Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 Engadget Awards - Cast Your Vote

Engadget was named the Best Tech Blog in the 2004 Weblog Awards. Now you can cast your vote in Engadget's 2004 Technology Awards. Like any list there are some things we would have like to see missing, and some things that evoked a "What??!" At least you can vote against some items. Remember, vote early and often.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Science Of The Sumatran Quake

Dr. Lareef Zubair of the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction at Columbia University has put together a stunning collection of materials related to the Indian Ocean earthquake this week. He includes animations, charts, and seismograph recordings combined with lucid explanations and background information. A must read if you have any interest in the subject.

The Other Side Of The Mirror

Maybe there really is another universe on the other side of the mirror. From Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime via Illusions Etc., where there are more mindbending Trompe L'oeil to be had.

Firefox Tweaks

Forever Geek has posted some interesting instructions on a quick and easy way to speed up the Firefox browser. I've tried them, and they also work fine with Mozilla (v1.7.3 anyway). The method is also an instructive peek under the cover at the browser configuration settings. There are some caveats, but most folks using broadband should see improvement. YMMV. Not that Firefox was particularly slow to start with. Another set of tweaks here.

Turnabout Not Fair Play?

Dino Rossi is calling for what amounts to a runoff election in the Washington State Governor's race. Given that the margin in the last recount is 0.0000463% of the votes cast, this seems a reasonable thing to do. Unfortunately, I haven't heard anyone suggest a mechanism by which this would be legal under the current system. Gregoire spokesman Morton Brilliant said "This ain't golf, no mulligans allowed here, folks." Unfortunately this may be correct.

What really torques me though is a statement by Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost. "He [Rossi] wants to spend $4 million of taxpayer money for a new election because he doesn't like the results." The Dems forced the taxpayers to spend $730,000 on a recount because they didn't like the results of the first recount. It's OK when they spend your money, but not if someone else does.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Thoughts On A Tsunami

The news is full of the aftermath of the Sumatran quake, and I've been doing some thinking about it. All the following is pure speculation, none of it on any special knowledge or information.

The media are always shy about real casualty figures, but I will not be surprised if the numbers reach 250,000 500,000. After all, this is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. It's hard to see how they could avoid damage from the tsunami. For example, the Maldives, which was right in the path of the wave, consists of some 1,200 coral atolls, with 80% of the land less than a meter above sea level. Many of the islands had to be completely under water. Then there is Bangladesh, right at the apex of the Bay of Bengal, which would have been the mouth of the gun barrel, so to speak. Southern Bangladesh consists of the Ganges River Delta, a maze of waterways, islands, and flood plain, all of which is close to sea level. The wave that reached India was reported to as high as ten meters.

Given the frequency of earthquakes in the region, tsunamis must occur every generation or so. So this isn't a new experience. Everyone talks about the lack of a warning system, but what do you call it when the ground shakes like it was on ball bearings? That wouldn't tell them when a wave would come, but it should have been a signal to either head for the hills (if there were hills to be found), or get to a radio to find out when to head to the hills. But reading the reports, it doesn't seem that anyone got the hint. It is inconceivable that no one in the region had a clue. It must be that the media just don't find people with foresight newsworthy. Right?

Update: Seems that the wild animals figured it out. "I am finding bodies of humans, but I have yet to see a dead animal," said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, owner of a hotel within Sri Lanka's Yala National Park. According to Australian Museum archaeologist Robin Torrence, communities that maintain their oral history are less vulnerable to disasters. "When the Rabaul volcano went off in 1994, people had passed on stories and people knew what to do. They saw the water drawing back and they ran."

As I alluded to above, in some cases there probably were no options, nowhere safe to go. Consider what would (will) happen when Florida's time comes. The highest point in the state is 300 feet. The mean elevation is 100 feet. Even with a great warning system and hours of warning, where are 17 million people going to go? Or substitute Holland, or the Mississippi delta, etc, etc.

South Asia has been the recipient of countless aid programs over the years. Did any of them distribute radio receivers? There is nowhere on the planet that doesn't get at least short wave reception, especially at night. You don't even need batteries. At the low end, they could even be crystal sets, which can be made for pennies. More sophisticated versions could be hand cranked. Radio is an information source. How many lives could have been saved with casual radio use, even if no one took warning directly from the earthquake?

More is sure to follow.

