Opinions 'n A**holes
A blog about things everyone has at least one of.
Ramblings on technology, liberty, evolution in action, and general neat stuff.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Serenity Trailer Released
Fans of the murdered TV series Firefly will rejoice to know that the movie follow-on is approaching, and that the first trailer has been released. Unfortunately the trailer is still only available on the Apple site. I say unfortunately because the smaller versions are presented against a distracting poster for the movie, which is called Serenity by the way. To see the full screen version, you have to sign up for iTunes, which is a cheap shot on Apple's part. Which is too bad, because the graphic effects shown in the trailer are cool.
Serenity is the name of the spaceship that is the centerpiece for the series and movie. The ship is a Firefly class freighter. Why the series wasn't called Serenity to start with is a mystery. For those who missed the first incarnation, Firefly aired briefly on Fox in 2002. It was certainly (IMNSHO) opinion one of the best science fiction shows ever to be on TV. The physical design of the spaceship actually made sense! Fox screwed any chance the series had by airing episodes out of order, and putting it in an impossible time slot. Despite a grass roots effort to save the show, it was canceled even before all the episodes had aired. Which is odd, since Fox still had to pay for them. The full set of shows, in the correct order, is available on DVD.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Target pharmacies is reinventing the pill bottle, beginning May 1. Called ClearRx prescription-packaging, it is designed by a visual arts designer, rather than an engineer. There are pros and cons to this. The new bottle features the name of the drug in large letters,easy to read use instructions, and color-coded rings for different family members. Future plans include labels that self-destruct (or at least change color) when expired, and a slide out magnifying lens. Problems: 5 percent of the population is color blind. Second, since the bottle is upside-down (to allow wrap-around labels) you can't use the cap as a tray. Many folks who take multiple medications use the cap from one bottle to collect all the pills they plan to take right then. Can't do that with this design.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Amtrak's flagship service, the Acela, which run between Boston and Washington D.C. have been sidelined. Again. Inspectors found problems with the train's braking system, and have pulled the high speed rail cars from service. This is not the first time that the Acela has had problems, but it is hard to say if Amtrak is being overly cautious or not. While I'm not advocating risking lives, this latest issue may prove fatal for the already troubled Amtrak.
Let's not forget that all new forms of transportation have had problems and casualties in their early years. Rail travel in particular was extremely hazardous at first. The lack of signals, communication, or common time standards let to many collisions. The technology of the day (pre ~1860) could not easily produce rolled steel or even wrought iron rails. As a substitute, strap iron was often laid on top of wooden rails. The stress of the passing trains would often cause the iron to curl in a phenomenon called a snakehead, skewering wooden cars and fragile passengers.
My point is this: The first time you do anything, you are likely to get part of it wrong. Engineering builds on past experiences. You have to persevere.
Can You Hear Me Now?
T-Mobile is offering on-line access to cellular coverage maps that are detailed down to the street level. All the carriers must have this kind of information, but no one has made it available to consumers before. Just type in an address, and see the coverage. Or navigate from the country sized map to zero in on an area.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Evil Assault Weapon Ban Ends. End Of World Imminent
That was the prediction when the ban on Evil Assault Weapons ended, not with a bang but with a whimper, last September. Now even the New York Times, not known as a bastion of second amendment rights is admitting that the effect on crime and violence has been zero. Some of the bans advocates are in denial, and now say there never really was a ban anyway, so its lapse makes no difference. Senator Dianne Feinstein, as usual, is even more remote from reality, and claims that the ban was working.
Friday, April 22, 2005
I've been trying to ignore the whole iPod mania, waiting for PDAs with enough storage to do dual-service as realistic MP3 players. The convergence of PDAs, MP3 players, phones, and, yes, cameras is inevitable, so I'm trying to skip a generation here. Having said that, neat engineering is still neat engineering. Case in point, the Trypod portable speaker. Designed for the iPod Shuffle, but should work with any device with the same sized jack.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
What If Everybody Is Listening And Nobody Is Transmitting?
