was achievable?

  • MF: I created a user account in January, along with almost all of the class as it was the first time I realized that one could edit wikipedia. The page I believe was created, with the help of Dr. Beasley-Murray on January 15th. After we got a “speedy deletion” tag put on our page, I thought I should get some content up there to make sure that it wasn’t deleted, as I have no idea how to create a page. So, we were involved with Wikipedia for about 3 months before we were put up for GA review and then it was just under 4 months when we were awarded the FA gold star. I do not think length of time with Wikipedia is important before achieving Good or Featured articles but rather quality of the content and willingness of other wikipedians to collaborate on the project. I relied on the more experienced Wikipedian users to let us know when Good or Featured Article status was achievable and create checklists for us to complete before getting to either stage.
  • KK: When we were first presented with this assignment in the middle of January I admit we were very determined to get a featured article and I don’t think I really realized how much overall work and reworking of the article would be required to attain that goal. In mid-February we spent a couple days trying to read every English source we could get our hands on and we were dumping the contents onto the page. It was at this time that others really started to take an interest by making suggestions and doing heaps of editing themselves. To be honest it felt a little overwhelming, realizing how strict Wikipedia rules are and all the editing we needed to do. While the extensive requirements were overwhelming at first they also made good and feature article status feel achievable because we were able to see exactly what we needed to do.
  • EE: Once Professor Beasley-Murray seriously encouraged us to start working on our articles, by assigning us to make one edit, large or small, to our article, creating an article on Wikipedia seemed slightly less intimidating, although it was still a huge endeavor. Most of the framework and information that carried through the editing process was formed during late February, and that’s when the status of “Good Article” became more of a tangible goal. The input from outside contributors and Wikipedia experts also became quiet salient at this point, and it continued on through the entire process.

((WN)) If you could improve the guidelines for people wanting to take articles up to Featured status, what would you change?

  • KK: I think the guidelines are fair and are what make Featured Articles such reliable sources. My only comment would be that the Manual of Style was extremely inaccessible to lay users, like myself and if there hadn’t been professional editors who knew what they were doing I don’t know if we could have gotten over that obstacle.
  • EE: Although I probably didn’t work as closely with the guidelines as the other members of my group, from what I experienced, there are a fair amount of technical and professional level requirements that is appropriate for the commitment to continuity and reliability, but difficult for beginning users to understand and properly use. The guidelines are a necessary component of Wikipedia, and Wikipedia provides comprehensive resources to explain these tools. Perhaps the best way to feel confident in using the guidelines is to practice making use of them and look at other articles for examples.

((WN)) Do you feel that having anything you did immediately viewable by anyone on the Internet encouraged you to aim for a higher standard than you might have with a more conventional paper that only the professor would see?

  • MF: Not really. I think what pushed us to achieve higher standards were the other wikipedian editors. They were constantly pushing us to find better references and to reference everything. In working towards GA and FA they set the bar incredibly high. Blogs and other internet sites such as Facebook are also readily viewable to anyone and they often have a very low standard, if any standard at all. So, I do not think that it was because the article and our work was being shown on the internet that we worked so hard at this project. The support of the other wikipedians along the way was critical for me to both keep working at it and to set the standard very high indeed.
  • KK: I don’t think that it was because our work would be immediately visible that we aimed for a higher standard. Personally, I think what allowed us to aim for a higher standard was the ability to receive feedback and continually rework the page, which is very unlike a paper where you only have the opportunity to submit it once and cannot fix the paper according to the comments. In this sense, Wikipedia was a much better learning tool than a paper, we were actually able to engage with the comments from other editors.
  • EE: I would almost say it has the opposite effect. While many users on Wikipedia are careful about the material they post, Wikipedia is a fairly anonymous resource, which means an individual’s contributions may not be directly linked back to that person. Wikipedia is also constantly changing as editors come and go, so the information one contributes is never truly permanent. A paper is always directly linked to the individual and unlike Wikipedia, the information placed within it is permanent.

((WN)) Do you believe that contributing something to a ‘digital commons’ gives you more of a sense of achievement than just turning in a term paper?

  • MF: Undoubtedly yes. This page will be read by countless people over the course of its existence. Because I have worked so hard writing and re-writing it, I am extremely proud of the finished result, I almost can’t believe I helped write it when I look back over it. Term papers I have handed back end up in a binder than eventually sits under my bed and files sit on my computer unopened ever again. This Wikipedia page will be seen and likely used by others in the future. After all, I am quite confident that the references list is a comprehensive list of nearly everything published in English on the subject. Any student or person looking to read more about El Senor Presidente no longer has to look any further than our references list. Now that is something truly amazing!
  • EE: Yes and no. While contributing to the creation of a “Featured Article” means disseminating that information to a virtually unlimited number of people, the creation of a term paper is also a feat in and of itself that requires a great deal of research and editing. It is true that within the forum of Wikipedia, an exponentially larger amount of people will see and recognize an individual’s work, but it is equally impersonal. I find each to inspire a sense of achievement (and perhaps mixed with a sense of relief as well).

