Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Money on Gilligan's Island

In the tradition of Larry Niven's Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex comes another essay from someone with way too much time on their hands. Freelance writer B.K. Marcus has an article on the Ludwig von Mises Institute site about the economic theory of money as used on Gilligan's Island. More than you ever wanted to know about fiat paper, Iraqi Dinars, and trading coconuts. At least, it was more than I ever aspired to know on the subject.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Truth is Gorier Than Fiction

In an extremely bizarre incident, 21 year old John Kemper Hutcherson of Atlanta ran his pickup off the road and sideswiped a telephone pole support wire, decapitating his best friend, Francis Daniel Brohm, who was hanging out the passenger window. The driver then drove then drove 12 miles to his suburban home with the headless corpse, parked in the driveway, and went to bed in his bloody clothes. The corpse was left sitting in the truck.

No one knows why the friend had stuck his head out of the window, but they had left a bar after the friend felt sick, so that might explain it. The body was found the following morning by a neighbor who was out for a walk with his baby daughter. Police later found the head at the accident site.

The bar they had been in claims that they were never served any drinks, and that the pair were sober when they left. Right! Needless to say the driver was charged with DUI and vehicular homicide. Oh, they also charged him with leaving the scene of an accident. Duh!

Lasers 1, Mortars 0

Most civilians aren't aware that in a conventional war, only ~10% of battlefield casualties come from bullets but over 50% come from shrapnel. One of the most devastating and ubiquitous sources of this is the mortar. In tests last week at the White Sands Missile Range, the Army demonstrated using a laser weapon to blast individual mortar rounds and salvos of mortar shells. That's the first time a "directed energy" weapon has been used for this purpose. Previously, most of the demonstrations had focused on knocking down missiles.

Move Over Dick Tracy

Vodaphone gets it! Unfortunately, they use a really annoying flash site to display it. Anyway, they are showing what I really think will be the phone of the future. The near future! Flexible paper thin video screens are real. Decent Lithium batteries are real. Enough bandwidth for cellular video is real (if not widely deployed). Vodaphone is showing off a "visual bracelet" with a flexible screen and a "context aware agent" which manages calls based on heuristics and current circumstances. The bracelet will also record environmental conditions, including the wearer's status. They also show a digital paper implementation. Screen captures via we-make-money-not-art.com.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Why I'm Dumping Eudora After Ten Years

For nearly ten years I've been using Eudora as my email program. I'm by nature loyal to products, until something significantly better comes along, or until they manage to completely piss me off. Eudora has managed to do the latter.

Over the last few months, the quantity of Spam I receive has gone from a few hundred pieces a day to ~4,000. To stay within the quota limits of my mailbox at my ISP, I leave Eudora 6.1.2 running all day, and have filters to delete to Spam off the server in nearly real time.

About ten days ago, Eudora suddenly started barfing on about one message out of a hundred. The usual unhelpful error message was "Could not open file for writing. Cause: No such file or directory exists. (2)". The program would then hang waiting for a keyboard response.

In trying to find a solution, I found suggestions that the attachment directory was full, or that an anti-virus program was the cause. Neither of these proved to be the case. I tried every source I could for an answer, with no success.

I've got to have a reliable mail program. That trumps everything else. So I'm dumping Eudora. Some of the other things I won't miss include (in no particular order):
  • Program crashes when drafting long messages
  • Filters that can handle only two conditions
  • Program crashes when reading large blocks of mail from server
  • No "Mark Folder Read" option
  • Useless error messages
  • No cleanup facility for old or orphaned attachments
  • No real multi-tasking
  • Program that insist on popping relentlessly to the forefront every time something happens
  • Program that force you out of the message you are reading when new mail arrives
  • Options and settings that are almost cryptically locate and almost hidden
This isn't a troll, and I'm not shilling for another product. FWIW, I've tentatively switched to Thunderbird, The Bat although it has some issues too. If anyone has other suggestions, I'd like to hear them.

Have Qubits, Will Teleport

Source: bbc.co.uk
A team of scientists from the University of Science and Technology of China, the University of Innsbruck in Austria, and the University of Heidelberg in Germany have managed to "entangle" five photons, or qubits, for the first time. They also demonstrated what they call 'open-destination teleportation,' a way to teleport quantum information within and between computers.

