Monday, January 31, 2005

Mighty Mouse

When I first started messing with cordless mice, I had a run in with a unit that ate batteries at a prolific rate. I wish I had found this model instead. The NB30 from A4 Tech eliminates the batteries altogether. The mouse draws power inductively from the mouse pad, which in turn plugs into a USB port. The pad also replaces the usual dongle used by wireless mice. All for only $39! Now is someone would only come up with a laptop where the mouse dongle was built in...

Milking Another Election

As I listened to NPR's Morning Edition today, they managed to annoy me in a way usually reserved for TV network news. They were going on about the Iraqi elections, and Steve Inskeep kept reminding everyone that there would be "continuing coverage throughout the program." Coverage of what?! There are a sum total of three facts known about the elections at this point; 1. The elections happened. 2. The turnout was high. 3. There was little violence (by Iraqi standards.) Everything else is hype, speculation, and commentators speaking to hear their own voices. I expected better of NPR.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Times Change

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Intuit's Lack Of Intuition

Intuit is once again demonstrating how to win customer loyalty. Their latest move is to drop support for online bill paying in all versions of their financial software from Quicken 2002 and earlier. But they will give you $20 off if you buy Quicken 2005! This after the fiasco with TurboTax 2003, where the activation scheme prevented making backups or moving the program to a new computer. All of which they neglected to admit to customers.

Quicken 2005 had already annoyed customers, with built-in advertising, lack of expected control-key functions, and no support for Intuit's own QIF file format. Seems like they want to force their customers to MS Money. Microsoft tried to buy Intuit in 1995.

Spinning In Circles

Think your mind controls your body? Try this: Raise your right foot off the floor, and move it in clockwise circles. While you are doing this, draw the number six in the air with your right hand. Your foot will reverse course and try to circle counter-clockwise. Gah!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Stupidity Kills The Tiger?

Cyber, a 5 year old Siberian tiger may be killed at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, SD because of an idiot. The man climbed past two sets of barriers, then stuck his hand into the 12 foot fence at the tiger enclosure. What happened next? The one of the tigers bit him. Who could have guessed? I suppose he will be suing the zoo for failing to post signs saying tigers are dangerous. The man's injuries? His finger was bleeding and needed a few stitches. He turned down an offer to call EMS for him.

There are only an estimated 800 Siberian tigers left in the world (up from ~30 in the 1940s), and this one may be killed so it can be tested for rabies. Cyber, who is the father of two cubs born last May, is at the Sioux Falls zoo on loan as part of a breeding program to try to save the species.

Take My Wife. Please!

No, it's not Henny Youngman. A man in china was arrested for running a scam dating service. Seems he promised that in return for multiple fees he would match men up with rich, beautiful women. What they got was a date with his wife. No word on whether she was beautiful, or if the couple had raked in enough loot to be called rich.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Aussie Judge Orders Internet Purged

Justice Virginia Bell of the New South Wales Supreme Court wants Australian ISPs to block any and all material that might be prejudicial to court cases. I'm happy to see the rampant idiocy isn't limited to the northern hemisphere.

Top Tipples For Nerds

Top5 brings us a list of the top alcoholic drinks for nerds. The entries excerpted from the list include:
  1. Sex in Your Dreams
  2. Sloe Porn Download
  3. SCSI Navel
  4. Screamin' Klingon
  5. Blue Daiquiri Of Death
  6. Dotcomikaze
  7. Harvey Codebanger
  8. Seagram's Seven of Nine
  9. ASCII Sour
  10. Pasty White Russian

Legislature: "We Do Things To Piss People Off Every Day"

At the Washington State Capitol, people with concealed pistol licenses are allowed to keep their weapons even after going through the mandatory security screening. All 24 of them in the last three months. Now, State Senator Darlene Fairley (D-Lake Forest Park) wants to prohibit this practice. According to Fairley, "We do things to piss people off every day, we really do." Gee. maybe the better solution is not to piss people off!

In response, Sen. James Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) questioned why the law needed to change at the statehouse, Hargrove said that "He never knew of a case of a lawmaker being threatened with a gun." "Threatening somebody with a gun is illegal everywhere. Why would this be different than a grocery store or a park?"