Doctorow on DRM

Cory Doctorow, activist, blogger, and science fiction author is trading shots with Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson on the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM). Anderson takes the position that DRM will encourage innovation, and that we need to be "realistic" about the entertainment industry's actions. Doctorow, who is the European Outreach Coordinator (whatever that means) for the EFF, blasts back that "all of those propositions are materially untrue." An interesting read.

Frost On The Pumpkin

It's been a while since I posted a picture just because it was neat. Larry Mayer of the Billings Gazette took this shot of "Sodium lights in downtown Billings glow[ing] orange in contrast to a frost-covered Ponderosa Pine tree on the Rimrocks overlooking the city."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quake Sets Clock Back?

Did you adjust your clocks after the 9.0 earthquake in Sumatra this week? All 3 microseconds worth? Scientists won't really know it that's necessary for weeks, but large quakes can disrupt the Earth's rotation. This happens when significant mass moves either outwards or inwards. In other words, if the planet gets slightly larger or smaller, the rate of rotation changes. Like an ice skater tucking her arms in.

Parking In The Penalty Box

Chicago's Ohare Airport has an area out in the middle of the runways where arriving planes are made to park until there is a gate available. It's called "The Penalty Box." A number of airports are now applying a similar approach to drivers who come to pick up new arrivals. At LAX and Seattle's Sea-Tac they have implemented cell phone lots, where drivers park until called. With curbside parking ever more reduced by security concerns, this eliminates the need for cars to "orbit" the terminal while waiting, which in turn cuts down on pollution, fuel use, and accidents. Should it be called the no-penalty box?

Not Your Father's Batmobile

British design engineer Glynne Bowsher and his team have almost finished building a super-fast vehicle. The difference is that this car will be powered by a steam turbine! This ain't no Stanley Steamer. Bowsher hopes that his team, the British Steam Car Challenge, will break the steam-car speed record, set in 1906 by a Stanley Steamer driven by Fred Marriott, which reached 127.7mph (205.5 km/h), beating four gas-powered vehicles to pick up the Dewar Trophy.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Color Photography

Why is color photography of particular interest? Because this series of pix by Russian Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii were shot in the year 1900. Kodak didn't produce Kodachrome film until 1935! Prokudin-Gorskii, who was the photographer for Czar Nicholas, shot pictures all over the Russian Empire using a technique whereby he took each photo three times, using red, green and blue filters in turn. The Library of Congress has digitally remastered the negatives, producing a stunning record of Russia at the turn of the century. Even better, the Library has made all 2,600+ photos available on the web!

Paging Senator McCarthy

The man would have fit right in with this. The Customs branch of DHS has started requiring loyalty oaths from anyone wanting to import videos and such. mbf tod@y tells us that the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has also started having visitors fill out a form which asks "Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions!" Duh! I feel so much safer.

Friday, December 24, 2004

White Trash Christmas

I really, really hate Christmas music, to the point where it drove me to buy my first car CD player just so I could listen to something else. Most of it is drivel that wouldn't rate a moments air time the rest of the year. Occasionally, someone else shares this point of view, like the folks who put together this rendition of a White Trash Christmas. They also seem to be responsible for this riposte to everyone who has ever despised the Chipmunk's Christmas.

Let It Snow

For those living in climates where snow is an issue, this cross between a wheelbarrow and a shovel might be useful. The developers claim that it can do more work for less effort. Of course, some of us live in areas where the week's forecast is for snow flakes, not even flurries.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Humdinga

I've been looking for a new SUV, but I'm pretty sure that this one isn't going to make the list. The Humdinga from Gibbs Technologies looks like it has the body of a Hummer, with a bottom grafted on from a bass boat. The amphibian can carry 5 passengers at speeds of 100 mph on land, and 40mph on water. Gibbs had previously used the same technology in a vehicle called the Aquada, an amphibious sports car. Now we know what James Bond will be driving in his next movie.

If At First You Don't Succeed....

...keep working the system until you get a result you like.

After paying for an unprecedented manual recount of the votes in the Washington State Governor's election, the Democrats finally got the result they wanted. Christine Gregoire pulled ahead by all of 10 votes, out of nearly 3 million ballots. Republican Dino Rossi had led by 42 votes after the first recount.

