2008-11-20

No Wonder... [ G ]

If ordering lunch is this hard no wonder we are in a financial crisis! Thank goodness when I work at home my wife hides the prescription medicine and liquor the night before...

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thu 10/2/2008 10:59 AM
Subject: Lunch from Beijing Star on Friday

To all,

So, two weeks ago was Demos, last week was NY Deli, and this week I'm going to the Beijing Star Restaurant - menu attached. The lunch specials are a good deal and you can substitute white rice for fried rice. Please remember to add in 5% sales tax to your order and let me know what you want before 11am tomorrow so I can call in the order. I'll leave to pick up lunch around noon so please give me your money before I leave.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 11:08 AM
Subject: RE: Lunch from Beijing Star on Friday

I think I will! #23 Vegetable Lo Mein with egg drop soup, order of Shanghai Spring Roll

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thu 10/2/2008 11:15 AM
Subject: RE: Lunch from Beijing Star on Friday

Your lunch special not only comes with soup but with either spring roll, egg roll, or chicken wing. I'm guessing spring roll?

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 11:18 AM
Subject: RE: Lunch from Beijing Star on Friday

I think that section is "soup only"?

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 11:19 AM
Subject: RE: Lunch from Beijing Star on Friday

That's for #s 24-30 - you're just under the wire with #23.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thu 10/2/2008 11:31 AM
Subject: RE: Lunch from Beijing Star on Friday

Okay so I reread the menu and finally called for them to clarify. Yes, only soup, no rice or appetizer with yours so your order comes to $10 with the tax.

2008-11-04

Election Musings [ E G PI ]

Depending on what happens today, we (or more accurate the Electoral College) will either elect a decorated war veteran or the first black (technically Barak actually is an African-American) president.

I do not care who wins, as we all know our vote really does not matter. However, there is one great joy, which shall be to all people, should Barak Obama be elected.

This asshole and this asshole have no choice but to shut the hell up for the rest of their lives. In fact "reverend" Al Sharpton is now helping white people who are allegedly abused by the police!

2008-10-25

Two Fiddy [ AN P PG ]

Two fiddy - two dollars and fifty cents (not "tree fiddy") is about the taxes owed. Owed where? Well, we used to live in Danielson CT, and when we received our DMV registration renewal, it says we owe back taxes. When I called to check, I was told it was $13.84; which means using the CT municipality property tax rate of 18%, we allegedly "owed" tax of about $2.50 from 1997.

I did try and ask the Danielson tax drone what happened, and why - as we have renewed DMV registrations many, many times - why did this not crop up before? The answer - repeated twice - was a cryptic "you do not have to receive a bill to be responsible for your taxes." In CT one does not have to receive a tax bill to be responsible, and the burden of proof is on you. There is also the 15-year statute of limitations for CT personal property tax!

The NY Times wrote about this a few years ago, and apparently it happens a lot. I suppose in this case it is just cheap enough to pay it. I am sure glad Richard Blumenthal CT Attorney General is "concerned", as he did such a great job controlling the SoBe company's false health claims for their beverages, as if that f-ing matters!

So today I cannot buy the Sobe brand "elixer" drinks in Connecticut (but I suppose like many I'll just buy it in Massachusetts like I do my gas, and my liquor in New Hampshire); and I have to pay un undocumentable $13.47 to a town I lived in last millennium!

So who's running Libertarian this year?

2008-10-12

Photo Phun [ H I PI RR R S T ]

This blog itself does not actually have these warnings and ratings applicable to it per se; but the new set of photos on Flickr does. I have had the idea come to me of taking photos, and edit/caption them on my iPhone, with results ranging from a chuckle to sheer outrage (but still funny).

For those interested, I use the following programs:  "Comic Touch" (for the captions); "Picoli" (basic touch-up, such as brightness) and "Magic Touch" (more advanced photo editing like selective blurring). They are not PhotoShop by any means, but amazing nonetheless.

Note that some of these programs have overlapping features as they have been developed beyond v 1.0, but I suffer from the disease appiphilia.

2008-10-08

Electric Car Success? [ G T ]

I've said it many times, and I'll say it again. the sine qua non for an electric car to succeed will be if the battery modules are standardized and easily removable; in fact designed to be removable. That way, if you are low you pull into a "filling station" an attendant pops one out and pops in a fully-charged one.

The one you dropped off is put into a charging rack (along with dozens of others) so it can be reused when recharged in an hour or so. Large warehouses (this is run by the oil companies after all, so they could use their existing gas station and distribution center infrastructure) would carry extra packs so if a "filling station" was getting low on fully-charged packs, they could call up and order more.

The number of battery modules a vehicle carries is dependent on size/cargo space: a small 2-person commuter car has 2 packs, while the larger truck or family van uses 8-10.

This way "recharges;' are as quick or quicker than filling a gas tank, the batteries are easily removed at end of life without disassembling the car, and smaller pack give some design creativity (i.e. not one ginormous pack amidships) and the weight can be distributed for better handling.

2008-09-20

Don't F- with me! [ AN G ]

One of my basic belief is the Old Testament "eye for an eye", as opposed to the New Testament's never ending love fest and pussyfication of "turn the other cheek".

Now this does not mean I make a list and hunt down and kill all who oppose me, as tempting as that may be. What it does mean is that if you fuck with me - any way shape or form - I will simply treat you as you do not exist; sort of the ultimate in passive/aggressive.

Let's look at Subaru, yes Subaru. I had the pleasure of buying my first new car when just completing Grad School. A new model - the XT - had come out. Billed as the most aerodynamic production car (at the time), I savored both the unique appearance with features like retractable flaps covering the door handles and a single wiper blade for the windscreen; plus that new car smell.

What I did not realize - and the brochures did not make it clear - was the base model DL had no rear seat! I drove the car back to my apartment in Quincy MA and was showing it to a neighbor. He thought it was a really nice looking car - but where was the rear seat?! Yes, the base model had no rear seat. Without going into the details of communicating with the dealer and Subaru NA, they said that the listing of rear-seat "headroom" and "legroom" in the brochure for this model was for "illustrative purposes only". Never mind these measurements were removed from the 1996 brochure. I ended up making my one rear seat with matching material to the front seats and installing seatbelts. Thankfully my insurance company at the time did not have it listed as a 2-seater.

So in a roundabout way it goes without saying that I will never buy from Subaru. I probably wouldn't anyway as they used to make gas-sipping frugal cars (mine got 35 MPG last millennium) whereas now they think everyone wants to go 100 MPH and get 20 MPG.

So this bring me to my current story. My dog was sigk recently, and we chalked it up to just eating something that disagreed with her. Yeah, like salmonella. It seems that some brands of dogfood were contaminated (full story here). I am so thankful for someone I work with who told me about this.

So this means I will never buy anything from Mars Petcare; including Ol' Roy and Pedigree. I suggest you also do the same.

They will also be receiving a UPS package of the remaining dogfood.

2008-09-09

Nice Knowing You...? [ G PI T ]

The LHC - or Large Hadron Collider - goes online tomorrow, around 9AM EST.

For those who do not know it, the LHC - summarizing Wikipedia - is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. The collider is contained in an underground circular tunnel with a circumference of 17 miles. It crosses the border between Switzerland and France.

The LHC - as part of particle physics study - accelerates protons to 450 GeV (GigaElectronVolts) to 7 TeV (TeraElectronVolts - that's a lotta volts); at this energy the protons (also called Hadrons, hence the name) move at about 99.999999% of light speed.