To understand this, you must first untangle the technobabble. Entanglement allows particles to have a much closer relationship than is possible in classical physics. For example, two photons can be entangled such that if one is horizontally polarized, the other is always vertically polarized, and vice versa, no matter how far apart they are. For quantum teleportation, this means that information about the quantum state of a particle is instantaneously transferred, regardless of the distance involved.

Smaller numbers of photons have been entangled before, but five is the minimum number in quantum computation needed to do error correction in one pass.

Another team previously demonstrated teleporting atoms. But probably no "Beam me up, Scotty" for quite a while yet.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

81 Year Old Terrorist Stalks Logan Airport

Actress Bea Arthur, best known for her roles in The Golden Girls and Maude (and who has one of the best designed web sites I've seen for an actor) became the center of attention at Boston's Logan airport on Wednesday. Security droids found a pocket knife in her purse when she tried to board a flight. She then began to scream "The terrorists put it there." Then she kept yelling about"the terrorists, the terrorists, the terrorists.'" The knife was confiscated. Ms. Arthur then threw a keyring at the droid. I'm surprised she wasn't arrested for having a projectile weapon.

P.S. Why is the major source for this story Ireland Online? Are American media tacitly censoring airport security nonsense stories?

Friday, August 27, 2004

"Dear Valued Customer, You Are a Loser"

"In the struggle between humanity and technology, humanity is clearly getting its ass kicked." Thus begins Wired's review of Rick Broadhead's Dear Valued Customer, You Are a Loser. The book is a compilation of stories about how technologically enhanced customer service operations are generating nightmare experiences for consumers. We've all been there.

Want To Buy A Bridge? Cheap?

Source: www.nycroads.com/crossings/brooklyn/

OK, so its not the Brookly Bridge.

Police in Mostar, Bosnia have arrested 6 men for stealing an entire 42' long iron bridge! Built circa 1850, the bridge survived the Balkans war or the 1990s but succumbed to a group of scrap metal dealers. Over the course of several days, they dismantled the bridge, and hauled it off to be melted down. The neighbors thought this looked a bit odd, and eventually called the police. The thieves got all of $175US for the historic relic.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

You're So Vain

Now I know what cameraphones are really for. According to DMEurope, Vodaphone UK polled 3,500 female customers to find out how they use the cameras in their phones. Results included:
  • 20 percent of mobile users send snaps of themselves in new outfits to friends to see if they like them.
  • 18 per cent take pictures of shoes or clothes on display for the same reason.
  • 5 per cent take pictures of snappy dressers that they see on the high street to copy their style.
  • 15 per cent frequently pull out their camera-phones to photograph the sides and backs of their hair,
  • 10 per cent use their camera-phones as a mirror to check their make-up.
  • 4 per cent even resort to getting the phone out in the middle of a restaurant after dinner - to check their teeth.
  • More than 20 per cent use their phone to capture details of a new property, and 15 per cent send pictures of new furnishings to partners to get their opinions.

Cute Space Helmet

I'm not sure what anyone but Michael Jackson would use one of these hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Hoods for, but I'd really like to know what combination of recreational drugs the model is on. Cute PJs too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Internet Collapse Imminent

In 1996 Bob Metcalf, (inventor of Ethernet, and later founder of 3Com) predicted the collapse of the Internet. Oops. The target date came and went without anyone noticing any problems.

Now, Russian security researcher Yevgeny Kaspersky, founder of Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs, predicts that financial and government sites will be shutdown tomorrow (August 26, 2004) by a coordinated terrorist attack referred to as the 'electronic jihad'.

Threats of this kind of thing have been going on at least since the one year anniversary of 9/11.

Keep watching this space. Film at 11.

We're On A Roll

Saying that America is moving from a production type economy to s service oriented economy has always bothered me. To my way of thinking, it implies people with too much time on their hands coming up with ways to move money around. Sort of like Heinlein's (politically incorrect by modern standards) comment in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress that "[we c]ould dump two Chinee down in one of our maria and they would get rich selling rocks to each other while raising twelve kids. Then a Hindu would sell retail stuff he got from them wholesale, below cost at fat profit."