There remain some 735 uncounted ballots that were "discovered" in King County after the recount was in progress. The state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that these should also be counted. Since King County is predominantly Democratic, it is assumed that these ballots will add to Gregoire's lead. It would be ironic if these disputed votes turned the tables once again. Gregoire called 42 votes a tie. It's clearly within the systems margin of error. Too bad there is no provision to have a runoff election, like they do in the civilized world.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Blow This Out Your...

Forget Mount St. Helens. Data from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter suggests that some of the volcanoes on Mars, particularly Olympus Mons (nee Nix Olympica) may still be active (in geologic terms). St. Helens is a mere 9,000 some feet high (depending which year you measured it). Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the Solar System, is nearly 10 times as big, or ninety thousand feet high (88,600 feet to be precise)! The base of the mountain covers some 100,000 square miles, nearly the size of Arizona. An eruption there would be visible from Earth, not just from Portland, OR.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Custom Candies

This story is a little late for this year, but what the heck. Mars Candies is offering you the chance to stuff your candy bowl with customized M&Ms. Your choice of colors, and you can even have two eight character lines of text. The text is subject to some automated censorship, ala MSN Spaces. But as long as your language skills are better than theirs, the opportunities are staggering. Good tasting too.

This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Ophiuchus

Say what? According to modern astronomers, the sun cuts through a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, between Nov. 30th and Dec. 17th each year. And you always thought you were a Sagittarian.

Tropical Berlin

Zeppelins have not graced the skies of Germany since 1937. In 2000, the firm CargoLifter planned to revive the concept, and built a huge hangar near Brandenburg, about 100km (60 miles) from Berlin. Then the company went bankrupt, and no Zeppelins were ever built to use the hangar.

Malaysian entrepreneur, Colin Au has taken advantage of the building and turned it into a tropical beach resort, right in the heart of Central Europe. In a space tall enough to stand up the Statue of Liberty, Au has created a tropical island, complete with two beaches, an orchid-thick rainforest, Asian village, and simulated sunrises. Pass the sunscreen.

Segway, Schmegway

Who needs a Segway when you can ride a Levitating Hover Scooter? Hammacher Schlemmer is offering the $15,000 miniature flying saucer can reach speeds of 15 MPH, runs on a four-stroke internal combustion engine, and will go across any relatively flat surface, but only has a useful load of 220 pounds (100 Kg). Comes in your choice of colors.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Instant Coffee

The self-heating coffee can has been available in Europe for quite a while now, but it somehow never got offered this side of the Atlantic. Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck must have had a yen for it, because it's now being introduced with his name on it. This seems appropriate, since, according to developer OnTech, the self-heating container is built from two main parts: the container and the actuating puck." Inside each can is a chamber that holds crushed limestone (calcium oxide) and a separate reservoir of water (the 'puck'). You turn the can upside down, then pull the foil tab at the bottom of the can and push the plastic button. Water mixes with the limestone, triggering a chemical reaction that warms the 10-ounce beverage to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit in about six minutes. Market research determined that 146 degrees is the ideal coffee-drinking temperature. Batteries not required.

More Hobbit Pathology?

Robert Harrison wants to build a Hobbit Hole, and would like you to help pay for it. This doesn't seem to be a unique plan, as there are lots of references to others who have already built one. On his web site, Mr. Harrison repeatedly uses the pronoun "we", but only his name can be found. Is this indicative of imperial expectations/aspirations/hallucinations, or does he keep a mouse in his pocket? If folks have extra money to throw around, I have ambitions to build a passive solar house. Send my donations to.....

10 Things to Do WIth a LiveCD brings us the list of 10 things to do with a live Linux CD. Gadgetopia suggests that #11 is: "Pop a LiveCD into the PCs of your Windows-loving friends, and tell them you wiped their drive and put Linux on there for them." Yeah, that will make you popular! Great stocking stuffers for your stuffier relations.


Is sounds like the embarrassing uncle no in the family talks about. What it actually is, is a URL rewriter like Tinyurl. The difference is that Evilurl constructs the replacements with obscenities and the like. Very useful for getting around PITA "correctness" proxies at work, while venting steam on the PTB.

Obfustication Rules!

This site is a tribute to project managers and ad writers everywhere. After viewing all the links, downloading the %^&*$ PDF file, patiently reading though it all, I still have no frosting idea what the hell this thing does. So the score is Web Designers: 1, Web Users: 0.

