Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Woman Sentenced To Gang Rape

In Iran, in august, a woman gets sentenced to death for "engaging in acts incompatible with chastity." In Pakistan, a village council sentences a woman to be raped.

The New York Times reports on a two year old story from Meerwala, Pakistan, that 28 year-old Mukhtaran Bibi was sentenced by a tribal council to be gang raped. The order was carried out. "As members of the high-status tribe danced in joy, four men stripped her naked and took turns raping her. Then they forced her to walk home naked in front of 300 villagers."

Muslim custom then expected Ms. Mukhtaran to kill herself in shame. Instead, she tried to fight back in Pakistani courts. She won her case, and the government provided her with police bodyguards. But... the Times article goes on to report that "[The] villagers say that relatives of the rapists are waiting for the police to leave and then will put Ms. Mukhtaran in her place by slaughtering her and her entire family.

Other, more detailed (accurate?) reports here and here.

Pentagon Conspiracy?

Various conspiracy sites like The Power Hour and others have posted articles claiming that the reports of a Boeing 757 crashing into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 are false. If the photos they have posted are accurate, then there seems to be at least one compelling question: Where is the airplane wreckage? The shots they show have lots of fire engines, burning and blackened building facade, and clear structural damage to the Pentagon, but they don't have any big aircraft pieces., refutes the claims, and shows how the crashed plane was rendered into component sized pieces. This would seem to make sense, as the plane crashed into a solid, 1940s era concrete structure. The proverbial "immovable object".

You can decide which argument you prefer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

After The Fox

Picture - Gemma's photo for The SunThe British Parliament has proposed a ban on fox hunting. You know, where rich folks dress up in funny clothes and chase a fox using horses and dogs all over the countryside. The rich people use the horses and dogs, the fox is on his own.

This has stirred up considerable controversy. People have been protesting, and
stable girl Gemma Richards of Shropshire is really standing out. First, she stripped to her bra in front of the Parliament building. She told reporters, "This proves how dedicated people are about hunting."” She also held a banner proclaiming: "This fine filly hunts. Don't ban what you don’'t understand.”"

For an encore, she decided to pose topless for the newspapers. Americans view Britain as being very straightlaced, but they have had topless models on page 3 of newspapers for decades, and no one thinks anything of it. Gemma posed for The Sun, the largest selling paper in the UK, to promote her protest. She ended up pushing the regular models off of page 3. She also ended up on page 1!

Her shepherd boyfriend, Stephen Williams said "I'm so proud of her." There are foxes, and then there are foxes.

Man Bites Dog

In a surprise move, Microsoft has published the source code to their FlexWiki tool, and actually posted it to, instead of hiding it in their usual web labyrinth. What's next? SCO saying "Oops, never mind" to IBM?

Homeowner Arrested For Shooting Armed Burglar

This sort of nonsense actually goes on in England. I'm surprised it hasn't been happening in Cloud Cuckooland, aka Washington D.C. The Hit & Run blog points to an article on Brainwash in response to an NPR piece about Washington's "gun safety laws." I can't find said story, but there are others, particularly on by the misnamed

Fly Me. Drive Me.

If you've ever been in Mexico, you quickly can see and admire the skill of Mexican craftsmen in 'customizing' their rides. While some of the mods are tacky (like covering the cars body in flowers), some are extremely neat, like the VW bug body replaced with wrought iron.

This time, the Mexicans have taken things to new heights. Gizmodo pointed us to a story about Vaca Meter Limousines converting an old Boeing 727-100 and converted it into a 50-seat luxury limousine. Eat your heart out Las Vegas!

The six-tonne limo is 18 meters long and 3.9 meters high. It has a six-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine in the back, with air brakes and suspension. Inside, it has a dance floor, and a bar. It will rent for $1,500 minimum, and can cruise at up to 200 KPH (124 MPH). I don't know anywhere besides Bonneville that you could run something like this full-out, but that's not the point.

More Rumble, Rumble

Back in May I posted a webcam link to a plastic dinosaur in a New Zealand volcano. The dinosaur is still there, and so is the webcam.