Fairley also wants to ban .50 caliber weapons. After all, Kalifornia banned them, so it must be a good thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

It Also Cures Acne

The OceanCity Network of Thousand Oaks, CA has been selling these buttons, telling customers that if they will glue them to the bottom of their gas tanks, they will get "significantly" improved gas mileage and lower emissions. The button then "[sends] holographic frequencies into the gas tank and changes the molecular structure of the gasoline." Paging Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott! For this wonder of modern science, they actually charge $299.00! But discounts for resellers are available.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Women Over 40

I thought Andy Rooney was dead. Seems he is still cranking out commentary, such as this piece found over at 3 Blind Mice. Two line I particularly found amusing:

  • A woman over 40 will not lay next to you in bed and ask, "What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think.
  • For all those men who say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free." Here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire Pig, just to get a little sausage.
  • 15 Nanoseconds Of Fame

    I can only assume that my blog has arrived when it has made the top ten hits in a Google search for something other than its URL. Seems I made the top ten when searching for "obfustication." Not sure how to take this.

    Monday, January 24, 2005

    Anyone Remember Von Neumann Machines?

    The New Scientist is proposing that we should send autonomous machines to the moon as a prelude to colonization. These robots would wander around, building solar cells from materials found in the lunar soil. Lunar soil conveniently has all the elements necessary to build solar cells. When the first colonists arrived, they would find a ready made power supply.

    The article doesn't show much imagination. With only a little more wishful thinking, we could send primitive Von Neumann machines that would not only build the solar cells, they would also build more of themselves. Physicist Frank Tipler extrapolates that the absence of such devices answers Fermi's paradox, inferring that "We are the only intelligent life within a billion light-years." Otherwise we would be knee deep in the little buggers. Of course, Von Neumann machines can be dangerous.

    Antwerp Lowers Lights For Prostitutes

    The city of Antwerp has agreed to decrease the brightness of the street lights in one part of town after the street walkers complained that the bright lights were interfering with business. Now that's what I call an accommodating government!

    Endangered Species

    Sometimes the law has favored new technologies. The VCR was saved when the Supreme Court ruled that taping off air for entertainment or time shifting constituted fair use. DVD X-Copy was killed when the courts ruled that making backup copies of DVDs you had bought violated the DMCA. The EFF has an article on Endangered Gizmos, which tells the stories of a baker's dozen devices and technologies that have been (mostly) hurt, though (occasionally) helped by the legislative climate of the time. The article itself was endangered when the EFF posted the link with a syntax error. ;)

    10 Reasons The U.S. Is NOT Numero Uno

    Americans assume that they are the greatest and best country in the world, and are completely and unselfconsciously arrogant about it. The Austin Chronical, a free weekly, has some examples of just how egregious this attitude can be. The facts show that:
    1. The U.S. is 49th in the world in literacy
    2. The U.S. ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics
    3. The European Union leads the U.S. in the number of science and engineering graduates
    4. Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the Earth
    5. In overall health performance, the U.S. is 37th
    6. U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations
    7. The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba scores higher
    8. Women are 70% more likely to die in childbirth in America than in Europe
    9. Sometime in the next 10 years Brazil will probably pass the U.S. as the world's largest agricultural producer
    10. As of last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported
    Seems a lot of us are sitting on our laurels, while the rest of the world passes us by.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005

    Rethinking Recounts

    If you've read this blog before (and there are at least three of you out there), you know I've addressed the issues relating to the Washington State Governor's Election fiasco once or twice. Now the EFF has weighed in with a look at the problems related to electronic voting machines in general. Their ongoing efforts to make each vote count is yet another reason to support them.

    Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

    The University of California has had a problem with cadavers walking off. Sale of body parts on the black market brings in a lot of money. In response, plans are being discussed to use barcodes or RFID chips instead of toe tags. Are organleggers going to be a new urban problem?

    Now That's A Rock!

    Associated Press had a picture of this scene two weeks ago during the California mud slides, but this version drives the point home. It shows a 25 foot boulder some blocking both lanes of Topanga Canyon Road near Malibu, CA. Now that should work to chock a car parked on a hill.