Pringles Are Good For You

A team of researchers have treated a PCB-laden woman with fat-free Pringles. According to, "Researchers at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine in Ohio and the University of Western Australia, in a not-yet-published study, say they have treated a woman with PCB toxicity over a two-year period using olestra in the form of fat-free Pringles. They report that the woman's chloracne disappeared and the levels of PCB in her fat tissue dropped dramatically." Should we send Yushchenko care packages of Pringles? Nah, they'd probably just use the cans to eavesdrop on WiFi.

Gifts For Geeks

Courtesy of BBspot:
10. Age of Office Assistants video game
9. Box of floppies
8. Swiss Army Spork
7. "Sodium + Glass of Water" Gift Set
6. A copy of Windows 3.x For Dummies
5. ie51setup.exe
4. Their very own Bonzi Buddy
3. Year's supply of Diet Caffeine-free Mountain Dew
2. AOL membership
1. "Greedo Shot First" T-shirt

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Stuffed Shirts, Stocking Stuffers

Here's a great gift for the RIAA and the MPAA. A lump of coal! If you donate $100 to either the EFF, Public Knowledge, or Ipac using this web site in December, they promise to deliver a genuine lump of coal to everyone's least favorite media groups. Hey, even if they run out of coal, it's still worth supporting these efforts.

Sky Marshals Of The Universe

In the 1950s, no one gave Command Cody any problems with the technology he used to defeat bad guys in the Republic Serials he was featured in. In the 21st century, the FCC doesn't want to give Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) any flak either.

When the FCC recently announced that they were planning to relax the rules on cell phone usage in flight, everyone thought they were bowing to public pressure. Perhaps not. It seems that the feds have "
wireless telephone equipped, super-PDA that can transmit crucial, real-time intel anywhere in the world within seconds." The FAM director admits to pressing for the rule change to allow his men to use their toys in flight. Congress appropriated more than $10 million for R&D on this hardware, but what they are probably using are ordinary Blackberrys. Your tax dollars at work. I wonder if the air marshals get to keep their frequent flyer miles?

Warning. This Child May Be....

It was bad enough when the Spring Independent School District in Houston, Texas decided to us RFID chips to have police monitor all the students in the system. Will the next step be tattooing children for identification and health warnings? What next in the land of political correctness?

Crazy My Precious?

Did you ever (need to) wonder about Gollum's mental state? The Department of Mental Health Sciences, at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London has done a formal workup of the Tolkien character. It starts off in typical medical style with "Sméagol (Gollum) is a single, 587 year old, hobbit-like male of no fixed abode. He has presented with antisocial behavior, increasing aggression, and preoccupation with the 'one ring'.'"

According to the report, Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behavior, is obsessive though not compulsive about the ring, fulfills seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder, and is paranoid about Sauron. Being paranoid about Sauron seems healthy to me.

You Are What You Eat

The BBC has posted a list of 50 things you need to eat before you die. It's an odd mix of relatively standard fare such as curry, pasta, and venison, mixed in with the somewhat more exotic such as haggis, Durian fruit, and the American diner breakfast. Shown at the right are Moreton Bay Bugs, which despite the name are an Australian crustacean.

Open (Your) Office

Open Office 2.0 suite is almost ready for prime time. If you haven't tried OO yet, it is a great alternative to the other guy's product. It's not that OO does any one thing particularly better (besides being multi-platform), it's just so much easier on the wallet. There is a preview release is now available for download, and a review here. The new version has better MS-Office file compatibility, strict XML compliant output, and a new database program that mimics Access.

Where The Urethane Meets The Road

Amerityre is trying to market flat-free closed-cell polyurethane foam tires as spares for cars. No air needed to pump them up, as the design is solid. They already market them for bicycles, golf carts, lawn mowers, and such. The advantages are that the tread can't separate from the carcass (ala the Ford Explorer), they don't explode (!) when hit in a rear-end collisions, and they can be used to travel 50 mph for over 2,000 miles verses the 50 miles with standard spares. Urethane tires have been tried in the past, but there have been problems with traction. Targeting the spare tire market seems like a brilliant way to get a foot in the door,

Saturday, December 18, 2004

San Francisco Follies

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is once again earning California the appellation La-La Land. Supervisor Chris Daly is introducing a measure that would ban all private handgun ownership in the Bay City, except for police, rent-a-cops, and the military. The proposal is in response to an increase in homicides in the last year, 86 murders in the city compared to 70 in all of 2003. The move seems to be pretty pointless, since there are a grand total of five permits that have been issued to non-law enforcement personnel.

