April 29, 2005

LinkNews Digest [04/29/2005]

Exploding Toads Baffle Germans

BERLIN (AFP) - Hundreds of toads have met a bizarre and sinister end in Germany in recent days, it was reported: they exploded.

According to reports from animal welfare workers and veterinarians as many as a thousand of the amphibians have perished after their bodies swelled to bursting point and their entrails were propelled for up to a metre (three feet).

Explanations include an unknown virus, a fungus that has infected the water, or crows, which in an echo of the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Birds", attack the toads, literally scaring them to death. (LINK)

Police Uncover Bologna Smuggling Ring

CNN) -- Federal agents found and destroyed 845 pounds of bologna and 100 pounds of cheese someone smuggled into the United States from Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security said Monday.

The man had the illicit sandwich fixings hidden under clothes in 14 suitcases when he was caught April 4, said Sue Challis, spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Challis said she did not know whether the man brought in bread as well. The items were destroyed, she said.

The smoked meat was in 80 large rolls that the man hoped to sell at a local swap meet, according to a press release from the CBP agency, which is part of the Homeland Security Department. (LINK)
In Homage to Dave Barry: "Illicit sandwich fixings" is a good name for a band.

Don't Panic

I didn't read much when I was young, I was more of a TV addict. Garfield books and "Choose-Your-Own_Adventures" were the only things I liked to read at the time. Then I picked up Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." It was the first real book that I read. (I've been told that this explains a lot about me.) The humor, writing and overall feeling of everything being out of whack in the universe appealed to me.

To commemorate the release of THHGTTG in theaters, I submit the WikiPedia entry about various fun facts about Adams' answer to life, the universe and everything: 42. Some highlights:
It was later pointed out that 6 × 9 = 42 if the calculations are performed in base 13, not base 10. Douglas Adams was not aware of this at the time, and has since been quoted as saying that "nobody writes jokes in base 13." and also "I may be a pretty sad person, but I don't make jokes in base 13."
However, Adams denies the conspiracy theories and deep meanings:
On November 2, 1993 Douglas Adams gave an answer on alt.fan.douglas-adams:

The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do' I typed it out. End of story.

April 27, 2005

Midnight Ideas

As I came to bed last night and kissed Melissa, we had a few sleepy lines of dialogue that I can't remember now. Then Melissa said something three words that I will never forget. I can't even remember the context, but I remember this.

She said: "Wasabi Ice Cream"

Think about that for a moment. How cool would it be to have Wasabi ice cream? Taste a spoonful of ice-cold dessert that burns its way down your throat. Reminded me of Terry Pratchett's description of Curry in the book 'Mort': "Have you ever bitten into a red-hot ice cube?"

Not just good for a prank ("Here, it's Pistachio, honest!"), I think it would be really a hit with spicy eaters.

I'll send an e-mail to the Ben & Jerry's people.

[LATER]: Okay, so Wasabi Ice Cream actually exists in Japan. Heck, they have "Sour Squid Candy." But perhaps not yet in America.

[EVEN LATER] I've found a recipe for Wasabi Ice Cream. Maybe we can bring this to the Church Picnic? Heh heh.


This has been a week of things I never expected.

(1) I never expected it to be considered a special occasion when I met my manager and co-workers for lunch. But when your co-workers all telecommute and your manager works out of Little Rock, that's just what happened.

(2) I never expected to be mowing my lawn in the end of April wearing a flannel shirt and jacket for warmth, but I did.

(3) I never expected to hear The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" remixed by techno group The Crystal Method, but I did. Don't ask me how, but it kinda works.

(4) I never thought that Justin would be married and have three kids, but he will this Saturday. Okay, so the kids are part of the package deal. I still can't help but grin like an idiot about it. I've been praying that he find a great woman to settle down with and have some kids for years, but neither of us expected it all in one fell swoop. It's definitely a godsend.

April 26, 2005

Whole Lotta Jesus

Here's an original hypothesis in "Communion Math": If transubstantiation (The wafer and wine turn into Christ's own flesh and blood) is real, then Jesus must have an awful lot of flesh and blood to have been used as sacrament so very many times:

If you conservatively assume that these are the End Times and that Jesus will soon be completely consumed (a detail that I do not believe is a part of mainstream Christian dogma), then he weighs two billion times more than you, and contains fourteen billion times as much blood. (2,028,252,833× and 14,375,000,000×).
By comparison, the largest living animal on Earth is the Blue Whale, at a paltry 150 tons (a mere 2,500× bigger than you). It is believed that the largest dinosaur, the Argentinosaurus, weighed only 90 tons.

