Sunday, October 31, 2004

No-Call List For Politicians

If your house is like mine, you've been inundated with calls from every politician running for congress or for dogcatcher.

The FTC's 2003 national Do Not Call registry has been a resounding success in eliminating calls from telemarketers. But the politicians specifically exempted their sales calls from the registry. Why? They are no less annoying or unwanted. Their only saving grace is that they are more of an annual annoyance than an ongoing one.

If we are going to block one class of pests, let's block them all.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Adding Insult To Injury

Well? Which is it? BoingBoing asks the question.

Turnabout Is Fair Play

BoingBoing points to which has some non-mainstream bumper stickers. Jay Barnes, the seller of these and other creative material comments that "Mostly everyone in this country supports the troops and hopes they will return safely. Maybe you should be telling them directly in person, on the phone or in a letter and not driving around with a big magnetic banner you probably got at Wal*Mart."

This reminds me of when all those minivans had "Baby on Board" signs. Did that mean we should make sure to hit them harder?

Hobbit Found At Los Alamos

Well maybe a would-be hobbit. Not one of the miniature people found in Indonesia.

A man was discovered living in a well upholstered cave in one of the steep canyons of Los Alamos. Someone spotted the smoke from his wood stove, and called the fire department. The cave had a glass front door, the stove, solar panels, satellite radio (ordinary reception in Los Alamos sucks anyway) and a supply of marijuana plants. Roy Michael Moore, the cave dweller, had been living there for years. The cave wasn't visible from above in the 100 foot deep heavily forested canyon. When I lived in Los Alamos house prices were high, but this is ridiculous!

It's Man's Best Friend. And A Great Big Dog Too!

The headline is from a Wizard of Id cartoon where Bung the Jester is caught in a blizzard, and is rescued by a keg of brandy. With a dog attached.

In real canine news, the monks at the 950-year-old hospice at St. Bernard Pass in Switzerland have put their remaining flock (herd? school?) of brandy toting St. Bernard dogs up for adoption. According to Rev. Frédéric Gaillard at the monastery, "Now there are helicopters....This is not the 1800's. This is not the 1900's." The dogs will still spend their summers at the pass where tourists can take their pictures.

Faith Is A Dog's Best Friend

Or in this case, Faith is man's best friend. Leana Beasley has been wheelchair-bound for eight years as the result of a head injury. When Leana had a grand mal seizure and fell out of her wheelchair recently, her service dog Faith, a 4-year-old Rottweiler, dialed 911, barked at the dispatcher, and then unlocked the door for police. Not that's service!

Top-Earning Dead Celebrities

Forbes is out with their annual Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list. The top ten include:
  1. Elvis Presley
  2. Charles M. Schulz
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien
  4. John Lennon
  5. Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel
  6. Marilyn Monroe
  7. George Harrison
  8. Irving Berlin
  9. Bob Marley
  10. Richard Rodgers
Each person on the list had over $5 million (!) income last year. We should do so well while we're alive.

First Norway, Then The World!

In August there was the case of Miss Norway being stripped of her crown for doing porno flicks. Now Miss United States Teen 2003, Kari Ann Peniche has been dethroned for appearing nude in Playboy. Pix can be found here (NSFW). Very little (i.e. no) mainstream news coverage on this.

Why don 't we save time and just do the photo shoots at the pageants?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Homeland Security Saves Toy Store From Terrorists

St. Helens, OR toy store owner Stephanie Cox was terrified when she got a call from Homeland Security. She asked what they wanted to talk to her about, but was told they couldn't tell her!

When the Feds finally showed up at her store, Pufferbelly Toys, they told her to take a Rubik's Cube knockoff called the Magic Cube off of her shelves. They claimed that it was an illegal copy. Boy, that sounds dangerous.

What was really going on was this: The Customs Service is now part of the Homeland Security empire. The agents thought that the Magic Cube was an illegal counterfeit. When Ms. Cox called the manufacturer of the Magic Cube, the Toysmith Group, based in Auburn, WA, the company representative told her that the Homeland Security agents had it wrong. The Rubik's Cube patent had expired. Don't know about you, but I feel much safer now.

