November 21, 2005

The Dark Mark

A few months back, Melissa and I were planning a Premier party for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and we needed some plans. This needed to be unique, not just a trivia contest and some PartyCity supplies. I started with a creative Harry Potter-Themed Invitation Then I got the inspiration from a cunning soul on MuggleNet, who made a Dark Mark (the snake-and-skull sign that the Death Eaters send up), out of Rope Lighting. Clever. But I thought I could improve on it. I would make it with EL (ElectroLuminescent) Wire. It's like pliable neon inside plastic tubing.

First, I laid out the design with some string, to see how much wire I'd need. (The wire needs to be one long length, wrapped around in a complex knot, unless you want to buy a dozen power modules for $10 a pop.) It started out at 60 Feet, but I got it down to 40 with some tweaking.

Improvement #2 was to have it mostly visible from both sides (since our roof faces the outside street as well as our court. So I bought some thick copper wire to make a frame out of, and I'd attach the Wire to the outside of it. (Many thanks to the HD guy for reminding me that I'd also need a GROUND wire, if I were to put a copper sculpture on the highest point of the house, lest it be struck by lightning.)

Next, I needed a wooden frame to hold the copper frame upright on the roof, so Mel's father and I put together a cross-piece that would attach to two adjustable legs that would hold the angle of the rooftop. Once painted black, we stapled the copper frame to it and I attached the EL Wire to the copper with plastic wire mounts and thin crafting wire. After that, I blacked out the parts I didn't want showing with black electrical tape and installed it on the roof.

A ground wire and a few scraped elbows later, we had our green glowing "Dark Mark". The party guests had NO DOUBT which house was having the HP Party. The neighbors on the other hand, were a bit concerned when they saw us putting up a black cross with a skull anda serpent on it. But here it is. Not bad for a guy who doesn't know much about tools, eh?

LinkNews Digest [11/21/2005]

It Took America to Merge Rudeness with Robbery

When it comes to multitasking, it's hard to beat the woman who can rob a bank and never interrupt her cell phone conversation.

In an act of either incredible cool or something much more sinister, a young woman has robbed four Wachovia bank branches in Northern Virginia in recent weeks, all while seemingly immersed in cell phone chats, police say. In the most recent holdup, on Nov. 4 in Ashburn, video footage shows the woman to be almost uninterested as a teller hands her a stack of cash, and she continues talking on her phone as she turns and walks out of the bank.

"This is the first time that I can recall where we've had a crime committed while the person was using a cell phone," said Loudoun County sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell, echoing comments by officials from other law enforcement agencies. "The question would be whether anyone is on the other end of the line or not."

The cell phone bandit first struck in Vienna on Oct. 12. A woman in her twenties with dark hair, about 5 feet 2 to 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 120 to 130 pounds, walked in carrying a box and talking on a cell phone. She moved directly to the teller counter and displayed the shoebox-size box, which had a note taped on it demanding cash. Police would not disclose the wording of the note.

As in the other cases, the robber exchanged few or no words with the teller, because she apparently was busy talking to someone else. She scooped up the cash, started walking and kept talking. (LINK )

The Rest Home for Me

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A nursing home in Ireland has hit on a cheering way to keep up the spirits of its elderly patients -- by providing its own pub.

St Mary's Hospital in County Monaghan, near the Irish border with Northern Ireland, believes ready access to a good pint may help its patients -- average age 85 -- actually live longer.

"We would say the whole social aspect of life does extend the years -- it means the patients aren't bored to death," Rose Mooney, assistant director of nursing told Reuters.

The pub, which opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. and charges normal bar prices, had also led to an increase in the number of visitors, she said. (LINK )

ANOTHER Patient Being Eaten By Ants?

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - A woman receiving treatment for diabetes at a state-run hospital in eastern India lost one of her eyes after ants nibbled away at it, officials said on Tuesday.

The patient recovering from a post-surgery infection shrieked for help as the ants attacked her on Sunday night, but nurses told her it was normal to feel pain from the infection. On Monday, the patient's family saw a gaping hole with swarming ants in it when they lifted the bandage on her left eye.

