December 20, 2006

UATW Update

Some of you know that I serve as the webmaster for a friend's Web Magazine called "Up Against The Wall". Well, this issue, add "Anime Reviewer" to my credits, because I posted my reviews of Anime series' "GHOST IN THE SHELL:Stand Alone Complex-2nd Gig" (Longest title for an anime EVAR) and "Tactics". I also had to provide a short "It's Not Just For Kids" intro. Being my first reviews since my crap-tacular stint reviewing music for the UGA Student Paper, I could use some feedback Comments. Thanks.

The Grinch Gap

Last year, the church choir that Melissa and I sing in had a "Winter Festival for the Arts", where we sang and had supper provided for patrons, in a fundraiser for our music library. The director, "Carla-La-La-LAAAA", worked with me on a solo of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" that turned out to be a big hit with the audience.

This year, the choir booked ourselves a Christmas performance gig for a supper club at the Ravinia Hotel run by Carla's in-laws. We had a few new tunes, but I was still part of the program with "Mr. Grinch". But I had a small concern: This was a rather...geriatric crowd. Meaning no one under 65. Some were probably pushing 90, if not actively digging their grave that night. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" didn't come out until the mid-50's. Would these people even KNOW the Grinch? Most of them probably had stories about "The Great War", and were in the working world before some children's book writer named Dr. Seuss came along.

The program was written, however, so we had to go along with it. So I gave the intro that I had written:

"Good evening. I'll now be performing for you a traditional Christmas aria from Franz Schubert entitled "Du ist unt UberMensch, Herr Grunen". However, because most people here don't actually SPEAK German... including me... We will be using the English translation, which you may find more recognizable."

About five people were laughing, the others were quite perplexed, and probably had never heard it before. So needless to say, when our little schtick of choir members acting as the Grinch's Minions, "stealing" things from the audience got going, some people were not amused. When one of our ladies took a fur from some old lady in an emerald green dress, she clutched her pearls in shock and said something to her husband. Most likely it contained the words "Whipper-Snapper" or possibly "vagabonds".

Apart from that solo, we were well-received, and asked back next year. But I think I'll suggest that we leave the Grinch off the playlist next time.

December 15, 2006

LinkNews Digest [12/15/2006]

Hunter Hits, Eats 7-Legged Hermaphrodite Deer

FOND DU LAC, Wis. -- Rick Lisko hunts deer with a bow, but got his most unusual one driving his truck down his mile-long driveway. The young buck had nub antlers and seven legs. Lisko said it also had both male and female reproductive organs.

"It was definitely a freak of nature," Lisko said. "I guess it's a real rarity." When he looked at the animal, he noticed three- to four-inch appendages growing from the rear legs. Later, he found a smaller appendage growing from one of the front legs.

"It's a pretty weird deer," he said, describing the extra legs as resembling "crab pinchers. It kind of gives you the creeps when you look at it," he said, but he thought he saw the appendages moving, as if they were functional, before the deer was hit.

"And by the way, I did eat it," Lisko said. "It was tasty."(LINK )

25% of 109th Congressional Bills Were Naming Buildings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite criticism for adjourning last week without acting on several major legislative initiatives, members of Congress can boast significant achievements in at least one area of federal lawmaking -- naming post offices.

Of the 383 pieces of legislation that were signed into law during the two-year 109th Congress, more than one-quarter dealt with naming or renaming federal buildings and structures -- primarily post offices -- after various Americans.

Three post offices were named after entertainers. Ray Charles, the late singer and musician, was honored with a post office in Los Angeles in July 2005 in a bill sponsored by Rep. Diane Watson, D-California Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, authored a law naming another Los Angeles post office after actor and former American Express pitchman Karl Malden.

And in March, Congress passed and the president signed legislation naming a Smithfield, North Carolina, post office after actress Ava Gardner. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-North Carolina.

Several members of the U.S. military killed in Iraq or Afghanistan were honored with post offices, and the late civil rights leader Rosa Parks was honored with a federal building in Detroit, Michigan.

And one of the final actions Congress took before adjourning early Saturday was naming a Delaware bridge after that state's long-time GOP Sen. William Roth.(LINK )

Tunisian Nomads Living in Tatooine Sets

What seemed to be just another pile of desert rocks, gradually, as we approached, took the shape of the rockets, satellites and spheres of the 1976 "Star Wars'" production, the real-life science fiction amid the ancient desert. Breathless and with my heart pounding, I wandered around the abandoned set, looking at the inscriptions "Mike and Lucy were here, 1987" or "Luke, I love you! Jessie, 2001."

As I peered inside one of the impeccably built constructions, I noticed a mattress and a small teapot on the sand floor. In a mere moment, the "owner" of the house was there: an elder Arab man dressed in a typical desert fashion.

Surprisingly, his French was perfect and he explained to me that since he had neither family nor money, he came to live in the movie set. He looks after the place, the real roof of the fake house protects him from the sandstorms, and if a tourist throws him a small coin every once in a while, he can buy some more tea and some food. And he is hardly the only one living in the Lucas-built wonderland in the middle of the Sahara.

The set guardian offered us some Tunisian tea, but it was time to move on, because the sun had already disappeared behind the blurred horizon of the desert and the wind was growing stronger. As we drove off, I couldn't help but think that Anakin Skywalker and company would arrive at their property any minute and start negotiations on saving the universe, or something along those lines. (LINK )

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" Enters Public Domain

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) is considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. It is so bad, that it is actually fun to watch. The filmmakers were probably too embarrassed to renew the copyright, so it’s now in the public domain.

The story shows how Santa Claus is kidnapped by Martians to cheer up the Martian children. The rumor is that the movie was shot in abandoned aircraft hangars in New Jersey. It is clear that the movie had an extremely low budget, it even has spelling errors in the opening credits (custume designer).

The movie is currently ranked 80 in the list of worst movies ever made. A remake of this classic has been announced, but it will certainly never beat the original. (LINK )


December 11, 2006

LinkNews Digest [12/08/2006]

Zombie Chickens Rise from Mass Graves

PETALUMA (AP) - In this rich agricultural region of Northern California, ranchers have been turning chickens too old to lay eggs into compost at a rate of a half-million hens a year.

To kill the chickens, farmers suffocate them in sealed boxes filled with carbon dioxide, a practice that has drawn the ire of animal rights groups. Afterward, the hens are layered in mounds of sawdust.

But some chickens not properly euthanized have been seen crawling out of the compost piles, earning them the name "zombie chickens" -- and hatching a debate over what else might be done with them and other "spent hens."

A food bank proposed making sausage to feed the poor. A reptile enthusiast suggested using them as food for large exotic pets like pythons and alligators. And an industry group said in the future they could be used as fuel for power plants.

A new European technology that turns dead cows into fuel to generate electricity -- and that could be the fate of spent hens someday, said Rich Matteis, head of the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association. But "that's not something that's going to be available anytime soon," he said. (LINK )

China: Developers Fined for Great Wall Bypass

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese company that had sought to build a highway through the Great Wall paid a fine for damaging the structure Sunday, days after new penalties were enacted to protect China's most famous tourist attraction, state media reported.

Hongji Landbridge Investment Development Inc. paid 500,000 yuan ($63,800) in penalties for deliberately damaging a section of the Great Wall in Inner Mongolia as part of an unauthorized road project, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The company ignored warnings from officials and suggestions on how it could complete the project without damaging the wall, including digging tunnels and building overpasses, Xinhua cited unnamed cultural heritage officials as saying.