A static image (updated every five minutes) of Mount St. Helens, Washington USA, taken from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The summit of Mount St. Helens is at an elevation of 2,549 Meters (8,364 feet), at 46.20 N, 122.18 W.  The summit stood at 9,677 feet before the May 18, 1980, eruption. The Observatory and VolcanoCam are located at an elevation of approximately 4,500 feet, about five miles from the volcano. You are looking approximately south-southeast across the North Fork Toutle River Valley. The Mount St. Helens VolcanoCam is brought to you by the U. S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory,Vancouver, Washington, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Vancouver, Washington, and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Amboy, Washington USA.

Mt. Saint Helens might (or might not) be another matter altogether. Last Friday, seismologists were pooh-poohing the possibility of anything significant happening. That tune has changed a bit. The volcano is now experiencing the most intense seismic activity in nearly 20 years. Earthquake activity has increased in strength from tremors that rated under 0 on the Richter scale, and increased in frequency. By Sunday there were more than 10 events with a magnitude of 2 to 2.8. The U.S. Forest Service has closed off all trails above 4,800 feet. "Standing on the rim, from what geologists tell us, would not be a good idea," monument scientist Peter Frenzen said.

At this point, no one seems to know what is going to happen, but no one is repeating the earlier assurances that the events will be trivial. I've included the above long-range, live webcam shot so that if something big does happen, it will be visible here.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Touchscreen Voting Monkey Business

Critics of the Diebold electronic voting machines have complained that they are so easy to hack that a monkey could do it. Now they can prove it! A video produced by the group Black Box Voting, shows a computer-savvy chimpanzee deleting the audit log in less than a minute. The log is the only record kept on the paperless systems. In response, a Diebold spokesman still insisted that the system is secure. Can someone say Kryptonite lock?

P.S. I should apologize to chimpanzees for the headline, since they are apes (like humans), not monkeys.

Conspiracy Theory

If you are sure that "They" are behind it, now "They" has a face. And a body. 43-year-old Andrew Wilson of Branson, MO legally changed his name to "They" yesterday. Just They, nothing else. He even got a new driver's license.

"'They do this,' or 'They're to blame for that.' Who is this 'they' everyone talks about? 'They' accomplish such great things. Somebody had to take responsibility," he said. At least his new name is printable, unlike the artist formerly known as Prince.

Mr. They is an inventor. His latest product is Shades Eyewear, sunglasses with a built-in visor over each lens.

Grumbles from the Grave?

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Mount St. Helens is grumbling again, but seismologists seem to be singularly unimpressed. Hundreds of tiny earthquakes have been felt, starting last night, but most weren't even magnitude 0 on the Richter scale. According to state seismologist Tony Qamar, "It's not a major hazard, [but at] this point we want to be cautious. I wouldn't recommend going into the crater today."

The quakes may be the result of heavy autumn rains seeping into the rocks, and being heated into steam.

Mount St. Helens last erupted on May 18, 1980, killing 57 people, and devastating hundreds of square miles.

"Never make predictions, especially about the future"

People predict presidential election results using all sorts of odd methods. Some of these include:
  • Height of the candidates - Since the advent of television in presidential races, the taller candidate has won every race except one
  • Hemlines - Short skirts mean Democrats, long skirts Republicans
  • Numerology - I won't even go there
  • Polling 1st through 12th graders - They've picked the winners for the last 50 years, except in 1960
  • How the Washington Redskins do in their last pre-election home game - They win, the incumbent wins. They lose .....
  • Bordeaux wine quality - Bad vintage year (like this year) usually means a Republican victory
  • Baseball World Series - National League wins, the Democrat wins. American League takes the title, the Republican wins
  • Fright mask sales - For the last 25 years, the candidate who sells the most masks also wins

Bosom Busters

The Japanese are crazy over cell phones, but this reaches new levels. Hideto Tomabechi - known in Japan for de-programming brainwashed members of the Aum Shinrikyo, the cult behind the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system - is doing some brainwashing of his own. He is now selling ringtones that he promises will increase the breast size of those who listen to it. His business is booming. According to one 19 year old customer, "I listened to the tune for a week (...) incredibly, my 87-centimeter bust grew to 89 centimeters! It was awesome!" Go figure.

Do You Even Know Which End Is Up?