Brando Rises From The Grave

Marlon Brando was named the fifth most popular living actor in a recent Empire magazine poll, despite the fact that he has been dead for three months.

Reminds me of a Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi story. The two were good friends, but Lugosi was broke when he died. Karloff paid for the funeral, and made all the arrangements. At the funeral service, after the casket viewing was over, and everyone had left, Karloff supposedly went up to the coffin, looked down at his old friend, and said "Bela, if you're putting us on...."

What? Its Halloween after all. Hey, Stella!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dear Limey Assholes,

Is there a British version of this blog? Sadly, no. But this is the response the liberal London newspaper, The Guardian, got when it urged its readers to write letters to residents of Clark County Ohio. Ohio is a key state in the upcoming election, and the Guardian wanted its readers to ask US voters to cast their ballot for Kerry. The response they got was, to say the least, energetic. Kudos to them for being honest about covering the contents of their inbox.

Full Lunar Eclipse Tonight


Picture via 3 Blind Mice. More details available from NASA.

The Tool Most Likely To Destroy Something

Ever wished you could carve a pumpkin like this? Dremel has a battery operated version of their tool specifically for that purpose. Gizmodo call the Dremel, the "Tool Most Likely To Destroy Something That Was Working Fine Already." YMMV. The Dremel Pumpkin Carving Kit retails for about $35.

Crocodile Dundee IV?

Paging Paul Hogan. We found your knife.

Residents in a Florida neighborhood had adopted Elvis the five foot alligator as a pet (?!). So they were distressed when he was found cruising the local pond with a huge knife sticking out of his head. State wildlife officers euthanized the gator after determining that the injury was too severe to survive. The hunt is now on for someone missing a big knife. Probably not really the famous actor. The assailant can be charged with a felony alligator killing.

Passports Please

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I've written a number of rants about the TSA and the secret order that requires all travelers to show identification. This kind of passport probably isn't a solution, and I don't really recommend trying it in this country. It was used with some success though in turning the tables of some folks trying to pull the infamous Nigerian Scam, also known as the 419 Scam.

Oxymorons 'R Us?

It is often said that military intelligence is an oxymoron. This ad from the US Air Force seems to be trying to prove that old saw. Can anyone saw spell checker?

National Cranky Co-workers Day

Well I almost let it slip by unnoticed, but today is National Cranky Co-workers Day. I don't know if this originates in Chicago, or if it is just more important there. Must be a coincidence that it is also National Mother-In-Laws Day (or on the 24th in some opinions). Fortunately, its also the National Day of Meditation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Can You Hear Me Now?

Los Angeles has joined New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Rio Rancho, NM (my old hometown) in exploring plans to provide citywide wireless coverage. Although the new WiMax standard makes this a technical possibility, I predict that it won't work for social and commercial reasons. Would you want to put a computer on a party line with the other X million residents of the city? If you are the telephone company, are you going to stand still while government provides access to VOIP and destroys your market base? Who will be paying for this? (You get three guesses, and the first two don't count) A few cities may implement these plans, but it won't last and it won't spread. JMHO.

The Hand Is Quicker...

Knick-Knack points to a video of a woman folding a shirt. No big deal you say? Well I've watched it half a dozen times now, and I still can't figure out how she does it yet she ends up with a perfectly folded shirt. I must have a two-dimensional mind. If you can explain it, post a comment.

If You Vend It.....

Yesterday there were a number of postings about plans in Japan to ban prepaid cell phones. Today we get these pictures from Penguin Six of a vending machine selling cell phone SIMs at a Hong Kong ferry terminal. In most of the world, they use GSM phones, and these use a SIM card to activate the phone and for billing purposes. Change the card and you change the account.

Hippos Attack!

Next time you take the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland, you don't have to worry about the hippos attacking. For 40 years the boat captains had defended their passengers with pistols, albeit firing blanks. Then, in 2001 the park became more politically correct, and disarmed the boat crews.

With the 50th anniversary of the park approaching, the management is working on "restoring the magic." This includes giving the boat skippers their guns back, as well as giving the horses on Main Street their name tags again, and returning the more gut-wrenching moves to the Mad Hatter ride. I hope Walt would have been pleased.

