October 28, 2004

LinkNews Digest [10/29/2004]

Florida Absentee Ballots Already Missing

Tens of thousands of postal ballots have gone missing in the US state of Florida, sparking fresh concern over irregularities in the poll campaign.

Some 60,000 absentee ballots were despatched by authorities in Broward County, north of Miami, this month. However, only 2,000 of them have been delivered.

Electoral officials have been overwhelmed by calls from anxious would-be voters who are not going to be able to get to the polls next Tuesday and fear that their votes have been stolen.

The missing ballots have fuelled an atmosphere of intense suspicion in Florida, with Democrats already backing nine separate law suits in the state, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

If the outcome is close and decides the result in the presidential race - and both of those eventualities are perfectly possible - it seems virtually certain that protracted legal battles will follow, our correspondent says.

A police investigation into the missing ballots has not uncovered any indication of criminal wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the US postal service inspectorate said it was highly unlikely that 58,000 pieces of mail had just disappeared. A spokesman said inspectors were trying to establish whether the ballots were ever delivered to the postal service.

Broward County election official Gisela Salas said the situation was "something beyond our control". "We really have no idea what's going on," she told the Associated Press news agency.
Link (BBC)

"And coming in at #10, it's Nokia with "Ring Ring!"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Those synthesized tunes that send people grabbing for their cell phones and annoy patrons in restaurants and theaters have been recognized as part of the music industry by Billboard Magazine.

The weekly entertainment industry publication, which tracks top record and CD sales, said it was launching a new chart that will track the popularity of cell phone ringtones, as they are called.

The new chart, known as the Billboard Hot Ringtones Chart, will reflect the "Top 20" polyphonic ringtone sales for each week, including song title, artist, previous week's position and number of weeks on the chart.

The ringtone market has exploded in recent years, with global revenues estimated to have topped $3.5 billion in 2003, according to industry estimates.
Link (Yahoo)

Making A Better "Mr. Bigglesworth"

(CNN) -- A California biotechnology company has started taking orders for a hypoallergenic cat for pet lovers prone to allergies.

Cat allergies are caused by a potent protein secreted by the cat's skin and salivary glands. The allergen is so small it can remain airborne for months.

Using "gene silencing" technology, Allerca is able to suppress the production of the protein.

Allerca expects the first kittens to be born in early 2007 and is already accepting $250 deposits from interested customers.

They don't expect to have any problems with federal regulators after neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration objected to the creation of a genetically-engineered pet fish because it wasn't meant for human consumption.
Link (CNN)

Homeland Security Repeals Ban on Jungle Cruise Skippers' Sidearms

Disneyland's Jungle Cruise skippers have long been the bull-goose studs of the park: Walt's favorites, these castmembers got to fire actual blanks from a real pistol at a (fake) hippo and tell bad jokes about it. Sure, from time to time one would drop his gun in the drink and they'd have to get the frogmen to dredge the firearm back up before they could restart the ride, but damn, it was worth it just to have a real pistol in the hands of a 17-year-old with a bad sense of humor. Then they took the guns away -- shooting at hippos was deemed inappropriate. Now, Disney's embarked on a quest to get back to its roots now, and they're giving the Jungle Boat skippers their guns back.

Giving the Jungle Cruise skippers their guns back is what seems to have delighted visitors the most, however. "At least once a week somebody would get off the boat and say, `Hey, what happened to the guns?'" said Ribble's daughter, Sherri, one of the ride's operators.

Now, she says, people burst into applause when she opens fire
Link (via BoingBoing)

Guardian Pines for American Political Assassin, Apologizes

LONDON - A British newspaper apologized Monday for a weekend article in which a writer appeared to call for the assassination of President Bush.

In a regular column in The Guardian newspaper's Saturday TV listings magazine, Charlie Brooker described Bush in scathing terms, and concluded: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr., where are you now that we need you?"

Booth assassinated President Lincoln, Oswald killed President Kennedy and Hinckley wounded President Reagan.

The Guardian's apology described Brooker's comments as "flippant and tasteless" but said they were "intended as an ironic joke, not as a call to action — an intention he believed regular readers of his humorous column would understand."

It was the second time this month the newspaper was embroiled in a trans-Atlantic political controversy. Previously, it invited readers to write letters to unaffiliated voters in Clark County, Ohio, a swing state, about the importance of the Nov. 2 election. Clark County contains the city of Springfield.

The newspaper's Web site said letter-writers were free to support either Bush or Sen. John Kerry but noted that a Guardian poll showed 47 percent of Britons backed Kerry and 16 percent supported Bush.