Scampering rats and stray cats and dogs sharing bed space with patients are not uncommon sights at India's overcrowded state-run hospitals that are used by millions of poor and middle-class people. (LINK )

Mercedes Demo Crashes, Literally

The new Mercedes S class has a sophisticated radar-based braking system - when it works. A TV demonstration ended up in a 3-car pile-up when the S-class' safety radar failed.

A German television channel got a bigger scoop than they bargained for when Mercedes showed up with three of their flagship vehicles - only to crash them into each other when a safety demonstration failed.

In the programme, Mercedes drives 3 S-classes behind each other. The first car hits the brakes, and the two following cars brake down automatically, to avoid a crash. In theory. In practice, the first car braked, and the two others continued right into the back of each other, resulting in a 3-car pile-up at the test site.

According to a German news site, the blushing Mercedes security engineers soon discovered the problem: The test had been done in a hall which was made of steel. This confuses the radar, and the system doesn't work properly, causing more than £150,000 worth of cars to crumple into each other. (LINK )

November 15, 2005

Axed Development

A friend loaned us Season One of "Arrested Development" this month, and Melissa and I were absolutely loving it. It's the world's most hillarious Non-Animated family. You can't go through two issues of Entertainment Weekly without them beating the drum, trying to get more people to watch it. I never really got to see the acting chops on Jason Bateman until this, and I really like his style. Amazing that Melissa and I can watch something together that's not anime, I know.

Then, halfway through the box set, we hear that Fox is cancelling the series at the end of the season.

To quote Dr. Evil..."Shit."

We finally find something on television that's actually worth watching, we borrow the forst season to bone-up on the backstory, and then it gets cancelled. Great. Figures. But, actor David Cross has a few ideas about the series' hard times that I think ring true.

November 11, 2005

LinkNews Digest [11/10/2005]

Japanese Invent "Smell-Tones"

Keitai KunKun have developed “smell tones” as the next-gen ringtone. Using the these smell tones, you simply set up the enclosed liquid to hang off your phone. When you get a call or message, instead of a ring, you can get a smell alerting you to pick up your phone. I don’t see how this could be useful when your phone is shoved in your pants and your jeans start to reek of Doraemon-scent after awhile. However if multiple scents could be used, it’d be genius. When your girlfriend calls, a perfume scent could eject and if it’s your buddy, the stench of warm beer could emit slowly from the phone. They’re retailing in Japan for 1980 Yen a pop or about $17 here and come in scents like Hello Kitty, Disney, and Doraemon. (LINK via Gizmodo)

German News or "Showtime After Dark" Movie Plot? You Decide

Pupils at a German school were allowed to strip down to beachwear after the heating system stuck on full power.

The piping hot radiators left classrooms sweltering in 30 degrees centigrade, even with all of the windows open.

So staff announced children could wear swimwear - including bikinis and swimming shorts - in class until the radiators could be fixed.

The Anne Frank primary school, in Linden, only recently had the expensive digital heating system installed and experts have been unable to identify the problem. School headmaster Bruno Kraft said: "We have been having problems ever since they installed the new, fully digitalised heating control system." (LINK)

Serbian Contraception Comes as a Shock

Men in Serbia are lining up to have electric shocks delivered to their testicles as part of a new contraceptive treatment.

Serbian fertility expert Dr Sava Bojovic, who runs one of the clinics offering the service, said the small electric shock makes men temporarily infertile by stunning their sperm into a state of immobility.

He said: "We attach electrodes to either side of the testicles and send low electricity currents flowing through them. "This stuns the sperm, effectively putting them to sleep for up to 10 days, which means couples can have sex without fear of getting pregnant. The method does not kill the sperm permanently and it does not affect the patient's health."

Dr Bojovic added patients were now lining up at his fertility clinic in Novi Banovci for the shock treatment, as it had none of the problems attached to using condoms, the male pill or having a vasectomy.