EFF E-Vote Warning

The EFF has a great flash clip on the use of electronic voting machines, especially in California. Check it out.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I Must Have Done It Wrong

A survey of college coeds by Maxim magazine produced some interesting numbers:
  1. 69% admitted to having had sex while their roommates were still in the room
  2. 73% have had oral sex in a moving car
  3. 53% have made out with another woman
  4. 46% have engaged in threesomes
Can I go back to college and be 20 years old again? Please?

Estne volumen in toga...

It seems I'm down to repeating titles. Anyway, the point to this Seagate has come out with a 5GB external hard drive in a 3 inch package. The unit has a built-in, retractable USB 2.0 cable for convenience. It also comes with software for data security, content management and password protection. Certainly the modern equivalent of a scroll in the pocket.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Flu Boat?

Well it ain't the Love Boat. Victoria Clippers, a ferry service running between Seattle and Vancouver, BC is offering package trips to Vancouver which include a flu shot at a Canadian clinic. Where's "Doc" when you need him?

Suck On This

Amazingly, this and other sculptures are made with drinking straws! The site is in Portuguese, so I don't know the details, but the pictures are neat.

Forlorn Hope

Photo of Michael BadnarikProbability zero. Those are Michael J. Badnarik's realistic chances of winning the upcoming presidential election. That hasn't stopped the Libertarian candidate from running the best underfunded campaign he can. In many ways, his platform is a lot more attractive than his opponents. Even if he does look like Alfred E. Neuman.

I've advocated a constitutional amendment to require including "None of the above" here before. Unfortunately, voting for anyone but the two major candidates is a lost vote in this election. So it all comes down to: Which candidate do you want to vote against the most?

Saturday, October 23, 2004


I've done other postings about stuff built with Legos before, but this is something different. A guy in Belgium has managed to build a working Rubik's Cube entirely out of Legos. He even provides the CAD drawings for you to make your own! Since each face of his cube is built of even smaller components, will someone build a Rubik's Cube composed of individual Rubik's Cubes next?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Protecting Bainbridge Island From Terrorists?

Autoblog brings a commentary about DHS using x-ray machines on vehicles taking ferries. The Supreme Court OK'd this for cars crossing borders. There's a border between Seattle and Bainbridge (or NJ and DE in the article)?

The Other Tricky Dick

NPR's Morning Edition had an interview today with political prankster, and self-appointed Nixon nemesis Dick Tuck. There hasn't been much fun in this presidential campaign, so let's look at some of Tuck's legendary stunts:

At the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, where Nixon was running for reelection as vice president, Tuck discovered that the SF garbage trucks drove by the convention center on the way to the dump. So Tuck paid to have signs on the trucks that read "Dump Nixon."

In one campaign Nixon was doing a whistle-stop train tour. As he was getting warmed up in his stump speech, Tuck allegedly put on a conductor's cap and signaled the engineer, who then pulled the train out of the station, leaving the crowd behind.

In the 1968 presidential campaign, Tuck hired a group of very pregnant black women to picket a Nixon rally with signs reading "Nixon's The One!"

Tuck, now 80, lives in Arizona, and dresses pretty much as pictured above. His own slogan is, "The People Have Spoken, The Bastards."

De Train Boss. De Train! has an essay calling for the building of a new national passenger train infrastructure to address the continually growing transportation crisis. This is an idea that had also occurred to me when the 9/11 incidents grounded all air traffic, and the economy was in the dump.

I don't usually favor government sponsored projects, but here is one that would address congestion issues, improve the infrastructure, provide a lot of jobs, and would be less vulnerable to terrorists than airliners. After all, where can you go if you hijack a train? If you blow one up, it stops service for a while, and is certainly unfortunate for the passengers involved, but you can't use the train as a bomb to hit other targets.

The government could use the existing Interstate Highway System right of ways, specifically the medians (not the traffic lanes) for elevated railways. Then most of what would be needed in the way of land would be for building stations. When the airlines scream about the competition, let them buy in as investors. Most of the components could be pre-fabricated off site, saving time and money. Development of the trains themselves would boost several sectors of the economy.

Imagine being able to hop on a train in the city center. No long drive to the airport with expensive parking fees. Less need for security screening, so much less processing delay. Then no long drive to town at the other end. No problems with city noise curfews.