However, perhaps Jesus, like Wolverine, has amazing regenerative powers (in which case, it's surprising it took him three days to return from the dead. But maybe he was just taking a little time-out.) LINK (via BoingBoing.net)
Making Jesus like Wolverine? I think they're on to something here!

April 22, 2005

LinkNews Digest [04/22/2005]

CDC: Bellies are BACK!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that obesity accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths.

According to the new calculation, obesity ranks No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation's leading preventable causes of death.

The new analysis found that obesity — being extremely overweight — is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.

Biostatistician Mary Grace Kovar, a consultant for the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center in Washington, said "normal" may be set too low for today's population. Also, Americans classified as overweight are eating better, exercising more and managing their blood pressure better than they used to, she said. (LINK)

Headline Breaks Comma Record:

Car shopper, 81, hits husband, salesman, car, tree, wall
FORT MYERS, Florida (AP) -- An 81-year-old woman preparing to take a test drive at a car dealership hit her husband, a salesman, a car and a tree before running into a wall.

"She must have panicked," said Joe Sica, sales manager at Honda of Fort Myers. The new Honda Accord shot backward after Dorothy Byrum got behind the wheel and apparently stepped on the wrong pedal Wednesday.

The open car door hit her 88-year-old husband, Robert, and the salesman. Then the car struck the parked car, the tree and the wall. The air bag deployed, and Byrum was not injured. (LINK)

DIY Pet Cremation Goes Horribly Wrong

A Belgian man set his flat on fire and ended up in hospital after trying to cremate his pet dog at home.

The man, from Schaarbeek, tried to cremate his dead pet on a barbecue on his apartment terrace. But he used too much petrol and the flames grew out of control, setting a wall alight, reports Gazet van Antwerpen.

Neighbours called the fire brigade when their saw huge flames coming from the second floor terrace. Firefighters managed to control the blaze before the fire got hold and saved the apartment But the householder suffered burns to his arm and needed hospital treatment. (LINK)

NRA Whacko Ted Nugent Urges Extremism

HOUSTON - With an assault weapon in each hand, rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent urged National Rifle Association members to be "hardcore, radical extremists demanding the right to self defense."

Speaking at the NRA's annual convention Saturday, Nugent said each NRA member should try to enroll 10 new members over the next year and associate only with other members.

"Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em!" he screamed to applause. "To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em." (LINK)

Don't Mess With Maine Grandmothers

WYMAN TOWNSHIP -- A hungry bobcat that thought a frail, older house cat sunning himself on a porch might make an easy meal didn't reckon with its 90-year-old owner.

Mildred Luce, who raised eight children and was used to being self-sufficient in this rural township 21 miles north of Kingfield, didn't think twice when she looked outside and saw her beloved cat's head locked inside the wildcat's mouth.

Acting on instinct, Luce rushed out, grabbed a handy aluminum snow shovel and pushed it down on the bobcat's neck. The wild cat held on. "Then I took hold of its head with my hand and pulled on its tail and Smudge popped out," she recalled. (LINK)

Friday Morning Epiphany

8 AM, Friday. I pulled into the parking deck about the same time as a shiny BMW 7-series. A 40-something man in standard-issue pressed khakis and an oxford shirt stepped out of the car and slung his laptop bag over a shoulder. I picked up my fake-leather portfolio folder and we walked to the door. Halfway through the elevator ride, he regarded my short-sleeved black shirt, jeans and New Balance sneakers with a raised eyebrow.

"Casual Friday?" he asked. It was more of a condescending rhetorical than a question.
"Yes, we hardly see clients, so they don't mind if we're comfortable one day a week."

I got off on my floor and swiped my badge on the magnetic pad to open the door. As my computer booted up, I became less offended by the snarky comment and more depressed about the truth of the current situation.