Instead, it demolished large sections of the Great Wall along with three ancient villages that were under government protection, it cited Wang Dafang, an official with the regional cultural heritage bureau, as saying.

A regulation specifically protecting the Great Wall went into effect Friday, allowing for fines of up to 500,000 yuan for those who take soil or bricks from it. (LINK )

Teen Girl Charged as Sex Offender AND Victim

Salt Lake City - Utah Supreme Court justices acknowledged Tuesday that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the concept that a 13-year-old girl could be both an offender and a victim for the same act - in this case, having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.

The Ogden, Utah, girl was put in this odd position because she was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14. She also was the victim in the case against her boyfriend, who was found guilty of the same violation by engaging in sexual activity with her.

"The only thing that comes close to this is dueling," said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.

State authorities filed delinquency petitions in July 2004, alleging that each had committed sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony if committed by an adult.
(LINK )

Swiss Army Knife Hits Critical Mass

How many implements on a Swiss Army Knife would it take before it gets ludicrous? I'd say 85 is well beyond the limit.
Just as you can't be too rich or too thin, I'd always thought, so you can't have too many tools on your Swiss Army knife - but that was before I took delivery of the new Giant Swiss Army knife. Grotesque, if superbly engineered, the Giant weighs nearly a kilogram and features 85 devices in all. Unload this mother into the plastic tray as you walk through security at Heathrow and just see what happens.

The Giant is supposed to feature every blade that has ever been incorporated into Swiss Army knives as made by Wenger, one of the two firms that make them . "We've sold 20 to retailers so far, and we can't get them in fast enough," says Garry Woodhouse of Whitby and Co, sole importer of Wenger knives into Britain. "They're assembled by hand in Switzerland, and I'm told that the man doing it is working his fingers to the bone."

This might explain why my version of the Giant seems to have its tools arranged in a different order from the listing on the Wenger website, so that I am in danger of mistaking the reamer for the golf-club face cleaner, or committing the faux pas of attempting to use the fish-hook disgorger to tighten my bicycle spokes. And I admit that I just can't find some of the devices that I know are definitely in there: the mysterious "special key", for example, or the elusive "12/20 gauge choke tube tool".

None the less, I have successfully employed the cigar cutter, the flashlight, the laser pointer with 300ft range, the mineral crystal magnifying glass (rather beautiful, the way such an apparently delicate instrument is honed at its end into yet another screwdriver), the tyre-tread gauge measurer and the corkscrew. It took a mere four minutes to remove the cork with the Giant, incidentally - a matter of holding the bottle between my feet, leaving both hands free to revolve the cumbrous contraption.

The Giant is a real product, available for the very real price of 495 Pounds, but it is aimed at completists and collectors. One gadget website correspondent has balefully written, "I envision this monstrosity being presented as a rare 'salesman's sample' on 2310's version of The Antiques Roadshow." Wenger admit that its practicality is limited, and that its purpose is partly to promote the company .(LINK )

Christmas Feature: Santa's Evil Toys


Suicide Bomber Big Wheel (LINK )


December 07, 2006

Save Troops in Iraq with Silly String

AP Reports:
STRATFORD, N.J. - In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons systems, sometimes it's the simplest ideas that can save lives. Which is why a New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.

American troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq.

Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.

Now, 1,000 cans of the neon-colored plastic goop are packed into Shriver's one-car garage in this town outside Philadelphia, ready to be shipped to the Middle East thanks to two churches and a pilot who heard about the drive.

"If I turn on the TV and see a soldier with a can of this on his vest, that would make this all worth it," said Shriver, 57, an office manager.

December 05, 2006

Wil Wheaton's ST:TNG Memories

For those of you who haven't read Wil Wheaton's Blog, Here's the latest.

If you remember the late 80's silliniess that was Star Trek: The Next Generation, you'll appreciate Wil's insight in this plot synopsis of "Justice":
After dropping some human colonists off in the Strnad solar system, the Enterprise notices a rather nice Class M planet in the nearby Rubicun system, called Rubicun III. Picard sends an away team down to the surface to find out if it's a good place for some shore leave, and they return with some very good news: it's clean, it's beautiful, it's populated with friendly humanoids . . . and they really like to do the nasty.

"At the drop of a hat," according to Geordi.

"Any hat," Tasha says, knowingly.

Picard sends a second, larger team down to the planet to see exactly how many hats they're going to need. Because every responsible Starfleet parent would want to send their children down to the galaxy's longest running planetary orgy, he orders Wesley Crusher to see if the planet is a good place for kids to hang out.

After beaming down to the planet, the away team quickly learn three important facts:

1. The planet's inhabitants, called the Edo, like to jog everywhere.
2. They are all beautiful blond models, possibly descended from some sort of Maxim/FHM breeding program in the late 22nd century.
3. The entire planet is clothed in about 6 yards of fabric.

(More...)

The Joy of Child-Rearing

I was dropping Matthew off at Pre-K this morning when the Director of the Child Development Center said good morning to us. She is 40-ish woman with the perma-smile and high voice that all Early Childhood Education majors seem to learn.

Matthew smiled at her and said "Want to show you something" He proceeded to lift up his shirt and point to his nipple. "I've got small ones," He began, "And YOU got big ones, and DADDY'S got big ones" he finished, pointing to our chests in turn.

God bless her, the lady didn't even blink. She just smiled gently and said "Yes, it's the magical growth of our bodies." Matthew seemed pleased, and walked off to class. The director walked off as well, not making eye contact with me.

November 30, 2006

LinkNews Digest [11/30/2006]

The Old "Pasta Sauce-for-a-Camcorder" Switcheroo

ST. LOUIS -- The Rittenbergs planned to shoot family movies with a new camcorder. They may have to settle for a family pasta dinner, instead.

The couple paid about $1,600 for a camcorder at a Best Buy store in the St. Louis suburb of Ellisville last week. They said when they opened the box, they found something they hadn't pictured: a jar of Classico pasta sauce where the camera should have been. Also inside the box was a telephone cord and an electric outlet cover, all positioned in the box where the camera equipment should have been. So far, they're stuck with the spicy red pepper sauce, though a Best Buy manager said the company is working to resolve the matter.

When the couple tried to return it, they were told by Best Buy that the box had been sealed, so the swap couldn't have happened at the store.

The Best Buy general manager in Ellisville, Wade Trapp, said a decision on how to resolve the problem has not been determined. San Diego-based Sony Electronics Inc. said it had a record of the incident. The company said it had not fielded any other complaints about pasta sauce being discovered in place of cameras. (LINK )

Judge Rules Paper Money Unfair to Blind

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Treasury Department is violating the law by failing to design and issue currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired people.

Judge James Robertson, in a ruling on a suit by the American Council of the Blind, ordered the Treasury to devise a method to tell bills apart. The judge wrote that the current configuration of paper money violates the Rehabilitation Act's guarantee of "meaningful access."

"It can no longer be successfully argued that a blind person has 'meaningful access' to currency if she cannot accurately identify paper money without assistance," Robertson wrote in his ruling. He further ruled that finding a solution to the problem would not be an "undue burden" on the government and ordered the Treasury Department to begin working on a solution within 30 days.

The American Council for the Blind has submitted several alternatives, including embossing, holes punched in the paper or using different-sized bills for different denominations. The Treasury Department had no comment on the ruling. (LINK )

Bad Korea, No Nintendo Wii!