It's Fermi's Paradox. Why can't we hear anyone out there? Jill Tarter, Director of the Center for SETI Research, says she gets asked if everyone else is just listening all the time. Maybe, if they are smarter than we are, that's exactly what is going on. We should refer to the Three Laws of Alien Contact proposed by Pellegrino and Zebrowski in "The Killing Star". Loosely paraphrased, the laws are:
- Nice guys (species) don't get to the top of the food chain
- My species survival is more important, to me, than your species survival is, to me
- In case of conflict, refer to rules 1 and 2
You Can't Talk About The Weather
Or at least the feds won't be able to if a bill proposed by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) passes. Seems that companies like AccuWeather and The Weather Channel don't like the competition. Never mind that much of their input data comes from National Weather Service sources. I don't normally favor governments competing with private enterprise, but in this case the government collects the data for lots of reasons of its own, and since the taxpayers are footing the bill, they might as well get the results.
Santorum has been cited for his business associations before. Some refer to his constituency as R-Wal-Mart.
"It's not like I planned to hijack the plane to Antarctica!"
Officials at the Denver International Airport recently required two traveling penguins from Seaworld in San Diego to pass through the metal detector. I wonder what they thought they could be hiding? I wonder where they thought they could be hiding something? This lack of common sense boggles the mind. Perhaps I just boggle easily.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Netdisaster.com. You get a selection of choices allowing you to dynamically deface any web page. As in this screenshot from O-n-A getting attacked by flying saucers with energy weapons (flash required). Fortunately, they offer an auto-repair function to fix the damage.
Firefox Reigns Supreme
At least in the geek community. First BoingBoing reported that Firefox had outstripped IE as the browser used most frequently to access the site. Today, the Red Ferret Journal reported that Firefox accounts for 59% of their readership. Among the O-n-A readership, IE still leads nearly 2 to 1. I suppose I have a less geeky readership. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him think.
Anyway, seems that the Not Only But Also blog had a bit of a problem with the slogan too. They have posted a series of alternate ads for Johnnie Walker.
Proclaim Your Rights
Bruce Schneier, security technologist and author, has introduced a new symbol to "represent the right to privacy and anonymity in the information age." It will be interesting to see how this fares. It is certainly a more practical emblem than the Creative Communist symbol that Bill Gates inadvertently spawned early this year.
Why Is This Superhero Different From All Other...
BoingBoing points to an Action-figure illustrated story of Passover. Since many of the Golden Age (and Silver Age) comics were written on the east coast, many of their creators, like Stan Lee or Siegel and Shuster tended to be Jewish. Now I can't remember a single classic superhero who took Saturdays off, but here is a speculative look at the ever-lovin' Thing of the Fantastic Four discovering his roots. Lots of other interesting comic parodies too.
Not Only Don't You Go Blind...
The latest research shows that frequent masturbating could protect against prostate cancer. The study by the Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, Australia suggests that the more men ejaculate between the ages of 20 and 50, the lower their risk of developing prostate cancer. No comment on the effect on hair growth on your palms.
Dead Man Voting
The Texas state legislature is considering a bill that would require Texans show ID in order to vote. This doesn't mean showing a voter registration card, it means showing a government issued ID. While this seems reasonable on the surface, it actually means that every adult would have to register with some government agency or other. Of course, the feds want centralize all driver's licenses, the most common form of ID. De facto national identity cards.
The Left hand And The Right Hand
In typical fashion, one branch of the US government is banning agencies from specifying brands like Intel or Microsoft in procurement contracts, while at the same time another area is building a process that forces anyone applying for a government grant to use MS Windows. The Grants.gov website will become the sole submission point for all grant requests, and they have announced plans to require all proposals to be formatted with the PureEdge form generator, a tool that runs only under Windows on an x86 platform. So much for competition.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
WiFi Hotspots Explode At Michigan Gas Stations
Despite the endless stories about cell phones blowing up gas pumps, gas stations in parts of Michigan will begin offering WiFi service to customers. For a fee, of course. Given the short duration of a fill-up, it hardly seems worth it to me to get on line. Unless, we return to the long gas lines of the early '70s...
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Britons Try To Save National Treasure
The British tabloid The Sun is trying to save, as they phrase it, "two of Britain's most outstanding monuments" (NSFW), Katie Price's boobs. The model had enhanced her original 32B assets to 32FF, but now says they are a little too big. She plans to have the implants removed/reduced. In response to the news, the Sun tried to get cooperation from Britain's National Trust, but the preservation group declined, citing the non-natural qualities of Jordan's monuments. The Sun is famous for its daily Page 3 Girls, pictures of topless women. Try to imagine the issue even coming up in America.
