May 29, 2007

LinkNews Digest [05/25/2007]

Web-Head Paid $220 for Original "Black Spiderman Suit" Idea

Randy Schueller had a million-dollar idea - and he got paid $220 for it. Actually, his idea was worth closer to $700 million - about the amount "Spider-Man 3" has raked in so far worldwide.

Back in 1982, Schueller was a 22-year-old comic-book fan living in Chicago. Marvel, the publisher of "Spider-Man," asked readers to send in ideas for the hero, and Schueller jumped at the chance. He spent two weeks crafting a story in which Spidey dons a new costume. A black costume. Like in a certain movie currently in theaters.

"It occurred to me that Spider-Man is this character that creeps around in the shadows looking for bad guys, so why is he wearing this bright red and blue costume?" Schueller says. "It seemed like he should have more of a stealth mode."

He mailed the pitch to Marvel, and a few months later, he got a letter from then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter telling Schueller he liked his idea and wanted to buy it for $220. Shooter also offered to let the novice write the story. "The money was incidental. It was cool at the time, but really, it was the possibility of working on the character that I had loved my whole life," Schueller says.

"Yes, a fan did send in the idea," confirms DeFalco. "Marvel bought the idea. We went out and tried to turn the idea into an actual story, but for assorted reasons, it just didn't work out."

Two years later, Marvel was working on a series called "Secret Wars," in which many of its heroes underwent changes. "So we were trying to figure out what to do with Spider-Man, and Shooter said, 'Hey, remember the story that guy sent in where Spider-Man got a new costume?' " DeFalco says. Spidey's black duds debuted in May 1984 and featured heavily in story lines for years to come - sagas far different than Schueller's original one-issue tale.

He says he's not looking for money - just acknowledgment. "I never really mentioned this story before . . . But now with the movie hitting, I'm like, 'I gotta tell everyone about this!'" "People will say, 'Oh, did you see the new Spider-Man movie?' I'm like, 'Funny you should bring that up.' Then I tell them the whole story. They just look at me slack-jawed."(LINK )

Tesla's Motorized Pink Bunny Slippers:
The Fast and the Furry-ous

Lisa came up with the idea to design and build a pair of giant motorized bunny slippers that we could drive separately but equally. She is one of the only people I know who can think up an idea like mobile pink bunny slippers and have the vision and artistic talent to make it succeed brilliantly. She made me say that, but really it’s what is under the fluff that makes them special. She made me say that too, so that she doesn’t sound conceited.

So back to my bunny slippers. They are 7.5-feet long and can scoot along at a top speed of about 15 mph. Both feet (yes, there is a left and a right) are covered with plush pink Flokati rugs the exact color of cotton candy. They are, of course, electric battery powered slippers. They each have a 36-volt system using six YellowTop 12-volt Optimas. Anyone who has used these 38 pound, 50 Amp-Hour, deep-cycle, sealed, yellow lead blocks will know that this is way more battery than one needs for a bedroom slipper. The batteries served their first life in my converted electric Honda Del Sol. The two front wheels are chain driven by a 7-inch brushed DC motor made by Advanced DC Motors. This kind of motive power is also way more than any fluffy footware really needs. The motors were surplus from the failed Tropica electric car venture by Renaissance Cars and are much happier working in the big toe of a giant slipper.(LINK )

Diagnosing Darth Vader

(WebMD) Anakin Skywalker, the Star Wars character who became Darth Vader, had borderline personality disorder, psychiatrists report.

Experts from the psychiatric department at France's University Hospital of Toulouse told the APA's annual meeting that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader could "clearly" be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental illness marked by instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior, according to background information on the Web site of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The French psychiatrists, who included Laurent Schmitt, M.D., based their diagnosis on original Star Wars film scripts.

Schmitt's team describes Skywalker's symptoms, including problems with controlling anger and impulsivity, temporary stress-related paranoia, "frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (when trying to save his wife at all costs), and a pattern of unstable and intense personal relationships," including his relationships with his Jedi masters.

Changing his name and turning into "Darth Vader" is a red flag of Skywalker's disturbed identity, note Schmitt and colleagues. Borderline personality disorder can be treated through psychotherapy and with medication. But that wasn't part of Skywalker's script. (LINK )

Another Creationism Science Fair "Winner"

Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student who won first place in the Life Science/Biology category for his project "Creation Wins!!!," says he disproved part of the theory of evolution. Using a rolled-up paper towel suspended between two glasses of water with Epsom Salts, the paper towel formed stalactites. He states that the theory that they take millions of years to develop is incorrect.

"Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites," Benson said. "However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts."