The truth is that I don't see clients at all. I don't even see the people I work with anymore. My new superior works out of Little Rock, and any potential team members on a project will either be working from their homes or out of a satellite office in Denver, Texas, Jacksonville or Philadelphia. In this entire office, I know three people, and I will never work with any of them. Any work I do will be coordinated and delivered across the network, and I will seldom meet with clients or even team members in person.

I could show up in jeans every day if I wanted to. Who would know, or care? I could report to work in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops five days a week. Who would they report me to? I could become the token wacky take-slack-dress-code-too-far person that exists in every I.T. shop in America. But I won't.

I am a voice on the end of the line. I send my work in e-mail attachments and on networked databases. My name and a circa-1998 photo in the company directory are the only thing that anyone in this department will ever know of me. Little separates me from a guy calling himself "Steve" in a Bangalore, India call center except a few time zones. Add to that the fact that your division's stated mission is to become the leading outsourcing services provider in their industry, and it makes you feel about as secure as your average National Guardsman in northern Iraq.

I have to get out of here.

There is no way up in this department, it's a body shop. A corporate temp agency where you have no ability to find yourself work, yet they count it against you in your annual review if you're not on projects enough. I even got a promotion this year, to a second-degree programmer. That plus a merit raise added up to the scant single-digit percentage I got four years ago for simply doing my job.

I must get a transfer out of the department this year. I take pride in my work, and I don't mind my work speaking for itself, but I can't deal with never seeing others in-person. Call me old fashioned.

My life is on the edge of change, with my work and at home. A life shift is about to happen, and it feels like cresting the first hill on a roller coaster. Only it's a lot scarier, since my wife and kid are riding with me.

April 21, 2005

How Screwed Are You?

A professor at Berkeley had his laptop stolen by a student attempting to view an upcoming exam. Little did the thief know... Here's the audio of explaining how the teacher is tracking him, and the terrifying consequences that will soon befall the student that stole his laptop. This prof has a certain Greg Lee quality about him, that some of you might recognize, as he calmly explains how deep the thief is in. *I* was sweating by the end of this clip. [Link to Audio]

April 20, 2005

His Highness

God, I love WikiPedia. For the sheer ability for the people to get their little digs in. Notice something odd about the page for our new Pope?

The Bachelor Party

Brother Justin is getting married next weekend, and the Kerns are very happy for all parties involved. Seeing as there is no "best man", and due in part to Jay's suggestion, I've attempted to put together a bachelor party for the guy.

Now I'm no world traveller, but I can say without hesitation that there are two types of guys in the world: Those who want strippers at a bachelor party, and those who don't. I, personally, do not. I've been to strip joints twice in my life. (To quote Chef from South Park: "There is a time and place for everything...it's called 'College'.") It wasn't pretty. The DANCERS were, but the situation was not. Nothing bad happened, I just didn't enjoy myself, which is the whole reason why people go to places like that in the first place.

I just never got the rationale of strip joints. Here I am, a lonely guy with guy-needs, so I'll pay money to watch women take their clothes off in front of me and make me even more sexually frustrated than I already am. I'll shell out a boatload of money to sit in a chair used by countless questionable patrons, fearfully operate the levers in the bathroom with my feet, look at woman I can't have and pay $12 for a Heineken. How can I resist such a place?

When it comes to hired strippers, it's just as bad, if not worse. The dancers come to your house or party room, never knowing what array of creeps to expect, nor what stage of intoxication they will be in at her arrival. Some people wanted one at my bachelor party, but I torpedoed that one immediately. We ended up renting out a room in the Athens BrewPub, drinking ourselves silly and getting acquainted with the people from various points in my life. Everyone had a great time, and no one had to explain lipstick stains on their trouser seam the next morning.

Luckily for me, Justin did not want to hire a dancer for the occasion. So it's just friends, beer pitchers and loads of 8-ball pool, quoting movie lines and telling stories all the way. This is really the best way to remember the single days, since it's more truthful about what actually took place in those times.

Cheers, Justin. Here's to your new life.

April 19, 2005

Paging Dr. Gonzo

Person Saves Chicken with Mouth-to-Beak

Uegene Safken says one of the chickens in his young flock had gotten into a tub of water in the yard last week and appeared to have died.