((WN)) Have you caught the “wiki bug”? Will you keep editing?

  • MF: I am not completely sure. I think Wikipedia is a great resource and I have a lot of admiration for all those out there that work to make Wikipedia a thorough and reliable resource but I don’t know quite yet if I will keep editing. I would like to say yes but between two jobs and five courses right now I will have to stop or cut back until the semester ends. As for the summer, with three jobs and a couple classes, again I don’t know how much time I will be able to dedicate to Wikipedia but I think as I read novels in my spare time or do research for future term papers, I will definitely add references and information about future subjects and topics I study. I do not think I will completely stop editing all together but I will undoubtedly have to cut back.
  • KK: I don’t know if I will keep editing, only because I now know the immense amount of work and research that is required to produce quality work. I have caught the ‘wiki bug’ in the sense that I have a lot more respect for other Good and Feature articles out there. While I may not be able to quote them in my papers I have learned that they are excellent resources and can lead me to other academic papers. Wikipedia will still be my first internet stop for an area that I know nothing about; if it can lead me to other sources than I know it is a good page.
  • EE: I think I will continue to edit, though most likely it will be in the form of minor edits, such as spelling and grammar errors, because that’s my strongest area of interest. I think changing something on Wikipedia, no matter how minor it may be, gives the user a tiny sense of accomplishment.

((WN)) Assuming Professor Beasley-Murray repeats this project in subsequent years, what advice would you give to students following in your footsteps and starting on Wikipedia?

  • MF: I would advise them to start early and start with doing research. Along with Wikipedia, we also had weekly reading responses to hand in. I would advise students to approach Wikipedia as something that is due weekly as well and recommend that they spend at least one hour editing Wikipedia each week or doing research on the topic. To begin, online journal databases work really well but the reality is that many articles published about novels are not online and so consulting the research librarian is an invaluable tool. I think I visited them three times for how to get the information I was looking for. And also, I would advise them not to be too overwhelmed by the process. The wikipedians set very high standards but those standards are achievable. Have faith that even as an undergraduate who is not majoring in English, you can make an incredible contribution and get real results from your hard work.
  • EE: I would also encourage them to begin their research early and get as much information onto the page as quickly as possible. It seems that the veteran and experienced Wikipedia editors and users gravitate towards pages that show substantial activity. I would also encourage them to pace themselves (something I should have practiced more) and look for guidance on other article pages and through other users. Finally, I would encourage them to contact their group members early on and form a plan for the research and editing.

((WN)) Which would you describe as the harder ‘marking authority’? Other professors where you’ve submitted conventional term papers, or the teams assessing Wikipedia contributions with a view to awarding Good or Featured status?

  • MF: No competition. Our Good Article review was extremely intense and I actually was very overwhelmed by it initially. After working through each bullet point though, I can now see why those suggestions for improvement were both necessary and important. The hard work most definitely did not stop after GA review. In fact, before GA review had even ended another editor went through the article for us, line by line and came up with an even longer list of needed improvements, and once we did that, another thorough copy-edit was done. At times I was very discouraged by the mountain or work in front of me and not entirely confident that I could fix the problem areas but with their continued support and help we did it. Professors on conventional term papers make a few comments and hand it back to you. In nearly four years of University, I have only had one professor hand back term papers and give students the option to revise, rework and re-write problematic areas in the essay. And personally, I find this process of re-writing, clarifying and improving prose to be extremely helpful. Over the course of the last few months I have learned so much about writing I cannot even express… and it shows. I have been a B+/A- student throughout my entire undergraduate career, and my last two papers have been A’s! I think the grades speak for themselves.
  • KK: Wikipedia was definitely more intense but I think it was probably a fairer process. I don’t have a problem with someone being a tough critique when we have the opportunity to fix the problems. This is exactly what I enjoyed about the Wikipedia process and think this is what made it such a great learning tool.
  • EE: Wikipedia seems to hold more consistent and constant standards across the board, whereas professors can sometimes mark in an unexpected manner. However, in my experience with Wikipedia and my professors, each expect a high quality of work and challenge the contributor to create such work.

((WN)) Was there significant input from other Wikipedians not taking your course? If so, was this valuable?

  • MF: In the beginning we were mostly on our own but as we grew more comfortable with how to edit on Wikipedia and started doing research on the subject, we found ourselves supported by a great number of other Wikipedians, complete strangers willing to help us on the ambitious goal of Feature Article. This help was extremely valuable, in fact I do not think that Feature Article would have been possible without their assistance and guidance along the way. I cannot thank each and everyone of them enough for looking out for us and pointing us in the right direction when we hit road bumps along the way.
  • EE: There was definitely significant input from other users on Wikipedia, even before our group neared the “Good Article” mark. One of the greatest components of Wikipedia is the sense of community that is cultivated among all the users. When they recognize an area of need, they are quick to offer aid and support.