This isn't just wrong, it's appallingly wrong. He's wrong on the facts, wrong on the interpretations, wrong on the understanding of how science works. If we're charitable and grant that a 14 year old has some reasonable excuse for ignorance, we can still indict his parents, his science teacher, and the judges at this fair on gross incompetence on multiple charges.

  • This experiment has nothing to do with BIOLOGY.
  • Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate; stalactites are made of calcium carbonate.
  • Stalactite growth rates are estimated to be around 0.1-10 centimeters per thousand years. If we assume his 'stalactite' was 10 cm long and use the slowest growth rate, that's 100 thousand years, not millions.
  • Even if he had demonstrated an accelerated rate of stalactite growth, stalactite length isn't the method used to date the age of the earth.
  • To quote the unquestionable authority, Terry Pratchett: "And all those exclamation points? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head." Mister Benson comes perilously close to the underpants limit in his title.(LINK )

  • May 24, 2007

    Penny Arcade Dodge

    I'm a big fan of the online comic Penny Arcade, since it's all about gaming, SciFi Fandom and geeks. A few weeks back, I found a link to a cool Desktop wallpaper they made of one of their storylines, "Armadeaddon", where they repulse a wave of zombies at the local mall.

    I downloaded it onto my work PC and I love it. Matthew came in today and asked what it said at the bottom. I told him.

    "And what's that with the red things?" he asked.
    "That's... a robot." I answered. I didn't tell him the robot was a juicing machine gone haywire named "Fruit FuXXOR." (See his part in the saga Here and Here.)

    "And what's the red stuff on him?"
    Blood. From the Zombies they all just slaughtered.
    "It's ... Juice. Yeah, you see, he's a JUICING Robot. And he just... got a little carried away. So everyone has red... fruit juice... splattered on them."
    Matthew smiled, said "Yeah, He's a silly robot!" and went off, satisfied.

    May 18, 2007

    LinkNews Digest [05/18/2007]

    Teachers Stage Fake Gun Attack On 6th Graders

    MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) - Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

    The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the week-long trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.

    "We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation," he said. But parents of the sixth-grade students were outraged. "The children were in that room in the dark, begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them," said Brandy Cole, whose son went on the trip.

    Some parents said they were upset by the staff's poor judgment in light of the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 33 students and professors dead, including the gunman.

    During the last night of the trip, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose. They were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on locked door.

    After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said. "I was like, 'Oh My God,' " she said. "At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out." Principal Catherine Stephens declined to say whether the staff members involved would face disciplinary action, but said the situation "involved poor judgment."(LINK )

    Truck to Biker: I'm Crushing Your Head!

    Ryan Lipscomb, 26, said he was riding his bicycle pretty fast down the East Isthmus Bike Path where it parallels Eastwood Drive on Madison's east side just before 3 p.m. Eastwood had a green light, so the crosswalk for the bike path showed a white walk sign, Lipscomb said.

    He saw the large truck, the kind that usually makes deliveries to offices, coming down Eastwood, preparing to make a right turn onto Division Street. Lipscomb said he could tell the truck wasn't going to stop. So Lipscomb slammed on his brakes, flipping his bike and throwing himself into the street. He landed right at the intersection of Eastwood and Division.

    The truck ran over his head. "I didn't see it coming, but I sure felt it roll over my head. It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head." His helmet, a Giro, was crushed, but Lipscomb's head was fine. Madison Police Department Sgt. Chris Boyd said the officer at the scene urged Lipscomb to keep the helmet. He did. It is all flattened and mangled and broken, unlike his head.

    Even though the truck did not stop, Boyd initially refused to call the incident a hit-and-run. "The truck driver definitely would have known. You know when you run over a curb and my head was definitely higher than a curb." Moreover, Lipscomb said, he was already in the street as the truck was turning. "He had to have seen me."

    He was taken to University Hospital, but was released by about 6 p.m. "I'm OK except for a concussion," he said Friday night about 10 p.m. (LINK )

    Tip: Don't Whiz On The PlayStation 2

    Gary Wells just spent 600 bucks on a brand new paperweight PS3, and decided to have a little party on Friday night to celebrate his ballin’ purchase. With no need for his old PS2 anymore, he set up a drawing to choose who gets to destroy it in whatever way they decide. Everyone put their names in a bowl, and by the end of the night when everyone was drunk off their ass, they held the drawing and Gary’s friend Mike won.

