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Use your brain to write, Velcro parents, beware celebrities

Use your brain to write

"New technology could allow people to dictate letters and search the Internet simply by thinking, according to researchers at Intel who are behind the project. Unlike current brain-controlled computers, which require users to imagine making physical movements to control a cursor on a screen, the new technology will be capable of directly interpreting words as they are thought," Richard Gray writes for The Sunday Telegraph. "Intel's scientists are creating detailed maps of the activity in the brain for individual words which can then be matched against the brain activity of someone using the computer, allowing the machine to determine the word they are thinking. Preliminary tests of the system have shown that the computer can work out words by looking at similar brain patterns and looking for key differences that suggest what the word might be."

Velcro parents

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"In order to separate doting parents from their freshman sons, Morehouse College in Atlanta has instituted a formal 'Parting Ceremony,' " Trip Gabriel writes for The New York Times. "It began on a recent evening, with speeches in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. Then the incoming freshmen marched through the gates of the campus - which swing shut, literally leaving the parents outside. … Formal 'hit the road' departure ceremonies are unusual but growing in popularity, said Joyce Holl, head of the National Orientation Directors Association. A more common approach is for colleges to introduce blunt language into drop-off schedules specifying the hour for last hugs. As of 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, for example, the parents of Princeton freshmen learn from the move-in schedule, 'subsequent orientation events are intended for students only.' "

Smiles, groans

Comedy critics selected the best jokes at this year's Edinburgh Fringe festival, BBC News reports, including:

- (Tim Vine) "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again."

- (Emo Philips) "I picked up a hitchhiker. You've got to when you hit them."

- (Gary Delaney) "As a kid I was made to walk the plank. We couldn't afford a dog."

- (Gary Delaney again) "Dave drowned. So at the funeral we got him a wreath in the shape of a lifebelt. Well, it's what he would have wanted."

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The worst jokes included:

- (Sara Pascoe) "Why did the chicken commit suicide? To get to the other side."

- (Bec Hill) "Some of my best friends are vegan. They were going to come today but they didn't have the energy to climb up the stairs."

Beware celebrities

"Searching for Cameron Diaz online carries a one-in-10 chance of landing on a website festering with malicious software that can infect your computer, according to security tech company McAfee. Diaz topped this year's list of McAfee's Most Dangerous Celebrities," The Christian Science Monitor reports. "Crafty cyber criminals infuse some of the Internet's most popular searches such as movie stars, musicians, athletes and politicians with malicious software, or 'malware.' These unsavoury programs include spyware, adware, computer viruses, e-mail spam and phishing scams."

Beware hotel clerks

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"Hotel employees are people, too - people under a lot of pressure," Christopher Elliott writes for "… The lodging industry is cutting staff, freezing salaries and eliminating perks for its workers. Result: Hotel employees are grumpier than ever. It doesn't take much to set them off, either." Among the ways they can exact revenge:

- "Ever checked into a hotel, only to find your room wasn't ready? Well, maybe it was ready, but the front-desk employee didn't like your attitude."

- "Hotels routinely place an authorization 'hold' on your credit card that equals the full cost of the room nights, tax and an estimate of incidentals. 'If the guest were particularly annoying, the clerk could place a huge hold on the card, rendering it unusable for any other purchases,' says David Chen, a hotel executive in Hawaii."

- "Assign you the least desirable room. That's probably the easiest way to get back at a guest for being rude or just looking like they don't belong."

- "Make you pay - literally. … 'It is not uncommon for rude guests to have to pay for services that others might not have to,' says [Cyrus]Webb, [an]ex-hotel employee. 'This includes long-distance calls, the breakfast bar, drinks and food.' "

Safe smoking limit

"Smoking a pack (or two) of cigarettes each day is obviously not good for your lungs," the Los Angeles Times says. "But for those who enjoy an occasional smoke, an obvious question is, 'How many cigarettes can I smoke before I start to do some damage?' The sobering answer: Zero. That's the conclusion of a new study from researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University in New York." The study is published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Thought du jour

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city."

- George Burns

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