Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What Part Of 'NO' Are You Having Trouble Understanding?

It seems that bureaucrats an politicians are the same all over. Some politicians in Europe are trying to take France's rejection of the EU constitution as a "maybe" instead of as a "no." Spiked reports: Within an hour of the French rejecting the European Constitution, senior EU figures insisted that things might not be what they seemed. France, the press, the world, might think that 55 per cent of French citizens had voted 'No', but the view was different at the heart of the EU. As French President Jacques Chirac conceded defeat, to boos from eurocrats gathered in the commission's press centre, some of the EU's most senior leaders tried to turn a setback around by ignoring mere results and interpreting 'meaning'. More details in the full article.

Always Use Protection, II

Synchronicity rears its ugly head! I had no hint of this when I put up the previous post, but CNN is reporting that NBC and WB will be airing the first primetime ads for condoms tonight to be seen on major US networks. The first WB show to get the ads will probably be The Gilmore Girls.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Always Use Protection

From WebProNews: "And here's the Firefox poster that isn't going to run, at least for now (click on it for larger image):

"Why isn't it running? Because it might cause offense to some, according to comment in a post at Spread Firefox: Some time back over at SpreadFirefox.com, we started an effort to make a college poster to help spread Firefox. The results of this effort was a great poster that showed a rear view close-up of a person wearing bluejeans with a Firefox-wrapped condom in the hip pocket. The slogan was "Always use protection." Everyone involved loved it and we were days from taking it to print. The project was spiked because of concerns that it would offend some people. "

See also the article at News.com. Ironically, if you are using Firefox (or Mozilla), you'll have to turn off Adblock to see the pix.

It Takes A Thief

When the owner of a new car wash in Fredericksburg, VA found the till was coming up several hundred dollars a week short, he accused the manufacturer of the system of having duplicate keys, and of ripping him off. The loss came to thousands of dollars. In response, a video camera was installed, which caught this group of starlings ripping off quarters via the coin-return slot. This story started going around the 'net again recently, although it is actually several years old.

Store Wars

May the Farm be with you! One of the best Star Wars spoofs I've seen features Cuke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Cannoli, Tofu-D2, C3-Peanuts, Ham Solo, and Chewbroccoli against the forces of the evil Darth Tader. There's no attempt at matching ILM's slick effects, the emphasis is on camp and the theme of the Farm.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Big Brother Is Shopping

I walked into the local QFC supermarket yesterday to buy a couple of things, and I forgot to bring the @#$%&^!* shoppers card. This meant that I had to pay about a fifteen percent penalty. The checker tried to find me in the system, but since I had never filled out or turned in the personal info form, she really wasn't likely to find me. This all reminded me how much I really hate this whole concept. It just results in higher prices. Unfortunately, this particular store is a quarter the distance from my house as the nearest no-card store, so I fudge and do some small purchases there.

Fortunately, there may be some hope of killing the system. Jill Crowson of Bellevue, WA is suing QFC, a local chain for failing to notify her when she bought hamburger meat from a batch that was subsequently recalled for a Mad Cow scare. QFC didn't notify anyone. So Ms. Crowson is making a case that having collected all this intrusive data on our habits, the company has a duty to act when something like this recall comes along. Fear of lawsuits may kill the card system where lazy consumers haven't. I can hope.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Cheap Gas

There have been we sites that track the cheapest gas for some time. Now someone has coupled that information with the capabilities of Google Maps to produce an interactive display. Cool. I would have posted this a few days ago, but the site has been effectively slashdotted. It's back up now, and I doubt referrals from this blog will give them any problems.

Don't Try This At Home, Kids

The Force was not with Mark Webb, 20, and Shelley Mandiville, 17 when they fired up their lightsabers today. Either that, or the Evolution In Action police trumped Yoda. The pair was trying to videotape their own lightsaber duel in the woods some fifteen miles northwest of London, England. For the props, they used fluorescent light tubes filled with gasoline. Then they set them on fire, presumably for the special effects. The effects they got was an explosion that showered them with burning gas, and pieces of glass. The two were taken to a regional burn center, where they were given a 50% chance of surviving. They should have stuck to using flashlights instead.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Talking Phone Booths

Seattle is installing speakers and some video displays on phone booths, stores, and at the ferry terminal. The plan is for people who have visual or hearing impairments carry an RFID tag which will activate a prerecorded message with either safety and navigation information, or advertising from the adjacent store. The messages will be either spoken, or shown on the displays in American sign language. How long until the system is expanded to assault all passersby via their cell phones?

