In 1988, he was convicted of killing his stepsons—based on arson science we now know is bunk. A quarter of a century later, Texas granted him a new trial. While the state has not budged in its use of the death penalty—just last year topping 500 executions since the state brought back capital punishment in 1982—it has reinvented itself as a leader in arson science and investigation. A new fire marshal, Chris Connealy, revamped the state’s training and investigative standards. He also set up a panel comprised of some of the top fire scientists in the country to reconsider old cases that had been improperly handled by the original investigators. Graf’s case was one of the first up for review, and it was determined that the original investigators had made critical mistakes.
The Rocky Fire, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, has defied projections and containment for more than a week. Almost 1/3 of the firefighters dispatched to California's wildfires are working on the Rocky Fire, which is over 100 square miles and only 40% contained. Last weekend, aided by the hot, dry weather, the fire doubled in size in five hours. This fire season has been one of the worst in California, particularly because of the drought and years of budget crises. It is so big that the smoke can even be seen in space. "'It has gone in every direction with intensity,' including downhill said Scott Upton, a unit chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and an expert on fire behavior. 'It’s like an amoeba.'" [more inside]
While California's water shortage continues, Cascadia has been suffering its own drought conditions, to the extent that expanding wildfires have lent the skies of Vancouver, B.C. a Mars-like orange hue.
Building a stove is simple. Building a good stove is hard. Building a good, cheap stove can drive an engineer crazy
For their senior project, George Mason University students Seth Robertson and Viet Tran decided to ignore all of their professors and classmates who told them their idea was terrible. They proceeded to invent a fire extinguisher that uses sound waves instead of chemicals to put out fires. The project was partially inspired by the fact that traditional fire extinguishers do not work in space. [more inside]
September 8, 1934, the SS Morro Castle suffered a catastrophic fire, killing 135 people. Was a crewmember responsible?
This happened where I work and live, it's a devastating read about ignorance, healing and forgiveness Well balanced NYT article about Sasha Fleischman, an agender teen who fell asleep on a city bus and was set on fire by a 16 year old named Richard Thomas.
After nearly a decade, it was time. The old fire was still burning, sure, but technological advances meant the flame could be brighter, the sparks a little sparklier. And so in the driving rain, exactly seven weeks before Christmas, a crew of four (plus one mysterious cast member) descended on a rustic homestead on Vancouver’s North Shore, to build – and record – a fire.
“We all said, ‘Can we be the hand that just pokes the fire?’”
The answer was no. [more inside]
“We all said, ‘Can we be the hand that just pokes the fire?’”
The answer was no. [more inside]
About half of the people fighting wildland fires on the ground for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) are incarcerated: over 4,400 prisoners, housed at 42 inmate fire camps, including three for women. Together, says Capt. Jorge Santana, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) liaison who supervises the camps, they save the state over $1 billion a year. This year, California has had over 5,300 wildfires, which is about 700 more than had occurred by this time in 2013, and a thousand more than the five-year average. Now, as the West is coming to the end of one of the driest, hottest years in recorded history, the work of inmate firefighters has become essential to California’s financial and environmental health. (SLBuzzfeedNews)
White noise a little too stuffy? Nature sounds a little too outdoorsy? Wish Starbucks had a cricket infestation? Mix it up with a custom ambient noise generator!
Abdel Kader Haidara awarded Germany's 2014 Africa Prize for rescuing Timbuktu manuscripts. Under his direction centuries' worth of texts were smuggled out when the city was taken by book-burning religious conservatives in 2012. The collection is currently in Mali's capital Bamako where it is being preserved and digitized. More text, slideshow, video, previously previously previously [more inside]
“San Francisco's Fire Department is one of the few left in the United States that still uses wooden ladders. Each is made by hand at a dedicated workshop. Some have been in rotation for nearly a century.” [more inside]
The county vibrated with fire engines groaning over gravel driveways. The county vibrated with suspicion. The county went about its business. The county burned down. People assumed that the culprit must be someone who lived among them, and people would be right. It would be a love story. [more inside]
Chinese New Year's eve and its the Year of the Wood Horse according to the annual rotation of 12 animals and 5 elements followed by Chinese geomancers. Horse babies are always welcome, especially boys. Less known however is the stigma attached to the girl child born in the year of the Fire Horse. [more inside]
Yule Log. Yule Log on TV. Yule Log '83. Yule Log on YouTube. Yule Log with Music. Yule Log on Netflix. Yule Logs for Designers. Yule Log with Bacon. Previously, previouslier, previousliest.