After being overwhelmed by responses, most of them hostile, the newspaper ended the campaign after their Web site was broken into by hackers.

Squatter Invades, Redecorates Owner's House

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. -- A woman came home from vacation to find a stranger living there, wearing her clothes, changing utilities into her name and even ripping out carpet and repainting a room she didn't like, authorities said.

Douglas County authorities say they can't explain why Beverly Valentine, 54, broke into an empty home and started acting like it was her own.

During the 21/2/ weeks the owner, Beverly Mitchell, was on vacation in Greece, Valentine allegedly redecorated the ranch home, ripping up carpet and taking down the owner's pictures and replacing them with her own.

Mitchell was a complete unknown to Valentine, said Chief Sheriff's Deputy Stan Copeland. He said he had no idea how Valentine knew Mitchell was gone.

``In 28 years, I've never seen something this strange,'' Copeland said.

British Navy approves Satanist

Naval technician Chris Cranmer, 24, has been allowed to register by the captain of HMS Cumberland, based at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.

The move will mean that he will now be allowed to perform Satanic rituals on board the vessel. According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cranmer realised he was a Satanist nine years ago. Mr Cranmer said that was when he stumbled across a copy of the Satanic Bible, written by Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey.

He said: "I then read more and more and came to realise I'd always been a Satanist, just simply never knew."

Mr Cranmer, who is from Edinburgh, is now lobbying the Ministry of Defence to make Satanism a registered religion in the armed forces.

What Not To Listen To

As a public service announcement, this blog seriously recommends against listening to the Portishead album "Dummy" while feeling a bit groggy at work. It just saps your energy even further. This warning also applies to the collected works of Radiohead. Right now, a tab of amphetamines would be needed to return me to "slightly productive" status.

October 26, 2004

If You Need This, Seek Help Now.

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    The Daiquiri Whacker gas powered blender takes the fine art of blending drinks to the Extreme! The Daiquiri Whacker is totally portable! No longer are you restricted by extension cords or generators. The 23cc Homelite motor has enough power to whip up a batch of your favorite blended drink faster than you can say "Dos Margaritas Por Favor
  • October 25, 2004

    Home Again, Home Again

    At long last, I'm back in Atlanta for more than a weekend. I feel like I've been cheated out of a whole month of Fall. I left on the first week on the coattails of post-DragonCon activities. When I get back, the leaves are falling and it's almost time to think about Christmas. Well, at least we still have Halloween weekend.

    Last night, Phil and Anya came up to Flowery Branch and cooked us a Thai dinner. It was their way of saying thanks for helping them out with their annual "Monster Island Luau" party a few weeks back. (It was a great party, complete with a Tiki Bar, six pitchers of Mai-Tai's and Melissa in a so-tacky-it's-cool hawaiian print halter top. She won the title of "Tiki Goddess" for that.) Phil is an amazing cook, and the finished product was wonderfully hot and spicy. They even made a "Melissa-safe" serving without all the spicy stuff, which she only had a brief reaction to.

    October 20, 2004

    Chris vs. Marlton, New Jersey

    After a too-short weekend, I was off again. This time, it was New Jersey. Kevin always ended up getting upgraded to First class, since he travels so much, but this time, I got the seat. The distance seemed to go under us faster in the dark. I had covered some ground in a book as well by the time we landed around midnight in Philadelphia.

    A short drive later, we pulled up at a Hampton Inn in the town of Voorhees, New Jersey. (There’s no Camp Crystal lake, though, I already checked.) I had seen enough of it in movies, but I’ve never been serenaded by the banging headboard and the residents in the next room before.

    Most of the women here speak with that lovely New Jersey accent that reminds me of my ex-girlfriend Karen. Think of the standard NJ twang and say “I’m Kaaaaaren. Kaaaren Harris-e-aaaadess.” Makes me shudder to remember.

    I can take the cold here, no problem. I grew up in the north, so it’s not a big issue. I kind of miss having real winters, living in Georgia. What I can’t deal with is the continuous overcast sky. I haven’t seen the sun in three days. We come to work at 8 in this dull, gray light that continues until it gets dark. There is no sense of the passage of time, so the day seems to go on forever.

    October 10, 2004

    Chris vs. Little Rock Pts. 2+3

    The news came on Tuesday afternoon: We were already behind schedule with a bunch of technical issues kept us all from working. We would have to be in Little Rock again the following week. This in addition to the week after that, where we'd travel to lovely eastern New Jersey for another fun-filled week of hotel living. So three weeks in a row, with only the weekends to see the loved ones.