San Francisco has clearly learned nothing from the example of Washington, D.C. which has the nation's only total handgun ban, and is regularly rated as the murder capital of the country. They also ignore the increases in violent crime in England and Australia following bans, and the decreases in the United States where "must issue" laws have been passed for carry permits. The board continues to perpetuate the myth that armed citizens cause violence, as opposed to armed criminals.

Hopefully the voters will reject this measure, but in the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, I'm not betting that they will.

Die Hard III?

This has to be the tastiest weapons choice of the season. The Mini Marshmallow Blaster uses ammunition that is both tasty and biodegradable! Shoot one at a time, or blast five pieces of ammunition at once for a shotgun effect. For the true enthusiast, there is even an optional laser sight to ensure you don't miss a munchkin. The Blaster is even available in a choice of colors.

Empress' New Clothes?

Illusions Etc. is a blog site devoted to optical mayhem. Some of the images posted are simple Photoshop hacks. Some are from mainstream media, such as this image of Heidi Klum from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit collection. Does she, or doesn't she? Only the price tag is a giveaway. The site also has a very well done Escher-esque "Trippy Mirror Animation" which made my head spin when I contemplated posting it. Heidi is much easier on the eyes.

No Comment

Chicago radio host Glenn Beck brings us this disturbing image. Why is a radio host doing graphics?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Stop The Room, I Want To Get Off!

Yes, the room is spinning. All the apatments in this novel building in Curitiba Brazil rotate like the fancy restaurant atop the Space Needle. Each 2885 ft² unit in the Suite Vollard building can rotate 360º each hour.The curtain wall structure consists entirely of windows. Pesky fixtures like plumbing are relegated to the immobile core.

Bottoms Up

The ideal glassware for the secret drinker, gummi shot glasses. According to the ad, you fill the glass, chill for thirty minutes, drink the booze, then eat the glass. The glasses are mostly sugar. No cleanup, no evidence. Then after you have had a few you can go to work on the edible underwear.

The Season For Giving

This goes at the top of my gift registry. Aviation Technology Group and Israel Aircraft Industries are building this two seat jet for both the military and civilian market. Larry Ellison already has his order in. Delivery scheduled for 2007 We can mount the turbo-lasers later.


The EggButt Horseball is being touted as an exercise toy for your horse. I've been told I don't know much about horses (true), but I have a hard time believing you can teach a horse to play fetch. Although the ad doesn't mention how big they are, or what they are made of. Maybe the exercise is from the horse trying to keep his.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Where's The List?

All the media are reporting this list of 561 573 ballots that got rejected in the Washington State Governor's election. The ballots are in King County, which is predominantly Democratic. The Dems are paying for the recount since their candidate lost the general election by 42 votes.

The King County Council Chairman has had access to the list, but it doesn't seem to be posted anywhere that the rest of the great unwashed can see it. Ooops, found it here.

Since they killed off one of the radio stations I usually listen to, I was scanning the AM band, and came across some bozo on a talk-in show complaining about the conspiracy to steal the election. He claimed that it was so well planned by insiders that we would never be able to find any evidence, and that this proved that this proved his case! This guy probably believes Elvis Presley is alive and well, and living in Switzerland.

Head Of Steam

According to the New Scientist, Mt. St. Helens may be getting ready for another blow. "Something extraordinary is happening at Mount St Helens. We are scratching our heads about it," says Dan Dzurisin of US Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington.

Tossed Italian

When the second robbery attempt in a week happened at the Diamond Shamrock station at 17th Street and Grand in Kansas City, MO, the clerk, Stacy Smith, used the tools at hand to respond. He brained the robber with a can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli. According to Smith, "He deserved it." The police arrested a man a short time later. He was identified by the lump on his head. No word on whether Smith used meat or cheese ravioli.

Lincoln Bedroom

A new book being released posthumously by former Kinsey sex researcher C. A. Tripp claims that Abraham Lincoln was gay, and that he used to sleep with his guard captain whenever Mary Todd Lincoln was out of town.

I don't know how anyone can claim Lincoln was gay. he had to be the most morose looking man ever photographed! Maybe it was because he never got to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom.