""When railroading time comes you can railroad." Maybe it's that time.

Reasons For A Noise Ordinance

This brings new meaning to the term "chopper". Chainsaw manufacturer Dolmar created this monster powered by 24 chainsaws. The result is "a 24-cylinder power plant with a total displacement of 1.9 liters, a power output of 125 kW (170 PS) and 130 Nm of torque." Can you say "Cut into Traffic?"

Sun Disses HP

Among the myriad bloggers out there is Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems. Sun recently started a corporate sponsored blog site encouraging users to post their own blogs.

In August, Schwartz posted an article taking a dig at HP for dropping HP/UX. Said they were now nothing more than a box vendor. HP took umbrage at this, and had their lawyers fire off a nastygram demanding that Schwartz take down the offending article. I thought I was the only one using the term nastygram. Anyway, Sun had their own lawyers fire back a response to get real. Sun then forwarded both messages to ChillingEffects, a site which deals with cease-and-desist letters. Your move, Carly.

Jeep Climbs New Heights

Well sure it's a publicity stunt. That doesn't mean it isn't a neat picture. Chrysler used the opportunity to hype the new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee by having it appear to climb the 30-story building at 2 Penn Plaza, next to Madison Square Garden. Some 500,000 New Yorkers witnessed the stunt as it went up the side of the building on the window-washing tracks. BTW, if you haven't figured it out, a crane was used to get the Jeep up the building.

Although the event was planned well in advance, Chrysler discovered the night before that there was a giant Nissan Pathfinder billboard across the street.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Skintight Space Suits

Image: Application of full-body electrospun bio-suitLong ago, Larry Niven equipped all his Belters and Lunies with skinsuits, skin-tight space suits which protect the body from the vacuum of space. The biggest difference between these and the 300 pounds of NASA's current space suits is that they won't be filled with air. Since the suit is right on the skin, it doesn't need to be pressurized, just pressure tight. That means they are not only lighter, it is much easier to move and bend.

Now MIT and NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) have come up with a spray-on suit thatis similar in concept. Skin tight. An external cover is still needed for heating/cooling, but that need not be pressure tight. Now, about that Belter haircut...

That Dog Won't Hunt

John Kerry made a bid for support from gun owners and hunters today in Ohio. Kerry posed near Youngstown with a shotgun, camouflage clothing, and four dead geese, one of which he claims to have shot. Was this the shotgun he claimed to own in Boston, or the one he received (possibly illegally) as a gift recently?

The NRA's response was an ad in a local paper that read "If John Kerry thinks the Second Amendment is about photo ops, he's Daffy." A Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) spokesman called Kerry's effort to portray himself as a devoted hunter "a carefully choreographed smoke screen." He added, "Kerry put on his [...] camouflage not to fool the geese, but to fool hunters." Rush Limbaugh's response was about "Swift Air Geese for Truth."

Kerry's record on gun control issues has been consistently for restrictions, bans, and additional licenses. This makes him a hunting supporter? To quote another CCRKAB spokesman, "Don't let Kerry do to you what he just did to that goose."

Boycott HBO

HBO plans to implement a Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme for all of its programming, digital and analog in June. This means no more recording, time-shifting, or DVRs if they have their way. Geek News Central is proposing a boycott of HBO until they drop these plans. Viva Betamax!

Say What?!

These come courtesy of a longer item at 3 Blind Mice.

Clinton awards Halliburton no-bid contract in Yugoslavia - good
Bush awards Halliburton no-bid contract in Iraq - bad

Clinton spends 77 billion on war in Serbia - good
Bush spends 87 billion in Iraq - bad

Clinton imposes regime change in Serbia - good
Bush imposes regime change in Iraq - bad

Clinton bombs Christian Serbs on behalf of Muslim Albanian terrorists - good
Bush liberates 25 million from a genocidal dictator - bad

No mass graves found in Serbia - good
No WMD found Iraq - bad

Clinton calls for regime change in Iraq - good
Bush imposes regime change in Iraq - bad

Terrorist training in Afghanistan under Clinton - good
Bush destroys training camps in Afghanistan - bad

Milosevic not yet convicted - good
Saddam turned over for trial - bad

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Is That A Turbine In Your Pocket, Or....