However, there are those who theorize the LHC could create micro black holes, strangelets, magnetic monopoles, magnetars, or even vacuum bubbles which which could lead to the doomsday scenario of the destruction of our planet.

Keeping in mind that during the test of the first H-Bomb, Teller thought it might actually ignite the atmosphere, turning the Nitrogen and Oxygen into poisonous NO2. Thankfully this didn't happen.

However, there are those doomsayers who postulate that the dearth of radio signals from more advanced civilizations is simply that there just aren't any. Once a civilization reaches a certain technological prowess, they invent their own version of an LHC, turn it on, and simply wink out of existence.

The LHC is due to fully power up at around 9 AM EST in the US, and I will be watching with guarded optimism. I do plan to kiss my wife a bit more tenderly, and hug my kids a bit tighter before leaving for work. I leave you with these thoughts:

First of all, given the relatively large mass of the earth, the relatively slow growth (w-a-a-a-y less than lightspeed, but still freakin' fast) of a black hole's event horizon, and the fact that electric signals travel at the speed of light, we should be able to see 2-10 seconds of the beginning of the end, if we are watching a webcam in Paris, for example.

Secondly, if it does indeed destroy the earth, France will be the first to go, so I supppose that every cloud (or black hole in this case) has a silver lining.

And lastly, when one realizes what 'hadron' is an anagram for, at least we'll all go out laughing!

---

UPDATE 9/10/08 @ 12:02 PM EST - I'm here, you're here; even the French are still here. I guess I should've read the LHC safety report ahead of time. Although when you read dismissive sentence like this "Black holes, therefore, would have no time to start accreting matter and to cause macroscopic effects" when we have never made a black hole ourselves, one has to wonder what was the basis for the conclusions it is 100% safe. And apparently if micro black holes are created, it may take years or decades to feel the full effects.

2008-06-17

QOTD

"Monkeys that have brain damage due to malnutrition will sometimes
wallow in their own feces; but that fails to explain you two" said to
my children who have made a shambles of the family room.

2008-06-15

Climate Security Down In Flames [G P PI T]

I was so happy to read of the defeat of the “Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act”. (Not that I dislike my own Mr. Leeeebermaaaannn, but anyone who dislikes a show like South Park because they can't track what their own kids watch is a tool in my book).

Also known as the “Climate Security Act” (part of Homeboy Security?) this was an attempt to pander to the EU, UN, and various other groups. I personally applaud both the Republics and the smattering of Democrats (science/engineering VS Liberal Arts degrees?) who voted this down.

I do love, as said by Reuters “Illinois Democrat Obama and Arizona Republican McCain, wrote letters saying they would have voted in favor if they had been in town to vote.” Riiiiight. Funny I can vote while traveling, but maybe they did not want to vote the popular vote - as the unwashed (voting) masses would’ve wanted - and alienate business.

Now, before you get too upset, when I mean “unwashed masses” I am referring to someone whose knowledge on global warming they get either from sitting through “An Inconvenient Truth” or a two-minute sound bite on TV.

I assume for the sake of discussion you know the following:
- Global human fossil-fuel use accounts for about 2% of the CO2 emitted annually, mother nature provides the rest;
- There has been an historic CO2 contribution by man, but almost all occurred prior to 1940;
- NASA’s “Y2K corrected” US temperature data has the hottest year on record was 1934;
- Greenland was inhabited (and truly “green”) during the Medieval Warming Period of about 1,000-1,300 AD, which had much lower CO2 levels;
- The scientific data shown that the rise in CO2 trails natural temperature increases as an indicator, not a cause. [“Ice Core Record of Atmospheric CO2 Around the Last Three Glacial Terminations”; Science; 283 (1999) 1712-1714]

My favorite quote repeated ad nauseum was "Today's vote sets the stage for a new president and Congress to enact strong legislation that will more effectively build a clean energy economy and prevent the worst consequences of global warming," a coalition of green groups, including Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation and Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. Good for them. I hope they and their members can cut their CO2 emissions by 66 percent by 2050 without buying credits.

I also hope all know that the baseline date for the Kyoto protocol – 1990 – gave England, Germany, and Russia a major advantage. Britain had shut down most coal mines and shifted to natural gas, Germany shut down the "dirty" East German industries, and Russia got their credits by shutting down the inefficient Soviet-era factories.

Do you know that the good ol' EU will not meet their emission reductions under Kyoto? Well, they will on paper; that is why Russia signed the Kyoto Protocol recently; to market their credits to EU nations. At least the Russians make no bones about it – maybe they'll finally win the “new cold war” which is global warming.

But if you think you are sure about global warming, here’s your chance to win $500,000!

2008-06-11

Movies Not [F H I PI]

I really love movies, and sometimes the more offbeat or unusual the better. I have tried to foster that with my kids, but also being aware that age-appropriate truly is the parent's responsibility. I thought I'd list some of the movies I have seen recently, and as a special treat the top 1o movies I will never watch.

I watched Last of the Mohicans, which is a great adaptation by Michael Mann, who also directed the first Hannibal Lechter (Silence of the Lambs) movie called Manhunter. Although I'm sure the two-handed firing of dual muskets at the climax was a nod to such John Woo film as Ying Hung Boon Sik (A Better Tomorrow).

As a chick flick I saw the Nanny Diaries, which is cute in saccharinistic, puerile sort of way. But it is a sacrifice all men must make for the sake of their marriage.

We also watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High,  which is a great, entertaining teen flick. Ray Walston as Mr. Hand is a treat, and a very young Forest Whitaker gave no hint he would one day be as good an actor as he turned out. To my chagrin (but to both my sons' delight) I forgot the film had extended scenes of both Jennifer Jason Leigh (before she had the unfortunate accident that caused her forehead to metastasize) and Phoebe Cates sans clothing.

We watched Citizen Kane, which I had not seen in over 30 years, and may have been intoxicated at the time. I really forgot how good the film was, and how close it mirrored the real-life exploits of William Randolph Hearst. Do you remember the enigmatic "Rosebud" was the name of his... puppy?

As a prelude to watching The Magnificent Seven, we saw the movie it is based on, Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. If you want to see a great movie about honor and sacrifice, watch this 3 hour epic.

Now these are all really good, entertaining films. There are however several films or types of films I will never see, for very disparate reasons.

The Passion of The Christ - now I know Christ died for us, but so did my uncle in WWII. This movie is based on anti-Semitic passion plays from the year 400, and not, repeat not any known biblical texts. If I am in that mood I'll watch Triumph of the Will or anything from Ms. Riefenstahl.

Josie & the Pussycats - many of us know how hot the original Josie cartoon character was, almost as hot as Betty and Veronica. However, I have no desire to see this klinker.

Schindler's List - I know Mr. Schindler was a hero, but I have seen Sophie's Choice and The Man in the Glass Booth; I'd love to see The Day the Clown Cried if Jerry Lewis ever releases it. This is too much. 

Psycho - A 1998 shot for shot remake of the original directed by Gus Van Sant? I have to presume there is a special corner in hell for executives that greenlight and fund things like this.

Anything by Tom Green; I do not care if his wife appears in it.

Most TV-based movies, like Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched and Rocky & Bullwinkle. I will exclude the TV-based Blues Brothers, X-Files and South Park movies.

The Two Jakes, a sequel to Chinatown, which is sort of like filming a sequel to Casablanca.

And of course, the hilarious sci-fi extravaganza An Inconvenient Truth (at least in the context of it being a documentary).