((WN)) As a fairly open-ended question, would you see any use for wiki technology in any of your other study areas, or even where you may hope to eventually end up in employment?

  • MF: I think Wikipedia is a great resource to find concise, compiled information and given the fast pace of society today, it will only grow in importance for people needed to quickly check the names of certain people or places when working on projects or reports in the workplace. I already use Wikipedia for quick reference checks, to clarify what something or who someone is that I am not familiar with.
  • KK: I totally see use for wiki technology. Wikipedia is often the first source I go to when I have a question. While I cannot cite Wikipedia in my school papers I have learned that if it is a good article then it can be a great database for other academic works that I can use and if not it is normally a great source to give me some basic knowledge. I think if more and more articles can reach at least Good status Wikipedia might start to be acknowledged as a reliable source.
  • EE: I have always appreciated Wikipedia as a resource to provide me with background information for many of my areas of study. While it is not acknowledge as a strictly academic source, I use it to familiarize myself with a topic before delving in to deeper research. I also find Wikipedia to be a useful resource for non-academic subjects, which is, in essence, the beauty of Wikipedia.

How did you feel when “El Señor Presidente” was made up to Featured Article (FA) status? Did you have a celebratory drink or a party?

  • MF: I was (and still am) extremely excited. Before this semester started in January, I was not even aware that anyone could edit Wikipedia, let alone create a page and build it from scratch. I honestly did not know if it would make it through FAC but we have had so much help with copy-editing and technical Wikipedia aspects of creating the article that it really would never have been possible to get a feature article if it had not been from the help of a few key other Wikipedians. Unfortunately there was no celebratory drink or party as the work of a student never seems to end but I will admit I have been rather shamelessly bragging about it to family and friends.
  • KK: It was very exciting but to be honest I had gotten used to editing Wikipedia for over 2 months that it was almost a little sad that the entire process was over. Creating a Wikipedia article is such a group process that I did feel a little sad to be leaving after working so intensely with such an amazing group of people. We have not had a celebratory drink, unfortunately it has been overshadowed by all the other work that school entails but I definitely think one is in order once school is done. I also don’t think that it has really set in.
  • EE: It was rather a surreal feeling. It’s hard to believe an article that was created in January is now deserving of “Featured Article” status less than four months later. Our whole class had a party of sorts to celebrate the end of the class, which I suppose could encompass the wrapping up of Wikipedia editing.

((WN)) Were you disappointed that more of your articles didn’t make FA status?

  • MF: I have not been involved with the other articles so I cannot say that I feel strongly one way or another. Perhaps this question would be better suited for Dr. Beasly-Murray, who has indeed been involved in every article.
I think FAs [Ed: Featured Articles] deserve more credit in the academic community because they are excellent sources of information.

((WN)) Was getting the article up to that status harder than you expected?

  • MF: To be honest, I don’t really know what I was expecting. When the project first began I took a good look at other articles on books that achieved Feature Article status and they looked really impressive so I knew from the beginning it was going to be a challenge but I was ready for that challenge and excited to give it a go. Basically, I jumped rather blindly into “editing” and the whole world of Wikipedia.
  • KK: I would not say that it was harder than I expected but perhaps more work. Luckily, we had an amazing group of Wikipedia users and editors on our side who helped make it very clear what was expected for the article. Honestly, without them guiding us I think this whole process would have been a lot more difficult if not impossible. This experience has taught me that if you are willing to put in the work and time than it really is not impossible.
  • EE: It required a commitment of considerable time and effort, but I think that’s to be expected for a highly recognized article. We were fortunate enough to be guided at every turn by experienced editors, who most likely the reason the article progressed so far, so quickly.

((WN)) Does the lack of credit on Wikipedia concern you?

  • MF: Not at all. Wikipedia is such a group effort that I think it would be extremely difficult to give credit to only a few people. I may have been one of the principle editors tirelessly working away at this article but at the same time it would never have reached FA without the overwhelming support from other collaborators who helped us out with many aspects of the article. What still impresses me is how thoroughly they were able to copyedit the article and really focus on sentences of weakness so that the finished product is rather remarkable.
  • KK: Personally, it does not concern me because I did this as an assignment for a class. Therefore, only having edited one article any lack on individual credit is not a worry for me, especially because this is such a group effort. What does concern me is the lack of credit Wikipedia is given in the academic community. Many people worked tirelessly on this article, and of course all the other FAs, to make sure it was all properly supported by academic sources yet it still has a bad reputation. I think FAs deserve more credit in the academic community because they are excellent sources of information.
  • EE: Not particularly. The goal of Wikipedia is to share and spread information, not formulate new ideas or pose arguments. Ultimately, users are merely compilers, gathering information and organizing it into a cohesive page. While some users may contribute more than others, all users are working towards a common goal, which doesn’t precipitate the need for individual recognition. Additionally, Wikipedia has in place it’s [sic] own sort of recognition and awards system that can give credit where credit’s due.