A while back I posted an article from the National Geographic Society, which found that only 41% of Americans know where the Pacific Ocean is! Now, it seems that our British cousins are even worse. A survey done for the Encyclopedia Britannica found that one in five Britons aged 18 to 24 do not know where their navel is. A spokeswoman said: 'It's [actually] rather shocking."

What Does That Make Me? Chopped Liver?

Authorities in Israel have seized some 80,000 (!) cans of dog food labeled as Pate de Foi Gras. The cans, imported from Bulgaria, were originally branded as "Chicken For Dogs". Maybe they contained chicken livers.

Hot Foot

The military has been using exothermic reactions triggered by adding water to magnesium and iron to heat rations for a long time. The Russians have now come up with a set of self-heating shoe insoles that act in a similar way. The Russians certainly understand cold feet. The new insoles are "powered" by ordinary sweat, and can keep feet at about 18-20 C (70F) for approximately 5-6 hours.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Best Gadget Bag For Men

Engadget has an interesting thread on The Best Gadget Bag for men. Since I have been fixated since an early age on Batman's utility belt and other compartmentalized storage totes, I dug right into this. In my typical compulsive manner, I looked up every item referenced at the time I checked the thread. Here are some observations:
  • Engadget readers have some strange tastes. (This is news?)
  • Comments without links are a PITA, and either laziness or rudeness by the poster.
  • Lots of Duplicate Duplicate comments.
  • Most of the product websites showed useless pictures that don't show details or features. Do people buy this stuff blind? (Rhetorical question.)
  • Black-on-black pix that conceal features they are trying to show.
  • Sites that list bare dimensions for a bag, but don't mention if it has one compartment, or fifty.
  • I stumbled on some bags by Trager, which no one even mentioned!
Based on what I found, here are the ones that resonated most closely with my Batman fetish:

RoadWired MegaMedia BagMaxpedition Proteus PackTrager Saddle Expandable


Propaganda Remix

Artist Micah Wright has been described by Publisher's Weekly as a "former Army Ranger turned antiwar comic book artist." BoingBoing now points out an interesting collection of classic posters he has modernized with topical taglines. What's even better is that there is a link to purchase everything from camisoles to coffee mugs emblazoned with the work. Warning: Not for those with slow network connections.

Now We Know Why Its Called Off-Broadway

The musical version of The Last Starfighter, based on the 1984 movie of the same name, is scheduled to open off-Broadway on October 15. Somehow, I doubt that Robert Preston (1918-1987) will reprise his role as Centauri. I also doubt they will be able to match even 1980's era special effects on stage.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

TSA Tidbits

TSA LogoThis must just be the day for stuff about the TSA.

U.S. airlines have been ordered to turn over a months' worth of passenger data to the government, so that it can be used to improve the CAPPS II type database that congress has prohibited the TSA from using. But based on recent personal experience, the feds already know all about who is flying. So why do they pretend that they need data they already seem to have?

In a related item, the Department of Homeland Security ordered a United Airlines flight from London carrying the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens diverted to Bangor, Maine instead of allowing it to land as scheduled in Washington, D.C. Stevens, now a converted moslem known as Yusaf Islam, and his 21-year-old daughter were marched off the plane by FBI agents.

TSA officials said the singer was denied access "on national security grounds" because his activities could be "linked to terrorism." As one blogger noted, "I certainly feel safer now, knowing that the TSA is keeping known guitarists off of airplanes." The British Foreign Minister has issued a protest.

What I don't understand, is why they had to divert him and 280 other passengers on the Boeing 747-400 to Bangor, at significant cost to the troubled airline? Surely, they couldn't be a shortage of gun-toting feds in D.C.?

Armadillo Arrested On Weapons Charges

I've mentioned Australia's draconian gun policy here before. When an armadillo, enroute from Texas to Adelaide, arrived in Sydney recently, it was promptly detained by customs officials. The stuffed animal, was mounted on its hind legs, and was dressed with a toy pistol holster, cowboy hat and sheriff's badge . The actual charge was a violation of wildlife protection laws. The Aussies seem to think that armadillos are an endangered species. That news will come as a surprise to Texans, who consider them a nuisance, and who often find them as roadkill.

Stop The War On Krill!

For all you extreme sports fans out there, the Reykjavik Grapevine has published A Beginners Guide To Whaling.

I think this means that I definitely have too many entries in my RSS list.

The Cigarette Is Mightier Than The Pen?

