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7 May, 2003

Bendable Computer Displays

From Scientific American: Scientists Fabricate Pliable Electronic Display.

The new display is comprised of a thin-film transistor (TFT) array, which can impart both positive and negative charges to different areas of its surface, and an electricity-conducting layer of clear fluid. Within this layer are millions of tiny capsules of black and white pigments that respond to charge. Thus, a negative voltage on the TFT causes white particles to move to the surface while a positive one moves black particles to the top to create the appearance of print. Yu Chen and his colleagues at E Ink Corporation report that the display can be bent 20 times and rolled into a cylinder with a diameter of 4 millimeters without compromising its performance.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Newspaper Polls

The San Diego Union-Tribune has a weekly phone-in poll. Last week, the topic was the upcoming Billy Graham crusade. Of the 493 respondents:

  • 18.3% are planning to attend

  • 29.4% are planning to attend more than once

  • 52.3% are not planning to attend

Which leads to the question, what does it all mean? Can we conclude that nearly half of the San Diego population will attend this event? No. Or does it mean that half of the U-T readers will attend? No.

The only conclusion I can draw is that they just need to fill up some space on the page with a meaningless pie chart.

This week's topic is equally fascinating: Is having a special day set aside to honor our mother and our father a good thing?

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Dear Heloise...

I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud while reading a newspaper column. But I did today.

First, try to imagine the type of person who would actually have such a "problem." Then, imagine this person taking the time to sit down and write a letter to inform the world of her solution.

Dear Heloise: I make chili quite often, so I try to keep a good supply of beans on hand. I was always wondering how to solve the problem of all that settling at the bottom of the can. I came up with the idea of storing the cans upside-down -- it worked! I still give the can a good shake before opening it, but there are no more settlings to spoon out. - Marilyn Beach, Columbus Ohio

And Heloise demonstrates that she's no dummy:

Marilyn, this does work well, but guess what I just figured out? You can open the bottom end, too! - Heloise

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Robotic Houseflies

Coming soon: tiny flying robots.

UC Berkeley electrical engineering and computer science professor Ronald Fearing has been working with a team of electrical, mechanical and material sciences engineers in collaboration with biologists to develop a tiny flying robot that will be able to hover and maneuver in the air like a real fly.

Fearing said the flying robot could be used for military surveillance, data collection, and search and rescue, among several possible uses.

It probably won't resemble the image shown here.

(via Gizmodo)

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Motivational Posters For Drunks

This collection of posters is also known as Inspiration Through Inebriation. This is one of the many features in Modern Drunkard Magazine.

(via Reenhead)

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Anti-Trustworthy Computing

Nobody knows for sure what Microsoft has up its sleeve for the next generation of trustworthy computing. But Aaron Rouse, at The Inquirer, takes a critical stab: Microsoft intros Anti-Trustworthy Computing. This article appears to be in response to Steve Ballmer's Executive E-mail that discusses Microsoft's role in "Rights Management" (yes, it's referred to as RM, not DRM).

Rouse writes:

Standing out a mile from all the rest is the idea that companies need DRM for documents. The idea is that, all of a sudden, documents can be protected from prying eyes. It means, for instance, being able to send confidential product information to a supplier that can't be printed, copied and pasted or even forwarded. The catch is that everyone must be running Microsoft software.

That may be true, but there's a more serious catch: Businesses (and even ordinary people) will, inevitably, get burned. I envision a time when hundreds of thousands of important documents will simply disappear. Well, not disappear, but become inaccessible for one reason or another. Whatever mechanism Microsoft will use to apply DRM, one thing is for certain: It won't be perfect. It will add at least one more layer of complexity to an already complex system. And this new layer of complexity will undoubted get more complex over time, as new technologies are slapped on top of existing ones (as is Microsoft's custom).

Face it, the typical office worker is plagued by simple file-related problems: losing a file, overwriting a file, a file becoming corrupt, a file saved in the wrong format, and so on. When you toss a complex DRM scheme into the mix, anything can happen.

Mary Jo Foley also has a few words to say about Ballmer's article.

To me, RM, first and foremost, is an attempt by Microsoft to further lock customers in by requiring them to use Windows clients, Windows servers, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer in order to create and consume documents. RM has another benefit, which I am not the first to note: It will eliminate the e-mail and document trails that hurt Microsoft in antitrust court.