Keep Your Cookies

Do you keep losing your cookies? Mocha Home has the solution for you. This ceramic mug has a slot for storing them. No word if you can fit a donut in. Comes in colors even!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Piercing Glare

I'm not a big fan of facial piercing to begin with, but this is a new extreme. One James Sooy has designed a set of eyeglasses that mount directly to your nose. No more slipping. And no ears required! Just get the hardware mounted (screwed?) permanently in your nose, and clip on the lenses. I think I'll just get Lasik instead.

Lego Logic

In yet another entry in the Lego saga, we are now presented with a set of logic gates built from the ubiquitous blocks. This guy has built working NOT, OR, NOR, AND, and NAND gates. For those not electrically inclined, logic gates themselves the building blocks on which computer circuitry is based. These mechanical representations are a good way to envision how gates work.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

When Ya Gotta Go....

Former pit mechanic Paul Stender got a little carried away building his outhouse. He installed a jet turbine engine bought from Boeing, and uses it to run races against his buddy Tim Arfons’s jet powered barstool. No word if the outhouse can be powered with an "alternate" fuel source.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Size Does Count

Forget about those hard to get Gmail accounts. Hellacious Riders is offering free mail accounts with one Terabyte of storage. That's 1,000 time the size of what those pikers at Google offer. And they promise no ads. IMNSHO, they won't be able to keep this offer going once the word gets out, so grab yours now. Of course, there couldn't be anything Freudian about why you think you need that big a mail box...

Paging Count Ferdinand

Neiman Marcus has always been over the top with their holiday gift catalog. Now, they have reached new heights. For a mere $10,000,000 you can have your very own 15 passenger zeppelin. Fly anywhere you like in luxury, except Lakehurst, N.J. (FYI, this model uses helium).

Exploding Wonderbras

Wonderbra has recalled its Clearly Daring models because the bras keep exploding! The bras are designed for women wearing plunging gowns, but the clear ties that hold the cups together keep breaking, leaving the wearers showing more decolletage than they intended. The bras were recalled from stores to have the ties strengthened because, “"They could be embarrassing.”"

Is That A Snake In Your DVD Player?

Sheila Himmerick got a very odd call from Samsung tech support. They wanted to know if she was a "disgruntled customer." Seems that when they opened the box on the DVD player she had sent in under warranty, they found that the box included a four-foot-long ball python. It seems that her son Rusty's pet snake Paco had slithered into the box while it was waiting to be sealed for shipment. Now the problem is how to get the snake back to Jefferson City, MO from Secaucus, NJ. In its infinite wisdom, the government classes boa constrictors as "livestock" for shipping purposes, and has lots of rules on the subject. Too bad Samsung can't just ship him back with the repaired DVD player.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Voted Most Likely To Run General Motors

Eleven year old Alec Nystrom is a boy with his fingers firmly on the pulse of the market. He has opened a stand in front of his home in suburban Los Angeles to sell lumps of coal. Business seems to be good. Alec said he hopes to sell enough lumps this holiday season to buy a dirt bike.

Taxation Without Inhalation

Colorado cigarette taxes are going to jump 320% after the first of the year. While good intentions may be behind this tax, I predict that the results will be a massive backfire. Two things will happen, a thriving black market will spring up in the state, and purchases (as well as tax revenues) will jump in neighboring states and on the Indian reservations. My crystal ball says that Colorado will see a drop in tobacco tax income.

Disk Off A Wire

I've been looking for a new 802.11g access point, and one of the models I'm considering is the Asus WL-300G, except no one seems to have them in stock. In the meantime, here comes Tom's Networking with this review of the Asus WL-HDD unit. It not only acts as either a wireless access point or client with DHCP and FTP support, it also has a slot for a 2.5" hard drive. Engadget points out that it ain't RAID 5, but what the heck, its under $90.

Playmate Of The Month?

The Photoshop crew over at Fark is at it again. Alternative possiblilities for everyone's favorite intellectual magazine. Many, many more shown, with the usual variations in taste and quality.