    Two Minute Management Seminar

    3 Blind Mice strikes to the pith once again with a set of parables entitled the: Two Minute Management Seminar. Well worth reading.

    Same IQ, Different Brain

    Image Library Press Release 050120Haier Fig1 LgBoingBoing had this story yesterday, but Betterhumans has posted a much better article on the differences between how the brains of men and women are wired. The study by the University of California, Irvine and my alma mater, the University of New Mexico doesn't suggest that either sex is "smarter", but rather that they process information differently. Quel surprise!

    Eight Things A Credit Card User Should Know

    PBS, Frontline, and the NY Times have collaborated on a series called The Secret Life Of Credit Cards last year. I must have missed it :( Of particular interest are the Eight Things A Credit Card User Should Know. These include:
    1. The bank can raise your rate whenever it likes.
    2. Your credit score
    3. There is no limit on late charges
    4. It's important to read the fine print
    5. Many Americans are inattentive (Duh! This is news?)
    6. There is no federal limit on interest rates
    Scary stuff.

    Breast Implant Tax

    The Libertarian Girl ponders the societal logic to imposing a tax on women getting breast implants. To level the playing field, as it were.

    Friday, January 21, 2005

    The Twinkie Cookbook

    Deep-fried Twinkies. The Twinkie Health Shake. Twinkie Tacos, Twinkie-misu, Banana Java Twinkie Supreme, Scottish Twinkie Fritters. Theresa Cogswell at Hostess Foods is running the Twinkie 75th Anniversary Recipe Search at Unhealthy? Not at all. According to Ms. Cogswell, "There are only 160 calories in a Twinkie. Most people don't know that. And we make a Twinkie Light, as well."

    Fans of other snack cakes should not feel left out. The web site also has recipies for things like Ding Dong Mousse and Ho Ho Surprise. For the scientifically inclined, the Chicago Sun-Times article includes instructions for irradiating a twinkie until it explodes. Just what every 10 year old needs to try. Even more twinkie science here.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    The UFO Has Landed

    In Idyllwild, CA. Milford Wayne Donaldson, a leading preservation architect formerly based in San Diego, had this futuristic house moved more than 100 miles from San Diego to Idyllwild with a five vehicle escort headed by the state police. The 520 square foot house, called a Futuro, was designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, and is one of 20 built in the 1960s. After landing in the mountain community, the natives were found to be friendly.

    Then She Screamed

    Paulina Moussiesse of Sherman Oaks, CA had her baby pangolin confiscated by the feds at LAX after arriving from Paris. The animal was given to the LA Zoo. I wouldn't have mentioned this (despite the issue of "the government taketh, the government giveth") except for the wonderful comment in the article: "A security official at the gate for her Paris-to-LA flight [had] opened the basket and screamed, but the pangolin was allowed onboard ."

    Hell In A Handbasket

    Be careful what you ask for. Derek Kieper, a student at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was an outspoken opponent of seat belt laws. He was killed earlier this month when he was thrown from the Ford Explorer he was riding in. The SUV slid off I-80 and rolled several times into a ditch. The driver and other passenger were wearing seat belts, and had minor injuries. Think of it as evolution in action.

    When I worked as a Paramedic I must have seen literally thousands of car crashes (maybe 2 to 10 a week for 10 years. You do the math.) I'm a firm believer in seat belts and air bags. OTOH, I do resent government telling me that I must do something. Everyone should be able to go to hell in their own handbasket. YMMV.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Man Invents X-Ray Vision Machine

    Troy Hurtubise, who brought us the Ursus Mark Grizzly Bearproof Suit (don't ask), claims he can see through walls. He has invented something he calls "Angel Light" that goes through walls, skin, or other obstacles like they were transparent. It also knocks planes out of the sky, stops car engines, and kills goldfish. Sounds like something off of a UFO. He has convinced the French Government to invest in the project. That means it must be real. Right?