Kim Jong Il, the world's favorite insane little man, is going to have a tough time finding some fun. North Korea is going to have some trouble finding consumer electronics; most of the population probably won't even notice.

The US government is planning to block the shipments of popular consumer electronic goods to North Korea, ranging from iPods to HDTVs. The embargo is specifically targeted at Kim Jong Il himself, who enjoys partaking in enjoyments his subjects cannot. We can assume that this ban will also include the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.

While this embargo won't do anything to Jong Il (he can just smuggle units in the same way he got his uranium and plutonium), we're sure he's going to be ronery when the N. Korean Xbox Live service has a population of one. However, this could hamper any plans N. Korea may have integrating the Cell processor into missile systems and using the Wiimote to control tanks. (LINK via Joystiq)


November 29, 2006

Some Thanksgiving

We've had a rough start to the holiday. Friday before Thanksgiving, Melissa's dad was let go from his job. Official stated reason was not meeting his sales quota, but the boss knew that he had a deal that he'd been working on for a year, and that deal was going to close by January. This was a huge sale: 100 "seats" of software plus training, nearly a MILLION in sales, which is Ron's ANNUAL quota.

The process was two-fold: First, get rid of Ron before the sale closes. That way, they don't have to pay him his 15% commission from what could be their largest single sale ever, and the bosses get to keep that for themselves. Second, once they have that money in hand, they bring in another associate from the Texas office to cover his position. Someone 20 years younger, who has been looking to re-locate to Atlanta.

No matter how many times I see this sort of thing, it never ceases to amaze me how low people will go for a lousy percentage. Ron was one of their best salesmen, even at age 62.

So we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner a week later, and nothing was said. It was just food. We were not thankful for the times that Ron had been screwed over by his employers. Two years ago, it was Lennox with their Age Discrimination policies. (Big surprise, another of his former co-workers at Lennox is getting the same sudden bad reviews from the executives, and he's nearly retirement age as well.) Now this.

Bad news from companies always comes around Christmas. Years earlier, Lennox made a habit of not renewing Ron's contract until January, and letting him sweat out December, not knowing if he'd have a job come the new year. After that, when Ron refused to take a transfer from Atlanta to Dallas, the company laid him off at the beginning of December. After a miserable, meager Christmas with an uncertain future, the company offered him the Dallas job again, but at significantly decreased salary.

This Thanksgiving ended up being just a large dinner, served a bit earlier than normal. The only holiday reminder was Matthew's construction paper Indian headband. There were still things to be thankful for; they could sell their stock and have enough to pay off the mortgage, and Ron could start taking Social Security benefits early (at a premium cost); but these thankful things were small comfort. Like the luck of being stabbed in the back near a hospital.

There is little solace to be found in the situation, but there is one thing: The client that Ron was about to close the deal with called. When he found that Ron was no longer working there, he called Ron's cell phone and asked what had happened. Ron told him just the facts, and the man said that he really didn't want to give his business to a company who treats their employees that way.

It was the same when Ron was let go from Lennox. Most of his clients refused to do business with Lennox again, after how they black-balled him. Ron is a great salesman, plain and simple. He's from the old school, that teaches that you develop a working relationship with clients and they come back to you for more business. That you need to spend time getting to know them and their needs before you make the first pitch to them. Today's executives just don't see that, they just look at the short-term gains.

Ron has an interview today with Carrier. He was recommended for the position by the salesman he was competing against, when he worked for Lennox. That says a lot right there. Wish him luck.

November 20, 2006

Silence is Golden

Ahhhhh... The sound of nothing can be so sweet. One of my (and Melissa's) major complaints on my partial upgrade of the computer was noise from the CPU fan. Leave it on for 10 minutes, and it sounded like a landscaping crew was going to work with leafblowers in the room.

So I bought one of these replacement CPU Fans. First time I've had to buy one, but this chip heats up faster than "The Hedgehog" with a bottle of Motion Lotion. Of course, I had to get on the internet with Computer B to see just how to REMOVE the old heatsink/fan unit without ripping out the chip, but once I did that, it was fairly easy. A squirt of highly-toxic thermal transfer gel, a few snaps into place, and it was done.

And to put it through it's paces, I fired up OBLIVION on HIGH video settings. Scarecly a whisper, and the fan never got the need to go into high gear. Thank Allah that something went right with this PC! The fan was about $30, but being able to hear the music from the game over the fan noise is WORTH it.

It only took me an extra $100 and 4 weeks longer than I planned, But I think this computer is now successfully upgraded!

November 17, 2006

LinkNews Digest [11/17/2006]

Jackass Football Comm. Fires Coach For Not Playing his Son

The South County Raptors, a scrappy football team made up of 12- to 14-year-old boys from southern Fairfax County, were supposed to meet the Herndon Hornets today in the first round of the county playoffs.

Instead, the Raptors are at home, their season over with no possibility of a championship after a league commissioner fired the head coach and the assistant coach this week. Their offense? They moved the commissioner's son from defense to offense for the final game of the season last Saturday, an overtime win that put the Raptors in the postseason.

"Scott does not sit out on defense -- ever," the commissioner, Dan Hinkle, had warned the head coach, James Owens, in an e-mail sent before the season began about how he should play Hinkle's son, 12. On defense, the father said, "he goes in and stays in. That includes all practices, scrimmages and games. This entire league exists so he can play defense on the best team in his weight class. . . . He is my son, I own the league, and he plays every snap on defense."

The sudden end to the season, which began with preseason practice in the wickedly hot days of late August, has crushed the 19 boys on the team. The parents are just as upset. Meetings have been held. E-mails have flown all week as the parents tried to get Hinkle to reconsider. Hinkle would not comment for this article. The commissioner offered to hire a new coach, but the boys would play only for Owens. (LINK )

Aussie DUI Suspect Brandishes Snake

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian driver threatened police with a live snake after he was pulled over for a breath test for driving under the influence of alcohol, police said on Monday.

The driver in the outback Northern Territory was stopped on Saturday night by police just outside the city of Darwin after they saw him swerving, police said in a statement. After registering a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit, the man ran onto the road and picked up a live snake.

"The driver allegedly armed himself with a live snake, pointed the head of the reptile at them and threatened them," said police. Police told the man to drop the snake, but he ran into bushland still carrying it. The man has been charged with drunken driving and will appear in the Darwin Magistrates Court (LINK )
Ahh, Australia... where deadly, poisonous things are always just a few feet away....

OJ Simpson's Book: How I WOULD Have Done It

NEW YORK (AP) -- O.J. Simpson created an uproar Wednesday with plans for a TV interview and book titled ''If I Did It'' -- an account the publisher pronounced ''his confession'' and media executives condemned as revolting and exploitive.

Fox, which plans to air an interview with Simpson Nov. 27 and 29, said Simpson describes how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, ''if he were the one responsible.''

Denise Brown, sister of Simpson's slain ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, lashed out at publisher Judith Regan of ReganBooks for ''promoting the wrongdoing of criminals'' and commercializing abuse. The book goes on sale Nov. 30. She added: ''It's unfortunate that Simpson has decided to awaken a nightmare that we have painfully endured and worked so hard to move beyond.''

Levenson noted that the criminal justice system's protection against double jeopardy means Simpson's book, explosive as it may be, should not expose him to any new legal danger. She added that Simpson could create an extra layer of insulation from any legal worries by presenting the story hypothetically.