Fire Point is a free downloadable puzzle-platformer (Windows only, sorry) with retro graphics and a cheerful chiptune soundtrack. Use your fire hose and ladder, along with portable fire extinguishers, to fight fires and rescue people from the blazing infernos! A trailer is available here.
Last week, high school student Sasha Fleischman was set on fire while riding a city bus, most probably related to their gender presentation. Sasha identifies as agender and was wearing a skirt on the bus. A couple of lights in this appalling and sobering story are the solidarity rally held by Sasha's classmates, and the moving and compassionate letter from Sasha's father.
"Last week, Arcade Fire swooped in and took a Canadian-sized shit all over this year’s CMJ. They totally ruined it."
Matt Levine writes in the Wall Street Journal: Morgan Stanley Now Obeying Rules, Reducing Risks, Eating Cupcakes
So while of course it's possible that this is just next-level perception manipulation and I've fallen for it -- that Morgan Stanley has found a novel way to take on immense amounts of complex risk and hide it behind an army of retail brokers and a layer of cream-cheese frosting -- I think that this story is what it appears to be. Morgan Stanley seems to be de-risking by cutting back on risky activities, and responding to new regulations by obeying them.On the New Wall Street, Boring Is Better [more inside]
When we were little, Jaime and I were so much alike that even our lord father could not tell us apart. Sometimes as a lark we would dress in each other’s clothes and spend a whole day each as the other. Yet even so, when Jaime was given his first sword, there was none for me. “What do I get?” I remember asking. We were so much alike, I could never understand why they treated us so differently. Jaime learned to fight with sword and lance and mace, while I was taught to smile and sing and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock, while I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly. Jaime’s lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood.Daniel Mendelsohn in the New York Review of Books on the Song of Ice and Fire as feminist epic. Previously.
How often does a great story dominate the headlines, only to be dropped from the news cycle? How often do journalists tell us of a looming danger or important discovery – only to move quickly to the next new thing? What really happened? How did these events change us? And what are the lingering consequences that may affect our society to this day? These are the questions we are answering at Retro Report, an innovative documentary news organization launched in 2013 as a timely online counterweight to today’s 24/7 news cycle. Combining documentary techniques with shoe-leather reporting, we peel back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media in ~10 minute segments. [more inside]
Twenty-five years ago, in the pre-dawn of August 25, 1988, a fire started in downtown Lisbon's Carmo Street and quickly spread to Garrett Street and others, destroying a total of 18 buildings of the Chiado. Two people were killed, and 73 were injured (60 of them firemen). Between 200 and 300 people lost their homes. Several of the historical shops were lost. In terms of the extent of the city affected and number of destroyed buildings, the Chiado fire is considered the worst disaster to strike the city since the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. A rebuilding project directed by Portuguese architect Siza Vieira has, to a great extent, returned the area to its former glory. The exterior look of the buildings were restored, while the interiors have been completely renovated. [more inside]
At dawn today, the arrivals unit of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport caught fire (pictures!), leading to the total indefinite shutdown of the largest air traffic hub in east Africa. No one knows the cause of the fire, which comes days after a stupidly corrupt businessman's duty-free shops were seized by the government.