2008-06-05

Hillary Inhales [PI S]

Since Mrs. Clinton has dropped out (with several tens of millions of
Southern Dems saying to themselves "Shoot, I ain't voting' for no
Nigrah!"); I guess the next thing we will see is Hillary on The View!
At least - unlike Baba Wawa - she'll remember who Obama is.

2008-06-03

Green Hotels [AN]

We all are constantly assaulted by “think green’ comments and admonishments. We all surely want to act ‘green’ but what does that mean?

Let’s look at hotels. Now I travel a lot, and most hotels have some sort of brochure prominently displayed about water use and re-using your towels. Now personally I think the best brochure would have a Native American with a tear running down his face while holding a polar bear cub, but I digress.

Anyway, these brochures comment on the millions of gallons of water wasted annually washing laundry, and if you want your towel and washcloth to be laundered, put it on the floor. Now I don’t know about you, but I generally wash in the descending order of cleanest areas to ‘dirtiest’ – i.e. I start with my eyelids and end up just south of my coccyx. The same with drying, I pat my face dry, then towel my hair, dry my arms, and end up by using the towel as a giant piece of dental floss, if you catch my drift.

Now for those of you with experience in either microbiology or site decontamination, no matter how one cleans an area, there is some residual contamination. I prefer to minimize my chance of catching ‘pink eye’ or some other illness.

Now, I would re-use my towels, but here is what I demand in return, Mr. hotel-chain-president.

First of all, I assume that in saving those millions of gallons of water (and associated labor) you might save some ‘green’ too (I mean the dollar green). So how about in return you pay your housekeeping staff a fair wage, and even (gasp) offer healthcare?

How about in the bathrooms soap and shampoo dispensers, so every day – no matter how well I hide the soap bar that is 87% intact – the dutiful staff finds it and throws it out replacing it with a new, lavender scented bar?

What about coffee condiments put out a la carte, so if I want a pinch of Splenda (never mind the risk) I can do that and not have to have the dedicated housekeeping person dispose of the creamer, real sugar, etc?

How about real HVAC controls that work, so I do not have to put it to 62.5 (why should the thermostat even be allowed to go that low is beyond me) to get the temperature down to about 69?

How about lights that require a room key to be inserted into a wall slot, so if I leave with 4 lights on they will shut off ten minutes after I leave. On a side note of you do this please mark some outlets – for charging stuff – as “always powered”.

But here is the real challenge: put in a “grey water” system. This is where the water from laundry is kept in a holding tank, and used to flush toilets. Now that is a really “thinking green”

2008-04-02

Autism on CNN [G]

CNN had an article on tonight about Autism. One thing discussed was the causes. You have probably heard them all: mercury as a preservative in vaccines; environmental pollution; pesticide residues in food.

Some of these we can discount based on simple science. Thimerosal, the preservative used in vaccines (contact lenses too) is no longer used in vaccines. So if that was the case, autism should be on the decline. Mercury in the environment used to be at horrific levels; at levels absolutely dwarfing that in vaccines; yet autism was less in the past. In fact, all levels of pollution (both air and water) are at much lower levels than they were decades and centuries ago. And one can say the same about pesticide residues; in fact it has been more than half a century since arsenical pesticide were used in the US.

Well, what could be causing autism, or at least contributing to it significantly. Here is a news flash for many - did you know that a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have? Let me put it this way; due to the way the human reproductive system works, a woman at birth has – in her ovaries – every egg she will ever produce. Contrast this with a man who produces new sperm cells about every 30 days, and clears out all sperm cells within 90 days.

This fact has a profound influence on chemicals that can damage genetic material, those things classed as teratogens and mutagens. So this would mean that a woman who has significant exposure to these things can end up with genetic damage to the DNA in her eggs. And all damage is cumulative; so that even small amounts of exposure add up to a lot over time.

So what are some teratogens and mutagens? How about alcohol, cigarette and other smoking materials; cocaine, heroin, LSD, many prescription painkillers and other narcotics. Now I am not being a prude; in fact I believe in legalizing and taxing drugs.

Think of the scenario, exposure to these materials can cause genetic damage; but you may ask, women have been exposed to these items for decades centuries, why autism now?

One of the facts in the US is the increase in the average age of a woman having her first child. So the longer a woman waits to have a child, the greater the chance that genetic damage has occurred.

Now of course this concept is not frequently espoused; I mean the blame would rest solely with the mother of the child. Now again, this is just a theory, but let’s use one outspoken celebrity example.

Jenny McCarthy is an autism champion, in fact she has even cured her son of autism. And of course Dr. McCarthy knows that vaccines gave her son autism. So how does Ms. McCathy fit into my demographics?

She was 31 when she had he first child, well above the national average of 25. As to the other potential causes, one can decide if her on-screen persona matches her real life.

2008-04-01

US Air Fails [AN]

I have nothing left but anger. Anger and sadness. My US Air flight to Newark is now in Allentown PA. I sort of figured we'd have to get fuel as I swear I could hear the engines sputtering!

Through the miracle of technology that works, this was sent from my iPhone.

I'd also like to tell the guy a few seats back that even though he is calling California, he does NOT HAVE TO SHOUT even though he is far away from whom he is calling.

Update - 9 hours from Pittsburgh PA to Newark NJ.

Useless Air [AN FE PG]

I should have known it would be a bad travel day. I mean, to start it off, it was US Air. I know I could call them “Useless Air” but that is a cheap shot. I could call them "Uvula Air" (the “useless” appendage hanging at the back of the throat) but that would be too cheap and easy. "Urethra Air" gets closer to the mark. How about “Incompetent f-wads Air” or “Flaming sack of sh-t Air” as each accurately describes them.

Remember – in libel or slander cases, truth is the final defense. It is not libelous as I can guaran-frickin-tee you that I could easily amass several thousand signature of people that agree with the above assertion.

Anyway, my flight to Pittsburgh was gone. It never existed. One could say “canceled” but that implies there was an intention of the flight actually taking place. I think they offered this direct fight merely to let people think it actually existed. Then they cancel it so their Philly and Newark flights will be full. My evidence is twofold: 1) there was no information available as to why the flight was canceled. Sunspots? Beri Beri among the pilots? Spontaneous dental hydroplosion? No idea. And then 2) I am supposed to get some sort of message from AMEX or US Air that the flight was canceled. It is supposed to be e-mail but I think they write it on a scrap of paper and throw it in the street hoping that I will find it.

I was put on the 3:30 PM Philly flight , that was now leaving “around 5:00”. Note that in US Air-speak “around 5” means really 5:59 PM. That was what I thought based on the display above the gate – Flight departing 5:59. So I went at about 4:15 to get a quick bite – thinking I had plenty of time.

I returned at 5:15 to see a different flight number leaving to Philly at either 7:00 or 7:19; depending on if you looked at the gate doorway or the gate counter display. Now that is either a screw-up or one big-ass plane. I asked the lady where’s the 5:59 plane; she replied that it had left, and they had paged me.

Now one rule I have of air travel in the post-911 craze is never get mad. If you get mad you can get arrested. I’ll tell the conversation in reverse order. I asked how loud was the announcement, and where was it broadcast, as while eating I heard Southwest ask for the lady going to Philly (on-time I hasten to add) and the US Air flight looking for the guy going to Chicago. I did not hear any call for US Air to Philly, and I did note that I am especially astute when my name is concerned. I should also parenthetically add that my hearing is still good – I have listened to the “mosquito ringtones” available for teenagers’ cell phones. These are so high a frequency as to be inaudible to adults. I can still hear the 16 kHz tone, which is not bad; my wife can hear 18 kHz (note wives can often be considered “carriers” of male hearing loss; heart attacks too); my kids can hear near or above 20 kHz. The lady replied they broadcast it all over the airport. We were at a quandary to explain how I did not hear it.