"He can write pretty much whatever he wants," Levenson said. "Unless he's confessing to killing somebody else, he can probably do this with impunity." (LINK )


November 15, 2006

You Want My Blood?!?

Okay kids, it's VENT time.

I'm a good citizen, I donated blood to the Red Cross whenever they'd come to my office. But now that I'm telecommuting, it's a bit more difficult to get the bloodmobile out to my house in Flowery Branch. They called to sign me up for another donation, and I said sure. They gave me a 12:45 appointment at the Sugarloaf Parkway location.

So I take off from work with plenty of time to get there. But it ends up that the address does not exist. The directions they gave me lead me to 3090 Premiere Parkway, and the buildings go straight from 2900 to 3100 with nothing in between. And no sign, did I mention that? This is a DONOR center, that people should be able to easily get to, and it's somewhere magically BETWEEN these buildings, like some damned "Platform 9 3/4" ?!?

When I'm seven minutes late, I call them and ask for directions.
"Sorry, sir, there's no point now, the staff has a meeting at 1:00."
*Blink Blink* "What?"
"Yes, there's an all-hands Staff meeting at 1:00."
"And you gave me a 12:45 appointment?"
"Well, it would have been fine if you had been on-time, sir."
The time was 12:52.
[Don't kill them. They're volunteers. Just... don't kill them. Breathe.]
"In any case, Ma'am, could you tell me where this building is? I've spent the past 15 minutes driving up and down Premiere Parkway looking for your office."
"Sir, there's no point now, we can't take you because of the meeting."
"Then FOR FUTURE REFERENCE, perhaps?" (In case I ever again want to take off work to have my life-blood drained from my person, so I don't waste the trip?)
"Where are you now?"
"On Premiere Parkway."
"Okay, it's easiest to get back on Sugarloaf and get off one street up. We're just past a strip mall."
[Oh, the ONE strip mall on Sugarloaf Parkway... that narrows it down.]
"Ma'am, could you tell me which one?"
(Pause) "It's on the left, and it's a biiiiig long one."
*HeadDesk*
"Thank you ma'am. I suppose that's all. Goodbye."
*click*

You want my blood, American Red Cross? Come get some.

November 12, 2006

Love's Recovery

Melissa had her neck surgery on Tuesday, and she's recovering at her parents' house. The doctor says that there were FOUR bone spurs pinching her spinal cord, instead of just the two they saw earlier. Luckily, they were all removed and everything came out fine. She's laid up on painkillers and muscle relaxers for a few weeks. Four weeks in a hard neckbrace, then four weeks in a soft neckbrace. But as you see here, the "hard" brace isn't all that hard. It's plastic with soft foam covered in hypo-allergenic cotton.

To be Honest, Mel and I were fearing it would be something more like these:

Darth Vader Neck BraceCusack Neck Brace Sixteen Candles


To allow her proper time to heal without and someone who can care for her continuously, she's going to be staying at her parents' house for about 2-3 weeks, and I'll be working from OUR house and taking Matthew to & from Pre-K. It'll be lonely and a bit weird at night, but don't worry. The little guy and I will be coming down for dinner almost every night. Plus, Melissa and Shawn bought me Final Fantasy XII and OBLIVION, so I won't be hurting for something to do after I put the little guy to bed. And Melissa has a small suitcase full of Anime and Manga that she can plow through while she's stuck in that recliner.

While the operation was quick and all went well, one of the nasty side effects of this sort of operation has reared its ugly head. Some of the nerves have become enflamed from the surgery, and she's getting a lot of pain in her arm and shoulder. As in more pain than when she BROKE the arm earlier this year. But her neck? hardly feel a thing. Just cross your fingers for her speedy recovery and maybe by Christmas she can be 100%.

November 06, 2006

Final Fantasy XII - Update

As I mentioned, Melissa suprised me by picking up Final Fantasy XII for the PS2 to keep me busy while she's recovering. I like the game but there are two things that SERIOUSLY piss me off about the game:

(1) It's frustrating enough that you HAVE to buy the $20 guides to games like this, because getting the big weapons takes a long stream of nonsensical actions that you'd never figure out by yourself. (Ride a Chocobo through the Gakleran Mountains counter-clockwise 19 times, Fly to the other side of the world and buy a potion from the 2nd merchant on the left, go to another city and talk to the merchant with your StarterSword Equipped and He will give you the key to that locked room in Dungeon #24...)

This time, it's even more frustrating because in order to get the Ultimate Weapon, you have to NOT OPEN about 20 chests that are scattered through about 40 hours of gameplay. The most basic of game elements has been taken away from our control. So you have to pretty much consult the guide before you wipe your own nose now. And if you accidentally open one, you have to go back and play the whole freaking game over. LAME!

(2) There's a particular glitch with this game: Two buttons won't work on certain controllers. ("Two buttons being the MAP and Inventory buttons and "certain controllers" being the OFFICIAL SONY BRAND one that I have.) I could understand if certain Chinese knock-off brands had some sort of issue, but honestly. What kind of Quality Control/Testing department doesn't test the game with the CONSOLE BRAND accessories? Makes me think this was an intentional thing to clean out the stock of PS2 controllers before the PS3 comes out next month and makes them all obsolete. I bought a BestBuy "House Brand" controller for $10 and it works now.

And now that I can play it, the game is pretty cool, besides these points.

November 03, 2006

LinkNews Digest [11/03/2006]

Kid, 15, Steals City Bus, Drives Route.

(AP) FERN PARK, Fla. A 15-year-old boy stole a bus, drove it along a public transit route, picked up passengers and collected fares, authorities said Sunday.

Ritchie Calvin Davis took the bus Saturday from the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando, where it was parked awaiting sale at an auction, a Seminole County sheriff's report said. The bus belongs to the Central Florida Transportation Agency, which runs LYNX public transit services in the Orlando area.

"I drove that bus better than most of the LYNX drivers could," the teen, who is too young to drive legally, told a deputy after he was stopped and arrested. "There isn't a scratch on it. I know how to start it, drive it, lower it, raise it."

Davis had previously been charged for a similar bus theft. Details of that case were unavailable Sunday.

Passengers and deputies noted Davis drove the bus at normal speeds and made all the appropriate stops on the route. One passenger, suspicious of the youthful looks of the driver, called 911. (LINK )
"Your honor, this buy is only guilty of Loving BUS DRIVING so much..."

"Free Hugs" Campaigners Arrested in China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese appear not to have warmed to a "free hugs" campaign aimed at cheering up strangers by hugging them on the street, with some huggers even being hauled away by police for questioning, media said Monday.

The campaign hit the streets of Beijing, Changsha and Xian this weekend, with participants opening their arms to embrace passers-by and brandishing cards saying "free hugs," "care from strangers," "refuse to be apathetic," the Beijing News said.

In the capital, police moved in and took away four huggers briefly for questioning, baffled by their wacky, Western activities on a busy city-center shopping street. In the ancient capital of Xian, home to the terracotta warriors, no more than 20 people, mostly children, had volunteered for the free hugs in two hours.

"Embracing is a foreign tradition. Chinese are not accustomed to this," a man named Li, a Xi'an citizen, was quoted as saying. (Article | Original Campaign in Australia | Other FREE HUGS videos )

Real-life Batman Helps GA Town

AMERICUS, Ga. - So many bats have infested the town's historic district that the sky turns black with each sunset and the neighborhood is calling on Batman to come to the rescue.