In other news related to trustworthy computing: Millions of .Net Passport Accounts Put at Risk

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Things People Said

This site has lots of links to funny (and stupid) things uttered and written by members of the human race.

I found lots of the old classics (e.g., accident reports, excuse letters, warning labels), as well as many items that were new to me.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

The Future of Online Advertising

An interesting article at Business 2.0: Online Advertising After the Bust.

If you think today's Web ads are in your face, wait until tomorrow's barge in...For some sites, the key to advertising success is increasingly intrusive ads. Sites from CNET, Microsoft, and Time Inc. are among the many that experimented with ever-louder and -brighter ads. These were ads that readers had to click through before they could access a webpage, or that included "rich-media" elements that moved across the screen, attracting readers with their novelty. 

And then there are those of us who surf with scripting disabled. We're missing out on all the fun, and avoiding all that wasted bandwidth.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Re-Painting the Mona Lisa

If you're tired of seeing the same old facial expression on Mona Lisa, click here.

You can make her disappointed, satisfied, disgusted, frightened, happy, surprised, or aggressive.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

The End of Speckled Paint?

It seems that one of my favorite blogs has bit the dust. Speckled Paint, one of the most attractive and creative weblogs I've ever seen, appears to have closed its door for good. Well, it was great while it lasted.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Archie McPhee Stuff

Archie McPhee calls themselves "outfitters of popular culture since 1980."

This place has something for everybody. A few of my favorites are  big feet (shown here), a realistic otter skull, and even a Virgin Mary bamboo curtain.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Animated Origami

If you've ever wanted to create something cool out of a sheet of paper, try this site. It has three dozen models, and many of them have animated instructions.

For example, you can create the box shown here in only 19 steps.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Artifacts in San Diego

They're building a new ballpark for the San Diego Padres. Here's an article that describes some of the stuff they found during the construction.

Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of items that offer glimpses of San Diego at the turn of the 20th century: china dishes, porcelain dolls, medicine bottles. And those marbles.

Children's toys? Maybe. Or they might be from a famous downtown brothel, where marbles were used like tickets to gain entry into rooms where women of ill repute beckoned.

The items date from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, when San Diego's population numbered less than 1,000 and the Gaslamp Quarter was a rough-and-tumble place called the Stingaree.

It took the Padres only about five weeks to reach a landmark: They now have the worst won-lost record in the National League. Give 'em a few more weeks, and even Detroit will pass them by.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Name That Plane

Boeing is introducing a new plane, and they really, really need your help. You see, they've come up with four names, and they just can't figure out which one to use! So they'd like you to vote.

This new airplane is described as as:

...a new airplane for a new world: one that will be efficient, eco-friendly and designed for you, the passenger! It's the future of flight.

So what will it be? Stratoclimber, Dreamliner, eLiner, or Global Cruiser?

Personally, I don't care what the hell it's called. Just give me some leg room and design it so people don't feel like a herd of cattle when boarding and unboarding.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

365 Days of MP3s

What is the 365 Day Project?

For the entire year of 2003 (January 1st to December 31st) this site will feature one mp3 file (every day) to download. Listeners of the incredibly strange and outsider realm take note, for this is the majority of material that will be made available. Obscure (and for the most part out-of-print) recordings will be the primary focus.

Visit the archives to download the songs. I snagged a copy of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," by Walter Brennan. I think this song may have influenced the development of modern rap music.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Plant X-Rays

Fine art x-ray photography by Steve N. Meyers. These are some incredible images.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

The Chronicles of George

The Chronicles of George is...

...a collection of helpdesk tickets gleaned from the support database of my previous job. I was employed there for twenty months, and during that time I had the misfortune of encountering an individual whom I will call George. George is, quite simply, the worst helpdesk technician ever.

Funny -- and a bit scary.

Posted on 7 May, 2003

Historical Trademarks in Oregon

A very nice gallery of old trademarks, courtesy of the Oregon State Archives.

Trademarks in this exhibit reflect products being produced during the later part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. Oregon's fertile lands, huge forests and abundance of fish influenced the settlement of Oregon from the time of its first human habitation. Some of the earliest products of the land included flour, fruit, salmon, and dairy products. Many of the trademarks reflect these products of Oregon.

(via Anita Rowland)

Posted on 7 May, 2003