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.
Monday, February 28, 2005
People Must Like Not Being Secure
Sunday, February 27, 2005
With all the propaganda flying about the digital TV broadcast flag, it's interesting to note that the Big Media once fought a campaign to stop TV licensing, claiming it was evil and would destroy the industry. The campaign was limited to California, but because of the money and resources behind it, they even managed to get their position on the screens at local movie theaters. Odd that free TV is now bad for the country.
Beat HP's Cartridge Blackmail
The Good Fight
John Gilmore, one of the founders of the EFF, is continuing his war with the Transportation Safety Administration. This all started when Gilmore walked into Oakland airport, presented his ticket, and was asked to show his ID. Gilmore asked why. "It is the law", he was told. Gilmore asked to see the law. Nobody could produce a copy. To date, nobody has. Seems its a secret law.
Gilmore is working his way up to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge this crap. Since when did we start having secret laws, arresting people in the middle of the night, holding them incommunicado, and charging them with secret, unspecified crimes? Oh, yeah. Since the so called Patriot Act was passed. This isn't really a new story, but I think it appropriate to be reminded that it ain't over till the fat lady squeals. Anyone still remember Rosa Parks?
British Scorn American Laws
A couple of students from Cornwall, a peninsula at the southwestern corner of Britain, plan to travel across the US, violating as many laws as they can. The laws they plan to break are ones they found on the web sites like dumblaws.com. Some of these rules include:
- Riding a bicycle in a swimming pool
- Going whale-hunting in Utah
- Hunting camels in Arizona
- Cursing on a crazy-golf course
- Sleeping in a cheese factory
- Carrying a lunchbox down Main Street in Las Cruces, NM
- It is illegal to be a drunk in possession of a cow
- It is illegal for a woman to be topless in public except as a clerk in a tropical fish store
- Excluding Sundays, it is perfectly legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow
- All steam locomotives are limited to 4mph on roads
- A license is required to keep a lunatic
Cory Doctorow is normally just one of some half dozen editors contributing to BoingBoing. For some reason, I noticed that this weekend he seems to be running solo. All of the last twenty or so posts, as of the time this was written, are his. Even more interesting, the signal-to-noise-ratio is much higher than usual. IMNSHO. Some of those stories are linked to below above:
Saturday, February 26, 2005
The One That Didn't Get Away
When Norwegian Harald Skoge couldn't reel in his fishing line, he first thought it had snagged on the bottom. Then he discovered he had hooked a 321 pound halibut! The fish proved to be a bit too big for his 29 foot boat, so he towed it to shore. The head alone weighed 42 pounds. Wonder what kind of line he was using?
You Can't Trust Canadians
That seems to be the opinion in the Washington State Legislature. Completely ignoring our neighbor to the north's ability to manage their own businesses, Representative Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, thinks we need to do it for them. She wants Olympia to license Canadian pharmacies that sell to the U.S. It's bad enough when the feds try to do this. Having a state stick its nose into international affairs is absurd.
No More Mafia Phone Tapss
The Italian mobile operator TIM has informed all Italian public prosecutors that they can't handle more than 5.000 to 7.000 bugged callers at the same time. Their capacity is maxed out! I don't know how they do these taps in Europe, but the American method is an incredible kludge. I won't go into details, because it's probably covered by a non-disclosure I signed. No safety for the boys from Sicily though. Echelon will still be listening.
Friday, February 25, 2005
The Original Web Singers
The group, Les Horribles Cernettes, consists of four women from the CERN lab, and is still singing to this day. Not bad either. Audio and video clips, and even a CD can be found on their web site. They remind me a bit of The Shangri-las.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Tower of Power
The Australians are planning to build the world's largest solar heater. Oh, and it will also be the world's tallest structure at 3,280 feet, more than twice the height of Malaysia's Petronas Towers. The Solar Tower will be located on a 25,000 acre sheep station (Australian for ranch) in the outback. The tower will work by heating air inside the structure using just the region's normally blistering climate. The heated air will rise up like in a chimney, turning turbine blades to produce electricity. Like a vertical wind-farm, without the need for wind. Arrangements have already been made to fit the tower with special high-intensity lights to keep airplanes away.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
That Ball Is Definitely Out Of Bounds
The Burj Al Arab in Dubai calls itself "The Best Hotel In The World." Rates start at over $800 per night, in a town where other hotel rates can start at $50. In preparation for the upcoming Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open, the hotel has turned its helipad into the world’s highest tennis court. If this is going to be televised, I hope the camera crews get belay lines. No word on whare the umpire has to sit.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Cyrix Hotplate Howto
One constant of todays CPU chips is that they run ! The folks over at rabidhardware have decided to take advantage of this, along with the need to recycle obsolete processors, and come up with a hotplate powered by an array of Cyrix chips. Would also work with Intel silicon. No word on if it plugs into a USB port.