Okay, so I didn’t hear it – but the best was her response to my question about the posted departure time. “Oh, you can’t go by that” was her statement. “But that’s all I got” is what I replied. Apparently if a flight is delayed, the airlines – when receiving the “go” message (how about “go to hell”?) they just GO! I did get a space on the 7:00 or 7:19 flight.


And of course two things happened. We boarded at 6:12 for a 6:30 departure, natch’. I also went to the men’s room before boarding (a personal habit) and - of course - the announcements faded to inaudibility once inside the bathroom right across from the gate.

So what did we learn here, dear reader?
Southwest can apparently fly on-time.
US Air is staffed by poltroons.
US Air does not pay their CEO enough.

Update - now trying to leave Pittsburgh for Newark NJ; and got an earlier flight. It is of course now not departing on-time and is listed as "update @ 6:00" which does not mean the flight will leave at 6 PM. Note as I site here typing Continental has had flights leave for Newark.

2008-03-24

Cell Phone Cancer [ AN T ]

Cell phones cause cancer the headline screamed. Really? I always wondered how this would happen; in other words what mechanism caused cancer from the cell phone. I mean, shouldn't we be worried about the "electromagnetic energy" from the phone??!!

It's the electromagnetic spectrum, stupid! You can't say "electromagnetic energy" as this encompasses a host of radiation types.

Ionizing radiation (gamma, X-rays, K-rays) can cause cellular genetic damage, which the body can and does repair. Your body is naturally radioactive, from carbon, potassium (and other) isotopes. Ionizing radiation does not cause cumulative damage, unless the dose is high, such as exposure to unshielded reactor fuel, atomic bomb blasts, etc. Other radiation, such as Beta and Alpha particles, can be very hazardous if ingested if inhaled. Cell phones do not produce ionizing radiation.

Magnetic radiation is similar to the earth's magnetic field. There's evidence that intense magnetic fields - such as near a dynamo or a Tokamak - cause a rare brain cancer: astrocytoma. The earth's magnetic field (800 milligauss) dwarfs magnetic fields encountered by the public (the voice coil in a cell phone).

Electric radiation are fields encountered in proximity to power lines, thunderstorms, and nerve conduction in the body. That said, exposure to almost any electric field encountered (the power supply in a cell phone) is insignificant compared to that within one's own body's nervous system.

Microwave radiation (RF, radio frequency) is used by cell phones to communicate. Exposure to high levels of microwave radiation generally produce only "thermal effects". There is some limited evidence that exposure to high levels of microwaves can denature proteins. Again, at levels way, way, way, way above anything encountered from a cell phone.

So we see there's no mechanism for a cell phone to cause/contribute to cancer. Epidemiological studies (USA, Denmark) have shown no cancer linked to cell phone use. Maybe their car is causing the brain tumor - plasticizers leaching from vinyl interiors, exposure to benzene when pumping gas, auto exhaust is a known carcinogen.

Or perhaps there's a certain % of the population that will get a brain tumor. A high % also have cell phones. It's a high probability that a person with a brain tumor uses a cell phone. You might as well say wearing glasses or contact lenses causes brain tumors. The link is circumstantial, not causative.

iBook Repair [ A G T ]

Now, as wonderful as Apple products can be, they are not infallible. My son's hand me down laptop (the generational equivalent on a Cray XM-P) recently developed a problem with the display. This was not an unknown problem, Apple even had a free extended warranty. Well the problem developed out of warranty.

The problem stems from a video chip that is soldered using a ball grid array. A BGA can fail due to circuit board flexing, and there are not many options. You can either replace the logic board, send it out for repair or sell it on eBay. I had to caution my son that one has to disclose that it is not working. He did suggest that we could chalk the damage up to UPS/FedEx; but I had to explain that is not good . One further option would be to burn it.

I do not mean destroy it by fire, but to re-heat the BGA so the solder joints were fixed. Using information on this website, we carefully disassembled it, then filled a metal cap with alcohol, and set it on fire. As the fire burned, at some point the BCA connections were re-made; the display lit up and I quenched the fire letting the circuit board cool. Result - happy iBook!

video

2008-03-14

Best-Ad-Ever [PG PI S]


This Virgin Mobile ad will supposedly run in Toronto newspapers the week of 3/17. Thanks to the power of the Internet I got it, and you have gotten it. Although apparently not as good as Spitzer got it.

2008-03-11

Global Whining [ G P PI T ]

I have kept threatening to do it, and I have done it. Behold my Global Warming manifesto, which will amaze and captivate all. Note as a background to this I have to a Master’s in environmental science, and I can actually read and understand detailed reports and findings, instead of parroting Al Gore and his Legions of Doom.

Part of the inspiration for this article was from a visit with my mother this past weekend in Massachusetts. In a newspaper serving the People’s Republic of Easthampton, I was reading about a family who is 100% off the power grid. Now that is admirable, albeit fraught with limitations (not to mention the pollution)

What struck me was the wife (with hyphenated last name, natch) who said “The planet is in crisis, trying to shake us off like fleas," said Boyle-Clapp. "We may have no more than eight years to turn this around. The ice shelves are ready to go. This is today. It's not science fiction - this is really happening.”

No, it’s not. Remember, Global Warming is not man-made. It is man-observed.

Let’s briefly look what global warming is, and what it is not. As I learned in school in the waning years of last millennium, Global Warming is a horrifically complex, cyclical variation in the earth’s temperature, caused by factors including sunspots, el Nino, the 1,500 year solar cycle and the 24,000 year cycle of the earth’s rotation about it’s axis, like a top wobbling.

Think of how people view Global Warming. Get 100 of your friends in a room; ready? Okay ask them: pro-choice or pro-life? Red Sox or Yankees? Butter or margarine? Notice how the crowd is divided in some 50/50 or 60/40 or 70/30 division. Now ask about global warming; those who do not collapse in the fetal position in a paroxysm of fear will tell you – at near 100% - that this is the greatest danger facing mankind.

Would not a rational adult question anything where we are all in 100% agreement? In some ways it is the Arrogance of Man to assume we can easily change things on a global scale. Okay, Mark, so what is your take on what the media says? We have NASA and NOAA data, glacial data, even satellite data.

As I had noted before, the data from NASA had a Y2K error. The actual NASA data is available here, but the main summary is this: 1934 is now the hottest year on record, not 1998. 5 of the top 10 hottest years are before WWII.

There was a good article in Scientific American a few years ago, before they went and followed the masses. I have not found the article, but some of their explanations were as follows. Ocean warming data is often used to bolster the claim of Global Warming. However, years ago the water samples were taken by dropping an insulated bottle to a predetermined depth, grabbing a sample, and bringing the sample to the surface. The tiny amount of evaporation off the container lowered the temperature a fraction of a degree. Now deep water temperature reading are done by direct reading probes, the fraction of a degree difference is seen as an increase due to global warming. Weather stations seem to corroborate the fact that warming is occurring. However, there are several issues at play. The areas with the longest records – such as most urban areas – have been built up to be massive blacktop and concrete heatsinks.

Glaciers do in fact seen to be shrinking in some areas, but not everywhere. Pardoxically the temperature in many glacial areas does not exceed freezing. This is because the glacial retreat we are seeing is due to a lack of precipitation. Snow leads to packed snow leads to ice leads to glaciers. And please – to the media of this world – no videos of glaciers “calving” into the ocean when they do an article about Global Warming. This has nothing to do with Global Warming.