MIT's Gas Turbine Laboratory has announced that they are working on jet turbine engines smaller than a dime. These new micro-turbine engines spin at over 1 million RPM, and can be used instead of fuel cells to replace all kinds of batteries. They could even be used to provide power in third-world countries. (BTW, in case you were confused, the picture is a GE90 engine from the new Boeing 777.)

Calling Dick Tracy

Officials in Defiance, Ohio actually noticed something was odd when they started getting voter registrations for the likes of Dick Tracy, Mary Poppins, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Chad Staton, who really does live in Defiance County, had been hired by Toledo woman, Georgianne Pitts to collect voter registrations on behalf of the NAACP National Voter Fund. The Fund collected some 80,000 registrations, of the nearly 500,000 total new voter forms in Ohio. Rather than pay Staton in anything as mundane as coin of the realm, Pitts was providing him with crack cocaine in return for the registrations. This is kind of reminiscent of the traditional graveyard vote in Cook County.

Could the NAACP's new slogan be "Crack the Vote"?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Navy Says Women's Skirts Optional

USA Today has the headline: Navy changes dress code, makes skirts optional. My mind flashed to a story I heard at West Point. It seems that Edgar Allen Poe was briefly a cadet there. He lasted one semester. According to the story, one morning he noted that on the bulletin board that cadets were to fall out for parade wearing "cross belts and under arms." So he did. Wearing nothing but those white web cross belts you still see, and carrying a rifle. Soon thereafter he was expelled.

The Navy also announced that there is a big uniform redesign coming. One of the changes includes replacing the khaki's for chiefs and officers, coveralls, and the standard blue shirt/blue pants ensemble with a single camouflaged utility uniform. The object of the camouflage isn't to be able hide aboard ship, but to conceal stains and wrinkles. A uniform that makes sense? Nah, that makes too much sense.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Republicans Have Better Sex

According to a forthcoming ABC "Primetime Live" poll, republicans have better sex lives. According to the report, 56% of Republicans are satisfied with their sex lives, as opposed to only 47% of the Democrats.

Now I've always been skeptical of polls, especially boutique polls like this one. For example, maybe the real cause is that more Republicans are in committed relationships (87% vs. 76%). Maybe its because they are more adventurous about sex (72% vs 62%). Or maybe they are more honest. The poll reports that 33% of Democrats admit to having faked an orgasm, while only 26% of the GOP respondents did so. Go do your own research.


Be afraid. Be very afraid.

One of the most controversial proposals of the new Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has been a comprehensive database program called the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) describes the program as: "a controversial passenger profiling and surveillance system that would require you to give your birth date, home phone number, and home address before you can board a U.S. flight." The program, which had already spent almost $100 million, was killed by protests from privacy advocates, business travelers, and even Congress.

Now the TSA is planning to test a new system called 'Secure Flight'. They have ordered all domestic airlines to turn over passenger records. But there is more here than meets the eye. The 'Secure Flight' system is to be run by a private contractor. This bypasses some government oversight. The contractor in question is one Global Information Group Ltd. A Bahamas based company. A country that doesn't have those "cumbersome" privacy laws. Hired to run the project is none other that Ben H. Bell III, the former spook who designed CAPPS II. This is like deja vu all over again!

If this scares you, and it should, the TSA is soliciting public comments until October 25. Time to file yours now.


Chris van Rossman had been using his 20" Toshiba TV with built-in DVD, VCR and CD player for about a year. Since he wasn't subscribed to either cable or satellite feeds, he didn't use it much, except to watch PBS kid's shows. It seems that the TV decided that it wanted a bit more attention.

Chris was watching TV one evening, when he had a knock at his door. Standing there was a Corvallis police officer, a Benton County Sheriff's deputy, and a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) radio locator team. It seems that the TV decided to start broadcasting on 121.5 MHz, the international emergency frequency. When the signal began, it was immediately picked up by monitoring satellites, and relayed to the USAF Rescue and Recovery Coordination Center, who in turn alerted the CAP, who in turn coordinated with the local authorities. All of whom ended up at Chris's door. Mr. van Rossman was advised to turn off the TV, or face a $10,000 fine for broadcasting a false distress call.