SPF -12?

Everything you thought you knew is wrong. This seems to be a common finding in medicine. Recent research is showing that Vitamin D is essential in preventing several kinds of cancer, including lymphoma, cancers of the prostate, lung, colon and, ironically, skin cancer. But for years dermatologists have been teaching everyone never to bare their skin without a heavy sun blocker, to block ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer. The kicker is though, the same UV blockers prevent the body from manufacturing Vitamin D, which is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. So which path leads to the light?

Who'r Really In Charge Here?

Here's something scary to consider. Are these really two different women, of has Hilary Clinton secretly taken over Washington State?


Friday, May 20, 2005

Revenge Of The Sixth

Attack of the MuppetsSpeaking of the new Star Wars flick. First, in connection with the recent Photoshop article, worth1000.com is running one of its contests under the title "Cliche Hell- Star Wars". Entries cover the usual gamut of skill and taste.

Also of interest, Newsday takes a look at some of the best moments in the series (such as the endless appearance of the Imperial Star Destroyer in the opening of Episode IV, and when Han Solo shoots Greedo without giving the other guy the first shot), and the worst moments (such as introducing Jar Jar Binks, or when the Collector's Edition of Episode IV was recut to have Greedo shoot first).

P.S. Here are some trivia to look for in the movie, including a cameo by Lucas himself (spoiler photo here.)

Just A Little Gas

For those in the Seattle area, Propel has opened the first biodiesel station in the area, near the University Village shopping center. No word if you get to choose if your exhaust will smell like french fries, chimichangas, fish, or plain old soybeans.

Burn 'Em If You've Got 'Em

Within hours of the premier, copies of Star Wars III were circulating in various formats on the net, and being sold on street corners. Techdirt is proposing that, contrary to the opinion of folks like the MPAA, this is actually a good thing for the franchise. The pirate copies will only act as teasers, and the real fans will pay to see the theater version and buy the tchotchkes anyway. Any comments?

Radio Free Boston

Or free radio in Boston. Techweb's Mobile Pipeline is reporting that grass roots wifi is doing so well, that the city doesn't have a need to try to implement a municipally run service such as those under way in Philadelphia or Rio Rancho. This kind of approach certainly appeals to my sense of laissez faire economics, and should definitely be cheaper.

Eight Is Enough

Hot Dog Buns Two Chicago companies are teaming up to resolve one of life's great dilemmas. Vienna Beef has convinced
to market hot dog buns in packages of eight. For probably one hundred years, hot dogs have been sold in packages of eight (presumably because that comes out to an even one pound), while the buns have been sold in packages of six or twelve (again, presumably because bakers deal in dozens). This has resulted in an estimated wastage of some 2 million buns a year! Now if we just don't run out of mustard in the middle of the cookout...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Need To Find A Brothel?

Several news sources are making a big deal about the results you get when you type the words "brothel near" and the name of your city into Google Maps. All that really happens though is that the search engine looks for entries with the city and the keyword "brothel." The system works just as well (i.e. poorly) if you try "little green men", or just about any other noun.

What's For Lunch?

The BBC has a roundup of menu offerings in school cafeterias in various countries. The comments are as good as the article. My recollection of the food in English schools (I won't say how long ago) is that it beat American menus by far. YMMV.


Are you worried that Friday the 13th is on a Friday this month? The origins of the superstition, and of triskaidekaphobia in general are obscure, but have a long history. I can't find a Latin word for fear of Friday's though.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Buffalo Burgers?

Police in Colorado Springs used 120 rounds of rifle fire to kill five Buffaloes that had escaped from a meat packing plant. The officers were using .223 caliber weapons, which are just fine for killing people, but pretty inadequate for a 900 pound Buffalo. .223 ammunition is not even allowed for deer hunting in some states. For reference, 19th century Buffalo Rifles were traditionally chambered for calibers in the .45 to .50 range, more than twice the size of the weapons used. Of course, Kalifornia, New Jersey, and some other states are banning .50 caliber weapons.

There is some question as to the need to shoot them at all. The director of the trucking company says that he has always been able to coax escaped animals back into the pen. One article also mentions that the animals were shot one-by-one as the charged the officers. If I was getting shot at with a pea-shooter (relatively speaking), I might charge my assailant too!

Broadband Via Gas Lines?