    It was a bit easier for the others, I thought. Tina had a new husband, so new that her married name just got switched in the e-mail directory a few weeks back. Gina has a boyfriend, I found out this week, but all Kevin has is his dogs, and Mike is newly-divorced and loving the single life. No, that was petty, saying that I was hit hardest. Who cares who it affects the most? We were all in this together.

    No one wanted to do it, but none of us could argue with the necessity of coming back again. The initial shock of the news wore off in about ten minutes, and I dealt with it better than I thought I would. I've been really stressed out lately, and a good deal of it was related to these trips, so I figured that I would flip out. I guess I knew, after so many problems came up one after another that day. Anyway, I dealt with it, and Melissa did as well. She's taking her mother and Matthew down to Florida to visit a friend...and of course to see another friend named Mickey.

    The week passed uneventfully as it did before. The only memorable moments were Kevin's stories about his time serving as a Marine in Africa. You could tell people about your favorite way to organize your sock drawer, and people would be riveted if it started with the line "When I was stationed on the border of Kenya..."

    My favorite story of his was when he and some Marine buddies took two weeks of leave and went on a driving safari. A week in, they came across a pair of Masai warriors that were herding their cattle across the plains. They usually subsist on the cows' milk and blood, so a few snacks from the marines were welcome. Kevin traded a t-shirt and a bar of soap for one man's bow and arrow and some bead jewelry.

    "So where are you going?" Kevin asked.
    The man pointed to a far-off hill and said "We're going over there."
    "Why, what's over there?" He asked.
    "We don't know," the man said plainly, "That is why we are going there."

    October 01, 2004


    My parents are going to be visiting with us this weekend, stopping off on their annual whirlwind tour of the lower 48. Then, Monday morning I am off to Little Rock for another week. Fun Fun. I've brought other things to occupy my time on this trip, so I hope I won't be as bored out of my freaking mind. Wish me luck.

    LinkNews Digest [10/01/2004]

    Daily Show Refutes "Stoned Slackers" Comment

    NEW YORK (AP) -- The folks at Comedy Central were annoyed when Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly kept referring to "The Daily Show" audience as "stoned slackers." So they did a little research. And guess whose audience is more educated?

    Viewers of Jon Stewart's show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch "The O'Reilly Factor," according to Nielsen Media Research.

    O'Reilly's teasing came when Stewart appeared on his show earlier this month.

    "You know what's really frightening?" O'Reilly said. "You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary, but it's true. You've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night and they can vote."

    Although seemingly taken aback by repeated "stoned slackers" references while talking with O'Reilly, Stewart was ready with a joke. "This election is going to rely on the undecided," he said. "And who is more undecided than stoned slackers? Ice cream or pretzels? Ice cream or pretzels? What's it going to be?

    Comedy Central also touted a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey, which said young viewers of "The Daily Show" were more likely to answer questions about politics correctly than those who don't.

    Comedy Central had no statistics on how many people watch "The Daily Show" stoned.
    Link (CNN)

    Coming Soon: The 10-Mile-High Club

    Just a short time after SpaceShipOne completed the world's first civilian spaceflight, Super-conglomerate Virgin has purchaed the rights for flights.
    Today at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London’s West End, Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan made their announcement to the world’s media that Virgin Galactic was now in a position to commence a programme of work that would result in the world’s first affordable space tourist flights in 2 to 3 years time.

    Sir Richard said: "Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Burt throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday morning signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne's technology to build the world's first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service.“

    Florida Database "Glitch" Blocks 28,000 Blacks from Voting Register

    Short version: Felons are not allowed to vote in Florida, and last July, after a protracted battle by the state, a federal judge forced Florida election officials to make their newly created felon list public. Surprise! It turned out the list had lots of blacks (who mostly vote Democratic) but virtually no Hispanics (who mostly vote Republican). After a public outcry, the list was scrapped.

    Fine. But why were there no Hispanics on the list? Was it just an unforeseen computer glitch or was it deliberate hanky panky? The bottom line is that the evidence seems to indicate that it probably wasn't just a glitch.

    The technical reason that Hispanics were excluded from the list is that Florida officials insisted that no one be purged from voting rolls unless their voter registration record matched perfectly with a prison record. This is a good idea, but it turns out that Hispanics are listed as "white" in the prison database and as "Hispanic" in the voter registration database. Thus, none of them matched perfectly.