Military Budget Now In The Black
I Fell So Much Safer Now
The U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved a treaty on Wednesday outlawing the use of nuclear weapons by terrorists. That should certainly stop any self-respecting terrorist. Just think of the fine they would get!
Time Tunnel Returns
The SciFi Channel has announced their slate of shows for next season. Among a raft of other insipid looking offerings, they plan to resurrect Irwin Allen's 1960s schlock series the Time Tunnel. The premise is that two researchers are being bounced all over history as an excuse to write in guest stars and bad plots. In a Roddenberry-esque dynastic move, the series will be produced by Allen's wife.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Seduced By The Dark Side
Get The Point?
They call this concept FemDefence (sic), and it is intended as a final protection against unwanted intercourse, aka rape. It is designed along the lines of a tampon with a springloaded needle at one end. Reminds me of stories from the Vietnam war where VC women would allegedly insert things like razor blades to catch unwary GIs. I suppose the string is to facilitate removal, though I it might be how the thing is triggered. To me, the string looks like a fuse. Fortunately, the whole idea is still on the drawing board. Pity the woman who puts one of these in backwards!
Whom Do You Trust?
King County Executive Ron Sims appointed a 10-member blue-ribbon commission to review the 200 elections this week. Cheryl Scott was named to head the group. Ms. Scott was a major contributor to both parties in the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, and even gave some money to Rossi. Sims himself ran and lost in last year's disputed Governor's race. Does this seem a bit of a conflict of interest to anyone else? Meanwhile, the elected part of the County Commission has decided to appoint its own panel to conduct a review. Meanwhile, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed will appoint his own review panel. Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Once again, your tax dollars at work. No word yet if the Girl Scouts will be conducting their own inquiry.
Characters Not Appearing In The Next Star Wars Movie
I wasn't going to do any more lists for a bit, but this one was too good to pass up:
|8.||3CPU - 3PO's multiprocessor brother|
|7.||Chewbacco - The chaw spittin' Wookiee|
|6.||Darth Humongous - The well-endowed Sith|
|5.||Tango Fett - The dirty dancing bounty hunter|
|4.||Senator Palpitations - The heart-attack-prone senator|
|3.||Mannequin Skywalker - Anakin's acting double|
|2.||Obi-Wan Cannoli - Ben's italian cousin|
|1.||Han Acompañado - Han Solo's courteous, friendly, evil twin|
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
The 2005 Jefferson Muzzle Awards For The Abridgment Of Free Speech
"Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has celebrated the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson's admonition that freedom of speech 'cannot be limited without being lost.'" The center has announced its picks for the Muzzle Awards for 2005. The list includes:
- The Federal Communications Commission
- The (Motion Picture) Classification and Rating Administration
- The U.S. Marshals Service
- The United States Department of State and The United States Department of Homeland Security
- The Virginia House of Delegates
Monday, April 11, 2005
The Museum of Hoaxes has collected what they feel to be the Top 100 April Fool's Hoaxes of All Time. Personally, I don't see how the list can be complete without mentioning NPR's story on the coast-to-coast coffee pipeline for Starbucks, which unfortunately was a bit too long ago for the web..
- The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
- The Left-Handed Whopper
- Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
- The Case of the Interfering Brassieres
- The Michigan Shark Experiment
- Dutch Elm Disease Infects Redheads
- Chewy Vodka Bars
- Life Discovered on Jupiter
- Smaugia Volans
- Portable Zip Codes
Stop, Or We'll Blow Up Your Luggage!
“On the 18 of August, , I arrived at the White House with rifle in hand, and was immediately ushered into the executive room. I found the president alone." The missing piece in that quotation is that the year was 1863. Christopher Spencer had walked up to the White House carrying one of his new, 7-round lever-action rifles. Not only did no one panic, but Spencer and Abraham Lincoln went out on the Mall for a little target practice.