What about the North Pole – the ice caps are melting right? We’re all going to drown right? I read an article recently. It was entitled "Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt." It also said "great masses of ice have now been replaced by moraines of earth and stones," and "at many points well-known glaciers have entirely disappeared." Great article, however it was written in not 2002 but back in the day of 1922. The media leave out the recent Arctic ice re-freeze, characterized as a “record pace”.

A lot of people forget good ol’ Archimedes. Here’s a test. Take a tall tumbler, and fill it about half-full of ice. Fill the rest with water until the water reaches the rim, then carefully fill it until – through the magic of the Young-Laplace equation (known to most as “surface tension”) – we get the water rising up above the rim of the glass. What happens when the water melts? No rush, think c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. No idea? The water level drops!

Yes, solid water (i.e. “ice”) has a greater volume than liquid water (i.e. “water”).

Some non-scientists will say “well, *ahem* don’t forget *ahem* that with global warming the *ahem* increase in temperature will cause the water to expand.” Yes, it will, crevasse-face, but the coefficient of expansion for water is less than that of earth/rocks, so the net effect of the global warming/polar ice caps melting combo-meal is a lowering of the ocean’s water levels. And do not worry about the South Pole. The average temperature in Antarctica is -40 F; so we would have to have a far grater catastrophe than a 1 or 2 degree rise before we panic.

But what about the satellite data? Yes, the satellite data we have is unprecedented. un·prec·e·dent·ed –adjective without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled: an unprecedented event. Yes, unprecedented, as in such a short timeslice to be essentially meaningless. Call me when you have a century of satellite data. NASA please.

There are also several different views of what the rise in CO2 actually means. Some feel the CO2 numbers are a following as opposed to leading event to global warming.

Some also view increased CO2 as helping plants grow (remember plants "breathe in" CO2, and "exhale" O2), which will help stave off the inevitable global famine. There is even data suggesting that – by seeding the oceans with iron – we can cause a phytoplankton “bloom” which can control any potential CO2 issue we can create.

I’ll close with several personal views and observations about Global Warming. The first is that we cannot predict the weather with any reliability for the next 5 days; we cannot even be sure if it will snow, rain or drop frogs from the sky. So we think we can predict global climate over the next 50 to 100 years?

Also, apparently every believer in Global Warming does not have any faith in the Bush administration. So let me get this straight – you disbelieve everything Bush and his lackeys say, yet you do believe when government scientists at NASA and the NOAA support global warming?

Seems like such a convenient truth.

Spitzer Swallows [ P S X ]

Those who have been living in Antarctica may not know it, but NY Governor Elliott Spitzer has become embroiled in some sort of "government funds for sex" scandal. Now apparently - according to an FBI affidavit - as "Client 9", Elliott paid a prostitute $4,000 for sex, plus a $300 tip. You would think that for that amount of money he would have also paid for an Acela train ticket.

Apparently in unrelated news, Spitzer may file legislation to make records for prostitutes and massage parlors confidential under HIPPA laws, citing the "theraputic health effects" of such treatments. Spitzer's office had no official comment.

I do wonder what the affidivit refers to as the client (Spitzer) wanting to take part in "unsafe acts." I hope it was not a Cleveland Steamer or a Pittsburgh Platter. The latter was attributed to Jerry Springer when he was embroiled in a similar scandal.

2008-03-06

New Idea [FE T]

Here's an idea, I  had it when watching an X-Files Season 1 DV (episode Tooms). 

You've heard of colorizing movies, right? This is where a black & white film is computer enhanced with color.   Now some critics say this detracts from the file (sure) but proponents emphasize how it opens up a film to a wider audience. Some critics claim it is an affront to the director and writer, whose work should not be subverted or significantly altered.  Now if you have seen movies cut up, sped up and significantly edited on TV, this argument is moot. My favorite - during the Nancy Reagan "just say 'no' to drugs" heyday was the immortal line in Caddyshack; wherein Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) asks caddy Danny Noonan "Do you take drugs, Danny?"  "Yes sir, every day"  "Good" which was reduced to the puerile answer "No sir" for TV viewing. 

Next thing you'll tell me is the super hot alien SIL in in Species I & II I saw on TV wasn't originally wearing a black bikini in most scenes...

Anyway, back to my idea. In the X-Files I noticed Mulder using what looked like a shoebox held to his head to make a cell phone call.  My idea is called Modernization. Like colorization, it removes anachronistic items from movies, such as 8-track players, old cars, '50s hairstyles. 

Similar to what Steven Speilberg did with removing the guns from ET, it allows me to watch a movie without saying "that's a record player...   that's a carburetor...   no that was before airbags...  yes, that's an instant picture he is peeling off... "

My next idea would be nudization, and I'll explain sometime what that will do.

2008-03-05

You Think the Weather's Bad? [ G ]

If you think the weather is bad, check this website of solar weather. 
I mean, an aurora borealis as far south as Florida??!!

2008-02-28

TSA Question [AN P]

I wanted to ask the TSA representative - I think his name was "Fife" -
what should I do differently now that we are at "orange" alert.

2008-02-26

United is Satan [AN PG RR]

Everyone has been on a flight that is late. Whether it is late by a few minutes departing, or one is trapped on the ground for hours at a time, it has happened to just about every air traveler.

Now some one-time, first-time travelers, which I refer to as "mouth breathers" may not have ever experienced this, but trust me it happens. And if it is your first time - unlike the act of coitus - I do not want to hear you say over and over and over again "it's my first time". Also as a kind hint, your baby is crying due to the air pressure changes and not knowing to pop their eustachian tube - give the kid a bottle or a pacifier for the sake of my sanity. And I'll let you in on a big secret, holding a bible and praying for the duration of the flight for the Almighty (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, depending where you stand on this "God" thing) to protect you during the flight you is not foolish, actually believing that He/She will protect you is foolish.

Anyway, so we arrive late into Denver but still within 20 minutes of the connection. We would have been in a bit earlier but the "wranglers" to help park the plane were not there?! So we get to the gate 10 minutes before departure time, to find the door closed. The United drone says - get this - "We knew you were coming but we had t close the gate." Whatthef*ck?! Was there a special award today for flights leaving early? Of course getting our bags was impossible as they were in a "holding area". I contemplated faking a diabetic fit/coma, but was too tired and hungry.

The real sad thing is that I will be flying United on Wednesday. I never learn.

2008-02-24

Netflix is Nice [F H PG]

We rent movies from Netflix. I know there is nothing too profound in that, but what is interesting is that I had signed up "back in the day" but had dropped my subscription. With the writer's strike, I decided to rent movies to fill in the gap. One of my choices of Netflix over Blockbuster was the selection. I mean where else could one find: 

Rififi - This is a classic black & white jewelry store heist. You liked Tom Cruise suspended from the ceiling in Mission Impossible? Well, this movie was the originator of that scene, plus a whole lot more.

King of Kong - No, not "King Kong," neither the original, the abortion from De Laurentis, nor the decent Peter Jackson remake. This is about one man's quest to have the highest score in the arcade game "Donkey Kong", whether it be a "live" score or a videotaped score (I didn't even know there was a difference!).  The best line is the young daughter of a gamer, when he explains his quest to get in the Guinness Book; she says, "Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there."

Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter - I mean, Jesus teamed up with masked Mexican wrestler El Santos, the saint of the wrestling ring - it does not get any better than this. This movie is so bad it is great. There is one fantastic scene where - as Jesus battles a group of lesbian vampires (I can't explain, see the film) on the shore of a lake, he yells to two priests, "bless the lake!" Once the water is thusly sanctified, any vampire thrown in the water is destroyed.

Pom Poko - This movie is simultaneously a great bit of the Japanese anime genre, and at the same time probably had Jew-hater Walt Disney spinning in his grave. It is about a group of raccoons who are being displaced due to house construction outside Tokyo. As they have the ability to "transform" into animate and inanimate objects (even clothed humans), they are going to scare away the developers. What I thought was odd was the rather, shall we say - detailed - representation of the male raccoons. That is until we see (according to Japanese legends?) that raccoons can inflate their scrotums to gigantic proportions and use them as weapons!! Released by Disney on DVD in 2005, I can just imagine someone picking this up for their kids: "Oh look at this Disney film, they are going to fight off the evil construction crew... wait, what are those raccoons doing. Omigod, Bill, turn off the TV now!!!"

2008-02-22

Elmo Mystery Solved [G PI T]

You read it here first. Apparently someone has a new "Elmo Knows Your Name" toy that - after changing batteries - she thinks it is saying to her son "kill James". Now, I do not want to burst her bubble of either that toys are now sentient or that Fisher Price will pay her a lot of money, but this is what is happening.

One of the names in the database from Fisher Price is "Keir" somehow that got chosen as the name to say. It is exactly what this Elmo is saying.

It could be worse - at least Elmo didn't say "wang" or "vivia2" (sounds like "vulva") or he would be accused of sexual harassment!

Oh - and the name "clint" does not sound like Clint.

2008-02-14

Second Oldest Profession [AN PI R]

I mean a good portion of lawyers are great people. Some like this f*ck-head; are the reason this profession is despised by many. It also got me thinking, given the whore-like slavish pursuit of clients, what is the exact relationship between lawyers and prostitutes?

I mean, think about it this way; prostitution is considered by many people far more prosaic than me to be the worlds oldest profession. Let's suppose that a long, long time ago a woman in this line of work was "stiffed" by a client. She tried to collect her payment (which depending on the era may have been coins, talents of silver, polished beads, dried chunks of clay, or stream-polished stones) and was not able to.

She mentioned this to a friend, who suggested she seek help from someone who dispensed judgments, or the law-giver. This person convinced the ex-client who owed compensation to pay the woman. Once the payment was made, the law-giver took a percentage of the fee recovered as payment. And so the first plaintiff/lawyer transaction took place.

It is even interesting to note that when prostitutes needed help collecting payment, the law-givers who were going to offer this service were said to be "lawing-her" shortened to "law-her"; hence "lawyer".

2008-02-12

Computer (in)Security [A AN I PG PI W]

Now you probably read a lot about identity theft, and may have trouble sleeping at night. The first thing is you have better odds winning the lottery or being hit by lightning, assuming you are not an idiot.

What I mean by that is do not reply to an eBay or bank request for your password to be verified; do not send information to that British lawyer who has discovered you are the last surviving relative to the Duke of Cornwall (you didn't know that?), and above all set your computer to not allow guest access.

You see, what I sometimes do to alleviate boredom when traveling is to check the network to see what other servers (i.e. laptops) are on the network. Now as I use a Mac, I do not worry about the security of the computer. Yes, before you start, I know Macs have some potential security flaws, which are usually fixed quickly. And a Mac never got infected from surfing a website, nor opening a .JPG or .PDF file, nor from playing a Sony/BMG music CD with a "rootkit" infection. A Windows PC is notoriously insecure, but I digress...

Anyway, when you see a computer on the network, just try and log-in. My favorite is when "guest" access is open or they have the ID of "guest" on, but the password (which is "guest" also) is pretty easy to guess. I have also seen "Admin" (ID & password) and "Test".  I even ran across a laptop which looked like it might be someone else from my employer! I connect and reviewed an address book, and sure enough it was! When I told IT, they just said something to the effect that "oh yes, all the Service techs in that Division have their laptops unsecured, so they can share files easier". 

Anyway, I have had fun over the years. Whether it is getting someone's Qatar wedding photos or downloading the entire Queen discography I am amazed. Later I'll tell you about BlueJacking.

2008-02-11

New Stuff Posted [G I]

Be sure to check some new stuff posted both at my Flickr and YouTube sites. New photo sets including some amazing whale photos and some good videos including "Max VS RoboDog"!

Workplace Stress [G I PI S]

I was thinking about stress in the workplace. There's not much one can really do to alleviate the majority of the stress, but these things can help - a bit. These either may make someone else feel happier, or your accepting these tenets will help you cope better. Note a lot of these things we learned when we were kids, but some of us have forgotten.

Say "please" and "thank-you" when appropriate.

For exemplary service let the person's boss know they went above and beyond to help you.

Be aware that when a new company policy says it applies to EVERYONE – such as renting a compact car – realize it really doesn’t.

Sometimes a smile and/or a compliment can brighten a person’s day. (note that nowadays however if a man says to a woman “that’s a nice dress” you may find yourself a party to a harassment lawsuit)

Knock on someone's door when entering, even if it is not closed. It even does wonders if one knocks on a cubicle partition; it's just simple courtesy.

If you have a bonus of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars per year more than your subordinates, you do not need to flaunt it by doing things like wearing a solid gold hat to work. SEC filings are public – everyone knows what you “earn”.

Don’t cut in line in the cafeteria; I realize that in some cases it is within the culture of your native country to encourage “cuts” (especially due to mass starvation) but in civilized lands we que up!

Don’t use a speakerphone, especially if you have an open office door or are in a cubicle environment. The President of the US and the Joint Chiefs of staff can use a speakerphone, not you.

Except for when I was speaking with my late grandmother - who was pretty much stone-deaf in her 90s (although she would staunchly proclaim she didn’t need a hearing aid, usually followed by “eh - what did you say?” in her quaint Polish accent) I have found that yelling doesn’t help you communicate any better. (Note that paradoxically this occasionally works with children and non-English speaking individuals, but this is a rare occurrence).

There will always be someone far, far less qualified in an identical job being paid far, far more than you make; that's life.

Companies will always send business to developing countries like China. Not every time is it profitable (for example I recently saw a piñata made in China; there is no way with oil at $90 a barrel that one can ship raw materials to China from the US, make the piñata, and ship it back at a profit compared to being made in Mexico) – it just looks good to investors and everyone else is doing it.

Not everyone appreciates offensive, sexist, ethnicist (is that a word?), misogynist, or ‘locker-room’ humor at work; I certainly do; but not everyone does.

If you ask me an important, detailed question, please realize that: A) it may take more than 45 seconds to research the answer, and 2) you may have to devote more than 45 seconds listening to the answer.

If your company introduces a brand new quality initiative, and someone says it is pretty much the same as the old quality initiative; trust me, they are correct.

2008-02-06

Why HP Sucks Ass [AN PG T]

GREAT tech support story, also an implied "watchout" for manufacturers whose products break when you try to install their own sanctioned software upgrades! Note the background to this story is I was given a broken HP iPaq PDA - my older son and I replaced the screen and the dead internal backup battery, and this was going to be given to someone I work with so they could have a PDA (pretty nice model too, it's no iPhone but it has a keyboard, WiFi, BlueTooth etc.)

Anyway, it was all set, new screen working fine, backup battery reading 100%; so I thought let's see what software updates there are from HP. There were a few, the most important was a ROM update. Without going into too much detail, a ROM update is sort of like a "brain upgrade" for an electronic device. For many, the most familiar ROM update is when you plug in an iPod and you are told a new version of the iPod software is available do you want to install it.