    This is where it gets interesting; in a blaze of drunken glory, Mike proceeded to unzip his pants and urinate all over the obsolete PS2, not realizing it was still plugged in. Within seconds, the electricity came up through his urine stream, knocking him unconscious on the floor. He was taken to a hospital and released with no injuries.(LINK )

    Illinois Baby Receives Gun Permit

    Bubba Ludwig may only be 10 months old, but he has already successfully obtained a gun licence in the US state of Illinois. Bubba's father, Howard Ludwig, applied on his behalf after his grandfather gave him a shotgun as an heirloom.

    Mr Ludwig said he had not expected to succeed, but he filled in the online form, paid $5 and the license was his. The license includes a picture of a toothless Bubba and a squiggle that represents his best attempt at a signature.

    In an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Mr Ludwig, 30, said that he expected the application to be turned down. Two rejections did in fact come, he said, but both related to technical problems - on one application he forgot to tick a box stating his son was a US citizen - rather than Bubba's youth. His third attempt was rewarded with a state firearm owner's identification card (FOID), complete with details of Bubba's height, weight and date of birth.

    Illinois gun laws are said to be among the strictest in the US. But Illinois State Police, who oversee the application process, said that they had followed the law in this case. "Does a 10-month-old need a FOID card? No, but there are no restrictions under the act regarding age of applicants," the Associated Press news agency quoted Lt Scott Compton as saying.

    Mr Ludwig said Bubba's gun would likely remain at his grandfather's house until he was 14. (LINK )

    Trying Too Hard to Be "The Cool Mom"

    BERLIN (Reuters) - A 36-year-old German mother-of-five drove her son to a jewelry store he wanted to rob because she was afraid he may come to some harm, Bild newspaper reported Wednesday.

    While her 17-year-old son and his two accomplices stabbed and robbed a jeweler in the eastern city of Dresden, the mother waited outside in the car.

    "I knew he wanted to rob the shop and I was very worried about him," top-selling Bild quoted the mother as saying.

    A court sentenced the woman to three years and ten months in prison, a spokeswoman for the court said.(LINK )

    May 17, 2007

    100 Numbers

    Here's a montage that the AFI should show at the Oscars!
    "100 Years, 100 Movies, 100 Numbers"

    May 16, 2007

    No YouTube for Troops

    The BBC Reports:
    US soldiers will still be able to e-mail home, and army bloggers should still be able to post, but the web may become a quieter place after this week's Pentagon clampdown. Thirteen sites have been declared off-limits on Department of Defense computer systems, ranging from MySpace to MTV.

    The official reason given is that too much military bandwidth is being hogged to share photos, video clips and messages. Ironically, the US military itself has just launched its own channel on YouTube, uploading clips of fire fights and troops helping civilians in Iraq.

    Colby Buzzell, author of blog-based war memoirs My War: Killing Time In Iraq, believes internet networking sites provide a vital breathing-space for troops in Iraq, and that the clampdown is a disaster.

    "I think it's going to totally destroy their morale - you have soldiers out there for their second, third, even fourth time," he told the BBC News website.

    "A lot of them have lost fellow soldiers. One of the few luxuries you have over there is the internet cafes - it gives you a sense of normalcy to go on websites and follow the news, be in touch with family and friends."
    I... I'm speechless. I understand security issues, not posting classified stuff to Blogs, HelmetCams etc. But to take away the simplest and most widely-used methods of communication to the home front AND the simplest de-stressor in the modern age?

    Previous commenter had it right. If some network geek at my corporate office can track what I'm doing on my work PC (posting to a blog) on a DSL through a VPN Connection, I should think the freakin' PENTAGON could handle it, when they OWN THE WHOLE COMM Infrastructure over there. And if they can't get Haliburton/Blackwater to increase their bandwidth, what the hell good are they?

    If a bunch of soldiers want to veg out after a rough patrol and watch some fratboys play pranks on YouTube, LET THEM. If I think I've had a hard day at work, THEY have had it worse, and they need to laugh or take their minds off their jobs far more than I do.

    What next, take away their PlayStations because some incompetent lawyer says that playing video games could make them violent?

    The DDS Blues

    Went to the Dentist again today, for PART II of my drilling & filling. I just don't get it. Over the past 2 years I've been brushing every night (doing so along with Matthew keeps me in the habit) AND paying extra for the 6-month fluoride treatments, and STILL I get cavities.

    This morning, same routine: Novocaine shot in the jaw, and they start drilling. There's that weird vibration from the drill. You know, the one that tells you "This would probably hurt like a MoFo if you didn't have the shot." And then the little bit of cold sensation from the air... wait a minute.. AAAAAAAAAAAAOOW! Not Numb!