That's what the local bat remover goes by. George Perkins often makes public appearances in the caped crusader's costume and drives his own Batmobile -- a retro-styled Chrysler Prowler with bat emblems. Callers to his office in Eufaula, Ala., known as Bat Cave 1, or Union Springs, Ala., known as Bat Cave 2, hear the "Batman" TV show theme while on hold.

The bat-weary residents of Americus aren't laughing. The problem is even too big for Batman, and now the state has promised to help. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has proposed a long-term plan that includes surveying the bat population, possibly training city workers to do bat removals for needy homeowners and building bat houses in safe areas where the flying mammals can continue providing environmental benefits without being a nuisance.

"They're perpetual crap machines," said Tripp Pomeroy, who moved to the town of 17,000 in 1989 to work for Habitat for Humanity, which has its global headquarters here. (LINK )

PROOF: A-Holes CAN Kill You

Forzie the four-legged chicken will cluck no more.

The Te Uku-bred Barnevelder chick - hatched at Marlene Dickey's property at the start of last month - has died.

But it wasn't the extra legs that led to its death, more likely an extra anus, Mrs Dickey believes. "He developed two bottoms and I think he got glugged up," she said. While she was surprised by Forzie's death - he weighed a "good pound of butter" and was gaining feathers slowly - it was not totally unexpected, she said. And it was fun while it lasted. "He was a bit of a laugh." (LINK via DaveBarry)

Turbo-Charged Jalopy Goes 0-60 in 1 Second.

A Wolverhampton, U.K. man has spent 25 years and 100,000 Poundson turning a jalopy into the world's fastest car.

Andy Frost has turned his 1972 K-reg Vauxhall Victor into a supercar capabale of 0-60 in just one second.

It has a 9.8 Liter V-8 that makes 2200 horsepower. Which gives it a zero-to-sixty time of one second. And it's street legal.
The McLaren F1 can do the Quarter-mile in 11 seconds. The Victor Fireball? 7.8 seconds.(LINK VIDEO)



November 02, 2006

Final Fantasy XII

She did it again. My wife went out and bought me another 80+ hour game for my PS2. We saw a review of the new Final Fantasy game (#12... not so Final, is it?), and it received a 5 out of 5. I planned on getting it later, when the price had come down a bit, but Melissa sucked it up and bought it for me with the money she made doing a presentation for a consulting company.

She took the first paycheck she's received in YEARS... and cashed it in to buy something for me. Wow, I didn't know what to say. This is her little tradition: She goes out and buys a game for me every year or so, loads it up and says "Oh, THIS? Do you know what THIS is, Chris?", and she grins like a Cheshire Cat.

It looks like a good game, retting great reviews and NO MUSHY LOVE STORY this time. It'll definitley keep me busy while she's laid up from surgery. Did I mention that it has a game guide thats 350 PAGES????

November 01, 2006

Uber Pumpkins

You think YOU know pumpkin carving? You don't know JACK-O-LANTERN!!
(sorry, couldn't resist.)
Check out this nice set of Gourds!!

October 27, 2006

Six-Word Fiction

I thought this deserved a separate post. From WIRED.com:
Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") and is said to have called it his best work. So we asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves.

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
- William Shatner

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
- Joss Whedon

Automobile warranty expires. So does engine.
- Stan Lee

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

With bloody hands, I say good-bye.
- Frank Miller

Cryonics: Disney thawed. Mickey gnawed. Omigawd.
- Eileen Gunn

Kirby had never eaten toes before.
- Kevin Smith

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
- Orson Scott Card

Batman Sues Batsignal: Demands Trademark Royalties.
- Cory Doctorow
(Loads more @ Wired.com )

LinkNews Digest [10/27/2006]

US Bans Vegemite, Men At Work Held on Sandwich Suspicion

THE US has banned Vegemite, even to the point of searching Australians for jars of the spread when they enter the country.

The bizarre crackdown was prompted because Vegemite has been deemed illegal under US food laws.

The great Aussie icon - faithfully carried around the world by travellers from downunder - contains folate, which under a technicality, America allows to be added only to breads and cereals.

Australian expatriates in the US said enforcement of the ban had been gradually stepped up and was now ruining lifelong traditions of Vegemite on toast for breakfast.

Kraft spokeswoman Joanna Scott said: "The (US) Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid.''

The US was "a minor market'' for Vegemite, she said. (LINK )

"You Park There, I Fork Your Car Up!!"

MAHOPAC, N.Y. - A shopkeeper got so angry about the way a man had parked his car that he climbed into a forklift, placed the fork under the car and lifted it off the ground, police said Wednesday.

Wasek Safrah, 51, of Ossining, also punched out both the offending car and the man who parked it, said Lt. Brian Karst of the Carmel police. He was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and assault.

Karst said the episode began at about 5 p.m. Oct. 16 at a strip mall on Route 6 in Mahopac. Safrah felt the car, though legally parked, was blocking his access to a storage container or trash bin and got into a heated argument with the driver, who was an employee of another store and was no longer in the car. Police did not release that man's name.

The police report, issued Tuesday night, says Safrah then punched the side of the vehicle, denting it. Then he took the controls of a forklift in the parking lot, maneuvered its lifting mechanism under the car and lifted it upward. The car was not moved out of the parking spot, however.

"We don't know what his intention was," Karst said.

Karst said he did not know who owned the forklift, but it probably belonged to another of the businesses. (LINK )

Barbie's Come A Long Way

Tesco has been forced to remove a pole-dancing kit from the toys and games section of its website after it was accused of "destroying children's innocence".

The Tesco Direct site advertises the kit with the words, "Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go! Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars".

The £49.97 kit comprises a chrome pole extendible to 8ft 6ins, a 'sexy dance garter' and a DVD demonstrating suggestive dance moves.

Dr Adrian Rogers, of family campaigning group Family Focus said yesterday that the kit would "destroy children's lives". He said: "Tesco is Britain's number one chain, this is extremely dangerous. It is an open invitation to turn the youngest children on to sexual behaviour. "This will be sold to four, five and six-year olds. This is a most dangerous toy that will contribute towards destroying children's innocence."

Tesco today agreed to remove the product from the Toy section of the site, but said it will remain on sale as a Fitness Accessory, despite the fact that the product description invites users to "unleash the sex kitten inside". (LINK --Thanks Maddy )


October 20, 2006

LinkNews Digest [10/20/2006]

Squirt-Gun Robbery Foiled in Austria

A struggling Austrian toyshop owner was arrested after he tried to rob a bank with one of his toy guns.

The 44-year-old, from Vienna, stormed into a local bank with a stocking over his head and a gun in his hand, and demanded clerks empty their tills.

But a security guard noticed the 'weapon' was a plastic water pistol and asked him to hand over the toy to avoid "an even bigger embarrassment".

The would-be robber told police: "I was driven to this desperate deed after my toy shop went bankrupt." (LINK )

Tax Dollars At Work: MySpace Police

A girl of 14 was dragged out of class by Secret Service agents for calling President Bush an idiot on her MySpace page.

Julia Wilson's internet page, called "So Bush is an idiot but hey what else is new?", infuriated security experts, reports the Mirror. She also posted the words "Kill Bush" and ran a cartoon of a knife stabbing the hand of the president.