Maybe he should subscribe to cable after all.

Update 10/19: Toshiba has stepped forward, and offered to pony up a new TV. Presumably one without broadcast capabilities. This story brings new meaning to the concept of "interactive TV."

Sunday, October 17, 2004

No Milk in School? Serve Margaritas

When Virginia's private Alexandria Country Day School had leftover margaritas after a staff dinner, they stored the mix in the school's refrigerator. Then next day, cafeteria workers mistook it for limeade, and served it to the students when they ran out of milk. Events did not take the predictable turn though. Students who tried the mix rejected it because "it didn't taste good." I don't much care for margaritas myself.

Bullwinkle The Flying Moose?

Contractor City Electric was stringing a new power line to the Teck Pogo gold mine southeast of Fairbanks, when the crew sensed something was wrong. Backtracking to check, a 1,200 pound trophy-class bull moose was discovered suspended from the cables 50 feet in the air.

According to the article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "The moose was alive when it was lowered to the ground but was later killed when officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game decided against tranquilizing it to remove the wires because they were worried the moose, already stressed, would die and the meat would not be salvageable as a result of the drugs."

Meet The Carlsons

Mr. Carlson,
Tucker Carlson,
Mr. Sun brings us this interesting between WKRP in Cincinnati's Mr. Carlson and CNN's Tucker Carlson.

Friday, October 15, 2004

FDA Orders Barn Locked. Many Horses Already Dead

The FDA has ordered that antidepressant medications must carry a warning label stating that patients taking them may be prone to suicide. Gee, you'd think someone was prescribing antidepressants for people who were depressed! What a concept! It took them 20+ years to figure out that depressed people might use the drugs at hand to attempt suicide?

Where the hell was the FDA when tricyclic antidepressants were introduced in the 1980's? Doctors were handing them out by the bucket-full, leading to many patients overdosing, which in turn led to the patients simultaneously seizing and going into cardiac arrest. A really fun scenario for paramedics in the field, as I can attest. No joy in the ER either, as initially no one knew how to treat this kind of OD! CPR and standard Advanced Cardiac Life Support didn't work.

Now they want a warning label. Like this is going to affect how doctors and pharmacists view these drugs?

All I Want For Xmas

Lifetime memberships aren't new. Two that come to mind are the NRA and the ARRL. Unlimited travel passes have been used for years by the European railroads (EurailPass) to allow travel in a specified period. Now, just in time for Christmas shopping, American Airlines is trying something similar. For a mere $3,000,000 (yes, 3 million), or a bargain $5M for a couple, you can travel anywhere, anytime, on any American Airlines flight, forever! The ad doesn't say if you have to travel on standby, or in coach.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Vote Early And Often

The Freedom to Tinker blog takes a look at another glaring problem with Diebold voting machines. Seems that they use a smart card to authorize voters, but the card is interrogating the voting machine, rather than the other way around. Then, after the vote is placed, the machine tells the card to turn itself off. But there is nothing stopping someone (except the DirecTV folks) walking in with a pocket full of cards they set up at home from voting as often as they like.

Department Throws Cold Water on Sexed Up Firefighters

The Sacramento Fire Department has fired six firefighters and suspended or reprimanded 13 others for trying to pick up women using city fire trucks. In one case, a woman accused one of the firefighters of sexual assault aboard a fire engine. A Fire Department spokesman was quoted as saying "It's an inappropriate use of city equipment." Did he mean the fire engine?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Sorry, Your Cell Phone Is Over Its Limit

Motorola has announced plans to turn your cell phone into a credit card. The new phones will use
Near-Field Communications (NFC) technology, and the service is called PayPass. Unlike Bluetooth, wifi, or the vaporware UWB, NFC has a range measured in inches, and speeds of only ~212 Kbps as opposed to speeds of 1 to 7 Mbps for the others. The phones could be used to make payments at stores, mass transit, taxis, movie theatres, your neighborhood McDonalds, or even soda machines. For security, a password is required before a transaction can be completed. Strong resemblance to RFID. MasterCard already offers this technology built into some of their credit cards.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Northern Exposure

Here in CONUS we get pretty insular about living conditions in the rest of the world. Even in parts of the United States, things that most of us take for granted ain't necessarily so. Case in point, teacher David Miller, who left his teaching job in Philadelphia to relocate to the teeming metropolis of Tuntutuliak, Alaska (population: 370). Something of a culture shock ensued, which he is documenting in his blog. Wonderful material for a blogging subject.