How things have changed! Outside the U.S. Capitol today, police tackled a man to the ground, dragged him away by his arms, arrested him, and blew up one of his suitcases. His crime? He didn't want to talk to the Capitol Police! He was standing outside the building with two suitcases, and when asked what he wanted, he told police he wished to see the president, but declined to answer further questions. He told them that if they wanted to know what was in the suitcases, they could look for themselves. No bombs were ultimately found, and the man had to be treated for injuries he received in the incident. Despite the obviously urgent nature of the threat, TV crews had plenty of time to set up and film the whole thing.
How about a little perspective and civility?
Sunday, April 10, 2005
More Election Shenanigans
Last week King County discovered 93 absentee ballots still uncounted in their envelopes. Friday they found another one! An additional fourteen turned up in Pierce County. More fuel to the state Republican Party's challenge to Gov. Christine Gregoire's 129-vote victory over Dino Rossi. Seems that Winston Churchill was right.
Manly Man Drinks
Governor Gregoire Signs Law To OK Slandering Women
Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire (we'll get back to the validity of the election later) signed a bill this week permitting saying bad things about a female 12 or older that could injure her reputation or expose her to contempt. Unless she is a prostitute. Then it was already OK. What Gregoire really did was sign the repeal of one of Washington's obsolete laws, this one dating back to 1909.
Of more practical interest, the state Legislature repealed a ban on Sunday liquor sales which dated to the mid-19th century. Since the state directly controls all the liquor stores in Washington, don't look for a big change overnight. 20 of the state's 162 outlets will start opening on Sundays, and an unknown number of the 154 contract stores may do so. For reference, San Francisco alone has 219 liquor stores just in the city. Anyone remember something called Free Enterprise?
Location, Location, Location
Combine Craigslist real estate ads with Google Maps and what do you get? An up to date, graphic display of all the listings in Craiglist cities, sorted by price. And if you were asleep earlier in the semester, you can even get satellite views of properties now on Google. Well, not inside the apartments.
Please Sir. May I Harass The Seals?
Longhorn Delayed Until 2007
Friday, April 08, 2005
Fighting The 800 Pound Gorilla
How can you fight the 800 pound gorilla? Last year, Kent State student David Zamos earned approximately $3,500. Microsoft's income was $38 billion. But Zamos won the fight.
Zamos decided to sell new student copies of Microsoft Windows and Office XP Pro he had bought but did not to open. He put them for sale on eBay. Microsoft tried to block the sale, but finally it was completed
Then Microsoft sued for damages. Zamos filed a counterclaim. Finally, Zamos requested a trial by jury, knowing that the company wouldn't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills just to snuff one kid in Ohio. He was right. The lawyers said they'd drop their suit -- if Zamos dropped his countersuit. He did. Then he went to the media. Chalk one up for the little guy.
Sony Patents Mind Control?
Sony has patented a new technology that could transmit smells, tastes and perhaps even the feel of things directly into your brain. The technique is non-invasive. It uses pulses of ultrasound aimed at the head to modify firing patterns in specific parts of the brain. This creates "sensory experiences" ranging from moving images to tastes and sounds. It could also give blind or deaf people a way to see or hear. While few details have been released, independent experts say that what they have seen is at least plausible.
Backside Of A Smiley
We Don't Take Paper Money
57-year-old Mike Bolesta of Baltimore was told that installation was free when he bought a new car stereo at BestBuy. Then, after it was installed, they told him "Just kidding", and socked him with a bill for $114. Bolesta, a tour operator decided to pay with $2 bills, which he uses as part of his business. The clerk at BestBuy refused to take them. Then she noticed that the serial numbers were sequential. Bolesta tried to explain, "I've got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank." Enter the police, who arrested Bolesta and took him to jail, where he sat handcuffed to a pole and in leg irons while the Secret Service was called. "At this point," he says, "I'm a mass murderer!" Secret Service agent Leigh Turner eventually arrived and declared the bills legit. Of course, BestBuy is noted for their great customer service. No word if the store finally waived the install fee.
Geek Wine Rack
A Parrot Grows In Brooklyn
And Chicago, and Los Angeles, and Miami. Flocks of Monk Parakeets (also known as Quaker Parrots) have set up housekeeping in cities across North America. Despite the taxonomic confusion over their name, the birds have adapted to the cold weather, and are competing with native species like pigeons, and other invaders like house sparrows.
The Next New Phing?