To prove my contention, someone has now done an Internet survey of toilet paper roll holders. For that speciall accessory you absolutely, must have.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Following the Rules

A 16 year old girl was publicly executed last week in the town of Neka, in northern Iran. Atefeh Sahaleh's (or Atefe Rajabi in some stories) crime was allegedly "engaging in acts incompatible with chastity.” This was first thought to mean that she had been a rape victim, but later opinions are that she had been having pre-marital sex. She also seems to have gone out of her way to piss off the judge, which is rarely, if ever, a good idea in general. The judge was so incensed that he personally walked the case through the Iranian Supreme Court for approval, and then literally placed the noose around her neck himself. Although Iranian law requires the presence of a defense counsel, the girl was denied a lawyer. Her father begged to have an attorney for her, but got no response. FWIW, her "companion" was only sentenced to 100 lashes.

The point here isn't the specific "crime" she was charged with. We could argue endlessly about "enlightened" western views vs. traditionalist religious ones. Rather, the main issue is the government's failure to abide by it's own rules. That and the lack of review, especially given the judge's personal bias after the plaintiff made him furious.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Keeping Us Safe From Teddy Kennedy

Ted Kennedy's killed more people with his car
Than I have with my gun!

It seems that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agrees with many Americans that Senator Edward Kennedy is a travel risk. Kennedy was stopped from boarding a half a dozen flights because the name "T. Kennedy" was listed in the secret CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System) screening software. After some three weeks of this, DHS Secretary Tom Ridge got the problem corrected and apologized personally. Want to bet that the average citizen wouldn't have gotten anywhere complaining? Let alone received an apology. Of course, this now leaves us at risk from all the other dangerous T. Kennedys flying out there.

Do You Know Where The Pacific Ocean Is?

According to the National Geographic Society, only 41% of Americans know where the Pacific Ocean is! (Hint: Follow I-40 west until your feet get wet.)

Microsoft has had particular problems with this kind of ignorance, resulting in millions of dollars in losses, and products like Windows 95 being banned from entire countries.

Washbasin With New Depths

Source: Engadget.com

Here's something to go along with the toilet tank we covered two weeks ago. The freak-out factor is much lower, but it does make the perfect accompaniment for the aquarium toilet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Sky Is Falling

A 76 year old woman in Suffolk, England was struck by what appears to be a meteorite while she was hanging washing in her yard. She sustained a one inch gash on her forearm. Her husband found a walnut shaped rock in the yard the next day. As far as I can tell, this is the first well documented case (outside the Bible) of a person actually being hit by a meteorite. Statisticians claim that on average, a person in the U.S. will be hit by a meteorite every 9,300 years.

Reach Out And Touch Someone

Source: Gizmodo.com

Long Distance. The Next Best Thing To Being There. For those times when the Barrett Light .50 sniper rifle just isn't going to cut it, they have now come up with a version chambered in 25mm. That's just about 1" folks, or .98 caliber for the purists out there. Labeled the XM109, this little item weighs in at 33 pounds, and is intended for taking out light armor and "material" targets. I wonder if this is going to obsolete the Stryker vehicles before they even finish getting deployed.

11 Least Active Projects on SourceForge

From the folks who brought us the news that Microsoft Purchases Evil From Satan, now comes the list of the Least Active Projects on SourceForge. Here are five of the items, to which I've added appropriate, blog style links.

Least Active Projects on SourceForge

  • GNU Bonzi Buddy (GBB) - bringing Bonzi Buddy to Linux
  • GoatSS - goatse.cx screensaver module
  • Sucktella - Attempting to make the worst possible GNUtella front end ever created
  • AdGaim - Adds multiple ad windows to GAIM
  • NetHack 2 - The Revenge: You get to play as the wizard of Yendor, and wait forever until someone finally finds you

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Have Your Toast, And Eat It Too

If having a toaster oven in your PC still isn't convenient enough for you, try this gizmo from Gadget Universe. It brews 3 cups of coffee, can steam 4 eggs, and has a dual shelf toaster oven big enough to handle a large bagel or two Reuben's. Of course, it also simply does toast. Just the thing for the returning college student?