The Male Child Formerly Known As @

A man in central China has (fortunately) been blocked from naming his infant son '@'. Officially, this is because the name cannot be rendered in Mandarin, as required by Chinese law. According to the Beijing Morning Post, the father argued that since '@' is on all keyboards (even Chinese ones), it ought to be acceptable.

This comes on the heels of the Missouri man who changed his name to 'They', and the Michigan couple who named their son 'Jon Blake Cusack Version 2.0', instead of Jr. No mention of what the '@' baby finally did get for a name.

Christopher Columbus: Genocide?

In a decidedly non-traditional event, students and faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) staged a Columbus day protest accusing the explorer of being responsible for the murder of millions of native people. According to Donna Akers, a UNL assistant professor of history, Christopher Columbus was responsible for the systematic murder of nearly nine million indigenous people on the island of Hispaniola, site of present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

It seems unlikely to me that the population of Hispaniola was anywhere near that high. But if you consider the effects of the Spanish throughout the Caribbean and Central/South America by enslavement, forced starvation, exploitation, and introduced diseases, the number is plausible. I was going to say the number isn't unreasonable or that it isn't excessive, but in a sense it is exactly that. That doesn't make it inaccurate.

Michigan State Police Drag Races

Michigan State Police set something of a land speed record to shuttle snake anti-venom from Detroit to Traverse City. Using a Pony Express style relay, the covered the 256 mile trip (which normally takes ~5 hours) in 2 hours and 15 minutes. That's an average of over 113 miles an hour! I don't know what the laws are in Michigan, but in New Mexico, red lights and a siren did NOT grant any privileges to break traffic laws. How many people did they endanger in this Cannonball Run to save one guy bitten by an African Puff Adder? Anyone ever hear of helicopters?

Monday, October 11, 2004

A Carrot A Day

Students at a British school were on a field trip to the Lincolnshire Organics Farm when they encountered something they claim never to have seen before. Carrots. The kids had to ask if the strange vegetable was eaten cooked or raw. This is made even stranger by instructions sent out last month to schools on how to eat carrots! Someone needs to get to the root of this.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Beauty Contest Limits Participants

Presidential candidates Michael Badnarik (Libertarian) and David Cobb (Green) were arrested last night when attempting to join Bush and Kerry in the presidential debate in St. Louis. Badnarik was carrying an Arizona State Court order claiming that the debate denied his party equal protection under the law, but an Arizona court order doesn't carry much weight in Missouri.

The most interesting part of the story though is that NONE of the mainstream media or wire services carried the story. This casts serious doubts on the country's interest and/or ability to allow third party candidates into the process, and tends to support Cobb's statement, "These are not debates, these are infomercials."

Thursday, October 07, 2004

What? We're Too Late For The X-Prize?

Here's a sport we really hope never catches on. Jet powered shopping cart racing. This could bring a whole new level of terror to parking lots everywhere. The guy in the picture build a gas and liquid fuel pulse jet from instructions off the internet. No, I won't be giving a link to those. Andy Tyler, the inventor says: [It] "runs out of fuel after two minutes and at over 50mph becomes unstable." Duh! And this guy was Safety Officer for his local Microlight Club.

Nickel and Dime Con

Well dimes anyway. Seems that someone in Georgia is counterfeiting Roosevelt dimes! The real question is why? It must cost them ten cents to make each one.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Lavatory Sex Legal

A court in Como, Italy has ruled that having sex in the john at a bar is legal, as long as the door is closed. Try getting that kind of verdict anywhere in the U.S.!

On the other hand, the prosecutors were trying to get a six month sentence for the man, but only five months for the woman. I guess Italy is ahead of us in the sexual revolution, but still behind on the women's rights movement.

Judge Luciano Storaci did fine the man 200 euros for breaking the lock on the lavatory.