I've got to learn to use Photoshop!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Pumping Hi-Test

Lithuanian authorities have discovered a 3 km pipeline from Belarus that was shipping bootleg Vodka to the Baltic nation. The pipeline ran under several roads, along a riverbed and then ended next to the home of a Lithuanian citizen in the village of Eisiskiai. Even more amazing, this is the fourth moonshine pipeline discovered in the last two years! Seems that the cost of booze in Lithuania went way up after they joined the EU. The Lithuanian border guards say they have confiscated nine tonnes of bootleg booze so far this year. Paging Elliott Ness!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Canadians Conquer Tiny Toilets

The Ottawa International Airport Authority has spent the past six months measuring dozens of toilets. The flap was caused when a woman complained that a toilet for the disabled was too low. Six were found to be outside acceptable limits. One was all of 50mm (almost two inches) too low, while the other five offending porcelain thrones were a whopping 7mm (1/4 inch) off. The woman in question was not satisfied. She wants the standard code for disabled toilets raised a further 73 to 133 mm (~2.9 to 5.3 inches).

Tower To Reach For Arabian Nights

Samsung has been selected to build the world's tallest building next year in Dubai. The Burj Tower will be a full half-mile high, 2,640 feet, or 800 meters. No quibbling about whether the antenna counts, this will be 201 meters taller than the Taipei101 building which currently holds the title. The building will contain a hotel, shopping mall, offices and luxury apartments. Giant gorillas not included.

Wiki Wiki

First the encylopedia, then the news, now a multilingual dictionary. What's next for the wacky folks at Wiki?

Deep Fried Haggis

Seems that the Scottish diet is even worse than that of Americans. Hard to believe. It all began with the deep fried Mars bar. Since then the passion for deep frying has moved to include things like pizza and hamburgers, as well as more traditional favorites such as haggis and black pudding.

Mel Gibson's Payback

Actor Mel Gibson is floating in so much cash that he has bought his own island. Gibson paid $15 million US for the island of Mago in the Fiji. The 5,400 acre paradise is home to some 40 coconut farmers and their families. The cost is chump change for him. Gibson reportedly made $370 million last year producing the controversial Passion of the Christ.

Idiot-proofing Power Tools

In the neverending quest to protect people from themselves, a company called SawStop has come up with a system that will stop a power saw within 5 milliseconds of encountering something soft, squishy, and conductive. Like a finger or a hotdog. The system uses the degree of electrical conductivity through the blade to determine what kind of thing is being cut. They claim that even sticking your finger into a running tool will only result in a scratch. I don't plan to test this myself, but their videos are interesting. I don't really have a problem with this kind of innovation, as long as someone doesn't come along and pass a rule requiring its use. And someone will.

Seahawks Won All Games. NFL Recount Pending

According to the Washington State Democratic Party, a 42 point win is a tie. The Dems are paying $730,000 to have all 3 million votes counted for a third time. Unlike the monorail opponents, at least they are paying for it themselves. Also unlike the monorail spoilers, this recount should end the matter. Too bad the Seahawks can't use this kind of math.

You Know You're A Redneck If...

The U.S. Department of Justice recently published a pair of posters to guide authorities in identifying and searching Muslims and Sikhs (Caution: links are MB PDF files). In the interests of fair play (or some such), BoingBoing points out and equivalent set of pointers for dealing with Rednecks.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Now Wait Here And Be A Good Husband Dear

British retail giant Marks & Spencer are opening creches for husbands in several of their stores. The intent is to give men a break from the tedium of shopping. The facilities will be stocked with videos like "Best of Monty Python" and football matches. Each area will also have slot-car racing sets, remote control quad bikes and walkie talkie sets. No word on whether their wives/lovers/girlfriends/etc will have to show matching wristbands to reclaim them.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Idiot Cards

According to (one of) his biographies, Bob Hope would sometimes drive around with his cue-card man, and flash custom cards at drivers. Now you too can convey your full feelings to all those jerks you encounter daily. Police escort not provided.

Sounds Of Silence

Are you bothered by all those pesky cell phone signals in your home or office? Fed up with blaring contractor's radios? Tired of all those baby monitors on your cordless phone? Well bunky, have we got a solution for you! Force Field Wireless (now there's a name!) is offering their DefendAir Radio Shield paint on sale for only $69 per gallon. Instant Faraday cage! Such a deal. For your bonus round question, if Michael Faraday invented the Bunsen burner, why isn't it called the Faraday burner? It doesn't burn bunsens.

Fly You Own Skies

learjetFor the man who has everything, but can't quite afford a trip on a Soyuz, Bombardier Skyjet is offering a gift card good for five hours of flight time on a LearJet. They will even bring the plane to you at over 5,000 airports, and they throw in a limo and champagne. All for a mere $22,000. Where's my checkbook?