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Calling All History Buffs

    Last month I had a posting on the incredible collection of Russian color photo reconstructions from the turn of the 20th century that the Library of Congress' had placed online. Had I bothered to look a little further, I would have found that the LOC is placing all kinds of collections online where the world can access them, not just folks in the D.C. area. Not only to they have a wide range of American and Global subjects, such as the Printed Ephemera Collection covering the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (from which the item at the right comes) but current doings in Congress, and more. This is huge! Someone over there deserves some sort of award. I hope he/she gets it. And a raise.

    This House Will Self-Destruct In.....

    Gizmodo, via a series of links brings us the housewarming gift for the spook on your list. Or the house-exploding gift. A (hopefully) non-functional Self-Destruct Button, complete with the de rigeur flip-up plastic cover, key interlock, and, of course, the BRS or Big Red Switch, in this case a button.

    Verizon Embargos Europe

    Unnoticed by customers of most other ISPs, Verizon has decided late last month to block all email from Europe claiming that this will cut down on spam. Since most spam is sent from the U.S., this logic is not only ironic but puzzling. Can you hear me now? Apparently not from Europe.


    My new favorite word: Bricolage. It means something made from whatever convenient materials you MacGyvered together. bleach eating freaks ran a contest to see what sort of weapons could be made from office supplies. The results are kind of lame, but the principal is sound. Don't tell the feds you can make weapons from ballpoint pens and old credit cards. They might really want you to start traveling naked.

    Mother May I?

    In line with the next posting, someone reminded me that everyone's favorite traffic cops, the TSA, have an official list (PDF) of what is and isn't allowed on airplanes. So the next time one of their drones insists that your nail clippers are taboo (they aren't), you will have the ammunition (pardon the term) to fire back.

    In the meantime, here is a bit of a parody on their Travel Tips for travelers:

    Before the Airport
    • Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport. In fact, leave all your belongings at home. Arriving naked will make your check-in much faster.
      • Place valuables such as jewelry, cash, laptop computers, and cash in carry-on baggage only. It's easier for us to get to that way.
    • Avoid wearing shoes, clothing, jewelry, and accessories. We will just make you take them off.
    • Do not pack wrapped gifts and do not bring wrapped gifts to the checkpoint. Wrap on arrival or ship your gifts prior to your departure. TSA may have to unwrap packages for security reasons. Or because we just love opening presents.
    • Put all undeveloped film and cameras with film in your carry-on baggage. Otherwise we can't ensure it will be completely exposed by our X-Ray machines.
    • Declare firearms & ammunition to your airline and place it in your checked baggage. This tells the baggage handlers which pieces to lose.
    • If you wish to lock your baggage, use a TSA recognized lock. Otherwise you might actually prevent someone from opening your belongings.
    • Do not bring prohibited lighters and matches to the airport. Smoking your sneakers is discouraged.

    At the Airport

    Keep available your airline boarding pass and government-issued photo ID for each adult traveler until you exit the security checkpoint. This will help screen terrorists.

    • Place the following items IN your carry-on baggage prior to entering the screening checkpoint:
      • Mobile phones
      • Keys
      • Loose change
      • Money clips
      • PDA's
      • Lighters
      • Large amounts of jewelry
      • Metal hair decorations
      • Large belt buckles
      • False teeth, bridgework
      • Orthopedic appliances
      • Detonators
      • Timers
    • Take your laptop and video cameras with cassettes OUT of their cases But your GPS, boombox, iPod, two-way radio, and huge 48-Megapixel camera can be left in your case, since we just ignore them anyway.
    • Take OFF your outer coat, suit coat, jacket, or blazer. This makes it easier and faster to conduct any necessary groping.

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    Befuddlement Galactica

    I'm a little late with this, but whatever. The SciFi Channel debuted its new series version of Battlestar Galactica on Friday. Although it has gotten good reviews elsewhere, to me it was a severe disappointment. Since I didn't expect anything better (after the mini-series), it wasn't too big a let-down.

    I call the original series (not the abortion Galactica 1980) the Robert Anson Heinlein Memorial Lecture Series on Peace Through Superior Firepower. The recurring theme in the shows was that espoused by Vegetius in the fifth century: "If you would have peace, prepare for war". Appeasement and weakness only result in a much higher cost later in blood.