((WN)) Academia is often characterised as “publish or die”. Do you believe the educational establishment should embrace Wikipedia or wiki technology as a way of making this publishing requirement less onerous?

  • MF: Being an undergraduate, I don’t really feel as though I am faced with this “publish or die” thinking. I do think though that this has been a very valuable assignment and I see a lot of merit in doing it. It is a chance for us students who never have anything we write published to publish something on Wikipedia. I also think there are many valuable skills that one acquires from editing on Wikipedia because one does not write something once and never look at it again. Wikipedia encourages multiple revisions and re-writing or going back to the original research to further clarify points one makes. I think it also teaches valuable writing skills and helps on improve on areas of weakness in his/her writing. So, I do not know if I have answered the question per se but yes, I do think that the education establishment should embrace Wikipedia as a valuable education tool for students. Seeing that a person’s name is not directly linked to any given article and one’s proper name is not used while editing, I find that it would be extremely difficult for Wikipedia as it functions right now to diminish the onerous requirement of publishing articles.
  • EE: I think Wikipedia should be acknowledge for providing a (in some cases, somewhat comprehensive) background on certain academic subjects. And it would be nice for students of all levels of education to cite Wikipedia as an academic source for papers and projects. However, I recognize the difficulty in allowing Wikipedia to be considered a rigid academic source, since it is open to changes from academics and non-academics alike. I believe Wikipedia should continued to be used as a starting place for research and information and as a stepping stone to further resources.

((WN)) How has working on getting something to FA status changed your opinion of Wikipedia from that you held prior to the start of this project?

  • MF: As I said before, I did not even know a person could edit Wikipedia before the start of the project, so, my views of Wikipedia have changed drastically. After working on this page for so long, and achieving FA status, I now have so much respect for all of the editors working to improve the information out there. Wikipedia is a great source and I have no doubt that it will only continue to get better. Because I have been told not to cite Wikipedia information in academic writing, before the project began I had the idea that Wikipedia is rather untrustworthy. At the same time, one of my professors this year included in our course readings some Wikipedia articles such as “The Big Bang Theory” and I was shocked. I think the lesson I have learned from this is that Wikipedia can be an extremely valuable research tool and, at least with the Good and Featured Articles, they can provide the reader with a rather extensive list of academic work to references reliably. In the end, I can’t say enough how much I respect all those working on Wikipedia articles day after day, compiling resources and information and really doing something remarkable. Whether professors like it or not, Wikipedia is a widely used tool by students to quickly check facts about a person, place, event, or work and I think with the help of dedicated editors, it will only continue to improve and impress.
  • EE: It showed me the draw of using Wikipedia not only to access information, but to share it as well. It also showed me how much “behind the scenes” effort goes into creating, maintaining and editing pages. Wikipedia had always seemed like a resource dominated by experts or at least people fanatic about a certain subject. However, working on an article has shown me that truly anyone can contribute his or her bit to Wikipedia and make a significant impact.

I’d like to thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to help on this Wikinews article. Who knows? It too could end up featured.

Chili Finger Incident

Posted by: in Uncategorized
9
Nov
 Correction — October 10, 2019 The day of the alleged incident, March 22, 2005, was a Tuesday, not a Thursday. 

Friday, May 6, 2005

On Thursday the 22nd of March, 2005, Anna Ayala, a woman from Las Vegas, claimed to have found a human finger in her bowl of chili at a Wendy’s restaurant located at 1405 Monterey Highway, just south of downtown San Jose, California, owned by Fresno-based Jern Management.. The finger, which probably belonged to a woman as it had a long and manicured fingernail, did not belong to any of the restaurant employees. The food supplies were seized by officials to be traced back to its manufacturers, while the restaurant was permitted to open again later with chili prepared from fresh ingredients.

Contents

  • 1 Aftermath
  • 2 Investigation centers on Ayala
  • 3 Twists and turns
  • 4 Ayala arrested
  • 5 Ayala transferred to San Jose
  • 6 Finger’s owner identified
  • 7 Recently Edited headlines

Wikinews reporter David Vasquez drove his car up to the drive-thru menu and found that chili was still on the menu, at a price of US$1.19 for a small serving. He also witnessed workers unloading supplies from a semi-trailer truck in the restaurant’s parking lot, and carting them into the back door of the establishment.