Two federal agents went searching for Julia at her home before finding the teenager at school in Sacramento, California. After pulling her out of class, they subjected her to a 20-minute interview.

Julia said: "I told them I just really don't agree with Bush's politics. I do not have any plans of harming Bush in any way. I am very peaceful. I just don't like Bush." She said the agents warned her she could be locked up for making the threat. Dad Jim Moose added: "I don't condone what she did, but it seems a little over the top. You'd think they could determine that she's not a credible threat." (LINK )

Childhood Obesity Apparently Linked to Litigious Parents

ATTLEBORO, Mass. - Tag, you're out! Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.

Recess is "a time when accidents can happen," said Willett Elementary School Principal Gaylene Heppe, who approved the ban.

While there is no districtwide ban on contact sports during recess, local rules have been cropping up. Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Spokane, Wash., also recently banned tag during recess. A suburban Charleston, S.C., school outlawed all unsupervised contact sports.

"I think that it's unfortunate that kids' lives are micromanaged and there are social skills they'll never develop on their own," said Debbie Laferriere, who has two children at Willett, about 40 miles south of Boston. "Playing tag is just part of being a kid." (LINK )

Haloween Project: Lego Headless Horseman

It's remarkably easy to hack LEDs into Lego minifigures to make awesome, creepy, and tiny decorations for Halloween.

In what seems like a miraculous coincidence, a standard LED fits exactly into the head of a Lego minifigure. It's that easy: grab an LED and a head, slip it in, and it fits perfectly.

The pumpkin head took several hours to carve. The next day I had blisters on my thumb and index finger where I had been holding this little head (tight) while I carved.

While it is often difficult to get this level of detail in something so tiny, the hardest part in this particular case was making the three initial holes through the thick plastic. If I had to make this one over again, I would start by drilling three tiny holes in the head. (LINK )


October 19, 2006

Dad of the Century

I'm not usually a sucker for "inspiring" stories, but this one just got me.
From Sports Illustrated:
I try to be a good father. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a Wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and Pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back Mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes Taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

This love story began in Winchester , Mass. , 43 years ago, when Rick Was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him Brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

[Later he was] Rigged up with a computer that allowed Him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his Head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? ``Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the School organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, ``Dad, I want To do that.''

That day changed Rick's life. ``Dad,'' he typed, ``when we were running, It felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!'' And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly Shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud Getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you Think?

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best Time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world Record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to Be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the Time.

``The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, ``is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''
Video
Team Hoyt Website

October 13, 2006

The Upgrade Ceremony

In the great magic that is COMPUTER UPGRADING, as in alchemy, there is a law of Equivalent Exchange. Any future enjoyment or productivity that you may receive must be offset by the immediate stress and despair of component incompatibility (It likes THIS piece of ram, but the other one makes it crash), Hard Drive/Windows reformatting and tech support calls. It also demands one drop of blood from you, usually from scraping your finger against a pin connector while trying to connect your Hard drive.

I have a slightly upgraded computer now, something that can handle Video Editing as well as my web stuff. And I'm hoping that new 3D card can handle some pretty heavy games too. In the meantime though, it's only 30% operational, and I still have to reinstall most of my applications. we all know how much fun THAT is.

Wish me luck with this and speedy recovery from whatever alien embryo has nested in my throat.

LinkNews Digest [10/13/2006]

At Least He Follows Directions At That Age

BERLIN (Reuters) - An 80-year-old German motorist obediently following his navigation system ignored a motorway "closed for construction" sign and crashed his Mercedes into a pile of sand further down the road, police said Monday.

"The driver was following the orders from his navigation system and even though there was a sufficient number of warnings and barricades, he continued his journey into the construction site," a police spokeswoman told Reuters.

"His trip finally ended when he wound up crashing into a pile of sand," she added.

The driver and his wife escaped uninjured from the collision, which occurred on a motorway near Hamburg. (LINK )

Science Invents "The Happy Helmet"

A helmet for people in jobs which demand an unusual amount of smiling, such as air-stewards, receptionists and politicians. A sensor in the front of the helmet detects anybody within a 2 metre range, at which point the mouth is pulled into a broad grin by a small servo motor and some concealed fishing wire. The helmet addresses the facades of social interaction and explores our responses to affected expressions. (LINK )

Canadian Troops Foiled by Marajuana Forests

OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) -- Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of marijuana plants 10 feet tall.

"The challenge is that marijuana plants absorb energy, heat very readily. It's very difficult to penetrate with thermal devices. ... And as a result you really have to be careful that the Taliban don't dodge in and out of those marijuana forests," he said in a speech in Ottawa, Canada.

"We tried burning them with white phosphorous -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now ... that we simply couldn't burn them," he said.

"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those [forests] did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hiller said dryly.

One soldier told him later: "Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I'd say 'That damn marijuana'." (LINK )


Halloween Must-Have: The Vomit Barrel

Vomit Barrel
A barrel of laughs and leftovers! This disgusting but funny device throws up on cue by switch.

Great quantities of green vomit spew as the familiar Friday night sounds of heaving ensue! Requires standard AC power only. Comes with a cassette player and sound effects. [Only $2,750 with $225 shipping!] (LINK or the more disturbing Video)




October 06, 2006

LinkNews Digest [10/06/2006]

Iraq Neighborhood Offended by "Buddy Jesus" Pamphlets

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi Shiite residents of Baghdad's Sadr City have expressed anger on over a picture of a grinning Jesus they mistook for a Shiite holy figure that appeared in the area after a joint US-Iraqi operation.

Residents found a picture of "Buddy Jesus" from the 1999 film "Dogma" posted in the streets, accompanied by a badly photocopied pamphlet bearing a crude approximation of a US military crest and outlining a US "plan" to subjugate the neighborhood.

"That picture abuses our Imam Mahdi and his holy character, and mocks our sacred figures," said resident Abu Riyam Sunday, apparently mistaking the satirical movie still of Jesus for one of Shiite Islam's historical imams, whose images adopt a Jesus-like iconography.

The grinning, winking model of Buddy Jesus giving a thumbs-up sign appeared in the comedy film as a fictional attempt by the Catholic Church to present a kinder and more accessible image of Christianity.

"If it wasn't so serious it would be funny," said a coalition spokesman, Major Will Willhoite.(LINK )

HELL YEAH: "Dark Crystal" Sequel for 2008!

Award-winning animation director Genndy Tartakovsky, who created the hit series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Samurai Jack and Dexter's Laboratory, will direct Power of the Dark Crystal, the much anticipated sequel to The Jim Henson Company's 1982 classic fantasy film. The announcement was made today by Lisa Henson, co-CEO of The Jim Henson Company and a producer on the film.

Additionally, Tartakovsky's newest venture, Orphanage Animation Studios, has been brought on board as a producing partner to head up the CG animation elements that will be incorporated with the film's live-action animatronic characters. Legendary fantasy artist Brian Froud, designer of the original film, will return to design the new characters. Odyssey Entertainment is representing worldwide sales and distribution on the film.

Set hundreds of years after the events of the first movie when the world has once again fallen into darkness, Power of the Dark Crystal follows the adventures of a mysterious girl made of fire who, together with a Gelfling outcast, steals a shard of the legendary Crystal in an attempt to reignite the dying sun that exists at the center of the planet.