Star Wars Spoilers
Split Washington State?
There has been a lot of talk about D.C. becoming a state, or New York City splitting off on its own. Locally there is a drive to split King County east and west into Seattle and everyone else (more or less). And if Washington State Senator Bob Morton has his way, Washington will become two states, with the dividing line at the Cascade Mountains. There is more than a little logic to this. The eastern portion of the state is largely agricultural, and votes a predominantly Republican ticket. The western part of the state is dominated by the mostly Democratic urban King county.
At least this will keep the state senate out of some mischief for a while.
Court to FCC: "You can't rule the world."
The Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the FCC overstepped its mandate when it required digital receivers to respect a "broadcast flag" to prevent copying or storing live programming. According to Judge David Sentelle: "You can't regulate washing machines. You can't rule the world."
Hint: It's Not New York
The article in Engadget talks about cell phone usage, but I think the real story is this stunning picture of the Hong Kong skyline. Like many of Engadget's photos, this one is unattributed, and not part of the referenced story. But it should remind Americans that this Asian metropolis is not just a source of cheap electronics, but it the 16th largest in the world. On the same list, New York is now number 11.
Steal The Ground From Under You
When the Nicolaysen family went to their mountain cabin in Norway for the weekend, they had a rude surprise. Their swimming pool was missing. Their in ground swimming pool. Complete with skimmer, pump, and filter. It is also to be hoped that the pool had a heater! I wouldn't have thought outdoor pools would be popular in Norway. But what do I know.
Monday, February 21, 2005
You may have noticed I'm something of a rabid science fiction fan. So all the following was at least of interest to me. YMMV.
The SciFi channel series Stargate SG-1 has been rumored to be on its last legs since at least its fifth season. Now it has been renewed for a ninth season, with some major cast changes. Ben Browder, lately of Farscape will take the reins as Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell, the new commander of SG-1. (Amanda Tapping, aka Samantha Carter, the current C.O. will miss half the season on maternity leave.) This news comes on the heels of the appearance of fellow Farscape alum Claudia Black as the character Vala, and the announcement that she will be back for a five episode arc in season nine.
Other changes include the arrival of Beau Bridges as General Hank Landry, the new head of Stargate Command. Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) gets promoted to head "Homeworld Security", and presumably Don Davis, aka Lt. General George Hammond sails into the sunset. Anderson has been seeking a progressively smaller role in the series. Lou Gossett Jr. takes a recurring role as a Jaffa leader. Finally, Mitch Pileggi of the X-Files joins Stargate Atlantis, appearing periodically as Colonel Caldwell, the new military commander of Atlantis (?). How do you get replacements when you are marooned in another galaxy?
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Burned His Butt.
Jonathan Fish of San Francisco really got his butt burned this week. Seems he was driving across the Oakland Bay Bridge one night, and he threw his cigarette butt out the window of his Ford Exhibition Expedition. We will ignore the ecological implications of this. Unfortunately for Mr. Fish, he had his rear window open at the time. The butt flew back inside, landed on the rear seat, and proceeded to burn the SUV down to the frame. Something isn't getting reported here.
Wrong Turn At Albuquerque
Warner Bros. Studio is "reimagining" the classic Looney Tunes characters for the 21st Century. The new series, Loonatics, is set 700 years in the future. At least six of the characters are redrawn, with form-fitting spandex outfits, and super powers.
Many people are less than pleased. There is a reason these cartoons are classics as-is. Greenhead News sums it up well with the following quote: "[E]veryone at Warner Bros. needs an Acme Anvil dropped on their heads. Bugs Bunny is not an evil futuristic anime edgy action-packed Xtreme superhero, he's simply a wascally wabbit. This is greedy corporate marketing nonsense at its worse (sic)." (Links are mine)
Zip Your Lip
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Southern Fast Food
It's the fast food equivalent of the Turducken. Mulligan's, a bar in suburban Atlanta has created "The Hamdog", which consists of a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions, served on a hoagie bun, and topped with a fried egg and fries. If I've identified the right bar, you can also get a Captain Crunch-coated Twinkie deep-fried and drizzled with raspberry sauce. Pass the chloresterol pills, please.
More RFID Rubbish
The London suburb of Croyden must figure that you are what you eat. The local council has announced that it will be putting microchips into their "new wheelie bins." The goal seems to be to allow the council to determine whether residents are producing too much rubbish. If they are, they will get advice on how they might "manage their rubbish more effectively." According to a local conservative assemblyman, "The Stasi or the KGB could never have dreamed of getting a spying device in every household." Big Brother will be watching.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Time For Beany
The Pill For All That Ails You
Three Blind Mice strikes again.