When a man tried to rob 62-year-old gas station cashier Lorraine Roth of Bethlehem, PA with a silver pen, she beat him off with a carton of cigarettes. If the TSA ever finds out that pens and cigarettes can be used as weapons, next thing you know they will require that everyone fly naked.

FWIW, the would be robber seems to have had better luck earlier holding up a
nearby 7-Eleven. Maybe they were out of smokes at the time.

Quoth the Nazgul, "Nevermore"

Groklaw (of all places) has posted this detailed parody of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" using Tolkien's LOTR Ringwraith character. It also takes a few jabs at SCO and their copyright allegations.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Time For Rather To Retire

CBS News holds a special place in the history of journalism. First came the legendary Edward R. Murrow, with his live accounts of the war in Europe (WWII) and the famous "This -- is London". Then Murrow changed America when he brought down the Red-Scare inquisition of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Next came Walter Cronkite, who's line "That's The Way It Is" epitomized journalistic integrity to my generation.

Now Dan Rather in one move has destroyed the 60 year old reputation of the nation's most prestigious broadcast news service. Apologies won't cut it. The only way for CBS to regain some credibility now is to follow the example set by the Boston Globe and the New York Times and sack Rather and the production team behind the 60 Minutes story about President Bush's service in the Air National Guard. It's time for CBS to decide if they are still a serious news organization or not.

AOL. Security. Oxymoron?

RSA SecurID SD600 FobAOL has announced a partnership with RSA Security to offer two-factor authentication based on RSA's one-time SecurID authenticator. I've long been a proponent of this technology, but applying it to an AOL account seems like severe overkill.

Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot

When I worked as a paramedic in a previous lifetime, I once went to a call where a guy had gone from door to door in the university dorm trying to get people to let him in with the argument "Open the door. I have a knife!" He eventually found someone stupid enough to open up.

In Lawrence, Indiana this week, Walter F. Ratcliff tried to rob a Kroger supermarket by telling the checkout clerks "There is a bomb in the meat department, give me all your cash." Their response? "No!" Either he wasn't credible, or they were planning a sale on hamburger.

When police arrived to arrest him, they found two more bomb notes, a fake Indiana handicapped license plate and a toy squirt gun wrapped in black tape to make it look real.

MPAA Dyslexic?

In their ongoing campaign to ram their view of copyright laws down everyone's throats, the MPAA has now taken on Linux Australia. In a notice of claimed infringement, the MPAA has demanded that the group cease providing access to two copyrighted movies, one called "Grind" and the other "Twisted", and ordered it to "take appropriate action against the account holder."

The kicker though, is that what the MPAA's snoop-droid found were copies of Twisted, a Python development framework, and Valgrind, "a GPL'd system for debugging and profiling x86-Linux programs."

What's next? Going after IBM for it's Grid computing initiative, or New Jersey for calling itself the Garden State?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Iraq: Declare Victory and Go Home

Robert Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times has an Op-Ed piece posted in which he predicts that if Bush wins the election, he will order a quick pullout from Iraq. This would seem to make too much sense for a politician. The ploy used to end the Viet Nam war, declaring victory and pulling out, won't work any better this time than it did in 1975.

Novak also predicts after the election that Condoleezza Rice will be secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz the defense secretary and Stephen Hadley the new national security adviser. We'll have to wait and see how good his crystal ball is.

Pop's the Question

We all know that the most burning issue in the country isn't the war in Iraq, the presidential election, or who Britney Spears is marrying this week. Its what name do you use for carbonated beverages. Soda? Pop? Or do you call them all Coke?

Now a guy named Alan McConchie has plotted the use of the terms county by county across the United States. Sarsaparilla anyone?

Friday, September 17, 2004

By Your Command!

Battlestar Galactica Cylon Centurions. Rust inhibitor and undercoating extra. Genuine Intel inside! At least humans don't rust.

I came across this while taking a further look at the site. Lots of other neat toys from LOTR, Star Trek/Wars, and others.

Holy Cow!

When I was in Zurich a few years ago, I discovered some 815 oddly painted life-sized fiberglass cows occupying the downtown district. Now, the Swiss are using computer models of cows to determine if the real ones grazing on alpine meadows act to increase tourism. Sounds to me like someone has had a bit too much gemütlichkeit.