Called BIG (Broadband in Gas), a company in California (where else?) is pushing this as a last-mile alternative for delivering wireless 10Gbps service using existing gas pipelines. They call themselves "the leading innovator of subterranean broadband communications", and claim they can do this with the pre-existing pipeline infrastructure.

Is it just me, or does pumping radiant energy into a potentially explosive medium seem like a bad idea? Not to mention that jointed cast-iron or PVC pipes seem like less than ideal waveguides.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know...

... but didn't have the spies researchers to find out. The 2005 CIA World Factbook has just been released.

I Have Really Got To Learn Photoshop!

Ongoing Photoshop contests at Worth1000.com. Zillions of topics to choose from.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What's Your Preople Score?

Preople.com has set up a site that lets you rate how well known you are on the Internet. Some of the ratings include:

  • Harry Potter 12,600,000
  • Bill Gates 7,300,000
  • Han Solo 732,000
  • Tim Berners Lee 608,000
  • Cory Doctorow 345,000
My score is too low to even mention :(

Real ID Bypasses Constitution

Hidden in the fine print of the Real ID act are a couple of especially terrifying provisions. First, it allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive compliance with existing laws whenever he decides to. Even worse, the act tries to exempt these waivers from any form of judicial review! Who needs that pesky Supreme Court anyway? Time to act now.

Monday, May 09, 2005

8 Y.O. Skateboard Champ

The Seattle P.I. has a story on Mitchie Brusco, an eight year old skateboard champ. Mitchie has been skateboarding since he was three, and has almost a dozen corporate sponsorships. What struck me in the story is that he is also in first grade. First grade! I'm not sure of the norm here in King County, but isn't he a bit old for that? What isn't the article telling us?

One Ringy Dingy

It is not my intention to provide comprehensive coverage of vibrators here, but after the earlier posting about the world's largest, along came this article on a vibrator powered by your telephone line! Of even more interest is the parent site which has all sorts of tools and devices that are powered off of 48V telephone circuits. Maybe I shouldn't give up my POTS line after all.

Unreal ID

Following up on an earlier post, here is a site that will help you contact your senator to fight the Real ID requirement.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I'm Too Sexy For The School, Too Sexy for The School...

Jessica Allen, 27, was asked to leave Pinewood Elementary School in Marysville, WA where she had gone to pick up her daughter, a student there. Seems her clothes were too sexy for the school. Unlike other schools in the district, Pinewood extends its dress code not just to students but to parents as well. Ms. Allen was wearing a tank top, which is a banned item of wear. According to Allen, "If I had thought what I was wearing was inappropriate, I never would have worn it."

What do you think? Should schools be able to dictate parent's clothing?

Friday, May 06, 2005

World's Largest Vibrator

Requires 52 batteries. No mention of how much KY jelly might be needed. May also be used to attempt to set land speed record for electric vehicles.

The Sur-Real ID Act

The Real ID Act was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, with the controversial attached as a rider to the must-pass bill to pay for military operations in Iraq.. It is likely to pass in the Republican dominated Senate. If it does, everyone in the country will be required to carry one. It will be yet another step towards government control of every aspect of your lives. Just wait until they add the RFID and GPS chips!

Politechbot.com sums it up: The Real ID Act, would "institute controversial immigration changes. Real ID removes the right of judicial review - including habeas corpus - for people fleeing persecution, undermines the privacy rights of even native-born Americans, burdens the states with complex and unfunded ID requirements, makes it harder for battered women to hide from their abusers, scapegoats the immigrant community and does nothing to address the actual problem of border security and enforcement in the United States."

The Flag Comes Down!

From Wired: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that the Federal Communications Commission did not have the authority to prohibit the manufacture of computer and video hardware that doesn't have copy protection technology known as the "broadcast flag."

This may only be a temporary reprieve. The court didn't say the flag was illegal, just that the FCC had exceeded their charter in imposing it. Look for the MPAA to lobby congress to get it reinstated one way or another.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Is It Defibrillating Now?

A chicken in every pot, two cars in every garage, a defibrillator in the bathroom. Say what! That's what Philips Medical Systems would like to see with their new HeartStart Home defibrillator. A normal heart has a regular, rhythmic electrical pattern that coincides with the heartbeat. Under certain circumstances, the electrical pattern becomes completely disorganized. Without the electrical triggers, the heart can't beat properly. A defibrillator shocks the heart into a brief pause, and in some cases when the electrical activity resumes, it does so in a relatively normal mode rather than the previous chaos. The problem with having one of these units at home is that, A) you can't detect fibrillation without a heart monitor; B) it takes training to interpret an EKG; and C) defibrillation can be the least important part of keeping a victim alive. CPR and good artificial respiration are much more important in a home setting. Or buy more extension phones for calling 911. But, if you have $2K to blow on a new toy.... OK. End of rant.