    Some of the issues I have with the new series include:
    • The Cylons were now created by man: While I have no problem believing that humans can be dumb enough to create something that will wipe them out, the original scheme of their having been created by another species who they did wipe out is too good a horrible example to relinquish.
    • The occupation of Caprica: Why do the Cylons want to occupy a human planet(s)? Complete with humans? The original theme was "The final annihilation of the life-form known as Man."
    • The new Cylon fighters: In a species of robots, having self-guided (aware?) ships is quite reasonable. But the stupid helmet heads are just dumb.
    • Casting: Full equality for women in the military is fine. But what is the value add to feminizing two of the lead characters? Especially Starbuck, who was designed as a rake and a libertine. The new Starbuck is just dippy. The actor playing Colonel Tigh is also a loser. Having an alcoholic, brawler, and gambler in a senior post just denigrates the Colonial military. And the character of Baltar as played is just too spineless to be a decent villain. The computer chip in his head is just as dumb as it was in Farscape.
    • Clocks: One of the mechanisms used in the first series to inject "alienness" was the use of an entirely invented time scale. Yarns, centons, microns, and so on. You never saw a clock. Now they not only revert to minutes, days, and hours, there are clocks everywhere.
    • Americanisms: The new series is rife with Americanisms. Colonial 1. G-4 explosives (C4). Viper tail numbers using American aircraft formats. The characters even have last names now, to go with their (mostly) American first names (Lee, Sharon, etc.)
    • Religion: Having a Cylon telling Baltar to repent and embrace God is inane.
    • Warship staffing: Warships are notoriously overstaffed, in part to cover combat losses, but also to provide round-the-clock coverage. The Galactica has a crew of some 2,000. Of whom only 40 are pilots. I can understand why the pilots run short on sleep in the first episode, but why has everyone else been up for days?
    • Cosmology: They create a crisis where they run short of water, and go looking for it on planets. Why would an interstellar spacecraft want to go to a planet for water? By some estimates, up to 90% of all water is in comets. Just grab a big chunk of ice. No inconvenient gravity-well to navigate.
    Lot's more, but this ought to do for a start.

    Saturday, January 15, 2005

    CNN Finally Joins The RSS Age

    CNN has finally joined the 21st century and posted a full set of links for RSS feeds. All version 2.0, so if you have an old reader, maybe you need to join the century too.

    Friday, January 14, 2005

    Who Is Killing The Great Microbiologists of Europe?

    Another microbiologist has been killed under peculiar circumstances. 72-year-old Professor Jeong Im, a semiretired protein chemist at the University of Missouri-Columbia was found stabbed and stuffed into the trunk of his burning car in a university parking garage. It was the first murder at the school since 1988. Some of you may remember the sequence of fourteen microbiologists and bioweapons experts who were murdered or died under otherwise "peculiar" circumstances in a one year period in 2001-2002. Right at the height of the Anthrax scare. Is there a deeper conspiracy here, or is it just a random clustering? To think, I initially wanted to be a microbiologist.

    Darth Tater

    I don't know why it took someone so long to see the obvious resemblance here, but Darth Vader is perfect for a Mr. Potato Head character. Complete with lightsaber, costume, and, of course, the helmet. But when did they stop using real potatoes? Remember, Luke. The Force is strong with this one.

    Thursday, January 13, 2005

    Hiccups 101

    Watch this video on the inner secrets of Hiccups.

    DHS. Back To School?

    Homeland Security is supposed to make us feel all warm and safe. So this story doesn't exactly promote that view. Seems that they either never did a background check on their own Deputy CIO, or they did a completely incompetent one. Ms. Laura L. Callahan , PH.d. (who insisted on being addressed as "Doctor") had in fact received her Associate, Bachelor, Masters, and Doctorate from unacredited diploma mills. But the sheepskins qualified here for good paying ($130,000 to $142,500) jobs and promotions.

    What Do Economists Really Do

    We know you were wondering. Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey points out this graphic depiction of the answer. (Hint: Move your mouse around.)

    Hold That Theory

    A federal judge in Georgia today struck down a requirement in Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta, to label textbooks with the message "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact." The judge found that this undermined the teaching of evolution in favor of one group's religious beliefs, and violated the First Amendment. Well, duh! It only took two years and a gazillion dollars in legal fees to find the obvious.