Actual Tech support chat session

Mark says: HP iPaq model 4350 Serial ------; I went to install the HP ROM update 1.10.03 and the iPaq is frozen, it is a blank screen with “i.15” (in red) and “1.03” (in blue) at the top of the screen.

Automatically generated message: A Support specialist, Alan H has been assigned to your case.

Alan H says: Hello Mark, thank you for contacting HP and for your interest in our Active Chat online support. Here is SR ID # for your service request ###### . My name is Alan and I see you have a question regarding your handheld. I'm going to take a few moments to review your information and will message you back very soon. [At least he did not ask "how is the weather?"]

Alan H says: According to our records, your HP iPAQ is no longer covered under its limited warranty. As a result, we are unable to provide in-warranty support at this time. If you wish to proceed, out of warranty Instant Support for your HP iPAQ is available for a $25.00 USD fee. (Please be advised HP Support Services is offered as .best effort. only. Though we do have a high rate of resolution success for most cases, we do not guarantee a resolution nor provide parts through the Instant Support service. The fee will not be refunded if the issue is unresolved.) If you choose not to continue with out of warranty Instant Support, the following service options are available to you: Free online resources, accessed through www.hp.com, include:
Support forums: http://forums.itrc.hp.com/cm/1,,2,00.html
Manuals: http://welcome.hp.com/country/us/en/support.html
Parts information: http://h20141.www2.hp.com/hpparts/Default.asp
For technical support, please call 1-800-HP-INVENT. There is a $49.00 fee to obtain out of warranty technical support by phone. Should hardware repair of your unit be required; any fees paid for out of warranty support will be deducted from the total unit repair cost. Thank you for your interest in HP.s Instant Support Group. Please note that the billable support offered is best effort only and that we do not guarantee a resolution or provide parts. The issue will be supported for 7 days from the time of the troubleshooting billing fee at which point if the case has not been resolved you will be billed again for additional troubleshooting. The fee will not be refunded if the issue is unresolved. Would you like to proceed with billable chat support?”

Mark says: The only question is that all was fine until I attempted YOUR (HP's) ROM update and it froze. Note GOOGLE for “iPaq 4350 ROM frozen” and you will see this is not an unique occurrence. So you are saying if a customer attempts a ROM update and the device is hosed it is the CUSTOMER'S problem?

Alan H says: There is a license agreement that you accept that says that Hp is not responsible for any data lost or any problems during update.

Mark says: I'm laughing because I just said to someone "I bet that's what they'll say." There is also an implied warranty that the ROM update should work. HP lists several dozen fixes, enhancements or improvements the ROM update takes care of so I would think it is necessary, plus that as the ROM update itself came from HP it should work.

Alan H says: There are no warranties on the ROM updates.

Mark says: In the US there is always an implied warranty on something like a manufacturer's ROM update; please speak to a supervisor or check the facts before saying something so silly. BTW - I have updated ROMs on several Apple laptops, 3 Apple iPods, 2 Palm PDAs and one Samsung Blackjack PDA and - guess what - they never locked up nor failed to work. Thank you anyway, but it is good to know HP does not have any warranty/guarantee on ROM updates.

Alan H says: I have checked agreeing to the license of the update says that Hp [sic] is not responsible for any data lost or any problems during update.

Mark says: Buh-bye [I must admit that sounded childish and I know this is not Total Bastard Airlines]

Alan H says: Mark, I am going to close this support request at this time. You may start a new session and refer to SR ID number ----- . If you should need assistance in the future, please try our Instant Support program again. Thank you again for contacting HP and have a great day. – Alan

**sigh**

Note this is the 21st century and ROM updates should be error-free and about as easy as falling off a log.

Note to HP: tell your tech support people that both the 'H' and the 'P' are capitalized. Jesus.

I also sent an e-mail to the iPaq support forum at HP. The auto-reply message - and I am not making this up - was: "Please note: At this moment we have an issue with this Mail System, your mail cannot reach the Support teams ." They must've been updating their ROMs.

Ode to Science [G RR]

With all the renewed interest in what one might generously term "pseudo-science"; such as homeopathy, creationism, psychics, astrology, intelligent design and the like in the news lately, this speech was a breath of fresh air. It may be apocryphyl, but it was allegedly used by someone named Phil Plait as a kickoff to a school science fair.


I know a place where the Sun never sets. It's a mountain, and it's on the Moon. It sticks up so high that even as the Moon spins, it's in perpetual daylight. Radiation from the Sun pours down on there day and night, 24 hours a day; well, the Moon's day is actually about 4 weeks long, so the sunlight pours down there 708 hours a day.

I know a place where the Sun never shines. It's at the bottom of the ocean. A crack in the crust there exudes nasty chemicals and heats the water to the boiling point. This would kill a human instantly, but there are creatures there, bacteria, that thrive. They eat the sulfur from the vent, and excrete sulfuric acid.

I know a place where the temperature is 15 million degrees, and the pressure would crush you to a microscopic dot. That place is the core of the Sun.

I know a place where the magnetic fields would rip you apart, atom by atom: the surface of a neutron star, a magnetar.

I know a place where life began billions of years ago. That place is here, the Earth.

I know these places because I'm a scientist. Science is a way of finding things out. It's a way of testing what's real. It's what Richard Feynman called "A way of not fooling ourselves."

No astrologer ever predicted the existence of Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto. No modern astrologer had a clue about Sedna, a ball of ice half the size of Pluto that orbits even farther out. No astrologer predicted the more than 150 planets now known to orbit other suns. But scientists did.

No psychic, despite their claims, has ever helped the police solve a crime. But forensic scientists have, all the time.

It wasn't someone who practices homeopathy who found a cure for smallpox, or polio. Scientists did, medical scientists.

No creationist ever cracked the genetic code. Chemists did. Molecular biologists did.

They used physics. They used math. They used chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering. They used science.

These are all the things you discovered doing your projects. All the things that brought you here today.

Computers? Cell phones? Rockets to Saturn, probes to the ocean floor, PSP, Gamecubes, Gameboys, X-boxes? All created by scientists.

Those places I talked about before; you can get to know them too. You can experience the wonder of seeing them for the first time, the thrill of discovery, the incredible, visceral feeling of doing something no one has ever done before, seen things no one has seen before, know something no one else has ever known.

No crystal balls, no tarot cards, no horoscopes. Just you, your brain, and your ability to think. Welcome to science. You're gonna like it here.

Windows Patchouli [PG I W]

REAL e-mail from our "Help Credenza"

Email/Server Access - We have been dealing with problems related to a Microsoft Windows patch. This patch was applied on Sunday during the standard maintenance window for the Data Center. One of the patches was MS05-019 which patched a serious hole in the Operating System. All patches had been tested in a test lab prior to being applied to the production servers. On Monday we started to notice that the patch was causing communications problems for users accessing network resources. During Tuesday and Wednesday we applied a hotfix that Microsoft had released on Sunday to try and repair the problem. It now appears that as of Thursday morning we are continuing to have the same issue. We have taken some measures to try and remedy the problem by applying some parameters changes recommended by Microsoft. We are monitoring the situation and are waiting for Microsoft to release an additional fix/patch.

What the hell were they saying? I don't know if I should keep working or turn off my laptop and cower in the corner sucking my thumb... Oh wait, that's right, I use a Mac!