    Luckily my dentist is a perceptive guy, and he caught the gist of my pantomime, between the sudden grunt and my sudden death grip on the armrests. Another shot and 5 minutes later and I was all right. In and out in 30 minutes.

    Now my only problem is that the right side of my face is slipping off my skull, and I'm drooling like Pavlov's Dog during a fire drill. Eating lunch should be entertaining.

    May 11, 2007

    LinkNews Digest [05/11/2007]

    What Do You Mean I'm *NOT* Dying???

    LONDON (Reuters) - A British man who went on a wild spending spree after doctors said he only had a short time to live wants compensation because the diagnosis was wrong and he is now healthy -- but broke.

    John Brandrick, 62, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago and told that he would probably die within a year. He quit his job, sold or gave away nearly all his possessions, stopped paying his mortgage and spent his savings dining out and going on holiday.

    Brandrick was left with little more than the black suit, white shirt and red tie that he had planned to be buried in when it emerged a year later that his suspected "tumor" was no more than a non-life threatening inflammation of the pancreas.

    If he can't get compensation, he is considering selling his house or suing the hospital that diagnosed him. The hospital has said that while it sympathizes with Brandrick, a review of his case showed no different diagnosis would have been mad(LINK )

    Canadian Quarter Triggers Spy Warnings

    WASHINGTON -- An odd-looking Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department's false espionage warning earlier this year, The Associated Press has learned.

    The odd-looking, but harmless, "poppy coin" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors travelling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them. The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.

    The silver-coloured 25-cent piece features the red image of a poppy -- Canada's flower of remembrance -- inlaid over a maple leaf. The unorthodox quarter is identical to the coins pictured and described as suspicious in the contractors' accounts.

    The supposed nano-technology actually was a conventional protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy's red colour from rubbing off. The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada's 117,000 war dead.(LINK )

    Vegans Couple Starves Infant to Death

    TLANTA (AP) - A vegan couple were sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for the death of their malnourished 6-week-old baby boy, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.

    Superior Court Judge L.A. McConnell imposed the mandatory sentences on Jade Sanders, 27, and Lamont Thomas, 31. Their son, Crown Shakur, weighed just 3 1/2 pounds when he died of starvation on April 25, 2004. The couple were found guilty May 2 of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children. A jury deliberated about seven hours before returning the guilty verdicts.

    Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.

    But prosecutors said the couple intentionally neglected their child and refused to take him to the doctor even as the baby's body wasted away. "No matter how many times they want to say, 'We're vegans, we're vegetarians,' that's not the issue in this case," said prosecutor Chuck Boring. "The child died because he was not fed. Period." (LINK )

    Panty-Headed Bandit Robs Bank with Lighter

    INWOOD, W.Va. - A thief covered his face with a pair of blue women's underwear and used a pistol-shaped cigarette lighter in a botched robbery of a convenience store, police said. "I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried," State Police Sgt. T.C. Kearns told The Journal in Martinsburg.

    The cashier at first thought it was a joke and refused to give the man any money, so he ran to a Jeep Cherokee and drove away at about 4 a.m. Wednesday, Kearns said. A few minutes later, police stopped a vehicle matching that description and took two men into custody. Police later charged Steven Clay Stephenson, 34, of Ranson in the convenience story robbery.

    Kearns said police found a pistol-shaped lighter while searching Stephenson. The underwear was recovered nearby. Stephenson is charged with nighttime burglary, attempted robbery, first-offense driving under the influence, petit larceny and improper registration.(LINK )

    May 04, 2007

    LinkNews Digest [05/04/2007]

    "Dead Like Me" Movie In The Works

    "Dead Like Me," the popular Showtime television series starring Mandy Patinkin and Ellen Muth, is returning as a made-for-DVD movie. MGM told that Stephen Herek ("The Mighty Ducks") will direct the new film. There's no word yet on who’ll be starring in the film -- but hopefully they'll revive the original cast.

    The series, which makes bizarre death an art form, centers on George (Muth), a young woman killed by a toilet seat from outer space and forced to work as a grim reaper. Led by a reaper named Rube (Patinkin), she and an assortment of other eccentric characters are sent to reap the souls of the ill-fated.

    (LINK )
    Can I get a "Hell Yeah"?

    Lord of the Rings Online Game Scraps Marriage, Fearing Gay Dwarves

    Nik Davidson is a game designer at Turbine, the Westwood, Mass., company producing "The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar." The game has been in beta (a test version) since September, and during discussions of new features for the game, which was officially released Tuesday, the design team wound up in a heated discussion over what restrictions should be placed on marriage. They debated not only gay marriage but also marriage between members of different species. Finally, the game's executive producer settled the matter by pulling the entire marriage feature.