    If I remember correctly, this is the same community that fought an extension of Atlanta's subway because they claimed it would increase crime. Everyone knows that burglars carry their stolen TVs home on subways.

    Long Island To Collide With Mainland On Saturday

    It's not the Long Island you are thinking of, but an iceberg of similar shape and size. The 100-mile-long chunk of ice designated as B-15A broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf five years ago, and is expected to impact near McMurdo station on Saturday, January 15th. The best seats to view the event will be in orbit!

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    One Nation Under God?

    One of the things that startled me on my first exposure to a military chaplain was how he managed to do a benediction without calling on any specific deity of religious symbol. The benedictions at the Bush inaugurations are clearly not being handled by military chaplains. During the 2001 inauguration ceremonies for George W. Bush, he managed to piss off much of the country's religious establishment when the benediction included phrases like "We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that's above all other names, Jesus, the Christ."

    The religious right often calls the United States a "Christian Country". There is one problem with this. That pesky Bill of Rights. The very first item in the bill starts off " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Dedicating a ceremony on the steps of the Capitol with both houses of Congress in attendance doesn't strike me as keeping things very separate.

    The plans for Bush's 2005 inauguration next week call for the same evangelical preacher to once again deliver the benediction. This has that little alarm bell ringing in my head.

    ReVote Washington

    As I have probably mentioned two or three thousand times before, the 2004 Washington State election for Governor had a significant number of questionable irregularities, and resulted in a margin that was statistically in the noise level. Lot's of folks (yours truly included) have suggested that the reasonable thing to do is to have a do-over. What the rest of the world would call a runoff. Now there is a site collecting names for a petition to the legislature to do just this. Otherwise, I think the only option is to try for a recall and start over.

    You Know You're A Geek When...

    You know you're an old geek when you understand all the Nethack references in this "Yo Momma" list:
    1. Yo momma's so ugly, her charisma goes up when she's polymorphed into an ochre jelly.
    2. Yo momma's so stupid she thinks cockatrice is another word for a three way.
    3. Yo momma's breath is so bad, she turns basilisks to stone.
    4. Yo momma's so colorblind, she can't tell the difference between dwarf king and a dwarf lord.
    5. Yo momma's so stupid, she broke her wand of wishing.
    Complete list at

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    And This Qualifies Him How?

    President Bush has nominated Michael Chertoff, a federal appeals court judge, to become the second head of the Homeland Security Department. Chertoff has been a lawyer for his entire career, either in private practice or for the government. Where in this background does he have the qualifications to run the second largest government agency, with a budget of billions and over 180,000 employees? At least Tom Ridge had been a state governor, and Bernard Kerik had experience managing a large organization. This will make me feel soooo much safer!

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    Headspace. The Final Frontier?

    Andrew Fischer of Omaha, NE wants to rent out his head. Not the empty space inside, just the ad space on his forehead. He's trying to see what the market will pay by auctioning the rights to a 30 day tattoo on eBay. His mother even supports him. "Andrew's always been the creative one in the family," she said. As of this posting, the auction is up over $21,000. Hmmmm. I'm losing my hair anyway...

    Evil Assault Weapons Ban, Part 9999898...

    CBS's 60 minutes is once again supplying a platform for the California gun control community. In a piece aired this week, they present the Barrett Light Fifty rifle as a terrorists wet dream. Used by the military as an "Anti-material" weapon, by police to remotely detonate suspected bombs, and by target shooters for extreme long-range shooting, the Barrett is arguably the largest caliber weapon available to civilians. The feds banned anything larger than .50 caliber for civilian use in 1934. California banned the .50 this year, though someone could probably still come out with a .499 for them. Tom Diaz, a California gun control advocate, and a key player in the California campaign to ban the gun is quoted on how the Barrett is everything a terrorist could want. He overlooks a few minor issues, such as:
    1. The weapon is nearly five feet long, which makes it about as covert as a bus.
    2. It weighs nearly 30 pounds unloaded. Over three times the weight of a "regular" evil-assault-rifle.
    3. The ammunition weighs nearly 1.5 pounds per round. No one is going to carry much of this without a truck.
    4. The ammo costs $3.00 - $4.00 per round. Governments don't care, but everyone else does.
    5. The rifle is semi-automatic, and uses a ten round magazine. If you want to spray a crowd, you would need an army M2.
    6. Explosive ammunition exists, but it is already illegal to sell to civilians. How banned can you get?
    7. The recoil is brutal. No one (besides Arnold Schwarzenegger) is going to fire this from the hip as shown in the photo.
    Terrorists take the path of least resistance. They use airplanes as weapons not because they can't get explosives, but because it was easier to take over four commercial flights than to lug a couple of tons of material to the targets. When they have shot up airports and other locations in Europe and the Middle East, they have used automatic weapons that were light, easy to conceal, and easy to carry ammunition for. Someone might use a Barrett for a terrorist act, but there are lots of much more likely tools available.