Makin' Money Any Way I Can [B G S]

I noticed our current mileage allowance is 44.5 cents per mile. However if you put 1 mile into the expense account spreadsheet, it rounds up to 45 cents. I had a trip where I drove 200 miles, which the form says = $89.

But - if I submit 200 separate expense account pages with 1 mile on each, I would get $90. I would be ahead $1 (90-89).

Reorganization Quote - Sound Familiar? [H I]

"We trained hard - but it seemed that every time we began to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing - and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."

Petronius Arbiter 210 B.C.

2008-02-05

Super Bowl Coke Symbolism [FE G GY PI]

For those who saw the Super Bowl Coke commercial, many have not recognized the symbolism.

Now, first we have Stewie Griffin, from the Family Guy cartoon. This cartoon family "lives" in Rhode Island, which is I guess the closest one can get to Massachusetts for a cartoon character; therefore Stewie represents the New England Patriots. Note that William Shatner on Boston Legal has been in a cartoon, but not recent enough for many of the viewers to remember. 

The Underdog character has two different aspects of symbolism. He represents the New York Giants, they being the "underdog" in this match. Also Underdog was an anthropomorphic canine version of Superman. People even used a similar catch-phrase: "look up in the sky - it's a bird, it's a plane... it's a frog."  Superman lives in the fictional city of Metropolis, which is more or less New York.  So we have the underdogs from New York.

Now why Charlie Brown? Obviously the Coca-Cola company cannot have an ad that picks one team over the other. But why Charles, and what's the football connection? As you may remember, Lucy Van Pelt is always pulling the football away from "Chuck" before he can kick it. 

Oh, and hey, you've got to hand it to Charles Monroe Schulz, for having Patricia Reichart as the first lesbian cartoon character

iAccessories [G T]


Now here's an idea I had; not all that original as the GPS module may see the light of day someday. 

Anyway, the idea would be to have very small modules that would clip onto the bottom of the iPhone, matching its width and thickness; from the drawing at right, also available at Flickr. Note that some of these would require custom software that is not yet available.

The infrared module would allow control of appliances like TVs, DVD players, etc. The laser pointer could be used while controlling a slideshow via Salling Clicker, when it is ported to the iPhone. The battery module would have a pass-through connection to allow one additional module to be daisy-chained; it could also re-charge via the standard iPod connector. The GPS example here has a fold-out antenna for better reception.  The small camera flash module (turned around to face the same direction as the camera) is similar in concept to others available for camera-phones. The FireWire/USB module allows the use of other cables to connect/synch/charge the iPhone. The same with the Ethernet RJ-45 connector; you could connect to a wired network where WiFi is not available or not allowed as the iPhone is not an approved device. And lastly, a memory card reader to allow transfer of photos from your camera's memory card to the iPhone, to allow easier synching as well as being able to e-mail photos while in the field.

2008-01-31

iPrediction from 2007 [B, T]

I wrote this for an iPhone contest that Gizmodo was having in July 2007. I decided to post it as apparently it is going to be a viable product some day.

Entry Name: iEyes; visual communication and augmented reality device.

Description: A set of contact lenses that sends and receives wireless data from various sources via a separate miniature “basestation” that one would carry with them. The basestation is not shown in these examples but it could be pen-sized or wristwatch-shaped. There is also an optional control pad, either a FingerPad (about the size and shape of a poker chip) or a TonguePad that one wears clipped behind the upper incisors.

Function: The iEyes essentially conveys data from the wearer’s cell phone, Blackberry, media player, GPS device, etc. Visual data is presented to the user similar to the goggles one can buy today to watch movies on a virtual widescreen.

Power Source: The iEyes have built in solar cells to power themselves off of ambient light; with capacitive electricity storage when in a dark room.

Feasibility: With emerging technologies like flexible electronic circuits, conductive plastics, nanotechnology-based super capacitors, multi-element lenses and the like, iEyes could be manufactured as early as 2009 for government use; with less expensive consumer-priced versions by 2012.

The iEye would appear to the casual observer to be nothing more than a contact lens. If one looked closer you could see that there is something a bit different about it. The lenses would be worn in pairs, built-in sensors would keep the screen aligned with the vertical and horizontal so it does not matter how the lenses are put in the eye. A preferences setting could override this, say if you were lying on your side and watching a movie; the virtual screen orientation would be rotated 90 degrees so the movie appears correct from your point of view.

This is the optional TonguePad worn behind the front teeth that lets you control basic functions such as answering a phone, scrolling e-mail text or playing a movie. As mentioned earlier, the basestation is not shown, but it could be pen-sized or wristwatch-shaped. The basestation would have connections to various devices, probably by high-speed wireless modules; somewhat akin to Bluetooth without the limitations of battery life and data transmission rates.

When a phone call is received, the phone number and person calling is seen by the iEyes wearer. The yellow arrow pointing towards the phone means a call is coming in from that person; pointing away from the phone means the call is going out to that person from the iEyes wearer. The iEyes – using data from the built-in cameras – continually adjusts text colors to be in contrast with the ambient environment. Calls can be answered by either touching the phone keypad, a button on the basestation, or blinking both eyes in rapid succession. If using the optional TonguePad – as this user is – one can either click the green circle (which means “yes” or “accept”) or the red stopsign (which means “no” or “ignore”). The cursor is by default indicative of what is being used to control it, such as a tongue if using the TonguePad.

When reading e-mail received on a Blackberry or iPhone, the message is scrolled up and down by using the blue arrows; the envelope means “reply” and the “go back” arrow means to go back to the list of e-mails. The yellow triangle at the end of the message text means there is more text to scroll down to read, when scrolling down a similar triangle appears at the top. To reply with the FingerPad or TonguePad there are user-defined phrases like “I will call you” or “Please forward to Ms. Lyons at my office.” To actually type a message one could use the virtual keyboard text entry function but this could be laborious. Ideally one would use a small optional keyboard or the keyboard on their phone or Blackberry. In this example the cursor is a finger, which indicates the FingerPad is being used.

Playing movies is one of the most basic yet amazing features of the iEyes. You see movies – depending on source of course – as equivalent in quality up to a 1080p high definition video. In this example the green triangle is less transparent meaning the movie is playing. Some of the features include the ability to have the movie very transparent so as not to obscure one’s view, or to have the background almost opaque. If wearing the TonguePad this is accomplished by clicking the contrast control and sliding the tongue to the left or right. In a darkened room the movies need no backlighting as the images are formed by OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) which generate light themselves.

When using the GPS function for directions, the directions are overlaid on top of what you are seeing. Spoken directions can be also sent to either your phone’s speaker or headset. One can also switch to the metric and real system of measurement.

Embedded in the lens are millions of tiny light-detecting elements, each with their own lens. The concept has been demonstrated in making lenses that function similar to an insect’s compound eye. In this case the (at least in the first version) there would be no zoom feature. A 5 megapixel picture is taken by either clicking a button on the basestation, using the optional FingerPad or TonguePad (in this case) to click the onscreen “shutter release” button, or winking twice in rapid succession with one eye. When the picture is taken software in the basestation decides which eye is seeing the better image and uses that data. An optional feature snaps a photo using both images; since this is a 3-dimensional photo the image can be viewed on a computer screen or TV with special polarized accessory glasses preserving the 3D view.

One of the most amazing features of the iEyes works in conjunction with an Internet connection through the phone as well as the yet-to-be-announced GoogleEyes service from Google. With GoogleEyes turned on, when you look at an object and request data, GoogleEyes attempts to identify the object (giving a confidence for the identification) as well as providing a definition from a user-defined source, in this case Wikipedia.