Initially, county health officials said Ayala was fine and the finger had been cooked, which would have killed any bacteriae in the finger. However, on March 27, officials admitted they were not so sure anymore. Tests were done on the finger to determine this. Dr. Martin Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s health officer, said that even if the finger was still raw when Ayala bit into it, the risk was low that she would have become infected with anything. However, he advised that Ayala should undergo a series of precautionary follow-up tests.

Sales at Wendy’s went down because of the incident. Wendy’s International, Inc. (WEN) closed at US$39.43 on Thursday the 22nd, and as the stock exchange was closed for the Good Friday holiday, traders did not weigh in the stock until the next Monday.

By Tuesday the 5th of April, officials had still not succeeded in tracking down the owner of the finger. The fingerprint on the detached digit has been run through an FBI database as well as the local criminal database in Santa Clara County, but no matches were found. According to Rich Reneau, who was leading the investigation at the time, the fingerprint was marginal, and the likelihood of finding a match was slim.

Wendy’s stock did not go down significantly and was trading at US$39.37 that morning.

The next day, on Wednesday the 6th, Las Vegas police searched the home of Anna Ayala. About a dozen officers conducted the search at Ayala’s home at Maryland Parkway and Serene Street at about 4 p.m. local time (23:00 UTC), according to witnesses at the scene. Ayala and other residents were handcuffed and brought out of the house. Ayala said that her teenage daughter, Genesis Reyes, had torn shoulder ligaments as a result of the search. The Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a photo of Reyes wearing a sling in their Friday edition. In San Jose, police spokeswoman Gina Tepoorten confirmed to reporters that investigators had served the warrant in cooperation with Las Vegas police on Wednesday, but she refused to reveal specific details about the warrant. By that time, Wendy’s was offering a US$50,000 reward for information leading to the source of the finger.

Research by the Associated Press uncovered Ayala’s history of lawsuits. Ayala successfully won her suit for medical expenses against the national El Pollo Loco chicken-chain, a previous employer, after her daughter Genesis contracted salmonella poisoning, allegedly from eating at the restaurant. However, Ayala lost another suit against General Motors in 2000 claiming that a wheel fell off her car. She also started a sexual harassment suit against her former boss in 1998. A total of 13 lawsuits in California and Nevada had been filed. Ayala replied the focus should be on Wendy’s, and not her record of law suits. Nick Muyo, a spokesman for the San Jose Police department, said not to expect new information in the case for at least a week.

On Wednesday the 13th there was a potential new lead in the investigation. A spotted leopard had torn off part of a finger from an owner of exotic animals, Sandy Allman, in Pahrump, Nevada. The portion of Allman’s torn off finger was approximately the same size – 1 1/2-inches long. Pahrump is approximately 45 miles away from Las Vegas. Carol Asvestas, who owns an exotic animal sanctuary, told the San Jose Mercury News she witnessed the leopard tear off the finger. She reported the incident to a hotline run by Wendy’s offering the US$50,000 reward. Cindy Carroccio told the San Jose Mercury News that the finger was not reattached, and that the clinic “gave it back to her (Allman) in a little bag of ice.” On the same day the lead was announced, Ayala decided to drop her lawsuit against Wendy’s, due to emotional stress.

However, when Allman’s prints were sent to San Jose police, they didn’t match. Two days later, on Friday the 15th, Wendy’s doubled the reward to US$100,000. The company revealed that employees had passed polygraph tests. Wendy’s continues to claim that there is no evidence that the finger ever entered their supply chain, pointing to a lack of any accidents among the workers at their suppliers. Wendy’s tip line had received reports from across the United States, from “folks who either have lost a finger, or know somebody who lost a finger,” San Jose police Sgt. Nick Muyo told the Associated Press.

On Thursday the 21st of April, Anna Ayala was arrested at or near her home in Las Vegas on Thursday evening, in connection with the case, shortly after Wendy’s finished its own internal investigation. According to court documents, she has been charged with one count of attempted grand larceny related to the chili case, and one count of grand larceny in an unrelated real estate deal, and is being held without bail in Clark County, Nevada, pending extradition. A press conference by the San Jose Police and Wendy’s was held on Friday, April 22, at 13:00 PDT. The charge related to the case states the finger could not have been prepared at Wendy’s, where the chili is heated to 170 degrees for 3 hours. There is also an inconsistency in Ayala’s account of finding the finger and claiming it caused her to vomit compared with police saying there was no vomit at the scene. The incident has caused Wendy’s 2.5 million dollars worth of damages, which Ayala could be criminally responsible for. Until recently, the San Jose police had not accused Ayala of planting the finger herself.

The unrelated charge stems from an incident, also in San Jose, when Ayala allegedly received an $11,000 down payment on a mobile home she did not own.