According to Aunty-Spam, phishers are purchasing ads on search engines such as Google, putting up fake travel sites offering cheap airline tickets, and then stealing credit card numbers. To add insult to injury, once the credit card data have been entered, an error page is displayed telling the user that the transaction has been unsuccessful, and offering instructions on how to pay for the ticket by postal money order! Is this properly phishing or a form of pharming?
Top 10 Reasons to Give Up Coffee
Via of Bbspot.com:
|10. ||Company now requires punching out to use the bathroom|
|9.||You're operating too efficiently, finishing all your work well before the end of the day and therefore must slow down|
|8.||You accidentally discovered how Office Jesus makes the coffee|
|7.||Yesterday you passed a coffee bean|
|6.||You're disturbing your cubicle neighbours with screams of "Get them off me! Get them off me!" while you tear at your skin|
|5.||A homeless family has moved into your coffe mug|
|4.||It's time to give up on your effort to prove the "100 cups of coffee" effect shown in Futurama|
|3.||You were caught calling the brewer "my precious"|
|2.||Your pee is sold as an energy drink|
|1.||You haven't slept since the last Pope died|
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Jackson: I Never Copped A Feel
Monday, April 04, 2005
DIY Coffee Pods
If you own one of the Senseo coffee makers, you know that they are very convenient when you only want one or two cups. But the pods they use are a little expensive, and can be hard to find. As in, there ain't no stores in my area that seem to carry them. People have been trying to roll their own pods, but so far the success rate has been low, and the PITA factor high. Single Serve Coffee.com has been following the market for a while, and now has posted a link to a site with incredibly simple directions for using any kind of coffee you want. The is even a 30 second video, which doesn't seem to be needed, which is good since I couldn't get the video portion to display. YMMV.
That's Gonna Be Painful
More Nitrous Oxide, Please
No, it's not do-it-yourself anesthesia. The Karaoke muzzle is designed to let you practice that most Japanese form of self-gratification without riling up the neighbors. No word on when this vital accessory will be on sale locally.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Guns Don't Kill People....
I've said for years that if someone wants to intentionally kill themselves or others, that access to a gun does not make a significant difference. Individuals have gone berserk and committed mass murders since the time of Ugh the caveman. Case in point: A man went on a rampage this weekend in a church in Stuttgart, Germany. He attacked a congregation of about forty, killing one and wounding at least three. His weapon of choice? A sword. "Severed limbs were lying all round the church," a police spokeswoman said.
Belated April Fools
- Wikipedia: "On April 1 2005, Encyclopedia Britannica, The Ligatured Encyclopedia, announced its immediate semi-hostile takeover of the Wikimedia Foundation (to be known henceforth as Wikimaedia)."
- Tidbits: "Seattle's City Council has passed an emergency measure to ban free Wi-Fi access within city limits, following testimony from experts and fire officials regarding their investigation of last week's Microwave explosion at the popular "Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit" coffeehouse."
- The Age: "A new group set up to advance the cause of free and open source software has decided to recruit socialite Paris Hilton into its ranks as a means to gain more exposure. She can expose things like nobody else can."
- Google: "we're pleased to announce Google Gulp (Beta) with Auto-Drink, a line of "smart drinks" designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty."
- Linspire: "Ltoaster combines the best Linux operating system in the world with a powerful 4-slice toaster, wireless network card and keyboard / mouse."
- Lafayette Pro-Fiber: BellSouth and Cox will stop fighting local efforts to run fiber, and will instead work to actually improve their services so muni-networks aren't needed in the first place.
Recipes Of The Damned
Rate Your Hospital
Friday, April 01, 2005
Britannica's Hostile Takeover of Wikipedia
Galactica: Best Sci-Fi TV Ever?
Today's issue of Wired News has an article acclaiming Bellybutton Galactica as "Not merely great science fiction -- it's great TV." This is an April Fools joke, right? As I've implied here before, the new Galactica series is one of the worst pieces of drivel ever. It's nothing but a droll soap set in a spaceship. It's even worse than the eminently forgettable Lexx. It's worse than Star Trek Voyager, and that's pretty awful. The original Star Trek was called "Wagon Train with spaceships." I don't know that there has ever been a really great SF TV series, but the new BG sure ain't it!