Genndy Tartakovsky said, "The original 'Dark Crystal' was one of the most inspirational and imaginative pictures of its time, so it's a real honor for me to be able to bring the world of 'The Dark Crystal' to a whole new generation." (LINK )

Canterbury Cathedral Held Together with Duct Tape

Canterbury Cathedral is falling apart at the seams, with chunks of masonry dropping off its walls and a fifth of its internal marble pillars held together by duct tape.

The extent of the building's disrepair was revealed yesterday at the launch of a global campaign to raise £50 million over five years for urgent and long-term renovation and conservation.

The cathedral, the mother church of worldwide Anglicanism which was founded in 597 by St Augustine, was the scene of the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170 and has survived extensive bombing of the city during the Second World War.

But Allan Willett, the chairman of the trustees, says it is now facing its biggest challenge: serious corrosion and pollution. The picture postcard image of the cathedral belied its true state, he added, and if nothing was done, parts of it might soon have to be closed to visitors for safety reasons.

John Burton, the surveyor of the fabric, said that the stonework was now deteriorating too fast for the cathedral's regular maintenance and conservation programme, which cost £1 million annually, to keep up.

"We don't like to admit that we have had to tie bits of the columns together because we are proud of the building, but we do," he said. (LINK )


October 03, 2006

Now The Terrorists Have Won

A fire in Washington consumed about 4% of the National stock of Hops used in brewing beer.
The fire started shortly before noon Monday in a 40,000-square-foot (3,600-square-meter) warehouse operated by S.S. Steiner Inc., one of the four largest hop buyers in the Yakima Valley of central Washington. By mid-afternoon flames engulfed most of the building, sending up plumes of smoke and a pungent aroma.

Based on an industry official's estimate of the quantity of hops in the warehouse, the loss could amount to $3.5 million to $4 million. The impact on brewers and beer prices was unclear early Tuesday.

The United States produces 24 percent of the world's hops, and about three-fourths of the U.S. crop comes from the Yakima Valley. Hops were a $77 million crop in Washington state in 2004. More than 40 families grow hops in the valley, which is dotted with orchards, vineyards and farms.

No one was in the warehouse when the fire started, Riel said.(LINK)

If you need me, I'll be hoarding my "Supplies"...

September 29, 2006

LinkNews Digest [09/29/2006]

MPAA Employs Pirate DVD-Sniffing Dogs

The Motion Picture Association of America will stop at nothing to prevent the international trafficking of pirated movies, evidently. Now, the film industry lobby is enlisting the help of two Labradors, Lucky and Flo, that have been trained to smell polycarbonate and other chemicals found in optical discs such as DVDs.

Lucky and Flo made an appearance in Washington yesterday to show off their skills. Already, the MPAA says, they have discovered DVDs in boxes at Stansted Airport in England. Potential embarrassment: Pirated DVDs smell just like legally obtained ones. (LINK )

Chinese Diversity Games Underscored by Gender-Bending, Gangs

BEIJING (Reuters) - Touted as a celebration of sport, culture and national unity, the Ethnic Minority Games held in southwestern China descended into a farce of cross-dressing cheating and mob violence, state media reported.

Athletes representing China's 55 ethnic minorities assembled in southwestern Yunnan province last week to compete in blow-pipe darts, horse-riding events and other traditional sports. But blind pursuit of victory lead to some unorthodox tactics, Xinhua news agency reported.

Results of the women's dragon-boat racing event were reviewed after athletes complained of "big women with Adam's apples," Xinhua said. Referees subsequently found that several of the competitors were actually men wearing wigs.

A dispute between a team from the games' host city, Zhaotong, and another from Wenshan city in Yunnan province over the result of a wrestling final turned into a brawl, Xinhua said. The Wenshan team was eventually chased away by a local gang with blades and sticks called in by the Zhaotong team, Xinhua said. (LINK )

"How many SkyMiles for First-Class to Mars?"

A Middlesex businessman Alan Watts is to become the first person in the world to use air miles to be blasted into space

Alan Watts, 51, from Harrow, has flown upper class with Virgin Atlantic to the US around 40 times in the past six years. It earned him two million air miles - enough to pay for the £100,000 trip to space with Virgin Galactic.

Mr Watts, the managing-director of an electrical engineering firm, said it would be the most exciting thing he has ever done in his life. "The nearest I've come to space before was going on the Space Mountain ride in Florida," he said. The businessman will have three days of training before boarding the spacecraft, which travels at almost 5,000kph.

Richard Branson revealed that Mr Watts would be among the first passengers as he unveiled a model of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShip2 in New York.

"When we first contacted Alan to let him know he had qualified for this unique offer, I think he thought it was a prank call," he said. "Personally I am delighted that we have made it possible for Alan to do something that previously he had never dreamed was possible for him." (LINK )

Invention of the Week: 6-Sided Harmonica

Blues harmonica players, or harpists as we like to be called, play the blues for a number of reasons, but one of them is that our diatonic instruments are so limited. When the band changes keys, we have to go rummaging around for another harmonica. Not any more with the Hohner Six-Sided Harmonica made by a company that's been supplying diatonic blues harmonicas to the stars for way over a century.

Good thing these harps can be detached from their central hub, because it would be hard to hold that harpists-favorite Shure Green Bullet mic up against this multi-headed contraption. The sextet of harmonicas are tuned to the keys of C, D, F, G, A and B flat, and might make you sing the blues when you see their price tag, $299.95. (LINK via Gizmodo)
Bad news for Blues Traveler and John Popper's famous "Harmonica Bandolier".

September 25, 2006

Save the '76 Ball

An icon that's a big part of my childhood memories, is being slowly dismantled. Union 76 gas stations are taking down those big orange rotating globes and replacing them with standard flat, rectangular signs. The globes on the signs aren't even that mellow orange color anymore. The last '76 station in my area was taken over about 10 years ago, so I didn't know that this was going on.

Everyone has their silly causes that probably only mean something to them. So I suppose this is mine.

My father worked for Union 76 until just a few years ago. Growing up, we had loads of '76 swag as you can imagine. We always had those orange '76 ball antenna-toppers on our cars. My dad worked a lot, but he was happy with his job. Over the years, I came to associate the spinning '76 globes with dad, and I would always feel happy when I saw their orange glow. He sometimes visited truck stops with us, and the employees knew him, so I thought the people at EVERY service station must know my dad, so I'd always smile at them. On car trips, I'd always look for the '76 signs in the cities we'd pass, and when I found them, it felt like I'd discovered a long-lost relative that we didn't know of.

Call it a silly childhood notion, but that logo MEANT something to me, and I now discover that it still does. Companies these days aren't so attached to their logos, they don't really invest anything in them. There's probably a load of good reasons that the company can quote for changing the signs and even the colors of the logo. Maybe Red is more fade-resistant in sunlight, which will save them a few thousand on repainting every few years, I don't know. But I know that the '76 logo means something to me, something more than any other brand. I buy gas from QT because they're cheap, but I have no alegience to QT. But if there was a 76 station nearby, I'd drive the extra mile and pay a few cents more a gallon to buy from them. That's the power of a Logo.

Sign the Petition at SaveThe76Ball.com

ABC News Article

September 22, 2006

LinkNews Digest [09/22/2006]

"Cocaine" is Red Bull on Crack

Redux Beverages have created a new energy drink and called it "cocaine". Seriously.

I suppose if they want a lot of PR - this is the way to get it - but naming a drink after an illegal drug?