The King of Random shows us how to make sparklers, shaken butter (that you can turn into a candle), instant ice (tutorial), and melting metal with microwave parts. [more inside]
On Friday June 28, 2013 a wildfire broke out in Yarnell, Arizona. Of several hundred firefighters sent to the scene, 20 were from the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew out of nearby Prescott. A thunderstorm on Sunday produced lightning and high winds, causing the wildfire to explode from 200 to 2,000 acres in the matter of hours. By Sunday night, 19 of the Granite Mountain hotshots had died, trapped in the fire by rapidly shifting winds. [more inside]
" The House In The Middle" A 1954 Civil Defense film shows how you can protect your home against atomic firestorms via good housekeeping (13 min, YouTube)
Forest fires due to slash and burn farming in Sumatra, Indonesia have led to unprecedented air pollution levels in Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore particularly, Facebook and Twitter are aflame as well. For a country used to very clean air, the sudden pollution has led to public outcry, with air purifiers and face masks being snatched off the shelves. So far, no stop-work-order has been issued, and there are complaints that the government is not tackling the situation rapidly enough. Indonesia is working to put out the fires and is considering cloud seeding; their response to pressure from Singapore to do more was that Singaporeans should stop behaving like children and not disturb their domestic affairs. While image macros about the 2013 haze continue to fill up Facebook feeds, some people are taking the whole affair in a more irreverent way. [more inside]
On January 4th, 2013, in the midst of a national heat wave, Tasmania experienced some of the most extreme weather on record, with Hobart recording a record temperature of 41.8°C in the afternoon. Fires blazed around the state, covering almost 50,000 acres, claiming hundreds of properties, and destroying the town of Dunalley. The Tasman peninsula was cut off by the fires, necessitating a sea rescue of over 2,000 people. An image of a family clinging to a jetty in the water to escape from the fire captured the attention of the world. With the launch of their Australian edition, The Guardian have produced a frightening and fascinating multimedia article exploring the human side of the inferno.
A massive fireball and explosion has happened at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas (just north of Waco). Hundreds of injuries are being reported. [more inside]
Backyard Solar Death Ray. Melt pennies in seconds with a fresnel lens repurposed from an old large screen television. Grant Thompson has other fun and liability lawyer unapproved projects such as melting metal, making solid rocket fuel and making a compressed air rocket launcher. (via homunculus and his post on Monkeyfilter)
Where Banks really Make Money On IPOs
All of these numbers are hypothetical, of course, but the bigger point is simple: if Goldman manages to get kickbacks, in terms of extra commissions, of more than 7% of its clients’ profits, then it has a financial incentive to underprice the IPO. And Goldman’s clients were desperate to give it kickbacks: they didn’t just route their standard trading through Goldman, since that wouldn’t generate enough commissions. Instead, they bought and sold stocks on the same day, at the same price. Capstar Holding, for instance, bought 57,000 shares in Seagram Ltd at $50.13 per share on June 21, 1999 — and then sold them, on the same day, at the same price. Capstar made nothing on the trade, but Goldman made a commission of $5,700. Capstar’s Christopher Rule says that in May 1999, fully 70% of all of his trading activity “was done solely for the purpose of generating commissions”, so that he could continue to keep on getting IPO allocations.Rigging The IPO Game [more inside]
“Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” This best selling book by Lars Mytting highlights a passion for firewood and inspired a TV program in Norway about cutting, stacking and burning firewood. The TV program, on the topic of firewood, consisted mostly of people in parkas chatting and chopping in the woods and then eight hours of a fire burning in a fireplace. Yet no sooner had it begun, on prime time on Friday night, than the angry responses came pouring in. “We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said [Mr.] Mytting .... “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down."
Saving the ancient manuscripts of Mali from Islamic extremists.
It's cold in Chicago right now. How cold? Water will freeze to the sides of a burning building.
Professor Martyn Poliakoff of Periodic Table Videos fame learns something about burning balloons full of hydrogen via high speed camera footage.
A boat blazes on a remote summer-scorched lake shoreline. Onlookers are helpless to save the boat or prevent the imminent explosion of full gas tanks starting a grass fire. Or not. (SLYT - *Warning Bad Kiwi Language*)