    The team had also originally planned to introduce a way for characters to marry other characters -- within certain guidelines.

    "The rule that we tried to follow across the board was: if there's an example of it in the book, the door is open to explore it," Nik says. "Very rarely will you see an elf and a human hook up, but it does happen; the door is open. Dwarves don't intermarry with hobbits; that door is shut ... Did two male hobbits ever hook up in the shire and have little hobbit civil unions? No. The door is shut."

    More than that, Nik says, it seemed as if same-sex marriage would simply not have fit with Tolkien's vision for the worlds he created.

    "Tolkien was a conservative Catholic," Nik says. "He went out drinking with C.S. Lewis every night, and the two of them had a worldview that was -- well, let's just say it clashes a little bit with the sensibilities of East Coast liberals who make up the largest population of Turbine." (LINK)

    Chinese Prisoner Dies of "Adult Sudden Death Syndrome"

    Investigators said Li Chaoyang, 38, had been unco-operative while in detention in Xing'an county in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwestern China. "Cuts on his face and other injuries" had been caused by a fall during an escape attempt, they said.

    Li, a judge with the local Pingle County Court, was detained on March 23, accused of taking bribes.

    Shi Shaosen, head of the Guilin municipal law enforcement supervisory section and chief investigator in the case, said the prisoner had not been maltreated. "Li Chaoyang's sudden death conforms with adult sudden death syndrome," said Mr Shi, citing a forensic report.

    Li's relatives had claimed there were wounds on his body, a gash across his lip and one of his front teeth was missing. They questioned the cause of his death and wrote about it on a blog.

    "The investigation proves Li Chaoyang's case was handled according to legal procedures and strictly according to the law," Mr Shi was quoted as saying. "There were no reports that torture was used to extract a confession, or bodily harm caused by guards, or an assault by cell mates." (LINK )

    Online Comics != Terrorism

    Matt [ Artist of Three Panel Soul was working as a contractor for a branch of the government. He made the mistake of being interested in the hobby of paper target shooting at about the same time as the VA Tech shootings and talking to someone about this hobby at work. Keep in mind he wasn’t even talking about those shootings, in fact he was discussing how he wanted a gun which would make it *difficult* to kill someone [accidentally].

    He was promptly fired and not allowed back to work because people were scared of him.

    To top it all off, he was later visited by police detectives for making a comic about his experience, because it was a "borderline terroristic threat." (Is "terroristic" even a word? Did they get that from the Colbert report?)

    I’m not a lawyer or a reporter or anything, but I would recommend anyone who was one of those things to contact Matt. ( machallboyd ATZORS ) If you’re a cartoonist or a webcomics fan, spread his story around. The more people who know about this, the better. He’s a good dude who deserves your support.(LINK )
    One Commenter got it exactly right:
    It's Ironic, innit? Dick Cheney actually shot someone in the face and does other things that actually harm people (like, EVERYONE in America), and he still has his job. Matt's not gonna go postal on anyone, c'mon! People need to stop having these knee-jerk reactions to everything - it really makes everyone look bad!

    May 03, 2007

    Dear "Authentic" Pub Owner

    Dear Derek Lawford, Owner of the Angel "Authentic British Pub":

    Indeed, according to my brief travels, you have a fairly faithful recreation of British pubs and that is no easy task. My British-born friend feels fairly at home in a couple of them. Your breaks from the "Authentic" are forgivable: You have thoughtfully left out the betting parlor side of the place, the haze of cheap cigarette smoke is thankfully missing, you don't charge the UK Standard 17.5% tax and you don't make the friendly wait staff speak in fake-cockney accents. Cheers for that.

    However, I must confess that having "Tuesday Night Music Trivia" blaring out on the patio at decibel levels usually reserved for GWAR concerts kind of ruined the whole thing for me. Having crap songs by Matchbox 20 (the DJ's oh-so-clever question in a set of bands with numbers in their name), playing over us and drowning out the conversation that I'm having with my friend over a pint of Newcastle Brown was quite annoying and made me reconsider coming there ever again. I understand a bar's need to have theme nights for their regular customers, but people usually sit on the patio to ESCAPE the busy inside and enjoy the weather and some conversation, not to have the noise brought out to meet them.

    Do the math: Expensive, carefully designed British Pub ambiance + Hokey DJ with crap trivia songs and too much amplifier = Worse than a cheap AMERICAN bar where this is expected.


    May 01, 2007

    "I'm a Marvel, I'm a DC"

    A brilliant bit of YouTube for the nascent Comic Geek in all of us.
    (Or at least Me and Justin)