In Der Fuehrer's Face?

This billboard can be found in Orlando, and reportedly also in Jacksonville. On the bottom of the sign is a legend that says it was paid for by Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO) an outdoor advertising firm with half a million billboards, posters, displays on buses and taxis and such worldwide. CCO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, one of the world's largest media companies. A CCO spokesman said the company does not do political advertising. The billboard was first reported by the liberal forum Democratic Underground. This is too reminiscent of what has often been seen in totalitarian personality cults, such as Nazi Germany, Stalin's Russia, and Hussein's Iraq. Time for a little Spike Jones?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Can You Hear Us Now?

Complaints to the FCC have gone from ~350 pre year in 2000 and 2001 to 14,000 in 2002. This year the agency received over a million complaints, of which half were about Janetgate alone. The key in these statistics is that 99.8% of this flood is coming from one group, the Parents Television Council (PTC), headed by William F. Buckley's nephew, Brent Bozell. The Chicago Tribune calls the PTC "America's own Taliban."

Memory Is Free

Well almost free. PC Connection is offering a 128MB SD card for $1.95 after rebate. It's an unknown brand, but at that price, who cares?

Swedish Jeans Hazard To Cell Phones

Cellular-News bring us another survey of cell phone users. They asked 300 Swedish retailers for the top cell phone accidents. If number 2 is correct, I've really got to visit Sweden!
  1. Dropped the mobile on the ground.
  2. Squeezed the cellphone in tight jeans/pockets.
  3. Used the handset in the rain.
  4. Throw the device on the ground in rage.
  5. The dog/child got hold of the mobile.
  6. Dropped the cellphone in the toilet.
  7. Dropped the handset into the sea.
  8. Forgot the cellphone on the roof of the car.
  9. Perspiration on the mobile during workout.
  10. Dropped the handset in the snow.
Update: I don't normally add pictures, but this one on Gizmodo was too good to ignore ;)

Lion And Tigers And Kids. Oh My!

Can a lion change it's stripes? What? Zoologists at the Novosibirsk zoo are reporting that a Bengal tiger has given birth to a lion-tiger crossbreed. Seems the daddy African lion lived in the cave next door. Zoo director Rostislav Shilo claims that the cross is a first. The cub, named Zita, is being called a "liger". I like the sound of "tilon" better, but no one asked me.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ebay Has Its Own DMCA

It seems that eBay has started something called the Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO). The way this works is that if you sell a brand named item, the manufacturer can have your account cancelled if they choose to do so. Fortunately, most manufacturers either have too much sense, or are too blissfully Internet illiterate to invoke this.

eBay (and their Paypal subsidiary) have gotten so big that the average consumer is facing a steamroller. As long as everything goes well, the services are great. But they have lost the ability to deal with individual cases on their merit.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

Actually, if you thought it was safe to leave a computer naked on the internet, I want some of the happy pills you are taking. USA Today and marketing firm Avantgarde conducted an experiment where they connected several machines to a broadband connection. The machines were attacked within four minutes, and as frequently as 340 times per hour. Do you see why you want a firewall now?

DIY Bag Tags

Some airlines have been offering passengers the ability to print boarding passes on line, or to get them at self-serve kiosks for some time now. Alaska, Southwest and others are starting to allow their customers to print their own baggage tags. If someone would only automate the security goons next...

Saturday, December 04, 2004

You Can't Copyright Hooters

A federal judge in Orlando has ruled that no one has an exclusive right to scantily clad women or tacky decor. The Hooters restaurant chain, know for waitresses in hot shorts and tied-off T-shirts sued competitor WingHouse claiming that the defandant was infringing on the Hooters look, and confusing the public. I guess this means free trade in hooters.

Friday, December 03, 2004

On The Pill

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost half the people in the country are taking at least one prescription medication, and one in six take three or more! Think what this implies about the failure of the medical establishment's ability to heal anything as opposed to merely palliating the symptoms. Not to mention what this means for drug company profits. I find the number terrifying.

Doctor Who Returns

The BBC has announced a full season of Doctor Who will be on its schedule for next year. Christopher Eccleston has been cast as the Doctor, and Billie Piper will be his companion, Rose. Now if some TV network would just run a full set of episodes from Doctors #2, #6, and #7...