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

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!

September 12, 2006

Remembering 9/11

A friend of mine made an astute point:
What if we are only able to go on once we're let go? Why should we commemorate the day of their death if it only keeps them rooted to our existence? Why can't we just remember what they meant to us every day and let them go?

I refuse to "celebrate" 9/11 as I want those people to find peace and I think they can only do it once we stop using them as an excuse to rally for "patriotism".

Celebrate people's lives, not their deaths. Stop being so damned morbid. I remember the people I know who've died fondly for what they did during life, not how/why they died, it's more rewarding.

I couldn't agree more. I couldn't bear to watch all the coverage that was playing yesterday. The replaying of the news feed in it's entirety from that day. That's not a horror that I want to relive. I refuse to see any movies or TV Docu-Dramas about it because none of them will have the whole truth in it. Real life doesn't always have a narrative thread, paced action and trite dialogue.

I wasn't there at Ground Zero. Powerful and tragic as the pictures were, they were still just pictures on a screen. If anything, people should try to remember what their OWN experience was on 9/11, what they thought, what they wanted, what they wrote down. Then read it again today and see how you feel now. Personally, that's more painful for me, but at least I know it's real.

September 11, 2006

Zoo with the Kerns

Saturday we finally got our ourselves out of the house and to Zoo Atlanta. At the member's gate, a friendly 20-something guy checked or passes and asks Matthew

Guy: What's the TALLEST animal we have here at the Zoo?
Matthew: 'Raff.
Guy: Right,a giraffe! So when you see him, wish him a happy birthday.
Mel: Really?
Guy: Yeah, he's 21 today. And this week the Lion turns 16 and it's the mama Panda's birthday too.
Me: You better watch out, the Lion can DRIVE now.
Guy: Yep. And now the giraffe can drink!
My Wife, the Pun Queen: Well, It's about time he had a Longneck.

(Bwah Bwah Bwah Bwaaaahhhhh)

Embarrasing Moment #2: After seeing the Lemur exhibit, Matthew starts singing the "I Like to Move it Move it!" song the Lemur King does in "Madagascar". It gets stuck in his head and he keeps singing it. No problem until we're walking behind a lady going to see the Pandas, and Matthew, not paying attention, starts singing "Move it! Move it!"

Wow. Amazing how quickly the explanations fly out of your mouth when confronted.

September 06, 2006

DragonCon 2006 Aftermath

DragonCon was a blast this year, but a bit less hectic than in previous ones. Not as many group duties, a little more free time. Of course, that also meant seeing people less, but you take the bad with the good. I even got a couple of hours to spend alone with my wife! (Quite a feat, considering she was a DCon Track Staffer.) Pics and wrap-ups are trickling in, and I have so much post-con work to do. Photoshopping pics, transcribing my report. I've even got an update to somebody's web site that's due by Friday.

So forgive my lateness of posting my usual stuff, There will probably be no LinkNews Digest on Friday.

September 01, 2006

LinkNews Digest [09/01/2006]

Pluto Is Still Disney's 'Dog Star'

In reaction to news yesterday that Pluto was demoted to the status of "dwarf planet," the Seven Dwarfs issued their own short statement:

"Although we think it's DOPEY that Pluto has been downgraded to a dwarf planet, which has made some people GRUMPY and others just SLEEPY, we are not BASHFUL in saying we would be HAPPY if Disney's Pluto would join us as an 8th dwarf. We think this is just what the DOC ordered and is nothing to SNEEZE at."

As Mickey Mouse's faithful companion, Pluto made his debut in 1930 -- the same year that scientists discovered what they believed was a ninth planet.

Said a white-gloved, yellow-shoed source close to Disney's top dog, "I think the whole thing is goofy. Pluto has never been interested in astronomy before, other than maybe an occasional howl at the moon." (LINK )

Saddam Forced to Watch South Park Movie

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is being made to watch his appearance in cult cartoon South Park while he is behind bars.

The deposed leader on trial in Iraq was featured in the movie spin-off as the lover of the devil. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut featured Hussein and Satan attempting to take over the world together.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone said US Marines guarding the former dictator during his trial for genocide were making him watch the movie "repeatedly".

"I have it on pretty good information from the Marines on detail in Iraq that they showed him the movie last year. That's really adding insult to injury. I bet that made him really happy," Stone said. (LINK )
(Thanks, Justin!)

Five Hospitalized in Pigeon Custody Battle Royale

Five people ended up in hospital in Australia after a fight over a pigeon. Four others were treated for minor injuries and all nine were spoken to by police in Melbourne.

Police were called after a fight broke out between two neighbouring families disputing the ownership of the pigeon. The fight ended with five men taken to hospital with scratches, cuts, bumps and bruises to their heads and bodies.

The men were of varying ages, the eldest in his 50s or 60s, an ambulance service spokeswoman said. A police spokeswoman said investigations were continuing and nine people were being spoken to over the incident (LINK )

Strippers Help Vegas Schools

Soon to be an NBC After-School Special!
LAS VEGAS - The Clark County School District kicked off the first day of school Wednesday with scant resources. But it got a major donation from the scantily clad.

The same day the nation's fifth largest school district began the year with some 400 teaching vacancies, the nonprofit corporation that supports it, the Public Education Foundation, accepted a $2,500 donation from a strip club, Scores Las Vegas.

"Thank you for your donation of $2,500, received on August 30, 2006," said a letter from foundation president Judi Steele to Scores' marketing director, Shai Cohen. "Thank you again for your willingness to support our community and invest in our children ... our future."

Scores raised the funds at an Aug. 23 back-to-school event called "Detention" that featured strippers dressed as teachers, schoolgirls and librarians. (LINK )

Evangelist Drowns Trying To Walk On Water

An evangelist who tried replicating Jesus' miracle of walking on water has reportedly drowned off the western coast of Africa.

Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle, and he attempted it from a beach in Gabon's capital of Libreville.

"He told churchgoers he'd had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus," an eyewitness told the Glasgow Daily Record.

"He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat. He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back." (LINK )