More Identity Confusion

When the management of the Miss Norway Pageant discovered that a finalist had starred in two porno films, she was dropped from the contest. It seems that they were not impressed with her claim that the pictures had actually been made by a (non-existent) identical twin in the U.S.

Kerry Identity Crisis

John Kerry seems to be having an identity crisis. The Bush campaign issued a claim that Mr. Kerry attended only 22.4% of the public meetings of the Senate Intelligence Committee while he was a member. The attendence records for the closed meetings are, well, closed. In response, Mr. Kerry's campaign claims that the Bush-Cheney people are using "Fuzzy Math". They also assert that John Kerry is the Vice Chairman of the committee (Google cache of article). This will no doubt come as a surprise to Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV, who is really the current Vice Chairman. If you want to go back further, it was Bob Kerrey who previously served in that post.

Well, the name is almost the same...

Monday, August 16, 2004

iPod Buster

Here is a portable media player that should knock the socks off of the iPod when it reaches stores later this month. The Mobinote DVX-POD 7010 features a 7" 720x480 LCD, which if you will notice doesn't have any buttons on the front to mar the display. Also has a 20gb drive, support for MPEG-4, DivX 3.11, 4 and 5, QuickTime 6 and WMV, and weighs in at only 600g. List price is expected to be ~$650US. More details here, and here. FWIW, Mobinote's website doesn't seem to work properly with Netscape.

I'm Too Subtle For My Brain, Too Subtle For My Brain...

Following up on the earlier KY ad I posted, here is a real ad from the Brazilian company Manix (no, not the detective), for a KY-like lubricant aimed at the French market. See if you can figure it out.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Spaceflight With Style

Most Americans may be rooting for the weakly named SpaceshipOne team fielded by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen in the X-prize competition, but the Canadian Arrow team based in Toronto gets extra points for style.

Using a rocket design derived from the original V2, the Arrow looks like everything 1950s science fiction ever led us to expect. Nothing like this has been seen since the U.S. used the V2 derived Mercury Redstone rocket to launch Alan Shepard on a sub-orbital flight. But the Arrow design is more sophisticated.

Through A Lens Darkly

You would assume that when a correspondent for a major newspaper such as the Boston Globe publishes a book review, that they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, Rich Barlow's review of Microsoft Rebooted starts with the sentence "Bill Gates was a brilliant technologist when he cofounded Microsoft", and goes downhill from there. The article is just full of factual errors. Dan Gillmor has a detailed review of the review at siliconvalley.com.

Signs of the Times

More examples here.

"Trouble Getting in the Box?"

Here's a picture that just begs for a caption. Not a sanctioned ad by Johnson&Johnson, but neat anyway.

Friday, August 13, 2004

When It's Time To Railroad, You Railroad

King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez today threw out an initiative campaign intended to block the West Seattle-to-Crown Hill monorail project. He said that the recall campaign was an attempt to reconsider "what had already been voted on by the people of Seattle." You may remember than most of this nonsense is being funded by Seattle real estate developer Martin Selig.

Protect Against Space Aliens!

RF Shielding Clothing: Handicap Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie

Now you can stop those pesky space aliens from frying your brain while at the same time guarding against getting cancer from cell phones. And you can do it (a bit) more stylishly than you could using the old aluminum foil beanie.

A Norwegian company called Handy-Fashions is marketing a cap with earflaps made of a special fabric designed to shield missiles from microwaves. They also have a scarf made of the same material for the babushka fans in the audience.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

No Guns, Knives, or Books Allow

With the Republican National Convention approaching, security in New York City has reached new heights.

During a backpack search before boarding, a commuter (and blogger) on one of the NY-NJ Port Authority ferries was recently told that security would need to confiscate one of his books. When he questioned this statement, the guard said: "Yes. I feel it's inappropriate for the other people on the ferry to be exposed to it." The commuter's unspoken response was: "Have you lost your grip completely, chuckles?" More comments followed

The book, a guide for the game Exalted: The Abyssals does have a Boris Vallejo-like maiden in a bustier carrying a sword on the cover, but that hardly posed a risk to other passengers. Finally, a threat to call the ACLU returned some sanity to the situation.