Safken said he first swung the chicken by the feet to revive it. When that failed, he continued swinging and blowing into its beak. "Then one eye opened. I thought it was an involuntary response," Safken said. The chicken's beak opened a
little wider, and Safken started yelling at it: "You're too young to die! "Every time I'd yell at him, he'd chirp," Safken said. (LINK)

April 15, 2005

LinkNews Digest [04/15/2005]

Smuckers Denied Patent for Pre-Made PB&J

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected an effort by J.M. Smucker Co. to patent its process for making pocket-size peanut butter and jelly pastries called "Uncrustables."

Smucker's 2-ounce peanut butter and jelly pockets come in two flavors -- strawberry and grape -- and are enclosed without a crust using a crimping method that the Orrville, Ohio, company says is one of a kind and should be protected from duplication by federal law.

Smucker said in a statement released Friday that it was disappointed with the decision but does not anticipate it will affect the company's short- or long-term financial performance.

"We bought a unique idea for making an everyday item more convenient (and) made a significant investment in the idea and in developing the innovative manufacturing technology that makes Uncrustables so easy to use," the company said. (LINK)

Dubai to Use Robot Camel Jockeys

DUBAI (AFP) - The United Arab Emirates is to mount robot jockeys on racing camels later this year after a ban on using children in the region's popular sport. It will become the second Gulf Arab state, after Qatar, to use robots and ban child jockeys following criticism that infants, some as young as four, were being brought in from poor countries to race the camels.

The US State Department and human rights groups say children are exploited by traffickers who pay their impoverished parents a paltry sum or simply kidnap their victims. The children, mostly from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, are then smuggled into the Gulf states.

They are often starved by employers to keep them light and increase their racing potential. Mounting camels three times their height, the children face the risk of being thrown off and trampled. (LINK)

Wisconsin Considers Cat-Hunting Season

La Crosse firefighter Mark Smith, 48, helped spearhead the cat-hunting proposal. He wants Wisconsin to declare free-roaming wild cats an unprotected species, just like skunks or gophers. Anyone with a small-game license could shoot the cats at will.

At least two other upper Midwestern states, South Dakota and Minnesota, allow wild cats to be shot — and have for decades. Minnesota defines a wild, or feral, cat as one with no collar that does not show friendly behavior, said Kevin Kyle with that state's Department of Natural Resources.

Critics of Smith's idea organized Wisconsin Cat-Action Team and developed a Web site — dontshootthecat.com. Some argue it is better to trap wild cats, spay or neuter them, before releasing them. (LINK)

Idaho Legislature Moves to Praise "Napoleon Dynamite"

some highlights from the bill:
WHEREAS, the "Happy Hands" club and the requirement that candidates for school president present a skit is an example of the importance of theater arts in K-12 education; and
WHEREAS, Pedro's efforts to bake a cake for Summer illustrate the positive connection between culinary skills to lifelong relationships; and
WHEREAS, the prevalence of cooked steak as a primary food group pays tribute to Idaho's beef industry; and
WHEREAS, Napoleon's tetherball dexterity emphasizes the importance of physical education in Idaho public schools; and
WHEREAS, Tina the llama, the chickens with large talons, the 4-H milk cows, and the Honeymoon Stallion showcase Idaho's animal husbandry; and
WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!" (LINK)

Grece Lifts Ban on Jesus Cartoon Book

ATHENS (Reuters) - A Greek court on Wednesday has lifted a ban on selling a cartoon book from Austria depicting Jesus Christ as a drinking buddy of Jimi Hendrix and a marijuana-smoking, naked surfer.

Austrian cartoonist Gerhard Haderer had been found guilty by a Greek court of "malicious public blasphemy" earlier this year and given a six-month suspended prison sentence for his take on the life of Christ. But the Athens appeals court ruled the book was not "blasphemous" and overturned Haderer's conviction, his lawyer Maria Marazioti told Reuters.

"The Life of Jesus" has so far been translated into 10 languages. (LINK)

Dwarf Tossing Captures Burglar

LONDON, England (AP) -- A grandmother stopped an intruder from entering her home by lobbing a heavy garden gnome at him, police said Friday.

Jean Collop was woken early on Tuesday morning by the sound of an intruder on the roof of her home in Wadebridge, southwest England.