Credit Card Sized Shotgun

From the "Why Don't They Just Throw A Rock?" department, comes the silliest defense weapon since the belt-buckle revolver. Introduced by a small company near Minneapolis, it is a two-shot, electrically fired, muzzle loading shotgun in a block of metal the size of a credit card.

How many ways can this screw up? Let's see: The batteries could die. The powder could be damp. The powder could be loose. You could load too much (or too little) powder. You could be more than two feet from the target. The thing could just jump out of your hand when fired (no handle). The firing button could get pressed in your pocket. And so on.

The effectiveness of the weapon is also questionable. Judging from the photo, the barrels look to be around .25 caliber. For reference, a 12 gauge shotgun is .73 caliber. This gun fires seven .17 caliber pellets in a load. The conventional 12 gauge 00 buckshot (referred to as double-ought) shell contains nine or more .33 caliber pellets. It would probably be more effective to throw the gun at an assailant than to fire it.

One Of Our Countries Is Missing

Eurostat's Statistical Compendium 2004, which calls itself "the statistical guide to Europe," came out last Friday with a map on its front cover showing EU member states. It's intended as a yearbook for European Union statisticians. Unfortunately, Wales was completely missing. It seems to have sunk into the Irish Sea.

"[W]e're embarrassed and we're sorry," said Tim Allen, a press officer for Eurostat. Bits of Scandinavia also seem to have been altered.

There was no comment from the Prince of Wales.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Kerry Haters for Kerry

My biggest decision in the upcoming presidential election is figuring out which candidate I dislike the most. Now, one group is trying to capitalize on this dilemma and recruit voters for Kerry. They describe their mission as: "Are you going to vote for John Kerry even though you find him unpleasant, annoying, arrogant, waffling, misguided or just generally unappealing in some profound way? Then you've come to the right place! We're Kerry Haters for Kerry -- perhaps his largest constituency!"

As for me, I think we need a constitutional amendment requiring that "None Of The Above" be carried as a candidate in all elections.

Pedal Power

From the "Why Didn't Anyone Think Of This Before?" department, the pedal powered lawn mower. Gizmodo had this picture, but no details to go with it. Now a registered couch potato can sit down and mow the grass, but still get some exercise. I'd look into getting one myself, except I don't have any pesky lawn. Hmmm. Did you notice, it's a girl's bike?

Lyndon LaRouche Founded Wikipedia?

You have to wonder (yet again) just what is going on at universities these days. The Lantern, which styles itself as "The Student Voice of Ohio State University", currently has an article on a recent rally for perennial presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. (Use to deal with annoying login nonsense.) Now normally, this would be of no particular interest to anyone off campus, but then in the last paragraph, the paper announces that LaRouche founded! This must be quite a surprise to Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, who everyone else thinks started the web based encyclopedia. In an interesting twist, points out that most of the bio information on LaRouche is lifted straight from Wikipedia

Monday, October 04, 2004

See You At Oktoberfest?

Or maybe not. Glass eyes were only some of the 4,000 items that were turned in at the Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich recently. They also found some top-secret papers, wedding rings and a wheelchair. Probably too much gemütlichkeit again.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Tied Up In Knots

I still remember a high school English class assignment where Mrs. Weiss had us describe step-by-step the process of tying a tie. In the modern age, this is now on line. Sort of. An entrepreneur in Germany is offering a tie tying database for Java equipped cellphones and Palm devices with Java. But there is a hostageware twist. If you don't pay up to register, the program won't show you the final step.

Pull Over, This Is The Wifi Police!

ZDNet UK has an editorial proposing that police cars in Los Angeles be equipped for wardriving, and that they issue citations to anyone found operating an unsecured Wifi network. Seems the Brits don't realize that the FCC doesn't allow anyone else to play on their turf.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Entire School Plays Hookey. For 23 Years!

When Bihar School Examination Board Chairman Subhash Sharma one Monday morning, he found the entire staff of the Rajendra Memorial High School in West Champaran were AWOL. A little investigation showed that all eleven of the staff had been absent since 1981! The staff had hired three dummy" teachers (for a fraction of their salary), to maintain school activity. The regular staff only put in appearances twice a year on "occasions of national importance".

Even many of the students were fakes. Some of the names enrolled belonged to castes that did not even live in the area.