If You Want To Beat Them To Death...

LAPD has announced that they will develop a kinder, gentler flashlight for their officers. Seems that one of the baton-like Streamlight/Maglite style flashlights was used recently to beat a suspect. After the new, smaller flashlight is developed and deployed officers will have to use their batons to beat suspects, like God intended.

FWIW, Albuquerque, NM PD went through a similar exercise nearly 20 years ago after a suspect was beaten to death with a Maglite. The heavy metal flashlights were replaced with little two-cell plastic ones. No data is available on the impact (pardon the pun) to suspects.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

PC EZ-Bake Oven

ThinkGeek has just what you needed for that late night snack at 3AM in the middle of a debugging marathon. Fits right into a standard 5.25" drive slot. You're not using 5.25" floppies anymore any way. Are you?

CIA Welfare Posting?

One of the root causes of this country's problems, IMNSHO, is that we have created a class of people with no discernible skill except the ability to get themselves elected to cushy government posts. We then expect these same people to manage the country. People whose resumes wouldn't even make it past a standard HR buzzword scan.

Then, when those people get tired of chasing votes, their buddies appoint them to some plum job, Like an ambassador slot, the 9/11 commission, or most recently, head of the CIA. A quick scan of Mr. Goss's biography shows that he spent twelve years in the army or as a spook (they overlapped), three years at a newspaper, and then thirty years as a politician. While he seems to be intimately familiar with the intelligence community, where does he have the experience to manage an agency with a public budget of over $3 BILLION US and 17,000 employees?

Let's not even start on Mr. Bush's or Mr. Kerry's management experience, or lack thereof.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Dentists Recommend Regular Checkups

In Woodside, California, Koko, a 33 year old gorilla, used her knowledge of sign language to tell her keepers that she had a toothache. Koko has a vocabulary of over 1,000 signs, and understands even more spoken English, which is a pretty good indication of the intellect of the lowland gorilla. She even went online in an AOL chat room some time back. Unfair comparing her to typical AOL users.

Koko's apartment at the Gorilla Foundation, which looks like a remodeled box car, comes complete with a makeshift toilet, television, DVD player and lots of toys.

When Koko, shown here with her buddy Robin Williams, was asked how bad the pain was on a scale of one to ten, she rated it an eight. A team of doctors was brought in to give her a complete physical as long as she was going to be anesthetized anyway. While she was being introduced to the medical team before having her tooth extracted, she waved one of the women over to her. The woman handed Koko her business card, which Koko promptly ate. I knew all those cards had to be good for something.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Festival? What Festival?

Source: http://www.chileaddictstore.comAs a card carrying Chile fanatic, I was delighted to discover that there was to be a Chile Festival here in Washington state, a mere 200 miles away. Here was a chance to resupply without having to ship Care Packages from New Mexico.

What a disappointment! After driving for over three hours, I found half a dozen awnings and twenty cars parked in a farm field southeast of Yakima. They were serving fajitas, stuffed peppers, and what looked like fresh corn. Some organized kids games were underway, and a local TV station was filming. No chiles being sold, nor much of anything else.

As a local party, I'm sure it was a hit. As a "Chile Festival", I found it pretty much a bust. Not even a ristra in sight. At least the gas in the area was cheap ($1.79).

Friday, August 06, 2004

Singing At The Speed of Life

Most of us can still remember the 1980's series Alvin & the Chipmunks. We also recall the annoying music albums they made, whose sole (almost) redeeming feature was that speeding up their voices to almost the ultrasonic made them humorous. Now you can hear what the original version of their Christmas song sounded like before it was accelerated to warp speed. The Dave Seville parts sound really strange, since his voice had to end up sounding normal.