Ayala was incarcerated at the Clark County Detention Center, awaiting a fugitive review hearing on Tuesday, April 26, 2005, at 7:30 a.m. local time. She was processed and given inmate ID 01964047. Her case number was 05F07229X. Ayala waived extradition at the hearing, and her attorney said they were ready to come to San Jose to defend against the charges.

On Friday, May 6, 2005, Ayala was transported to San Jose, California. Ayala was booked into the main Santa Clara County jail, and is awaiting arraignment. Ayala will likely be arraigned on Monday or Tuesday at the Santa Clara County Superior Court, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney David Boyd.

On September 9, 2005, Ayala plead guilty to conspiring to file a false claim and attempted grand theft, and will be sentenced on November 2, 2005. She faces up to ten years in prison, and her husband faces up to 13 years behind bars.

Until the middle of May, the owner of the finger still had not been found.

But on May 13, 2005, police announced that they had identified the finger tip as belonging to an associate of Ayala’s husband [1]. The associate had lost his finger tip in an industrial accident at an asphalt company[2] in December, 2004. Police had received the information from an undisclosed caller to Wendy’s hot-line.

Photos related to this incident:

Media round-up: April Fools’ Day 2008

Posted by: in Uncategorized
9
Nov

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Many media outlets traditionally deliberately spread hoaxes on April Fools’ Day, including notable quality sources such as National Geographic and Science.

The popular British tabloid The Sun wrote that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to undergo stretch surgery to make him taller than his wife, Italian artist and model Carla Bruni. The report claimed the 5 foot 5 inch leader would be made 5 inches taller in one year using a method by Israeli professor Ura Schmuck. The Sun noted that during his visit to Britain last week, Sarkozy had high-heel shoes while his wife wore a pair of flat pumps.

The Guardian on the other hand ran an article that suggested that Carla would head an initiative by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bring more glamour, good taste and sophistication to the U.K. general population. This would involve collaboration with Marks & Spencer for high-street fashion and Jamie Oliver for meals and wine.

BBC News had real-looking footage of flying penguins fronted by documentary host Terry Jones, which were actually an advertisement for its new iPlayer.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received a successful coronary artery bypass surgery and was recuperating well in the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Sunday.

Dr. Manmohan Singh is the 17th and current Prime Minister of the Republic of India. He also serves as the Union Minister for Finance, succeeding P. Chidambaram.

“The 76-year-old Prime Minister is doing fine now. He is conscious, stable, comfortable and is making rapid progress. He also met his family and congratulated all doctors. [His] ventilator has been taken off and he is breathing on his own. This is an important step,” said Dr. Ramakant Panda, one of the surgeons, after the 11-hour procedure on Saturday.

According to critical care specialist Dr. Vijay D’Silva, who has been entrusted with his post-operative care, Singh has been given a liquid diet since morning including a cup of tea, and was speaking to doctors after the procedure. “The way you [doctors] are taking care of me, you should also take care of other people”, Dr. D’Silva, who received his basic medical training in Nagpur and headed the ICU at Mumbai’s Jaslok and Lilavati Hospitals before he helped set up the ICU at the ultra-modern Asian Heart Institute, quoted Singh as saying.

“We started the operation at 7:45 am. The second operation always takes longer and makes it difficult to reach the heart. We did a total of five by-passes to clear multiple blockages in his arteries. Surgery was the long term answer since there were many blockages. We will take the PM out of the breathing machine in the next 2-3 hours and the PM should stay for three days in the ICU and then 4-5 days more in the hospital,” Drs. Panda and D’Silva explained.

Singh’s personal physician and AIIMS cardiac surgeon, Dr. K. S. Reddy, has predicted the PM will be allowed to attend to some official work in two weeks, to most of the duties in four weeks and will be able to resume office in six weeks. “PM was sent to the Operation Theatre at 6:40 am, surgery was done at 8:45 am and was concluded at 7:30 pm. PM was sent back to the ICU at 8:55 pm,” said Dr. Reddy.

“The team has brought about 20 boxes of special equipment with it. Earlier, Dr. K. S. Reddy had discussions with Dr. Panda in connection with the line of treatment to be followed,” the team of 11 doctors said.

The team of surgeons made a 6 to 7 inch incision along the scar that marked the PM’s 1990 bypass operation, and he was given five grafts. “The new grafts, all 3 mm long, will last the PM the rest of his life,” said Dr. Pradyot Kumar Rath from the Asian Heart Institute. “If the PM could have been so active with all the blockages, he can be even more active now,” Dr Panda said.

Singh underwent a coronary angiography at the AIIMS hospital on Tuesday and Wednesday and was discharged on Thursday. The tests results revealed multiple arterial blockages and Singh returned to hospital on Friday for pre-surgery tests.

External Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, age 73, has been given the charge of Finance Ministry after he held meetings with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and then Prime Minister Singh. Mukherjee said he would meet the Prime Minister because he was going for treatment and when he was abroad, Singh was in hospital. “These are quite natural things. You should not be unnecessarily worried over and coming here in large numbers,” he said.

Mukherjee has also taken charge over some prime ministerial responsibilities, while Singh recovers, officials and media reports said. But no acting prime minister has been named while Singh is recuperating. Mukherjee will also preside over Cabinet meetings and will further handle coal, environment and forests, including information and broadcasting and finance portfolios.

Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, a native of West Bengal, India, is the Minister for External Affairs of India in the Manmohan Singh-led Government of India. A prominent leader of the Indian National Congress in the 14th Lok Sabha, he is known to be a competent party apparatchik, “a prominent Gandhi family loyalist who did not win a popular election until 2004”.

Singh, a diabetic, underwent a bypass surgery in Britain in 1990 and had an angioplasty in 2004 in Delhi in which stents were introduced in his arteries. He had earlier been operated for a benign enlarged prostate in 2007, and for nerve compression in both wrists in 2006 and cataract removal procedure last year, officials said.

The Congress Party, which leads the coalition Government, has said that he will remain Prime Minister if Congress and its allies win again. But Congress is reportedly planning to replace him, possibly within two years, with Rahul Gandhi, the 38-year-old son of Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born Congress leader. “Days are not far off for Rahul Gandhi to become Indian Prime Minister,” Mr Mukherjee said earlier this month.

Rahul is an Indian politician and member of the Parliament of India, representing the Amethi constituency. He is a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, the most prominent political family in India. He is the son of current Italian-born Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991. Gandhi was 14 years old when his grandmother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her security guards. His great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first Prime Minister of India, and his great-great-grandfather Motilal Nehru was a distinguished leader of the Indian independence movement.

Research articles predict next earthquake

Posted by: in Uncategorized
30
Oct

Friday, November 11, 2005

Two research articles published this week illustrate continuing efforts to predict earthquakes. The first article builds upon the idea that analysis of the first seismic waves from an earthquake can provide a way to generate a several second warning that an earthquake will hit. However, for such warnings to be useful, the early seismic waves should also allow prediction of the strength of the earthquake. An article published in this week’s edition of Nature concludes that scientists might be able to distinguish small earthquakes from big ones by using the very first second of information contained in seismic waves.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, say the measurements of seismic waves soon after a trembler can signal whether it will be a minor or monster trembler. “Basically, a high-pitched squeal means that you’ll get a smaller quake. A low-groan means something bigger,” says the University of California’s Richard Allen.

In the study, Allen and colleagues analyzed records of 71 major Pacific Rim quakes in the past decades including 24 events that were greater than a magnitude 6. Using a mathematical model, they were able to estimate a quake’s size to within one magnitude unit from as little as four seconds of data of the frequency of the energy in the primary wave. These low-energy waves typically cause a jolt, signaling the occurrence of a quake.

According to a traditional theory, called the cascade model, we cannot know anything about an earthquake’s ultimate magnitude until it is finished. This is because spread along a fault line depends on the stress in each individual part of the fault. Given that this information is not available to the initial rupture point, it should be impossible to tell from that first slip how far it will go or how long it will last.

The study by Berkeley’s Allen and Erik L. Olson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison builds upon earlier work by Yutaka Nakamura in Japan. Nakamura’s research indicated that the frequency of the P wave can allow prediction of which earthquakes will have a magnitude greater than 6 and distinguish them from small tremors that do not require warnings. Some fire stations use P wave detectors to automatically open doors in an effort to make sure that emergency vehicles are not trapped inside by doors that can be jammed shut by earthquake damage.

The goal of this research is to make the best possible use of the information from the earliest seismic waves emitted by an earthquake as part of an alert system to give seconds to tens of seconds of advance notice of an impending quake — enough time for schoolchildren to take cover, power generators to trip off and valves to shut on pipelines. A major limitation of this work is that the greatest earthquake damage is near the epicenter where there is little time difference between the early P waves and the strongest damaging earthquake waves.

The second research paper, published this week in the scientific magazine Physical Review Letters, builds upon earlier research into patterns of earthquake activity at specific faults. The new research by scientists from Israel and Germany led by Prof. Shlomo Havlin, of Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Physics in Israel, concerns prediction of the timing between earthquakes.

Prof. Havlin’s research, in collaboration with Prof. Armin Bunde, of the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, and Bar-Ilan University graduate student Valerie Livina, involved a large number of past earthquakes at many different faults. The data used in this study were for earthquakes ranging from magnitude 2 to magnitude 5.5 on the Richter Scale. Data were from several areas of the world including California, Japan, and New Zealand. The new results are consistent with previous studies which have indicated that some faults have more frequent small earthquakes while other faults have less frequent and larger earthquakes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Director of the National Museum of Australia, Andrew Sayers, has resigned his position effective July 1 in a move that came as a surprise to his colleagues. Sayers cited distance issues as his wife is currently working full time in Melbourne.