"I grabbed the first thing that came to hand -- one of my garden gnomes -- and hurled it at him, and hit him," she recalled."He lay there and I began to scream. I went back into the kitchen and found a rolling pin in case he came down. I didn't want to break another gnome." (LINK)

April 08, 2005

The Consitutional Restoration Act

Here's your moment of Christian Right Zen for the month: Senate Bill 520, "The Constitutional Restoration Act of 2005"

Point One:
`Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.'
Please note the wording of that last sentance. "God as the SOVERIGN source of law, liberty or government." Essentially this says that God's law supercedes man's law, so if no state or local laws prevent it, Federal judges cannot review a case in which a man sells his daughter into slavery, takes an eye for an eye, or worships a false idol. This goes way beyond the issue of posting the Ten Commandments outside a courthouse or having a Christmas Tree on the statehouse lawn, this is putting capital-g God above the supreme court, and leaves the interpretation of the words of said God to the people. And if you read up on your history, the people can be incredibly bad at interpreting.

Point Two:

In interpreting and applying the Constitution of the United States, a court of the United States may not rely upon any constitution, law, administrative rule, Executive order, directive, policy, judicial decision, or any other action of any foreign state or international organization or agency, other than English constitutional and common law up to the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.
So any laws from an international governing body, such as the UN, or humanitarian laws like the Geneva Conventions, would not have any standing in Federal court, regardless if any American President signed them. A convenient arrangement for Attorney General "Abu Ghraib" Gonzales, isn't it?

And what about that last part..."up to the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. This effectively bans the Federal Courts from considering any treaties or laws passed after 1787. So anything after The Paris Peace Treaty is not admissable in court. Talk about your revisionist historians. Not surprisingly, most conservative journalists conveniently leave off that last sentance in order to garner support from the masses.

The good news is that the bill is not well supported. Even right-wing "democrat" Zell Miller dropped his sponsorship of this bill since last year. And when Zell Miller can't get behind a bill that sets back laws 200 years, you KNOW it's bad.

LinkNews Digest [04/08/2005]

"Right-to-Kill" Legislation Gathers Support in FLA

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - People in Florida will be allowed to kill in self-defense on the street without trying to flee under a new law passed by state politicians on Tuesday that critics say will bring a Wild West mentality and innocent deaths.

The Florida House of Representatives, citing the need to allow people to "stand their ground," voted 94-20 to codify and expand court rulings that already allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves in their homes without first trying to escape. The new bill goes further by allowing citizens to use deadly force in a public place if they have a reasonable belief they are in danger of death or great bodily harm.

The "Stand Your Ground" bill passed the Senate last week on a 39-0 vote and now goes to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who indicated he will sign it. "For a House that talks about the culture of life it's ironic that we would be devaluing life in this bill," said Democratic state Rep. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach. "That's exactly what we're doing." (LINK)
Jeb's Rationale: "It's wrong to pull the plug on a loved one in accordance with their wishes, but it's okay to shoot someone in cold blood if they threaten you."

Gov't Turns in Internet Report 7 Years Late

Lawmakers had demanded the $1 million study, ultimately called "Signposts in Cyberspace," under a 1998 law. Passed almost at the dawn of what became the Internet boom, the law required the Commerce Department to seek a study about Web addresses and trademarks by the National Research Council and wrap up the report within nine months.

The council published its findings Thursday -- two presidential administrations later and years after the implosion of what had been a bustling Internet economy.

"Time got extended," said Charles Brownstein, director of the research council's computer science and telecommunications board. "This was eagerly awaited for about 6 1/2 years ago," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisconsin, who ordered the study in 1998 as chairman of the House Science Committee.(LINK)
Some Key findings reportedly include:
  • Predictions about an e-commerce site named after a very long river that sells books, movies and music
  • A warning about some university student's file-sharing application called "Hapster or something."
  • An exiled prince from Nigeria contacted one researcher by e-mail, and he is still waiting for the "borrowed" money to be returned to his bank account, which he furnished to the prince.