An Offer You Can't Refuse points us to this ad for your very own Godfather severed horse head pillow. To quote them, it's a "sleeping partner that doesn't snore, hog the duvet - or sleep around."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I Don't Know What It Means, But It's Kinda Cool

One Man Blocks Monorail

The Monorail Recall Committee, funded exclusively by Seattle developer Martin Selig, has succeeded in getting yet another election required before the Seattle Monorail project. The fact that voters have already approved the initiative on three previous occasions doesn't seem to satisfy Mr. Selig, who must have some agenda he is pursuing here.

On a related note, the recall committee's web site is hosted by, run by Libertarian activist Cary Thomas. Odd to think of a Libertarian lined up with failed gubernatorial candidate Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who are pushing a (more expensive) light rail plan in preference to the monorail.

How many times must the public go out to support the monorail? The project must pass every time to win. Selig's recall effort only has to win once.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

You Are Now Free To Float About The Cabin

Normally, no one besides the person I'll mention next would care about this, but the I needed an excuse to use the headline, as it was too good to pass up.

Xeni Jardin is a fairly prolific writer for outlets like Wired, NPR, and BoingBoing, where she is a co-editor. Any moment now (as she has been telling BoingBoing readers for a week), she will become one of the first civilians to get a ride on a commercial vomit comet flight. The flights are run by Zero Gravity Corp out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Up until recently, zero gravity simulations were limited to either NASA crews, Russian space crews, or those paying megabucks to joyride on a Soyuz flight. Zero-G's flights can be had for a mere $3K US.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Buy' Ngop!

It wasn't enough that someone actually documented the Klingon alphabet and language, or that they translated Shakespeare into Klingon, now there is a radio station in Germany that is broadcasting the news in Klingonese! We'll try to ignore things like Klingons for Christ, the Klingon Macarena, or the infamous Klingon Diplomatic Corps. To be fair, the same station does the news in thirty other languages too.

Dig This Baby!

Pictures of this monster started floating around the blogsphere last week, but I couldn't find any good material to go with it. Now we know that this is the world's largest Bucket Wheel Excavator, and is in use at an open pit coal mine in Germany. There are not only more photos, but also a version in Legos by Greenpeace!

Kerry Trails Herbert Hoover In Polls

When I started this blog, it was never my intention to give it a political focus. But there are too many neat stories around to ignore.

The Washington Post has released more information on last week's Washington Post-ABC News Poll. According to the survey, John Kerry is trailing the much unloved John Ashcroft and is tied with the recently convicted Martha Stewart. Some of the numbers are:
  • John Ashcroft: 49 (2003)
  • Prince Charles: 45 (2003)
  • Jesse Jackson: 38 (2003)
  • Vladimir Putin: 38 (2003)
  • John Kerry: 36 (2004)
  • Martha Stewart: 36 (2004)
  • Joseph McCarthy: 35 (1954)
  • Rush Limbaugh: 34 (2003)
  • O.J. Simpson: 29 (1995)
Polls are weird anyway.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Kerry Lies

I've been observing politics long enough that I expect politicians to lie. After all, my definition of a "good politician" is one who stays bought. But at the presidential level, I don't expect them to be blatant and obvious about it.

The first major Kerry lie I spotted was when he accused Bush of cutting VA funding, when in fact Bush had increased the budget. Then there is the whole controversy about his war record, his voting record, his claims about the war in Iraq, jobs, and his claims to be/have been vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Now he's ranting about the Assault Weapons ban, claiming that not renewing it aids terrorists! Have you noticed all the terrorists shopping in local gun stores lately?

Kerry claims to be pro-gun and pro-hunting. He even accepted a gift of a Remington 11-87 at a recent visit to Remington's factory. It's interesting to note that the shotgun in question would be banned as an assault weapon under the renewal legislation he claims to want! Kerry may also have been in violation of existing Federal and Massachusetts laws when he accepted the gun.

I have no illusions about Bush being a paragon of truthfulness, but at least he isn't flaunting it in our faces.