The Second Term
Super Bowl Ads
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Web sites with auto-generators keep popping up. Now there is a blog devoted entirely to listing them. A few of the links there include:
- Anarchy Cookbook Generator
- Country Western Song Generator
- Evil Plan Generator
- Instant Muse Poetry Generator
- Label Generator
- Shakespearean Insult Generator
- Spam Generator
- Terror Warning Generator
- Victorian Sex Cry Generator
- Wendy's Burger Restaurant Sign Generator
Update: Ooops! Forgot to include the link.
Monday, February 07, 2005
Fashion Faux Pas?
Robin Givhan, a fashion reporter for the Washington Post (use Bugmenot) has taken Vice President Dick Cheney to task over his choice of attire. Cheney was attending the 60th anniversary memorial services at the site of the Auschwitz Death Camp. Now Auschwitz, which is in Poland, is at a latitude similar to that of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Anyone who has ever been in Central Europe (or Central Canada) in January can tell you it gets cold! Most of the dignitaries attending the ceremonies wore heavy overcoats and dress hats or ushankas. Mr. Cheney appears to be wearing an arctic parka with a watch cap. Practicality vs. protocol? Maybe he borrowed the parka from his boss.
At the airport, he shows the security droid his hacked boarding pass and his real ID. The droid never checks the pass to see if it is the name it was sold to. When Joe boards the plane, he turns in the original boarding pass, which does shows the name it is supposed to. No need to show an ID again.
In this scenario, it's Bob Jones' name that gets checked against the blacklist. Since Bob is a fine upstanding citizen, his references are as white as snow. Most ten year-olds today could pull this off.
So much for the TSA spending a gazillion tax dollars and hacking into everyone's electronic records in the name of almighty security.
Friday, February 04, 2005
RIAA Strikes Again
Support Your Local Genocide
Fremont is a quirky Seattle neighborhood at the north end of Lake Union. When someone first told me that they had a statue of Lenin, I immediately asked if it was John Winston or Vladimir Ilyich. The correct answer is that they have a recycled, Russian-surplus V.I. Lenin.
The Seattle Weekly is a free alternative newspaper, which normally has a notably liberal, even leftist bent. So when they ran an article calling Lenin a mass murderer and a "sociopathic totalitarian bastard," and calling for the removal of the statue, it was a bit of a surprise. But some people see only what they want to. Adrienne Weller, a Freedom Socialist Party activist lately of Portland, OR wrote a nasty response claiming "The people of the world love and respect him [Lenin]." We all love our genocides. Don't we?
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Millions Or Bupkis?
There has been a lot of nonsense going around about Bush's proposal to allow people to truly invest in their Social Security account, as opposed to merely paying the government. Here are some real numbers. Let's assume someone earning $22,500 a year at age 21. To keep it simple we will also assume that they never make any more than that, ignoring inflation. 4% of this person's salary would be $75 per month. If this person invested in a S&P 500 index fund, and the average rate of return was 11% annually, this person would have $1,000,000 at age 65. This is conservative, because the S&P 500 has averaged 11.95% return over the last 50 years. Makes a nice retirement. As opposed to the current system, where this same person would have bupkis.
FWIW, 25 years ago, Chile offered it's citizens the option to privately invest their Social Security funds. 93% have taken this option, and have been seeing an average 12% return.
Watch That First Step
Reports from New Jersey tell of a jet that skidded off the runway at Teterboro Airport, across the Hudson River from New York City. The plane crossed six lanes of Route 46, took out two cars, and ended up in a warehouse. This is hardly surprising, since the north-south runway at Teterboro is just yards and a chain-link fence from the highway. When I used to fly out of there, there were stories of a landing airplane that left skid marks on the roof of a bus, and of a little old lady who threw up her hands and ran her car off the road in terror at the sight of a landing plane. I don't recall any warehouses in those days though.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Tick Tock, Call The Doc
Dutch manufacturer Biotronik has come up with an SMS enabled pacemaker. The theory is that it can page your doctor directly if there are problems. The first unit was implanted at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. I see two issues with this. First of all, what happened to the theory that cell phones and radios were evil in hospitals because they could affect pacemakers and such? Second, SMS is not exactly a real-time protocol. Text messages can be delayed for hours or days. Ooops, it took Mr. Doctor two days to get the word when my heart stopped. Quel Domage!
The official name for the Fairchild Republic A-10 aircraft may be the Thunderbolt II, but it is universally known as the Warthog. Now the Air Force's ground-attack workhorse is getting upgraded into the 21st century, with multifunction color displays, digital stores management, and new computerized controls. Before the first Gulf War there were many reports that the USAF wanted to scrap the sub-sonic fighter in favor of sexier, faster planes. In the last Gulf war, the A-10 accounted for more than half the tanks destroyed, and a range of other material.