    Burton Trains Squirrels for "Charlie"

    MADCAP movie-maker Tim Burton blew millions on new film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ? training squirrels to crack nuts. The Batman director was determined to recreate the ?nut room? scene in Roald Dahl?s novel for his movie starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

    He spent six months teaching the 200 rodents to crack hazelnuts, sort them and load them on a conveyor belt. He then spent ANOTHER ten weeks filming the scene at London?s Pinewood Studios. Burton, 46, said: ?We used actual rodents. From birth, we sent them to training school for six months.? (LINK)

    Sony Patents "Brain-Beam" Technology

    The technique suggested in the patent is entirely non-invasive. It describes a device that fires pulses of ultrasound at the head to modify firing patterns in targeted parts of the brain,
    creating "sensory experiences" ranging from moving images to tastes and sounds. This could give blind or deaf people the chance to see or hear, the patent claims.

    If the method described by Sony really does work, it could have all sorts of uses in research and medicine, even if it is not capable of evoking sensory experiences detailed enough for the entertainment purposes envisaged in the patent. (LINK)

    Korea Launches Trans-Gender Pop Sensation

    Pretty pop princesses are a dime a dozen, but meet ?Lady,? not your typical girly group. These four foxy sirens are creating media frenzy as they poise to take the entertainment industry by storm. Korea's first transgender group is set to release its debut album in a Euro-dance style. And its members -- Sine, Sahara, Binu and Yoona -- born as 'he's are now 'she's with looks that many natural-born women would kill for.

    "We love chocolate, shopping and gossip. Mentally we were always women, the only difference being that we changed something physical, simply we are women with an extra scar," said one group member. (LINK)

    New PC Cookie Monster To Give Up Cookies

    First PBS announced that "Sesame Street" would kick off its 35th season this week with a multiyear story arc about healthy habits. No problem there; childhood obesity rates are soaring. Then I learned of changes that turned my "Sesame Street" world upside-down.

    My beloved blue, furry monster -- who sang "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me" -- is now advocating eating healthy. There's even a new song -- "A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food," where Cookie Monster learns there are "anytime" foods and "sometimes" foods.

    "Even Cookie Monster is learning to control his cookie cravings," Frist told me by e-mail. "His sage advice opened our eyes to the simple joys of a tasty cookie and now reminds us that moderation is the key to healthy living." (LINK)
    I almost cried. The politicians missed the point entirely on this one. Cookie Monster was not a role model, but a tragic figure on "The Street", showing the horror of over-indulgence as a warning to young viewers. "Do not become like me," he said (figuratively), "so addicted to a food that you devour anything remotely resembling it, like the Moon."

  • Talk about too much free time: A scale-model Disneyland, complete with Railroad, out of Legos.
  • Too much free time #2: The Mr. T Cabbage Patch Doll Competition
  • TheSneeze.com's popular feature "Steve, Don't Eat It!" conquers Cuitlacoche, a Mexican "delicacy" of fungus-infected corn.
  • The AKIRA Bike scooter Mod.
  • New Product:The Scrolling LED Belt Buckle
  • My 25 Favorite Things about Sesame Street. Yes, the counting pinball machine makes the list...
  • April 07, 2005

    Congress Considers a Dark Issue

    Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the last Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.

    "Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs," said Rep. Fred Upton (news, bio, voting record), R-Mich., who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsored the measure. (LINK)
    Yes, our congress is busy with the pressing issue of our imaginary time shift. I'm glad they have priorities, because I'd hate to see them waste time discussing healthcare or social security. But there is some basis of financial savings to the measure:
    "The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day. The country uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day.
    I've got a better idea. Instead of reducing national energy consumption by 0.05%, let's look at ways to reduce the cost the 99.95%? Namely, don't piss off all the countries that SELL US the oil by conducting a crusade in their homeland.

    April 06, 2005

    The Birthday Dread

    Today, I turn 31. Not a shift of demographic range, but still a milestone. This is the decade of major change in a man's life, and I am no exception.

    Three years ago, I changed from being a Business Analyst to being a Programmer. I found myself "on the bench" without a billable project. I decided that the best thing for me, both for my career and my happiness, was to learn Visual Basic and become a Programmer, as I originally intended. I started out at the very bottom, taking CBT's (basically glorified PowerPoint presentations with quizzes at the end) and training classes for months on end to prepare. After three years, I've become quite a capable programmer, if my reviews are any indication, and I have been very happy doing it.