    Saturday, January 08, 2005

    BSA Doesn't Think The DMCA Goes Far Enough

    And we don't mean the Boy Scouts! The Business Software Alliance wants to proscribe your rights to use your own media even further. Details in this article from Ars Technica.

    Friday, January 07, 2005

    "Who's in charge of Microsoft, anyway?"

    In yet another stunning display of Microsoft prowess, Bill Gates and company managed to once more (actually twice more) to crash Windows during a keynote presentation at a major conference (in this case, CES). Gates then proceeded to label anyone who questions the DRM view of copyrights (i.e. the DMCA view) as a communist during an interview with

    An unintended consequence of the interview may be that he has spawned a new logo for the copyleft community. Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing sparked a series of artwork, exemplified by the graphic on the right. How can a communist graphic be on the right?

    India To Unveil UFO Contacts?

    According to the India Daily, "all the five nuclear powers are in contact with the beings from other stars for quite some time". Now they think that the Indian Government is about to reveal the truth, including secret alien bases in the Himalayas and "the rules of the Universe". They go on to say that "India is so open and democratic; it is very difficult to keep a secret for long." Now where did I put my tinfoil hat?

    Is It Beavis or Is It Butthead?

    Near Lake Stevens, WA there is a six acre body of water with an identity crisis. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it's Lake Bevis (sic). According to the Census Bureau, it's called Lake Butthead. According to Boy Scouts, it's Lake Brinkly. I guess the scouts don't watch MTV.

    Chicago Rules

    Bring out your dead! Seems that's one of the irregularities alleged in the Washington State Governor's election. This sort of thing may not be the rule for elections in the Evergreen State, but Chicago has a complete Howto on stealing elections. Though they somehow missed the votes by felons category.

    CES Goodies

    If you've been hiding under your rock, here are just a few of the goodies being shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week:
    Wish I could have been there :(

    Toyote Ugly

    It's not Toyota but Ford who is showing off this really ugly concept car at the Detroit Auto Show, called the SYN-us. Where do they get these names? Autoblog calls the vehicle a "cross between an armored car and a padded cell." It even has a bank vault style spinner-wheel to open the rear door. Inside, the back door sports a giant video screen, which could be handy since there is no rear window, but probably requires a bank vault design to protect it from theft. I can't see any other reason to steal one of these.

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    Light My Fire

    Our friends the Feds are at it again. They want to protect the flying public from watches with altimeters. As if a successful hijacker wouldn't know his altitude without one (hint, there is a big round dial in the cockpit with that info.) Or as is a bomb maker couldn't do equally well with a simple timer. Can you spell Lockerbie? Besides, if the guy is wearing the watch, it isn't being used elsewhere.

    All this somehow arises from the discovery that al-Qaeda seems to like Casio watches with different gizmos built in. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that Casios are common, cheap, and available. The Feds also don't like the new watches with a built in lighter. makes it too easy to light the fuse on your shoe.

    Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

    Rotundus, a Swedish company, makes these ball shaped robots that moves by shifting their weight. Neat video of one rolling around a meadow, up and down the (admittedly gentle) contours of the land. The balls can be loaded with various sensors, but the company is one with a product in search of a market. The system of movement reminds me of the Martian "bouncer" Willis in Heinlein's The Red Planet.