Assault Weapons Ban To Expire

Less than a day left until the Assault Weapons Ban, otherwise known as the Ugly Weapons Ban expires. The heavily propogandized measure barred weapons from having protruding pistol grips, threaded muzzles or flash suppressors, all of which are standard on competition rifles. It also banned folding/telescoping stocks, bayonet mounts, and grenade launchers. That sure cut down on those infamous drive-by bayonetings, and all the rifle grenade attacks. Since automatic weapons were already regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934, all that the 1994 bill did was regulate cosmetics.

The Clinton era bill is readily acknowledged as having played no significant role in the reduction in recent gun violence, IMHO, the increase in states allowing concealed carry is one of the main reasons for this,

Sunday, September 12, 2004

U.S. Crime Rates Have Stabilized

This is the interesting headline that Pravda used to cover a report from the US Department of Justice announcing that violent crime was at a 30 year low. Although no specific causes were cited, it is interesting to note that this year is the tenth anniversary of the passage of Florida's then controversial concealed carry statute. Florida's experience sparked the passage of similar must-issue laws in 33 additional states. Only six states still completely deny citizens the right to carry, and eleven others and D.C. have "discretionary" issue laws. Many believe that the increased number of armed citizens acts as a deterrent to criminals who prefer to look for safer pickings. I find it interesting that the most dangerous cities, like NY, LA, Chicago, and Washington are where it is difficult or impossible to get a permit.

Join the Club

Ready for a ride into space? Competition for the Ansari X-Prize is heating up with the launch of a test vehicle by the Romanian team! There are now entries from at least seven countries, including Romania, Israel, and Argentina.

While I was driving through southern New Mexico last week, I was surprised to see a sign on the highway near the town of Truth or Consequences announcing the Future Site of the New Mexico Spaceport. And yes, that's really the name of the town. There plans are to hold a annual space competition in New Mexico at the spaceport.

The more players, the better!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Smoke But No Fire?

The South Korean Yonhap news agency is reporting that a huge mushroom cloud over two miles wide was sighted in North Korea's Ryanggang Province last week, near the Chinese border. A large crater can be seen from orbit. The blast coincided with the anniversary of North Korea's founding on September 9. Over 150 people were killed in an explosion at the Ryongchon Railway Station in April. The area is mountainous, thinly-populated, and site of a major military base and a missile launching facility.

Many news agencies are hinting that the latest event may have been a nuclear weapons test, but the U.S. Geological Survey web site shows no corresponding seismic event. Any sufficiently large release of energy near the surface would also cause a mushroom cloud. It could have been a large conventional explosion (which could be part or a nuclear weapons program), or even just a forest fire.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Rowboat Vetrans for Truth

"General George Washington is no war-hero. He'’s resting his entire campaign on his so-called heroics in the Revolutionary War, and his famous Delaware River crossing. His campaign wagons about a handful of Revolutionary veterans throughout the 13 States, and trots them out at public appearances[. T]hese men represent all those he calls his rowboat band of brothers."

More at Rowboat Veterans for Truth.

Commando Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe

Or would the image these days be Buzz Lightyear? These things seem to run in clusters. 10 days ago I reported on an article in Time that looked back at "future" technologies, including Rocket Packs. Now a 45 year old SwissAir pilot, Yves Rossy, has become the first to achieve man-portable jet powered flight. He did cheat a bit, in that he jumped out of an already airborne Pilatus Porter, and seems to have landed via parachute. Oh well, I guess this is One Small Leap For Man...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Crash And Burn

Back in May I reported on the guy who built a monster BUF model that actually flies. Well to be precise, it flew. In the true tradition of military aircraft throughout history, the model crashed and burned, strewing wreckage over a vast area at a model air show in England. Too bad, it was a neat toy. Click on the image to see video.

Monday, September 06, 2004

William Tell Redux

I've said for a long time that if you ban all guns, that people will just find other methods to assault themselves and others. A recent incident in Australia illustrates this point. In 1996, Australia enacted a draconian, and unsuccessful gun ban. A recent trial in Brisbane revealed that one Robert Troy Scanlon attacked Michael Brown on the assumption that he was a police informant. Lacking access to firearms, Mr. Scanlon used a crossbow! Fortunately for Brown, the bolt struck his cell phone, and he escaped with nothing worse than an injured finger.

Cell phones may be secret lifesavers! In June I mentioned a case where a South African man's life was saved when a bullet struck his cell phone instead of his body.