He added: "We are hoping to have a small battery powered version on sale in the shops in time for Xmas." (LINK)

2 Youths Die Playing Catch With Grenade

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - A hand grenade being used instead of a ball in a game of catch exploded early on Saturday killing three youths in this Bosnian town, police and news agencies said.

Two youths aged 19 and 20, one of them from neighboring Croatia, were killed instantly while a 20-year-old woman died on her way to hospital, police said. Her sister was slightly injured but two other youths suffered serious injuries.

ONASA news agency quoted witnesses as saying the youths tossed the hand grenade to each other before it exploded in the hands of one of them.

Bosnia is awash with illegal weapons left over from the 1992-95 war and tragic incidents are frequent despite several successful campaigns by international peacekeepers and police to get people to hand over illegal weapons.

November 07, 2005

Fun with Google Earth (Part 2)

Thanks to my brother for remembering the old addresses:

November 04, 2005

Fun with Google Earth

Here's a cool activity for all you bloggies: Find all the houses you've lived in on Google Earth:

(Ironic, I remember my street address from 1983, but not from 1992.)

LinkNews Digest [11/04/2005]

Denver Cool with Pot Possession

DENVER -- Residents of the Mile High City have voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. Authorities, though, said state possession laws will be applied instead. Under the measure, residents over 21 years old could possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

"We educated voters about the facts that marijuana is less harmful to the user and society than alcohol," said Mason Tvert, campaign organizer for SAFER, or Safer Alternatives For Enjoyable Recreation. "To prohibit adults from making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana is bad public policy."

Bruce Mirken of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project said he hoped the approval will launch a national trend toward legalizing a drug whose enforcement he said causes more problems than it cures.

Seattle, Oakland, Calif., and a few college towns already have laws making possession the lowest law enforcement priority. (LINK)

Red Light Cameras in L.A. Unplugged Since June

A day after Councilman Dennis Zine revealed that Los Angeles' red-light cameras had been unplugged in June, several colleagues suggested Tuesday that he should have hit the verbal brakes. Zine said he was just telling the truth.

"I don't think it was good" that he told, Parks said. "People see those cameras and slow down. It's a deterrent."

Zine's disclosure came during a debate Monday over awarding a contract to a new vendor for the cameras, which photograph red-light-running drivers and their vehicles' license plates.

Red-light running has long vexed traffic officials. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than 900 people were killed and 176,000 injured in the United States because of red-light runners in 2003.

The LAPD has said the cameras reduced the number of accidents at those intersections by 18%. About 64,000 citations, at $271 each in 2002 but eventually hitting $351, were issued in the first four years. (LINK)

Catholic High School DNA Girl Scientists

Sounds like great idea for an Anime series. Or geek pr0n.
HILTON HEAD, South Carolina -- There were many big-league DNA scientists at the annual genome sequencing conference held here last month, but no one stood out more than a slight high school teacher in religious habit towing five of her students through the imposing crowd of genetics pioneers with a quiet grace.

The unlikely delegate was Sister Mary Jane Paolella, of Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls Roman Catholic high school in Hamden, Connecticut. She wasn't here on a sightseeing trip. Paolella showed up with her students to make an official presentation of DNA sequencing data that her honors biotechnology class generated from genes associated with osteoporosis. (More from the WIRED Magazine Article)

The Only Legal Way to Kill a Home Invader

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - It looked like a crime scene, but no charges will be filed after Wayne Goldsberry killed a buck with his bare hands in his daughter's bedroom.

The engagement lasted an exhausting 40 minutes, but Goldsberry finally subdued the five-point whitetail deer that crashed through a bedroom window at his daughter's home Friday. When it was over, blood splattered the walls and the deer lay on the bedroom floor, its neck broken.

Benton County Sheriff Keith Ferguson said that when he arrived he found the deer dead in the front yard. Goldsberry intended to have the deer processed for its meat.

Gay said that, this time of year, bucks that see their reflection in windows often charge them, believing the mirror image to be a rival. (LINK)