    We Can See The Future

    This is where I predict the future of the personal PC will go. A small module that you carry everywhere, containing the CPU, all your files, programs, entertainment, video, and communications. It will have basic I/O on the module (probably touchscreen and/or voice control), and when you want to do serious work it will plug into a dock or a portable frame allowing larger screens, keyboards, etc to be used. This PC being shown at CES, a similar concept earlier from IBM, and the Oqo aren't there yet, but it's a start. (The Oqo was a particular disappointment, as some of you know I was all hot to get one, then it just seemed to be too short of the mark.) Seems we are still a couple of years shy of catching up with the Pocket Computer that Larry Niven predicted in 1974.

    How Big A Nerd Are You?

    Software site Wx Plotter has posted a quiz where you can find out how big a nerd you are. FWIW, I scored 77, which is just about what I would have expected. Of course, there are lots of other nerd tests too.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    It Must Mean Something Else In Swedish

    Ikea is actually selling the Fartfull Work Bench. Features include storage space for games and accessories, mouse pad, casters for easy moving, and a metal front that doubles as a magnetic board. The name must lose something in translation.

    Seattle Named Fittest City

    You couldn't prove it by me. A survey by Men's Fitness magazine says Seattle tops the list of healthy cities, with 85% of the residents doing some sort of exercise regularly. My own unscientific survey doesn't indicate that the numbers are any different here than elsewhere in the country. 85% seems absurd. They also claim Seattle citizens shun fast food. Seems like we have the normal quota of drive-thrus. Maybe everyone is too busy going to Starbucks to eat at Burger King. That I'll believe.

    Park Your Intelligence

    BoingBoing is pointing out that there is actually something called the National Vigilance Park in Ft. Meade, MD. It seems to be run by the No Such Agency (NSA), and includes gems such as the plaque on the right. Your tax dollars at work.

    How Safe Are Your Condoms

    Consumers Union has been testing condoms o find out which ones measure up. The results? The ones scoring best included two models from Durex. The loser? The Planned Parenthood brand. Sounds like a recipe for unplanned parenthood to me.

    The Walls Have Eyes

    More accurately, the walls can now display messages for your eyes. The Royal College of Art in England has come up with a process using thermochromic ink is mixed with concrete to create signs that can be changed at will. Nickel chromium wires set beneath the concrete surface are used to heat selected areas of the wall to create characters or graphics. I can just picture Times Square in ten years using this.

    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Portable Phone Booth

    Need a little privacy for that cell phone call? Nick Rodrigues has the solution for you, the Portable Cellular Phone Booth. The booth is actually a piece of sculpture, that is "Carried on your back and can slide up and over your head to completely isolate you from society, kind of like the way a cell phone does." Clark Kent might have some problems changing clothes in it though.

    Frank Kelly Freas, R.I.P.

    Frank Kelly Freas, on of the great science fiction artists of the 20th century died Sunday morning. Freas is perhaps best known for his work in Astounding (later Analog) and Mad Magazines. Among his many awards he included no less than 11 Hugos. He also did many novel covers, painted women on the noses of World War II bombers, and did work for NASA such as the mission patch for Skylab I. He will be missed.

    Sunday, January 02, 2005

    IBM Is Out Of The PC Business. Sort Of

    In early December, IBM announced that they were selling their PC division to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo. This is hardly surprising, as IBM has been losing money on PCs for over three years. IBM has never really known what to do with the PC since the death of Don Estridge in 1985. So it makes sense on the surface that an Asian technology company with much lower costs and the legendary Asian talent for building markets would fare better. The real surprise here though is the Lenovo will be moving their corporate HQ to Armonk, NY, and will be handing the reins over to a group of senior IBM executives. Say what?! The guys who drove the business into the ground are being asked to show the new owners how to do the same? Inscrutable these Chinese.

    Saturday, January 01, 2005

    New 9/11 Conspiracy?

    During a Christmas Eve speech to U.S. troops in Baghdad, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a passing reference to United Airlines Flight 93 having been shot down. Flight 93 went down with no survivors over Shanksville, PA, while other hijacked flights that day struck the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center. The official story is that the hijackers intentionally crashed Flight 93 because they feared the passengers would overwhelm them.