Multiple Listings

Seattlest has discovered a really neat tool for browsing real estate in the King County area. Redfin integrates the multiple listing service with a graphic interface similar to that used by the new Google satellite map viewer. You can waste spend hours going through properties for sale, records of previous sales at least as far back as the late 1990s, complete with pictures, tax records, and so on. The downside is that Redfin clearly shows how expensive housing is around here!

Can You See Me Now?

Videophones have been the next-big-thing since they were first shown at the 1964 World's Fair. We've had clunky versions working for office and commercial environments for a while now, but Motorola has announced the Ojo (which means eye), arguably the first practical home unit. They will be available from, where else, Hammacher Schlemmer. Although a bit pricey at $800 each, everything is expensive at first. Remember what the first color TVs cost?

Customs-Proofing Your Laptop

Declan McCullagh's Politech has some suggestions on protecting your laptop contents at border crossings. The article is really a clarion call to the insufficiently paranoid among us, that some border goon might be copying off your contents, or loading spyware on your machine. Gone are the days when some had never seen a laptop (as happened to me long ago in Mexico), and you could just tell them it was a portable typewriter.

Dilbert Dating

Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head

15 Pound Beer Barrel Belly Buster - World's Biggest Burger!!In the ongoing quest for most massive single dose of cholesterol possible, Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania has come up with the 15 pound hamburger. All for a mere $30. The pub had previously claimed the world's biggest burger title with their six pound entry, until a diner in Clinton, N.J., introduced a 12.5-pound burger. So the arms belly race continues.

The Legend of Zorro

It seems that Antonio Banderas is taking up the cowl again for another run at Zorro, and Yahoo Movies has the trailer. This one looks to be set about six years after the first movie. If nothing else, its always worth it to watch Catherine Zeta-Jones in action. The trailer also has a neat scene with Zorro and his horse riding on a train. I mean riding the horse on TOP of a train. Hmmm. Didn't CZJ star in a movie about Catherine the Great? Maybe that explains the thing with the horse.

You Can Lead A Cat To Water....

Actually I don't think you can lead a cat to water. I'm not a cat person, and the stench that sometimes greets you in the homes of those who are leaves me with no regrets on that score. But now there may be relief for those people who are kept as pets by the feline furballs. Jo Lapidge, a woman in Australia, claims that she has come up with a method to literally toilet train house cats. At the end of her program, you can do away with the kitty litter in favor of a regular commode. You are still on your own when it comes to flushing though.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

For those too mechanically challenged to screw a smoke detector to the ceiling, a company in Sweden has come up with one that clamps to a lamp cord. Or maybe it's for folks who get carried away with the number of candles on the dinner table.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Green Revolution?

From Ananova: "Police in Peru have launched a campaign to save frogs from being turned into an aphrodisiac drink. 'Frogshake' is popular among native Peruvians as a stimulant that enhances male sexual performance. Police saved 4,000 frogs from being juiced to make the drink in a raid on a warehouse in Lima. Terra Noticias Populares reports the frogs were packed in boxes and were about to be liquidized. But they have now released the animals into a nature reserve. A police spokesman said: "It is our new crusade, to save the frogs from those juice-makers!"

Y'all Come Back Now, Y'Hear?

The Time Traveler Convention, May 7, 2005, 10:00pm EDT (08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC), East Campus Courtyard, MIT, 42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W, (42.360007,-071.087870 in decimal degrees). MIT wants to publicize the event, so that all future chrononauts will know to gather in the quad.

Personally, I subscribe to the notion that time travel will never be invented. The reasons have nothing to do with physics or technology. It goes like this: If time travel is technically possible, and if it is possible for a traveler from the future to change the past, and if said change can alter the traveler's own future, then time travelers will keep screwing with the past until the come up with a future where time travel is never invented. Other assumptions require either someone/something enforcing a no-paradox rule, or infinitely branching universes, which offends my sense of economy. But it is well known I'm cheap.

One Ring To Rule Them All

This would be more useful if most of the bottle caps in this country weren't the twist-off type these days. Back when the original style Crown bottle cap was used, a finger ring to open a cold one would have been just the thing. Mango International (stupid flash intro bypassed) has introduced just such an opener, only forty years late.