    Today, there is change once more. The Visual Basic application that my work was built around is being phased out for a shiny new product that uses Web Services, XML and Style Sheets. Once more, I'm on the bench, with no project in sight, taking CBT's on a new programming language. I'm always up for learning something new, but taking notes for 7 hours a day is a fair strain for a geek like me, whose longest bit of hand-writing in the past year has been on a birthday card. I haven't taken notes this much since college and my handwriting has not improved since then.

    With any luck, I'll find some entry-level assignment in order to put this cold training to some real use in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed on that.

    This Date In History

  • 1830 - Mormon Church Established
  • 1896 - The Olypics restarted in Athens, Grece
  • 1895 - Oscar Wilde arrested for being a homosexual
  • 1917 - America enters WWII
  • 1931 - "Little Orphan Annie" radio serial debuts
  • April 05, 2005

    One Step Further: The Karaoke Muzzle

    I'm going to test out a new feature on the blog called "One Step Further", in which I post a new invention, and suggest the next logical/profitable step. Comments please. Here goes:

    The Karaoke "Muzzle"

    A Karaoke microphone, with a rubber mask around it, so you don't disturbing the neighbors/spouse/dog three blocks away.

    One Step Further: For absolute soundproofing, attach a small cloth inside to hold the chloroform. LINK (via BoingBoing)

    April 01, 2005

    LinkNews Digest [04/01/2005]

    The Problem with Biometrics

    Police in Malaysia are hunting for members of a violent gang who chopped off a car owner's finger to get round the vehicle's hi-tech security system. The car, a Mercedes S-class, was protected by a fingerprint recognition system.

    The attackers forced Mr Kumaran to put his finger on the security panel to start the vehicle, bundled him into the back seat and drove off. But having stripped the car, the thieves became frustrated when they wanted to restart it. They found they again could not bypass the immobiliser, which needs the owner's fingerprint to disarm it.

    They stripped Mr Kumaran naked and left him by the side of the road - but not before cutting off the end of his index finger with a machete. (LINK)
    The problem with biometric locks is that you can still lose the "keys".

    Tivo Introduces Pop-Up Ads

    When it debuted in 1999, TiVo revolutionized the TV experience by wresting control of screen time from advertisers, allowing viewers to record shows and skip commercials. TiVo's slogan said it all: "TV your way."

    Behind the scenes, though, TiVo was courting advertisers, selling inroads to a universe most customers saw as commercial-free. The result is a groundbreaking new business strategy, developed with more than 30 of the nation's largest advertisers, that in key ways circumvents the very technology that made TiVo famous.

    By March, TiVo viewers will see "billboards," or small logos, popping up over TV commercials as they fast-forward through them, offering contest entries, giveaways or links to other ads. If a viewer "opts in" to the ad, their contact information will be downloaded to that advertiser -- exclusively and by permission only -- so even more direct marketing can take place. (LINK)
    Selling ad space...that appears while you fast-forward through the ads (Tivo's key selling point). This is what happens when executives start a meeting with "How can we maximize revenue AND lose customers in one fell swoop?"

    RFID to Appear On US Passports

    In a misguided attempt to make US passports more secure, the US Department of State plans to put radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in all new passports. This RFID chip will contain the same information currently on our passports, including the passport holder's name, date and place of birth, passport number and photograph. From identity theft to identity death, an RFID-chipped US passport means good news for the bad guys.

    I don't expect my country to actively protect me when I am abroad, but I do expect it to not put me actively in harm's way. I don't need a beacon that is an advertisement for my potential victimhood, "Look, over here, an American! Need cash? Credit cards? Want to make a splashy political statement for the news? Act now!"

    Hitler's "Mein Kampf" Tops Turkish Bestsellers

    ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's government Monday played down soaring sales of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic book "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") and said there were no racists in the large Muslim country.

    Booksellers say "Mein Kampf," or "Kavgam" in Turkish, has featured among the top 10 bestsellers in the past two months, to the dismay of the country's small Jewish community and of the German embassy in Ankara.

    Political analysts say "Mein Kampf" probably reflects rising nationalism and anti-American sentiment rather than anti-Semitism or specific support for Hitler and his ideas.

    There is also widespread anger about the U.S. occupation of neighboring Iraq. The current No. 1 bestseller in Turkey, ahead of "Mein Kampf," is "Metal Storm," which depicts a U.S. invasion of the country. The Turkish hero avenges his homeland by destroying Washington with a nuclear device. (LINK)