"When a person sees the name of the drink, some psychological effect happens and the person is already experiencing the energy buzz before they even open the can," speculates Cocaine inventor Jamey Kirby. (source)

The makers of the drink claim that it is 350% stronger than Red Bull. The drink comes with this warning: *Warning - this beverage should be consumed by responsible adults. Failure to adhere to this warning may result in excess excitement, stamina, fun and possible feeling of euphoria.

From my calculations, Cocaine appears to have about 280 mg of caffeine per 8.4 oz (250ml) can. That’s a lot (LINK )

Shanghai: City of Sleepwalkers

People wearing pajamas in public, still a common sight in Shanghai, is one of the most irritating aspects of life in China's biggest city, according to an opinion poll of residents.

Over 16 percent of respondents said they or family members often donned pajamas in public, and 25 percent reported they sometimes did, Yang Xiong, a professor who helped conduct the poll, said Wednesday.

Theories differ over why the practice of wearing pajamas -- baggy cotton outfits which are often printed with flowers or small animals -- is so widespread in China's richest and most cosmopolitan city.

Some believe residents are showing off their social status by underlining how close to the city center they live, while others say it is a holdover from life many decades ago in small, self-contained communities. (LINK )

Because PotHeads Need Calcium Too

Five Romanian farmers are being investigated after police discovered they were feeding their cows cannabis.

The farmers from Romanesti in Botosani county, told officers the drug helped the cows produce more milk.

The farmer aged between 57 and 82, claim they didn't know they were doing something illegal by growing the drug in their field

Farmer Ion Astarastoaie said: "We grew it because the cows seemed to like it, and happy cows give more milk." (LINK )
...Authorities were tipped off when they started getting reports of morning cereal that tasted like Bong water.

Product of the Week: The RememberRing

The Remember Ring has a special nagging feature, using its "Hot Spot" technology that warms up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 seconds, every hour, on the hour, beginning 24 hours before that "special day," apparently honoring the anniversary of your voluntary servitude. That's supposed to be warm enough to be uncomfortable but not hot enough to burn you. The Remember Ring converts the heat from your hand into electricity using a micro-thermo pile, keeping that battery charged and its heat-bomb clock ticking away, ready to burn you again next year.

Tell the diabolical proprietors when your anniversary date is when you order the ring, and they'll program it for you. Available in seven styles ranging from gold to silver, it has a lifetime warranty. (LINK )


September 21, 2006

Office Depot

Every couple of months, the Home Office needs a Toner refill for the printer. And every time I order it, Office Depot sends that tiny little Toner cartridge in a box four times too large, surrounded by 10 of those plastic air pillows.

This month, I added a 12-pack of pens, and the box size increased even further. I'm grateful to OfficeDepot for keeping me in cardboard boxes, but you'd think that this was wasting money at some point.

September 19, 2006

I'm Losing My Touch

What the hell is happening to me? I think I must be losing my touch. Last night, Melissa and I watched JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK because it was the only Kevin Smith movie that we haven't seen (besides Jersey Girl). And I didn't like it.

There were funny PARTS. Certain Jokes, a few segments that worked. But it just crapped out 30 minutes into the thing and never recovered. And when the Cameos started rolling in when they hit hollywood... All I could think of was "How the hell did Kevin Smith convince these people that the movie would make a DIME?"

Almost verbatim to Quentin Tarantino's reason for making "Kill Bill", Kevin said he made this because "it was a movie I wanted to see." Difference is that Kill Bill ended up being a GOOD movie that the Q-Man wanted to see.

I WANTED to like this movie, I really did. And Melissa swallowed the whole thing and was singing it's praises. But I just couldn't. Don't get me wrong, I'm not Mr. Highbrow, I love a good goofy all-star chase flick like Cannonball Run, but Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back didn't have the luster of even RAT RACE. Damn, that's not saying much, but Rat Race was at least consistent.

This drove me to another bad decision: Watching "The Dukes of Hazard" Movie. I thought "I liked Super Troopers, and even Club Dread, and this guy directed it... it must be good."

Not since the time I thought I could hang onto the hood of Todd's car as he took a turn at 25 MPH, has being wrong ever hurt so bad. And I'm sorry, I just can't look at Jessica Simpson as Daisy, I'm a brunette man. Hell I thought my Wonder Woman Linda Carter's small role did more for me in the woman department.

Am I losing my mind? Am I incapable of enjoying cheap movies? Or is it that some cheap movies are too horrible even for fans of the director to enjoy? ("Your honor, I present "Shock Treatment". the sequel to "Rocky Horror Picture Show")

September 15, 2006

LinkNews Digest [09/15/2006]

Controversial Ban On Skinny Models Continues

MADRID (Reuters) - The world's first ban on overly thin models at a top-level fashion show in Madrid has caused outrage among modeling agencies and raised the prospect of restrictions at other venues.

Madrid's fashion week has turned away underweight models after protests that girls and young women were trying to copy their rail-thin looks and developing eating disorders. Organizers say they want to project an image of beauty and health, rather than a waif-like, or heroin chic look.

But Cathy Gould, of New York's Elite modeling agency, said the fashion industry was being used as a scapegoat for illnesses like anorexia and bulimia. "I think its outrageous, I understand they want to set this tone of healthy beautiful women, but what about discrimination against the model and what about the freedom of the designer," said Gould, Elite's North America director, adding that the move could harm careers of naturally "gazelle-like" models.

The Madrid show is using the body mass index or BMI -- based on weight and height -- to measure models. It has turned away 30 percent of women who took part in the previous event. Medics will be on hand at the September 18-22 show to check models. (LINK )

"The New 'Dog Ate It' Excuse

LARGO, Fla. - Stephanie King had to tell her music teacher that a raccoon was to blame for her missing homework. "I explained that the raccoon fell from the ceiling in my bathroom and it ran into my bedroom," the 13-year-old seventh grader at Osceola Middle School told the St. Petersburg Times.

"Animal control came out to get it and they couldn't catch it and they said we couldn't go in my room."

Stephanie's grandmother vouched for her story Friday with school officials. "I told them she can't get her homework, her books, because everything is locked in the bedroom," Natalie King said.

The female raccoon and its babies crashed to the Kings' bathroom floor Wednesday night. Until that moment, the family didn't know the roof was leaking, much less that a family of raccoons was living in their ceiling.

The mother raccoon escaped into Stephanie's room. It finally made its way Thursday night into the trap set by Pinellas County Animal Services officers, who picked up the critter the next morning. (LINK )

Artist Draws "Clean" Graffiti on Dirty Walls

A British street artist known as Moose creates graffiti by cleaning dirt from sidewalks and tunnels -- sometimes for money when the images are used as advertising. But some authorities call it vandalism.

Moose, whose real name is Paul Curtis, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that he got the idea when he saw that people had written their names with their fingers on dirty tunnel walls in his hometown of Leeds. Moose does some freehand drawing, but also uses the grid from wall tiles to create perfect shapes and letters.

The tools are simple: A shoe brush, water and elbow grease, he says.

British authorities aren't sure what to make of the artist who is creating graffiti by cleaning the grime of urban life. The Leeds City Council has been considering what to do with Moose. "I'm waiting for the kind of Monty Python court case where exhibit A is a pot of cleaning fluid and exhibit B is a pair of my old socks," he jokes. (LINK )



September 13, 2006

My DragonCon 2006 Trip Report

Sorry it's a bit late, but it took me a while to remember it all. So, without further ado:



It's Chris' Official DragonCon 2006 Trip Report!