Sayers is quoted in a statement as saying, “I leave the museum confident that the reputation of the Museum as the home of our national treasures is one of which we can all be proud. […] Professionally, I have enjoyed making a contribution to the Museum, yet, as many couples have discovered a ‘commuter relationship’ is not ideal.”

Sayers was contracted for five years, and was only into his third year in the post. Prior to his position at the National Museum, he spent ten years in the same role at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. He also spent thirteen years working as as a curator and assistant director at the National Gallery of Australia. He began his museum career at Art Gallery of New South Wales and Newcastle Region Art Gallery. Following his resignation, Sayers will retire to live in Melbourne with his wife.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

American heavy metal performer Ozzy Osbourne, who became famous as the lead vocalist for Black Sabbath and later as a solo act, has raised more than US$800,000 for The Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program, founded by his spouse Sharon Osbourne at the Cedars Sinai Hospital, by auctioning off personal items.

A number of the items that he auctioned off over the two day period have been seen on his reality TV show The Osbournes, which featured home life with Sharon, Ozzy and their two children. Amongst some of the higher-priced items were a carved walnut Victorian-style custom built pool table which raised $11,250, a painting from Edourad Drouot which fetched $10,500, a pair of Ozzy’s famous round glasses which raised $5,250 and a dog bed given to Sharon by Elton John which sold for $2,375.

Some more famous items were also amongst the 500 lots offered. Ozzy’s black satin coat, complete with bat-wing cape, raised $3,300 and a hand-painted floral cup used regularly on The Osbournes made $1,625. A bronze plaque of a demon’s head that was regularly seen in its position adorning the front door of their house had been expected to go for $800 to $1,200instead raised $8,750. A wire model of the Eiffel Tower from on the kitchen table sold for $10,000, while skull-covered trainers Ozzy had worn reached $2,625. Bidders came from as far away as Germany to buy what they could from his mansion in Beverly Hills, California.

However, three cars included in the auction failed to attract bidders and did not sell. They were a 2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, estimated at $160,000 to $180,000, a 2005 Cadillac CTS-V sedan estimated at $30,000 to $40,000 and a 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Club Coupe previously owned by author Danielle Steel estimated at $40,000 to $50,000. Sharon had earlier said of the cars “We’re not great car people. They really don’t do a lot for us.

Darren Julien, president of Julien’s Auctions, which organised the two-day sale, said “It did very well. It raised some good money for a very worthy cause.”

“For a celebrity garage sale, it was pretty spectacular.,” he went on. He also commented on the fact that there was fierce competition for the many artworks included. “We had Ozzy fans bidding against these sophisticated fine art buyers, which you don’t see every day. For the most part the metalheads were outbidding the art crowd.”

Hurricane Emily is second strike for Jamaica

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10
Oct

Monday, July 18, 2005

The outer bands of the Category 4 storm Hurricane Emily started to affect Jamaica shortly before 8:00am Saturday. Increasing winds and rain swept the island nation throughout the afternoon as the eye of the storm passed 100 miles off the southern coast. Utility poles were downed and storm debris closed the seaside highway to the international airport. Other roads were reported closed as well.

While islanders did not get through the two storms unscathed, and 4 people were left dead, the Land and Environment Minister Dean Peart told reporters, “Mercifully, Jamaica was spared the worst”.

Buses were sent by officials to southern coastal areas to evacuate residents from the flood prone region, but most refused to leave and preferred to ride it out beside 8 foot waves that pounded areas of the coast line. Wind gusts of 155 mph doubled over palm trees in the capital city of Kingston.

At a southern penninsula seaside fishing villiage, Port Royal residents boarded up and prepared for the worst again, as surfers gathered nearby to take on the challenge of 15 to 18 foot waves. “If I’m going to die, it’s going to be right here,” said a local resident Gordon Murphy, 39, with his 2-year-old son. “What’s next?” he joked, “[Hurricane] Franklin?”

Many shops and businesses stayed open as long as they could, classifying it as another inconvenience despite its near Category 5 strength. Instead of the possible disaster that many prepared for, by late afternoon, Emily had all but disappeared. Light scattered showers in some areas of the island were the only remnant, as residents went about their lives after the second hurricane scare in as many weeks.

Supplies that many stocked for Dennis and Emily may yet be put to use. Many wonder what storms are yet to come. Authorities say this will be one of the most active hurricane seasons in history. Emily was the strongest and earliest to form this year since records, dating back to 1860, have been kept.

Earlier, Emily stuck Grenada on Thursday with nearly a direct hit. A national disaster was called the day after its winds ravaged hundreds of homes and killed at least one man.