NOT Endorsed by Lance Armstrong


"The Real MAN® saddle KICKS BUTT!" For once, I believe the advertising claim. Bicycle enthusiast Sheldon Brown has introduce a bike seat that is truly unique. Instead of the usual saddle made from "squishy gel foam", Mr. Brown is selling a saddle made from "solid granite from Canada's rugged Gaspé peninsula" mounted on "space-age Titanium undercarriage". Before he will sell to you, they want a chemical analysis of your blood to determine if your testosterone level is high enough. For those who don't pass the test, there is a less expensive poured-concrete version, with a cast iron frame.

How many hours does it take to go to Japan by car?

An American's view of world geography. Sad, but typical. How can people function like this? Check out the full map.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

One Small Step For Pizza

Now you too can have the breakfast of Astronauts. From the program that gave us Tang, Bar Coding, and the Spacepen that writes upside down comes freeze-dried pizza. You don't even have to rehydrate it before eating.

The Funky Food Shop (which is where you can find this) also carries such staples as caffeinated chocolate truffles, tequila lollipops (with a real worm), and Colon Cleaner extreme hot sauce. Use at your own risk.

P.S. The Russian answer to writing in zero-gravity? They used ordinary pencils.

One Picture is Worth...

Now you can use the John Ashcroft alert indicator to show the Homeland Security threat level. Or, you could use the Sesame Street indicator for the same purpose.

A Room With A View?

Freak out your friends and family when they come to visit. The Chicago industrial design firm UrbanPeel has come up with a design for a real, live fish tank that mates with American Standard toilet bowls. The aquarium and the toilet tank are actually separate compartments, but how many of your guests will be willing to flush the bowl to find out?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Canadian company Zarlink Semiconductor has developed a new antenna technology that allows the antenna to be implanted within the human body. The antenna is the size of a postage stamp, and is ~1mm thick. Initially, it will be attached to things like pacemakers. The first models will only send a signal a short distance to a bedside receiver, but they eventually hope to use cellphones to relay information to a doctor's office.

Talk about being wired for sound!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Blue Moon

see caption

Maybe it's because we had a Blue Moon last week, but several outbreaks of intelligent behavior have been spotted in the media.

Nanosys Inc., a nanotechnology startup, announced that they will withdraw their plan to float an initial public offering, possibly as early as this week. Since they have no commercially available products, weak revenue and no profits this seems exceedingly rational. Not at all what we expect from a high tech IPO.

Even the government is having attacks of rationality. In a rare move, the FCC ruled in favor of TiVo's planned TiVoToGo mobile content system, which will let TiVo users to send videos to up to 10 other users who have the right digital keys. It probably means that you can even make legal backups. Gasp! They overruled the RIAA, MPAA, and the NFL, who opposed the plan. The NFL seems to be worried about selling tickets in Buffalo in December. Remember when the MPAA's infamous Jack Valenti proclaimed in 1983: "The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." Don't expect this ruling to really settle anything.

Monday, August 02, 2004

TV Is Good For Kids

Or that's what kids everywhere will be telling their parents after seeing this story:

11 year-old Aaron Perez was fishing with his father on Texas' Gulf of Mexico coast when he was attacked by a shark. Aaron credits a program seen on the Discovery Channel the day before with teaching him how to drive off the shark by punching it in the gills.

This is right up there with people who used CPR based on what they saw on the '70s series Emergency!, or who learned the Heimlich Maneuver from an episode of Hey Arnold. It might work, but I wouldn't want to rely on it.

What About Bob?

First it was Microsoft Bob, then Bob the Builder, now it's Bob the Barf Bag Bomb. A flight attendant last week on a United Airlines flight from Sydney to Los Angeles found an airsickness bag in the lavatory. The bag was marked BOB, which she immediately interpreted to Bomb-On-Board. No one even considered that B.O.B. might meant "babe on board", or "best on board", or even "buy on board" - which means that meals aren't provided gratis. Let alone that it might be someone's name.

90 minutes into the 14 hour flight the pilot decided to dump ~50,000 gallons of fuel and return to Sydney, where all air traffic was stopped while the authorities sorted out the mess. While bomb threats can't be ignored, shouldn't we have something a bit more credible than a barf bag that might have someone's name or a piece of airline slang written on it before deciding to run up six or seven figure expenses and ruining schedules for hundreds of people?