We Know Who You Are

There was a huge uproar when discount airline JetBlue was discovered to have supplied millions of passenger records to the US Army. But my travels this week reveal an interesting corollary. How could I have ended up on the DHS Hit List unless the airline had supplied the information to the feds in the first place?

Think about that one!

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Fly The Friendly Skies. Not!

I'm traveling this week for the first time since they really got serious (read completely paranoid) about security. When I went to check in, the counter agent promptly told me "Oh, your on the list!" The meaning of this soon became clear as my bag had to go through special explosives screening, and when I got to the checkpoint I had to take off my belt and shoes, and thought I was going to be strip searched. All this is probably because Southwest wouldn't construe my itinerary as a "round trip", but as three separate trips. I'll probably get the same on the next two legs also.

They really tunneled in on my shoes (ordinary clogs) and my laptop (an X30). The farce is that I also had a GPS, cell phone, my new APC fits-anything power supply, Palm PDA, and enough wire, cables and connectors to have supplied the RNC. Enough electronic crap for a dozen "devices". (Have to be careful about tripping word filters here). I left the pocket knife I've carried for 35 years, my Comdex freebie two-headed screwdriver, and the Leatherman Squirt P4 on my keychain at home. Like there aren't endless other things in my carry-on that couldn't be used with lethal intent.

The scary part of this relates to the panic at LAX yesterday. I've done almost the same thing as the guy who (probably forgot his sunglasses and) went up the down escalator, triggering all the alarms. I got some bad directions from a gate agent on one trip, and found myself on the escalator leaving the secured zone. Realizing that wasn't where I needed to be, I turned around and went up the adjacent staircase, never going through the door that marked the security zone exit. The rent-a-cop checkers (pre-9/11) started shouting at me, and I told them to get stuffed. One then followed me for 15 minutes while I tried to find the counter I really needed. Finally LAPD showed up, and fortunately were reasonable about listening to my explanation. Today, I expect they would have appeared with full body armor, automatic weapons, and bad attitudes.

I hope I'm not quite as harmless looking as Bea Arthur, but I hardly think I fit anyone's typical terrorist profile. And I really hate to think I'm being classed with Ted Kennedy!

Miss Universe's Outfit Goes Horribly Thong

In a move reminiscent of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction", the recently selected Miss Universe recently bared almost all while modeling a Bora dress at the Sydney Fashion Show. Australian Jennifer Hawkins was walking down the runway when the dress got caught on the heel of her stiletto, and the 7Kg, $15,000US metallic lace dress ripped off and left her standing in a $6US red G-String from Bonds department store. Ms. Hawkins then calmly and gracefully walked off stage. She later said "It was just a pity I wasn't wearing better panties." The Australians seemed to handle the entire event with much more aplomb than their American cousins.

This is the second beauty pageant incident in a month. I earlier reported on the uproar when one of the Miss Norway contestants was found to have starred in several porn films.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Let One Thousand Reactors Bloom

Wired is reporting that China plans to build 30 new nuclear reactors by the year 2020. Some estimates say that by the year 2050, they will need 200 to meet their growing energy demands. The Chinese currently operate nine reactors. Some of the new reactors will be built using current technologies, but the Chinese are also planning to introduce new Pebble-Bed Reactors, or PBMRs (pebble bed modular reactors). These are small enough to be assembled from mass-produced parts and are relatively cheap and safe.

This type of reactor is not dependent on operator skill or reinforced concrete for safety. The design's low fuel density help make it meltdown proof. To prove it, project director Zhang Zuoyi at Tsinghua University north of Beijing staged a demonstration where he intentionally turned off the helium reactor coolant! Instead of a repeat of Chernobyl, they got a reactor that just cooled off by itself. The Chinese expect to have scaled the design up to 200MW by 2010.

Maybe this will get the moribund U.S. reactor industry started again, reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Back To The Future

One of my most endearing memories from childhood are scenes from weekday afternoon reruns of old movie serials (which predate me by a bit) like Radar Men From the Moon where people flew around with rocket powered backpacks. Ignoring burning issues like "Why don't they set their pants on fire?" and other philosophical questions, this prediction for the future, like many others, failed to come true. Time magazine takes a look at some of these forecasts. Anyone know where I can get replacement batteries for my crystal ball?